Our Alps training week started as all Alps trips do: emails and frantic phone calls, long car journeys and plenty of faff (from us trying to sort out what items should go with who, and who was bringing what). There were also disturbing reports of rain on the continent. Hold on, we did not sign up for rain! What we got though was a fantastic week of (mostly) sunshine, awesome river running , training sessions and great company.
SUNSHINE!! quick get your pasty white British skin out!
BEST. SPORT. EVER!
The week was the brainchild of GB Mens’s team Matt Blue who arranged for us to have a developmental week for the GB teams and any other teams who wanted to go out and get some top raft coaching, some river running experience and, let’s face it, a holiday- albeit a pretty painful one !
A HUGE thank you to Matt who put in so much effort to make it all happen. His enthusiasm was infectious.
Not only did we have a GB Training camp, we had a Van with sign writing on it!! Albeit one in need of a good clean!
Over the weekend people arrived in drips and drabs some at more ungodly hours than others, but on the Monday morning we got up and were ready to work it!! The GB Ladies resident Yoga/Cross fit/Stretching secretary Rosie Cripps and Matt organised a WOD for us on the first day (Work Out of the Day) starting at 7:30am. It involved jumping over rafts, doing press-ups (ALWAYS the narrow ones) and getting really really out of breath. I think for the members of the other teams this was a bit of a shock – they haven’t had the time spent with Coach Dave doing Abs 500’s or Body Rock. But it was ace and it got us really pumped for the first day’s rafting, which we spent on the Durance. Through the day we worked our way down the river finishing at the Rab’ wave. There wasn’t a glum face anywhere!
Run Forest Run!! The Warm up. Very necessary.
Our WOD! It was even Raft themed!
After that WOD we were happy to finally be rafting. Day 1 on the Durance.
Day 2 started with Yoga. And wow was our yoga room the best ever!
The Downward Dog. One of the more doable Yoga Poses, yet not the most flattering...
'Dude, don't mess with my Chai!'
R2 Sprint Races. We are always competitive, even against each other!
Working on equalising power is really important for raft racing as you want to use all that power to go forwards not around in a circle!
The Red Rose Ladies getting some input from Suzie Jackson.
Day 3 was our ‘event in a day’! We trained doing sprints in the morning, raced endurance against the Masters in the Afternoon and then did 2 ‘race day’ slalom runs in the evening! All before going out for Georgie and Fran’s joint Hen Do! We went out on the town and got thoroughly merry on a glass of shandy! Rock and Or Roll!!!
Deb and Suzie creating some resistance for Bry and Nez. Not saying they are heavy or anything...
...but they are not doing our image of athletes any good - Jeeze Deb at least try to look like you are doing something!
Blue was definitely the theme of the week. Blue Bouyancy Aids, Matt Blue, Blue Water, Blue Sky!! We loved it!
The GB Mens Masters team did a great job at keeping up with us. Definitely new friends made.
Walking the Slalom course, and looking fairly dapper at the same time!
Getting going on the Slalom. It is great to practice on such powerful water.
Not a blow up willy in sight...but I think we still lowered the tone somewhat!
Unlike most hen dos no one had a hangover the following morning which was a good thing too as we were practicing technique on the lake with Matt. Suze, Fran and George had an awesome Eureka moment where body rotation was concerned and were “accessing their core’s “ all over the place!! The afternoon was a little more chilled out for some of the GB Ladies whilst others went and did some coaching with the other teams, but we all got back together for an awesome, adrenaline pumping run down the Guil!
Don't let the shrinker vision fool you! That is some tight white water!
Some hard moves to make in a raft, but such good fun!
Celebratory team squats or 'New Suits' shot gone wrong? you decide.
Friday, came all too soon in Raft Camp GB. But we definitely saved the best until last. With reports that the Ubaye had a “surprising amount of water” in it, we got up bright and early and set off en-mass to run one of the classic sections for rafting. We had tight technical moves to make, wide open water to sprint on and lots of high-side hazards to avoid. We decided to do run number one of the Ubaye Racecourse like a good box of quality sweets, all mixed together. This meant we had experienced and less experienced people in the same boat because for a few people this was the biggest water they had done in a raft – or anything else for that matter! So with safety in mind we set off and had a fab run. There was much elation at the bottom and a definite desire for double the run, double the fun!
