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Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Title Lost, Confidence Gained

My last post was some time ago and I can say that mostly the reason why was that I just wasn't inspired to write. I promised myself that this blog wouldn't just be about racing and it wouldn't act as some sort of public diary of my day, but rather would be written when I felt I had experienced something that held some valuable lesson within rowing.

This past world championships found Canada's lightweight double in a position that I do not believe it has ever found itself before. Four weeks before the world's final, Tracy was diagnosed with a rib stress fracture. There was a very small chance that the fracture would heal well enough to have her safely race in the Olympic qualifying regatta. As Randy Starkman put it, " steps super spare Patricia Obee." With few days to get our double to the standard of qualifying Patricia and I embarked on one of the toughest, mentally challenging experiences I have had in rowing. I was coming off a year as a world champion, Patricia is in her third year of rowing and we had the job of making sure that Canada's lightweights could say that they were training this year for the Olympics. We had a huge job. However, that all being said, we had complete trust in one another. We put more focus and attention into detail than I have ever mustered in anything I have ever done. The risk in that though (especially in rowing) is over analysis. One can be paralyzed by thinking too much, trying too hard and being too picky. We had to ride the fine line between picking apart every small little imperfection to the point of destruction but also leave no stone unturned in the effort of getting as fast as possible. I think the toughest part for me was that everyone around us seemed to be in denial that Tracy would not get back in the double. The decision to have Tracy in or out dragged on and on and on to the point that I didn't know which way to tune my mind. I didn't know whether to think of Patricia as a girl who was sitting in the double to help me get in workouts, or if she was to be the girl critical in the process of qualifying our double for the Olympics.

The one thing I did know by the time our heat came was that we were fast. We were a double that if we did everything we knew how to do could go down the course believing that if we were not in a qualifying position, that we needed to work harder because we should be. When you have trained with someone all year and you see what they are capable of and you know what you yourself are capable of, when you get in the middle of a race and things are not panning out as you believe they should based on the knowledge you have of yourself and your partner, you go harder. You make the right call, you push your legs harder and believe with everything that you know, that your bow ball should get where it needs to be or you aren't doing everything you can. I knew going into that regatta that the double that Patricia and I worked to be was a medal contending double and that we just had to lay it all on the line and we would be proud of our performance; win or lose, we could be proud. Why did I have such confidence in us? Because we stuck to our guts all year. We trained where we were told that we would lose financial support if we stayed, but we stayed because it's where we knew that we would give ourselves the best chance of being our best. Ironic no? That the two people who were told that Victoria was not where they were allowed to train were the two people who managed to qualify the double for the Olympics and only because we had stayed where we were told not to stay.

The Greeks are now the reigning world champions in the lightweight women's double. They are the champions because they must have done absolutely everything right. They are strong, powerful and they row very well as a unit; they deserved what they earned. I might no longer be the world champion but after this summer, I now have no uncertain faith in the ability of Canada's lightweight women to be Olympic champions given the best preparation. I by no means am saying that we are going to win, I'm saying that we have every reason to train this year believing that we have the capacity to do so. We can be confident that if we work extremely hard, we are not going to the Olympics to participate, we are going there to win and if we don't win, we will have helped push someone else so hard that they reached their highest capacity ever. That is the beauty of sport. That even when we don't win, if we have given everything to be the fastest we can possibly be, we have helped to create a champion that was faster than she has ever been. How special is that?

You can check out Patricia's and my races at

Friday, July 15, 2011

Game, Set, Match

I left London, Ontario for Holland on June 21st with the women's team and did a terrible job (as some followers probably noticed) on keeping up to date information on racing. My blog was never intended for the mundane details of racing and race plans and what I do on international trips, but I feel that because Tracy and I learned some very important things about ourselves in our last races we can get a bit philosophical here.

Amsterdam was not our best. Period. Why was it not our best? Well, that was what was scary at first. I think it was hard to place exactly what went wrong and what led to an eight second loss to the British on the second day of racing. One might like to point out that there was a jet lag factor as we flew in to Europe and raced three days later. I preferred to ignore the fact that my body thought it was asleep when it was awake and vice versa. However, maybe I should have understood that that might have been a factor more than I did. Secondly, rhythm. Without getting too much into the boring details, there's a thing known as rhythm in racing and we didn't have it. We were like skinny white girls at a hip hop concert. We had guts, we had eagerness to race, we had some fun, but ain't had no rhythm.

