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Tom's Wildwater Racing Updates
I didn't train very well between the world cup and Nationals this year. I was out in my boat maybe 4 times per week and riding my bike to work a few times, but nothing serious. The weekend before nationals, I went to a family reunion in Iowa. I love our family reunions. It's good to see everyone and feel like you fit in and are cared for, even among people you see infrequently.

Wendy and I flew into Seattle on Monday night, I worked for a couple of days, and then I flew to Hartford on Thursday. Friday I had a couple of good practice runs on the Deerfield. It was also good to see Lane again- she was out paddling a wavehopper.

I've written before about pre-race jitters. I seem to only get nervous before national races. Maybe I feel like I've got more to lose. I actually win races in the US, while internationally, I've already been at the bottom of the results sheet. At the world cup, I have much more to gain. Anyway, I was pretty nervous before the sprint race, but managed to paddle well and win by a total of 12 seconds out of 4 minutes of racing. So I was up by 5% after the first day.

Before the classic on Sunday, I was even more nervous. I raced pretty well, but could tell my fitness wasn't what it should be in the last few minutes of the race. I'll have to fix that for nationals next year. I won by 43 seconds (I think), 5% again. So, that's 6 national championships.

I'm glad to be taking some time off from training/racing right now, but I'm also excited to go at it again in September. I have great hopes.
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This was an odd year in Lofer. Normally, we arrive. It rains. The river comes up, and we shorten the course. The day we arrived, it rained. But the river did not rise. It stayed about the same level, changing during the week by only a few inches. Rain for the first four days didn't make a difference.

On Friday, the sun started to come out, and by Sunday, the temperature was topping 30 degrees celsius. Preparation during the week seemed about right, with morning and afternoon paddles with naps and lunch in between. In the evenings, we watched the quarterfinal matches for the Euro Cup 2008 (the European biannual soccer tournament).

Saturday was the sprint race. I had two runs very close to the same speed. I had trouble in both runs at the same point, and lost a few seconds. I was 14th overall, just over 13% behind the winner. Nathan Hamm had a bad first run, but managed to speed it up by a few seconds in his second run.

The top four spots in the world cup rankings were very close, with any of the four racers able to win overall if they won the classic on Sunday. I raced fairly well, and had my second best race of the year, 9.3% back in 16th place. I think that put me in 13th overall in the world cup. Nathan finally had a race he felt good about.

That afternoon we packed up and drove north to Pisek to drop our boats off with Zastera. we slept in beautiful field outside of town, after a good dinner.

Monday morning, we spent a little time at Zastera's factory and drove to Prague. I dropped Nathan off at the airport and drove to Munich. I spent the night in Friesing, a small town near the airport, and flew home Tuesday. I made it. My bags did not, and I'm still waiting for one of them to appear, three days later...

I learned a few things about technique this world cup, which should help. I also learned that when your training is sub-par for a year, you don't have the best races of your life (though I think the classic at worlds was my 3rd best race yet). I'm excited to take a bit of time off, and to train hard for Tasmania in 2009.
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We left Karlovy Vary in the rain, drove in the rain, but arrived in Lofer with dry skys. Two hours later it was raining. The river is relatively low, and the rain didn't bring the level up at all, so the classic course will be shallow and the sprint course tight and technical.

We did boat repair last night, and are currently waiting for the patches to finish curing. We'll be on the water this afternoon, and hopefully for the rest of the week.

Our lodgings are at the Camping Grubhof, where there are several old mountain chalets that were moved down to the valley. We are sharing one cabin with the Australian and New Zealand teams, which is great. Lofer is one of my favorite courses in Europe, so it should be a good week.
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We just finished the classic race at Karlovy Vary, the second world cup race this year. The course is long and hard to pace well. As you paddle down, the course becomes flatter and shallower, which means that you have to work harder and harder all the way.

I feel pretty good about my race, though I was 10.2 percent back. Emil Milihram won again, at 22.17, and I finished at 24.33. I went hard, and I think I couldn't have been much faster today. I've learned a lot about my technique over here, and I think I can be a good bit faster if I can figure out how to apply it. I finished 17th today, and beat a few people who beat me yesterday.

Nathan Hamm raced hard, but wasn't too happy with his result of 24.25. Yesterday, Chris Hipgrave was under 10 percent back, and beat all C1s, K1W, and C2s. Today, he came up just short of repeating the same feat. He finished 3 seconds behind the top C1.

