We left the day after competing at the U23 World Championships for Bourg St Maurice, the venue for the U23 European Championships, this is where the adventure began. The simplest route was to go via London, not so simple after all. We had to somehow make our way from where we had been in Liptovsky Mikulas to London. We came up with flying from Bratislava to London Stansted, that was the easy part, just everything in between was the issue.
Fortunately for us some our team mates were kind enough to take some of our kit, which meant we didn’t need to carry it all back to the UK just to come straight back out to Europe. Before we could set off we had to check-in online. Sally and I had left it this late as we didn’t have access to a printer, to print out our tickets. Then on top of this Ryanair’s online check-in was a compete disaster as it didn’t like our details and so in the end we had to leave it.
We headed out on the Monday morning for the train station, we walked across town which turned out to be an 1 hour walk with all our kayaking and camping kit, we looked like pack animals. Didn’t help that we were walking in the mid day heat about 40 degrees, not something we are use to at home. So as you can tell things weren’t looking good for us from the start. We arrived at the train station only to find we had just missed the train to Bratislava this meant we had to wait a whole 2 hours before the next train came. This wasn’t such a bad thing as it meant we had a chance to cool and refuel. I also called my parents who managed to get us checked-in on the flight but still we had not printed any tickets.
The train arrived and we were on our way to Bratislava only a 4 hour train journey. This was a very pain free part of the trip, plus I couldn’t get over how cheap the ticket was only €13 to travel 100’s of miles. Once we arrived in Bratislava we just had to make our way from the station to the airport. We could have taken the bus but with all our kit I don’t think they would of taken too kindly to us, plus we had had enough by now and just wanted to get on the plane. So in the end we got a taxi to the airport which was brilliant and meant my hair remained in my head so I didn’t have to stress so much.
Bratislava airport was quite small but still it was modern we had a little bit of time to kill before we could check in. So at this point I thought it would be a good idea to try and get those tickets printed off. I went over to the information desk to see if they would kindly do it or know of somewhere I could print them off. In the end it came apparent there wasn’t anywhere in the airport I could print them off. I would have to travel to a local supermarket, they said where there was an Internet cafe not too far away.
This was supposed to be a 10 min trip all round on the bus. I left Sally with the kit in the airport and I ran to find this Internet cafe. No buses were going so I continued running this was the same direction we had just come in from. In the end a bus came past me and was about to stop at the next bus stop only 50 meters in front of me so I jumped on to this bus and travelled for about 5 minutes where I arrived at the supermarket only to find there was no internet cafe. It was at this point starting to wonder how I was going to print the tickets off I didn’t fancy paying a £70 fee per ticket.
I then ran for a bit further where I came across a technology shop and I went in there. To cut the story short they were very kind and helped me out I managed to print the tickets off and then I had to run back to the airport. We then went and checked in all of our luggage which was under weight which was brilliant as we had no idea if it would be or not. We then grabbed a bit to eat and then flew out to the UK.
We were in the UK I think for a total of 5 hours then my parents picked us up and we headed back out to France where we would be doing a bit of training for my sister at Sault Brenaz. There was an Irish development camp on at the same time so this meant we weren’t on our own. The course was great for her, it definitely pushed her as it had some tricky sections to it. My only negative was that it was quite shallow, I snapped a paddle and damaged my boat on the last training session. We had spent about 4 days there and we then travelled over to Bourg st Maurice ready for the official training for the Junior/U23 European Championships.
As I have heard lots of different stories of Bourg it has gained a bit of a reputation. Yes I looked at some videos before I came out but its not quite the same sitting behind a computer screen and seeing it in the flesh. I definitely was nervous but once I saw the course I calmed down a bit. We arrived at Bourg ready for the first session of official training, unfortunately I couldn’t paddle as had to repair my boat first but I watched and took in as much as I could. There was so much to take in, there was so much happening, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to learn it all in time.
Nearly all of the Irish team were staying at the campsite just south of the course which was great. One of the cool things we were able to do was paddle down from the course all the way back to the campsite, it was about a 15-20 minute paddle. Though I only did this twice as my boat couldn’t handle it, I kept managing to hit rocks and cracking the boat.
The campsite we all stayed at was great we all had our own little pitches which were all segmented off, this defiantly helped keep down the heat as it made some shade. Though if we got too hot we tended to all go for a swim in the pool. On top of this they had a games room which is where we spent quite a lot of our down time, they had a pool table which I have to say I did get addicted to. But for me the biggest bonus of staying at this site was that they had internet.
I would say after having about 2-3 sessions I loved course, I had settled in and now wasn’t apprehensive. I was remembering the layout of the course and where all the rocks were. Things you might take for granted but a necessity we need to know.
Nearing the race there was a night with tonnes of rain, the reason I know this more so than some is because our tent decided to leak and we had an indoor swimming pool. That morning we were one of the lucky nations who got to paddle their session early so the river was a respectable level. In the afternoon they had too much water and had to release at a much larger level. I think they were releasing on 40-50m3/s when the racing level is 22m3/s. It was amazing to see the course releasing at this level, even better there were some people paddling it doing crazing things, which made it even more fun to watch.
After the last session of training we had to get all of our kit checked over to make sure it was legal and that we were able to race. Once this was done later that day they set the course up which was interesting as it had quite big stretches of open bits which would make the times very competitive.
As I only had 4 days of official practice before the race every session counted. This is why my coach and I decided it would be best for me to focus all of my time down at the bottom of the course on the national section. I purposely never looked up at the top course until the finals. I knew I would have wanted to paddle it, this way there was nothing I could have done. The racing up there was amazing to watch if only I could have paddled it, it’s only a matter of time.
On my first run I messed up, its amazing how missing one stroke can effect you so much. This threw my head and I really struggled to get back on track I haven’t had a run as bad as this before. I think it was a combination of, I knew I was doing well in training, I knew I could perform well and standard race nerves. There’s no other way to put it than I was disappointed and felt that I had let people down.
For my second run I had to clear my mind I knew what I had to go and do. I put a run down and that’s all it wasn’t amazing nor was it very bad. It would have been a good platform to build off. But that’s all of my individual racing done. Overall I would of hoped for a much better result that I knew I was capable of, it’s just that I didn’t execute it.
One of the great things about competing internationally is that I get to do a team run. I did this with Sam and Noel, it was a great laugh and definitely lifted my spirits. Its sods law that I preformed better in this run than on my own individual runs. Unfortunately our team picked up a 50 which would of otherwise given us a respectable result.