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Updates From The Road To The World Kayaking Championships

Updates From The Road To The World Kayaking Championships

Finals are over and I realize that I haven't been dreaming. I will be competing at the World Championship Kayak Races. The past week was spent training and preparing. Lodging, a rental car, and airfare have been booked. My racing coach, Josh Friedman of ATP Race Consulting has put together a crushing workout schedule on the flatwater. If you cross a bridge over the Allegheny or the Mon and happen to see a very sleek looking green kayak, it's probably me.  And, if I'm not paddling fast then I'll be gasping for air. I've also been paddling Slippery Rock Creek in McConnells Mill State Park and the Yough River in Ohiopyle whenever possible and my boat handling in the whitewater is improving!

On Friday I headed to Albright, WV to compete in the annual Cheat River Race, one of my favorite - but most intimidating - races. With the rain we got last week, the river rose a lot through the day Friday, and the director eventually had to make the tough decision to cancel the race. But, all of us racers were there and so many of us decided to paddle the Cheat in the high water anyway (by staying together and not racing it's far safer to paddle the big whitewater). That was ideal because I was still able to give my sponsors some exposure despite the cancellation.I've had a bunch of questions about racing at Worlds, so here are some responses for everybody to read:

Worlds    The races will take place on the Vezere River in Treignac, France. It's a small town in the French countryside, about a 5 hour drive south from Paris, 3 hours east of Lyon, and 2.5 hours north of Marseilles. The Vezere is dammed, and the dam is designed to allow for a precise flow into the river below, making it a perfect location for the racing. I have been studying video of the Vezere and it looks to be continuous class 1 & class 2 with about 10 bigger rapids that would be rated class 3. The continuous nature of the river is the most intimidating part (if you're a kayaker, it looks like the Savage River in MD). 

Schedule   I fly to Paris on the 28th then drive to the area where the racing is. I've given myself a day to recover from the overnight flight and to get situated. Then, from May 30th to June 2nd, the water is turned on each day and I will paddle the Vezere as much as I can in order to learn the rapids, which is the best way to race fast. But, I can't tire myself out too much because on June 3rd and 4th the sprint heats and finals take place through a 1/2 mile section of the Vezere with one big rapid in the middle. Later in the day on the 4th we do a team sprint, where I will race alongside two of my teammates, drafting and rotating the lead to optimize time. Sprints will take somewhere between 2 and 3 minutes. Then, on June 5th and 6th are the classic races down a 4-mile section of the Vezere that includes dozens of rapids of various sizes. I expect classic races to take about 20 minutes.

Support   I have a great support team joining me in France! Molly is coming, and so is my sister, Julie, my sister-in-law, Kristi, and my cousin, Jessica. I hope to hear them cheering me on as I pass them during the races, but I suspect I may hear "cheers!" instead. 

Team   I am a member of a 7-person team representing the USA. Four of us are competing in the K1 mens' events (K1 means a single person kayak), one is competing in C1 mens (C means canoe), and there are two K1 women on the team. There are K2 and C2 events, but there are no US athletes competing in those. Yes, I am the oldest on the team, but two of my teammates are not too far back, in their mid 40s.

I'm so thankful for everybody who has contributed to help me achieve this goal. With every purchase, and every stroke, I feel incredibly supported in this endeavor. Thanks to you I now have lodging, airfare, a rental car, an international racing license, and a very light and aggressive racing paddle. Only a few more items remain, and I'm starting to shop around for a race boat to order and have shipped here for stateside events. Just last week it was announced that the US Nationals will be held in August on the Lehigh River in eastern PA. Of course I'll be there!

-Matt Pascal

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