I’m now in my final few days of training to complete my preparations for the slalom at the World Masters Games.  The WMG takes place in Ivrea on 7 August, and it’s been the focus of my training for the last 15 months.

When I first wrote about the WMG back in December, I said my goals were to

1. Get to the start-line feeling healthy, fit and well prepared.

2. Produce a race performance that leaves me feeling satisfied, this means I paddle the course clean and with no major time errors.

I think I’m well on track with number 1, as I’m definitely feeling fitter and stronger in the boat than I have for many years. Training has been going well, although I’ve had to balance the realities of work and family demands with the training I think I “should” do.  This is one of the key differences for me compared with my first competitive career way back in the 80’s; I was able to be much more single-minded then.  Having said that, being less obsessed is probably a bit healthier emotionally.

Training is also a good opportunity to practice mindfulness in action.  For example, when I paddled at Lee Valley last Sunday afternoon, the hot sunny weather brought out droves of recreational paddlers. Trying to paddle slalom gates at the same time as 40 or so play-boaters enjoyed themselves in the sun was not a good idea!  I noticed my frustration growing, but rather than let it get out of control, ruin my mood and lead to me skewering a play-boater, I was able to notice the frustration and let it go.  This is the principle of mindfulness – it’s not about controlling your thoughts and emotions, but learning to notice them and bring your attention back to what you want to do.  Practicing meditation regularly develops this mental ‘muscle’, and I think it definitely helps my ability to stay centered and focused.

In terms of goal number 2, my race performances have been ok so far this season. I’ve raced at Shepperton, Nottingham and Bala, and there have been good elements at each event.  Nottingham was a Premier race where I ‘paddled up’ as a Div 1 competitor and it was the least satisfying, largely because I didn’t manage my own expectations very well. Rather than focusing on producing my own best performance, I allowed myself to get distracted by chasing a time that was a percentage of the winning Premier paddler.  I should have known better – but at least it was a good reminder of what not to do, and better to make this mistake at this race than the WMG!  An externally focused goal doesn’t help me because it pulls my attention into the future and I get too serious.  I race best when I’m ‘in the moment’ and just enjoying paddling the course.  The Div 1 slaloms this weekend in Washburn will be a good chance for me to fine-tune my race day routine, and practice delivering some quality runs in a competitive environment.

So I expect my next post will be a report from Ivrea – I’m looking forward to discovering what I’ll have to say!

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