Battle of the Toughest in Dubai

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Photo Rob Mousley (Surfski.info)

Wow, what a HOT race. Seriously the hottest I have ever been for 2 hours. I actually felt like my head was going to explode and to be honest I was hoping it would, just to end the suffering!

Two days before the race I woke up with a raging sore throat. I took all the precautionary meds, like Echinacea and Vitamin C, lots of water, and slept for an extra 2 hours. It didn’t hold it off and the next day I woke up with a blocked head, runny nose, and stuffy chest. Lovely! The best part is that most of the sinus medication is banned according to Drug Free Sport. Now most of the ski paddlers aren’t on the program, and probably don’t even get tested. I however, have been monitored for the past 4 years, thanks to my flat water and Olympic background. So it was good old Olbas and Vicks to open my breathing bits!

The Race

Woke up to NO WIND. I stayed positive and when the flags started to move I felt some relief. This was short-lived, as by the time we got to the race start venue, it had died off completely. As usual, a mad start. Not my greatest, but managed to catch up to Nikki quite easily. Just sat behind and conserved my energy. After we turned, I tried to stick to an outside line. Nikki went hammer and tongs, and opened a gap. I was wondering how I was going to finish, let alone win. After some nice, ice-cold Octane juice from PVM (which I luckily froze the night before), I felt heaps better and decided that sick or not, I didn’t fly all this way to come second.  I put in a hard charge, and managed to haul her in and open up a gap. Se must have been having a bad patch, and the gap opened further. Then the beginning of my “desert death” started! I felt so utterly crap that I convinced myself that if I finished the race, I could stop paddling forever! Sad, yes.

Amazingly I hit the last 4km of flat water first. I was quite far right and I could see Nikki to my left. It seemed the better line going into the current and her and another paddler closed a small part of the gap. I put my head down and tried to focus on my technique and make the NeloSki move into the current. I felt a bit better and went for a hard but sustainable pace. Looking behind me, I got that “hunted” feeling as I saw a group of paddlers putting the hammer down to chase me, with Nikki sitting on the wash. There was no way I wanted to be caught like that, and I tried to hold them off. Luckily the finish came only just soon enough, and they all finished 20m behind me. Totally shattered at the finish, I couldn’t get any air as it felt like my throat had closed off. Took a while to feel human again. It’s always great to race someone who never gives up, and Nikki never did! Relief is an understatement, and I was really happy to get off the water! Ruth Highman from Perth was 3rd, with Chloe Bunnett in 4th. The Think guys had a stormer with Ben Allen winning and Sean Rice in 3rd. Dawid, the most consistent guy on the paddling circuit for sure, was 2nd, and won the Overall ISPA Title again!

So that is my 3rd win a row at the Dubai Shamaal. A pit there is no incentive for the women to sweeten the deal 🙂

Thanks to Andre and the Nelo Team for the awesome ski (very cool branding) and team kit and VIBE! Well done to Ben Brown, a total newbie to ski paddling and getting a top 20.

I flew home Saturday, and caught the final race of the Discovery/Sunglass Hut Series at Fish Hoek beach. Felt horrendous to try and paddle with fatigue and sickness, but all I needed to do was to finish to take the Series win, so I maintained a steady pace with a pre-determined heart rate, and enjoyed the downwind on the way back in from the Lighthouse, to get 2nd behind Nikki. I am back in Plett now for some R&R, then it’s back to CT for the Cape Point Challenge.

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Desert Rat

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John Hishin-Cape Town Sport Photography

 

In Dubai, it’s race day tomorrow. My new NeloSki is looking smart with the funky logo and design. Will post some pics tomorrow.

Wind prediction is 12 knots NW, so we will be doing a “new” course compared to the last few years. Exciting, except for the 4km flat stretch at the end. I better make sure I have some gas let in the tank for that!

Picked up a bug on the plane… Why me? I am the happy owner of blocked sinuses (and the pleasant headache that comes with that) as well as a streaming nose and stuffy chest! And most of the sinus medication is banned so I am keeping it all clear with good old faithful Olbas!

Hope I feel hundreds in the morning. At least I will look smart in my fancy new Nelo Race Kit 🙂

Pre-Dubai and a general rant…

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After reading Rob’s pre-Dubai race report, I thought I would add to his one liner about the female race with my own little splurb… (budding journalist that I am).

No doubt there should be a great men’s race, with lots of surf ski hotties showing up.

In the women, Rob mentioned that Katie Pocock from New Zealand is coming.  Despite winning the race in 2007 and placing 3rd in 2009, she is unfortunately not going to make it.

Nikki Mocke will be there in her first attempt at the race. She missed the last few due to her commitments to the South African K4 that went all the way to the Olympics, quite a feat that she, as a surf ski paddler could convert her skill to flatwater sprinting. No offence to her husband, but to illustrate how difficult this is, Dawid tried to make it in flatwater, and had to resign himself to the fact that he is an amazing ski paddler, but not very fast on the flats! Nikki has made no bones about the fact that she is back, and has won the Durban World Cup since her return as well as dominating the Cape Discovery Sunglass Hut Surf Ski Series.

