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!"
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!
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
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 worry...to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.