The GoPro Games always have had a place in my heart, this year was my 10th year competing at this event. There are normally 3 events within one major event, the steep creek race, freestyle kayaking, and a downriver sprint. I have a pretty spotty history with this event though. In 9 years of competing, I have never had a podium spot in all of my events.
It all starts on the Thursday of the event, at Homestake Creek. A creek that is in Red Cliff, CO, outside of Vail. It drops 480 feet in a 1/4 mile, one of the steepest pieces of whitewater in Colorado. The water levels have always been up in the air with one year racing at 27 cfs (cubic feet per second), other years being about 150, and this year a whopping 800-900 cfs. When a riverbed this small gets that high, we stop counting and just call it “high”. Usually, I have great prelims runs and then wreck in the final. I went into the race this year with a 0% batting average. I had wrecked at the last rapid on the course every lap I did the day before. I had one very good prelims run and I went straight to the finals. The time I put down was never beaten through the day. However, I ended up second in the final. As of this year, I have now taken Gold once, Silver 5 times, Bronze 3 times, and only once have I not made the final race.
I had to go straight from Homestake to downtown Vail for the freestyle to start at 3. It was 130 by the time I got back to Vail and still had to go register. I walked all of my gear, including my kayak, about 10 blocks to the feature. I then walked another 10 blocks to get my bibs for the freestyle and the downriver sprint on Saturday morning. The walk, all together, took about an hour. It was nearing starting time for the freestyle event and I hadn’t even taken a single practice ride.
I was the only woman to do both the extreme race and the freestyle. I comfortably made it into semi-finals.
By the end of Thursday, I was exhausted, I mentally broke down before the awards ceremony for Homestake in a closet I found at a hotel, and had to bear out a smile as I went up on the podium next to Nouria Newman and Jenn Chrimes. I am not sure what caused it other than the stresses of making sure to be on time everywhere on top of competing. I had an early night.
Friday and Saturday were a cakewalk for me after the hardships of Thursday. I only had to compete once in the freestyle and I had my best ride of the whole competition, putting me in first for the finals on Saturday. In 10 years of competing at this feature, I have only made finals 3 times. Saturday was an early morning of running around trying to find a long boat due to a last minute change in the sprint race format. Luckily, I found a friend who was willing to loan me his and I headed to the start. I put down a pretty good race on the class 2, 16 minute long, race. I was (somehow) beat by 4 seconds by a woman from Durango, Colorado. My second silver of the 2016 GoPro Games.
Finals for freestyle were later in the day, but I was awarded a visit by Evan Stafford and his two beautiful girls who I love and miss so much, I only see them once a year. It was a great afternoon of being with them and a breath of fresh air. Freestyle finals went well, I was happy, comfortable, and even having fun. I ended up second again.
Summing this thing up, competing is hard. It is stressful both mentally and physically. I have a love hate relationship with it, but I don't ever want to stop. I had to find humor in coming in second in every single one of my events.
I actually had to leave the GoPro Games a day early because I accepted a job at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, teaching a kayaking kids camp. Speaking of… gotta go, my flight to Asheville is about to leave.