Friday, July 11, 2014

The last 365 days

My best friend died last year, today. I have lost friends to kayaking before; Jeff West, Stephen Forster, just to name a couple. But, I have never lost my best friend. 
Enjoying the Idaho sun. 
It took me a long time to get close to Shannon. For a year, she told her parents she would make me be her friend, she would ask Snowy to tell me to hang out with her. 

Little bug. 
I'm not very good at having female friends. I'm competitive, protective, and I like having all of the attention. I finally gave in. Shannon started coming over to our house, her infectious attitude always made people laugh and smile, we (and Caroline Moon) started going to yoga together a couple of times a week. I remember one class we made Jay Mahan come with us, we giggled the whole session. Always pushing each other over, making farting noises, doing arm balances after class. We were like two peas in a pod. 
On the Bechtals front porch, best swing ever!
 In the spring of 2013, I was asked to go on a Backcountry Babes trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon with Canyons Rafting out of McCall Idaho. I of course said yes. I was then told I could bring a friend with me. It took me a little, but I decided to ask Shannon to come with. It was the best decision I have ever made, every day since then I smile when I think about how excited she was to go on the trip. I was happy to be able to give her the chance to go. 

The takeout to the Middle Fork of the Salmon.
Shannon taught me a lot in those 2 short weeks in Idaho; an infectious smile gets you anything, find happiness even in the smallest of things, and always look to the future without fear. 
When we got back from Idaho, it was back to the daily grind. I was training really hard for the Freestyle Worlds at the NOC being held in September, I was working, and so was Shannon. We got busy for the next few weeks. She really wanted me to come to the Great Falls Race with her. I was in the midst of having some massive breakthroughs in freestyle so I decided to stay back, I regret that decision every day.
The girl with no belly button lives. 
 I think about if things would have been different if I was at Great Falls, one year ago today. 
Where we belonged, on the river together. 
 She stopped by the house when we were eating dinner one night, my friend Josh Chambers was there. Shannon came bursting into the house, started laughing and smiling and saying that she was off to the Potomac for the weekend. She was so excited. I wish I would have known that was the last time I was going to see her.  
What I woke up to every morning for 2 amazing weeks. 
 On July 11 2013, I woke up at the NOC like another normal day. I paddled in the morning then mid day I was at Slow Joes with Claire O'hara doing a blog post. I got a pretty frantic message from Anna Levesque telling me to call Patricia Beaks and it was about Shannon. My life changed forever in the next few moments. I was told that Shannon was missing and presumed dead. Patricia was asking for Shannons' parents contacts. I only knew they lived in Andrews, NC, right up the road. 
Ah, jet setting. 
I had so many thoughts go through my head. I was alone in a place where I grew up and knew everyone. I just wanted to disappear from the world and pretend it didn't happen. I of course called Snowy, who had already heard the news and he told me to stay at the NOC because I should not be driving. I wanted to go home so bad. I wanted to be held by the man I love and grieve the loss of our friend together. I knew it was a bad idea to drive though. 
Besties for good. 
The next days were a whirlwind. I found Shannons' parents and met them for the first time on July 12. I felt like I already knew them and they already knew me also. I met her twin brother, whom has the same infectious smile, I could not stop staring. Her older brother was like a teddy bear to hold, when he hugged me I felt like everything would be ok. Her family is the most amazing family I have ever met.  
Smallest plane ever!! That poor pilot. 
We rock at fishing. 
Things started coming together, Snowy and I had to fly to DC to get the Dagger van with Shannons things in it, her family was going to fly up for the weekend, it was all a blur though. I told Snowy "If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything." Snowy had lost a friend and collegue. I lost one of the few people who broke through my hard outer shell and saw me for who I was. 
But, not golf. 
 In the month after Shannons death, I was a wreck. But, only on the inside. I kept as busy as I could, I was on a different plane every week, going places, doing things. I never sat still. I cried a lot, but no one saw it. I heard from people with condolences and their thoughts on Shannon.
Shannon was good at everything. :-)
 I lost a part of me that will never come back. As I write this, one year later, I have changed, and grown, a lot. I don't want to run class 5 anymore, I don't want to be scared all of the time. Doing the Grand Prix this year was something I wanted to do to tell myself that it's going to be ok, and I knew that Shannon really wanted me to do it. 
Driving on the golf course. 
Shannon is with me every day, when I am at work, at school, at home, on the river. Losing her made me rethink my priorities a lot. It also has made me love more powerfully. 
Living the dream. 
On that note, CHEERS to Shannon, her infectious smile, hilarious laugh, amazing personality. May we all try to be like Shannon and embody what she wanted this world to be like. Smile at every one today and brighten someones day the way Shannon did every day.
Looking to the future, without fear. 
Shannon was the best thing thats happened to me since I met Snowy. I miss her so much every day. 
Forever together. 
 I am typing this from the information center in Sort, Spain. I am here for the final Freestyle World Cup. I compete in an hour and a half. Today, I compete for Shannon. Today, I find happiness in the small things and I have no fear of the future. Today, I smile at everyone. 

