Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Favorite Season is Russell Fork Season

There are so many great things to love about Fall.... the cooling weather, the changing leaves, pumpkin flavored everything, but the absolute best thing about Fall? It means its Russell Fork Season!

Ever since my first trip to the Russell Fork back in 2005, it has held a very special place in my heart. In case you need some convincing on why you should check it out, here are a few of the reasons why I think it is one of the best places on the planet:

Enjoying a quiet moment on the Russell Fork
1) The kayaking is classic! While it may be short, the Russell Fork Gorge is packed full of some of the most fun rapids around. Tower, Maze, Triple Drop, El Horendo and Climax are the kinds of rapids kayakers dream about. And if you want to lengthen your day, you can warmup on the class 2-3 Bartlick section or easily get multiple laps on the gorge section. 

Emily Shanblatt boofs into Tower
2) The Lifestyling is epic! Because you can't put on the gorge until around noon due to the water release schedule, it means that the Russell Fork is the perfect place for late nights and relaxed mornings! There are multiple camping options, but my all time favorite is at the takeout. Its super convenient to swing by your tent in between laps, there are great camping spots, a covered pavilion to get out of the rain if necessary and theres even an awesome play wave right there. Couldn't have designed it any better myself.

Cooking dinner at the takeout #vanlife

Dave and Karl discussing the upcoming election at camp

3) Elkhorn City is one of the most kayaker friendly town out there! Located in rural Kentucky on the Virginia border, Elkhorn City has a population of barely a thousand people. I'm not sure if it just the excitement of having new faces around or what, but this place really makes a point to be supportive of and embrace the kayakers coming to town (which is quite the opposite in some other places). My favorite campspot at the takeout I mentioned? Thats actually a day use area that they allow us to overnight in during the season. Some days youll even pull up to the takeout and find warm chili and cornbread being served in the pavilion! And don't get me started on the moonshine...

4) The scenery is spectacular. Known as the "Grand Canyon of the South," the Breaks gorge is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi. Whether you're paddling through it, or viewing it from an overlook, you'll be wowed by this beautiful place. And with Breaks Interstate Park right there, there are plenty of non-kayaking recreation options as well in case you need a break from the river or have non-kayakers along.

The view from the Tower Overlook in Breaks Interstate Park

Enjoying the park with my favorite youngsters while their parents go boofing

5) The season finishes up with a super fun grassroots race! The Lord of the Fork Race, named in memory of Jon Lord, a Russell Fork regular who passed away at Tower rapid, is by far my favorite kayak race out there. There is something about it being not too hard, but not too easy, and filled to the brim with quality rapids and many of my very favorite people all coming together that earns it that title. The timing works out so you can get a practice lap in the morning of the race, and theres plenty of time for either  another lap or good ole beer drinking afterwards. And the day is capped off with the Russell Fork Rendezvous, a kayaker party that raises money for American Whitewater. What more could you ask for.

My husband, Steven Augustine, racing through Climax

The scene at the finish line

Lady chargers! 
While my time at the race this year wasn't one of my best (I placed 5th with a time of 7:51), I still had a great time and am already looking forward to next year's Russell Fork season! See you there!

Check out full race results here: https://www.webscorer.com/race?raceid=84838

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Women's Green River Takeover 2016!

Another Women's Green River Takeover is on the books and it was bigger and better than ever! We had a total of 78 women put on and paddle the Upper Green together, with 32 of those women continuing through the Narrows! Watch Daniel Brasuell's video above to catch a small glimpse of what the day was all about. The idea behind the event is simply to get as many women as possible out on the water together in an effort to connect all of the amazing lady paddlers in the area and increase camaraderie and support in the community. It's about meeting new friends, mentors and role models in the community. Its about smiling.

All 78 ladies and the shuttle bunnies ready to start the day! (Photo by Chad Blotner)

The day wouldn't be the same without the assistance of the world's finest shuttle bunnies! The help of these men should not be under-stated. They volunteer their time for the day to help out with shuttles, but in a bigger picture way, are there to show their overwhelming support of the women's kayaking community. These guys are awesome!

