Saturday, October 11, 2008

Late Night...Early Slalom

The Late Night

The Tully Bar was hoppin' when Dan and I showed up Friday night.  We took the bus down to Grandtully to help send a couple friends off in style.  Emma and Kat are both heading out of town soon, so...a party we must have.  The place was a fine mix of young twenty something raft guides, rowdy Scotsmen, and glue-on facial hair.  Throw in some home-made chili, Jello shots, and some musical instruments and you have the fixings for some late night fun.        

Dan and I make our way to the bar via bus

When we arrived, the party was well underway... 

...And the facial hair was in full effect.  

There was no shortage of stiff drinks or loud singing 

Emma dishing it out.  mmmmm...chili.  Dan gives his enthusiastic approval 

Emma makes a toast!

Eventually, the party did wind down...or perhaps I should say wined out.  A bunch of us found our way over to Davey Jones' house where we helped prepare elderberries for some home made wine!  There is something therapeutic about plucking elderberries and drinking elder flower wine.  The berries feel really good on your hands, but you do turn purple almost instantly.  

Dan, Dave, and Kat are getting after it and loving every minute of it!

Squishy goodness 

At some point in the wee hours of the morning, I staggered home to the Macdonald house for some much needed sleep.  While the night was a success, and much fun was had, I knew my performance was not going to be all it could have been for the Scottish Champs Slalom Race the next day.  It wasn't going to be easy getting up in time to help set up the course either. 


The Slalom

Oh well, the decision was made...Enjoying the company of friends takes precedence over slalom for me.  I had no chance of seriously competing anyway.  I haven't been in a slalom boat in over a year, and there were several of the best racers in Britain there.  All I could hope for was to have some fun, and not embarrass myself...and that's just what I did!

         Kevin, the course designer, explains the course while Steve and his two sons Struan and Ben look on.  

Once the course is decided, and explained to the rest of us, EVERYONE pitches in to get it set up.  A lot needs to happen before the race.  Fresh green and red poles are strung and pulled into place.  The communication system is set up.  The judges are selected and briefed.  Every detail must be in place before the first racer ever gets on the course.  

Campbell Walsh (current European Champion) and Fiona Pennie (Britain's best female K-1) string a gate

Steve's junior slalom team got a bit of inspiration prior to the start of the race.  Campbell was nice enough to give a little talk about what it takes to compete at the highest level of the sport, and what the path is like to get there.  

Many of the Scottish Canoe Association Juniors and Campbell Walsh chatting it up.  

I wanted to help the cause as much as possible, so I volunteered to be a gate judge.  I spent the morning at gates 10, 11, 12, and 13, the hardest sequence of the course.  I paid close attention, as this was the most active judging station.  If someone was going to have was going to be here.  


Me, looking VERY official.

After the morning runs were over, I got to take a crack at it.  It felt good to be in a slalom boat again.  I really dig the new 3.5 meter boats.  Back when I raced more often, all the boats were 4 meters.  

   One of my runs...coming out of gate 7

Looking for the next gate... on my second run

My favorite part of the race was the team competition.  The Macdonald brothers and I, all got to race together on the course at the same time.  The rules are simple...Start at the same time and end at about the same time.  All three members of your team need to negotiate the course and finish within 15 seconds of each other.  

Keeping it tight is the key to the team competition.  

The Macdonald boys and me.  
Ben, me, Struan

The slalom was a success.  I managed to hold it together and avoid embarrassment despite the late night.  I was glad I didn't let my teammates down.  It makes me wish there was a slalom run in MY backyard when I was there age.   It's nice to see that the sport is still going strong.  There is great hope for the future of slalom with kids like these getting after it!   

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