The trip has been long, and I'll be happy to be home and see Wendy. I hope the year at Freshman Campus is finishing up well. One more week...two more races...
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Monday morning after my glorious team races, Michael Harris, Jade, Nathan and I drove up the Aosta Valley. Michael had some business to do in Geneva, and Nathan and I wanted to see the St. Bernard Pass.

There are two routes to take over the pass: an 8 km long tunnel through the mountain, opened in 1963, and the long winding road over the top of the pass. We took the road. It follows the traditional route that has been used for over a thousand years to get over the pass. After the turn-off for the tunnel, the road gets smaller and is poorly maintained. It is under construction on the Italian side. The guard rails are sketchy, one lane is paved, and one lane is mostly washed out. Of course, it's a two way road. There is no guard rail on the Swiss side. We switchbacked up the pass, and stopped at the museum at the top. The history of the pass, the monestary at the top, the St. Bernard dogs, and a small kennel are all on the tour. There were 6 or 7 St. Bernard dogs there, all raised by the Barry Foundation (named for Barry I, the most famous rescue dog on the pass, who saved 40 people between 1800 and 1814). Barry III, who died after falling on ice in 1810, was stuffed and on display.

Busses run to the top of the pass from the Swiss side regularly, and there is a small hotel. I'd love to go back with Wendy and stay there to hike for a few days.

We drove on through Laussane and along the shore of Lac Leman, and ate dinner at a small Thai restaurant about 15 km east of Geneva. Tuesday Nathan and I drove to Basel (where Michael has a lab for his research) and found the canoe club. There is a good man-made slalom course on a canal leading from the Rhine. The course is fun and the whitewater is bigger than it looks- the twists and turns make it a very technical course. Wednesday morning we took a train into Basel and saw the church in the MunsterPlatz, and all of the preparations for a UEFA Cup game (the European Soccer Championships are being held in Austria and Switzerland this year). Then, we paddled the course and drove towards Karlovy Vary.

Tonight we have stopped in Schwandorf, a small town around 150 km from Karlovy Vary. There is a beautiful pedestrian district, with many small cafes, guest houses, and restaurants. We opted for a classic German cuisine over Italian pizzerias, and had a great meal.

Tomorrow we will have a short drive to Karlovy Vary. Nathan, Michael and Jade may go to Prague, while I will stay in KV and go to the team leaders meeting.
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Full results for the world championship races should be at www.ivrea2008.it.
Last Wednesday was the non-stop. We raced on a 20 minute course that started with 30 seconds of flatwater. Then, we paddled through a rapid that lasted another 30 seconds, and we were into the long flat haul down to the race. There were a few boilly spots and one or two spots with long, rolling 6 inch high waves, but no rapids.
Non-stops were encouraging to me. I was 13th, and while I was a ways back from the top C-1s, I felt good about my place and my prospects for going a little faster the next day. Other US boats did reasonably well, given that some of us went slowly and easily and others went fairly hard.
By the afternoon of the next day, the water level had dropped and the tail wind we enjoyed during the non-stops was gone. I started just after the world champion from Croatia, Emil Milihram, and seemed to keep up well for the first 5 minutes or so. I was trying to keep my stroke rate high. Just before the finish, I was passed by Marek Rygel, a young Czech C-1 paddler. I finished the day in 19th, 8.3% behind the winner (Emil Milihram, 18:55). While 8.3% is the closest to the top I’ve been in a world championships, I was slightly disappointed at my placing and my strategy. It’s easy to second guess yourself after a race, and easy to convince yourself that you could have been faster if you only did X or Y… Should I have concentrated on pulling hard and not stroke rate? Did I make a pacing mistake? Should I have eaten differently? In the end, I think you paddle as well as you can. There are things you can do on race day to eek out a few seconds, but chunks of time as large as 90 seconds are due to more significant problems. If your preparation has been good, you will paddle well. If you’ve been training poorly, you can’t expect a great result at the world championships.
Tierney O’Sullivan was impressive, finishing at around 8.5% behind the women’s winner, and she is still a junior (18 years old and under). It’ll be exciting to see how she finishes at Junior Pre-Worlds later this summer.
Friday afternoon was the team run: three boats from each country paddling together down the course in formation. If you work together well, your team time should be faster than the slowest paddler’s individual time. I led, John Pinyerd was in the middle, and Jack Ditty rode our wake down the course. We finished 10 seconds better than Jack’s classic time, in 5th place.
Sprints were on Saturday. There should be some good Youtube videos up soon. The mass carnage that we saw last year didn’t happen, but the surging water in the course was a problem for many people, including me. My first run started well, but my bow was pushed left, and I spun backwards into a hole. After a few seconds surfing, I straightened it out and finished the run. My second run was better by 5 seconds, but slower than I had been in practice. I managed 16th place, enough to be the top American. Jack Ditty was close behind me, finishing well on the strength of his whitewater skills. I didn’t even calculate my percentage behind- it was way too high to matter. Vladi Panato won his 8th gold at a world championship, even after flipping at the bottom of his second run.
Chris Hipgrave finished 28th, just a few seconds ahead of JP Bevilaqua. JP was calm and confident and had two solid runs- a great thing at his first world championship.
Today, the team sprints began at 10 am. The men’s kayaks were off first, then the C-1s. We started just behind the Croatians. Jack and I swung into the course with a bit of separation. Then, Just below the first big drop, I spun out left. Jack landed in the same eddy. I peeled out, and spun out right in the next drop. Jack followed suit, paddling slalom down the course. Then, I didn’t get my bow out into the current far enough, and went over the next drop backwards, flipping upstream. I missed one roll and was out. I hate swimming. It’s so frustrating to not finish a race… It makes me angry. Hopefully I can use the anger to drive me faster next weekend at Karlovy Vary, which is one of my favorite flat wildwater courses in the world.
Tomorrow we will drive north, possibly to Geneva for the night. Then, on Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll head towards Karlovy Vary. We don’t need to be there ‘til noon on Thursday for a team leader’s meeting. Hopefully we’ll find some good whitewater to run on the way.
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The non-stop starts at 2:00 pm today. It will run from a bridge at Baio Dora down to the finish line just above the old Roman bridge in Ivrea. The course will be about 18 minutes long for C-1s, maybe a touch longer. There is one rapid in the first 45 seconds of the race, a drop under the bridge with a lot of big waves and boils. Then, we have another 17 minutes of flat, moving water to go down. Tomorrow's race will hurt.
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Yesterday, the Master's Worlds finally happened. The course was short, about 8-9 minutes, and was only finalized at the team leaders meeting on Sunday night. The fastest men's K-1 time was 7:30 by Marco Previde, who is going fast enough right now to make the Italian Senior Team (so I hear). John Pinyerd was 1st and Michael Harris 3rd in C-1, Chris Hipgrave won a silver in his class, and David Jones came away with the bronze. A successful day, overall.

