Saturday, September 18, 2010

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

Or rather hips, knees, and toes.  I have a general question to everyone for which I would love to hear opinions, thoughts, crazy ideas, you name it.

As paddlers we know that at our best we are able to separate our upper and lower bodies and allow them to work independently, yet in tandem.  Our upper body control comes from our core.  But where does our lower body control come from?  Does it come from your hips?  Knees?  Or Feet?

This thought came about when my training partner, Marian Davidson, was watching me do a set of short courses.  After the workout she noted that I exclusively use my hips to control my lower body and guide my boat.  There was no judgment passed, just an observation made.  She also told me that she uses her knees and that most people she has watched tend to use their knees as well.

I have never thought about this concept before.  I had merely separated the two parts of my body.  Now that I think about it however, when I am kayaking I do guide the boat with my hips.  But when I am in my canoe my knees are in control.  I have talked about this topic with a couple of people, but would love to hear what other people have to say.  What else is fall training for if not to experiment with new techniques and ideas?

So let me know what you think even if it is just something interesting to play with for a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

USNWC/WK Pro-Am Hometown Throwndown for First Descents

Thanks to Chris Wing and H2O Dreams for putting together some amazing video from the Pro-Am Hometown Throwndown for First Descents.

Everyone should also check out the First Descents website - They are an awesome organization "committed to curing young adults of the emotional effects of cancer and empowering them to regain control of their lives by experiencing outdoor adventure therapy through kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor adventure sports."

Back to Basics

And the sheer love of the sport! In the last month, I ran two of the quintessential south eastern rivers: the Ocoee and the New. And I had the most fun I have had in a boat in a very long time.

When I first learned to kayak out in Colorado all I wanted to do was run rivers. I chased the adrenaline and loved it. I pushed myself to get better as fast as possible. I pushed so hard that I went far above my skill level and paid for it. I ran Todd's Slot on the Taylor River and ended up upside down. A number of logical thoughts went through my head about what was going on and I decided to swim out immediately. I was quickly washed face first into an undercut boulder. I panicked. I had hit my legs so hard on something before getting slammed into the rock that I could not use them. As the saying goes, I pulled myself out by tooth and nail. As I pulled myself on top of this boulder I realized I was sitting in the middle of the river with no way to get out. I remember just crying. And crying. And crying. I am aware that most of us have had some type of scare at one point or another and that mine is not unique or special in the slightest. What it did however was teach me to have a great respect for the river and undercuts.

When I started racing I did not have to worry about any of these things. The consequences when training may be painful, but not life threatening. Having done nothing but race for the past two years I had put my Todd's Slot experience away. I heard friends talk about their experiences running rivers, but I was content to focus on my technical skills at the whitewater center.

Several weeks ago, Joel McCune asked if I wanted to go run the New River with the Davidson Outdoors group. I quickly jumped on the opportunity due to the fact that I trust Joel in a boat more than I trust the majority of people with two feet solidly planted on the ground. As I started driving up to the river with Joel and his girlfriend Em I began to recall my mistrust of rivers and extreme dislike of undercuts. That coupled with the knowledge that east coast rivers are riddled with undercuts did nothing for my confidence.

We all put on the river, Joel and I in slalom boats and the others in a mix of plastic play boats and a raft. I was a wreck for the first several rapids, which were really just big wave trains. By the middle of the river I was enjoying myself. I was reading and running everything in sight, playing in every eddy I could catch and enjoying the wide open space of a natural river with big water and waves. I had a blast! I even enjoyed just floating for the sheer sake of enjoying the pace of the water.

Two weeks ago I managed to get off work the day after the Hometown Throwdown and drive up to the Ocoee with another group of friends. This time I took a playboat and enjoyed bopping down the river with no fear of rocks. When we got to Hell Hole, which I had never seen, I thought it was the first wave. I did a spin on top of it and was totally disappointed. I then looked over my shoulder just before I was grabbed by the actual hole and thrown down in for a massive surf. LOVED IT!

I think these experiences count as a welcome back to the world of river running for me. Not only have I loved every second of it, but I am working on getting on more rivers just to enjoy them and, since my racer nature cannot completely be erased, use the natural features to learn new things. River running is where we all started so why not go back to it every once in a while to remember why we love what we do everyday. And for that matter, why not love what you do everyday – I do!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hometown Throwdown

If you are not from Charlotte or a USNWC regular you may not have heard of the World Kayak Hometown Throwdowns.  They are a series of fun kayak competitions held to bring the kayaking community together and introduce people to the sport.  This past weekend was my first throwdown.

I was convinced by Chris Wing, an instructor at the USNWC, that getting off of work to compete in a freestyle competition was the thing I needed to do this past Saturday.  I was hesitant at first because a) I was supposed to be working, and b) I had never tried to playboat before.  I will say however that I love to surf!  There are few things better than sliding down the face of a glassy wave or simply carving edges back and forth on something smaller.  Needless to say I got off of work, showed up at the center early and a did slalom workout, then met up with Chris for a little coaching.

The way World Kayak has the competitions set up is awesome.  Everyone is encouraged to participate.  They keep the competition light by giving points out for everything, including front surfs, paddle waves, and window shades - my favorite.  In this particular competition each amateur was paired with a pro to create a team.  The pros were scored according to international rules while the amateurs were scored according to having fun - anything remotely like a move got points.  My team consisted of Chris Wing, Marian Davidson, and myself.  Each competitor gets three 45 second rides - or time to play on the wave and throw tricks.

While Chris was throwing huge tricks and being generally awesome and Marian was surfing and spinning away, my competition went about like this:
Fergus Cofey (the announcer): Catie it is your turn in the hole.
Fergus Cofey: Catie I think you have to get in the hole to play on it.  And there she goes.  Catie is one of our local slalom paddl.....
Gurgle Gurgle Gurgle Gurgle
Huge Cheers
Gurgle Gurgle Gurgle Gurgle
Huge Cheers
Gurgle Gurgle Gurgle Gurgle
Huge Cheers and a Sigh of relief from me
What that actually translates into is three consective power shades in which I apparently did some sort of actual trick that I will never be able to repeat followed by me finally rolling up and cursing myself for rolling up so fast that I stayed in the hole and had to immediately start surfing again.
But I must admit I had the largest grin on my face!

While I may love the speed and dynamicism I gain from my slalom boat the sheer enjoyment of playing in a hole was amazing!  Chris swore that the moment I tried I would be hooked and convert.  I'm not quite sure on the converting part, but I will say I am hooked!

While each of us may have a specialty there is something to be said for switching it up every once in a while and enjoying different things.  Not only can new things be fun, but there is a lot to be learned from them.  It can break old habits, force you to focus more, and even totally remove you from your comfort zone.  Although I may not playboat everyday from here on out, I do know that I will jump at the chance to participate in another Hometown Throwdown and playboat anytime someone wants to go out.

Thanks to Chris Wing for his patience this weekend.  While I only managed to powerflip every time he asked me to work on something, I had a great time!