Ruth Highman from Australia, who was 2nd at the Dragon Run last year, and who also got 2nd at the recent Island Shamaal, will be making her first attempt at the Dubai Shamaal. The Perth-based doctor is known to be better in the downwind conditions.

Michele Eray has won the past 2 Dubai Shamaal’s, and is probably the only paddler who crosses all areas of the sport of paddling by competing in flatwater, both Sprints and Marathon, as well as River racing. The Olympian has had a agreat year, winning the Fish River Marathon last month, as well as placing 4th, just a few meters off a medal at the World Marathon Champs in Spain. Only Hank McGregor out of the men, also crosses over to other types of paddling sports with success.

Locally, Christie O’Higgins will be the favourite, and she gets to train on that part of the water as often as she likes.

Chloe Bunnet, originally from Knysna, South Africa, who know lives in the UK, will be there. She recently won the British Champs, and is thoroughly enjoying her new-found sport, having crossed over from Flatwater.

No one else has entered, neither have I actually! I better get on it. But anyway, I just thought I better write something because no one else is going to!

I made a small comment on my Facebook page today, and the debate that has been generated has been great! Love to stir the pot a little 🙂

Seriously though, the general disregard towards the women paddlers and lack of support really does get me down. How do we change this?

It has been mentioned that the Dubai Shamaal organizers put on big cash for the race in 2008 and not many people showed, well when they dropped the money the next year, even less showed. Why do none of the women come back (except for idiot me)?

Well firstly, it won’t happen over night.

Secondly, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Race organisors  can’t just expect everyone to start supporting your race because you up the money for one year! You have to make an overall effort, that means consideration for the different aspect of the women’s race. For one thing, the media guys all defend their lack of race commentary or reporting on not being able to find the women paddlers. Well, if getting another support/TV boat is impossible, have a separate start. Or something… Give it some thought… Also maybe actually ask the women how their race went…

The Nelo Summer Challenge had a great idea this year. They made 1st to 3rd equal in the men’s and womans prizes, then the women’s stopped, and the men’s carried on to 10th. This did not ignore the fact that the women that were there were top class/world champions, but it did acknowledge that there were more men than women. They rewarded the talent and not the depth! Go Europe! Is it just Africa that is still in the dark ages?

The National bodies (canoeing etc) and race organisers, and boat manufacturers should be the ones who are attempting to grow the women’s side of the sport. Canoeing South Africa were very quick to implement a “Development program” to help all the previously disadvantaged people (Males) out there. And it paid off with Michael Mbanjwe being the first male black Dusi winner when he won the K2 with Martin Dreyer in 2007. Now take this into consideration: women were only allowed to paddle the Dusi for the FIRST time in 1981, and it was in a K2 with a MALE. I don’t even know when they were first allowed to paddle on their own! That is a full 30 years after the first male paddled down the river. Should women not considered “development” paddlers then? Surely Canoeing South Africa should then also be doing something to help the situation then?

We have a long way to catch up. 30 years worth… Lucky we learn quick!

Physically we will never beat the top men (well unless there is something seriously wrong!). I must say though, that I have experienced men who will rather die then get beaten by me. Is that the problem? Is this all an ego issue?

Personally, all these guys that paddle in tights is a bit scary.

OK, that is enough banter. I am going to paddle, in my ski, with a bikini on! And yes, I am going to paddle further than the local guys, and train harder, just because I can. And I will squeal when I go down the first run, like a GIRL!

 

 

 

 

Dubai Shamaal Wrap up

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Training paddle in Dubai

The race went well. I managed to avoid all the flu/colds circulating our house, and felt really well rested come race day.

Had an average start, and made a call to back off from the Hotspot and to wait for the downwind section to make my mark on the race. Managed to get a small gap as we started the down wind bit, then just concentrated on stringing the runs together. I took quite a deep line, hoping to get the benefit later on in the race, but the wind kind of died halfway, leaving me a bit deep. I thought I could see Jasmin to my right, but it was hard to tell as there were many men’s boats all over the place.

When I got to the entrance to the Marina, I had no idea if I was in 1st, and the last 600m of flat were a bit nerve-wrecking as I couldn’t see any of the others. There were a bunch of guys I felt I should be ahead of that took the shallower line, so I really think I messed that up a bit. I did win however, with Jasmin in 2nd and Katie in 3rd.

I didn’t win Surfski.info’s World Series however, even though I won every race I entered this year! There were a number of changes to the race’s nominated to be Series Races at the beginning of the season, and I had made plans according to the original star ratings… Anyhow…

As I got back, I drove down to Cape Town to do the Daniel Conradie Memorial race. Daniel was my mentor, and I wish he was alive today to see what I have achieved thanks to him getting me to start paddling! I think he would be very proud, especially of the Olympic final and Marathon medal! His race was part of the 2 day Peninsular Marathon. On the 2nd day we got to paddle around Robben Island, which is always an unbelievable experience! I won the event, and became the 1st woman to make A Grade in the Discovery/Men’s Health Surf Ski Series (on both days)!

Last race of the year is the Cape Point Challenge on the 19th, haven’t done much long distance for it, but we’ll hope for the best!!

New Nelo Ski

After the race, I went to see The Killers concert! Wow, it was awesome! Now I am back in Plett, with less than 2 weeks until the Cape Point Challenge!!