New Rapids Ahead

Here we are at the beginning of yet another slalom season. It is hard to see the white of the rapids beyond all that flatwater, but most of those sessions are behind us now. The Nantahala Racing Club has held the Glacier Breaker and soon the U.S. Open, two races that mark the beginning of a new season for some of us.

After a race here, a race there, and a little luck, I’ll be back on the team and on my next adventure! The season is bright and filled with many ranking races. Our main season consists of five World Cups and the yearly World Championships. I hope to continue my progression from the past couple years and move myself higher into the ranks of the best! With that thought aside, I can’t wait to be back on great whitewater with great friends and having a blast!

I am looking forward to this season and keeping you all in the loop of how I am doing and the results for our team! A new season brings a new beginning with some old and some new challenges. I think if you follow the flow then you’ll do just fine!

I hope everyone had a good winter, and maybe even paddled a little!

See you on the water :)

The Olympic Ride

It is amazing how many different possible outcomes can become your future. It is hard to know which way is up sometimes when you are thrust into a situation that has so many variables. As an athlete, that is pretty much your life. You never know if the future will go your way or not. Seeing as we don’t have crystal balls or control over everything, we are subject to the waiting game. In the end, you only have control over yourself.

I will admit that it is very difficult for me to stay in the moment and focus on just one task at hand. My coaches often tell me that I need to back up and take one thing at a time. I should, but I don’t always. Our upcoming final Olympic selection race had my mind spinning like a tornado.

When it came time to race I found that I was ready. I was prepared for the possible outcomes and knew that it wasn’t the end of the world if I missed the team, but if I made the team…. Can you think of a moment in your life that you felt like you were just floating? I have been to the Olympics, in 2008, and making the team was one of the most overwhelming things of my life!

So here I am, on a Monday morning, sitting at the hotel computer typing away. I am here to tell you that no matter what outcome ran through my mind, the only one that mattered is the one that came to be. I AM going to the 2012 London Olympics!!!!

On Saturday, June 9th, I raced my first World Cup of the season and had the best race of my career thus far. It couldn’t have come at a better time either! Placing 7th in the semi-finals, I moved onto the Finals where I placed 6th and took my place on the United States Olympic Slalom Team! The team comprises of myself for C-1 Men, Scott Parsons in K-1 Men, Caroline Queen in K-1 Women, and Eric “Butter” Hurd and Jeff Larimer in C-2 Men!

My weekend has been a mixture of emotions since Friday. The race was scheduled to begin that day, but was postponed due to high winds. We resumed racing on Saturday, but had eliminated the qualifying runs from all classes that had been set to race on Friday. We were all moved to the Semi-Final round so that we could fit everything into the time frame we had. I moved into the Finals with teammate Benn Fraker who led with more points in the Olympic battle. However, a penatly protest moved the Russian C-1 into the Finals and bumped Benn out. You can never know what sort of craziness will happen, but this was just the outcome I needed to overcome my point deficit. I secured my place on the Olympic team after a solid run. It wasn’t a great run, but sometimes the best thing to do is be a little safe.

That same afteroon had C-2 Men scheduled for their qualifying runs, which meant that I was going to race some more! All three United States C-2′s broke into the Semi-Finals, something none of us can ever remember seeing!This meant it was a real race! We each took our runs the next morning, and gave it our all. Devin and I had a good run, but accumulated penalties that bumped us out of the Finals had we been clean. As it was, we placed 13th. Dave Hepp and Scott McClesky had a fantastic race and comeback from retirement, placing them in 18th. In the end, Eric and Jeff had a great race and made their first World Cup Final. They placed 9th.

Devin and I have grown so much over the past year. Yes, we are disappointed with how the results ended up, but we are so proud of ourselves for making such leaps! A 13th finish is nothing to be ashamed of, especially in the tight field of C-2. It is safe to say that we are happy that the process is over and no longer stressing us out!

I am glad that this race is finally behind us. Now we will begin the next steps in our racing whatever our paths are. I am excited because I finally get to return home and see my friends, family, and girlfriend after a month and a half away. But first, I am so proud of every United States athlete that raced this weekend! We may race individually, aside from C-2, but we are a team and I am happy to have raced with everyone!

Congratulations Team USA! Congratulations USA Olympians!

See you on the water! :)

Our UK Slalom Tour

Here we are, once again, away from home. Our travels have brought us to the UK, one of the rainiest places I’ve known. We are all here for one main reason, and that is to make the Olympic Team. Our adventure began near the end of April when we traveled to the new Olympic course in London. I know, I have been lazy. I’m sorry! Anyway, for two weeks we enjoyed the fun and challenging whitewater that the new Olympic facility has to offer! I really do enjoy paddling on that course, and it may take the position of my favorite!

