The mighty T

After a busy week Keith and a quick play at the club Keith and I were keen to get back on the water for a play.  Keith had a new boat to try out and I wanted to see how different I felt on UK rivers after being in the Alps.  So we got together with a few other paddlers and headed over to the mighty T.  The last time I came to the T was an emotional visit, I was a nervous wreck and it all seemed to big and overwhelming.  I faced my fears and along with some tears made it through the pre-graveyard section by the end of the day.  I was determined this time I would do more and I wouldn’t get so wound up.

We got down here and without too much faff we were kitted up and on the water.  I spent much less time on the pre-pre-graveyard with some ferry glides and S-turns to get the feel of the boat again and settle in.  I was still nervous here but it was more a residual feeling from last time than actually to do with today.  Once I felt reasonably comfortable, I decided not to dwell too long on getting it perfect here before I moved on, and I hadn’t had a melt down so I had already felt an improvement.  We paddled on down to pre-graveyard and hopped out on the bank to take a look. 

The rapids here now looked a lot smaller.  I wouldn’t say I thought they were friendly looking but not the huge crashing swirls of death that they looked like before.  I looked at the eddies on each side and could see how I might want to get in and out of them.  For the most part I thought I might be able to get to them, but wasn’t too happy with getting out of them.  I decided I would take the first eddy on the right and then run through the rest.  Taking these eddies I realise gives other paddlers space to get out in front of you.  Now I’m not fussed about others getting on and doing their thing, I don’t own the place and I certainly don’t feel entitled to anything, but this is something I need to get over.  Keith went out of the eddy (confident in his ability he is able to see a gap and take it) and then I go to follow.  While I’m ‘setting up’ my line to get out of the eddy just where I want to, running through my little mantra that prepares me to keep the right edge and angle, and have the paddle strokes where I think they need to be, a few other paddlers come through.  I back off and wait for the next gap, again I take so long that more paddlers are coming across the lines where I want to be, and I’m not confident enough to go for it anyway.  Keith is patiently waiting for me a couple of eddies down and Alex (who was now in the top eddy next to me) suggested I go in front of her and Dylan.  I set up again, saw a gap and went for it.  This got my heart racing more than the waves themselves, but once in the flow I settled a bit, Keith jumped out of the eddy in front of me and we ran the rest.  No tears of relief this time, and I could feel that I had started to make a change in myself.  It’s no longer terrifying.  Still scary but not terrifying.  Having had to deal with so many other paddlers and finding a gap to get out my adrenaline was up and I hadn’t had chance to look for eddies or notice anything on the way through. 

I decided I would do the same again on the next run but try to notice where the eddies are as I passed them.  I found a gap to get out of the top eddy a lot quicker this time, had a slightly better line through the last wave and had noticed at least one eddy on the way through (There must be at least 10 eddies.  From the bank I can find them but shooting past on the river it’s much more difficult to see!)  We went again, Keith had suggested trying for another eddy but having stepped up from last time and made big improvements already I wanted to do the run the same again and have it feeling good.  This time I saw two or three eddies and only had a small fright when Keith went river right on the last wave.  It totally threw me and I ended up further river right than I needed to be to eddy out river left where we had planned.  That gave me another bit of an adrenaline jump but I made it and on the whole felt good with the run.

I was feeling tired by this point, happy with my progress since the last time we came and decided to call it a day for me.  My time paddling in the Alps has clearly upped my game but I wasn’t prepared to push it further and risk knocking my very new and tentative confidence.  So I walked along the bank with Bill, taking photos and video of the others as they moved down and played with the rest of the features.  I got changed after tea and cake break at the cafe, and walked again with Ali (who had now swapped to dog care duties so Bill could paddle) and enjoyed chatting and watching from the bank.

I look forward to my next trip there to see what I feel like I can go for to improve again.  One step at a time!

Back to the river

After three weeks back at home it was time to get back on the water.  Keith and I have both been a little lazy since we got back.  The post holiday blues you might say.  Nothing seems so much fun when it’s raining and miserable, and motivation is hard to find when you don’t have a big group of people all getting out doing fun stuff together every day.  

We made the effort to get to a Friday night river session with the club, despite the miserable weather which had stopped us the past couple of weeks.  I had my niece for the day and she was excited by the prospect of doing some kayaking with me.  After an awesome afternoon with the horses we got our stuff together and headed to the club.  Pennies paid, we got changed and I got some kit out for Freya to borrow.  It was only once we started to get a boat and paddles sized up for her that reality of what we were doing set in.  I think having seen some of my videos from the Alps she was worried about it being big feisty waves or something, and asked if we were going to start slowly!  I reassured her of course and told her if she doesn’t like it, that I won’t be upset if she wants to stop.  A quick brief and introduction with Keith and we were heading down to the water with our boats. 