See, here's the thing I love about Tracy and I. We love to win. We don't just love to race or medal, we love to win and we knew that our training camp in Italy following the racing in Amsterdam was our chance to refocus, grab the bull by the horns and figure out how the heck to be the double we know we can be. I'm extremely proud of us because there's no question in my mind that we found that double again. We found that double and then some because a true test of character is not what you do when things are hunky dory (I don't even know how to spell that stupid phrase). Character is what comes out when you struggle and must overcome. We were cranky for a few days, I'm not going to lie. However, that was a good thing because it showed each other that we care, that we both want to be better and after our small temper tantrums, we got to work and we got faster. Tracy and I have now gone through a series of very high highs and lows and we have come out with a gold medal at the third world cup in Luzern. This regatta is notoriously the most prestigious of all the world cups and it gave us a chance to prove that we were not a one hit wonder last year and that we are here to put up a serious fight to defend our title as world champions. The racing in Luzern reminded me once again of what it feels like to race with someone who is so focused and intent on being the best stroke seat on the race course. We won our heat, our semi, and the final and every race built on the last. Confidence breeds confidence and in this case (as in tennis) to win the match, you must win the set and to win the set, you must win the games. It would have been easy to go out in Luzern in our first race and only think of having been beat pretty severely only two weeks earlier, but we didn't. We were fearless and most of all, we trusted each other to do the job we needed to do. I am so glad to have gone through this testing period because now I know we can overcome, we can fight and we can win.

Following is a song that I have listened to before racing and I think for this post, it's most appropriate. I want more!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Shades of Gray

Two and a half weeks ago, selection was completed and Tracy and myself are back in the double training for the World Cup III regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland. I then settled comfortably into my new apartment (with the generous help of Patry Inc.) with team mate Patricia Obee (lwt. 1x). It was a pretty great week to have made the double and find a new and more permanent home to reside in while in London.

The first week of training in the double was fun but definitely a bit shaky. It was clear when we started to take strokes together again that we were not exactly where we left off last year, but the base speed and technique were still there and we knew it was just a matter of time before we started to feel like our "old selves". Two full weeks have past now and the double is really starting to get back to where we left it but I guess it's frustrating to think that we had to leave it in the first place. Every time we have a less exhilarating piece, I think "what if?". Every time I see some bad habit that has crept into the stroke, I think "what if?". What if we had been rowing every day for the last six months? (Sundays off of course). I do not like "what ifs" and I especially do not like them when they have been forced upon me; when they are there because of no choice of my own.

I was thinking today how simple things could be if there were no shades of gray. Does A make you faster? Does B make you better? Then do A and B. There should be no clauses, no compromises, no acceptance of less. If A and B are the best and the things that make you believe you can win, then that's exactly what should be done. I'm not being silly here. If you think a McDonald's big mac every day makes you better then you probably need to see a psychologist, but if you think doing your sport every day as much as possible and with intent and focus is the way to be the best, then that's what you should not only do, but be allowed to do.

All athletes have a goal. Some or many of those goals vary and are quite different from athlete to athlete, but we are always taught that you can not get anywhere without a goal, and that the goal must hold you steadfast. What if one of the main components to reaching that goal were sacrificed by some force uncontrollable to you? How then do you reach the goal? When you see something as paramount to success and that thing is taken, what do you do? If there were no shades of gray, you go find it. You do whatever it takes to have the answer be black and white so the end result can be gold. How do I know what makes people win? I don't. There are no sure answers, but I do know that whatever someone BELIEVES makes them win is the most driving, most powerful force behind coming first.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Settling In

Finally I have sat down to write my first post while residing in London, Ontario. Most people who know me know that it's a hard transition for me to go from training and life in my home town of Victoria to training in London where there's not much life at all and just rowing. The reasons for not wanting to go obviously exceed well past the reasons of just liking the city and friends and family however. Let it be known that ultimately it's about training and the training environment in which I exist at my best that holds me to one place or another.

I have been here for three weeks and nearly all the time has been spent in a preparation for racing/selection and/or watching fellow team mates (heavy or light) be raced off time and time again. It leaves one craving a hard 22km row of side-by-side battling. Being in a holding pattern in sports is probably the hardest thing an athlete can do. We are mostly driven to move forward, to make ourselves hurt and to push to a point of physical fatigue that many people have never experienced...selection is the opposite. You must sit and wait and keep healthy and constantly be monitoring how your legs feel when walking up a flight of stairs. It's easy to worry if you feel a little more burn than you'd like when carrying groceries a block or two. The worst part: the mind. The mind goes from a state of comatose inactivity to spinning and reeling up possibilities and scenarios and I don't even know what else. My mind is an opponent right now, not something I feel I can control. However, I must. The strong will survive and I think when it comes to selection and "data collection" (as it's so fondly referred to at the LTC), those that keep their minds an ally and not an opponent are the ones that escape cracking and splintering and are the ones that end up rising to the top. We are in the process of choosing the strongest mental team in the world.

