Kayaker, Engineer, Athlete, Tinkerer

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day Off

The past couple days have been a little different for sure.  I've been battling a fever while still trying to race and generally feeling pretty bad most of the time, its pretty hot around here, mid 80's with bright sunlight.  But today there were no races so I was off completely.  Did a little boat repair in the morning to get it ready for the sprints and then went for a drive with my mother and the Sidell's up to Val'd'Isere and the Col de l'Iseran.  I was up there about a week and a half earlier and it was amazing how much snow was gone, but the upside was now it was very comfortable in a tshirt and it was possible to hike up the one side mountain.  
After dinner I was dropped back at the team house.  Sometimes it's nice just to get away for a little bit.  I got a little motivation for tomorrow by watching Talladega Nights. Now I just have to rest up again and execute.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 1 Recap

Today was the classic race. I haven't been feeling the best lately but it's race day so there's nothing else I can do.  I had a nice warm up from Bourg and made it to the start in plenty of time to get out stretch my legs and drink some water. As I was sitting in the start eddy watching the time count down it really hit me that I was competing in the world championships.  I wasn't really that nervous, I had felt good about my training and felt good about my lines, now all I had to do was execute. I felt as though I had good lines but at the first 3rd I was down 5 secs off my other time trial so I really dug on the flats.  The bottom third of the course I felt really good on, I was able to keep the boat moving and even caught up to a canadian boat in front of me, which I was able to pass in the corner of the sprint course without losing too much time.  All in all it was a good race and I am proud of how I did. I was 45th out of the 67 that finished.  And it turns out I have been running a fever at 99.9 degrees so hopefully that goes away soon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The day before...

In the final preparations for worlds, I lost a few days on this blog. I'll try to throw them up sometime but for right now its about 15hrs till my start time for the classic.  I don't feel 100% rested but that doesn't matter now.  All I know is that the culmination of thousands of hours of hard work and years of struggling through training as a student are now condensed into a 15min race.  I'm not very nervous, hopefully I can keep my head level throughout the race. This course requires the most concentration and effort right at the end.  I know my run will not be perfect, all I hope for is to feel as though I've done my best.

"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Carnage

(Wednesday 20th) Today was an interesting day.  Today Emmanuel and I would do a full classic at an easy pace. It had rained the night before and they were releasing a good amount of water so by the take out the estimated level was around 40 cubic meters per second or cumecs. Our run was pretty uneventful, I was thankful for the higher level, it meant more of the annoying rocks in the 400meters were covered up. This made my third classic run that was completely free of touches.  Later in the after Chris, and Cas wanted to do some sprint runs so Emmanuel and I went also to video and be safety. Chris was alright, but had a hard time seeing because his glasses kept fogging up. Cas wasn’t looking the smoothest and his last run had a bad line which resulted in some boat damage and flipping.  We decided to go out and grab a beer in Bourg and also got food, these outings are always pretty fun.  It’s really relaxing to kick back after a good day of training and have a beer with some good food.  More epoxy repair that night, it was a straight forward fix, I have been helping out with the boat repairs since I have a bit of experience due to the steep learning curve of wildwater.
(Thursday 21st) Emmanuel and I were off today so we slept in a little bit. The remaining men:  Chris, Terry and Cas were going to do more sprint runs. Like the day before Emmanuel and I went to video and provide safety. Things started fine with Chis and Terry and Cas each getting two runs in without incident.  But then Cas got mixed up in the big waves of the first drop and ended up swimming, he didn’t keep a hold of his boat or paddle. Luckily someone on the path was able to grab his paddle, but the boat washed downstream, after his rear airbag came out the stern began to get smashed by some of the rocks. Eventually it was washed to the side and we were able to get it out but there was quite a bit of damage. After this, Chris and Terry decided to do another run so we didn’t end on a bad note. Terry went first but his line was bad and ended up flipping and swimming as well. After having watched Cas’ ordeal he made sure to keep ahold of his boat and paddle and we were able to him and all his gear without damage.  Once we got back the boat repair started yet again.  This was going to be a more extensive repair so again I helped out, I had never had to repair popped seam tape so I was a little curious about it, plus it’s always nice to have another set of hands even if it’s just  to pass tools or cloth. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A True Off Day and Clean Lines

(Monday 18th) Since I had done a flatout race pace the day before I was due for an off day and a real one, not spontaneously doing a 20mile hike.  I had a pretty much a day of eating nutella and laying on a couch. Later in the afternoon Emmanuel and did a short hike down into the gorge of the isere were is narrows down to about 15ft wide, and the volume is about 1200cfs. It was pretty cool and good to do something light that didn’t involve the arms 
We also did a grocery store run and I was able to pick out some good race fuel 

