Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Florida Day 1:
After a an hour and a half drive to the airport, three layovers, and having to walk from one end of an airport to the other twice I have finally made it to my destination in Florida.
For the next two weeks I will be staying here in Satellite Beach to train once again with the Canadian Paracanoe/Kayak team. Last year when I crashed their camp I learned so much and had a great time, so I thought why not do it again. So here I am.
Today was the first day on the water for me since.. maybe August? So needless to day I was a little nervous. Not about having bad technique, but about loosing my balance and ending up in the water with the plethora of manatees swimming around.  I may be the only human terrified of manatees. I just think that is something far to large to be swimming next to me.

(some might think of this as a cute moment, I think of this as have a panic attack) 

All in all, today went fairly well. I think over these past few months of being in the ice castle we call Michigan, I have almost forgot how much I loved being in a boat. We arrived at the doc around 9:15, made a few alterations to the boat, and were in the water by 9:30. My first few stokes off the doc were a little rough, but once I found my rhythm it just felt natural. The schedule for today's practice was ten two minutes on, then one minute rest. We started with our warm up run up the canal and then made our way to the open waters of the river to finish the day off. The river was a little more choppy due to wind conditions and motor boats passing by, which I just thought made it a little more exciting.
On our way in we were joined by three dolphins. It was kinda cool I guess. I mean whatever..
We have the rest of the day off now. And since this was my first day on the water in so long I am very glad, I don't want to over do it to soon. I mean I'll save that for tomorrow.
The rest of my day will now consist of me laying in the grass outside reading and taking in the beautiful 70 degree weather while I can.

Today was a good day.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Today my dad and I reminisced over my unique stories of growing up as a disabled child. My favorite so far happened when we were on vacation when I was quite young. While in a museum, a fellow young vacationer, who belonged to a family that had be extremely obnoxious and rude the entire tour, came up to me and in a very crude way yelled "Whats wrong with that girls' leg?!" (Now to give him some credit, I was wearing a new leg that was still under construction, so the top was clear). This lovely childs parents decided to play the 'pretend we didn't hear that' card, so my dad being the understanding guy he is, asked if he had any questions. The kid proceeded to ask the same question with discuss in his voice and pointed for dramatic effect. My dad's response, in the most nonchalant way possible, "Oh! It's just not painted yet."

This just reminds me how lucky I am to have the parents I have. They not only helped me gain the confidence to walk with my gimp limp, but also the wit to deal with the world around me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Race day.

     The day started bright and early with a 7 am bus ride to the venue. Today consisted of heats and a few finals. Our first race for the US started at nine and we were basically on and off the water till four.

     Team USA did amazing today! We had several paddlers advance to their finals, two of them even placed! Megan Bulk and Ann Yoshida put the US on the podium. Ann took home the bronze in the V-1 and Megan took silvers in both K-1 and V-1! They were all such fun races to watch.

      I took third in my first heat, which means that I automatically advance straight to the final tomorrow. So right now I am in the reflection state of mind. I am going over my race in my head and what I can improve on. Which is basically the main reason for me writing all of this fun stuff down. I hope that later me will come back and re read this and hopefully learn something from it.

My Race
      Today my pre race warm up was pretty simple. We arrived at the venue around eightish and my race wasn't until ten fifty so I got in my boat right away just to wake myself up a little bit. Since races were going on we were restricted to the areas we were allowed to be. Just for today we were allowed to go up the 0 lane to get to the 300 meter mark to paddle around. However, tomorrow and on we will have to do the full 1000 meter up on the other lake and then paddle 1000 meters down to the race course. So that should be a good pre race work out. But today I got in my boat right away and paddled up to the 500 meter mark. I would practice my starts to the starts of the other races. When I heard the announcer say “Ready” I stopped and put my paddle over my boat, “Set” I cocked my paddle in the ready position, “GO” I put my left paddle in for the short start and then dug my right stroke to really get the ball going. I would go about twenty meters or so before I stopped. Repeat. Stop. Repeat. Then I headed back to the dock to cheer on my teammates as they started their heats.
    When it came time for me to get into the boat for my own race I felt ready. I checked in with my credentials and the number pinned to the back of my Team USA jersey (1300). When I started to paddling away from the dock it hit me, “Holy pooh I'm in Germany about to race at the World Championship”. Usually I am super nervous before any huge competition, let alone one on the world stage. I was excited, yet surprisingly calm.
     After I get out to the waiting area and paddle around a bit, the announcer declares “two minutes to race time girls, two minutes”. This is the sign that it is time to paddle up to the start gates. Now it is just kinda common knowledge in the sprint kayak world that you don't want to be the first one in the gate. I think it has to do with the fact that it could take the other races several minutes to get themselves situated and so you don't want to have to waste your energy trying to stay in the gate if you dont have to. So as I slowly approach the boot I look around at the other five girls to see how much progress they have made themselves, I notice that Christine (the Canadian who has won this competition for about four or five years now) is on my right and this very intimidating Brazilian is on my left. I was basically in the middle of a fear sandwich.

“Ready” my paddle goes across my cockpit, “Set” I set up to make my first left stroke, “Go”...

    Yeah, right now I honestly couldn't tell you anything about the race. I have come to notice that my mind almost turns off during a race. As soon as that boot goes down and my boat is free, I see nothing but that focal point 200 meters away. “Just go fast” is what I tell myself at the beginning and then tunnel vision starts and my mind goes clear.
    Well what I do know is that I took third in my first heat and that I will advance to the final tomorrow around two German time.

Oh, I also know you can watch my race here!  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

      Today involved a lot of sitting around. Most of the team was getting classified, meaning they were being evaluated to make sure they are in the correct category. There are three different categories you could be put into, LTA, TA, and A.