photo by: Kevin Light

So although I am here working through the hardest part of the year (selection), I have left supportive and motivating team mates at home. I remember what we did together and I use the lessons I have learned throughout the year to get me by. The above photo was taken as a thank you for John at Shawnigan Lake School because he not only lent, but re-rigged a pair into a double every day Patricia and I showed up there to row. His generosity is what allowed us to clock nearly 150km some weeks up at Shawnigan alone. If he had not been so willing to help, the selection that I speak of right now would be even harder. Because of him and the people in that photo I feel prepared, I feel strong and I feel ready for the rest of the summer. I have to admit somehow that I'm missing Will Crothers accuse Patricia and I of cutting km's. Don't worry Will, we're clocking all the k's here!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Theory of Relativity

It's 930pm on a Sunday night and I am definitely not in any shape to be describing to you how objects might bend as we travel through space at the speed of light, so I'll cut to the chase and announce that I am about to describe a different kind of relativity.

This thought occurred to me between what I thought was going to be two 28km rows at Shawnigan Lake this past week. We had already finished one 28km row and I thought the next was going to be the same but found out during breakfast that it was only going to be 24km instead and I felt so completely relieved. Then I gave my head a shake! Twenty-four kilometers in a double for the second time of the day is still a TON of work! And it's not just 24km of steady state work, it's 24km getting chased down my either men's fours or a men's eight working at full capacity. However, I had convinced myself because it could have been 28km, that we were all getting off easy. A typical "hard row" on Elk Lake would be 18-22km. Then this got me really thinking.

It is fascinating what the mind and body can accomplish when working together. Somehow, while doing an endless number of 7km "runs" at Shawnigan, I started to convince myself that that was the norm and that my body better be prepared for that amount of work. I started unconsciously to stretch both physically and mentally what was the boundary of what I was willing both physically and mentally to do. These changes in mind and body occur at such a subconscious level that you suddenly find yourself thinking that an 18km row is a break. Perhaps some of you are reading this right now thinking that I'm still crazy but it's what has happened to me and I'm very glad for it. This is the epitome of training; hard is relative. Something that we perceive to be "hard" is only something that is more than we are already doing. If we do more, then hard is no longer what we were doing but rather something even more. Why would we constantly work within the boundaries of mind and body? Why would we only do as much as we did last time? Einstein's theory states that the outer limits of the universe are travelling farther away from us and at a rate faster than the speed of light. If we don't push those boundaries of ourselves we'll be left in the dark. I would like to imagine that an Olympic gold medal brings a lot of light.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Bow to Another Bow

This isn't an overly insightful blog post, but I had to say that today was my first ever time rowing starboard. All through junior rowing and university I was a port, permanently occupying either stroke or two seat. Now for the exciting part. Not only did a row bow seat of an eight today, it was the VTC heavy men's eight! We were just doing a tech row and they needed an eighth body, so I came to the rescue. I am absolutely sure that even on the "paddle" we were moving faster than I have ever gone in a boat before. Well I have coxed a men's eight, but this was faster because I was in bow. Ha. I really wish I had some pictures to share with you all but this will have to be only a memory in my mind. I told two seat, Kevin Light, that I can now cross another dream off my dream come true dream...Olympic gold!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Un"bent" Memories

I'm so excited to write this entry that I can barely decide where to start. I have said it before, but the world works in mysterious ways. So here it is.

It has been a while since my last post, but it has been because I was waiting for something worth writing about. I have wanted to write for a while about the various coaches I have had in my rowing career and how they have shaped me but I haven't been quite motivated enough to tackle that challenge. I have written about Mike and have felt somewhat guilty for having not included another great man that I was extremely privileged to have worked with. I guess you can say I have been coached by arguably the best heavyweight men's and also arguably the best lightweight coach in the world. I was unsure if I could do Bent justice through my amateur writing and therefore held off writing about him.

Here's what's interesting: I decided months ago that when I had tallied a running count of 50 bald eagles spotted during rowing at Elk Lake, I would write about Bent. For those that don't know, Bent was from Denmark and was absolutely mesmerized by the graceful bald eagles that swoop and soar over Elk Lake. So much so that you would often note him bobbing around aimlessly in his coach boat staring into the sky while you were out working your ass off. It was easy to laugh the image off and know that the man just couldn't resist a good eagle ogle. Next, during an interview this evening with a sports writer, I was encouraged to continue my blog and made to answer some questions that caught me reminiscing about Bent and my training under him. I thought it no coincidence but rather fate saying it was time to pay some tribute.

