Friday, 26 April 2013

Boat Shoes have their uses

Yesterday the sun came out briefly and in a brave moment my coach declared that today was the day I was going to start paddling without my boat shoes.
Im pretty fond of my boat shoes and needed a lot of convincing. - at less than £15 they provided an amazing number of benefits/pound.
My trusty boat shoes
They made me feel really secure in the kayak,  not only did they take up space jamming my feet into the cockpit they also seemed to even out the sensation differences  between my feet making it easier to put even pressure through the foot plate as I paddled. They also kept my feet toasty warm all winter! But now it was officially summer and the boat shoes had to go.
"Did you see any of the GB paddlers wearing boat shoes at the National regatta?" No - but none of the GB paddlers have wonky feet either!
It was no use- Claire was adamant that the boat shoes added no benefit - for one I couldn't steer with them on.  With out the boat shoes I would eventually learn to connect better with the boat.

I felt very disloyal and sad leaving my trusty boat shoes at the side of the river as I paddled off. Claire had said they had no I paddled I began thinking of what my boat shoes could do once retired from my feet.
So here are a few ideas for alternative uses for my boat shoes, proving that they still have lots of benefits - though maybe not in my boat.

Amazing pet hair remover from carpets and upholstery

Mashing potatoes was never this easy- or fun

Keeping those beer bottles cool on a hot summers day

A very satisfying fly swatter- it makes a great noise!

No more stinky trainers from Simon. Just sprinkle tea tree oil over boat shoe and insert
A nifty little hair straightener holder preventing accidental carpet singes

No more searching around the bottom of the bath for my soap- yes it floats!

The cat thought it made an interesting water bowl

A coaster to add intrigue to any afternoon tea party
Any other ideas greatfully received, anything to keep my boat shoes off my feet!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My first Regatta

My first race of the season is done...  What am I saying?!... It was my first regatta ever , and now I have two wins under my belt...

Me at the end of my race
 But it's not just me. Anyone who has been following my progress so far will know that I'm  really lucky to have support, so I thought it was time to introduce the amazing "Team Dickins"...

- Colin and Matt, the coaches at GB Paracanoe
- Claire, Phil and Batty coaches at Wey Kayak Club

- Pippa my kayak, (she looks great from behind)
- and Rory aged 6 and Elsie aged 4, my very own special fans!

The story so far... I got into ParaCanoe because Colin, the lead coach for GB Paracanoe in Nottingham, persuaded me to turn up for a try out. At my first trial I did ok, but I really needed to learn to paddle a kayak.  "How hard can it be?"  I thought. Six months in and I still don't fully understand how much more I have to learn.  I just know it's a lot... As I live in Surrey with family and work commitments, I needed to find something a little closer than Nottingham for my day to day training. Weekly commutes I could just about manage, but I was going to need a lot more training than that.

When Colin pointed me in the direction of Wey Kayak Club he knew he was recommending a good club.  It has a reputation for producing GB squad members and medal winners. But even he couldn't have known just how much the club would rally around and support me.  Being a disabled friendly club, with a new paracanoe specfic boat (sponsored by Sanofi Health) was a real bonus, but within weeks of me turning up I had my own coaching team.
last minute boat check from Phil and pep talk from Claire

Team Dickins is based around Claire Gunney (ex world no 2 marathon paddler).  Coaching a complete novice with the goal of GB number 1 and a dream of Rio is a tall ask and I can never thank her enough for taking on the challenge!  Phil, Claire's husband (who was her coach), brings a wealth of coaching tips (and pain!) to the team. If I can talk at the end of a session then I haven't paddled hard enough!
Dave Batteshaw (Batty) is another ex GB paddler based at Wey with his own para-athletes to train. His sessions complement Claire's, meaning every training session is bringing something different. With so many accomplished paddlers at Wey there are many others eager to offer support and tips (thanks to Richard-Rachel Cawthorns Dad for pointing out that it's a pull bar, not a roll bar;-) ) or just people to train with in the club gym. When I train alongside the u23s I get the added bonus of expanding my traditional musical knowledge as their iPod tracks fill the gym. 
At the Start
It is almost impossible to quantify how much being at a club has assisted in getting me through this first regatta.

If the team at Wey wasn't enough, I also have sessions at the 'High Performance Centre' in Nottingham -The hub for GB para canoe. Colin works with Claire to make sure my Surrey programme is integrated with the Nottingham sessions and they work together on my year's race plan.  We now also have Matt on board, who helps with the sessions in Nottingham.

I then have my very special boat Pippa, named after a certain Middleton who apparently also looks amazing from behind - My aim is that all my competition gets used to that view ;-) Her artwork was designed for me by a friend of mine, Kelvin.  His work is always inspiring. Hope you like her?


So back to this weekend's regatta - a weekend full of firsts for me.
 My 10 firsts this weekend:
1/ First regatta (really scary)
2/ First time using my new Thule roof kayak rack (having used their bike racks before I knew they would be great, thank you Thule)

Easy loading Thule Kayak specific roof rack
3/ First time driving with a boat on the car (also scary)
4/ First race (glad to get that one out the way - my 'start' and race was pretty ragged -  its amazing what nerves can do, and I was really annoyed that I let my technique go)
5/ First win (yay!) Well done to all the paddlers out there in testing conditions.

6/ First start into a howling gale (I guess it's good experience, but it meant no chance of notching up a personal best.
7/ First pre-race curry (Simon, when I said that I needed distracting the night before the race, a curry wasn't quite what I had in mind)
8/ First post-race debrief with the GB paracanoe coaching team (Yes Steve and Colin, I know I paddled with more enthusiasm than finesse but am just as excited as you about how much room there is for improvement!)
9/ First fan club (Rory and Elsie, you are adorable. Thank you for cheering me on so loudly on the bank - I promise to let you know when the next race is in town!)

10/... Nope, you know I still lose count...