Rest in Peace my best friend.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Day 1: My Birthday Party
Day 1: #30daysofhappiness
The point of this #30daysofhappiness is to remind myself that the life I live is the best I could ever get, no matter what comes up. I am in the midst of 6 full weeks of competition and training very hard. Day 1 started off with my 26th birthday. I was lucky enough to have a huge party at Anne Greer's house and the cherry on the frosting was having my dad with me to celebrate. On day 1, I am happy for my family and friends that I am blessed with every day. 
Day 2: After Birthday Breakfast
Day 2: I was lucky enough to have Haley Mills staying with me in McCall, Idaho and she made me a perfect after birthday breakfast complete with fresh maple syrup from the northeast. I also spent most of the day paddling at the Kelly's Whitewater Park and being with my dad. Day 2, I am happy for the amazing food that we are lucky to have day in and day out. 

Day 3: Salmon Fishing with Dad
Day 3: Dad and I wanted to go fishing on the Main Salmon outside of Riggins for... you guessed it... Salmon. We were up at the crack of dawn (330 am) and drove to Riggens where we met up with Mike Hicks to fish for the day. It was pretty cold and rainy and we didn't catch any fish but any moments that I get to sit next to my dad on a boat are the best moments I will remember forever. Me: "Hey dad, remember that time it was 40 degrees and raining all day on the river and we caught no fish?" Dad: "Yea A, I remember that". Day 3: I am happy for the ability to go fishing with my father and spend the day with him outside. 

Day 4: Hot Tub Homework
Day 4: I woke up early in the morning to do homework but I had pulled my ab two days prior while surfing at kellys. I used the most of the situation and set up my office in the hot tub for the morning. I did heaps of school work (I'm in an Art History class and also taking second level Spanish) and even got health insurance! It was a bit chilly in the morning but by 10:30 my toes looked like sausages, I had been joined by Riley Greer, and the sun was shining. Day 4: I am happy for the ability to be in school and travel at the same time.

Day 5: Freestyle Event
Day 5: We headed to Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade Idaho for the beginning of the Payette River Games to start. I started my weekend off with a bang, scoring a 668.66 point ride. It stood to be the highest scoring womens' ride for the weekend. I was so stoked to know that I was able to do something like this, I did every move I know how to do! Day 5: I am happy to find a feature that likes me as much as I like it.
Day 6: Kai Lenny
Day 6: Back to Kelly's Whitewater Park for more competing. I spent the morning doing school work and actually writing a 3 page paper for my Art History class. I spent the afternoon doing the boater cross downriver sprint, I ended up 3rd overall, and the freestyle competition where I made it into finals in 3rd place. I also watched some super sweet surfers rip up the wave at Kellys, including Kai Lenny. If you haven't heard of Kai Lenny, search his name. He is a very well known huge wave surfer and he is super good at SUP also. He is an all around water man including kite boarding and pretty much anything else you can imagine to do on the water. Day 6: I am happy to compete next to people who I watch in the movies!!