What I know to be most notable about Bent was that he was the first coach I had that I could really talk to. I mean really talk to. Strange when you consider the man spoke barely one word of English when he arrived in Canada and understanding him most days was harder than the training session. I could tell him my fears, my arguments, my apprehensions, my positive beliefs...anything! He made you feel part of your own journey. I know that sounds strange and that it should be a given that an athlete is aways in control of her own journey, but that is unfortunately all too often not true. Bent was a leader that let you lead with him. He had all the knowledge and the wisdom it took to help you be a champion and then you joined him and did it together.

My absolute fondest memory of Bent was in Lucerne 2008 when I was racing the lightweight single. He was deep into his chemotherapy treatment and was administering it on the road so that he could be there coaching his Olympic lightweight men's four and double. He told me "Leensey (that's how his accent said my name), you must race with rhythm. All the crews here that will win, will have rhythm". I won Lucerne that year with rhythm. When I got to the dock, I found Bent beaming with pride and happiness in my accomplishment; I learned then what a coach looks like who wants nothing but the best for his athlete. There were two Lindsays on the team that year and I was the smaller. He looked at me and said one thing, "Little Leensey, big heart". Later at that regatta, he strongly encouraged me to pursue the single that year at the non-Olympic world championships. He told me that many people go through their careers winning many gold medals, but it's so rare to win a world championship. He said "Being a world champion will never leave you". I did race the single that year and came far from winning. It was sad, and I felt like I had let Bent down. Cancer took Bent from us in December of 2008 and I have kept a picture of him on my fridge riding a bicycle, beaming from ear to ear (he had polio as a child and could not walk easily, but could ride a bike like Lance Armstrong...almost). When Tracy and I won the world championships I was praying for the first time in my life that people who have left this world can see what we accomplish when they are gone. I hope Bent had the best seat in the house for that final because he's part of the reason why we achieved that standard. Both being a world champion and Bent will "never leave me."

Following are some of my fondest Bent quotes (remember the broken English and impossibly difficult Danish accent when reading these, and the fact they're being yelled from a coach boat-in brackets is the translation)

1. Leensey, more legs, you must use more legs (push harder)
2. Leensey, you must use your back (push harder)
3. Leensey, just go quicker (push harder)

and my absolute favorite in regard to competitors while racing
4. Leensey, f@#k them all away (push hard)

Bent was an inspiration to us all in the Olympic year. He fought his battle with cancer hard enough to be able to guide the Canadian men's four to a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. I have never been so happy to see someone so happy. Thank you, Bent. I quietly say hello to every bald eagle I see. I swear those eagles show up when I need to push harder!

Friday, February 25, 2011


I was doing a tech row the other day and I was practicing strokes by watching my blade enter the water and was trying to work a good release and catch. Then I started to get bored and jokingly thought to myself "Now that's a perfect catch!". Oddly, my little amusing joke to myself sparked a train of thought that was worthy of the blog. What the heck is a perfect stroke? I started thinking how I have now been rowing for fifteen years and I can't tell you what exactly a "perfect" stroke is. Then I thought, if I can't pinpoint the perfect stroke, then perhaps there is no such thing. Then, what the heck does perfect mean anyway? I looked up the definition. Perfect is "being complete of its kind and without defect or blemish". What??!!! I think that might be the most abstract and useless definition I have ever read. Like my competitors post, perfect to me seems to be something of relativity. We all know that different styles of rowing, different strokes and different training programs win gold medals, so why are we always seeking perfection? What I mean is, if perfect doesn't actually exist in a tangible, non-relative form, then why do we pursue it?

Now in that question, I have found the answer. Perfect is perfect because it does not actually exist within the rowing stroke and so it is the pursuit of something unreachable that keeps us trying over and over and over to achieve it. Winning a rowing race doesn't mean you raced the perfect race, it doesn't mean you took 250 perfect strokes, it means that something added up and came out in your favor but I guarantee it wasn't the execution of perfection. I have taken almost all my strokes not perfectly, but every one has been with intent. I think the following Nike ad sums this up "perfectly".

