Training pays off for kayaker |

Training pays off for kayaker

Ian CroppVail correspondent
TMG Homestake Creek1 SM 6-1-06

RED CLIFF – Pat Keller rode the rapids and flew through the flats at Thursday’s Teva Mountain Games extreme kayak race to take first place.”I came out here about a week ahead of time and did some training runs,” said Keller, who won the race with a combined time of 3 minutes, 40.12 seconds. “Before the race, I did two more runs, and scouted [the course] who knows how many times, making sure I knew every minute detail and every little rock that could slow me down or expedite my speed.”While most riders switched up their paths down the river between runs, Keller, who was sitting in first by 0.3 seconds after his first run, didn’t amend much.”The one thing I did change was the song that I was listening to,” Keller said. “I went from Flaw’s ‘Inner Strength’ to Metallica and [the San Francisco] Symphony’s ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ and that really helped fire me up to go through the flats, digging as hard as I could.”But Keller went with a different strategy in rougher waters.”The last thing you want to do is get in too much of a hurry and charge through the whitewater because that’s where you’ve gotta be smooth and focusing on getting through your line,” Keller said.Keller dedicated his victory to his former friend and teammate, Daniel DeLaVergne, who recently died in a train accident.One day after a first-place finish in the paddlecross event, Eric Jackson (second place, 3:44.13) landed on the podium again, edging out Brad Ludden by 0.03 seconds. Ludden captured his second bronze in as many days.Tao Berman is almost always in familiar territory when he enters the water. But things were a bit different Thursday.”I had Dagger make me up a light, layup race boat and I was so excited,” said Berman, who finished fifth Thursday after his silver Wednesday. “They modified the hull and I broke it the night before the race, so I had to put together a different boat. The boat worked out great.”Berman was sitting in third place after his first run, and had stormed down the course on his final run until he flipped after hitting a wall.”I had a pretty darn perfect run up to that last drop,” Berman said. “You can’t give up a couple of seconds with this competition.”Thanks to a good decision, Berman made up some time higher in the course. On a fork midway down the river, Berman opted to take the left path, unlike what he had done in his previous run. The left path, which was wider, required paddlers to turn and stall for a second, while the right path, which was narrower, continued straight down the river. “I chose the right [earlier] and I wasn’t convinced it was faster,” Berman said. “The left line looked a bit easier, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll give that a try.’ I thought coming out of [the left] drop it would be faster hooking around to the left side.”Jackson, who was one of the few who also went down the right side on the first run, took the right side again on his second pass, but stalled out on the rocks.”I don’t know how much time I lost, but there’s no question that going right that run wasn’t faster than going left,” Jackson said. “I didn’t do it well enough [on my second run] for it to be faster. I didn’t have bad runs by any means, but I wasn’t super-slick.”Much like Jackson enjoyed racing with his daughter Emily on Wednesday, he was excited to join his 12-year-old son, Dane, on Thursday.”It was awesome. He almost cried after his first run because it was the first time he’s flipped on this creek. He usually has really good lines, but that time he flipped over and scared himself a little bit,” Eric Jackson said. “He paddles really well and handles himself well.”But by the time the race had ended, Dane was ready to get back in the water.”I’m thinking about doing another run just for fun,” Dane Jackson said.Some of the racers had to adjust to the lower-than-normal water levels.”When the water is low, it’s hard,” said Lawrence Simpson. “There are so many rocks out there. Even the little ones that are underwater can cut you out when you don’t see them.”And although Keller won, he said he wouldn’t have minded being a bit higher in the water.”[The water] was at about 49 [cubic feet per second], where in my dream world it would be 250 cfs, which would make it a whole lot pushier and a lot more dangerous. But it’s a lot more fun to be going fast than to hit rocks,” Keller said.Stephen Wright, who was also in the area practicing last week, thought the lower water level did have some advantages.”At this flow it’s a little more manageable in terms of having a split second in between each move,” Wright said.Fourth-place finisher Tommy Hilleke didn’t have any problems with the course and water levels.”When you have a course like this one, which has a whole lot of hard moves, you’re looking for things that are coming up, and you’ll cue off of them,” Hilleke said. “As soon as you pass that obstacle, you’re looking for that next cue. You’re always looking two steps ahead.”

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