10 days in Nicaragua...
Team Canada: We had our ups and downs this year... it is all part of the adventure when you have a group of people come together in a foreign country to compete at a high level... Some aspects are easier to control than others..sometimes bad luck just sweeps on through and there is nothing anybody can do...and then something beyond amazing can happen... I know I definitely experienced it all down in Nicaragua... Wow, do I ever get emotional.. haha.. I think it is a relatively good thing but I know at times it can be frustrating not just for me but more so for others... Maybe Andrew knows that best on this one:) Thanks for still loving me Andrew!!!!!
Mel, Josh, Diane: The surfers
Cameron, David, Roch Frey(was on the team but in the end could not make it:( ), ME: The racers
We came together from different parts of the world. It is pretty amazing actually and I feel a rather true representation of how multicultural Canada is. Mel is living in Korea and is Philipino/Canadian, Cameron is living in Australia and is Australian/Canadian, Diane is living in US and is US/Canadian, Josh is from Toronto CAN, and David and I currently living in Vancouver. Pretty amazing stuff really!!!!
Mel and I arrived into Nica somewhat together (sort of the same timing but from different parts of the world)... Mel rocked it and organized a van transport to our hotel in Granada in advance! woohoo for organization!... It was late but the nice man drove us around Managua to give us a little tour before heading to our hotel, Hotel Kekoldi... The hotel was clean and basic with a nice breakfast buffet in the morning and a tiny little pool. The best part of the hotel was having the Denmark team stay there too!
In the morning we met Cameron, Diane, and Josh and our driver, Donaldo with the van... We headed to check out La Boquita for a surf session... It was an hour and a half drive where we stopped for lunch at a good little restaurant along the road. I have my first gallo pinto with plantains and cheese for lunch along with fresh tropical fruit juice. I think one of my favrite parts of travelling in central america is the fresh exotic fruit juices you can get... AMAZING! In the end, I didn't actually surf as there wasn't a board for me... I paddled around on Diane's board but couldn't stand on it so proned and then got scared and came back to the beach... A rather unsuccessful surf outing on my part but it was fun to see the coast and get wet! I did paddle up a river but then got freaked out the further I went in, being on my own and not knowing what was in the waters and who would jump out on the shores....haha.. sometimes being a girl is just a little bit ridiculous!
Friday Cam and I found the lake and managed to test the local waters out... This was where we were going to race in days to come ...We actually got a pretty sweet little downwinder after working hard against the wind... Lake Nicaragua is HUGE, and really warm and apparently is the home of bull sharks, alligators, and snakes... Monkeys also live on the local islands... FUN! Well as long as I was never too far from my board! Hehe
Saturday was the opening ceremonies.. There is something really special about wearing your country colours and name and walking in a parade representing your country... Gosh I guess I feel pretty lucky that I have been able to do it in multiple sports now.. First with Triathlon, now SUP... It really doesn't get old... We smothered ourselves with tattoos and were the loud obnoxious country with cow bells... We also wore our Canada toques in the sweltering heat.... they did look pretty awesome so I didn't mind the boob sweat...
I was lucky enough to pour Canada's sand into the world sand bucket and Cameron proudly held the flag... we enjoyed some local dances and many speeches... 27 countries were represented at the Championships which is pretty cool.. It was a very cool experience with the parade and ceremonies but we were ready when it finished as we were all hot and pretty tired..
Sunday was the first day of competition. The competition started in La Boquita with the surfing. Us racers brought our race boards to the coast in hopes of getting a training run in on the ocean in between heats.
We got to cheer on Josh, Mel and Diane. They did great! Diane, made it to the next wave of heats for the day but in between her heats our luck started to disintegrate. Her backpack got stolen along with most of her valuable things such as computer, wallet, and passport etc. Unfortunately, our motivation and positive hype got a little bummed. No matter how hard you try to be positive it really sucks to get your personal things stolen like that. It feels like someone has come and invaded your hard work and privacy. Hard luck for Diane as she missed her second day of competition to sort out getting a new passport and her transport back to the US. Mel and Josh tried their best on Monday but just barely missed making it through in their heats.
While the boys were surfing, David, Cameron, and I went out to the lake to train. We had some good sessions in on the lake with start and turn practices and interval sessions. Let me tell you it was not convenient to get ourselves and our boards to the lake. There were no hotels right on the lake and no board storage at the lake until the racing started. So for many days we had to order a minibus and load three boards on the roof and pay triple the money there and back... it was do able but a little annoying...