Day 7: You Are Beautiful
Day 7: Last day of competition for Kelly's Whitewater Park and this is the day you make the money! I competed terribly and ended up coming home with $900, better than $0 but less than the $5500 I won last year. I didn't advance in the boater cross and could get nothing to come around in the Freestyle. I ended up 5th in freestyle and an unknown number in the boater cross. Not my day. When I got home I was sad and disappointed at my competition abilities. I was also hoping to win some money for the upcoming Europe trip as I don't make any money in the road. I turned my computer on and I saw this photo posted on my First Descents Facebook page. This photo is more than special to me and it came at the perfect time. Day 7: I am happy to meet the people I do through First Descents. 

Day 8: To France!
Day 8: Hopped a flight to France after saying good-bye to my friends and my Daddy. It was a bittersweet take-off. Leaving behind the people I love, to see new places and have new experiences. I am so excited to be heading to France and Spain for the first time ever. A new stamp in my passport and many new stories are to come. Day 8: I am happy to have the ability to fly, in a plane. 
Day 9: Find Love within Yourself
Day 9: I landed in France in the middle of the day on Tuesday. I had a bit of a restless flight but I watched some funny chick flick called "The 5 Year Engagement". It was pretty funny and took my mind off of things. Rowan and I met up with Mathieu Domoulin and he took us to Millau France, where the first World Cup would be held in a just a couple of days. I had this photo sent to me from a woman who I work with at Greenville County, all things happen for a reason. I was very jet-lagged, sore, in a country where I have never been, can't speak french, and I was sad to be away from home. Day 9: I am happy to be so lucky.

Day 10: Getting Smarter
Day 10:  I had a pretty rough training session, it included 3 very bad rides and no good ones. I was pretty broken after that session. I was hoping to be able to get here and crush just like I can at the NOC, I understood that day that my aspiration was not going to happen, at least not in Millau. I went back to the house to finish up a chapter in my Spanish book. I took the chapter test and got a 100%, I am averaging a 97% in the class, even though I have spotty internet, not much time, and I'm in a French speaking country! Day 10: I am happy to be able to further my education by learning a new language to open new doors for me as I grow as a woman.

Day 11: I love Candy
Day 11: I had training at 2 pm, it went a little better than the aforementioned training so that was good. I also competed in the afternoon. I did not compete as well as I had hoped and I was unsure if I was even going to make the cut. If I didn't make the cut, it would have been the first time I havn't made the first cut since Worlds in 2009 in Thun Switzerland. I, luckily, edged my way in ending in 9th place for semi-finals. Day 11: I am happy to have candy to keep my energy up.

Day 12: Wine, Cheese, and Port (and Snowy's parents)
Day 12: This was my second day of competition and I didn't have my hopes up to make finals. I had not gotten the time to train in the feature and it was very flushy, making it hard to stick moves. I ended up in 8th place and didn't make it to finals. I was alright with that though. I spent the rest of the day with my boyfriends parents who so graciously came down from the UK to watch me compete and be with me. It was so nice to have them with me and cheer me on. They treated me to a fancy french meal after the competition that included oysters, chicken, and all sorts of fancy wine and cheese (two of my favorite things ever). Day 12: I am happy to have the most amazing in-laws a girl can ask for. 

Day 13: Ah.... France
Day 13: After doing school work in the morning, I headed to the feature to watch finals. I noticed the sheer beauty of everything that was around me and I immediately felt happy. A perfect stone street, a kebab place, and no one on the street gave me the feeling that I truly was in Europe. There is no place like this in the United States. I have always felt welcomed and never felt like I was in danger or in a sketchy place. I have been to the fresh food street market and gotten many a croissant, even though I can't speak any french, people are always willing to help. Day 13: I am happy for nice people all around the world.

