Falls Creek Regatta aka Best Weekend Ever

When I lived back in Canberra, there was always one regatta that I loved the most – That was the Flowing Festival regatta held in Jindabyne, New South Wales. It was a ski town in the mountains with the most pristine water to paddle in, and the atmosphere was amazing too; markets and carnival rides all lined up along the shoreline, with music blaring from the start line and a great festival feel about it. Each of the dragon heads used on the boats had different colours and different faces – some with jewels, some with ribbons, and the boats were nicknamed “bathtubs” as they were so old, and as a drummer I had to sit on the nose of the boat without a chair. It was the best weekend away with my team mates, and it was my absolute favourite regatta.

Moving to Melbourne I knew I’d miss that regatta the most, but I definitely still travel around a lot with the team. However I was super excited when The Falls Creek regatta was announced because it was incredibly similar to Jindabyne. Falls Creek, a little ski town, up in the mountains, with pristine waters and a good 5 hour drive away from Melbourne requiring an overnight stay – meaning a great opportunity to bond with my coach and team mates.

My boyfriend, Reece, and I drove down to Falls Creek on Friday night after work, dodging wombats, and winding around the mountain roads after our GPS took us on a delightful detour out to Sunbury. Luckily, we were both amused by this and laughed about how we a) ended up in Sunbury, b) ended up on a rollercoaster of a country road (literally. Steepest descent ever!) and c) trekked along dirt roads before d) driving down the shadiest looking road ever and finding our accommodation at Falls Creek around 11pm.

Reece and I bunked down with in the boys cabin with Darren, Tim, Armin and John and we were delighted by the abundance of hot tubs and saunas within our accommodation. We set out for the regatta early the next morning and drove down to the race course, which reminded me so much of Jindabyne. That made me so happy! Beautiful mountain scenery, crystal blue water, clear skies …. Yup, being in the mountains was gorgeous enough, let alone being able to paddle my first regatta in such great water.

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Look at this view! And this water! It’s got nothing on the Yarra River!

Yes, you heard right folks …. I just paddled my very first regatta EVER in the 6 years of me doing this sport! I drummed two crews, the opens and the women’s and paddled in the mixed which was action packed.

My first race paddling, I shared with a lovely girl from Yarra River Dragons, Jordie, who had kindly filled in some seats on our team for us. For Jordie and I it was our first regatta paddling, and indeed our first race EVER and what should happen? Another boat runs into the side of us! I’m not even kidding … I’m doing my thang, paddlin’ my little heart out and in my peripheral vision I see this dragon head getting closer to me and I begin to think “Oh they’re gaining on us”, but then this dragon head gets a little bit closer, and then TOO close and before I know it, it’s hit the side of the boat I’m paddling on. Jordie and I have our paddles in the air, Darren (who was steering) was trying to push the other boat away from us, and we could feel the boat do this LURCH which only happens when you’re about to capsize … I remember thinking “That’d be right! My first race paddling and we capsize!” but we all somehow managed to hold on and finish the race in our lane and without any injuries. See? DRAMA. And it wasn’t even a 2km race!

Our opens crew missed out on making the finals, but they had some wicked competition, and the team we took down was only a small one. Yarra River Dragons were again out in force and looking fiiiiiiine on the water. They’re going to be HOT at Nationals this year, I can tell.

Our Women’s crew … Now this was awesome. We called ourselves the Flaming Storm because we were 1/2 boat Melbourne Flames and 1/2 Southern Storm paddlers.  Despite the fact that we had never paddled together before, and indeed never met each other before being put into a boat together,  we raced fast and hard and ended up walking away with a second place. Second to, you guessed it, Yarra River Dragons. So a pretty damn good effort!

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2nd place! Winners are grinners!

Look at that beautiful trophy!  And look at this new group of friends!

So after we wrapped up the regatta it was time for the after party. Y’all like party stories, right? Well, we started off by having a few drinks in the hot tubs and reminiscing on other regattas and Nationals and afterparties. Again, I bunked down with the boys (I had to be the girl that broke up the sausage fest in the hot tub. The “Chickie Buffer” if you please) and after our delightful hot tub and drinks, we got ready for dinner.

We had a team dinner at a little Italian joint up in the mountains which was amazing – I had to try hard not to eat everything everything that wasn’t nailed down. The pizza smelled amazing but I went for pasta instead. After cheers’ing to a great regatta and having some food, we met up with Yarra River Dragons and played some soccer, before moving on to playing some Bocce.