(Tuesday 19th) Today would be a hard day after having a day off. The classic can be broken up into thirds which are all quite different from each other. The first third has a few rapids none, particularly long or difficult.  The middle third is very flat and easy, this is the place to put on the power and make the boat move. The final third is the hardest and most continuous.  It is particularly hard in a race because you just had a long flat section to get good speed in.  This day Emmanuel and I did 3 classic runs with certains thirds being easy and hard. For the first and third runs we would take it easy on the 1st and 3rd, 3rds and go hard in the middle third and on the 2nd run we would go hard on the 1st and 3rd, 3rds and take it easy on the middle third.  My first run had to careless stern hits, but for my 2nd and 3rd runs I had completely clean lines for the first time since I got here.  Needless to say I didn’t really care about the times, hopefully the abuse to my nice boat is over. After this morning session we went back, ate a standard lunch of pasta with some chicken and relaxed for a bit.
In the early evening, Chris, Cas, Emmanuel and I went to the lake to do an easy recover session. I was raining lightly and with the cold water temperatures there was a heavy fog on the water which was pretty neat.  Most of the time it’s hard to focus on what I’m doing just because you are surrounded by snow covered mountains.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Classic Runs and Boat Damage

(Friday 15th)After the really cool hike yesterday my body was really hurting.  My forearms were weirdly tight and my legs hurt bad.  So in the morning Emmanuel, Chris and I did a easy paddle on the lake just to loosen some tight muscles and get a feel for out boats on flatwater for the first time. Later we came back and had lunch before Emmanuel and I did one classic run.  Nothing too eventful, still feeling pretty nervous on the bottom half of the course. (And Chris did recover the wavehopper, it wasn’t his race boat)

(Saturday 16th) Today was going to be a tough day of classic runs.  Two in the morning and one in the afternoon. It took me a while to admit how demanding the course is.  For long days I’m used to 2 or 3 hours in a boat, but so far here I’ve never spent more than 2 hours in a boat, or done more than 3 classic runs.  The whitewater requires very precise maneuvers that need a certain amount of strength and if you are exhausted then you can’t make the moves and will be slow or possible break your boat. I still am not feeling completely comfortable on the bottom half of the classic course.  I feel fine following someone, but I’m not completely confident in my ability to remember the lines on my own. Luckily I brought my helmet camera so that I can video the lines to be able to watch them over and over again. For the first two runs in the morning the camera was pointed too high and you couldn’t really see the water so over lunch I reglued the camera mount on my helmet and was able to get some good video of the third run. None of my runs were spectacularly good, all had some hard hits and the result was the appearance of some fresh cracks on the stern, but it the only the outer layer of resin that had cracked, it was still very strong and incredibly stiff. Later in the evening Emannuel and I did some minor boat repair and then the two of us as well as Fanch went into Aime to grab some bread and water and stopped by a bar for a beer.  Bars in Europe are quite a bit nicer.  Small open air very relaxed, it’s really cool to be able to sit outside in sunshine, and talk about wildwater.

(Sunday 17th) Today I did a time trial for the classic course without following anyone. We put in a Bourgh so we had a 20minute warmup, I got out of my boat walked around a bit, went over some of the lines in my head and then started my run.  The top half was very good, I had clean lines and felt fast. The middle portion of the classic is fairly flat so it’s the place to put on the power and make a good time. Unfortunately for me there was a large raft trip that I hit right at the beginning of the very hard, final third of the course.  Luckily I was able to pass them all before the big stuff really began. My line in hamslicer was horrible and I had a very hard stern hit.  I managed to get it back together for the beginning of the the 400meters but in the end I hit a hidden piton rock and banged both my bow and stern very hard.   My line through the sprint course was alright, nothing spectacular but not horrible. In the end I had a small chip in the bow and a nice big crack in the stern, not quite as bad as I thought, but I now know several more places where I can’t go.  As bad as it seems to start breaking my boat, it feels good to go fast at maximum effort.  Sometimes you have to cross that razor’s edge just to know where it is, and with some more practice I know I can go faster. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day Off

 (Thursday 14th) Today since the weather was nice I decided to be off from paddling and go for a hike.  The area is completely surrounded by snow covered mountains that I have been itching to try and get to the top of.  Anxiously I woke up early started walking up the road by 6:30 since I had no clue where to go I just took a picture of a map of the area and started heading up the nicest road that headed uphill.  This road just kept going up and up.  After an hour I knew I had made progress but was nowhere near the top.