Getting to train with the best in the world is fantastic, but a little stressful. Let’s say you’re sitting in an eddy. Next thing you know the best C-2 in the world is barreling down on you. You’ve just realized your sitting in the gate… As you madly back paddle in hopes that you will escape you realize just how frightening other boats on the water are, no matter how good. I’d perhaps hazard to say that better boats are in fact scarier. What can you do though? Paddling with the others is still great because you can learn from them, and may even give you the chance to show off a little. Unfortunately, you don’t get to smoke an upstream and wink at the paddlers in the opposite eddy as much as you would like, or at all. That being said, paddling with the best truly helps to bring out your best!

Needless to say, I have enjoyed every moment that I have spent on the London Olympic course and any other. We spent a great two weeks there learning all the different currents and spending time working out how each eddy flows. Countless technique workouts and full lengths here and there have truly helped me get a grasp of the water. At the same time, my training there has also improved my general paddling.

Now, I said that this trip started at the end of April, but what about the two remaining weeks between then and now. The adventure didn’t end with the camp for some of us. A few athletes and coaches went home to families and friends. It is a lie if I say that I wasn’t jealous. It was in fact my initial plan. However, sometimes you have to make certain sacrifices to chase dreams. So my trusted bowman, Devin McEwan, and I remained in the UK with our teammates Caroline Queen and Brett Heyl. We rented a car and on our way we went.

As some of you know, World Cup 1 in Cardiff, Wales is going to be the final deciding race in our Olympic selection process. As you can imagine, that is exactly where we went. Extra time on the course of an important race never hurt anyone. For two weeks we have been getting to know the course and all of the quirks that it has. Each session brings new knowledge and a growing comfort with the course. Sessions in both C-1 and C-2 have been very good. This tends to help keep me very happy and positive for future training.

One issue that paddlers face is over training. Over training can lead to injuries or just general boredom with the same schedules. With that in mind we decided to take a short vacation through the UK. None of us had really spent anytime here and we were curious about what we could do. We spent a couple great days traveling around the highlands and getting to see castles, coastlines, and cities. It was a fantastic break, and it meant that we were ready for more training when we returned.

Now the team has rejoined with us after their trip home. It is great having coaches again and falling back into the structured workouts that I like. You really learn to appreciate the structure when you train without it for awhile, but that also goes in reverse. Sometimes it is great to get away from everything else and just paddle on the course with nothing in particular in mind.

Soon the team will travel back to the London course for a week long training camp. I am looking forward to this because it is going to give me a little break from the course and the surroundings. Our time here has been great, but a little variety is helpful to me when I’ve been away from home so much! Then we are going to return to Cardiff and train for the remaining few days before the race.

The Olympics are nearing and the pressure is mounting. A lot of athletes think about the outcome before the big races even happen. This one in particular carries a lot of thoughts with it, but in the end you are getting to race and do what you love. I don’t think you can ask for much more. I hope that each of us races with everything we have because the Olympic team should be made of passionate and determined athletes!

Now it is time to run off to the next session… See you on the water! :)

It is a funny thing when you sit down at a restaurant and the waiter or waitress starts talking to you only to find you staring back with a blank look. We huddle and ponder what was said. Usually it was just “How are you” and “What can I get you to drink?” However, the best part is that when they realize you don’t speak their language they continue speaking but with indiscernible hand gestures. Even going out to eat is an adventure!

Don’t get me wrong, Brazil has been greatand the language barrieris nothing new to us. We have in fact mastered the art of restaurant going whilst managing most language barriers. More and more of our crew has arrived as each day has passed. We have now reached our full staff and athlete numbers. This is just a reminder of how close the race has come.

Each day is another chance to get on the water and to play with our friend the Caiman. You have good days and bad days, but another day on the water means it can’t be all that bad. Besides, it is a nice break from the monotony that is our ever present hotel rooms. That being said, we always enjoy retreating back to the air conditioning after a few hours of sun.

We are now two and half days from the official start of the Pan American Championships. This means that my nerves and excitement are mounting! It also means I am spending more time in the room getting rested for the upcoming challenges. Resting and excitement are not best friends, but you make it work. Yesterday we ventured outside of our beaten path and to the Parques das Aves (Bird Park). There we got to see hundreds of different winged species as well as a few grounded slithering and furry friends, an excellent escape from the norm!

So here we are, only a few more days away from the Pan Ams :) Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much to give y’all for results and video, but I promise to keep updates coming as often as I can. That’s all for for now. Let’s go USA!

See you on the water :)

Swim Away Capybara!

Swim Capybara!

