Tough first day

The first day of racing is complete with some tough results in the two 2000m races.  The Open crew had a solid race but with just a little less aggressiveness than is required at this level.  The final placing was 8th but the difference between 3rd and 8th was pretty small – only 7 seconds.  The Mixed crew ended up 4th only 0.57s from the bronze.  All results are at http://www.dragonboat2009.com/results

The boats they are using here are wider than we are used to and coupled with a seemingly shallow course that produces a lot of wash the amount of water being taken on by the crews was pretty significant.  After seeing a number of crews sink in previous races we ended up using 18 paddlers for Open to reduce the weight and keep water out.  The trade off of course is a lack of power.  We didn’t take on too much water so I luckily didn’t have to stop paddling and bail water as I was the designated bailer.  Overall the race was a positive beginning to the championships as we saw that we can compete at this level, but as we know this is a very competitive category and we’ll need to be at the top of our game the rest of the week if we are to be competitive.

After a short delay due to an intense thunderstorm that turned the site into a bit of a mud pit, the Mixed crew raced an amazingly gutsy race from start to finish.  We caught up to the Germans in front of us but the conditions made it impossible for us to get past them.  The Russians started last behind us and we’re able to delay their start position enough to have some clean water which was a great tactical move on their part.  Too bad as defending world champions we weren’t afforded the right to start last.

This was one of the hardest (if not hardest) races I’ve ever done.  Mentally it was a real challenge to keep the body physically going, and everyone else was is the same position.  Physically we could not have done more and I’m so proud of the entire crew.  Personally I feel extremely confident that the peaking process has worked as I was able to push my self very hard and perform at a level that I am accustomed to at big events.

As expected there are many strong crews here especially the Europeans on their home turf and the Chinese have brought a very strong team.  That’s what you want at the worlds is the opportunity to race the best.  We’re very excited to start racing the straight-line events next as the number of variables decreases significantly and the element of luck plays much less of a part.

Tomorrow we start with the gruelling and tactical 1000m distance for the Open crew (so Catherine gets a much deserved day off).  We’ll have to race 3 or 4 times so it’s going to be an exhausting day, but one I’m really looking forward to.

Tomorrow we race

Just got back to the hotel after the fourth and final day of practice before the 9th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships which begin tomorrow.  Each of the last four days has been remarkably similar:

  1. Wake up early (06:00ish)
  2. Eat breakfast with paddlers from around the world (some who clearly have a different interpretation of how to queue up!)
  3. Take the Team Canada shuttle bus to the race course about 45 minutes away in the middle of nowhere.
  4. 1 hour off-water warm up (run, active movements, talk, etc.)
  5. 1 hour practice in either Open (men’s) or Mixed boat
  6. 1 hour break
  7. 1 hour practice in the other boat
  8. 1 hour eating/stretching/debrief
  9. 45 minutes back on the bus to the hotel
  10. (Optional) Take the free bus over to Tesco to get more food
  11. Eat/hydrate/rest for 4 or 5 hours
  12. Bed

So not much time for any more sightseeing, but that’s totally fine with me as I’m here for only one reason and that’s to race the best possible races and leave with no regrets.

The on-water part has been really great.  The men have really come together in 4 days with each practice being better than the last.  The mixed is such a well oiled machine that we’ve been just working on the fine tuning and we’re so fired up to race and show the world how much faster we are than in 2007 (when we won Gold, Silver and fourth).

I’m feeling great mentally albeit a little physically beat up.  Nothing serious, but I’ve got a few sore spots in my back from who knows what and my elbows tendons are a bit beat up from all the start pieces we’ve been doing in practice.  The starts are the most intense part of the race and most likely to cause injury due to the power you need to apply to overcome the resistance of the big heavy boat in the water.  During the race my entire body will be in excruciating pain so a couple little sore spots won’t make any difference.

We looked over the race draw last night which always gets me psyched up.  I’m not sure why seeing the country names on paper makes any difference, but for me it somehow seems more real when I see it.  As you would expect from the world championships there will be no easy races; we’ll need to be at our best every single time we go out there.  And that really is the main challenge of a five day event like this.  All the teams are good and everyone can lay down a really good time once but doing it over and over again can be a different story.