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Playing Bocce with rivals and friends, Yarra River Dragons. What a night!

After chilling out in the evening light, we decided to move back to the accommodation for some more fun. Everyone came down to our bunk, and we decided to crack out some drinks and some cards and have ourselves a Melbourne Flames party!

To start with, I want to say that our coach is a VERY bad influence on me when it comes to drinking vodka (3 shots in a row, Serge! Na Zdorovie!) and secondly I want to say that he is also very good at playing cards. I, on the other hand …. DISMAL. I can’t remember the name of the game we were playing, but the only object of the game was NOT to lose, and you bet your ass I lost ever time lol. We had a great time playing several rounds of this mystery game, which Reece ended up winning every time he played. (that’s how games usually work in our house! Reece wins, I lose!)

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This picture accurately represents what it is like to play this game.

So after our evening wrapped up we all rolled into bed. You really can’t argue with that for an after party … Drinks, hot tubs, games and cards. 10 out of 10: Would recommend.

You can check out some of the photos I took at Falls Creek on the Melbourne Flames Instagram page, and indeed other pictures I take! I am, afterall, part of their social media team!

Next thing coming up? State team trials. Then the Chinese New Year Regatta in Footscray! Two very exciting things coming up. I’ll keep you posted on how everything pans out.

Until then, this little drummer girl has one hell of a hangover to nurse! #weak

Carrum Cup / Christmas

HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS!!! It’s finally 2017 – the year that we actually get to go to China. Pretty exciting stuff, hey? A lot has been going on lately, so sit back and relax while I catch you up.

I promised I would catch you up on the Carrum Cup regatta in my last post, so let’s have a quick recap on that. Yikes! The Carrum Cup regatta was seems like such a long time ago now though! We drove down there early that Sunday morning and set up camp next to the race course, surrounded by heaps of other teams from Victoria. Weather wise, as predicted, it wasn’t brilliant. I was shivering my butt off and wearing all the clothes I packed, and trying to bask in what little sunlight was available between races just trying to keep warm.

Racing wise, it was equally as tough. Yarra River Dragons were hot on our tails at every given opportunity and honestly, they’re one heck of a strong team. We seemed to jump the start from them, but then half way through the race they’d just accelerate out of nowhere and BAM. They’d cross the finish line before us! Those guys are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with when it comes time for Nationals this year, and even just competing with them bought out my competitive side.

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Right on, Kermit. You know how I feel.

We ended up doing really well though in my opinion. Overall race results were:
Premier Mixed 20’s: 2nd Place
Open 10’s: 1st Place
Premier Mixed 10’s: 2nd Place
Premier Women 10’s: 2nd Place
Premier Open 20’s: 1st Place
Mixed Master’s 10’s: 1st Place

Pretty proud of how we went, all things considering!

In December the club did some great Christmassy things that really helped get into the spirit of the festive season. Being my first Christmas in Melbourne without my family, I was feeling a bit homesick, but it’s hard to keep that feeling when you’re on a dragonboat in a Santa Hat, surrounded by a fantastic bunch of people who have really welcomed you into their club in the past 12 months.

Perhaps my favourite thing that we did was the Kris Kringle breakfast after training. Almost 5 tables of us piled into this little cafe with gifts to swap around, but not in the traditional sense … The present you received could be taken from you and swapped out as many times as people liked! So we got some breakfast, took a number and when my number came up (lucky 33 I think) I was on the receiving end of a large amount of powdered Gatorade. I traded that for a nice Cheese board, which then got swapped for some sun glasses, which then got swapped finally for some SPF 50+ Sunscreen. Hells yeah – Don’t have to replace my sunscreen myself this year! #Winner

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Yay for Christmas hats!

So here we are now, in January, at the tail end of the Silly Season, and silly it was indeed. I confess that I over indulged good and proper and am now the proud owner of 2 extra kilos of weight that I need to shed to get back to my China Weight. I’ve completely eliminated alcohol from my diet, and have started a 28 day tea detox, or rather “Teatox” to help flush out all the crap from my system, ready to start preparing my body for the year ahead. I’ve started paddling again at training too which has been a bit of a shock to the system, but I paddled 2 x 8km sessions last week without missing a stroke so I’m pretty happy with myself for doing that. Aside from that, I’m also looking at starting some Yoga/Barre classes to run along side the dragonboat sessions, and home sit ups/crunches/squats I’ve been doing to help get my body as ready as possible for China. Now, if someone can take the box of Cadbury’s Favourites away, that would be rad ….

