Archive for June, 2009


US Wildwater Nationals and FIBARK

Top of CottonwoodAfter three days and 1500 miles of driving, my sister Bailey, my dad, and I arrived in Salida, Colorado, Sunday June 14. I was really excited to get out of the car and start paddling, but we didn’t arrive until pretty late, so I settled for a run instead. The next morning we went for a hike near Buena Vista. My coach John Pinyerd and his wife Lynn took us up past the towns of St. Elmo and Hancock and we hiked up Mt. Poor on a trail that used to be a railroad path. The hike had some great views and we even saw a few marmots along the way. Unfortunately the snow hadn’t melted completely, so parts of the trail were hard to cross, and unlike my coach I wasn’t wearing my Keen hiking boots, which made it even more difficult. The hike did help me get acclimatized to the altitude however, because once I was up over 12,000 ft, racing at 7,000 on the Arkansas River didn’t feel as high.

The next day we finally went paddling. Everyone met at one o’clock for a training clinic led by Andy Corra, a kayaker from Durango, CO. We did two runs on the classic course, the first one with the entire group to learn the fastest lines and then the second just with my sister and John. The classic was about 20 minutes long, and began just above the play hole and the F Street Bridge in Salida and ended immediately below Bear Creek. I really enjoyed the course because it was pretty deep, so I didn’t have to worry about hitting rocks and doing boat repair later.

Wednesday was the day that we did some practice runs on the sprint course through Cottonwood, which was about 20 miles downstream of Salida. Cottonwood is Class IV, and has three big holes that are best avoided. We arrived that afternoon and went down to scout the rapid from the highway. Top American C1 Tom Weir had done a few runs already and so he gave us some tips on how to run it. There was some debate over the left vs. the right line through the rapid, but the majority consensus was that the left side was faster. My first run through was pretty rough, and I ended up going through the middle of the first big hole, which pushed my bow right. This caused me to run the rest of the rapid backwards, which obviously wasn’t very fast. As I walked my boat back up to the start eddy, Andy Corra stopped me to give me some pointers for my next run. I took his advice, and the next two runs that afternoon went much more smoothly than the first.

The next morning we woke up at 6 to leave for the race. We drove down to registration, got our goody bags with free t-shirts and Clif Bars, and I got ready to race. Luckily I had enough time after the competitors’ meeting to do another practice run on the sprint course, because the water level had risen since the day before. My line didn’t change too much, but the waves at the entrance of the rapid had gotten pushier, and I was glad that I knew that going into the race so that I could be prepared. For my first run, I had a good line through Cottonwood, but my sprint through the boils at the finish was not very strong. In my second run, my bow got pushed a little too far left before the second hole, and to avoid eddying out on the left I put in a back stroke, which inevitably slowed me down. Overall though, I was happy with my results for the day.

Sprint Run

Friday morning was the Classic race. To warm up, I did a practice run with John, his C2 partner Rob Murphy, and Bailey. Again, I was glad that I did a practice run because the water level had come up once again, and Bear Creek had gotten pretty big. I ended up with a good race, but it wasn’t as good as my sprint. I definitely noticed the altitude difference and the fact that I hadn’t been training very much this year.

Saturday was the best day of the whole trip. That morning we had the head to head sprints that started above the play hole in town and finished just below the F Street Bridge. This was not a conventional sprint race. The course was much shorter than normal, and instead of starting boats at minute intervals, each class had a mass start. It was really exciting though, because there were a ton of spectators since it was right in town. Plus, the top three boats got prizes from our sponsors, so I ended up with a nice Keen backpack. Later that afternoon, after the slalom race and freestyle competition were over, some of the top K1 men, Tom Weir, and Rich Roehner, Mike Baker and I put on a demo of wildwater racing for FIBArk. Geoff Calhoun and Peter Lutter played around in the hole surfing and trying to attain in their wildwater boats. Others demonstrated how to turn the boats, ferrying, and even the C2 rolled twice for the crowd. It was a big hit with the audience, and I had a lot of people come up to me afterward saying that they enjoyed it because they didn’t know very much about wildwater, and that it was really interesting. Right after the demo, Peter asked me if I wanted to be in the hooligan race with him and another Junior, Mackenzie Hatcher. I agreed, and we convinced Tom Weir to join too.

