so i feel like i’ve been around the world and back in the last four weeks. after worlds, i went to belgium with my mom and dad, then stayed in switzerland with my college buds, the farwells. came back to craftsbury for four days, then went to maine for four days to pick up tanka, hang with colby crew, and see my rents at the camp. then back to craftsbury for four days, then to wisconsin for three days for two weddings and my first sweep race in half a decade at the milwaukee river challenge. now, i’m back and getting into the groove again. everything was awesome, but man am i beat.
i feel funny titling like that, not because for most of you it’s not the end of the year, but because i don’t know that i’ve reflected enough to make this post be as conclusive as that sounds. even so, i’ve been on a hiatus and the potential blog posts are piling up.
this year was a remarkable year for me in terms of rowing just as last year was. many things built off of last year and made this seem like a promising trajectory. i temper that thought though with knowing all the blips i still had like the handful of practices i crashed at (two time trialing practices in the double of note in my mind) and the fact that i haven’t pr’d on an erg test in a while. nonetheless, the general trend was up and that keeps me happier than many other years in the trenches of rowing.
this leads me to my next perennial thought, which how fortunate i am. i just coached the last sculling camp of the year here at Craftsbury, and once people understand what it is i do and what my lifestyle is, these rowing vacationers are very envious. it doesn’t stop there with the remarkable training location and set up that i have. i owe so many people so many things over the last… uh… let’s say decade or maybe 31 years of my life. every year, i feel compelled to try to start naming all those i appreciate, but pull back from this effort knowing that it would be near impossible to appropriately name everyone. thanks to all. past, present, and future. i hope i am making equal contributions to the world around me as my world has done for me. let me just note the time surrounding worlds though. i was lucky to have my parents, a swedish friend from one summer in high school (danne soderberg), a pack of incredibly loyal friends from college (ted farwell, katie farwell, peter morelli, lib morelli, park ridill, heather ridill), and the most gracious boss on the planet with her husband (charlette and dick ave) all at worlds to cheer me on. that doesn’t even note the countless family and friends that followed racing like it was their job from back in the states. as always, the stokes family for watching my main man tanka (my dog). thanks so much to all.
ok, most of you only read this far in hopes of actual rowing talk. world’s was interesting, and i say that with some annoyance. we did not have our ideal regatta. that’s not why i say it was interesting though. there was just way too much talk about fairness throughout the regatta. they shifted lanes regularly in order to account for a whirlpool like current that develops whenever wind hits the course at a slight angle (which is most of the time). in essence, it speeds up one side of the course and slows down the other, making the contrast from lanes on one side to the other quite drastic. i don’t think we were ever screwed by our lane. in fact, we were luckier than others at times. it’s just annoying that people are qualifying results. i heard things like mahe was going to push through synek, but his lane shut him down. at the same time, world records were set despite the fact that they were set from lanes that people were purposefully shifted to due to a known inequality. basically, i’m just annoyed that there’s any talk at all to bring things into question. takes away from the racing and the efforts.
we evolved over the course of the regatta, but not in the same way that we did at the world cup. all of us wanted to pick up where we left off, but that’s easier said than done. the players changed. the arena changed. we changed. i’ll talk about change more in a later post, but try to stay more objective for the time being. we entered our heat expecting a time trial. a couple hours before the race we found out it would be side-by-side. our prep had lead us to favor things like relaxation and picking the boat up on the run. very internal thoughts. the race was taken to us, and we did not react as we should have. i put most of the onus on us, but once down, russia’s quick start left us in their physical wake. to rectify things, we knew we had to approach the rep with a much different attitude and even stroke. we were too complacent and almost too relaxed in the heat. we got amped up, anxious, and angry for the rep. then, we show up to the course on what looked like one of the best days yet only to have the rep canceled on account of unfair conditions… so we try to come down from our caffeine high and reload for the next day. when the time comes, we row a much different stroke for the rep and pound the boat down the course. france rows through us at the very end, but we still move onto the semifinals and would wind up getting a better draw due to our second place finish. after the rep, ben, peter, and i were in more pain than we had been all year. hard to know exactly why. maybe it was the day delay, maybe the new rhythm, maybe the barometric pressure?
due to this start, we were not the same boat we were at the world cup. attitudes and roles were different. tension was higher. fortunately, we found our rhythm and our racing for the semi, but just didn’t have enough gas to make the final. our race in the B final was still a solid performance. it could be said that canada had the best lane, and we had the next best lane. who knows. maybe the lanes played a hand in it, but 5 of the 6 boats walked down almost the entire 2000 meters in an even line. i hope i remember some aspect of this race for years to come. canada had a slight edge on us that they maintained for the win, and we came in second just ahead of france. the A final was not long after us, and our time would have put us in a similar spot to where we were at lucerne (right behind estonia). perhaps if everything had gone to plan and things had continued the upward trend, we would have been A final. even so, we know we have speed we must gain to break into the top tier of quads.
