• The Vanilla Gorilla

What I learned from winning the Gorge Tech Race

Updated: Jul 13

If you follow my vlogs, posts, and other musings then you know I'm always A-OK with a 2nd place finish. I get a lot of seconds in various disciplines: surf, whitewater, sprinting, distance racing. To me this indicates that while I don't excel at any one thing, I'm pretty well-rounded as a paddler. This keeps my over-active brain busy and happy. The second places help me reflect on what went right and what went wrong, and give me direction on what to work on next. But the other day, at the 2019 Gorge Paddle Challenge, something strange happened. I WON!


Now, I'm going to share what I consider an INSANELY EMBARRASSING VIDEO of me. I had a brief moment where I considered asking them to take it off the internet. Then I reflected and thought, "Why don't I like this video of me? What about it do I find embarrassing?" When I identified what I didn't like about it I went on to wonder, "How can I turn this around into a learning experience, get a little vulnerable, and help others with it?" First, the video.

If it has trouble loading/playing, you can go check it out here:

https://www.facebook.com/WorldPaddleAssociation/videos/520869398686826/


Second, my analysis.

Holy f@cking balls that is hard for me to watch. I know we're all our worst critics, but ARRRGGHH!! I don't smile, I'm not happy. One of my bigger career wins, and I cross the line over-explaining myself, out of breath, like a scared little kid. I'm freaking out because I'm SO SCARED that someone is going to TAKE WHAT I WORKED SO HARD FOR AWAY FROM ME. But why? Why did I not have confidence? Why was I so worried?

Ever since I started this journey, my "couch potato to contender" path to a fun, fit, traveling, professional paddler I've felt a little like an imposter. All of these other women are athletes and have some athletic background, even if just recreational. They also have solid support systems via family and sponsors.


I literally came from being over-worked, under-paid, and un-supported. The only thing I ever had "energy" to do on the weekends was nap in front of my TV. When I turned my life around out of sheer fear of dying too young I found ways to make paddling my life. I found happier work, didn't make any more money, but found love and support in my now-husband and the paddling community. I was happy paddling for me, but I always felt like a weekend-warrior-overachiever that signed up against the world's best - finishing back of the "super competitive" pack of all-star females, usually just sneaking in the top 10. I never imagined I could be up there with them competitively. I even had a blog post I wrote about the Carolina Cup a while back for a local SUP website get returned to me with a phone call explaining that I wasn't "one of them" that if they posted my writing I would just be "embarrassing" myself. They knew more about the professional SUP world than I did, and they were protecting me from being laughed out of the industry. I wish I still had that blog to post here, I deleted it out of embarrassment and lack of confidence. In hindsight, there was nothing wrong with it. Anywho, I digress. The point being, I had feedback indicating that I was an IMPOSTER! So I felt that way, and others treated me that way sometimes.


So I cross the finish line in first place a the 2019 Gorge Paddle Challenge in the Technical Race. Me. An "imposter". I instantly felt so undeserving. I knocked in my fellow competitor. Surely she would protest and I would not win. I was like a scared child. I wanted to be the winner, but I was embarrassed to want that. I settled down once the adrenaline wore off and let it sink in that I had, in fact, won fair and square. Bonus: no one identified me as an imposter ;-)


I HATE that video of me crossing the finish line. I hate it because it shows my inner fears of being undeserving of a win. It shows that I'm the only one that may still think I'm an imposter. It shows me lacking confidence. It plainly shows fear and insecurity, which are two traits that I think women EVERYWHERE need to shore up. I want to be a voice of confidence and security in oneself, and this video is not that...

However, it will always be a reminder to check the stories we tell ourselves, our inner monologues. If this video didn't exist I would have forgotten those feelings of inadequacy as I crossed the finish line and not revisited them. Because of this video, I will be MORE MINDFUL of what I'm saying to myself. From now on it will be, "I am not an imposter. I have worked my ass off for this for the last 7 years. I am deserving. I am capable. I am among friends, amazing women, and solid competition. Together we will lift one another to new heights. If I win, I've earned it. If they win, they've earned it. My life is amazing either way because I am alive."


What stories are playing inside your head when you compete and train?

Pay close attention, they make more of a difference than you think.



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