Just a small sampling of our amazing team of shuttle bunnies (Photo by Chad Blotner)

In addition to getting the women's kayaking community together, the Takeover is also about remembering and channeling the spirit of Shannon Christy, a friend and fellow lady kayaker who we lost to the river a few years ago. Shannon always had a big smile on her face, and made sure you knew that "you are beautiful." At the end of the Takeover, we do a big raffle with prizes donated from the event's numerous sponsors to raise money for the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund, a fund that supports organizations and grants that build confidence and empower women and girls in our communities. This year we raised $2800 for the fund which was over 3 times as much as we have in the past!

You are Beautiful!(Photo by Daniel Brasuell)
Jessica Volt winning a new Nomad at the raffle (Photo by Chad Blotner)

This day really wouldn't be possible with out the support of so many people and companies so I have to give them a shout out of thanks.

To Dagger Kayaks and Adventure Technology Paddles for being the main sponsors of this event and providing the support and encouragement to make it happen every year!

To the other sponsors (NRSSeals SprayskirtsAstralGirls at PlayH20 DreamsKate Furman JewelryPatagoniaNantahala Outdoor CenterEndless River AdventuresMountain KhakisFrench Broad OutfittersGreen River Adventures, Chad Blotner Photography, Daniel Brasuell/ A Wet State and the French Broad River Academy) for providing support in all kinds of ways from shuttle logistics to raffle prizes, you all rock!

And of course to our amazing shuttle bunny team (Andrew Holcombe, Pat Keller, Tim Bell, Brydhi Stark, Tyler Boeing, Ben Blake, Toby MacDermott, Corey Volt, Brad McMillian, Jason McClure, Snowy Robertson, Bill Clipper, Gabe Latini, Chris Gragtmans, Steve Augustine, Marian Alan and anyone else who I may have forgotten) for helping me make the day run smooth by driving the ladies around all day!

I've never felt I was very good at putting into words exactly what this day is all about and what it means to me so instead of boring you with more words, I'd like to share some of my favorite photos from the day to provide insight into just what it is truly all about. Enjoy!

Shuttle Bunny Gab Latini leads an impromptu stressing session (Photo by Chad Blotner)

Starting out on the Upper all together (Photo by Chad Blotner)

Our youngest participant, Maddie (age 9), styles the slide line at Bayless Boof (Photo by Daniel Brasuell)

Nothing like boofing into a pool of ladies cheering you on!  (Photo by Daniel Brasuell)

Love having the river filled to the brim with ladies!

Katie Dean with a big smile!

Finding some time to chat in the eddies

Anna Levesque helps some first timers scout their line at Pinball (Photo by Daniel Brasuell)

Some ladies catching a ride to the eddy 

No caption needed

Coming in hot through Zwicks  (Photo by Daniel Brasuell)

Party time at Zwicks! (Photo by Chad Blotner)

Nikki Malatin squirting it up (Photo by Chad Blotner)

So much fun blue angeling through Powerslide! (Photo by Chad Blotner)

Fist bumps through Rapid Transit! (Photo by Chad Blotner)

All the narrows ladies with Andrew Holcombe, who wore his bunny ears all day!  (Photo by Daniel Brasuell)

Maria Noakes and me running Groove Tube together (Photo by Chad Blotner)

Hammer Factor with a crowd!  (Photo by Daniel Brasuell)
Enjoying some social time after the paddle (Photo by Chad Blotner)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Staying Fit at a Desk Job in the City

Me Kayaking at the Great Falls of the Potomac, located just outside of DC
Taking my first real desk job and relocating to Washington D.C. to start a job with National Geographic was a big life change for me. For my entire adult life up to that point, I had pretty much always had jobs that involved moving, not sitting (except for sitting on the back of a raft guiding), and I had always lived in small mountain towns. I was super nervous about the transition, but hopeful I could find a way to embrace this new life, while also staying happy and healthy. 