so, are we going to row the quad this year? i can’t say for sure. i am open to it without doubt. i think physiologically and technically the boat really suits me. i am a powerful guy and also can benefit from the more upright stroke that works in it. however, i think all four of us would agree that 4 personalities can be a handful at times even if all 4 bring a lot to the table in some way. for now, we go back to some small boats for the most part and get some rowing in before a winter of hard work and skiing. i feel better this fall than i did last fall post-worlds. hope to translate that to some good training (i consider head racing training. once i’m a full-fledged masters rower, i’ll worry about peaking for it more). making boats move is what brought us to where we got last year, so we’ll return to that for the time being.
so i was exposed to egoscue twice through my time rowing at potomac. the older i get the more open i’ve been to new avenues while rowing. this is the result of both my body and my mind aging. i’ve learned that a good athlete is a healthy athlete and in order to be a healthy athlete you need to be a well-rounded one. as a result, i’ve tried many things including:
granted, my goal is rowing, but rowing calls for power, agility, balance, yada yada. as such, other forms of athletics that work on those various traits can all help rowing.
this is a roundabout way of saying, “yes, i think there’s worth in egoscue.” i do not practice the things i learned as steadily as i should. however, i would say all rowers should practice some mobility and balancing routine whether it’s egoscue, yoga, or mwod. rowing is extremely repetitive and although low impact still takes a toll on the body. it is not quite our ideal evolutionary movement. push comes to shove, i think egoscue could be very helpful for shaping healthier rowers by increasing flexibility and maintaining joint alignment and strength.
would rather be writing finally A at the world champs. it has been an interesting regatta, and with one race left, it still needs to be and is far from over. at world championships, every race is raced like the last race, and yet somehow each race still gets faster and more competitive than the last because somewhere inside each rower knows the increased stakes. our event has proven quite close as expected. while the british and ukranian crews may have distinguished themselves, it is still not by much. crews 3-10 could really be interchanged nearly every time they race each other.
as for us, we finally started to find our rhythm again in the semi-final. although we had good practices that built upon each other leading up to the races, we didn’t have the same confident, fast, and yet efficient rhythm that had carried us through trials, henley, lucerne, etc. in an effort to find that rhythm and master the tailwind, we put an emphasis on relaxation in the heat. the emphasis should not have been at the cost of racing. it should have been racing with a focus on relaxation. at this level, no one is skating by (save for maybe the kiwi pair at times, but i doubt they even take their speed for granted). as a result, the race was taken to us instead of us racing it out. china and russia took the top two advancing spots, and we headed to the rep. this was not the end of the world. to race the heat and not race again until four days later was not necessarily an advantage. however, things got complicated by the weather. just as we were about to launch for our rep (one full day after the heat and one full day before the semi), they canceled the races for the day. this moved our rep one day later and eliminated our day of rest before the semi-final. to compensate for the heat, we focused on being tenacious with the rep. we scripted big “moves” reminiscent of a collegiate crew. we slugged it out. italy took an early league and then died sharply in the third 500. we lead from just around the halfway point into the last 500 when france sprinted through us. i and others in the crew found ourselves in more pain that we had all year. while we fought the appropriate fight, we did it with a labor intensive rhythm that jumped off the front end. letting france through us, worked to our advantage and dealt us a semi that was slightly easier than the other one. we faced ukraine, china, poland, new zealand, and switzerland. poland and new zealand we had faced before at lucerne. we knew switzerland was a clever crew, but an attainable one. we also knew that china had weaknesses in their armor. all we needed was top 3. entering the last 500m of the semi, we were in second place for some of the strokes with china, switzerland, and us all right across. while the body was rowed well, we shortened up in the sprint and were tapped. we did not move the boat forward. we finally rowed the body of the race with our rhythm. picking the boat up skillfully on the go and sending it out with building speed each stroke. despite finding our efficient rhythm again, i think we were too biologically tapped from the day before to keep up with the other crews. that being said, switzerland raced the day before and now has a spot in the A final.
one summation is that we need more horsepower. i don’t like hearing this. not because i do not believe it to be true, but because that is one constant truth about virtually all crews. it never hurts to be bigger, faster, stronger. additionally, this is the caveat people have had about our quad from the start, and it pisses me off that people may think we now have yielded a result that validates their opinion. up to this point, we fought tactfully with all that we had at our disposal. moving forward, we’ll continue to do so while always looking to increase what is at our disposal.