Selection this year was held in Scotland at a place called Grand Tully. This is home to one of the more difficult slalom courses in the UK. To prepare myself and make the most of the races ahead I went up one week before the competition. This meant I would have a chance to practice on the course and get used to it. It became apparent when we arrived that this would be the highest I’d ever seen the river, let alone paddled it. As there was only me around for the first couple of days I waited for the rest of the team to come over, I didn’t fancy going on on my own, just to be safe.
The majority of the team arrived on the Monday night. I jumped onto the river with a couple of team mates for a little play session. That night we had a meeting to discuss groups and sessions for the week and then things really went up a level as training kicked off. We are very lucky as we get to be coached by the recently retired canoe slalom athlete Eoin Rheinisch. Another added bonus is that the team managed to get a hostel 30 meters walk away from the river and most of us were staying there.
High river levels meant that the eddies were very small and pretty crap, if they were there at all, this made the course even more brutal. We did two sessions a day familiarising and preparing ourselves for the race on Saturday and Sunday. To taper off on the friday we did a short session in the morning, it didn’t help that it was the busiest session of the week.
When we weren’t training and were having some down time, just chilling, watching movies together; but then Sam and I came up with a great idea creating a new game called ‘table-mat, table-tennis’. As you can see in the image bellow we used the dinner tables and books to make the table and net, and for bats we used the table mats. It was great fun and its safe to say a little bit addictive, we may have played it for several hours while we were there…
The course was set up on the friday night so we went to have a look to see what we were racing on. Unfortunately the course was brutal, which was to be the expected as they didn’t have many options. The course basically meant you start sprinting through the start beam all the way to the finish line. On top of this the course times were longer then normal and battling with the water meant for a very tiring course.
The set up for Irish Selection meant that every one of the four runs we did over the weekend was an individual race rather than the normal you get two runs and the best one counts. They would then take our best three results and these would decide if we would make the team for the 2014 season.
On my first run I decided that I would take things very cautiously because I have raced at Tully before on several occasions, and know the judging is very difficult and sometimes controversial. This worked as I put down a run without any touches, the only downside to doing this is that the run time was a bit slower than I would have liked.
For the second run I was aiming to do the same thing again but with a bit of a faster run time, this meant I would have a good set up, only needing to get one more good result on Sunday. The run time was deceptive as I thought I went quite a bit faster but when I looked back at the video I noticed I wasn’t as technically sharp and lost time. On top of that it didn’t help that I touched several gates giving me 6 seconds worth of penalties.
That was the racing over and done with for the Saturday. There was a new course set up for Sunday and again they were still limited as to what they could do with the water level so high. This meant for another long brutal course.
On Sunday, the third and fourth races, I had to put down two fast runs because my runs the previous day hadn’t been fast enough. I was feeling confident coming into the second day as the course was a little bit more technical. All I can say is wow, if a run could go drastically wrong I sure gave it a run for its money. I caught an edge going through gate one and then was pushed for making gate 2, it was very close. Unfortunately when doing the cross from 9 to 10 on the surf I paddled to the side of the gate picking up a 50 penalty, from there on it only got worse. When I crossed the finish line I wasn’t pissed off I was more so disappointed in myself for not preforming knowing that I could easily do it.
It was down to last runs, I had to preform on this run else I wouldn’t make the team. I knew there was pressure for me to preform but I knew I was capable of it. I was the last of the U23 K1 men to go off and I managed to put down a half decent run which hopefully should be enough to secure my place on the team for the 2014 season.
My main thing to take away from the racing up at Tully was my fitness level, due the the period I had off I hadn’t regained my fitness to the level it should be at. This is the main thing I will be working on when I get back from Tully. This should hopefully solve a lot of my issues and allow me to put down some faster times and get some better results.