Preceding that though, January brings some other things for me to get through. Our next regatta coming up is the Mile High regatta held in Falls Creek on the 28th of January which is set to be a really great weekend away, so I’m looking forward to that a lot.  But even before that I have benchmarking for the State dragonboat team, as well as Bootcamp for my club team, as well as a fundraising BBQ at Bunnings here in Brunswick. (Come grab a snag, everyone!) Busy, busy, busy! And from now on it’ll only get busier too because it’s only 3 months until Nationals. *3 MONTHS*. Eeeek! This will be my first nationals racing under a different club, so I’m very excited to race in the blue and yellow and hopefully bring home some bling.

So there you have it! There’s plenty of things in the works and there’ll be a lot to catch you up on in the next installment of my blog. Until then though, paddles up!

Rach xx

Carrum Cup / Resting Drummer Face

Behold: Resting Drummer Face. Similar to Resting Bitch Face, only there are also photos where we’re yelling so we look twice as delightful! RAWR! It’s possibly the most embarrassing photo face to have because it screams “DERP” at the camera.

There’s lots of photos of me sitting in the drummers seat looking down the boat – I think I’m meant to look fierce and serious but mostly I just have Resting Drummer Face (hereafter RDF) and look pissed off at the world. But I’m not! I swear! Mostly I’m just wishing I bought my sunglasses because it’s super bright out there on the water. Other times, I’m just DERP-ing along in my natural state. Ah yes …  The joys of not being photogenic….

Our next regatta coming up is Carrum Cup – About an hour out of Docklands this coming weekend. Our local club has a couple of crews entered which is great and it should be a pretty great day all in all. Weather wise, Melbourne s still can’t make up it’s mind if it’s Spring or Summer, so it’s only going to be a chilly 20C; a change from yesterday’s 34C at training!

Carrum Cup will be the last regatta for the year before we break for Christmas, then the first regatta in 2017 is Falls Creek, which sounds like it’s going to be a great weekend away in January. I’m still getting used to traveling around the countryside for each regatta, because back in Canberra each regatta was held in the same place at the same time. Here, it’s definitely more exciting, and it gives us a lot more experience in racing on different bodies of water which is great for Nationals which are held in a different place each year. We’ll be traveling down the morning of the Carrum Cup regatta, hanging out for the day and competing in 200m and 500m races and hopefully coming away with some bling for the club! 200m races are over before you know it, so I’m looking forward to getting some practice for these races under my belt.

So there you have it! A brief update. I’ll have more for you after this weekends regatta, so stay tuned.

Until then!

Rach x x

Big News! We’re Off To China!

Firstly, I’m sorry it’s been forever since my last update, but boy, do I have some news for you!

I’ll happily backtrack and fill you in on what’s been happening in a moment, but first, the moment I’ve been working so hard towards has come and gone, and I’m super pleased to announce that I MADE THE AUSTRALIAN TEAM!

We’re off to China folks, and I couldn’t be more excited! It 8 short months I’ll be packing my bags and heading over to Kunming and preparing to compete in the World Dragonboat Championships and I am beyond stoked.

So let’s back track a little bit shall we? Let me fill you in on the last few couple of months and how trials went.

I took about a month off training to start with after I slipped down the stairs in my house (ouch!) and only started to get back into training just before trials which wasn’t the most ideal situation. I went to a couple of regattas though (The Battle of the Barwon and the Horsham regatta) to maintain my drumming skills and presence within the club and was pleased to walk away with some great results from those regattas. I even got to drum for one of the Dragons Abreast teams in Horsham who came in Third and they kindly gave me a pennant to show their thanks! (Incidentally, if you want to see a video of me hip thrusting with the inflatable ghost in the picture tied to my waist, head to the Melbourne Flames Dragonboating Instagram Page!)