At the steps we let a few others get on the water first so Freya could take her time.  I can now appreciate what everyone else could see in my face when I first paddled off flat water.  I recognised the look because I could see the feeling sat behind it.  Wanting to try something new and exciting but that fear and apprehension that comes from jumping in to the unknown!  I let Keith show her how to hold the paddles (we had gone through how to sit in the boat back up on the grass) and he slid her and her boat off the side to sit in the water.  I took over then while Keith got himself ready.  We just sat in the eddy and I got Freya to take some deep breaths.  Once again, I knew from very recent experience just the sort of thing she would be feeling.  A little twitch of your body making the boat wobble while you float around at the mercy of the water (We were still in the eddy but you still bobble about a bit) feeling like you’re about to go in at any moment, and this lump of plastic you’re sat in feeling so alien.  Still in the eddy Keith and I sat with her and got her going through her first tentative forward strokes.  It wasn’t long before her panic eased and we set off for the other side other river. 

Now that her panic had settled Keith went through a little more detail about forward strokes and a couple of basic turning strokes and had us both practicing spinning around on the spot.  Some might think a little basic for me, now that I’m an Alpine paddler and all, but most of this stuff was skipped over with me, as I had some very faint memory from my previous paddling and could go just about in a straight line.... It felt good to go back to these basics and know a little more about some techniques I didn’t even know I had been using. 

By the end of the session, Freya was paddling back and forth confidently, and I introduced the idea of Ferry Gliding to her.  When I explained, she said ‘Oh, like leg yield!’ which is about the closest horse movement you can compare to a Ferry Glide.  She picked this up quite easily and we then joined in with some games at the end.  I didn’t see how Freya got on with the T-Bone game, she was paired up with another young lad who started last week and I was paired up with Dean.  In our first round I just managed to get to the side of Dean.  I had honestly thought I’d lose very quickly but we both spent a good couple of minutes fighting it out!  In our second round Dean tried a little harder, and then tried so hard not to get caught out that he went over and had to roll!  A little relay race finished of the evening.  Our team having both Dean and I in it, and the other Team only having quite new paddlers, we had a handicap that Dean would have to go backwards!  I was so impressed with Freya paddling off to the other side and back on her own, it didn’t matter that we lost the race.  It was good fun and I was glad to have made the effort to go (as I always am once I get there).  We had hardly noticed the rain.

It also seems that Freya has another new hobby, she said to me on the way home... ‘That was so much fun, I nearly asked to stop in the beginning because it was so wobbly but it was really great.  I can’t wait until my next Friday with you!’.

It felt good to have got on the water and practice before Sunday, when Keith and I were heading back to Wales for our first ‘proper’ paddle since our return home.... Watch this space for that update!!!

Lessons learnt - the early years of business

We’ve been home from the Alps a little over 3 weeks now, and I’m only just starting to feel like I’m really home.  My mind has stayed in holiday mode despite getting straight back to work only a few hours after we got back. 

I use the word work here fairly lightly.  As I’ve mentioned before my work now doesn’t feel much like work as I enjoy what I do, and what I came back to was caring for a house full of animals. 

In the last 3 weeks I’ve spent 2 nights in my own bed and otherwise been engaged staying away pet sitting, alongside various lessons and horse care.  Not a bad way to coin a living and being an animal lover it’s something that comes easily and naturally to me.  There are stresses involved of course, as I’m caring for someone else’s beloved family members, I want them to be happy and healthy, with the love and attention they are used to. 

This year I have realised the first stages of my dream.  My work now fits in around my life instead of the other way around, and although it still needs a little adjustment to get things the way I want them, I’m in a much better place than I was 4 years ago.  I don’t make any grand earnings (yet) but I’m now at a point where I’m getting by.  A few more years perseverance and hard work and perhaps I’ll be truly standing on my own two feet, and my business should be well established.

It’s now I realise just how much effort I need to put in ‘behind the scenes’.  In the first couple of years I didn’t have much more than a rough idea of the sort of work I wanted to do, and just took on anything that I could get.  I’ve SLOWLY worked out a clearer vision for what I want my future to hold, and just as slowly started to piece together a plan for how I will actually get there.  It’s still not a solid plan and I’m determined to work on it.  I’m held back mostly by the fear of the unknown. The fear of failure.  I must be more positive and proactive in making plans and sticking to them. 
I now have an active facebook page, an instagram account and a full ‘professional’ looking website, alongside this blog.  I try to keep these updated and relevant as much as I can, and I’m gradually getting my head round how it all works.  I’m sure I’m still not using it fully to my advantage but I’ve not used the internet for much more than searching and general social media in the past, and I don’t understand computer lingo.... so not only am I always trying to keep my knowledge and experience up to date and growing, to be able to offer the best service I can, but I’m also learning new things that are more like work again... a necessary evil to create the life of my dreams!!

What I’ve learnt from my first few years...

- Work can fit around your life.  You don’t have to fit life around your work.
- Enjoy what you do, or you spend your life waiting for the weekends.
- It’s not easy but it’s worth it.
- It takes more effort than getting the job and showing up for work every day, but you’ll find you don’t mind so much!
- It takes time.  Don’t give up.
- Stand by your guiding principles, and do work you are proud of.  Sometimes this means turning down a job or a client.  If it doesn’t fit in with your plan or goals, and how you want to be, don’t do it.
- Money isn’t everything (but it helps)

- You are worth more than you think you are!

Last river and a surprise find

Wednesday soon comes around, and this is likely to be my last opportunity to paddle.   The plan today is to travel to the Isar.   For thi...