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finally Have a Case of HMS (heavyweight man syndrome)

I posted yesterday but I had to share this momentous occasion. For years I have been around heavyweight men during extremely hard weeks of training and there has always been one complaint that has not only been constant but really stands out as bizarre (or so I thought until today). You see, the calorie output for the "training programme" can be upwards of 3000 for me, so you can imagine that for a heavyweight male weighing in around 195lbs-240lbs, it's going to be somewhere in the ballpark of 5000 and that doesn't include daily activity. So, to get to the point, the one complaint that I have heard coming from the men for years is "I find eating a chore and I just don't want to eat anymore; I can't eat enough in one sitting." Boo hoo, right? I always thought, "Man, life is sure rough if you just can't eat enough." I absolutely, 100%, definitely did not sympathize or understand how one could possibly feel that way. As a lightweight women, I have been trained to watch my intake. I tend to eat whatever the heck I want during the winter months, but it doesn't always come without a tiny bit of guilt. Now here's where the tables turn. I was driving to rowing today for the third and final workout of the day. It was a hard day and I spent my time between the second and third row worrying about whether I had eaten properly and would not face "a bonk" during the last practice. As I was heading there I found myself thinking "I can't wait 'till this practice is over so I don't have to eat anything." Then I almost crashed the car because I was thrilled that I had done it! I finally found myself understanding what the heck it meant to just be plain old tired of eating. It was a great day :) I feel fully part of the club.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When Someone has Helped You, You Have to Have Their Back

The world works in mysterious ways. There's been some goings on at the Victoria Training Center that I don't fully understand and I don't really feel like getting involved in, but I do know that Mike has missed two days of practice as head coach which is more than I have ever known him to miss in two and half years of rowing with him. His absence has been due to meetings with the head honcho of RCA and it's just not the same around the boathouse without him. Then yesterday I came home and was cleaning up around the computer area and found a scrap of paper with a poem on it that I wrote back in 2009 when I was training with the men in Italy before the world cup in Spain. If you know Spracklen, you know that he is quite an impressive author of poems, so I wrote it in a gesture of appreciation for having supported the lightweight women during their transition period of getting a new coach. It was what I thought to be my last training camp with the men before I moved to Ontario for the summer to complete the unknown. Anyway, the point of this blog is that I have not had much of a chance to discuss my training with Mike Spracklen and what it means to me. I want to share this poem not as some political statement but more just as something fun to express what Mike has done for me and how I have always wanted to train on his program. I hope to give back some support to him that he has so generously showed me over the years.

Our Time with Mike

Our time off was over,
our season was anew,
my chance to row for Spracklen
was finally coming true.

We started off light,
we weren't pushing yet.
I thought it was already brutal,
would more leave me dead?

Pyramid after pyramid,
we slowly added more,
"Your bodies can handle more," he said
but five runs was quite a chore.

Then we went to Cali
for our training camp.
The lighties almost didn't go
but Mike had left his stamp.

Some didn't make it,
some dropped like flies.
I heard him say "You're wanking it!"
but the lighties never died.

Kilometer after kilometer
we pushed within the pack.
Men's singles vs. lightweight doubles
to the bridge and back.

Then came trips to Shawnigan
rowing our lightweight quad.
We always had a man to help,
Fraser completed our squad.

We learned to row with power,
we learned to row with time,
we learned to row with left hand infront,
then the rates would climb.

Ladder after ladder
on Friday after weights.
Six hundred hard stokes was a challenge
made bearable by team mates,

Who rowed along beside us
through the rain and the pain,
building trust in each other
was the name of the game.

He said to trust your fitness,
he said to trust the plan
"You can know you're working harder
than any other man."

Now here we are in Erba
getting ready to race.
I believe in what we have done thus far
and know we can hold the pace.

We are a team that's strong
and it's because of you,
a man who knows how to lead us
towards a dream that's true.

Your words will be with us
through first, middle and last,
we'll drive it home to the line
and not forget the past.

I will not say good-bye
but more like a so long.
I know I will be back some day
because in this environment
I belong.

Thank you, Mike.

Also, if someone needs a poem written for their girlfriend or something, just let me know. Hahaha

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Does it Mean Without Competitors?

I was thinking today about winning (as I do often because in sport winning can often consume you) and then that got me thinking about our past win at worlds specifically. I have, until now, defined that win as being sweet because of the hurdles overcome to get there. There's quotes all over the place of how things mean more when one has struggled to accomplish them, or how nothing is worth pursuing if it's easy and all that sort of stuff. However, for some reason today it struck me that that win was also sweet because of who we raced. If we had rowed down that course in a time of eight minutes plus (which is a terrible time for a lightweight double) on our own, what would that have meant? But we rowed down that course over eight minutes and beat five other doubles that went eight minutes plus more and it was exhilarating. What I'm trying to express here is that accomplishment is often measured off of what others do. We need to give more credit to the performance of our competitors because without them there we can not have the amazing moments that we experience in sport. The Greek double was last year's world champions, the Germans had an Olympic silver medalist in the boat. I'm not reflecting on these facts to brag, I'm trying to say that their amazing accomplishments of time's past are what allow me to feel proud and excited about what we have done and in that there is a cyclical passing on of success and achievement. The delivery of our absolute best (regardless of winning or losing) is what allows others to shine and feel accomplished. Our competitors' presence is not only necessary to have an event take place, but it is required in order to measure our own achievement. So know that no matter what your own outcome or placement, if you have pushed to the point of what you're capable of, you are as much a part of the earning of the gold medal as those that actually won it. Good thing we can all always train harder!