                    LTA – Leg, truck, arms. Roughly put, this means that you have control of your legs, trunk, and arms. This category mostly consists of lower extremity amputees, and a few hand amputees. I think you have to be missing at least three fingers to be considered a para athlete. This is the category I represent for the US in the woman's division.

                         TA- Trunk, arms. Basically this is the category for people who don't have full control of their lower extremities. I think most of these athletes either have spinal cord injuries or are double amputee's who don't wear prostedics in the boat.

                             A- Arms. This category deserves so much respect! These athletes are out competing having only control of their arms, meaning they have high spinal cord injuries. I mean to paddle a kayak and not have a core, so impressive!

     So while the rest of the team was off doing that, I took my last paddle before the race tomorrow. I did a 1000 meter warm up and then practiced in the starting gates while they had them open. It felt really good and I was able to go through my pre race routine again and then visualize the race and how I wanted to feel before, during, and after.

    Tomorrow is the start of the races. My first heat will be at 10:50 am German Time, meaning like 4 am or so central time. If you just happen to be awake and really want to watch a minute race here is the link for the live stream -

Monday, August 26, 2013

Today we were at the venue from 8:30 till 5, another long day.
Where did I leave off before falling asleep last night?

Oh yes, the venue.
Well, this is it.

It is a huge complex filled with multiple “football” fields, a music hall, zip lines, play grounds, ect. Oh yes, and a huge kayak facility with bleachers that could seat roughly 600 people. It's pretty nice, I guess.

Somehow Team USA managed to get every K1 (kayak) racer their own boat. Which is a huge stress lifted off our shoulders. Last year we shared two boats between six people, and when you have heats that are right after one another it becomes somewhat of a problem. So I am very relieved that I can paddle the boat and get everything the way I need it and then not have to worry about switching it out with someone else.  

Today I had a really great day on the water, or at least it felt great. I started the day off with my usual work out which consists of full on sprint for 15 seconds and then for 45 just focusing on technique. And then when they gave us time to practice on the starting gates, which is always a good time to actually visualize the race. 

But really, I just want Wednesday to come so WE CAN GET THIS THING GOING! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

            Well after a rough night of on again off again sleeping, I finally got my lost luggage!

Anja (a USA athlete) grew up in Germany and is slowly but surely teaching me some phrases.  "Morgen!" or  more commonly known as "Morning!" is my favorite so far, mainly because it is super easy to remember. I think everyone I passed this morning got a German greeting from me. 

Today while waiting for the bus, I was told that the town we are staying in can only be described as 'the Detroit of Germany'. It is somewhat of a run down city with more graffiti than actual advertisements and a liquor store on every corner. Either way, I am still in aw every time we leave the room. 

The drive to the event venue is about a half an hour by bus. We go through the city and even get to explore the farm lands a bit. It's really beautiful country, reminds me of the midwest a lot - but just a bit more Germany. 

I will post more about the venue and being in the kayak later, I just deleted more than half of what I wrote because I didn't realize how tired i was until ten minutes ago when i fell asleep at my keyboard. 
Long story short, it was a long day. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I made it to Germany!

But apparently that TSA agent in Austin did't take all of my bad ju ju for the trip.

    • A plane lost power just before take off (which led to a moment of silence from all the passengers, but quickly followed by a “Well, that didn't sound good” by a worker on the ground)
    • My leg died while walking the most I've ever walked through an airport in London
    • My ticket from London to Dusseldorf was apparently canceled at some point and they refused to let me on the plane for a while
    • And the airport apparently misplaced my luggage somewhere between Chicago and Germany (of course)

Yet somehow my paddle made it, so I guess the Kayak Gods were somewhat looking out for me there. I brought most of my other boat parts in my carry on, so all I am really missing is clothes and toiletries, but eh, minor details.

 Gerald (team manager) provided us with more Team USA gear, which luckily for Kelly, means I get to have a clean shirt for the night. See, there's those Kayak Gods taking care of me again..  

Friday, August 23, 2013

And so begins the journey.
              at way too early in the morning..

    I figured I would attempt to stop and document this trip as much as possible for both your benefit and my own. Hopefully this will reassure anyone who made a donation to my World Championship travels that it is not actually being used as a shopping fund.

    And, for my benefit I am going to try to get every detail so I can remember every second of this amazing opportunity.

                   I woke up at 4:45 am.
                  Took a shower at 4:48 am.
                  Got in the car at 5:08.
                  Arrived at Austin airport at 6:00.
                  Said my final goodbye to Ben at 6:02.

    Walking into the airport I realized just how little I had.
                  1 – backpack filled with days worth of clothes I most likely wasn't going to wear
                  1 – duffle bag that would be used as a carry on (mostly snacks, blanket, computer)
                  1 – purse
                  1 – very important paddle

    I realized just how different my life as a kayaker and life as a ski racer really were, mainly that my largest bag on this trip was under 20 lbs and I was able to carry everything on my own. That doesn't happen in the ski world.

     Airports are always fun.
    I have come to realize how the airport system works, you smile at them they usually smile back at you. With this in mind I always attempt to be extra nice to people working for the airline, and it usually works to my benefit (I have been bumped to first class three times with this method). Today was no different. I walked up to the desk with the biggest smile I could muster up at six o'clock in the morning. And well, I didn't get first class but I did get my seats changed from middle to window. Score.
                                            *Note to self: Check paddle first
    The very nice desk lady told me to try to go through security with my paddle. I was optimistic and tried. Longs story short, I got my usual TSA massage twice within 20 minutes. However, the security lady told me that she was Murphy's favorite, and so all of my bad luck was now transferred to her after my second pat down.
                          -I am currently waiting at my gate for my delayed flight to Chicago.

More to come..

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Defended my title and will get to represent the USA in Germany at the World Cup next month!!