Mixin' it up. Deb enjoyed being at the back for once...it meant she stayed dry :)
Fran on the other hand got completely soaked without Deb-the-body-shield in front of her. Well I say competely soaked, she would have been if it wasnt for the Palm Swirl cag.
Team Red Rose!! The awesome Northern girls.
The GB Masters Men's Team. We are so excited they are joining us in New Zealand! Well done boys we know you will do GB proud.
This time the GB Ladies went flat out for Endurance practice, with Matt paddling along in a kayak giving us motivation as we went. However, although it felt fast and powerful, you could tell it was the end of a hard week as the usually ‘loudly vocal’ raft (Susie and Fran!) were very quiet, using the last of their energy to paddle as hard as they could. Once at the bottom there were almost tears (of joy!), loads of smiles and a fair bit of falling over – the seating position does nothing for your joints!
Fran and Suzie's faces say it all. Thoroughly broken, as they had requested.
The happiness of such a good week was definitely tinged with sadness that we would all be going home soon, and the inevitable and impending, long and tedious drives did nothing to make it any better. But with a wider rafting family having been properly established we definitely have loads to look forward to – especially for next year!
Friends, sunshine and rafting. what more do you need?
Bring on Alps training camp 2014!
For us the ride home was a mix of Elton John, Joseph and the Techni-coloured Dream Coat and very early morning Spanish lessons (in the car at Calais). So not so tedious after all!
Our continued gratitude goes to Palm for kitting us out in the best gear for all occasions and weather.
AND FINALLY... ...our next installment of who's who on the team:
Georgina Preston, one third of the middle crew, soon to be wife of an Olympian, and all round classy lady answers our questions. You are one of the longest serving members of the team, how did you get involved ? I started kayaking at school because the boy I had a crush on also did it (yes, 16 year old girls really are stalkers; but it paid off!). And that was the start of it all! I joined the amazing Whitstable Winter Wallies Canoe Club (also home ground of my later GB Freestyle coach and legend, Pete Catterall), who taught me how to roll and introduced me to rafting. I ended up working as a raft guide at HPP throughout uni and was approached by my friend and fellow raft guide, to start up a women’s team. There had been a women’s team a few years before, but it had fizzled out. I joined up with original members Debs and Nez and we gathered a few more to make our team! Our first competition was the Worlds in Ecuador in 2005 and we’ve been going ever since. What is it about rafting that inspires you to keep training and pushing the sport? Honestly – the main thing is the trips away with my best friends! I love being abroad with my chums, meeting up with all the other national teams and having a great time. That is what keeps me going throughout the winter misery of freezing hands and cold splashes in the face! I like to think the training also keeps me buff, but sadly, my rate of eating tends to match and exceed any calories burnt. Being a Slalom and Freestyle paddler have you found any transferable skills that you can use for rafting? I would not exactly class myself as a slalom paddler (I eventually reached premier division in C1 Women’s before getting injured and haven’t started competing again yet), but I certainly think that paddling C1 has been good for developing my core strength and flexibility! I train on the left and right to keep me balanced which is really helpful in the raft as I can plop in anywhere. Paddling in general really helps you read whitewater properly. I have also learnt a lot from my super Olympic champ fiancé Etienne Stott who bravely coached me in C1 and taught me so much about the nuances of slalom! Freestyle is just ace and is really all about getting stuck in, which means I do tend to enjoy a cheeky surf and flips in the raft (summer time only). What is your most memorable rafting experience? Floating down the crystal waters of the Tara River Canyon in Montenegro, winning a Gold medal in Bosnia alongside our men, being catapulted from a raft at the top of Okere Falls on the Kaituna, NZ. What is your most memorable moment with the team?. Hitting the beach in Costa Rica for 2 weeks of cocktails, chocolate, snorkelling, biking, swimming and monkey watching - after the competition had ended! Best/worst thing about being in an all girls team? Team showers! But getting the rubbish shower head. Thanks George! Words (of the blog) by Fran Kohn Pictures by Deb, Georgie, Bryony, Team Red Rose and Chris Dalby of the GB Masters.