Tomorrow I’ll be racing the 2000m race in both Open and Mixed and Catherine will race the Mixed.  The 2000m is a bit of a crazy race as it is run with three turns one after each 500m.  Teams start 12 seconds apart and chase each other down and each team’s time is calculated after the race to determine the winner.  There are so many boats on the course that there will be wash (waves created by the boats) all over the place so we’ll need to be careful to stay alert and calm.  For the heavier men’s crews the possibility of taking on too much water and sinking is a distinct possibility so we’ll try to avoid that (although our crew isn’t that heavy).  The 2000m always requires a little luck so hopefully we’ll get some and have some good results to report.  The races are being held in the late afternoon/early evening so by the time we get back to the hotel and eat we may not be able to provide an update but we’ll try.  The results should be going up online through at http://www.dragonboat2009.com or http://idbfworldchamps.com/

Thanks for all the words of support; take care and wish us luck!

Plan A… and Plan B

Those who have eaten with me will know a few things about me. I am a vegetarian, and although I don’t consider myself a picky eater, I do like to eat healthy and I like to eat familiar foods before racing. The local pay-in-advance menu for athletes here in Prague included chicken liver dumplings, borscht, pork noodle with sauerkraut, and a few other regional specialties. Needless to say, I was keen to make my own food.

I have self-catered on most trips (paddling and pleasure traveling) and I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Graham and our team mates Erica and Leah were also keen to ‘eat in’ with us, so Erica packed a rice cooker from Canada, Graham packed a transformer from Canada so that it would work in Europe, I brought spices and other ingredients from home, and we went shopping the first day we got here.

After a late start due to some transportation difficulties en route to the grocery store, we were well on our way to Thai coconut rice with veggies. We ate this in Australia at World Championships 2 years ago and it was very popular.  Except that this time, the rice wouldn’t boil. I guess our transformer wasn’t stepping up/stepping down the way it was supposed to , so the rice stayed at 60 degrees Celsius for about 30min… until Graham suggested we use the pass-through converter.  We knew this was a bit of a gamble because the heating element in the Canadian rice cooker was designed for 110V not 220V… but we were hungry and had already waited a long time.  This rice boiled in about 4 minutes and then started to smoke a bit.  We opened the windows, then emptied the coconut rice and then tried to fry up some veggies – but the rice cooker would not turn on again.   It was thoroughly dead after one use, to our lasting disappointment.

The next afternoon we went to the store and bought a hot plate (with 220V-accomodating Euro-plug) and pot.  Last night we had rice and bean burritos, a meal some will remember from when I cooked it at the 5-star resort where Bridget had her wedding.  It was very successful, without any smoke or fire, so we are looking forward to having more meals on our mini-kitchen.

Leah took a picture of me cooking in our ill-fated rice cooker and also with the hot plate, so I’ll post them once we can wrangle them from her.

Safe and sound in Prague

Hi everyone,

We made it in to Prague yesterday right on schedule after a couple of uneventful flights.  I even got about 3 hours of sleep on the plane which was really good because it allowed me to stay up until 22:00 and thus get to sleep on time.

We did have a little adventure getting to the hotel as we decided to take the cheap public transit option.  While it was definitely cheap and efficient it really was quite something to haul three heavy suitcases, one small roller, two backpacks and the paddles on the crowded bus then two subway lines right in the middle of rush hour.  The look on some of the locals faces was priceless.  We’d have had the same looks if we saw a couple of people board the SkyTrain at Broadway station during rush hour with all their bags.  Jerks!

Once at the hotel we took the free shuttle bus over to the mega Tesco supermarket.  I’m sure the shuttle pays for itself many times over as there is a lot of big apartment blocks in the area and probably a lot of people don’t have cars so they wouldn’t be able to get to the big store.  The prices for most items was the same or less than at home with local produce being high quality and lower price than we’d expect to pay. Cabbage, Hungarian peppers, and small, sweet nectarines are our favourites.

Today we got up fairly early after both sleeping more than 8 hours and had a couple of team meetings.  Then we headed downtown with Erica, Leah, and Chris on the subway for a day of sightseeing and jet-lag erasing.  I actually don’t feel jetlagged at all, but I know that the travel will have had some effect on me – we’ll see on the water tomorrow.

The buildings in Prague we’re really amazing; I’m not really a student of architecture or art styles like Catherine but I was definitely impressed.  The narrow winding cobbled streets were quite interesting with pedestrians all over them.  You almost forget that cars drive on them until the odd one comes screaming down the street.  It’s crazy that anyone would try to drive in the old town, but the odd few do.

We crossed over the Charles Bridge and had a nice lunch on an outdoor patio overlooking the Vltava river.  Then we climbed the hill and went through the cathedral at the top.  Definitely the most impressive building inside that I’ve ever been inside.  We took a lot of pictures and we commented about how my Dad would have gone crazy with the picture taking.  Our feet were tired and as Catherine said we had “beautiful building fatigue” so we headed back to the hotel on the metro.