Jogging around the Washington Monument before going in for my first day of work
A year has now passed since moving to DC, and I have learned some things along the way.  For starters, DC loves its Happy Hours! Just about everyday after a long day at the desk, you will likely be invited to a Happy Hour and find yourself having a great time hanging out with wonderful people and downing a few beers. And while I have never been one to say no to beer, it turns out, doing that everyday in place of that afternoon bike ride or paddle you used to take will put on a few pounds! In about 10 months of living in DC, I gained the adult version of the "freshman fifteen" and started to realize I might have embraced my new city a little too much! 

Typical DC Happy Hour
Thats when I decided I needed to make a change and find a way to enjoy the city while getting myself back into shape. I took a few immediate steps that have begun to pay off quickly and I have found that I can still enjoy city life and stay healthy at the same time. 

1) Find an Exercise Routine that Works and Make it a Habit- It's not like I wasn't exercising initially, but the problem was I was struggling to make it a habit. In an effort to avoid paying money for a gym, my go to exercise was jogging. The problem with that became if it was raining, or cold, or too hot, I'd find myself skipping the morning run. For whatever reason (maybe the fact that I was used to running through the forest on trails and not through the city on concrete), I just couldn't get excited enough about it to go every day. 

In an effort to find another exercise routine that would work better for me, I broke down and decided to start paying for a gym/ exercise program. After researching numerous options in DC, I finally chose Ambitious Athletes, a small group exercise program that promises to kick your butt and keep you having fun at the same time. Given my previous issues with getting myself to run everyday, I ultimately chose them due to this line on their website: "If you don't notify us that you'll be on vacation for a week, you'll receive a phone call from us asking about why you haven't been in to train." The ironic part about that is that I love going so much that they haven't had to call me once! The program philosophy combines strength training and conditioning that keeps me both engaged and challenged in a way that I have never experienced outside of training in my kayak.  I can't say enough good things about the program. 

2) Mix Up the Desk Routine- After a couple of months sitting at my new desk everyday, I began to realize that I needed to mix it up. Sitting day in and day out for so many hours was not doing anything good for my body. My first move was to buy an exercise ball to sit on periodically through out the day. Being able to engage my core while sitting not only helped my focus, but it also allowed my body to at least get a little activity while I was staring at the computer screen. 

About 8 months into the job, I was able to get a standing desk which was a huge score for me. I combined it with a Fluidstance Level Board, which allows me to not only stand at my desk, but add some motion as well. Now, being able to stand, spin, sit on the ball and occasionally still sit in a regular desk chair, provides variety and requires energy which makes being at a desk all day not seem so stagnant. And while a standing desk may not be an option at every office, finding a creative way to add some movement into your desk routine will pay off.  

3) Pay Attention to What You Eat (and Drink)- Coming from small towns with limited restaurant options, moving to the city was amazing from a food perspective. Whatever kind of food I wanted could be found within a half mile radius of my house or office. I found myself trying new restaurants everyday and thoroughly enjoying all the culinary experiences the city had to offer. And while I've always been someone who ate relatively healthy, I found myself indulging more than normal, and without the same daily exercise routine, the pounds began to pile on. 

Along side starting at Ambitious Athletes, I also started counting my calories and generally paying more attention to what and how much food I was putting in my body. I soon realized that little things, like choosing a burrito bowl and skipping the tortilla at Chipotle, can save you 300 calories. That tortilla alone amounts to 15% of the recommended daily intake of 2,000 calories! The other big find for me by logging calories was in the beer I was drinking. I love IPA's and I'd rather drink water than drink a Michelob Ultra, so going that direction was simply not an option. But then I discovered Session IPA's- lower alcohol content, 25-35% fewer calories, but still have that delicious hoppy flavor! 