Well what do you know? Here we are, back in the southern hemisphere so soon after our trip to Australia. This time we find ourselves down in Foz Do Iguacu, Brazil, site of the 2007 World Championships and now the 2012 Pan Am Championships. I had the pleasure of two trips here in 2007, first for Pan Ams and then for Worlds. Due to some complications I raced C-1 in the Pan Ams and then C-2 in the Worlds, but this time I will be racing both boats in this years Pan Ams.

I am a canoeist through and through, and therefore I thrive on the challenge of competing in two canoe disciplines! The Pan Ams this year hold a great deal of importance as they are our last chance to secure Olympic positions for the United States. Let’s not put on too much pressure though! Well, maybe just a little :)

Our adventure to Brazil thus far has been short, having only arrived on February 24th. However, the adventures and training never end or grow old. We have already gotten to paddle on the water a number of times and have had fun growing acquainted with the local wildlife. For instance, has anyone seen a Capybara in the wild? We get to paddle with them as they swim by (yes, Capybara swim)! It is also a whole new experience paddling along and seeing the eyes of the neighborhood Caiman peering out from the surface of the water, searching for it’s next snack! I think it would be a great story to tell if one of them took a bite out of my paddle!

All in all we are having fun despite the fact that this race is our last chance for Olympic canoe positions. The athletes train well together and we continue to learn from one another. Often you can see athletes and coaches along the course watching the workouts of the other teams. Sometimes you learn best from watching.

Aside from the fascinating wildlife and fellow athletes, we have a few more cool things about the surrounding area. The course is in fact a part of an elaborate fish ladder system that travels around the Itaipu Dam, one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world. On the other side of town are the Iguazu Falls. The falls ride the border between Brazil and Argentina and are a sight that tens of thousands of people travel to. I went once in 2007 but we are already planning our next trip there!

The combined excitement of tourism and training will sustain us to the race where we will put everything on the line. This is a big one folks! It is a wonderful thing when you put athletes together that have a common dream, who push their hardest, and who leave it all on the course!

I’ll do my best to keep updates coming during the race.

See you on the water! :)

Under the Sun Down Under

After an exciting summer of 2011 the turn of the year had to eventually come. Can you believe that the Olympics are this year? We were at a training camp in Lake Placid, New York enjoying some cross country skiing when 2012 finally arrived. I can hardly believe that four years have gone by so quickly! Nevertheless, the next Olympic year is upon us and so you can see the athletes all around the world pick up their training a little bit more.

This year I made the trip to the land down under to train on the 2000 Olympic course as many other athletes have. After a little logistical work, both Devin and I have made our way to Australia with our brand new boats that have been given and designed by Boyton Moo Media! After a couple days of outfitting the boats were functional and amazing! My new C-1, that Sarah Anderson designed for my style, is a fantastic boat and has made training all that much more fun! Sandra Boynton did the graphics for our C-2 that matches up perfectly with the feel that Devin and I have for our new boat!

Australia is such a fun country to travel to! Once you arrive and get to experience the country and course, all the travel time becomes worth it! We have been here for about a week now and have enjoyed a good number of sessions on the whitewater. Three months of flatwater training makes any whitewater feel great, but Devin and I agree that things are feeling particularly good. We are looking forward to a great season! This is my third trip to Australia and I don’t believe that I have seen it rain so much here. Who is complaining though? Warm, rainy weather is my favorite to paddle in and it means we don’t get too hot or sun burnt. The training has been fantastic and each session gives us better control over our new boats. What more can we ask for?!

Sadly, our trip here will be short and only last a few weeks total. However, we will travel home for only a short period of time before we hop our next plane on the way to Brazil where we will race in the Pan American Championships! The United States needs an Olympic position in C-1 and C-2, and this race is our chance to do it…. But that is all another story yet to have been written :)

See you on the water!

Casey in the News

Canoe and Kayak Magazine Summarizes Results of Recent Bratislava World Cup:

“…In Men’s C-1, only Casey Eichfeld moved on to the Semifinals for the U.S., placing 22nd of 67 starters—and in a nice show of consistency would have qualified on either run…”

Click here to read more…

Go, Casey!!

Also, check out the training camp recently announced by the Bethesda Center for Excellence:

Canoe Training Camp with Casey

The BCE Canoe Training Camp with Casey Eichfeld will be held on October 8/9, 2011. Athletes are invited to participate in both C-1 and C-2. Three sessions will be on the Feeder and one at Dickerson.

To view full schedule and registration form, click here.

Check it out!

Check out the US National Team on NBC’s Today Show: January 27, 2011. A special look at the London Olympics only 365 days away!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Leipzig & London!

I last left off with my blog around the time that we arrived in Leipzig. Immediately the team seemed to take to our new environment, and we fell into our World Cup routine. We had booked a hotel that comprised of many houses and was perched just at the top of the hill from the race course. I don’t think we could have picked a more ideal place to stay. The houses were fantastic, and gave us the opportunity to cook which we always enjoy. It also gave us a place that felt a little more like our own for the time that we stayed there. In addition to a mere 5 minute walk to the course, the hotel was perfect!

