Our beliefs don’t make us who we are. Our behaviour makes us who we are. (Fridge Magnet)

I believe that I am a fairly laid back calm person who believes in doing good things. I believe that sometimes our measures of “success” and what it means to be “successful” could do with some rejigging. I believe that we should try to live our lives according to our intrinsic motivations free from the worry of how our actions might be perceived by others (so long as we are acting fairly and not hurting others or ourselves). However, put me on the start line of any race or competition and all of a sudden a significant chasm between my beliefs and my behaviour appears. All of a sudden I am consumed by the desire to win and come first. Ask me what I think about competition and I will calmly say that competition is not really for me and that I am secure enough not to care whether I win, lose, draw or compete at all. Don’t mind if I do, don’t mind if I don’t. But ask me a question during a competition and I’ll be too busy trying to come first to give you an answer.

This summer I learnt a lot about forward paddling from the kayakers at the Salmon Leap Canoe Club. Thank you Salmon Leap Canoe Club! And thank you mirror neurons. Just by watching the K boaters whizzing past me on the lake I started to refine my own technique. These guys and girls know a thing or two about paddling forwards. I was lucky enough to get some tips from people who know a lot more than me about the subject. So armed with my improved technique and a luverly set of winged paddles kindly lent to me, I showed up at the start line of the Liffey Descent. I was feeling fairly good having spent a ferocious amount of time sitting in a kayak over the past few months. Not to mention the fact that I had eaten for porridge for breakfast and anyone who eats porridge for breakfast deserves some recompense. Surely! My class was the GP (general purpose) class which is the class for people who would fall out of any of the boats in the other classes. Or it is the class for people who paddle mostly plastic whitewater boats. Depending on which way you chose to look at it.

Anyway the gun fired and off we went. Wooo hooo I was winning. Over the first weir and on through the twisty turny jungley jungle. The victory speech was already beginning to form in my head. I’d like to thank porridge for getting me where I am today. Weir number 2 was approaching. It’s the fast lines for me this year. Never mind your safe lines. Time to go far far left. That’s the fastest way down weir number 2. I think I remember seeing it on a scribbledy map that I looked at before the race. The last time I was at weir 2 I took the safe line and the time before that I swam in the flat water above the weir (that one is a very long story involving a friend’s wedding and a lot of champagne!!). So now I know that the far far left is not the fastest line down weir 2. It’s the opposite of the fastest line. It’s the paddle straight into a bit of a stopper that you didn’t know was there line. Oops. So I was left sculling in the stopper not going anywhere long enough to see lots of other people plopping over the right line and passing me out.

Aaaaaargh. Sure it’s all about the taking part anyway. Yeah right. Grrrrrrr. Eventually I swam out of said stopper whereupon I began bossing all of the rescue people around telling them what to do and unclipping their clips. Eventually my boat got stuck in a tree and I was left to empty it, try and find my shoe, get back in and carry on. A good 10 minutes wasted. So at this point you might think that I would have decided to just enjoy the day. Nope. Off I went like some of kind of mad Duracell bunny woman. I passed a few people out. Across the lake and threw the boat on my shoulder to run around the dam at Leixlip with one shoe on (never did find the other one!). Run run run. Back into the water with hands shaking didn’t put my spray deck on properly. It popped off under the bridge at Leixlip. A few waves later my boat was half full with water. I got the deck back on. Keep going. Through the sluice. Had to roll twice. Boat full of water. That’ even more slagging I’m going to get. Down to the high drop at Lucan. Woo hoo. Starting to catch the next person in front of me. Anna Liffey. Slide along the wall. Nice. Down to Wren’s Nest weir. I’m going the easy line here. Absolute morto if I capsized here as well. Onto the flat stretch and I passed the girl in front of me. Over Parmo. Have to go down the middle here. Can’t take the easy the line twice. Get out of my way upside down T2. It’s plain sailing from here. Just get into a rhythm and keep going. So I crossed the finish line with one shoe, a boat half full of water, a nice gash on my ankle and soaking wet thermals!! Much to my surprise I had come 2nd. You would think that I would be happy with that all things considered. But no I was raging that I didn’t win!!!!

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Don’t be Fooled I’m Secretly Raging!

So the next day I ask myself what was that about you mentler? What happened to winning doesn’t really mean anything. Hmmmmm. I can’t even claim accidental competitiveness. This was premeditated. I actually practiced before the event! When I was a kid growing up in Leixlip I can remember the Liffey Descent happening each year. It was one of my 3 dreams to learn to kayak and to one day compete in and maybe even win the race (the other two dreams being to own an O’Dare wetsuit and to have a room full of bubble gum).  How wonderful it was to paddle over the weirs and see the faces of so many friends cheering me on. I could hear them all shouting for me. People I have kayaked with at various times and in various places down through the years. Such a lovely atmosphere. I’m really sorry if I was too knackered and trying too hard to say hello back. I started to worry about extrinsic things. I was worried about what other people might think and that started to affect my performance. I am more than capable of getting out of a stopper on a weir and putting a spray deck on properly. I do it every day of the week. Whether I come first or come last I’m still going to be exactly the same person and nobody really cares one way or the other. But there you go. Believing and behaving.  Two different things. Or professing to believe and behaving.

After I had finished the race, three of the gang who come kayaking with me regularly crossed the finish line. Smiling from ear to ear.  Absolutely delighted to have completed the whole course.  They did it.  Two of them have not been kayaking for very long and the other had taken a long break from kayaking. I delighted in their delight. I admire their achievement and their attitude. It’s the right attitude to have.

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Well done Sean, Rico and Genevieve

So the morals of the story are;

1.       She who eats the porridge would be better to eat the banana and the yoghurt as per usual

2.       She who says one thing and then does another needs a good kick up the arse (metaphorically speaking of course!)

3.       She with one shoe should be more careful not to stand on stones

4.       She who chooses to wear a spray deck just because it has lovely pink squiggles on it is a bit of an eejit

5.       She who wins the silver medal should be thankful for the great day, the great people around her and for the privilege of being there in the first place

6.       It’s all about taking part


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 1 out of 3’s Not Bad!!