God, was I ever looking forward to this weekend. Hall pass received and I was packing my bikini, wetsuit, and new SUP board, the Boardworks Raven. I loaded everything into my portable apartment, our big red Ford van, and headed for the hills…Vail, Colorado for the 10th anniversary of the Teva Mountain Games.
The Games bring a vast array of mountain athletes together in one venue to celebrate, compete, and share their sport with fans and curious onlookers. Teva Village, which takes over downtown Vail is the place to be. This year our team, C4 Waterman, CKS, and Mountain Paddle Surf, had a pool in the village with SUP boards for anyone to try. Cheers would erupt from the village people every time someone took a spill into the pool. We had our own fun at the C4, Korbel, Maui Jim, pool party. Hawaiian dancers, Korbel cocktails, sushi, and the female C4/Boardworks athletes gaining attention from the crowd by paddling, in bikinis, while throwing prizes to the party goers.
Racing….well I had only been on a board twice this season and hadn’t been on the river at all. Friday I did some practice runs and it was a mixed bag of results. The end result was my body feeling like it had been through the spin cycle in a washing machine. Since I had such a great season racing cyclocross I had decided that I was going to focus on the bike and just dabble in SUP this year. What I realized at The Games was that I could no longer just get off the couch and expect to do really well. Candice Appleby, the worlds best ocean paddler showed up along with some top kayak professionals turned SUPers, big time Hawaiian competitors, and my fav, Nikki Gregg, fitness paddler and all around inspiration. The sport had grown tenfold in the past year.
Saturday was the SUP Sprint, a downriver race where whoever ran the river with the best time won. 21 minutes of balancing, negotiating rocks and rapids, ducking under bridges, and paddling furiously didn’t feel much like a sprint. My run was going well for the first half and I could see last years winner Jenny McArthur in front of me…I was gaining. Well, as we very well know, the race isn’t won in the first half. The second half I started to fall apart…anything can happen on the river, a few rapid falls and loss of the board put me behind the game. On the river when paddling you don’t feel like you’re making any ground since you’re already moving with the river flow. Sometimes it feels like you’re paddling in mud. I couldn’t wait for the race to end, especially since I had fallen and taken myself out to the top places. At the finish I was so worked that I had to have someone pull the board out of the water for me. Anaerobic…harder than a cross race. I waited for the results…5th, no podium, no money. But I loved all that led up to it, the practice, the competitors, the SUP talk, the excitement of a new sport. The crowd loved it, and was enthralled by it. This year a new up and comer in the sport Mariko Strickland, one of the Hawaiian C4 athletes won and deservedly so.
The next morning was a hard wake up for the 8 o’clock SUP Cross qaulifier…too much pool party, Korbel Champagne, Redbull and vodka, Zavier Rudd concert going, and the list goes on. The Cross consisted of four athletes battling it out on a short course maneuvering through obstacles, around a gate and ending with a touch to the Teva buoy with paddle and board under control. Sometimes this ended in a not so pretty shit show. But, exciting it was. I led both of my heats to advance to the final four for the big showdown…one of the last events of the day. I was SOOOOO tired and thankful that the last event would be short and sweet. I was confident that I could make the podium…top 3.
The finals all ended with a missed gate…i couldn’t get around a competitors board in time to make the gate. Once missed there’s no going back. Except in my case, i made my way to the creeks edge wiggled my way through hundreds of onlookers with a 12ft 6inch board, not an easy task, and started over above the gate. By this time everyone had finished. i started over, made the gate and finished by myself to a screaming, encouraging crowd. It was beautiful. No podium again, but the experience was priceless. I got to witness the enthusiasm and awe brought on by our amazing and inspiring new sport. People couldn’t get enough.
The Teva weekend will remain one of my favorites and I hope to participate for years to come, even if still off the couch.