A reflection: A personal journey in training......The road to Canadian Team Trials.

Paddling for me has always been about "the LOVE".  By "Love", I mean love of whitewater, of time in nature, of adrenaline, of beauty and of adventure. A love that seemingly courses through my very bloodstream, a love that has become nothing short of soulful. Doing it only for the simplicity and connection to nature. No rules, no limits, no boundaries.  This is always how it's been since I first experienced the magic of whitewater and never once looked back....that is until I found myself in a freestyle competition.

For several years, my friends had called my bluff, noticing that I was a solid paddler in creeking, and playboating. The question of "why don't you compete" was always answered with, because "I paddle because it makes me happy and I don't want to ruin it". 

I grew up playing team sports at very competitive levels. Playing competitive teams sports was a way of life for me growing up, I thrived from sports.  I heavily credit sports as a hook, an anchor and guiding light in my educational and career pathways.  One by one, I would become so deeply involved in my sport of choice that I would inevitably loose interest or become turned off by the pervading political aspects, subsequently turning my focus to another athletic pursuit that was new, challenging and exciting.

Paddling somehow has managed to persevere in my gallery of interests.  I'm not sure if it's my first individual sport, or the adrenaline/danger quotient, or that its one of the first sports I've encountered that really requires me to work hard for every single gain that I make in the sport. I'm not sure what it is but I know that it’s real.

My paddling "soul kick" came to an end when some friends entered me in to the Women's  Pro-Class in a Rodeo on my home river. Although I had witnessed several competitions on the river before, I never had a yen to be a participant.  I'm not sure why, but it just wasn't what I wanted from paddling.  Faced with an entrance into a competition that I hadn't cared to learn strategies or rules to and not wanting to make a fool of myself, I gathered as much advice in the 12 hours notice that I had to prepare.

The Pan-Am Competition went well; I found myself in second place after the prelims and ended up finishing in 3rd behind the current world champion (at the time) and the former world champ.

I discovered that I felt exhilarated by the competitiveness of it; I had a renewed vigor and desire to nail newer, harder and bigger tricks.

In August of 2011, I set my sites on competing for a spot on the Canadian Freestyle Team.  The plan was to spend the fall, winter and spring getting into the best physical condition possible. The vehicle for this conditioning was teaming up with a number of training partners (you know who you are...I am grateful) who would push my limits and maximize my time in the gym and on the roads.  I hit the gym 4-5 days weekly for a maximal cardio session of either 35 or 53 minutes.....weight training typically happened both before and after the cardio.  A typical week also included 3 running sessions as well.  Signing up with friends for a couple of half-marathons also helped keep the training focus.

Basic physical readiness was only one part of the prep phase.  I had a great deal of mental and on the water work that needed to be done.  The mental aspects included viewing instructional video of the more difficult moves and comparing them with video execution of these moves.  Visualization and imagery of being successful in these moves.   Flat water fundamentals have come into play, reinforcing the kinesthetic pathways and strengthening core muscles.

All of these activities took place until the Canadian winter faded and the rivers were once again an option to paddle.  Trips to my local river to train (120 minutes from home) on weekends and evenings were the focus during May and June.

When July rolled around, it was full on river time.  Paddling, practicing, asking advice and questions. Training before work, after work and several sessions on days off.

It's now July 15th. My body is tired, sore, strong and happy! I have one month to complete my training preparations. My plan is get to the competition site as many times as I can before the comp, so that I can know the hydraulic as well as I can.  I will continue to study the nature and structure of the competition and ask advice to other boaters in the eddies. I will stretch and do Yoga off river as much as I possibly can as well.  I have considered hiring a paddling coach for some tech sessions ....but that notion is still on the burner. I'd like to offer thanks to my family and friends who support me in all of my crazy adventures. A special thanks to my sponsors as well.... Teva, Snap Dragon and WRSI.... I am honored to represent you.

The goal is top 10.....anything less than top 7 will be a large disappointment, top 5 will be less of a disappointment....as it means that I made the finals.  Top 3 is where I want to be.  
Is it worth it....I hope so. My underlying philosophy win, loose or draw is that I will be a better paddler on Aug 16th than I was a year ago.  I'll try also to smile as much as I can in the process!

Katie Quinn

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