 

Ok, so on to the actual trials because I’m sure that what you guys are dying to hear about! I had my fan base travel all the way from Goulburn to cheer me on (Thanks Mum and Dad!) and support me as this was the hardest campaign for me to try out for thus far. To the best of my knowledge (and I could be incorrect here still) there were three drummers trialing for two spots on the team. What I do know, is that we were all damn good at what we do. Adelina, from the ACT, can both paddle and drum and has had plenty of experience in overseas campaigns before. On the front of the boat she was loud and in charge – definitely something you want in a drummer. Erin, the other drummer from Melbourne was equally as formidable – her voice booming from the sidelines, as her skills as a sweep shone through from the front of the both. Both of these ladies have extra skills that really make them valuable at the front of the boat, and I think whoever our coach picked, he was going to have a tough decision on his hands. We all offered different qualities and we’re all great at what we do.

The camp went for two days – Most of the tests on the first day were focused around the paddlers. There were fitness tests, and they were in single crafts showing their skills and my goodness, are some of those guys and girls fit and impressive! Honestly, some of them had such a lovely stroke on them that I could have watched them paddle for days … it was so soothing! The second half of the first day we did some 2km turn races. My favourite! Why? TOTAL. DRAMA. CENTRAL.  There’s boats crashing. There’s waves. There’s plenty of yelling. You have to rev up your team. Oh goodness me, there’s adrenaline and I love, love, LOVE it. We did three of those races switching Sweeps, and I loved working with Eliza and Darren. I work with Darren all the time so there’s a level of comfort and control with the boat there. Working with Eliza was great too because she brings this amazing energy to the boat and you just want to be a part of it!

We had dinner and a review of day one which wrapped up around 8:30pm, then day two of the camp kicked off the following morning at 8am. Again, there were some single craft trials for the paddlers and more on water tests for the whole crews with some short distance races which were great.  It was a shorter day wrapping up around 3:30pm so people could fly back to WA or QLD, but it was enough after the day before.

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The 2017 Auroras Trialists after the camp wrapped up in Docklands, Melbourne

I honestly didn’t feel confident getting in to this campaign – As a drummer, you never really know where you stand, and I felt as though this time I didn’t have as much time to show my skills as I had at previous camps. Sometimes you feel like the coach is never around you so he can’t see the skills you have on display, but I guess he’s always watching, right?  It helps that I’m lightweight which is also what you want at the front of the boat! Well … I could have been lighter. You know, we’ve talked before how I’m a sucker for a Mexican feast, and I confess to indulging in a few of those and a few vegan pizzas pre-trials. Alas! It all worked out.

What I’m most excited for is the opportunity to travel to a place that is so out of my comfort zone doing a sport that I love. Ever since I was little, I’ve had this fascination with China – My mum traveled there when I was about 5 years old, and she bought me back this ring that has Chinese symbols on it. I wear it every day, and I’m fascinated with the culture, and indeed this sport and now I get to travel to the country Mama K went all those years ago and follow in her footsteps, but paving my own while I’m there.

This is my second time representing my country and I couldn’t be more excited, or proud. It’s been a very long road to get here since June with a lot of ups and downs along the way but standing here getting to share the news with everyone that I made the team makes it all seem worth it.

I might not come home with a medal around my neck, but I know I’ll come home having grown as a person and that’s really all I’m looking for right now. With an experience such as this under my belt, what more could I possibly ask for?

Here’s to making the team! Paddles up!

Rach xx

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Taking The Reigns

I haven’t been to training for a while, I confess. Life has a habit of getting in the way of extra curricular activities, and life has indeed done that to me recently.

I’ve been nurturing one very ill guinea pig – syringe feeding him 4 times a day as he recovers form molar surgery and syringe feeding him water. He’s almost 7 years old, and I love him dearly so he’s been a priority to me lately.

On Sunday he was well enough for me to go back to training so I jumped back onto the front of the boat and went out for a series of runs up and down Docklands.

We had a trainee sweep on the back of the boat as Darren was on his way to China, so I took over all the calls for the training sessions, which was a whole new experience for me. I usually work off what the sweep says, and relay their calls so actually taking control of the whole boat was brand new and I was terrified!

The first run was a bit messy – I was still trying to  figure out how to get my calls precise, and remember to call technique points, and keep an eye on the stop watch as well, but I managed to get it together pretty quickly after that and take the team out for a pretty good training session. I have a whole new level of respect for sweeps now who not only have to yell out calls, and focus on stop watches, but also steer a boat as well, because it’s a lot to try and do when you’re trying to keep an eye on the guys in the boat to make sure they’re responding to what you’re actually calling out.

