Thursday, June 23, 2011

USA Nationals, Salida CO, Our Trip to the “Heart of the Rockies” - June 2011

USA NATIONALS SALIDA/FIBARK CO (is this my last big race?):
I am just happy to be able to be competing. My shoulder has not held up to the rigors of whitewater training/racing, perhaps due in part to the rocky rivers of the Eastern US. So getting to go to Nationals again was a joy and an honor.

2011 was a banner year for snowfall in the “fourteener” region of the Arkansas river basin. River flows were a romping 3000+ CFS when we got there and grew to 3500ish later in the week.

As a result, the Sprint Course was a romping stomping solid and continuous big Class III that took about a minute.

For me, it felt like a minute long wresting match, but apparently I am my own worst critic as the video and pictures that I reviewed showed that my form was very solid on race day.

All those years of training and coaching I have given over the years have apparently helped ingrain the correct form when it counts.

While I was all geared up to do the Sprint on Thursday afternoon and the Classic at 5PM on Friday, the good Lord had a different plan.

Our day on Thursday started off with a call at 3:35 stating that Harold (Lynn’s Dad) had died. So we begin our day planning our return to ATL and Birmingham AL for the funeral (see the Tribute to Harold Mask below). Ultimately what worked out best was to fly out of DEN to ATL on Friday a.m., so once the arrangements were made we headed off to Salida to help Ed Loeffel with organizing the event. A second but lower priority was to do my best (in my old “No Name” C-1 that I borrowed back from Denny Adams).

I was reminded again why I love Wildwater. The 10+ mph current made you feel like you were flying down as you tried to hammer down an awesome, continuous, big surging Class III and right through the middle of town. But it is also the camaraderie that makes our sport special. Wildwater is a small close knit sport where we still try and help each other with technique, lines, and even sharing boats. When Lisa Adams asked if she could share boats with me 10 minutes before the first race, I was happy to help out as my old “No Name” is now technically her boat.

I was quite happy with my Sprint runs on Thursday and I stacked up quite well against the kayaks and was second to Tom Wier our top C-1. While I was hopeful that at least one of the younger up and comer’s would beat me, they still have their work cut out for them, and I finished second.

When the organizer heard of Harold’s death and that I had to leave after the Sprint race, they allowed me to take my classic run (with Terry Smith doing the timing). In spite of feeling a bit tired from the sprints, and feeling downright arm weary, I decided to go for it and knock out my “classic” distance race along with Colton Popp. WOW, that was one of the hardest races I had ever done. It was brutal, as I started out the race on brisk pace only to run out gas 4 minutes into the rate due to the thin air at 7000 feet. After getting really sloppy, I was forced to slow it down and try and try and let my oxygen debt catch up with me. What would have taken a couple minutes back east took twice as long but I was gradually able to start properly driving the boat and pick the pace back up.

But when it was all said and done, the FIBArk Whitewater Festival is one of the coolest paddling events on the planet. I am just glad I got to be a part of in (although it was abbreviated) and finish both of my Nationals run.

Will this be my last Nationals level whitewater race? Probably. I need to focus on my shoulder, and if I get it fixed I will more than likely become a flatwater and all around fitness guy.

As we typically do, when USA Nationals are in a garden spot on the planet, Lynn and I try to turn it into an outdoor adventure trip.

This year was no exception as the Salida/Buena Vista/Chaffee County CO area is well known as the “Heart of the Rockies.”

It started with the SUV we rented (we got an incredible deal from Alamo).

While the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee does not have as much clearance as the older models, and is not quite as nimble due to the elimination of the lower gear range, it did work well for what we needed it for and it got a solid 25+ mpg. Armed with 4WD, we were able to get to the trailheads we needed without fear.

Being prepared is key to hiking in CO. I typically pack twice as much water as needed, a light weight jacket, and an extra base layer or two (and we like Patagonia’s products for this).

For day hikes I normally wear shorts and the full height Keen Targee II boots and Lynn likes the lower cut Keen Targee’s (but wears long pants).

Dark glasses are essential as you never know when you are going to cross a snowfield.

Since the snow was still present above 11,000 some of the trails that we normally do were off limits. As a result, we hit several of the trailheads we love that were less affected such as Denny’s Creek/Browns Cabin (west of BV), Buffalo Peaks Wilderness area (NE of BV/Elephant Rock), and trails around the Saint Elmo area.

WOW, what a great adventure. The combination of getting to view some incredible mountain scenery and wildlife was just downright inspirational.

Depending on how everything goes, Lynn and I may try to return in mid-September during peak leaf change.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Tribute to Harold “Paw-Paw” Mask (1933-2011)

While Lynn and I had figured on having a combination of a Colorado adventure trip and USA Nationals, we ended up having to cut it short to return home for her dad's funeral and to help. Harold’s death was the reason that Lynn and I jetted back home during the middle of our Nationals.

I am going to miss my father-in-law Harold Mask who passed away on June 16. In many respects he was like a second father to me, especially given that my own father died more than 20 years earlier.

Paw-Paw (as Lynn and I and the grandkids all called him) would fill a room with his personality and his laughter. His outgoing nature made him a natural for sales and during his career he had an unblemished reputation as very honest and fair Sales Director/VP that would always go the extra mile for his customers.

He dearly loved his wife Gayle (of 58 years, who he married when he was 20 and now survives him). He also loved his family, his friends, his work, traveling and animals. He had an incredible way of communicating with both dogs and cats. And last but not least, Paw-Paw loved the Lord.

While we hate to say goodbye, we know that Harold is in a much better place now, as his suffering in this life has ended. It is perhaps appropriate to state what Christians of faith like him believe about death (as summed up by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8):

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because those that believe in Him belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed them from the power of death. Christ lives within you believers, so even though your body will die, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. This is because the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Yet while we may suffer now in this life, this is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. We wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Those that believe in Christ were given this hope when we were saved.

Can anything ever separate a believer from Christ’s love? Of course not. Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us unconditionally. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lyons Outdoor Games June 11, 2011

Lyons Colorado is a really cool outdoor town about half way between Boulder and Estes Park. I was delighted when my travel schedule allowed me to race in this year's Wildwater Race. The race course is awesome for wildwater racing and training.

Since I am really focusing on ensuring my trucking operation is running well these days I opted for a night flight that ended up being a late night flight to Denver with midnight arrival in Boulder. Oh well, so I got 5-6 hours of sleep, jumped in a Tip Top C-1 that Denny Adams provided, and did a test run of the course with Race Master Jeremy Rodgers early Sat a.m.

The race course from the Apple Valley Bridge to Black Bear Hole is continuous Class 2 and has a half dozen class 3ish rapids. Our race took us right through the Lyons Whitewater Park (which has been enhanced by Scott Shiply) during peak Outdoor Games spectatorship.

Jeremy Rodgers did a great job of organizing the event and the winners got some great swag. Olympian Scott Shiply led the Kayak field followed by Gary Lacy. Team Dawson, led by coach Lisa Adams, showed up in force and everyone did quit well. Spencer Huff, an up and coming star in the Jr ranks really showed me something and I think he will rapidly improve with more time in the boat and coaching.

I was the fastest canoe down the river and stacked up well on a personal level. On a personal note, the Tip Top felt incredibly stable to me compared to the tippy Bala I normally paddle, and this is a factor I will strongly consider as I back away from paddling on a regular basis (due to my shoulder issues).

All in all, this was a great course, a great event, and a great time. I hope to see more of you there next year.