Day 14: Miniature Coffee
Day 14: I had a slow morning and this coffee tasted like heaven when I finally got out of bed. I now find myself halfway through my #30daysofhappiness to raise money and awareness for First Descents. I have raised less than half of my goal. This fundraiser is to remind people to find happiness in whatever the world throws at them and even if you are busy with work, school, kids, stress, what have you, there is always time to look at your day and find your #Happiness. 

"First Descents is an organization that offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle, and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same." These camps are offered all over the United States and they are FREE to the participants. This is why it is so important to do fundraisers for this organization. If you know anyone between the ages of 18 and 49 who has had cancer, or has cancer, empower them to come on this week of life changing experiences. 

Here is the website:

Please, please, please take a moment out of your busy day to donate to an organization that enlightens people through the outdoors, and think about how much the outdoors had made you happy.


Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Post GoPro Competition

As I sit here in the Sitzmark Hotel in the middle of Vail Colorado I am very disappointed. Disappointed at working very hard only to end up in much lower placing than I expected. Disappointed in my abilities. Disappointed in my outlook on kayaking. 

This is a hard blog for me to write. I don't have photos, I don't have video. Just thoughts, thoughts that are spilling out onto this page as fast as I can think about them. 

Maybe I try to balance too much. I'm back in college, still trying to train in creek boating, still trying to train in freestyle. I also try to work as much as I can. I can't kayak when I am working. I don't make money if I don't work. I don't get paid to kayak. I go massively into debt to train and compete in competitions. The only way to make money when I am not working is to win. I have not been winning. 

Maybe I lost my edge. I haven't won a creek race since my best friend died last year. This is always on the top of my head. 

Maybe I can't take the pressure anymore. I used to be able to come from behind and go for it but that's not happening anymore. 

I'm competing against people who kayak all the time, year round, as a job. They travel all over the world to train on the best features and creeks. They eat, sleep, and breathe kayaking. They have coaches that train them day in and day out. They have a team of paddlers who they train with. They get paid to go kayaking. How can I win against that?? 

I won't. 

So now what? 

I applied to Nursing school at USC Upstate in SC. I won't know if I got in until August. I have a hard time justifying doing the Colorado/Freestyle tour if I only find disappointment out of it. Who know's what the next year will bring. I'm not even sure what I'm going to be doing in 6 weeks. 

I know one thing, I am so lucky to have the loving boyfriend and the amazing family that I was born into. I also am honored to have my sponsors who have all become like family to me. 
Liquid Logic Kayaks, Kokatat Watersports Wear, Werner Paddles, Shred Ready Helmets, and Bomber Gear skirts. 

I'm also thankful for my friend Haley Mills, my 5x5 team mate. I have a lot to be thankful for. Kayaking is just kayaking in the end of the day. I want to go way further in my life than being a professional kayaker. I want to be a wife, a mother, a successful woman. I feel like I am digging that track right now. 

Thanks for listening, sorry it was boring. My next blog post will be much better!! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Yoga pt 3