Now, we are in the throes of final preparations for the open event. Tomorrow is the non-stop, a timed trial run down the classic course. Then, on Thursday, the classic will happen for real. The only trouble is that we don't know where we will be racing yet. There are several options that the organizers have talked about, but there is no firm decision about any race. It seems that we will be running the same sprint course as last year, but the town police have closed the course and say that no one can paddle on the rapid because it is dangerous. They are worried because this morning a C-2 pinned on a piece of steel sticking out of the top of the weir It is now marked and there is little chance anyone will hit it, but the course is still closed. How do you prepare for a race well when you don't know what the course will be? The paddlers who solve that problem will be at the top of the results on Thursday...

Tonight we have the yearly team dinner, and then the opening ceremonies in the Ivrea town center. They have been hanging banners for the last week, and it looks like there should be a good show tonight. The city is very excited to have the event, and everyone we talk to is welcoming and happy to have us here.
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The Dora Baltea peaked at flows Ivrea hasn't seen in at least 8 years. Mudslides took out houses, bridges and schools were closed, traffic was terrible, and everyone in town was out looking at the river. Under the bridges, the waves were exploding, sending debris flying into the air. Trees were getting swallowed. All rivers in the region were closed to paddling on Thursday and Friday.

The Master's Worlds was postponed 'til today (Monday), and there may not be any Master's sprint race. The course for the World Championships has yet to be decided. It will depend on how far the river drops. The water came down a long way on Friday night, but hasn't dropped from that level since. Rain keeps falling up the valley, and it doesn't look like the water will drop at all. In the canoe stadium, water is still pouring over the side of the retaining walls, and small chunks of the concrete are gone.

The Master's Worlds start in about 35 minutes. John Pinyerd and Michael Harris will be going off towards the beginning, so in a few minutes we will be heading to the finish to cheer them on.

