Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Visit to Dr Keith

Today was my first weights and ergo sessions of the season, both went well and feeling content on how I view my season going forward.
I also went to Harley Street, not for cosmetic surgery - though some say my nose could do with it, but to see Dr Keith (Consultant Orthopaedic and Sports Physician). We talked through some of the back issues I have been having and have decided a good path forward. I had an epidural to help settle down an irritated disc and will have some further injections in the lead-up to Christmas; they will tighten and strengthen the ligaments around my lumber spine, creating a strong platform to build upon. In all my years rowing I have had no significant lumber back issues so I hope that this will settle soon and let me get on with training without distractions. The important thing is to set myself up to be strong, consistent and ready to take the load of the next 618 days. Bring it...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

First day back

Today was the first day back training at Caversham; I trained twice, had physio (Sally and Griff) and saw Dr Ann. I see the back specialist tomorrow on Harley Street, will give an update on how that goes.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Season round-up

So this season is the longest I, and many others, have had to do; this was because the Senior World Champs were held in New Zealand and to prevent bad weather effecting racing, the Championships were moved from the usual end of August slot to the beginning of November.

It has been my first season training full-time with the senior men under Jurgen Grobler. Jurgen sets the hardest programme out there, his coaching track record speaks for itself ( and and alongside him we are supported by some of the best people in their field. I have found the year tough and have struggled at times, but i have achieved success through this summer's racing season.

My international racing season started well with a Gold in the eight in Bled [Slovenia] ( followed up with a disappointing performance in Munich [Germany] where we won a Bronze medal ( - click on World Cup II and then M8+).

At Henley I raced in the Diamond Challenge Sculls, drawing the multiple World Champion Mahe Drysdale (NZ) in the quarter final. Knowing i would be up against it i decided to take it to him, quite literally, and led for the first 1/4 mile, cutting across Mahe's path, trying to force him into a mistake. "Poking the bear" isn't always the best option, but in reality it was my only option; he was rattled enough to get angry and we clashed, eventually he came out on top and i capitulated - knowing that the race was now over. Matt Pinsent CBE was umpiring and should have disqualified me, i pushed it to the limit and only narrowly missed being penalised. The whole escapade was featured as part of a documentary on SKY Sports 1 [NZ], earning myself 5 Min's of "fame" round the other side of the world [sadly no link available at the moment].

As Henley finished I started a two week build-up into the U23 World Championships. This year they were held in Brest [Belarus] and had a definite Soviet flavour. Here is my report for the ULBC website ( -

"On our way to Belarus we approached the edge of the European Schengen zone, i turned my prayer mat to mecca and hoped Churchill's "iron curtain" was not a metaphor but a reality. Polish bureaucracy had us held in sweltering heat for over two hours; the border guards, kitted out with peaked hats larger than their torso's, were getting aggressive whenever we left our coach to get some air. This left us with two options, we either get back on and sweat it out or rush the border football hooligan style - we decided to stay on the bus. Eventually we parked up at the Belarussian border, a FISA translator bordered the bus - giving us instructions on how to fill out our visa forms and that we should turn our watches back 40 years. I felt like i just pulled up in Hartington Road; mullets, savage knitwear and pikey dogs all appeared to be status symbols. Our "hotel" made the cupboard under no. 87's stairs look enticing, and the food made Fil look like Delia in the kitchen. The course was large, well maintained and kitted out with everything we needed [minus clean bogs]. For the first few days we prepared for the racing ahead, getting used to the course and making fine adjustments to our technique. I was sat at bow in the coxless four, ahead of me sat Matt Rossiter, George Nash and Stan Louloudis. We all got on well and spent most of our time either saying "g'day skippy" to any kiwi girls, purchasing filthy soviet watches from "Central Department Store Brest" or rating the local women on a scale of 0 to Dawn French. Our heat went well, we focused on our own plan and executed well. Winning the heat meant we gained a rest day before the semi-finals. In the semi's we drew the weaker half of the field, we knew the other semi was a lot harder and hoped this meant that they would tire each other out. We won our semi, with the Italians (who we beat in the heat) winning the other semi. This meant we were the crew to beat in the final. As we had only been together as a unit for barely more than a week, we knew we had to repeat what had gone well in the earlier rounds and stick to a fairly rehearsed plan. In the final we knew our pace was stronger than many of the other crews and hoped to push them outside of their comfort zone. Unfortunately the greasy wops - sorry Italians - learnt from the heat and turned the tables on us, they led out of the blocks. We did not react, deliberately so, and looked to grind them down through the middle of the race. It became a four horse race; Italy, GB, Czech Republic and Australia. With 750m to go we had to make our move and we started to take it home, we gained on Valentino, Dolmio, Fiat and Casanova - but not enough. We crossed the line 1.7 seconds behind Italy, smoking the Australians by a cool 0.07 seconds. Silver is not the medal we went to pick up, and with each member of the crew being a junior world champion at some point, we had experience of winning internationally and a strong desire to repeat."

I returned from U23s disappointed, knowing the crew was capable of winning but on the day just missed out. I had no time to rest as I joined the senior team on altitude camp in Silveratta [Austria].

Seats in the eight were still up for grabs and I was keen to show I had the skills to make the boat go fast. Unexpectedly I was asked to change sides (from bowside to strokeside), I have won international medals on both sides and so have the flexibility to compete rowing either way. Trials took place over the following weeks and sadly I didn't make the eight but was selected as the strokeside spare for the team competing at the World Champs. I then started to get some back trouble (typical injury in rowers). As a consequence I was sent home early from our camp in Varese [Italy] to be able to have two epidurals - one on my thorasic and one on my lumber spine. Our medical support is phenomenal, they decided I needed a scan while in Italy, within 36 hours I had been flown back, scanned, diagnosed and had my first epidural. With a relatively short re-hab period my back was strong enough for me to be back into full training; immediately I was back filling into the eight as there were numerous people carrying niggles (most likely due to the length season).

Mid-October we left for New Zealand. We had two week to acclimatise (it took me easily 10 days to feel normal, far longer than I had experienced when I raced at the Youth Olympics in Sydney [Australia]). We were training at Lake Karipiro, near Cambridge/Hamilton, as this was where the Championships would be held. In all honesty the water was poor, as soon as there was any hint of a breeze the water would chop up and make it difficult to row. Facilities and the atmosphere were really good, and the standard of the racing was significantly higher than I saw while spare at the Senior Champs the previous year in Poznan [Poland]. Our team did really well, I think the best we have ever done at a Champs. Nearly every boat came back with a medal, showing real depth to the team and demonstrating we have one of the best systems in place to achieve the success we want at the games in 2012.

I am currently on a two week break, letting my body recover and relax; I'm looking forward to starting back at Caversham on the 23rd Nov.