Last weekend I raced in the Tariffville Slalom race, which was a part of the New England Slalom Series (NESS). It was a great event and about 30 boaters showed up to run the course.
The Friday before the race, which was on Sunday, I play boated a little in the hole and then helped to set up the course. I was a little too excited for June and decided to paddle without any sort of rash guard or bug spray, and just in my bathing suit. The entire mosquito population also decided to reemerge for the summer and they all attacked me. So my first piece of advice for your paddling this summer: always bring bug spray.
On Saturday I headed up there again, this time so I could practice the course a bit. I’m still in my fashionable and modern Prijon Hurricane (it’s been a pretty awesome boat this far) and I ran the course a few times and worked on a tricky upstream gate. The course started just below the bridge abutments and ended in the eddy right next to the play hole. The course was pretty much identical to the Triple Crown course except for the fact that there wasn’t an impossible diagonal gate this time. I felt pretty comfortable and familiar with the course and I hopped in my Möbius to do a little more play boating in the hole, which was now at a great level. After paddling for a couple hours, I headed home to rest up for the race tomorrow, which started at around 9 o’clock.
My mom and I arrived at the gorge at 8:30 after battling some Simsbury marathon traffic. I found out that I wasn’t paddling until the second session of the day, and that I’d be working scoring for the first session. When you get assigned to be a scorer, you’re in charge of either starting the racers, timing them, or writing down their times. I got put in charge of writing down the times for each of the racers and then converting the minutes and seconds into just seconds. The morning went by pretty fast, and everything went really smoothly as far as I could tell.
After session A ended, I walked up to the parking lot to suit up for my runs.
I registered for the Jr. Women’s class and the Women’s classes. There were no other Junior Women, and I there haven’t been any since I started the whole slalom game. I hoping that will change next season, but as of now, I’m just competing against myself! And in the women’s class in was only Barrett Philips and I, who is a really awesome woman boater. She competed in more classes than I could count and did awesome!
I took my first run in the Prijon and wore my number 31 bib to show that I was racing in the Junior class. I carried up to the top of the course and put in. I had started to clear my head as I had started to put my gear on just a few minutes earlier, and I was pretty focused. Even though I wasn’t competing with anyone, I get super competitive with myself and set really high standards for myself. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but it certainly helps me race faster! I put-in right beside the bridge abutments on river left and practiced some ferries and s-turns to warm up before I took my first run. It’s such a care-free environment and so open to beginners but I get super intense with myself, which also causes me to be really nervous at the same time! Usually by the time the walkie-talkie calls start, my adrenaline has kicked in and all the fear kind of melts away. I’ve found that that happens with pretty much everything that scares me, whether it be kayaking or hockey or just taking a math test. For me, once I get over the first hurdle, or slalom gate in this case, everything else seems to flow afterwards.That’s one of the reasons that I love kayaking so much because the people who are the best at it think the least about what they’re doing and it’s more about harmony in motion than thinking about the physics of every move or worrying about flipping over. As I start to improve my skill in each of these races, I try and focus on not thinking, and I think that that’s an important skill for a person to have, especially when you’re trying something new.
I was one of the first racers in the second session to run the course, and I was pretty happy with my first run, until I realized that I completely and utterly forgot about gate 9. I just didn’t even see it and paddled through the upstream gate 8 and peeled out and went through the downstream gate 10. I was so annoyed with myself because I had forgotten about that gate more times than I could count and it was such a stupid mistake! So for my next three runs, all I thought about was the ferry over into gate 9. There was no way I was missing that again!
For my second run, I was fortunate enough to use Andy Kuhlberg’s Vajda glass slalom boat which was amazing. It felt so smooth and fast in the water and shaved a good ten to twenty seconds off of my two Women’s runs compared to my Junior runs, which I ran in the Prijon.
Overall I was super happy with how I did during my four runs. I love seeing myself improve at every race that I go to, and also become a little more confident in my slalom abilities, and a little less confident in the ability of the Prijon to act as an acceptable slalom boat! I get more and more jealous of those boaters with glass boats.
I can’t wait for the next race! Until next time,