Winter escape

Winter escape

Since Molokai I had roughly 6 weeks to prepare for the up-coming racing in Canada and the Hood River, USA. It’s one of Sam and my favourite trips as you get in a couple of great races, we love the scenery and also get to catch up with friends and sponsors! My training remained quite similar to pre Molokai, I definitely added in a few more shorter interval sets and dropped a couple of longer sessions. I had been having some minor trouble with my left elbow which seemed to calm down which regular phyiso treatment.

Mid July came around quick and we were jetting off to Vancouver direct.  15 hours later we arrived and jumped straight into our hire car and were on our way to Deep Cove where we were based for that week. We were lucky enough to be hosted this year by Joel & Jen Perkins who lived in a lovely home with their three children right in Deep Cove! The week consisted of a couple of paddles to freshen up and I also held a couple of group and one on one clinics which was awesome to share my knowledge onto keen, enthusiastic paddlers!! This year we decided to drive up to Squamish (race location) the morning of. It’s about a 45 minute drive so not too far!

Early Saturday we made the trip up to Squamish and dropped our ski’s off  at the race start and then headed to the finish where there was a mandatory check in, a short time later we were back at the start getting ready to jump on the water! Upon arriving at the start the wind was nil and it was heating up quickly! I was 100% prepared for no wind and it didn’t really bother me, at the end of the day we’re all racing in the same conditions! The pre race briefing was done and it was time to jump on our skis and paddle over to the start of the 21km race. I was feeling really good, a little bit nervous of course as I always am but nerves are good right?! Next thing we were all lined up on the start line and the hooter went, we were off and the men were flying! I had a really good start and managed to get on a good punch of guys wash and stayed there for as long as I could (usually starts are my weak point in a race) I kept paddling hard and before I knew it I was at the turning bouy, about 2km’s from the start which was also the ‘hot spot’. I turned the bouy and started heading down the Howe Sound. Fellow NZ paddler, Teneale Hatton was not far behind and headed slightly more to my right. I headed straight down the centre and managed to catch up to Sam which I was absolutely stoked with and thought to myself, WOW this could be the race I can sneak a cheeky place ahead of him!! Well that didn’t last long! With about 8km’s to the finish Sam and myself came together with Teneale and also Nick Cryder and about 100m ahead was Oscar Chalupsky. With about 6km’s to go Sam put in surge and pulled away from us also passing Oscar, Teneale and I then pulled away from Nick and it was neck and neck between us the entire way home. With about 1000m to go the effort went up a notch and we were sprinting for 1st place. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring out my ‘inner sprint’ and finished 2 seconds behind Teneale. Overall it was a flat, hard race and kept everyone honest! I was happy my elbow held up over the race and seemed to be fine! Well done Teneale for the win and also Local Sally Wallick for 3rd place! In the Mens race Sean Rice took the win, Kenny Rice in 2nd and Cory Hill taking 3rd.

The following day we packed up early and jetted off on a quick trip landing in Portland. We stayed here for 2 night’s with friend’s Ken & Di Barker in their lovely West Linn Home. It was great to relax and spent some downtime with them for a couple of days prior to heading into the Hood River!

On Tuesday we drove into Hood River where it’s a festival of paddling with paddlers from around the world, frothing over incredible downwind conditions, beer garden’s and friendships being made! We spend the week in a Air BnB with Epic Paddlers Greg Barton, Kenny Howell and Nate Humberston which was great fun! With the race having a 3 day window from Thursday – Saturday it keeps everyone on edge as to how much they can do leading into the window. Sam and I kept it quite chilled doing a couple of downwind runs and being careful not to over do it! Early Wednesday morning it was decided the race was being held on Thursday so we spend Wednesday relaxing and keeping out of the sun. Waking up Thursday the wind was howling early, the conditions looked great! So great apparently there were 290 paddlers that didn’t race. The Hood River is a unique place to paddle, it’s not like huge ocean swells but the wind allows the waves to stand up due to the wind against current. It’s a very technical race, do you stay in the centre and catch the bigger swells or go left or right to stay out of the current?! Everyone you speak to has a different opinion! I had a race plan and I was going to stick with that as much as i could!

Just after midday we were lining up on the start line, this time women had their own start about 15 minutes ahead of the men. The gun went and we were away catching runs! Australian Olympic Kayaker, Naomi Flood had a flyer of a start taking the lead early on. It was close between Teneale, young up & coming paddler Ana Swetish and myself for the first few km’s. I got into my groove and about 10km’s in managed to have about a 500m gap on 3rd with Naomi just ahead of me. Naomi was on the far right of the river and I was on the middle/right side. About 14km’s into the race I was getting sharp pain in my elbow. I was noticing my km speeds were getting slower and I couldn’t put much pressure on each left stroke. I kept paddling through it couldn’t hold my place and came home in 4th place. Massive Congratulations to Naomi for 1st, Teneale for 2nd and Ana for a podium finish!!! The men’s race saw Kenny Rice retain his title, Cory Hill in 2nd and Mackenzie Hynard in 3rd. Also a massive congrats to Sam for finishing 13th in a top class field!

Following the race I couldn’t paddle due to my elbow but made the most of being a spectator, coffee drinker!!! On Saturday we then flew to LA where i experienced the time of my life! We spent 2 days in Manhatten with Tim Burdiak and his lovely parents. We hiked the Hollywood sign, biked along the boardwalk to Venice Beach, hit the rides at Universal Studios and then spent the next 2 days at the happiest place on earth – Disneyland!!! Dream come true!

A huge thank you to everyone who helped us out over this trip you all made it incredible! To my sponsors Shaw & Partners Race Team, Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Bennett, Maui Jim, Pita Pit NZ, AUT Millennium and Orewa Massage Worx thank you for your continuous support! Thank you to Coach Lee for your coaching & support!!

Upon arriving back to NZ after scans and specialist appointments I have a 6mm tear in a tendon that’s in my elbow so i’m now on treatment & rest period for a month. In the mean time, i’m becoming a runner and hope to keep my fitness up and be back for racing at the end of the year!!!

Until next time,

Happy Paddling

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