I’ve just completed my first full slalom racing season since leaving Tasmania in 1992. I set myself the target of competing in at least five Division 1 events, and if I count one ‘judges race’ at Bala I managed this. I was hoping to go to another three races, but work and family commitments ended up taking priority. My best overall result was a 4th place at Shepperton, the first race of the season, but this result was flattering compared to later races.

Here are my key reflections on my experience:

It’s been hard to establish a consistent training routine.

My training progressed more sporadically than I hoped, interrupted by life’s other demands like making a living. There were some good spells, notably leading up to the first races of the year, and early summer after the Lea Valley Course opened up. The last third was patchy, and made worse by a shoulder injury that kept me off white-water for nearly five weeks.

I’ve got to work within physical limits.

My shoulder problem is, I’m told, a typical degenerative injury to the rotator cuff tendons that is prevalent for people over the age of 40. Over-worked joints start to wear out, and this wasn’t helped by a heavy paddling load over the summer. Fortunately its responded well to physio treatment and I’m now getting back to full movement (thanks Dylan Morrisey http://www.smd.qmul.ac.uk/sportsmed/faculty/#morrissey).  I need to pay attention to basic paddling technique and posture to keep my shoulder blades down, rather than hunching my shoulders forward.

It’s a lot of fun being on the start line again.

The beauty of Division 1 is the variety of the field. This comprises up and coming youngsters on their way through the ranks to Premier division, and a motley crew of paddlers either on their way back down, or as in my case, getting back into the sport after a long break. I’ve really enjoyed this aspect, and its great to see the enthusiasm and passion of the teenagers. I feel hugely grateful just to be on the start line, with the chance to test myself in a competitive environment.

Goals for next year

It feels reasonable to aim for 5 – 6 races again next season. I’d like to improve my technique over the winter so that I can incorporate some new-school upstream moves into race runs. Although my training opportunities will continue to be sporadic, I need to be more disciplined to get the most out of every session. My base fitness seems adequate, but I could do more to improve acceleration out of the gate. I’ve learned that I’m competitive in my age group, and it’s realistic to be aiming for top 10 overall finishes.

Roll on 2012!