As the second hour rolled by and my gps read 10miles I was starting to worry, but I could see the end of the treeline was near.
Eventually at about 2hours and 30mins I made it to the top of the snow covered ridge with different snow covered peaks in 3 directions.  I picked the least snowy one and headed that way.
Once I made it to the top and peered over the other side, the world just fell away, 1000feet drop easy and you could even see a small road snaking its way up to the top.
After spending about an hour checking out the view along the ridge I decided I should start to head back since it would be several hours till I would actually be back
I worked my way back along the ride to the saddle where the road was and headed out of the snowfield
Once back on the gravel road there was nothing more I wanted more than a mountain bike with fat knobby tires

The nice thing about the whole hike was the numerous water sources, every village has a spring and up towards the top they are every mile or so along the road
Going back down wasn't nearly as much fun as coming up especially since it had warmed up a bit but it was a great hike and while it definitely wasn't a rest day I was glad to have done it.

New boats, High water, and Carnage

(Sunday 10th) The day after arriving in Villette I paddled a wavehopper for the day since we couldn’t find the Speed art boats the night before. For the first run we would do the classic course with an additional 6 minutes of warm up river. The two first impressions I had of the river were wow this is fast and this is very cold.  Even with the air temperatures in the 60’s I could still see my breath on the river. This course definitely deserves all the hype. It is very big pushy, fast and technical. The race lines are all good, but if you are not on line in several spots you can easily break a boat. For the first day I did one full classic in the morning and one run from bourgh in the afternoon with the girls. That night the Australian team as well as Ben Oakely of the British team stopped by to talk for a little while and we decided that we would meet up in the morning and do a run as well as drop a tip that the Croatian team had dropped some boats in a village somewhere up the valley.  Both Chris and I were eager to get our boats so we left that night with Emmanuel to try and find them. I was pouring rain and had been raining for quite a while at this point.  After a couple of wrong turns eventually we found them and even with a rain soaked bag we could tell that they were light.  When we got back Chris and I pulled our boats to examine them and we were both very pleased our designs had come out exactly like we wanted and the build quality them seemed very good.
(Monday 11th)The next day the river was very high.  I still didn’t have my boat so I was in the wavehopper.  After seeing the level, only Emmanuel and Ben Oakely were interested in getting a run in, and since I had a wavehopper I figured I would give it a go.  Within 2mins of putting on I knew this was going to be quite a run.   The river felt like it was at flood stage just huge waves and monster holes and the water was a dark shade of grey.  I managed alright for the first half negotiating the 2 meter high waves. But after passing the halfway bridge the “big” stuff began. 
Things got even bigger and pushier with the lines becoming narrower and completely disappearing in some cases.  At one point I went around the corner just to see ben (who has had top 10 finished in worlds) get back endered out of a massive hole.  In a split second I look to the left and right to evaluate my options, the hole is nearly river wide with was looks like a weak point right of center.  Since I am in a long boat the doesn’t turn very well punching it was the only option.  I just put my head down and pulled for all I was worth.  After I dropped down the face of it into the meat of the foampile I am stopped dead and begin to feel the sickening feeling as I am ever so slowly sucked back in.  The next second I am looking straight up at the sky as I am vertically back endered in 4meter long boat.  Luckily I ride the ender out of the hole and fall clear of the boil line where I scull for a while to get back upright.  Then I had to get my wits together and finish out the run.  Emmanuel and Ben had eddied out above the sprint course to get a breather and make sure I was still in my boat.   After letting out hearts slow down a little we eddied back out the finish the madness.  The sprint course was as big as the rest of the run but luckily the lines remained the same.  When we finished we got out and just sat for a bit relaxing.  That was notably the hardest thing I have ever paddled in a boat.  The green narrows have nothing on the Isere at 60cumecs.
Nobody wanted to do another run so we decided to get lunch and Emmanuel would do some boat repair while I would make some bow crunch pads for both of the Wishes.  This was made even more interesting because the resin we bought from zastera was horribly slow, I was worried it wouldn’t cure at all. After 4 hours it was still very flexible, we both said screw it, took them off and went to paddle the upper section so we could get a feel for out new boats. The boats are very nice they are very responsive on waves.  We paddled with the women this afternoon which was interesting, there were many eddy outs and even two swims not even on the classic course so the next two weeks will be very interesting.  When we got back the crunch pads were still flexible so we taped them on and hoped for the best.