Diane managed to get a passport and a flight home for the next day all in a days work and figuring out and managing the streets and different cities in and around Managua. The next thing to hit team Canada was our stellar prone paddleboard and SUP technical racer had last minute commitments and told us the unfortunate news that he could no longer join us in Nicaragua... I was pretty bummed at this point as I really hoped we could do well as a team. I believe we can be in the top 5 nations overall as a team but with our surfer failing to continue to compete and heading home we also missed a female technical prone paddler and we were forced out of the relay as we needed two girls. Roch is also a stellar competitor and it would have been nice to have him racing for us... so BAM things started to change. I had to really refocus and think about my individual races rather than our team results. They were still important even if it meant we didn't have a full team. We missed having Diane and Roch with us but understand life is full of surprises that we sometimes cannot control... hugs to you both and thanks for the support. Better luck next time...
Tuesday Mel went to enjoy the finals in real life while we decided to stay back and relax and train on the lake again. We managed to watch the final heats on the live webcast which was cool. It wasn't worth our time and energy to take the 1.5 hr bus to the coast and back... We did manage to put in some solid workouts at the lake, relax and stay cool.
On Wednesday I was having a rough go after the team Captain meeting. Finding out we really couldn't participate in the relay was my climax and I broke down a little. I think it was a combination of many things but apparently I just needed to get some things out of my system.. hehe.. gotta love being a girl sometimes!! I had a little blah moment and then pulled myself together... and was fine again...
Thursday we had our first races, finally our turn to compete! YAY! It was our semifinal for the technical races. As these were not the finals we just had minor pressure of getting through to the finals which would be held on Sunday. Each discipline had two heats. Funny enough heat 1 always seemed to be stacked... What would turn out to be the top 4 ladies in the final were also in my heat, heat 1 in the semifinal...hmmm interesting...
It was my first time paddling up against Shak from AUS and it is always good fun and hard work to paddle against Jenny K. It was good to put the feelers out as I didn't really know the skill level or speed of many of the other amazing ladies from around the world. I ended up winning my heat which was good for my head and confidence going into the distance race. It also showed me that Shak and Jenny K are STRONG! Team Canada paddlers: David and Cameron also made it through to the finals on Sunday. We couldn't participate in the relay as we needed 4 different people, they wouldn't let me SUP and prone. BOO! Still a little bitter about it.. haha
Thursday night the ISA put on the ALOHA party but unfortunately us Ladies had our distance race the next morning so there wasn't much partying for us. Team Canada went along to the party but I left early so that I could eat properly and rest before the big day....these are the sacrifices we must make:)
Friday was the 18km distance race through the islands. I was nervous for this race as it was the one I really really wanted to win (I always want to win but sometimes you want something a little more than the other).. I knew I would have some tough competition.... I made sure I got out early so that I could OnIt Pro my board, register and not have any extra stresses. The course was a point to point through a series of islands. I was also nervous as I knew I would likely be out front and it wasn't the simplest of courses to navigate through and sometimes my mind wanders in races and really knew i could not afford a big mistake. After the racers meeting and figuring out where the first two markers were, I was feeling more confident about the course and got out for my warm up. We eventually all got to the start line and then things went a bit wrong for me. Once the officials called racers to the line a HUGE boat showed up right across the narrow section we were about to paddle across. Shak and I tried to warn the official but as we spoke the start siren went off. Not the start I was hoping for.... Luck was not on my side... The boat then did not move in time and when it finally decided to move I was within touching distance of it and caught in its Eddy. I thought I was off the board but by some miracle I was just able to hold on and stay upright. It did though destroy my plan... so I had to quickly re adjust my plan, get over the near miss, and work on my new plan with the circumstances that were presented. As it turned out it was Shak, myself and Laura from Spain out in front in a train. We switched leads a couple of times and then eventually Shak and I got out in front of Laura and lost her off the train. It was the Shak and Lina show from then on. We traded off the leads and chatted. It was kind of cool but also somewhat stressful. We were together until we were out of the islands and into the bumps. I was ultra worried once we got into the bumps as I knew Shak was a much better wave rider than me. I just put my head down and hammered through and was aggressive with catching everything I could and it paid off. I was out front! WHAT! I made it to the second to last buoy with a headwind/side chop to the next buoy. I totally got my second wind and just hammered to the last buoy. I turned the last buoy and couldn't believe it I was almost done and still in first. I was so scared to screw up at the end.. haha..I didn't even look back to see where Shak was I just went for it. BAM! World Champions in the distance race! Too excited for words!