Pt 3. of my yoga blog is going to consist more of the core workout and the arm balance aspect of my power yoga practice. This is the part of yoga that really strengthens my core and stabilizes my shoulders for strong paddling while on the water. It is also my favorite part of yoga because of how challenging it is!
Chair pose
Chair is the base of multiple separate poses, this pose is naturally going to strengthen your glutes and thighs while working on balance, placing your weight on your heels. Keep your back straight and try to tuck your pelvis so you are not sticking your bum out. Sit as low as is comfortable for your knees and your strength. 
You can go into boat from chair by slowly lowering your bum to the ground and then lifting your feet. A variation of this would be to keep your knees bent. This pose is brilliant for your abs, from this pose, lower down into canoe so your shoulder blades and your ankles are hovering off the floor, then lift back up again. This is great for your lower back and your abs to build core strength. You will also relieve stress and improve your digestion! 
For crow, start back in chair position and place your hands on the floor while putting your knees on your elbows or into your arm pits. Slowly, lean forward onto your hands (make sure you get a good base to ensure you don't hurt your wrists). This pose will start with you just lifting one foot off the ground and then you will get two and then you can become a little balancing ball on your hands! This pose is great for increasing your arms and abs. It also stimulates confidence and reignites energy while also learning balance. 
Dolphin is awkward the first time you try it, this pose really builds stabilization to your shoulders all around and I am positive it has made my shoulders stronger and much more stable. Starting in downward facing dog, place your forearms on the floor directly under your face, making a 90 degree angle with your arms and shoulders. Your legs stay in the shape as downward facing dog. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and also strength building to your shoulders and lower back. This posture naturally relieves stress. 
Forearm Stand
To start on forearm stand, make sure your base is strong to ensure no un-needed injuries happen. Use a wall to help you when you first start this pose. From dolphin, begin to kick one leg up and slowly you will catch your balance. This pose, like most inversions, calms the brain and helps relieve mild depression. This pose also strengthens your shoulders and your core, along with your sense of balance. 
This is one of my favorite poses. From forearm stand, touch your toes together and balance while bringing your feet behind you. This pose is great for stabilization and strengthening of your shoulders, also it naturally elevates your heart rate. You also are opening your hip flexors and stretching your abs. This pose is great to be practiced next to a wall. 
The opposite of Scorpion is Camel. Stabilize yourself on your knees and slowly lean back, supporting your back with your hands, if you can't see the wall behind you, go no further. This posture makes you feel very vulnerable by pushing out your chest and all of your vital organs. It also is going to stretch your psoas muscles and even improve your posture. This pose is going to naturally give you a head rush, you are doing the opposite with your body that you usually do. I always feel like it gives me extra energy also. 
Knee to elbow
Some core building moves for you are the knee to nose, knee to elbow series. From downward facing dog, lift one leg straight up. Using your core, pull your knee to your nose, curving out your back like a cat. Hold here for a second, feel where you are tight and feel your abs contracting. Lift your leg back up and then place your knee on your left elbow. Just tap at first, as your core gets stronger you will be able to bring in the balance aspect of this pose and "fly" with it.  
Knee to opposite elbow
After tapping your knee to your elbow, bring your leg back up into three legged dog. Then, once again, using your core twist and place your elbow on the opposite knee. When starting, just tap your knee to your elbow and as your core gets stronger you can "fly" with it again. 
Standing Splits
Moving on, a lot of people have been asking to how to do a handstand. Handstands are about core strength, balance, arm strength, and huge positive mindset. From Crecent, lift off and go to Warrior III, these poses are from my previous blogs. From Warrior III use your core to lean forward and place your hands on your mat in front of your leg. Once here, start hopping with that leg to lift both of your feet off the ground. These hops are going to teach your brain what it feels like to be upside down with your arms holding your weight. Take this slowly and use a wall if you need. 
After building that core strength and balance you too can do a handstand. Use a wall if you need for support but don't make it like a crutch otherwise you won't be able to do a handstand in the middle of the floor. :-) 

This is my final "yoga" blog. I hope you guys found it fun to read and informative. I want to let people know that yoga is for everyone, no matter what size, shape, gender, or color. I hope this worked!! 

I am now in Glenwood Springs, Colorado getting ready to head to Vail for the GoPro Mountain Games and Homestake Creek Race. Wish me luck!!

See you on the river. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Yoga Pt 2

In this second part of my yoga trio blog I'm going to go into some more challenging poses. They will work on stretching your side and front body, balance, and strengthening multiple muscles. Remember, yoga is about breathing, stretching, and going into the pose so that you get the most out of it. It is not about who can do what, I do yoga for myself and my health, I hope you all do too. Even the most simple of poses is great for you.