 (Tuesday 12th) The next morning it appeared as if the resin was in fact working as the crunch pads appeared to have hardened some, which was good because Emmanuel and I were going to do two classic runs with the Aussies and Ben.  First time on the real classic course in my race boat and I was very nervous. Fortunatly because it had been raining a lot the water lever was very good and things were padded a little more so there wasn’t much boat tapping.  End result was I could keep up with Emmanuel pretty well as well as the slower of the Aussies.  I felt very good about the runs and decided that was enough for the day. In the afternoon Emmanuel and I went into Bourgh to buy important things like beer and fly paper for the hourdes of flies in our house.  Nothing much eventful happened other then Emmanuel left to see his sports medicine doctor in Lyon because his back was bothering him.

(Wednesday 13th) Since Emmauel was gone I met up with the Aussies for two upper runs in the morning.  The first was more of a warm up steady state session, and the next I did 5 times 4mins on with 2mins rest.  It was good to do a real workout on a section I was very comfortable on so I could get a feel for how the boat responds at race pace. The more I paddle the wish the more I get used to and like it. It moves very well and as long as I keep the blades in the water forward and not past the hips the boat feels very good in the big whitewater. After the two runs Chris and I headed back to eat some food and rest a bit. I was eating speculoos and nutella, and drinking chimay while cooking more food for later it was very relaxing.
Later in the afternoon Chris wanted to do some sprint runs and I didn’t really want to paddle so I went along to video and act as safety.  Well I was able to video but the safety wasn’t as effective. Chris ended up falling out of the boat on his 4th run and right when the throw bag was about to land on him he was pulled under a wave and missed the rope. He was able to get out with his paddle, but the boat was washed downstream.  After chasing it along the bike path for several hundred meters we were not able to catch it. So we loaded up and drove way downstream to the village of centron to see if it would pass through there.  Luckily I had a good book with me so I just sat with the sun on my back and a throwbag near my and just relaxed and read for a while.  Shortly after the sun dropped behind the mountain Chris came back unsuccessfully.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Leaving on a Jet plane...

I wanted to be in NC as long as possible so I worked on Monday in NC when my flight was leaving Newark on thursday.  After work I hit the road and met up with some family for dinner in Asheville and then just kept going.  I managed to make it back to state college by 4:45 am where I slept a few hours got what I needed from my apartment and kept going.  Then it was a marathon of buy power adapters and several other items while trying to pack everything I needed. I was particularly worried about my two piece racing paddles that needed to be in my check bags. But I cleverly slid them down the legs of my jeans and wrapped them in towels and various other clothes.
My first flight left Newark at 6:19pm and would arrive around 7:30am in Brussels.  The flight was pretty uneventful I got a little sleep. After landing in Brussels I had to go through customs and got the very first stamp in my passport.  I had a couple hours before my next flight so I wandered around the airport a bit. Being Beligum they had a Beer and Chocolate store that was simply amazing, too bad it was 8am and I was feeling the jet lag otherwise I would have sampled both.  Since I was feeling pretty tired I just napped a bit in the airport and ended up getting a bit of sleep.  I made my connection flight to Geneva and thats when things started to get interesting.

I found the baggage claim just fine but my bags never showed up. As I started to fear that they both somehow manage to get lost I frantically searched everywhere in the baggage claim area.  I'm still not sure how this happened but both my bags were on a cart in far corner of the room but thankfully they were both there and appeared to be intact. I was excited about the thought of traveling by myself in another country, right up until the point where I had to carry all my luggage by myself more than 20ft. I have two check bags which are both very near 50lbs and my carryone is around 30lbs. After some strategic moving I was able to get some euros as well as swiss francs.  Then began the whole bus adventure. Allegedly the hotel I was staying at offered hotel shuttles, but not at the hour I was there so I needed to catch a bus.  After wandering to just about every help desk on both floors of the airport I managed to get about 4 different sets of directions for the same bus.  After trial and error I managed to find the right stop and with the help of a stranger even bought the right ticket.  At the time of day I was there the bus I needed only ran once an hour so I had some waiting to do. The right bus came right on time and I was off.  I even got off at the right stop and found the hotel.  I checked in and things started getting better.
After I got checked in I took a much needed shower and then headed out to walk around for a bit.  A bakery called my name and I had to try the crossaint and eclair.  I promptly headed back where I unexpectedly fell asleep for about 3 hours and then woke up to get dinner with Marin and Katia.
Katia speaks french which was very helpful with ordering food as my bakery experience consisted of me putting money on the counter and pointing at things.  The food so far has been a bit pricey by my cheap standards but very good. After dinner we walked around a bit and even found an old castle before calling it a night.

North Carolina

Since Pennsylvania tends to dry up by may.  I decided that I would work at NOC again for the beginning of the summer.  So several days after I got back from the Cheat Race I loaded up the Blazer and headed south.  Last summer started with some vehicle difficulties but thankfully there were none this year.  After I moved into staff housing I stopped by the store to check my hours.  They didn't have me scheduled to work for another week and while that meant I wouldn't get paid, it meant I had some time to have some fun, and oh what a week it was. 

