Feel The Ultimate Run

Rici Funk (GER:K1W) helps us understand what it would feel to race on the Rio course.

Yesterday, we highlighted U23 paddlers on the rise. 24-year-old Funk world ranking has risen from 31 in 2012 to number 4. This makes it all the more disappointing to know that she is not racing at the Rio Olympics. Funk won the semi-final at the November Deodoro test event in 106.69 seconds clear and she currently leads the 2016 World Cup series. I predict we will see Funk at her best at next year’s ICF World Championships as we start the next Olympic cycle.


Experience the Deodoro canoe slalom course from the perspective of a top paddler

I paddle on to the conveyor and up to the start where I sit in my boat with my eyes shut running through every gate from start to finish, stroke by stroke, wave by wave, all the way to the finish. All is quiet and I have shut out the thunderous noise within the Deodoro X-Park stadium. Everything else is of little significance at that stage. This is just another run on another set of gates on another day. I am calm. I hear the starters instructions and wait at the blue blocks in the centre of the start pool. I hear my number and three, two, one, go. I wind up to full pace and explode through the start beam just hearing the reassuring beep as I accelerate down the first drop and into the course. My stroke rate is high. The line is good, the boat is dry, I feel the wave nudge the edge of my boat and react with the timed stroke on my left as planned to run down the back of the wave into the pocket above the sequence of green and white gates.

My deep powerful sweep stroke on my left brings the bow round and the high stroke rate, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight brings me right into the gate line of the next gate. I sense the sun in my eyes for a split second.

I cannot see the eddyline of the upstream below the gate but I have already picked out a point on the bank to aim for as I commit myself to the drop. The boat drops away, I lean forward and reach and the boat is snatched by the upstream current. I watch the black ring around the bottom of the upstream pole two inches from my left shoulder. I feel my whole arm tense as the boat whips around on one stroke, how I love these shorter boats. The boat feels balanced and in control. I reach through the gate line, put my weight forward to catch the downstream current and straight back out. I pull as hard as I am able to accelerate my boat back up to speed, one stroke, two stroke, three strokes, four strokes bringing me exactly to the next gate as planned. Now, I lean back, edge and push the blade hard away from the right of my boat to bring the front up in the air and round, thumping down in the exact line for the middle of the next gate.

I approach the next drop inches away from the blue block at the edge. I lean back, drop my blade in on the right near the back and feel the boat plane downstream into the eddy. I concentrate on keeping the boat running flat and straight so that it does not spin out into the eddy. I am in control. I run straight through the gate and a quick series of forward strokes brings me back on the line. 

My internal sense of timing tells me I have now been going for 60 seconds, meaning I am a second or two ahead. It feels like a hot sunny day training on the river with the fun double upstream gates.

I nail the next breakout pinning the gate line exactly where I wanted it. I accelerate with six rapid strokes, with the last on my right, edge my boat and smoothly surf across the wave and edging the boat the other way as I approach the crest of the wave, the boat drops in 30cm below the outside upstream pole. I plant my blade and pull as hard as I can. The boat pulls up towards the paddle, I slice away, lean back, feel the whole tail of the boat sink, bringing the boat around. I bring my weight forward so that I am in control and not the water and focus on my line for the next stagger sequence of gates.

I spin the boat on the crest of the next wave, to drive in on the ideal line. I plant the boat exactly where I had planned and with a little upstream edge I am able to use the stopper wave to carve the boat towards river right, quickly switching to a subtle downstream lean and powerful bow draw so that the boat doesn’t turn out and lines me up to turn above the next gate. My boat is already heading back across the river to the next gate even before I have negotiated the one now rapidly approaching me.

I am on plan A, I am not undecided and weighing up option A or B. My plan is fixed. I am where I expected to be. I am dry. The boat feels light and dances over the waves. I can feel my heart racing. One more upstream, after a queda, the biggest drop on the course; river right with a trickier approach. I drop in tight to the wall in the calm water, I push my paddle directly off the side wall of the course, drop my right shoulder away so I have enough space between my PFD and the pole, as I need to exit out tight as the very last gate, downstream, is almost right behind me. The water here is less stable and can hold on to the back of my boat, I tighten my brace on the boat with my thighs to maintain control of the edge.

I feel energized. The familiar pain is burning in my arms. As I cross the gate line of the last gate I am struck by a face full of water. I feel strong. I have enough left to accelerate the boat up to speed. I remember to keep my body fully upright, good posture, powerful strokes, boat flat just to the edge of the waves and keep going and keep going, pushing on the footrests. Now I am conscious of my teammates' voices and 8,400 other voices screaming in the blue and green stands, on my right. I lean forward, hear the beeeeep of the finish beam and I am done.

Yes!!!!! Perfect, clear I am sure. I look up to the see the time. I am so proud to have represented my country. Whether I win a medal is now out of my hands.


Now watch World Champion Jiri Prskavec (CZE) paddling the course here


The Ultimate Run

The Ultimate Run – Canoe Slalom at the Highest Levels is the name of Bill Endicott’s iconic book, written back in 1983. The phrase Ultimate Run has become adopted by paddlers worldwide seeking that performance excellence and perfect negotiation of the course. As an aside, the Ultimate Run eBook has been created by daveyhearn.com with the permission of original author William T. Endicott.

Richard Hounslow (GBR) commented, however, that he doesn’t like the term as “it infers that there is a limit to what you can achieve.”


Keep tuning in

Tomorrow’s posts will look at the role of the coach and the judge.


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