On the personal side, I'm feeling much better, and can actually eat full meals now. I'm close to 100% and still have a couple of days 'til I race, so I should be OK. I'll update as soon as I can about the results from today.
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Arrival in Ivrea
As we got closer to Ivrea, my mind was more and more on the water level and the course. The water last year seemed high, and I had trouble with the sprint course. Every river we pass seems to be running high.
About noon, we drive into Ivrea, and go straight to the sprint course and canoe stadium. The water is just a bit lower than last year, but two modifications have made the course much different. First, across the top of the whitewater channel wooden barriers have been built to restrict the amount of water flowing into the channel. Second, a few rocks have been moved in the channel itself, and it looks much more straightforward to paddle.
Our campsite is great- we have covered parking, chairs and a table, and though it’s raining hard, we will stay dry.
Monday Morning
On Monday morning, we drove to the canoe stadium, paddled, and met the Australian Dan Hall. He will be staying with us for a few days at the campground, then moving in with the British when they arrive on Thursday. It’ll be good to paddle with him. He’s quite quick (he won the silver metal at the world cup in Ivrea last year), and it’s helpful to have a third person serious about training around.
16 Runs
It’s Wednesday. It rained for 24 hours nearly non-stop after our arrival. Then, it rained off and on for the next two days. The net effect is that the river rises every day, but the wooden barriers are keeping the course reasonable. The sprint course is really fun, and just starting to get a bit pushy. Out of 16 runs, I’ve flipped once (with a lovely roll off the bottom) and eddied out 3 times. Not bad, considering last year’s results.
Our campsite has several buildings: a shower/bath house, a small teaching center for kids, and another to house the equipment for cooking beans at Carnival. Each year in February, Ivrea has a huge carnival. The climax is an orange throwing battle wherein teams of citizens group together in clubs and compete. Each section of Ivrea has it’s own traditions. The campsite where we are staying is the location of a large communal gathering at carnival each year. A group of men have made a special dish, fagioli grassi (greasy beans), every year for the last 30 years, and something like 10,000 people from the area come to eat.
The men are at the campsite to finish work on their building (they are putting tiles on the floor). They invite us in for coffee. First, after being seated, they bring us a bottle of home made Grappa (40-50% alcohol, thought they are not really sure). Then, they serve coffee, and tell us about the carnival and their cooking. We leave with gifts of bottled water and Coke. The next morning Piero, who speaks the best English, brings us milk.
The U.S. Team
On Monday afternoon, five more Americans arrived. They are staying at a hotel about 10 kilometers upriver from Ivrea, where we will join them next Monday. John Pinyerd and David Jones have been working on the classic course for Master’s Worlds, Michael Harris is outfitting a new boat, and Tierney O’Sullivan has paddled the course with us a few times.
Wednesday evening, Michael Harris took Nate, Dan, and me out for dinner to a pizzeria. We were the only ones in the restaurant at 7:00pm, and about 8:00 people started to come in. We walked into the town center looking for Gelato. People were out hanging flags and banners in preparation for the opening ceremonies, and the Australian flag was hung outside a bar. Dan noticed, and said something to the people in the street. Suddenly, we find ourselves whisked into the bar, given drinks of wine and grappa, and told all about the “Scorpione,” the best club in the carnival. The bartender gives us shirts that say “Scorpione” or “Café Arduino,” and they show us a book describing the history of the Scorpione Club in Carnival. We only leave after they buy a second a round of drinks and ice cream for us, and tell us that if we win we have to wear a Scorpione shirt on the podium.
Rising Water
Every day we have been here the water has risen. At first, it was just a few inches between the morning and afternoon workouts. Rain stopped in Ivrea on Tuesday, but upstream there were obvious thunderstorms, and the water keeps going up.
On Wednesday morning, I felt sick and decided not to paddle. We drove to the canoe stadium to meet the other Americans for a run down the classic course. The water was much higher. The sprint course still looked runnable, and the last couple of drops were actually washing out. But upstream, under the bridge, the waves were getting big and boilly. Everyone but me did a lake paddle, and then in the afternoon ran a section of river downstream with a member of the Italian team.
Today, Thursday, started off much the same. I’m still a bit under the weather. Rain fell all night. We drove to the canoe stadium. The water was up. The bottom half of the sprint course is completely washed out. The top half, which used to be the easy bit, has big waves and holes, with the added danger of getting washed sideways over the walls of the channel. There are huge waves in what was the calm pool above the sprint course. And the short section under the bridge is enormous. Though the wooden barriers have been completely overwhelmed, the sprint course is runnable, but the only other whitewater on the classic is huge. If you made it through upright you’d be okay, but if you swam, you would have to work hard to avoid being swept over the weir that diverts water to the sprint channel. If you swam, your boat would be gone. It seems that the river will keep rising for a few more days at least, given current weather reports. The big question is this: where will we race if the water doesn’t drop? There seems to be no contingency plan…
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