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Wildwater Training Camp on the Lower Yough a Success

Frozen gear and warm food, lodgings set stage for first Eisner training camp at 2002 Team Trials site

Lane Errickson
USAWildwater K-1W

October 21, 2001 -- Friendsville, MD

Picture this: its 7:45 in the morning, clouds hang low and the air is chill for a typical east coast morning. Jess Whittemore rings a large bell once then raises his voice through the fog, "Wildwater training camp, day one!"

Within minutes, paddlers are up, dressed, eating breakfast, packing gear, and thirty minutes later they are all headed over to the Lower Yough put-in for the morning workout. Never mind the thin layer of ice that has formed on the now freeze-dried gear. It just isn't an issue if you want to be a great Wildwater racer, especially when you are about to get some great coaching and paddling at the site of next year's team trials.

As a preview to the 2002 Team Trials, some great folks organized a training camp on the Lower Yough Oct. 19 -21. Former Europe Cup team member and Seattleite Seth Eisner was the coordinator behind it all. With help from the Welshman (really a Scot), Chris Norbury, and Friendsville local Jess Whittemore, they organized what was one of the best training camps in recent memory. They provided an opportunity to see the team trials course and get valuable feedback on technique and fitness training.

I decided to take off from school for another weekend of paddling. My first stop was Wesleyan College in Middleton, Connecticut, to pick up fellow Wildwater racer Middy Tilghman. The eight-hour drive gave us plenty of time to catch up with each other, eat Dairy Queen ice cream and listen to music. When we rolled into Friendsville at 10:00 that night, Jess showed Middy, me, and Zuzana Vanha our accommodations for the weekend in "Hotel Deluxe": Chara O'Brien's heated camper-trailer...oh, it was nice!

While our gear froze outside, we stayed nice and toasty in this comfy unit. Much to Middy's dismay, it took an overnight stay for us to realize that if you brought in the gear, it would also be nice and toasty in the morning, rather than frozen solid.

The first day on the water was spent mostly doing "loop" runs at the river's ox-bow. It is about eight minutes long if you're Andrew McEwan, and longer if you're not. When you finish the loop, you just hop out of your boat, take a short walk through the woods, and voila - you're back to the put-in! The local paddlers were teamed up with the non-locals to show them some of the lines and after few runs some of us were assigned a "follower" who trailed each athlete down to watch our technique in whitewater and offer suggestions.

Although the loop is not long, it has quite a few nice rapids. The first and aptly named "Entrance" is the longest. I quickly learned that angle was everything in this rapid at the water level we were training. After finding all the rocks, I then figured out that a good set angle would actually allow me to make the slots! Next is "Cucumber", another place where a strong angle is your friend. Although not so long, it involves a fun little move behind a rock and then down some waves. Below this are some more rapids whose names I don't know. The final rapid of the Loop is "Railroad". At this level, I think there was more rock than water here. With no obvious fast line, choosing some slots and going for them was key. As I learned, if you didn't spot your slot soon enough, you were likely to get a good knuckle-scraping.

After a day full of loop runs, we all took a full river run and saw the infamous rapids downstream, such as "Dimple", "Swimmer's", and "River's End". That night we were treated to a fantastic dinner at Tom and Judy Pitman's house. After eating a lot of really good food, we watched some great Brent Reitz videos on forward stroke technique. Topping of the great day, Jess introduced some of us to his housemates: three pet boa constrictors. Somehow the paliative words, "don't the snakes you're just a moving tree," weren't of much comfort.

After a restless night dreaming about serpents, I spent the wee morning hours sleeping soundly in Hotel Deluxe--that is until Jess had the bright idea of ringing a large church bell sitting on his porch. After one good clang most of Friendsville was awake and we were all up, getting ready for another day full of paddling.

The agenda for day two was a morning at the lake, then back to the river. If you're thinking that we went and paddled around on the lake while Seth and Chris stood on shore, you would be wrong. Thanks to Mark Susko, Seth and Norbury were out cruising around on the lake in a motor boat. Usually, they'd just pull along side of you at the speed you were going and take video. But when they were done they'd pick up some speed and leave you to deal with the wake.

After a morning of long intervals on the lake, it was back to Ohoipyle where lunch was waiting for us. Greg Akins and his wife were kind enough to fix us a terrific meal each day. The afternoon was filled with some more loop runs and another full river run. This time we teamed up in groups of three with paddlers of similar speed and did some drills like chasing the rabbit and short sprints.

On the second night we were once again treated to another fantastic dinner at Tom and Judy's house. Thanks also to Scott Stough, Bob Vernon and others, the athletes all ate well. Then it was time for video analysis from the lake and river. Having video taken from the boat at different angles was very cool. Seth also gave a talk on principles of training, complete with a packet of sample workouts and training plans to build on the body's different energy systems. He encouraged everyone to approach their training scientifically.

On the morning of the third day we were once again wakened by the large bell ringing. Although we were all pretty tired by this point, we readied ourselves for a time trial on what will be the course for team trials. I was surprised to find out that Jennie Goldberg brought bibs all the way from Washington State for the event! Andrew went first to set a twenty-minute course. The course begins at the put-in below the falls and continues past the bottom of the Loop all the way through the Doldrums. Chris N. took splits at the bottom of the Loop so that we could see whether we lost time in the whitewater or the flats. After finishing the mock race, we paddled on down to the end of the run and called it a day.

It was an excellent weekend bringing Wildwater paddlers from all over the U.S. We got excellent feedback on paddling and became well acquainted with the trials course. Seth, Chris Norbury, Jesse, and the folks in Friendsville put on an awesome training camp. Thanks also to Mark Hei and Terry Peterson for providing warm places to stay, and Bob Bofinger for helping out.

With Seth running the show it was efficient, well-organized, and inexpensive. Thanks to Jesse, what really put this camp over the edge were the complimentary boat sponges. I can only imagine that trials will be an event worth showing up for. I'm sure I speak for everyone who was there by sending out a big thank you to everyone who helped put on a very successful camp!

Lane Errickson is a Wildwater athlete living and training in Massachusetts. Reach her at