“The hooligan race, which features any type non-boating craft that daredevils attempt to float through the Salida Whitewater Park, is one of the premier events of the festival that’s in its 61st year. It’s popularity was surely evident, as an estimated 10,000 people lined the banks of the Arkansas River and the F Street Bridge on Saturday to witness the carnage and comedy that the Hooligan offers.”

            From the Pueblo Cheiftain, (Tom Purfield)

Our float was definitely makeshift, and consisted of a huge partially deflated blow-up Red Bull can that Peter and Mackenzie had found earlier that day. The four of us carried it up to the start, and were placed in the second heat. The event was pretty chaotic, with no rules and drunk people in costumes everywhere. We all ran in the water when they said go, and the icy cold snowmelt was quite shocking at first. For the rest of the “race” I had no idea what was going on, because our float had collapsed on top of me. Going through the hole was the best part, though Peter started kicking me in the face at that point. After the hole, we all tried to swim the float to shore, because none of us wanted to pay the $500 deposit on it if it got lost and floated downstream.

Sunday was the FIBArk 61st annual downriver race, 26 miles long from Salida to Cotopaxi. Again, the water had gotten even higher than it was the day before, thanks to the snowmelt from upstream. The start was insane, with 40+ boats starting in a mass start just above the Salida boat ramp. I was hoping to stay up with Tom Weir from the start so I could follow his lines since he knows the river well, but I ended up eddying out just above the bridge to avoid crashing into a K1 that had turned sideways in front of me. The first 30 minutes of the race were really fun, especially with the high water. Most of the boats separated out fairly quickly, but Terry Smith, a kayaker from Chattanooga, TN and I were about the same speed for the majority of the race, so we stayed together. My lower back had been bothering me some that week, but during the race it got a lot worse. After 45 minutes, it hurt every time I rotated and took a stroke on my left side. I was really glad that Terry was right behind me, because it motivated me to keep up a good pace, even when it hurt to rotate. The worst part of the race was the few miles of flat shallow water above Cottonwood. I was getting pretty tired, and I wasn’t sure how hard I should go on the flat section because although that is where you gain or lose most of your time, I didn’t want to get too tired and go through Cottonwood without any energy because I knew it was going to be even pushier than it was during the sprint race. From Cottonwood on the race was a lot of fun. The rapids were really deep with huge waves that are unlike anything I’ve paddled in the southeast. Plus the whitewater gave me a distraction from my back, and it was continuous from that point until the finish line. I crossed the finish line in 12th place overall, with a time of 2:16.00, which was the fastest women’s time, and 13 minutes behind the fastest K1, Andy Corra. The only thing I wanted to do when I got out of my boat was eat a Clif Bar, drink some water, and lay down. That night my sister and I took my dad out for a Father’s Day dinner at Amica’s and we celebrated my win of the 26 mile race and Bailey winning her age group in the 10 mile downriver race.

Overall, it was an amazing week full of kayaking and hanging out with paddlers from all over the country. The venue was great, and the race organizers did a great job, so I want to thank them for putting on a successful event. I also enjoyed watching the slalom and freestyle events that took place, and I wish that more events combined all these types of paddling together. Another thanks to the sponsors of USA Wildwater, including KEEN, Clif Bar, and Immersion Research for their support. And finally, I would like to thank my dad for driving out to Colorado with us, driving shuttle for us, and spending Father’s Day sitting on a rock videoing me and my friends race

Here are some articles from local newspapers that give some more information about the races



For the past two weeks, I have been home in Roswell, GA training for Nationals. It has been awesome to get back in my kayak on a regular basis. I have been training mostly on flatwater on the Chattahoochee during the week with my coach John Pinyerd and going on whitewater on the weekends. I’ve made a couple trips to the Ocoee, which is a great wildwater run, and with my dad shuttling, we usually get in three or more runs in a day. I also went up to the Pigeon River, which is pretty far for just a day trip, but it was definitely worth the drive. The water level was perfect for wildwater runs, and I was able to take my race boat down without much boat damage. The rapids are also similar to the Arkansas, with big waves at the entrance rapids, so it was a great river to train on before Nationals. 

My dad, sister and I will be leaving for Colorado this Friday and will arrive in Salida sometime on Sunday. So this week I am getting in my last few practices and getting all of my boats and gear ready for the trip.

June 2009
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