Wednesday, August 12, 2009


This is the lake in Varese where we're been for the past 4 days and are training until we leave for Poznan a week today. Those are snow capped mountains in the background, not clouds. Quite an appropriate setting to prepare for what's to come. It feels like there are no limits here other than those you impose upon yourself.

Today was a challenging day with a morning pre-paddle followed by pieces side by side with crews of a similar speed event. In this heat, racing is brutal. I had been warned that international racing is a whole new level above what I'm used to - quite a daunting prospect. Today I really started to get an idea of what they mean. Although I've been brought a long way from where I was at April trials, I'm always still learning every session. Although I'm through the biggest lessons (there is no settle, you can never go too hard, you're meant to get faster not slower over the distance, 40 is not a high rate off the start... you get the picture) I still get off the water with a mild headache from concentrating so hard. Every single stroke requires me to remain focussed, each stroke aiming to be exactly the same as the last, if not better, maintaining all the little details my coach has spent hours training me to pick up.

To the casual outsider sculling looks relatively easy - put the blade in at the same time as the person in front, take it out at the same time as the person in front, pull pretty hard between those two points. How hard can it be? Actually, you don't pull at all - you push (I knew that already by the way, just in case you rowers amongst you were worried that it took 10yrs and some GB training for me to figure that out - it's for the non-rowers out there, like my family and my colleagues). And you don't just put the blades in, push your legs down and hope for the best either. There's a very specific way - albeit with some poetic license - of 'driving through the stroke'. We haven't even mentioned the recovery yet - how you get from the end of one stroke to the start of the other... not that a stroke really has a beginning and an end. Are you still with me?

Hopefully that gives you a bit of insight into my last couple of months. I've gone through the above process of breaking down the stroke and building it back up all over again, from the basics, as I did when I started learning to row - and I'm not even close to being where I need to be. Well, close but no cigar. Ah well, my next lesson starts in 2.5hrs...


  1. Having failed to manage the technology before...I'll try again!

    I do know to an extent what you are going through - having started racing at my advanced age, how difficult could it be......I've been driving for 40 years for Pete's sake.....

    But after 20 minutes of trying to get every corner inch perfect, braking at the correct point, and timing every gearchange precisely...and usually failing in all of them....I'm knackered......the degree of concentration required is phenomenal and you stagger out of the car dehydrated...

    And I don't have the degree of physical exertion that you do!

    So, good luck, and don't worry about "talking down" to us....I thought you pulled an oar, after all!

  2. I had no idea how much went into rowing. Andy always told me that rowing was for people who were unco-ordinated and rubbish at other sports, but having read your blog, he was clearly talking absolute nonsense!!!

    Keep blogging. Willing you on at this end :)