Racing In The Night
I think that most paddlers would agree with me that the most disappointing kind of race isn't one where you paddled badly. For me, the most irritating scenario is one where you felt like it was a solid, satisfactory run - that turned out to be slower than your first one!Cardiff international whitewater centre is probably my favourite UK site. I know a lot of canoeists would agree with me, because there just aren't many other courses which offer the same variety of eddies and drops. I always love training there, as sessions offer endless gate combinations and moves. So I was really looking forward to having a blistering race!However, there's a trick to Cardiff. Paddlers will know what I mean by keeping run on the boat. It means to keep speed through all your movements, whether going downstream through a stopper, or upstream in a gate. On Cardiff, losing speed is the equivalent of tying a few traffic cones to your tail and paddling through a swimming pool of kids. No matter how much time you think you've gained, its incredibly difficult to make it back up after a mistake. I don't think I helped myself out much by hitting a few gates per run, but I ended up finishing 9th in premier. Looking back on the video, its suddenly very easy to see where I lost time and made some pretty cringey mistakes. But it doesn't really sugar coat the dissatisfaction of thinking you've had a reasonably solid run when actually it was pretty slow.Something that made me really proud at the weekend was how well some of my team mates performed. It seriously goes to show that it doesn't matter what squad you are picked for, or how many privileges are granted to you. Getting your head down and training hard ALWAYS comes out on top eventually. On a more positive note, my new boat is now in Scotland! Also the Scottish championships are this weekend, followed by a two week training camp in Nottingham then London for me! I'm really looking forward to spending two whole weeks training hard. I love my university course, but anyone else doing a degree and training full time will agree with me, it's hard not to sometimes feel like you have to put one before the other. And canoeing is due a good long stint in front! I have a lot to work on that I observed this weekend, and a new boat to get to know. Our sport is often described as one of the most complex disciplines, with hundreds of individual factors combining to make a slalom race. The skill possessed by the best paddlers in the world comes from being adaptable, not only to the water and the boat but also in their responses to mistakes. The massive way I still have to go doesn't really feel daunting, as I showed myself this weekend I can still learn from my mistakes and enjoy the race, even with a less than satisfactory result. I think its important to be competitive, but equally important to love the journey.
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Amber is a whitewater slalom athlete specialising in K1. Her top events to date were: