Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Southeastern USA Whitewater Championships - Aug 14

August 14th - Nantahala River - Southeasterns

Race Results: http://www.usawildwater.com/news/2010/100816_Southeasterns.html

Video: http://community.gapaddle.com/_Southeasterns-Pattons-racing-boats/video/1248900/65179.html

The Southeasterns were an absolute blast. We had something like 85 participants that started in 4 waves with the composite Wildwater boats all starting in the last wave. Between squeezing through the raft traffic and passing about 75 other competitors, it was a really exciting race in terms of staying focused and jumping on secondary lines on the fly.

All and all it was probably my best race this year. Why? It's the first race (or hard workout for that matter) this year where my shoulder did not hurt and I felt fully up to the task. Apparently going at a distance pace is just what the doctor ordered and this showed up in the results too. I know the Lord has blessed me by allowing me to continue to participate in the sport I love, and it's great to feel like I got to go full speed.

In spite of the raft and boat dodging and relatively low water, I turned out a relatively fast time of 53:38 and was only 13% behind Chris Hipgrave in the winning K-1(versus a hull speed handicap of 15%). I was the first canoe of any kind by a mile and won my dozenth Charlie Patton award. It was a nice feeling to finish as the 4th boat overall and most importantly, I beat Bern Collins (who I was right behind and passed when he guessed wrong on which way to go around raft traffic) to win the "Beer Cup" award. I was also thrilled to see Colton Popp finish just 3 minutes behind me to take 2nd in the canoes.

It was great to see so many folks there. Congrats to the NOC and the GCA for putting this togehter and to everyone who participated.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

USA Wildwater Nationals & Team Trials – 7/31-8/1

USA Wildwater Nationals & Team Trials – 7/31-8/1
Skagit River/Northern Cascades WA
Race Results at: http://www.usawildwater.com/news/2010/100803_US_Nationals_Final.html

WOW, this year's combined Nationals/Team Trials reminded me why I first got into the sport of wildwater/downriver nearly 30 years ago. The Northern Cascades are some of the most pristine mountains on the planet, and the Skagit River was a perfect venue.

And of course, since the race was in such a wonderful setting, Lynn and I turned it into an outdoor adventure. Our USA Nationals/Team Trials were an incredibly well run event. Tom Weir and the event organizers had all sorts of neat extras that they had done for the race, from boat stickers to tote bags. Sure, the turnout was lower than it would have been if the event had been held in CO, the SE or the Mid-Atlantic, but I think the “no shows” just blew it by not coming. I personally loved the venue and hope to race their again soon.

The water of the Skagit is aqua-green from the glacier melt and crystal clear and the scenery from the river is spectacular. I even saw a bald eagle fly over on one of my practice runs. And the last 3 minutes of the “classic” distance race course (and where we held our sprints) as were very challenging.
What I loved about this incredibly challenging rapid was that it was really safe (and as a result AW holds it to a Class III ranking). In spite of the relative safety, we had racers refuse to run it after they saw just how big it was in person.

Overall, on a personal level I was very pleased with my continued progress. Shucks, I’m thinking most guys in my shoes would have quit paddling by now, and would have certainly given up wildwater. To have my bicep tendon tear loose this spring when I tried to train up, after having gone through extensive shoulder surgery and rehab last year, was a huge ordeal. Candidly, I look forward to the day when I no longer have pain when I paddle and when I can lay it all on the line without thinking about the consequences of a mishap. As a result, my wildwater training has been limited to nothing bigger than the Nanty so far this year.

So I stuck to very conservative race strategy/lines in the S-bend rapid. I did not want to have to try and roll and/or put myself in an awkward situation. I also elected to race a more stable boat, the “No Name” instead of a faster, lighter Bala. This may have caused me to drop a place in the “classic” distance race but did not affect my overall standings.

In the Sprint Races on Saturday, Jack Ditty bested Tom Weir to earn the title of Sprint National Champion in C-1. I was happy with my solid but conservative effort had earned me a spot on the podium.

Sunday’s “Classic” distance race was truly exciting. While my whitewater skills were not 100%. I am pretty fit at distance events. So I felt like Tom would win the race, but I also felt like that Jack Ditty (who had won the Sprints), Andy Bridge (former World Cup Champion) and myself were all in a cat fight for second. My instincts were correct and I won my second medal of the weekend. Tom won the “classic” race and I was 5 seconds behind Andy and 10 in front of Jack.

Perhaps the most exciting thing I did for the weekend was to jump in a C-2 with Mike Harris. The good news is that Mike is a much better C-2 racer than some folks give him credit for. Mike is so easy to communicate with. He understands C-2 speak and has a great feel for what to do in the boat. He is one of just a few folks on the planet that I would jump into a C-2 with on a river like the Skagit or the Deerfield (like we did in 2008). The bad news is the outfitting in the boat we borrowed was horrible because the pedestals were ridiculously high. Fortunately Mike had figured out that we could peal back the top inch which helped make the boat slightly more stable. That was a good thing since we put in just above the starter and were off to the races! Mike’s timing for his strokes in the bow were perfect and we executed our lines quite well.

So while my strategy this year was quite conservative (because of the rehab), I am really FIRED UP about racing again!!!! And it was really a hoot to get to race at such a cool venue and get to bring home 5 medals for my efforts.

But this was also an outdoor adventure for Lynn and me too. The Upper Cascades are truly some of the most spectacular mountains that God has created.

The “Thunder Knob” trail was one of our favorite. I sported views of Glaciers as well as Diablo Lake.

Diablo Lake, with it aqua-green water, is just nothing less than spectacular. The pictures don’t do it justice.

Rainey Lake (which Lynn knick-name mosquito lake) was beautiful but had some of the hungriest mosquitoes we have ever encountered. It was a quick in/out with the camera.

The park ranger had told us that the Blue Lake Trail was her favorite hike in the entire region. It turned out to be our favorite too. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular coming and going. Blue Lake was crystal clear blue and gorgeous.

I was also reminded what I love about Washington and the PNW. There are few spots on earth where you have spectacular mountains and the ocean too. If you’ve never been there, the San Juan Islands are very cool.

Lynn and I took the opportunity to go to Friday Harbor, bike San Juan Island, and do a little sea kayaking. Along the way we saw some incredible sights and Orca too!