Also, massive props to our trainee sweep too for taking us out on Sunday because it was crazy windy and I would have been absolutely terrified to be steering a boat in those conditions. She did amazingly well, and managed to look cool, calm and collected the whole time which was fantastic considering it was only her 5th time steering a boat. I tried steering once and we went around in a giant circle and I freaked out, so it’s not an easy job and she’s not much bigger than me!

My aim for next week is to get back to another training session on a weeknight, since I’ve been missing a few of those recently. Small steps … Always small steps. But given how things are with my life right now, small steps are really all I can ask of myself.

Australian Team Trials

I received my official invitation to the Australian Team Selection camp on the weekend and it’s exciting to have an actual date for it. It falls on the 26th and 27th of November (my birthday is on the 28th too – Happy birthday to me!) so I’ll be a busy beaver trying to get ready over the next two months.

The trials are going to run over two days, with folk from all over Australia flying in for them. They’ll be two full days of on-water trials that will consist of jumping in and out of countless boats, faking confidence I don’t have as yet and taking command of a group of paddlers who have never paddled together before.

What’s worse is that Darren, the sweep who I’ve been working closely with, isn’t going to China anymore I don’t think so I’m really going to be thrown into the deep end now in terms of what sweep I’ll be working with, because I was just starting to get the hang of working with Darren and learning his calls and pre-empting what he was going to call out which would have been so amazing for trials, but now without him there I’m not actually sure what Sweeps will be trialing.

This makes me really nervous because I’ve always had the luxury of knowing the sweeps trialing. I’ve always worked with them previously in my club, or had some knowledge of them through the other people I’ve worked with. When I don’t know who I’m working with I tend to get quiet because I’m trying to suss them out and see how they work, but that’s the exact thing I can’t do at these trials.

I’m going to miss having Darren around on the back of the boat – He’s been teaching me some great stuff both as a paddler and as a drummer that’s been helping me grow a lot, and I was hoping that he’d be considering being a part of the team. Since he’s a part of the World Cup, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that he wouldn’t be trialing. But you know – This is a sport where we support ourselves financially. We don’t have any government subsidy so it’s expensive to go overseas twice in a year.

It’s interesting how one person can really help you develop as a paddler and as a drummer. Back in Canberra is was a guy called Kel – Super incredible guy. Friendly, charismatic, and someone who had a wealth of knowledge when it came to paddling and mentoring people. He knew when to nurture someone’s talent, and when to encourage them to push them to be better. In fact, it was Kel who promised me I could represent Australia within 3 years of taking up the sport with my talent – And he wasn’t wrong. kel always bought out the best in people, and he always bought out the best in me. When I was having a shitty day, he would encourage me to leave it on the water. When I was having a shitty day on the water, he would teach me ways to use that as a way of growing in the sport and develop from the things that didn’t go according to plan. Sadly, I’ve dropped out of contact with Kel now I’ve left Canberra, but I don’t think you ever forget someone who helps you grow. And I know I will always appreciate what he’s done for me. He might not know what he’s done, but he sure gave me the world and I appreciate the heck out of him for that.

So, back to trials. I have a vague inkling of what to expect … I’ve been through this twice before. The first time, unsuccessfully because my grandfather passed away while trials were happening and I pulled out. Truthfully, I don’t think I was ready for a spot on the team then anyway. Believe it or not, I was still getting over mild sea sickness and anxiety (yes, sea sickness. In a dragonboat). The second time, I was successful. And even then, I felt like I was barely ready for my place on the team again. I was over the sea sickness thing, but I was still dealing with the anxiety. I don’t think my anxiety will ever go away, but I know this time I’m ready. I’ve been through more. I’ve experienced more. I’ve trained under two different clubs. I know more people. I’ve come out of my comfort zone by leaving Canberra. I’m familiar with the location we’re trialing in. I’m ready.

Well. Almost.

Mentally I’m ready. I have 1kg to go before physically I’m back where I need to be. So I’m getting closer already.  1kg in 2 months is good. Cut out alcohol (except for special occasions) and that ought to take care of itself really. If I make the team, I’ll be on a full time alcohol ban, so I might as well start getting used to it.

The best part about trialing is seeing all my Canada team mates (who have been asking me if I’m trying out) again. I can’t wait to relive those awesome memories and get back on the front of a boat with a nice, powerful crew behind me again. I just love it.

November, November, November. You can’t come soon enough now, can you?