4) Walk More- One of the great perks of living in the city is being able to walk everywhere. There is rarely much need for me to drive my car (unless its to go kayaking) and my office is only 1.5 miles from my house so an easy distance to walk. That said, after a couple months here, I found myself finding excuses for reasons to take the bus. Not all the time, but often enough. And then I realized maybe the most valuable piece of information of all- on average, for every 2 miles you walk, you burn off the calories of one Session IPA! So if I want to be able to enjoy my favorite post-work beverage, I need to make sure I put in my walking miles each day. That might mean walking to/ from work, or taking Karl (my ridiculously handsome dog) on an extra stroll to our favorite park. I feel like since its wasn't a heart pumping, sweat inducing exercise, I often overlooked just what an added health benefit walking could be. 

Karl looking handsome in the park

So there you have it- my personal journey of adjusting to a desk job and city living while finding ways to maintain better health and still get out and enjoy what DC has to offer. Please keep in mind, I am no expert on these matters, and have just simply been trying to find ways that work for me, though everyone is different and will have their own path and opinion for bettering their own personal health. The takeaway (I hope) is to be aware of your body and look for ways to add more movement and healthier eating into your everyday routine. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Women's Green River Takeover 2015!

Two weeks ago, 56 women came together for a single mission: to have a great day on the Green River! It was the second annual Green River Takeover, an event created to bring together the female kayaking community for a day of inspiration, camaraderie, and most importantly, fun! I don't feel like I do the best job at putting into words what this day is all about, so I'll mostly let the pictures do the talking. 

Registration started bright and early, but that didn't seem to slow anyone down. Thanks to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Astral, the French Broad River Academy and Girls at Play, we were lucky enough to have enough shuttle vehicles to carry us all to the put in. Also thanks to some of the local men of the kayaking community, we also had our own personal shuttle bunnies! 

Once at the put-in, we did a quick safety talk before splitting into smaller groups and making our way downstream. It was amazing to watch woman after woman make her way through the namesake rapids of the Class 2-3 Upper Green with cheers of support echoing through the river valley.  On the Upper that day we had a huge mix of ladies, ranging from women running the section for their second time to women who run the Class 5 Narrows on a regular basis. We also had a 50 years age span, from a middle school student in her teens to a mother in her 60s (whose daughter was also on the river that day)! 

After arriving at the takeout to the Upper Green, the group of ladies not continuing into the Narrows began their hike out. While I was not there to experience it, I hear the group made the most of the uphill hike and managed to squeeze some fun into a typically painful experience. 

From there, 27 women paddled on into the Class 5 Narrows section of the Green. It was so amazing to see that steep and narrow river literally filled with women. Support and laughter were in no short supply as we boofed and slid our way through the rapids. We eventually arrived at the last rapid, Hammer Factor, and reunited with the ladies who had hiked out. They were there swimming, jumping and cheering as we all came through. 

At the takeout we cracked open some refreshments, ate snacks and spent time enjoying each other's company. Phone numbers were exchanged and plans for future paddling trips were made. We wrapped up the day with a raffle to raise money for the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund, a fund to support women in paddle sports. We had some awesome prizes to raffle off, including a Seals Sprayskirt,  Astral Designs Shoes, Adventure Technology Paddle and much more! In the end, we raised over $800 for the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund! 

The energy felt during this day on the river is empowering, but silly at the same time. It's confidence building through laughter and friendship. It's female kayakers of all ages and experience levels coming together to strengthen the community and build bonds that can last a lifetime. It's awesome! 

The event was made possible with the support of Dagger Kayaks and AT Paddles, along with a number of other local sponsors including Astral Designs, The French Broad River Academy, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Girls at Play, Seals Sprayskirts, Mountain Khakis, Mountain River Tap and Growlers, and of course our amazing shuttle bunnies. Thanks to all the ladies who came out! I cannot wait to come together on the river again at the 2016 Green River Takeover! 

If you want to learn more about what this day was all about, check out this awesome Blue Ridge Outdoors article by Takeover participant Jess Daddio and this sweet video from the day made by Daniel Brasuell!