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Conversations with Myself"

I started this blog to be real, and I want to talk about real things. So far, I have mentioned nothing that is actually affecting me mentally and emotionally in rowing. I'm going to change that right now. For many who know my rowing career, they know that there have been many ups and downs I have dealt with politically within the sport. Disclaimer! I know this to be a struggle and hurdle for all athletes in all sport and I am not trying to make myself out to be someone who has to deal with more. However, here's the deal.

I came home from the world championships knowing that I would be training in Victoria instead of London because I believe in doing at least 200km per week (to try to sum up how I feel). I was in the airport and decided to purchase "Conversations with Myself" by Nelson Mandela. I figured who better to learn about conflict resolution from than this amazing man? I am by no means comparing my situation to the struggle to end apartheid or racial discrimination but why not try to better my way of thinking and dealing with struggle than reading what Mandela has to say about it? There was one quote that I really related to that I felt was worded in a way that I could never express but is exactly how I would define my feelings toward conflict:

"But even when the clash between you and me has taken the most extreme form, I should like us to fight over our principles and ideas and without personal hatred, so that at the end of the battle, whatever the result might be, I can proudly shake hands with you, because I feel I have fought an upright and worthy opponent who has observed the whole code of honour and decency. But when your subordinates continue to use foul methods then a sense of real bitterness and contempt becomes irresistible."

Following is RCA's athlete assistance criteria (the criteria that must be met in order to receive $1500 per month from the government to help in living and training expenses). I have tried to point out to them that based on the document they have compiled, they are legally bound by the wording to card me, they refuse. I train six hours a day, six days a week at an RCA center in the effort to win an Olympic gold medal and they will not grant me the finances to do it. Please note what I have highlighted in bold. I think it's no mystery that my international performance likely fits the other criteria. Tongue in cheek. There is no amount of conversation one might be able to have when the opposing side is not willing to listen.

The decision to nominate an athlete or coxswain to Sport Canada for AAP consideration shall be
made by the National Team Program Coaches in conjunction with the VP High Performance and
High Performance Director, and shall be based on the following criteria:
a) RCA requires that athletes in the AAP shall be registered with the association during the
application period and throughout the period of carding support.
b) Athletes shall have commenced full training by the first week of October at an RCA
National Training Centre or a training venue approved by the appropriate National Team
Program Coach for carding support to become effective on January 1.
c) Athletes who qualify for Under 23 or Junior programs for the identified carding year and
wish to train at a venue other than an RCA National Training Centre shall submit a written
request to the National Team Co-ordinator and the appropriate program coach by
the first week of September that outlines all relevant considerations. The request shall
also state the date by which the athlete will be back in full training at an RCA National
Training Centre following the period away. The approval for the athlete to train at an
alternate venue must be received in writing from the RCA High Performance Director or VP
High Performance. Senior National Team athletes are expected to be training at an RCA
National Training Centre.
d) Athletes not having commenced training at an RCA National Training Centre or an approved
venue by the first week of October shall be considered for carding at the discretion of the
RCA National Team Program Coach and the High Performance Director or VP High
Performance. Consideration will be given to those athletes who have exceptional
circumstances (exceptional circumstances must be submitted in writing to the National
Team Co-ordinator and the appropriate program coach for approval).
e) Athletes training outside Canada:
 Athletes will not normally be eligible for carding support during the period they are
outside the country, at an NCAA school, or receiving an athletic scholarship of any kind.
 Funding will be accessible upon return to the RCA High Performance program at an RCA
National Training Centre in Canada.
f) Athletes in training at a venue approved by his or her National Team Program Coach shall
be responsible for regularly communicating the details of their training programs to their
respective Program Coach.
g) Athletes shall have competed in the most recent National Championships (or its
designated equivalent) unless an exemption is approved by the RCA High Performance
Director or VP High Performance.
h) Following the National Championships (or its designated equivalent), athletes shall complete
a 6km national team ergometer test under approved supervision and submit the result with
other required information to the RCA National Team Coordinator.
i) Athletes must provide a signed Athlete Agreement and a written declaration of intent to
compete for a position on the Canadian National Rowing Team to the RCA National Team
Coordinator. Please see section 14 – Important Dates.
Any exceptions to these criteria shall be at the discretion of the RCA High Performance Director
or VP High Performance

Thursday, February 3, 2011

...the follow up

Ok, ok, so it's been a while. I have to admit that it has been partly because there have been no inspiring, interesting thoughts that have popped into my head and it's probably because I'm back on the spracko (you know what that means if you know rowing) and I'm not only physically exhausted, I'm pretty much brain dead too. I fall asleep twice every night: once on the couch at 7pm and again in bed at 930pm when Gabe encourages me to go to an actual bed.

