Early Wednesday morning, all seven of us who were competing for Ireland at the World Canoe Marathon Championships flew out from Dublin to Copenhagen. The trip was fairly painless, we got down to the course by late afternoon so we got to catch the last few kilometres of some of the veterans races so we got an idea of what was in store for us.
The course consisted of laps of length 4.2kms and at the end of each lap you had to do a portage (This is where you get out and run with your boat for 100 metres.). After the last portage, you then had a 1km sprint for home. This made the final portage key.
On Thursday, we went down to the course nice and early and started our final preparations for the race. We all made sure that the boats were 100% in order; ensuring foot pumps and rudders worked, sorting out our drinks for the race and when we going to take them. All this was followed by a lap of the course and a few practice runs of the portage and later that evening, the opening ceremony.
On Friday morning, it was a case of eating like a horse and then waiting around until the afternoon for my race. Eventually, quarter to 3 arrived for the start of the Men’s Under 23 race and I was sitting on the startline with the nerves jangling. The start was totally chaotic and I was caught knapping. I ended up in no man’s land and had to chase hard for 6km until I caught the 4th group. We worked fairly well together until we started to shed people and it came down to a Swedish and I in the last few kilometres. Having been racing for 25km, he dropped me on the final portage and I finished 21st out of 32 paddlers in the end. The result wasn’t too bad but there’s plenty of room to improve for next year.
Despite being knackered, I was able to enjoy myself after the race. I had a bit more craic with the rest of the team and chatted with some of the other teams, a few of which I had met at previous international events. There was a buzz around the course for the weekend. A crowd came along to watch the senior Men and Women race over the weekend and there were plenty of stands selling the food of champions, hotdogs etc. The senior men’s K1 race was brilliant to watch, one of the favourites who was looking really ended up going for a swim and it was tight the whole way around until the last portage, when the South African Hank McGregor broke away and took the win ahead of last year’s winner Ivan Alonso. The only Irish competitor in the men’s race was Peter Egan who came 19th. The senior doubles races took place on Sunday. Denmark got a home win in the Women’s K2, while Spain had a one-two in the Men’s K2 for the 3rd time in four years. It was then time for us to hop on the bus and head home to look forward to the Liffey Descent.