Hitting Your Lines and Missing Them

The Tohickon Creek release was this past weekend, and it is my favorite creek.  It is challenging without being terrifying (most of the time), easily accessible, and a solid class three creek.  Yesterday I hit most of my lines that I wanted to, and when I didn’t I was able to avoid the obstacles I didn’t see coming.  I even hit my line perfectly at the notorious Second Ledge, which is in my opinion is one of the hardest rapids on the whole river because it’s pretty manky and technically challenging.  It is such an amazing feeling when you hit a challenging line just right.  This is true in life as well as paddling.  You feel like you can conquer anything.

Photograph taken by Brent Burke. Hitting my line at 2nd Ledge on the Tohickon Creek in spring of 2014.

The Lead-In

The rapid after Second Ledge is called Race Course, which is tied for first and second place in my opinion with Second Ledge in terms of technically challenging.  It is also significantly longer than Second Ledge.  I was doing really well, hitting the lines, and cutting when I needed to to make the necessary moves.  This was until there was an unexpected obstacle in my normal line.  A kayaker who had come out of their boat, which is called swimming.  It is not usually a favorable situation to be in, and I have swam Race Course.  It is not a fun swim.  So I dodged the kayaker, and thought I was good to go.  However, I did not see the rather large hole in front of me when I turned.  Luckily I was going mostly straight, but did not have enough momentum to push through.  And in I went.  I learned two things, my drysuit is not dry and I deserve to work on my brace this boating season.

lower yough oh shit moment

Lower Yough oh crap moment (I did not swim there, but thought it illustrated the moment)

The Lesson

Life is going throw obstacles at you, and some of them pop up like Whac-a-Mole.  Unexpected and random.  Three things to do in that moment:  identify the problem, set-up a solution, and execute.  Sometimes those three things need to happen very quickly, like in a rapid or while driving.  Other times, you can take a little time setting those things up.  You will either come out victorious or you will come out wet (meaning you failed).  Crucial part of this:  both of those outcomes are perfectly fine.  Feeling on top of the world is the best high ever, and instead of living in that moment build on the momentum.  Don’t stop for anything.  Failure only becomes a mistake when you fail to learn from it.  Meaning if I don’t work on my brace when the weather gets warmer, because I will be getting wet from practicing that, than when I flip next time due to no brace, than that becomes a mistake.  Choose your poison and evict the word mistake from your vocabulary.

Bonding Via Tohickon Creek

This weekend is Tohickon Creek release.  It usually happens the third weekend in March, and the first weekend in November.  It is widely considered to be the unofficial start and end of the whitewater season, respectively.

shredder fave

It is also my favorite creek of all-time.  It is fun, challenging, but not panic-inducing, and relatively short (the run itself is 4 miles, but you can make that four miles take all day because it’s a complex river with lots to dissect).   I paddled today in a Shredder, which is like a small raft.  These things are so FUN.  You can blast through just about anything as long as you keep the it straight.  Unfortunately, I did not get to take my canoe out this time.  By the time we were done with our run, it was somewhat late in the day, getting colder, so there weren’t too many takers for a second run.  It’s okay, it was just so nice to be out on the river.

We in the paddling community call this Tohfest, because most of the time it becomes a gigantic party where everyone camps.  This year was a bit subdued, mostly because of the ill forecast of 3-5 inches of snow made for Sunday (which has been downgraded to nothing).    People come from all over, as far as Virginia, to inundate this little town in Pennsylvania.  So, I wouldn’t travel several hours for one day to boat either.  Either way, there were plenty of people there to reconnect to, catch up, and revel in the amazing community that we paddlers have created.  It’s a special bond, because things happen on the water and we are all there to help each other in those instances.  I am grateful to be a part of this community that has given me so much.

Spring and Revitialization

Spring is about starting anew, and watching everything grow around you.  I used to like fall the best out of the all the seasons, but now it’s spring.  Mainly it’s about revitalizing your mind and spirit, have a brain reset, and wiping off the winter despondency that afflicts many.  There’s more light longer, so you can get outside and play longer (yes I said play).  For me, spring is the best time to do whitewater because of all the snow melt.  My body and mind felt so perfect and clear after finally being able to get back on the water doing what I love.  And pushing myself to the outside my comfort zone, take chances on maneuvers, and revel in the wonder of water, nature, and friends.

Threading the needle on a small drop on the Tohickon Creek in Pipersville, PA. Photograph taken by Kevin O'Neill.

Threading the needle on a small drop on the Tohickon Creek in Pipersville, PA. Photograph taken by Kevin O’Neill.

Spring to me is the brain and body reset, the longer days, and the genuine need for people to feel connected again that makes it such a special time of year of revitalization and vigor.

Decisions and Relief

I touched on this a few weeks ago.  I have a big personal goal that I am trying to achieve besides some personal events in my life.  Tonight I came to the decision that it’s done.  I will be an Area Manager in qualification by the end of THIS month.  I don’t know how, and honestly, it doesn’t matter.  The how comes with the why.  And then came the relief.  It’s like when I decided to paddle the Tohickon creek, I made a decision to do it.  And it was a glorious day.

Stolen from the internet.  I do not know the origin.  A woman is in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing.

Stolen from the internet. Quote by Maya Angelou. A woman is in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing.

It’s a phrase sometimes batted around, “The Power of Decision.”  I’ve heard it plenty of times, and almost been like, “that’s great for you (with no malice or sarcasm intended), but it won’t work like that for me.”  Until tonight.  I feel it down to my toes and racing through my heart like a wildfire cleaning out a lifetime worth of debris in my soul.  All the self-imposed pressure to get it done is gone.  Only calm and a sense of burning determination I can’t begin to describe.  This is what life is supposed to be like.  Strong, powerful, and fun.

Mentors and Life

I have been privileged to be having many amazing and brilliant mentors throughout my lifetime.  I have been fortunate enough to have them during every period of my life: high school, college, environmental consulting, paddling, and most recently Arbonne.

One of my Arbonne, mentors, Maria Spillane, and I travelling to a training.

One of my Arbonne mentors, Maria Woodford Spillane, and I travelling to a training.

Everyone needs mentors and stable figures in their lives to help guide them through difficult times and decisions, and sometimes the mundane.  I have been blessed with an abundance of both since high school.  One cannot succeed and expect to get better without guidance and constructive criticism.  Some call it tough love; I call it wisdom.  All of it is necessary for one to exist and make one better.  I am forever in debt to all of the people who have guided me; thank you.