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga instructor, all of the poses and descriptions that I have are from learning during my practice and through the help of trained yoga instructors at Zanti Power Yoga. For you paddlers out there, check out Anna Leveque's (owner of Girls at Play) Yoga for Kayaking series which is online, you can find them here:
Extended side angle
From Warrior 2, "tic toc" your torso over your bent leg keeping your torso engaged and as long as you can. Bring you lower hand to a block, your knee, your foot, or to the ground. Extended side angle is known to help with sciatica, infertility, constipation (by stimulating the abdominal organs), and lower backaches. Your back leg is staying very strong and rooted to the ground, using your torso to support weight and strengthen your side body while getting a very strong stretch in your legs.
Concentrating for a full bind. 
The next two poses are advanced and do not attempt them until you are comfortable with extended side angle. Keeping your torso engaged, place your upper hand behind your back, by your bum. The lower hand clasps with your upper hand between your legs behind your back. Get it? Me neither. :-)
Bird of Paradise
When you get your shoulders strong and flexible enough to clasp behind your back, go even further and fly into a "Bird of Paradise"! Bring your back foot forward (with arms still clasped behind you) balance yourself and open your chest to the world while standing on your rooted leg. This pose, not only is a balance pose, but it stretches and strengthens your arms core and leg. I also find it a mentally challenging pose because you are like a flamingo with one leg, breathing (and smiling) always helps me through this pose. 
For crescent pose, start in the low lunge position and use your core to lift you up so your arms are straight up. Keep your back leg as engaged as you can. This pose will stretch the quad of your back leg, strengthen your glutes and thighs. It is also a great way to help sciatica. 
Revolved side angle with prayer hands. 
From Crescent, place your hands in front of your heart in the prayer position. Keep your torso as long as you can and lower your torso over your bent leg. You should feel this stretch in your side body and your back leg the most. Make sure to remember to keep your back leg as engaged as you can by lifting up on your knee cap. Use your lower elbow to push your chest more open and deepen the stretch. Just like extended side angle this pose is great for constipation, sciatica, infertility, and even osteoporosis.
Side plank (with raised right leg)
From Revolved Side Angle, place your bottom hand on the ground next to your foot front foot, move your front foot from the bent position to stacked on top of your left foot, balancing on the side of your left foot and your left hand. To deepen this strengthening pose raise your top foot from your bottom foot. I love this pose so much because it is hard to stay in for an extended period of time. With your top foot raised from the ground, every muscle in your body is contracting and in turn, getting stronger. 
Engage your top hand by extending all the way to the ceiling, engage your core by being sure your hips are not dipping towards the floor. At the same time, you are stretching your abs, legs, and arms while building strength in your lumbar and thoracic spine. Side plank is also great for making your balance better. Remember to breathe!!
Wild Thing
Using your core, drop your top foot to the floor behind you and open up your body to the sky bringing your eyes to the wall behind you. Wild thing relieves mild depression and fatigue. The whole front of your body is also being stretched within this pose, including opening up your pelvic girdle and lungs, chest and shoulders. Your bottom (supporting) arm is also getting strong and stabilizing your shoulder joint.  
Upward Plank
For one last chest opener, upward plank is great. From a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you, place your hands behind your butt, with your fingers facing your feet. From here, lift using your torso and core strength. This pose opens your chest as well as gives strength to the shoulders and wrists. Also, it is a great posture for relieving mild fatigue. 
Ahh.... Savasana (corpse pose)
After a hard class at Zanti, we all end in Savasana. This pose is about restoring your body and thanking your body for being as beautiful and amazing as it is. It is also about clearing your mind and taking a moment for just yourself, letting all of the tension of life go and 100% relaxation. Sometimes, if I am really tired after class, I will fall asleep in this pose, maybe that's why I like it so much!!

Extra information: I practice hot power yoga. These classes are generally 1 hour long and are hot, sweaty, and sometimes challenging. I have burnt 800-1000 calories every class. There are many types of yoga in the world, find a class that looks good for what you want/need and try it out. Most classes in the area give you introductory times of a week or two to see if you really like the studio or the type of classes. I know Zanti does their first class FREE, just come with water, a towel, and a positive attitude. 

See you on your mat!! Until next time.