Thursday, 5 May 2011

Nice Day for a White Water?

May the 4th is International Star Wars Day - May the 4th be with you! On this day many years ago I was fighting to keep the nerve forces of my own under control, and the white froth of my wedding dress as I awaited my march down the aisle. I never imagined I'd be staring down another runway, exactly twenty years later, ready to be immersed in the force of white froth on the Olympic white water course at Broxbourne. The butterflies were still there. That's what She Who Dares will do to you, find you revisiting all sorts of feelings and places in unique and unpredicatable forms.

There had been an announcement on the Chris Evans Radio 2 Show that morning - "Representing Hertfordshire, Jools Abrams-Humphries will be celebrating 20 years of marriage to Stuart by white water Rafting on the Olympic course at Broxbourne, hold on tight kids, you're not as young as you used to be, but hopefully still as happy, if not happier." Thank you Chris, yes we are, but as I watched Team GB spinning down the white water course, it wasn't quite happiness that fizzed in my insides, apprehension maybe, excitement, definitely.

The centre is amazing, steel and concrete carves a river from the top slope to a pool below. We stood outside the space age centre, on an elegant wood and glass deck overlooking the lush trees of the county, watching Team GB run through a morning practice on the violent water. Four huge pumps pulse 13,000 litres of water down the course every second. That's some power, and the paddlers skim it with ease.

In just over a years time the centre will host the world's top kayaking talent, the creme de la creme of paddlers at the 2010 Olympics. Today there are 36 middle aged women of all shapes and sizes ready to launch. The instructors are thorough, we show off our skills in four rafts, immersing in the shockingly cold water and jumping into the final eddies to float downstream in a swim practice. Wet suits warmed, instructions absorbed, we're ready to ride the course.

Most of the time it's 'Get down!', 'Paddles up!' as we bump and fly between the man made rapids, spinning, coasting, surfing, slammed by walls of white water. Riding pole position at the front, there's no time for my titanic moment, all speech is lost as I swallow gallons of water, that drowns out the cacophony of screams from my team behind. It's brilliant, and we'd all do it again, despite one of the rafts inverting and its occupants riding the rest of the course underneath it.

Not a bad way to celebrate an anniversary.

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