In a few hours time, along with the rest of the British team, I'll be boarding a plane to Slovenia for this year's European Championships, commencing Thursday! It marks the start of the 2017 international season for me, and I'm itching to get going!
As will be the case for every start line this season, I'll feel incredibly lucky and proud to be there representing my country. Winter 16/17 has been very tough to say the least! But there have been lessons along the way which I'm sure will benefit me in other ways this season and over the 2020 cycle... the time certainly wasn't 'lost'! I think going forwards (although not totally out of the woods with this shoulder just yet!) I have a better understanding my body: when I'm getting the signs to back off training a little, the supplementary processes/activities I can do to keep myself mobile and recover well, and also finding a bit more balance in my life off the water.
GB Selection 2017. Credit: @77phill77sports
So a bit more about Tacen! Slovenia is such a beautiful country and it will be my 8th time visiting and that is no chore! If you've never been I would recommend it to anybody for it's rivers, lakes, and mountains (and pizza!)
The race course itself lies just outside the Ljubljana city centre on the Sava river. It's a pretty iconic venue in the canoe slalom world largely down to the huge drop right at the beginning of the course. It literally feels like you 'fall' off the top, and then you're on this shallow slide with a big curling wave to your right and a big stopper waiting for you at the bottom. Get this bit wrong and your race can be over by gate 1, get it right and it feels like you're flying! Super cool!
Top drop, Tacen. Credit: Franz Anton
I've never seemed to manage to quite get it right at a European Championships before, the last couple of seasons (Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia 2016 and Leipzig, Germany 2015) I've felt like I've been paddling really well in training leading in to the race and then it's just not really happened for me. You do sometimes need a little bit of luck in Canoe Slalom, and at the European's even throughout Junior/U23 level that seems to have evaded me. Last season especially in Liptovsky I felt like that was some of the best paddling I'd ever done, but one mistake on each run, both resulting in capsizes meant I failed to even make semi-finals! That race was Friday the 13th last year and the only penalty I picked up was on the final gate too... with the tail of my boat.. after I'd already gone through it!
I'm putting those Euros demons to bed this year. I've held bit of a grudge with the ECA since 2010 (they stopped Greg and me racing C2) and after that race last season I decided to let it go. Will that make any difference? I don't think it would do any harm!
Sporting my 'game face' (and my PeakUK RacerST!) Credit: Paul Ramsdale (PeakUK)
We're targeting a PB (which would be to make the semi-final). We'll take it a step at a time, world class processes in the build up, and draw confidence from my ability to deliver when it counts. (4th place at the World Cup Final in Tacen last year!) If I have my day I'll be mixing it at the top of the pile again! For now though, I'll see you on the water with a big smile on my face!
Smiling at the finish line. World Championships 2015. Credit: Andy Neave