Saturday was a day off for the ladies so I went and supported the men for their race. It was nice to have the day to relax the body before the final tech races. I just relaxed, stretched and ate.. and enjoyed watching the men compete. They had an exciting race as well! Cam and David did great! Proud of them!
Sunday was the final day of competition and of ISA World Champs in Nicaragua. I was nervous and not nervous. It was weird.... I just knew what I needed to do. On the line I had a pretty awful start... arg so had to work hard to catch up to Shak and Jenny. Jenny went out hard... she is an awesome awesome racer.... so I knew if I lost them at the start I would be a goner. I just barely held on. I am working on my tech racing, specifically my pivot turns. I am okay but better at the distance grind. It was a three loop course with about 6 buoy turns in each loop. Somewhere on loop 2 Jenny fell off our train. WHAT? It was Shak and I with Jenny not too far behind. The pressure and stress of the short course is so different, one mistake or slip up and things can drastically change. There is not much chance to make up ground with buoy turns. On the last longer upwind section of the last loop I had to make a move, I was sitting behind Shak and I knew she had stronger turns than me and I knew if I didn't try to get out front on the upwind section I would have a very hard time getting past her in the last little downwind section. So I pushed, we were side by side and I couldn't get much more ahead so we went intot the corner together and she popped around just in front and then with my luck she caught a little bump and went for it, she was ahead. I tried y best to catch her but she was too strong. So, had to settle for a well deserved hard faught second place. Jenny cruised in right behind to grab bronze. Although sometimes tough when the battle is so close to come up short.. I still felt good about my race as it wasn't easy and we all worked so hard. Shak truly deserved the gold... Awesome fun for sure. The guys gave it their all and again made Canada proud. Cam and David may have not had the races they were hoping for but I felt so happy to have them on my team and I think they did awesome. Their support and positive spirit was just amazing throughout the races!
Once the racing was done they moved onto the closing ceremonies. They handed out the medals and one of my most cherished moments of the entire event was standing on top of the podium hearing the Canadian Anthem play... gosh there is nothing like it... it was just the most amazing feeling, I felt so proud and now can understand what it may feel like for athletes at the Olympics... this was like our mini Olympics for our sport and I couldn't feel luckier to have been able to perform my best and come out on top so all Canadians could hear our anthem play! Woohoo! Congrats to all winners, all podium finishers and all racers and competitors. You all have to be proud to have made it to Nicaragua and be able to represent your countries... AMAZING stuff!
PICTURES By Mel Vin, ISA Website, Sherri Holt, ME, and others.... THANK YOU for capturing the moments...
Thank you Surffur and Sweet Waterwear for the Team Canada Uniforms! They were amazing! You made us look and feel so proud!
My gear: SIC 12.6 XPro, Werner Grand Prix Paddle, Onit Pro, Season Five, Ryders Eyewear, SUP Race Fins (Larry Allison) Gladiator Fin, Nikki Rekman Sales,
The training team: Crossfit Vancouver, Ultimate Potential, Mike Eisert and the Paddle Academy, Ryan at Foundation, Braly Joy and SIC
Healing team: Moveo, Barb Tyers at Yaletown massage
Nutrition: Feed The Machine, Vitargo, ClifBar
BC Shops that help me make it happen: Kalavida Surf Shop, Deep Cove Canoe and kayak, SunDog Surf Shop
Nicaragua is beautiful and I definitely would like to go back (with Andrew). Climb some volcanoes, surf some waves at different beaches and really experience the culture. It is tough when you go for races as pre race stuff is not the same as being on vacation at all. Nicaragua, I will be back to enjoy more of you!
And that ended my 6 weeks of traveling and racing. It has been amazing with ups and downs, lessons learned.. I really do love the choice I made of following my dream, passion, and instinct. It was a scary thing leaving a job I really enjoyed but everyday I have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming as when you let go and take the risk to do what you feel you need to do things will fall into place. I could not have imagined it could be this amazing but it is.
"There is no road map for life, but when we make decisions with our hearts the path leads us to where we need to be."
live, love, laugh,...DREAM!