I've found it quite hard to write about slalom for the last while - I haven't really felt as though I'm discovering anything new that would help other people in terms of revelation. It's also been easy to feel demoralised by recent results. I feel like a hypocrite; I've always maintained that results don't define you as a person, and you shouldn't allow them to feel as such. This feeds into self-pity, which is an incredibly hard place to train and perform from. There's obviously a consistent dialogue of "when you move to London, you'll be at the forefront of paddling". I don't think that's untrue - it's backed up by most paddlers who move to London. However as I've discussed before, I don't think it's a matter of just the whitewater. It's also the culture of performance, constant competition and simply believing you're in the right place. Over the last year or so, I think I've lost a little of the belief that I'm in the right place. That's been quite hard to recognise, because for many reasons, I actually do believe that I'm exactly where I need to be. But in terms of performance, it's too easy to link a difficult feeling in the boat to broader themes like location and training structure.
I like to think of mental approaches like lenses. There's a time and a place for "zooming out", and analysing the big picture of where we live, what our training structure is, and what comprises our general quality of life. So if we want to go with Maslow, we can look at our basic needs to try and optimise those. The thing with cornerstones like location, friends and lifestyle is that they're all almost impossible to optimise. There is little to be gained by constantly focusing on broader elements of life that are out of our control, despite the dialogue which says we should be constantly thinking about them. Which is where we need to be able to recognise that the same applies to everyone, regardless of how successful we perceive them to be.
The second "lens" that I find the hardest to use, is a narrower one - focusing on the session or the race absolutely, without deploying self pity or comparison. In London it's super easy to completely focus on the session, because there's an overriding feeling that you're "doing the right thing" by being there. But during a below zero, windy day on a very high water Tully, it's supremely difficult to maintain a narrow lens of focus without constantly "zooming out" and wishing things were easier.
My result at selection this year was pretty disappointing, but I by no means feel robbed by anyone who raced that weekend. The girls are incredibly strong, and they have to be to operate consistently in an environment of constant competition. For myself, it's easy to identify what's lacking, and it's the absolute self belief that comes and goes in waves. After the last couple of years, I can confidently say that coming from a position of success makes picking up belief an easy thing. But trying to pick it up from a position of loss, or self pity, is almost impossible. I want to spend the next year working on staying with a "narrow lens" during training, even in the hardest conditions. There have been countless opportunities to "zoom out" and define my environment, which I have enough evidence to be able to believe in. But maintaining high focus without wishing for anything better is a real skill, that the best paddlers in the world display every time they race.