The first day kicked off with what was my best run of the green yet.  I'm still not messing with the big three yet, but I felt really good on everything else and Ty and I had monster boofs on the bride of frankenstein.  The next day I sessioned Nantahala Falls in the wildwater boat getting 11 runs of it in (this is the only spot on the nantahala where I don't feel 100% in control).  Then the following day I did some highwater devils dip sprints.  The piton was well padded and everything was pretty surgy and squirly which gave it more of a big water feel, then later that day met up with Erich and Samuel for my first proper trail run up Deep Creek, it was really good and the descent was really fun.  The day after that I ran Section 4 of the Chattooga with Bailey and Noel. Its always great running something new and feeling really in control.  I helped chase down a canoe that ran crack in the rock solo and had a pretty sweet boof at sock em dog.  At this point I was hurting pretty bad, so to take an easy day I picked up someone else's shift in the store to give my body a break. After my rest day I hit up a lake session lean steering my sprint boat paired with another trail run later that day.  Then the next day I did a full nantahala run, that was faster than my race time for southeasterns last year so that was pretty good feeling.  To cap of the super week I got up early to meet Terry at the Ocoee to do a wavehopper run, then I headed back to the Cheoah to get a run in on that. Whew it was quite a week and part of the reason I love in western NC, there's always something to do that's pretty close.

When I started work I just got into a groove of training and working and nothing too much exciting other than on the one weekend I headed to Gainesville Georgia to Lake Lanier to train with on the the sprint guys. This was a pretty cool experience I was able to stay at his house and we did 4 sessions in 18 hours in a proper sprint boat. The things were so fast and tippy that I managed to even swim once from a motorboat wake.  All in all is was really cool and I have been curious to see how I would do at sprint. 

The final weeks went way too fast. I did some road biking on my two favorite roads: Wayah and Rt. 28.  I even met a nice person to do some hiking with including another failed attempt to hike for the sunrise from Newfound gap, but we ended up seeing a black bear which was pretty neat so it wasn't a total loss.

Even though I was only down there for 3 weeks I really felt that made the most of it. I managed to get a lot of good training in while having fun.  It was great seeing alot of familiar faces from last year as well as meeting new ones.  NOC is one of those places where the people make it what it is, and it gets harder and harder to leave each year.

Spring Paddling

Well its been a long time since my last update and a quite a bit has happened since then.  This semester's classes went well. I had an independent study in the civil engineering department which was a really positive experience and caused me to change my major to Biological Engineering with the Natural Resources Engineering Option.  In the end I attained a 3.83 GPA in addition to training about 10x per week.
Now on to the fun stuff.

The Cheat Race this year was the friday of finals week for me instead of the week before so for once I would be able to race it. The only problem is that I have never paddled the Cheat Canyon before. Its very hard to find people who want to paddle wildwater boats on the canyon for fun, and the shuttle alone is quite a challenge.  So I just decided to wing it and borrow a wavehopper (plastic more stable version of a wildwater kayak) and do the race anyway just following people down.
The week leading up to the race was pretty dry and I was worried that is would be very low and miserable, but two days before the race there were several thunderstorms in the area which brought it up to 4ft for the race!  I  was pretty nervous, I knew the Cheat would get really big with alot of water, and these race boats aren't the  most maneuverable or stable for that matter, but I had driven all the way there and already paid the entrance fee so I was racing.
After some confusion at the start the race was on.  The cheat race is a 10mile mass start race that usually attracts about 150 people. With my poor start I was at the back of the back trying to work my way to the front.  For a while I was doing well but then Jason Beakes was ahead of me and he was in a green boat.  For probably 20mins I would sprint to catch up to him as he took some weird channel where I would spin out and get passed, then I would turn around and sprint on the flats to catch up to him again. This happened over and over again until there was a large flat and I was able to pull past him and slide into 4th position.
3rd place was paddling a speeder which is a similar boat to mine so I was able to follow him much easier.  2nd place was almost out of sight so I just comfortable followed 3rd place until things flattened out at the end.
At the finish I ended up 3rd overall and first in my category.
The LAKS wavehopper crew who I met two weeks earlier was there and they had a strong showing http://laksyoungracers.blogspot.fr/2012/05/saturday-april-21-wavehopping-on-north.html

Now that the race was over, it was time to do some training. Since I was still intimidated by the canyon I headed upstream to the Cheat narrows.  Saturday and Sunday I did 3 runs complete with bike shuttle. I put the video camera on for a few of the runs and made a little movie