January was a month spent learning about myself, admittedly in New Zealand and possibly with a lot of sun and wonderful company. But beginning to learn about what makes me tick as an athlete and as a human is one of the most valuable ways a person can spend their time. Chess, making gin and tonic, and writing are also extremely high on this list of valuable off-water activities. All of them are about relaxing your brain so that you can come to sessions ready to give maximum effort.
Having an opportunity to race abroad before the 'real' season starts is another incredibly valuable experience that I strongly recommend. Paddlers who are learning to be independent of organised trips, paddlers who love to travel... Basically anyone who loves to race and wants to have a unique start line experience should find a way to get into a pre season race. Everyone there is training hard, usually right through the event - so it feels a little different to a normal season competition. The competition is still high and intense, but there is a sort of camaraderie approach to the levels of fatigue that everyone is experiencing. We all know, we've all been there. It's incredibly enjoyable to share it with other paddlers.
This is a new experience for me, because usually by this time of year I'm dying for the taper that comes with the first races of the season. New Zealand ignited a fire for racing that usually only lights by selection for me, and it's amazing being able to train with that level of focus and intensity. Of course, slalom is full of ups and downs. You have to be prepared not to feel on fire constantly. At least in a good way - the lactic block is yet to start! Until then though, it's important to seize the sessions where you feel awesome, and enjoy them. Remember those feelings to hold on to when it gets a little tough.