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World Championships Perth 2023 - FIVE Take Home Nuggets

It's great to reflect on big achievements after they happen. To Pause, Reflect and Ponder all that has been learned, before racing onto the next thing.

Six months ago I committed to train for a task that seemed impossible at the time. I find I do my best when I set big lofty goals, that actually induce FEAR at the thought of what's required. World Championships rarely come around, let alone in your home state, with no qualifying requirements??? How could I say no to representing my country and competing for Australia ?

So I said "yes". It was a conscious commitment to myself to train as hard as I could for 6 months, to improve my skills as much as I could, and then to turn up, smile and get the job done. I was fully appreciating that I could come last and that I may fail to finish, despite my best efforts.

So the focus was on Improvement and Progress. Not speed or comparison's to other.

First Nugget ; Focus on your own game, not that of others. Comparison is a killer when starting out in anything. Others who have been in the sport for much longer will be better skilled, fitter, wiser and simply know the tricks. You can't expect to FAST TRACK experience, or in this sport, "time in the boat". There has to be an acceptance that for many, many months you will be slower, and falling out of your boat more often than everyone else. It just is. Accepting that, and letting go of ego, was a significant practice. It helped that most of the time I was paddling with men, and they expected me to be crap!

Second Nugget : Feel the Fear and do it anyway. Seriously learning to embrace fear has been the biggest offering of this sport. I do experience fear before every down winder. Largely because you are off shore several miles, in wind and in waves. When I lean into my fears, there are many; fear of falling out of the boat, fear of not being able to get back in the boat, fear of my leg leash snapping and the boat blowing away whilst I drift in the ocean, fear of what's in that ocean that may eat me or sting me, fear of being the slowest, fear of holding people up, fear of inconveniencing others who have to wait for you. Some of those fears are logical, and some are illogical. The thing about fear though, is it doesn't care if it's logical or illogical, it just happens.

I practiced feeling it fully in my body. My guts would tighten, my breath would shorten, and pause, my heart would race with extra palpitations, my hands would grip tight on the paddle. My mind would be saying " just don't fall in NOW " ... which I would promptly re-script to " stay in the boat NOW ". After many, many failed attempts to dance with my fear, I did learn to eventually breathe, and steady myself and to relax into the chaos out there. Until the next wave would nearly side swipe me .... and then I would begin to practice calming myself again. Over and Over that cycle goes.

This is the appeal of taking on challenging experiences. They give you the opportunity to PRACTICE all the skills that I so frequently find myself coaching to others. I never want to be that person that intellectually knows stuff, but has not spent the time embodying it. Those people to me are pretenders and frauds, and I simply find myself tuning out to their meaningless words.

Third Nugget : Movement Efficiency is still the answer. Ultra running has been 10 - 15 years of learning efficient ways to run. Now I feel I am 2 years into learning efficient ways to paddle. I feel I have approximately 25 % of possibilities explored, and many, many more hours of learning ahead. What I really love about ocean paddling is that it is beyond fitness. There is the movement of the paddle blade through the water to maximise, there is the movement of my head, ribcage, pelvis, knee, foot and shoulder and elbow to organise, there is the movement of the boat and it's rudder to maximise, there is timing of all those components to sequence, there is weight shift in the boat to optimise, there is reading of wind waves and swell waves to master, there is the use of the wind to optimise, and on, and on it goes. Just when I feel like I have one element nailed, I realise it changes all the others and so the journey goes on.

In Ultra Running there were two main variables to sync; the organisation of my body, and the changing of the terrain beneath my foot.

In Ocean Kayaking there are five main variables to sync; the organisation of my body, the movement of the paddle blade, the boat, the wind, the waves. Is it any wonder my brain hurts when I train ?

From a movement perspective - there are some similar themes to ultra running-

  • Maximise thoracic rotation to allow arms and hips to do what they gotta do

  • Eyes on the horizon - crucial for balance in running and in the boat

  • Load both sit bones evenly (or the boat tips!) - Like you do your feet in running

  • Connect your FEET to your CORE - Yes - Even in Kayaking FEET play a big role.

Fourth Nugget : Quality People Make the Difference. Any challenge is easier when surrounded by like minded people with "can do" attitudes who support and encourage rather than criticise or dis-courage. I have been blessed in this experience to be surrounded by men and women of all ages who were extremely encouraging. I stood on the beach at the start of last week's 22 km ( ? ) race and I was dreading the next few hours that lay ahead. I had put so much energy into early morning starts, hours on the ergo, weight sessions, etc. and I was simply hoping to finish and complete the goal, but I was also aware of how disappointed I was going to be if I was unable to meet the goal. I turned to the lady beside me who was 70 years of age from Tasmania and asked her how she was feeling ?

"I am shitting bricks and I just want it to be over so I can relax again" - Quote of the Century.

She will never know how much she inspired me in that moment. Here beside me was a 70 year old lady, who had travelled from Tasmania, to represent her country in a race that most 20 years olds would not be capable of and she FELT FEAR, and she was going to do it ANYWAY. I realised the fear never goes away, and the ability to face it and lean into it and simply bust through it is the real opportunity of this sport. Practice it in one area of your life and hopefully it's a transferrable skill into other areas.

Feel the fear of speaking your TRUTH to someone you care about - and DO IT ANYWAY.

Feel the fear of stepping into a new business or career direction and - DO IT ANYWAY.

Feel the fear of moving to a new place, new school, new sport and - DO IT ANYWAY.

Movement is a forum for practicing many life skills. I can often predict a person's nature by how they approach movement.

Slow and methodical.

Fast and furious.

High intensity or slow.

All aspects of our nature that can be mirrored in our movement choices. Which are you ?

Fifth Nugget ; Your body works best when loved for, cared for, listened to and appreciated. Maybe it's a getting older thing ? but the gratitude I felt for the way my body performed during this race was above and beyond. She didn't miss a beat. I had energy, I had strength, and I recovered well. That is a blessing above and beyond what most people experience and in my line of work, I know how precious it is. I didn't flog myself during training, I gave myself adequate rest when needed, I backed off when a twinge needed downtime. The converse is also true. When I felt "zesty" I pushed hard, when I felt strong I upped the weights, when there was ample energy I did double sessions. Maybe an added benefit of going inwards with meditation and Feldenkrais practice is a deepening of my own "somatic trust" - knowing my body and it's language and signals so well, that I have confidence to push and pull in response to it's signals. I simply love my body for all that she allows me to do, and be, and experience in this world. I do not take her for granted.

Finishing 13th in the World in my Age Category was an Absolute BONUS.

Over and out - Stay Well - Keep Moving with Quality .

If you have a movement challenge you have chosen for 2024 - I would love to help you achieve your goal - Marion

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