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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!