Training came and went as it always does just before a race. You never feel that you have tried all of the moves that you wish you had. My heart is always in my throat when I am about to see the set course for the first time. I am always wondering if I had done most of the moves. Was I good at them? Are they going to be hard? None of that matters though when you reach the start gate and the countdown begins. All that matters is your race and only your race because you can’t do anything about anything else. You only have control over what you do, so you go out there and you give it your all!

After the first qualification run I was not sitting in a very good position. I had had some difficulties pulling my focus together and getting my boat going where it needed to be. You would have thought I was a different person for my second run as I navigated the course well enough to put myself into 13th place. Once again I had made a semi-finals. It feels amazing to have made three semi-finals in the first three World Cups when last year I only made it in one World Cup and World Championships. I have improved and it feels really good to know that, but none of that changes anything. I am a racer, and I am doing what I love. Ideally, improvement is a natural thing :)

Semi-finals… what did I do? Sometimes in racing you make a decision in the heat of the moment that isn’t the right one and so you must accept the consequences. I chose to take the direct line on the dive gate 9 instead of safely spinning next to the gate and going on to gate 10. As I missed gate 9 my heart sank. I so wanted this race to be the race that I made my first Finals at. How can I do that when I am missing gates? I still had a race to do though and I made my loop attempt to recover gate 9 and finish the run. Unfortunately when things go wrong it seems a lot of other things go wrong. I flipped and consequently missed three gates. With my spirits dashed I continued my run but I was not going to quit and continued to race as hard as I could putting me into 30th place.

It was after my run that I was talking to a coaching friend of mine and recounting my reasons for going direct as oppose to spinning. I was fearful I was slow and so I tried to gain some time by risking. My friend looked at me and said in his French accent, that is stupid, Casey. You are fast enough to make a finals without risking. Wow, I had once accidentally pulled this man into a river during some spring race training because he tried to save me after I swam out of my boat. He is right though and it felt good to hear him say that.

With three World Cups behind us and the rest of the summer ahead we traveled back to Bratislava where we spent two weeks of training furthering our knowledge and comfort on the course that will decide our Olympic participation! At this point some team members had returned home and were resting up for the rest of the summer. Others chose to stick it out. Basically it was cheaper for me to stay here, but I enjoy getting to train in Europe a bit longer!

Now we have moved onto London and finally gotten to try our hand at the new Olympic course! What is there to say about this course? It is amazing! I am having so much fun getting to paddle this course! One of the fantastic things about this course is that there is constant whitewater all the way down the course. In that sense it is similar to the Beijing course, but this course really is its own beast!

I will keep you all posted on the events here at the London Olympic course, and of course the race as well! Look for the United States team on the Today Show, Wednesday July 27th, for their one year from the Olympics program!

 

See you on the water! :)

Once before this year I had come to France and raced in a World Cup at the venue in Pau. It was my first World Cup as a C-1 and it was a great new experience! This year we had World Cup #2 in L’Argentiere, France. At first I didn’t know what to think about the venue and it didn’t seem to be a very large course. It in fact was not the most challenging whitewater but it was a natural river which made it pretty awesome anyway. It was a treat getting to be on a natural river again for an international event.

The week of training leading up to the race was productive and warm. We loved the weather there as it was always sunny and warm! The weekend of racing soon rolled around and we found our nerves amping back up for our upcoming racing. I must admit that the schedule for the race was very peculiar. For television purposes I had to race both of my qualification runs and my Semi run in one day. It was almost like doing a training full length workout with a lot of time between each run.

My qualification runs put me in great standing and safely in the top ten as we waited for the semi final runs to approach. My semi final run went really well all the way up to the end where I got a little to excited and hit gate 17 and caused a little bobble for myself in the next two gates. All in all I had a good race and I am okay with my finish. I am really seeing the growth that I have made during this Europe trip. My consistency has improved a great deal and I am going to keep training towards making my paddling even stronger!

So we have left L’Argentiere and found our way to the next World Cup venue in Leipzig, Germany where I am really excited to get to race our third World Cup. Training so far has been a lot of fun and the water is great! I really like the course here and I am looking forward to getting to train here more and race this weekend!

The team has been doing well and we have had some really strong performances! It is great getting to be a part of such an elite group of athletes. I feel that a lot of us have grown a great deal over the past few years and are finding ourselves reaching up higher into the ranks of the best in the world. I won’t say that it is easy to be together for so long as a team but we make it work and in the end we are a team. So here we go Team USA! Here is to the rest of the summer of racing and training!

See you on the water! :)