Anyway, I want to explain the reason for the English lesson a few weeks back. Most athletes have dealt with and most of the general public have referred to the "angel and the devil on my shoulder". In many challenging situations in life we have that voice that we hear that either tells us to do something that we know to be wrong, or we hear something encouraging, or we hear a voice that tells us to quit when it gets too hard. I have gone through my athletic career trying to fully understand the meaning of these two little spirits on my shoulder and I think I have decided they are words. For me, one whisper is relentlessness and the other (negative and detrimental) is complacency. I believe one to be what champions are made of, and the other to have never and will never produce an Olympic gold medalist. I think it is an athlete's responsibility to themselves to nurture and promote what is relentless inside of them and to diminish the whispers of complacency. I have learned and know that environment plays a huge role in which word-voice decides to appear in those moments when we are truly tested. Sometimes complacency doesn't even allow the athlete to get to the max point of will and strength. That's the problem! Our team mates' attitudes, or focus on what is important to winning and our goal making is how we stay relentless. Complacency is when we think what we are doing is "good enough", not being worried about missing a few details here and a few details there, and it is definitely contagious. The good news though, so too is's just harder to catch, but that's why champions are rare.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Relentless (adjective)

showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength or pace

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Complacency (noun)

1. self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

2. an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back in the Saddle

November 5, 2010 marked the day that Tracy and I went down the 2km rowing course as the fastest lightweight double in the world. Yesterday marked the first day that we were in the double together since that great day. It's a weird thought that two people can accomplish something so amazing together and literally walk away from the moment and not step foot in a boat together again until two months later. Two months may seem long, but I asked her when the last time her and Mel rowed together (Tracy's bronze medal winning partner from the 2008 Olympics) and they haven't been in a boat since the day of the Olympic final. Rowing is interesting that way. We exist in a moment of time that is intense and focused and often brings us some of the best memories in our lives, but when it's over, it's over. However, we hope to make that not true.
We put our blades in, sat down in the boat and before we even took a stroke were giddy with excitement. One stroke, two strokes, was like getting into an old worn saddle that at first seems unfamiliar but starts to fit very quickly. I'm sure we've lost a lot of speed since that memorable day, but it felt like home. It felt like how I imagine an old grey couple to feel when they sit on their porch, sipping tea in silence; no need for words, no need to try too hard, just being yourself. Rowing is wonderfully unique that way because if you have a partner that is willing and able to listen, you can speak to them with your blade. Now to save myself from getting uber cheesy, there was really no point to writing this blog, but I felt it was worth mentioning that WE'RE BACK! There's work to do, but we ain't going no where. The Brits, the Greeks, the Germans aren't getting it easy cause the Canadians know how to ride!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hugging Palm Trees

No photos of alligators or manatees yet but soon! In the darkness of the early morning, my plane touched down in Orlando, Florida where the Canadian women's rowing team is having their first training camp of the new year. For most, it's pretty exciting to get back on the water after almost a month off. I have been lucky to be rowing, but the sweetness for me comes in a sunny, 15C package instead of rain, rain and more rain. Rain. It's cold in the rain. Did you know it rains in Victoria? Anyway, you get my point.
So here I am looking forward to being with the team, having some great training sessions, working really hard, all that stuff. I'm almost to the point of being nervous with excitement because usually I'm out there alone with no gauge and no way to tell for sure just what speed I have, however I see this camp as pressure to perform. Then, as the plane is taxiing towards the gate I hear from the seat behind, a comment. It comes from one of three little girls (probably heading to Disney World). She speaks with amazement and awe and with the adoration that only an eight year old could muster, "Awww, palm trees. I've never seen palm trees before", then a slight pause, "I think I'm going to hug a palm tree". I think it might have been on the top ten list of cutest things I have ever heard. That little comment changed my whole perspective on this whole camp. Even after 12am after more than 12hrs of travel, she made me smile to myself in my seat. Relax, have fun, do what you do. Life is pretty damn good as an athlete and no practice at this camp is the Olympic final, so chill. I'm just gonna hug palm trees and enjoy every moment on the water :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winning is Easy: A tribute to the heroes of the rear