We’re going to cook up some Thai-style coconut rice and vegetables tonight and then maybe watch a movie.  Then we’re up early tomorrow for our first practices.  We’re both looking forward to getting down to the real order of business.

Thanks to everyone who has emailed us good wishes, we really appreciate it.   Take care and we’ll try to update again soon.

A few pictures from today:

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King Wenceslas on upside down horse

From Charles Bridge towards the castle
From Charles Bridge towards the castle
One of many huge stained glass windows in St. Vitus’ Cathedral, this one is by Alfons Mucha in Art Nouveau style (Catherine’s favourite)
One of many huge stained glass windows in St. Vitus’ Cathedral, this one is by Alfons Mucha in Art Nouveau style (Catherine’s favourite)
Back side of the Cathedral
Back side of the Cathedral
Overlooking the city from the castle side
Overlooking the city from the castle side

Leaving on a jetplane

but I do know when I’ll be back again – at Christmas!

It’s T minus 4 hours to lift off and we’re ready to go.  Everything is packed, the apartment is cleaner than I’ve ever seen it and we’re fueled and hydrated up.

Right now I’m just excited to get to Prague, relax for a day and then get out on the course on Saturday.  It will be great to get all of the men’s crew from across the country together as we’ll only have four days to get everything sorted out.  The mixed crew is firing on all cylinders so I can’t wait to get there and race.

I forgot to mention in the last post that if you’re checking out the results Catherine and I both are racing in Premier Mixed and I’m also in the Premier Open crew – for Canada of course!

Looking forward to watching a bunch of movies and doing some reading on the 13.5 hour journey.  Next post will be from the other side of the world!

Racing Results

We will try to update here with results of the races, but we may not have connectivity or time due to the long days.  After racing all day we’ll probably just be looking for food and rest and may not be keen to spend time on the computer, but we’ll try.

Racing starts Wed the 26th.  Hopefully the event organizers will post the results timely, but there are no guarantees.  Try the following sites:

http://www.dragonboat2009.com/

http://idbfworldchamps.com/

http://www.idbf.org/

Coach Kamini is also going to try and keep a blog updated at:

http://rightangleperformance.blogspot.com/

Final Countdown

It turns out that we had a little more than 20% of our stuff left in the apartment – lots of last minute items that we didn’t gnat to go without for 2 weeks when we did the ‘big move’. I have borrowed a scale from Graham’s parents (we have never owned one), so now we can pack our suitcases to maximize the amount of stuff going to Sweden!

We got our Team uniforms yesterday for World Championships. Everything seems pretty nice except for the shorts. The ‘board short’ style has a super-large waists and cramped bum space… not a very athletic cut, more of a couch potato vibe. The Women’s lycra shorts are super-short booty shorts like you might see at Bikram’s yoga. Happily, I got the men’s lycra shorts which are quite comfy with a nice Canada logo. I’ll upload some pictures in CZ (once I unpack the camera.)

We are planning to cook most of our own meals in Prague so we are eating familiar foods (it is also a lot cheaper!) I am not keen on the typical local diet of sausage and potatoes. Our friend Erica is bringing a rice cooker and I am bringing some spices etc. so we will have rice and bean burritos, couscous and curried chickpeas, lentils, and Thai coconut rice with Tofu (provided they have tofu there!) We’ll be sure to post on how that goes.

Packing for the trip

We have packed up 80% of our stuff and brought it to Graham’s parent’s place. We are lucky they are storing it in their basement as that is a lot cheaper than a storage locker. I think their basement will also end up being our room when we come back to visit at Christmas.

Now we have to pack the rest – and some harder decisions about what to bring and what to leave. Warm winter clothes are at the top of the list as Stockholm regularly gets temperatures of -15 in the winter. I am bringing my XC boots but not my skis – it costs so much to ship stuff that I am better off getting new skis. We are leaving our snowshoes too, but will likely pick them up when we come to visit at Christmas.

As excited as we are to get to Sweden, we are not going straight there. First we are going to the Czech Republic for the Dragonboat World Championships. Graham and I are racing on the mixed team and Graham is on the men’s team too. Below is a picture of our Team in Whistler last month.

Whistler race

After we are done racing we will visit Poland, Hungary, and Austria. It will be an adventure to drag all our luggage on those trains – but it should be fun.

Pictures and stories to come – stay tuned!

Adventures after Sweden