Mind, Body, Spirit: PPG Champ Candice Appleby’s Perfect Preparation Formula

Interview by Mike Misselwitz

How were you feeling going into PPG last year?

Candice Appleby: I had a really great season last year. I'd been training hard, hitting lots of events, training with the Performance Paddling Adult Training Club and picking my events wisely so I wouldn't be too tired once PPG came around. But I was also working on all aspects of my life, not just the physical but the spiritual and the mental. I think in racing an athlete can have the physical, but without the spiritual and mental sides it's harder to find success.

Going into PPG I had a lot of confidence in my preparation and leading up I had a lot of good results. I won the Standup World Series and won at the ISAs, so of course that gave me confidence, but I also made some big life changes in the months leading up to that event. I surrendered myself to Christ in all aspects of my life.

About three weeks before PPG, I was in Japan and I threw my back out. It was bad and I had to rest for weeks. It was really odd for me. Eventually I was able to get on the water to train again but in the meantime my spiritual life was growing stronger and stronger. It got to a point where I rediscovered my identity, and my identity isn't as a racer, it's the person God says I am. So taking my worth out of paddling allowed me to go into it without fear. I didn't have any doubts or worries leading up to PPG. The spiritual fire fueled me.

That confidence made it easy not to be nervous, which I think is a big part of racing. I was really able to just be focused and enjoy it and know that I have a bigger purpose than just winning.

What was your approach for winning the distance race?

CA: That distance race was insane for me because I was pulling the draft train the whole race and somehow I still won. That doesn't happen very often.

I was out there and I remember thinking, "I'm just going to enjoy the paddling," like the outcome was already determined. That's literally what was going through my mind during the whole race. I was really confident in where I was with my paddling and I was just paddling by faith, and that was a really incredible experience.

Coming around the final buoy (in the distance race) is tricky. There can be waves or you might come in during a lull. I came in during a lull and broke the pack a bit, but then Angie (Jackson) and Shay (Foudy) caught a wave at the perfect spot. Annabel and Fiona got caught at the wrong spot and I was pretty much in the worst spot. But by the grace of God I stuck the landing and ran it out and won. That race was such a testament to my confidence in the Lord and where he had me in that race. It was a completely spiritual experience for me. I can't deny it.

How about the technical race? Tell us about your approach there.

CA: Man, that race was so exciting. I remember I was praying before the race and getting in my zone, and the waves were pumping. There was one buoy turn in the inside where everyone was coming at me. I think it was Sophia Bartlow who was coming down a wave on her stomach straight at me. I had to make a split decision between potentially getting T-boned or turning around and getting pushed back by the wave. In that moment of chaos I was able to keep my calm, and I think that's a really huge part of racing. Being able to stay calm in those moments of chaos is key. I made that quick decision and got pushed in but it was the best decision I could have made. I would have gotten pummeled.

I moved back to fifth but I wasn't going to let that little hiccup stop me from what I came to do. The whole time I was paddling, I was reciting scripture to myself. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, I never let that problem set me back. In racing it's really important not to panic if something bad happens and not give up if someone gets ahead of you. The tables can always turn quick and you can always come back.

What were the most influential factors for your victory last year?

CA: I've made a commitment to be all-in with my spirituality and I can't settle for lukewarm anymore. Of course I also have a great crew of people behind me. The Infinity family is great, and so is the equipment. Having a whole team behind me last year really helped me out a lot.

Any more advice for #PPG2016 competitors?
CA: Jimmy Terrell used to tell a lot of jokes and do impersonations of the coaches he had in the Olympics throughout the years. He does one from his Australian coach that goes something like, "Mate, to make an Olympic final it's 80 percent physical and 20 percent mental, but to win an Olympic final is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical." We're all basically the same from the shoulders down, but it's what's between our ears that makes the difference.

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