So again, I wasn't planning on posting anything today but the thoughts are just flowing. I was mid-piece today and watching some pairs behind me that were struggling away and getting beat like you'd think no one would get beat if they were on the national team and I started thinking: winning is easy. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about winning the world championships because there's much preparation and hard work that goes into beating very capable opponents. Or winning the Olympics (something I know nothing about). I'm talking about winning pieces in practice. When you're in the lead and kicking ass, it's pretty damn easy to just keep going, but it's not so easy to be losing by the curvature of the earth and keep going. So that leads to a question: who are practices' true heroes? I'll say this, I can't tell you who won a single run today but I can tell you who lost repeatedly (and therefore must have been hurting physically and emotionally) and didn't go in. Now I'm not saying to sculpt a memorial for all the people who lose because they don't try their hardest, but there is something that should be recognized in those that show up not in the best shape they can be in and keep sticking it out even when it can't be that much fun. Because eventually, with that perseverance, they won't be at the back of the pack anymore and there will be some other hero to take their place. Haha, no just kidding but it's interesting to think that sometimes we award kudos to the people who are just having fun. I realize those people are in the lead for a reason: dedication, technique, fitness, genetics, attention to detail bla bla bla, but can we all agree that the true test of character is not what we accomplish when it's easy, but how we choose to behave when it's hard?

It Ain't Over 'till It's Over

This evening I came home from practice, made dinner and sat down to watch the much anticipated jr. hockey final Canada vs. Russia. With a Buffalo, New York rink filled with red jerseys the Canadians had pretty much home team advantage even though the game was being hosted by our southern neighbour. Starting off the third period with a 3-0 advantage, Canada was looking solid to win the gold medal; however, in the final minutes of the game, Russia pulled through to score five goals, ending Canada's dream of a second gold medal in hockey this year.

Now I wasn't going to write a blog entry today but this game was a kind reminder of what many athletes experience...the phenomenon of "It ain't over till it's over". Unfortunately, I'm sitting here watching the drawn down faces of fellow Canadians on what will probably be remembered for them as the worst night of their lives (despite accomplishing an impressive silver medal in international hockey) but what stands out is that the Russian performance in the third period reminds us that as long as there's another shot to be made, a stroke to be taken, a stride to run etc., there's a chance to win. It's much better remembering these lessons when you're sitting on your couch and not experiencing the down side of "the phenomenon" in action, so I'm making a mental note to never give up and most importantly, never take a lead for granted, sometimes the fat lady sings late and sometimes she sings for the other team...

Officially Back at It

January 4th, 2011 marked the first official practice of the new year. Of course, as I mentioned in the last entry, the team was excellent this year and not letting the holidays get in the way of staying in shape, but there's always something a little tougher about being in that big group with a few motor boats following behind calling out rates and technical stuff that keep you on the edge.

I've started off as last year as the lone female sculler on the lake and it's always a challenge to maintain that intensity and enthusiasm when there aren't other girls around to try to beat but I usually manage to start myself in a position where the odd men's single and really hurting pair can't quite pass me. Sometimes I think no one even knows I'm there and that's hard, but most times that just drives me to work harder because I can put myself on that start line every day against the real opponents: the world. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in beating each other that we forget that the real competition sits in waiting in foreign countries with different equipment, different coaches and different ideas of what it takes to win. Don't get me wrong, I love the group and I see the value in it, but at the end of the day, medals aren't awarded on Elk Lake or Lake Fanshawe, we want those precious pieces of medal around our necks on a podium far, far away...

To Do What Others Can't, You Must Do What Others Won't

This has been the theme over the christmas break. After a motivating team meeting it was decided that in order to improve on last year's performances at worlds, the team must use christmas break not as a time to gain weight, lose fitness and drink too much christmas joy, but utilise the days to get ahead of the competition. The result: one of the most successful christmas training breaks I have ever accomplished. However, it's still not over and it's hard getting that motivation to wake up on a dark winter morning to go row when there may or may not be others there...but there always has been someone there and that's why it has been successful. When a team is willing to back each other by showing up in the hardest moments, that's when brilliance starts to happen. I showed up at the lake last week prepared for a 12km steady big deal right? Malcolm had 20km in mind, so that's what I did. Would I have done it if he weren't there? Probably not. So I used that as the theme of the break and I tried to think every time I didn't want to do something "Who else in the world doesn't want to train right now? Let's hope they don't, because I'm going to." I've erged, I've rowed, I've ran and the best workout yet...two hour x-country skis that I'm so terrible at that I'm sure my output (based on pure inefficiency) is far greater than anything I can do on the rowing machine.

Anyways, a toast to great team mates who inspired the true holiday spirit: train when others don't!