Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to you and your family!

It's been a busy fortnight and i will update further soon. Thanks to all of you who have been following my journey for the past year and I hope to make 2012 worth reading.

A particular thanks to all those at Atos (including the ladies at Threshold), BMW, UK Sport, the County Durham Community Foundation and John Elliott and Co at Ebac. Without their support I wouldn't be able to train full-time with world class facilities and equipment and enabling me to deliver as consistently as I can in both training and racing. I also thank O2 for the opportunity to gain work experience within their legal team and I thank all the staff at GB Rowing for their fantastic work. Particular thanks to the coaches, physio's, physiologists, doctors and athletes who help make this such an exciting (albeit very challenging) period in my life.

Above all, family and friends have supported me for longer than anyone else. I hope we can have a great 2012 - not just rowing but in real life too.

My one Christmas Blog wish is that people feel free to comment / ask questions / challenge etc on any and all posts I make. If you're feeling shy you can even do it anonymously!

I'm on Twitter @nrod2012.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Blue Peter, BMW and stuff

Thanks to Berry Chiswick BMW I'm now cruising the streets of Richmond in a new car.  It's a diesel and so it means I can get used to a decent MPG again.  Great vehicles, appreciated greatly!

This week my little sister Emily became a proud recipient of a Blue Peter badge, at 10 (or any age for that matter) life really doesn't get any better than that!  She was awarded the badge for her County Durham Tourist Guide.  We are a family of five children, so it's great that Emily has been able to out-perform all of us and be the first ever Reilly-O'Donnel to be a Blue Peter badge holder.  Well done Em!

[for foreign readers - Blue Peter is a major BBC childrens factual programme.  It's been going for decades and very much part of British culture.  Competition winners are awarded the Blue Peter badge.]

As mentioned in my last post, I went to see Michael McIntyre with Louise and her sister last Monday night.  It was held at Norden Farm in Maidenhead, pretty small venue (seats 225) and so was really good to have a pub comedy night feel with such a recognised comedian.  The warm-up act was Mark (insert surname here) and was actually just as good as Michael.  The show was used as a warm-up gig for his Christmas Special - hopefully he didn't tell all his best jokes!

Beyond all this excitment, training has been tough (standard) and I've been making the transition from the bike/cross-trainer onto the ergo.  Things have gone alright - the rate of recovery is never linear - I'm looking forward to getting back onto the normal programme.

Plus I've started Christmas shopping.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Project Back in Action

Last night my housemates Charlie, Chris and Susie (week days known as James) - who all weirdly have the initials CJ - pointed out to me that the last video posting was "a bit depressive" and "here I am on a cliff ready to jump" sort of vibe.  I thought I best not leave that as my latest posting.

Since the incident in the gym a lot has happened.  I've progressed with my general mechanics and discomfort pretty well and I was chomping at the bit to do more and more each day.  While all these aspects were improving I also started to notice some funky nerve things going on - nothing particularly strong, but enough for the medics to hold back the progression onto the bike and ergo.  It meant I was restricted to the pool and the cross-trainer.  At this same time the descision was made that I should go for a scan and get things checked out - particularly with the nerve stuff going on.  I saw a Spainish doctor to get another assessment - all she did was mock my flexibility and confirm what we had already decided.  Late Wednesday night the descision was taken  that I was to go home early Friday, with the hope that I could get a scan before the weekend and then see the consultant on Monday.  Dr Ann used her persuasive patter to infact arrange both the scan and the consultant for Friday.  Thursday was therefore my last day at altitude, I wanted to make up (as best I could) for the two days I would be missing by leaving early.  It meant, along with an hours cross-trainer, I spent 3 hours in the pool "swimming" [Hodge decided his afternoon off would be best spent taunting me and filming].  Friday was an early start to get down the mountain to the main town.  From there I got a coach to Malaga (3 hours) and then a taxi to the airport.  Hand-luggaging it the whole way so I could make my appointments in Central London. I landed at Gatwick 2pm, scanned in Russell Square at 4:30pm and saw the consultant on Harley St. at 6pm - busy day.  The scan showed I had a slight tear and bulge in one of my lower discs and so was given an epidural to help reduce the swelling and speed up the healing process.

Today I caught up with Dr Ann and I'm hoping to be building up the training over the week.  I won't know where I'm totally at with things until later in the week.

Next week is Louise's birthday and her sister Rachel has got her tickets to see Michael McIntyre tonight.  Thankfully she chose me as her "plus one" and I'll be having more of a light-hearted evening.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Friday, 25 November 2011

Does everything that goes up have to come down?

It's been a little while since I've posted and a lot has happened in the past 10 days.  I'm currently in Sierra Nevada [Spain] on the first altitude camp of the season.  Before we flew out it was a busy final week at Caversham.

Last week saw the first batch of testing in the 2012 Olympic season.  These tests were more informal than some of the more serious ones still to come, but they are an initial marker on the board as we all look to secure our places as individuals on the team.  We were tested on the water and on the ergo.  The water performance went particularly well for me.  I was pairing with Alex Partridge and we showed that the good speed we had in training could be translated into the racing.  The second type of testing was on the ergo - 2km - this is normally more of a challenge for me.  Going into the test I knew I had made very good gains on the longer training ergos, but had not idea of my "race pace".  It meant it was more of a "jump on and see" exercise than knowing exactly what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it.  At the end I was 3 seconds away from my PB, which was ok but it was really a bare-minimum performance.  I knew midway through that I was struggling and looked to take it on from what turned out to be a bit too far out.  It meant I blew my doors off close to the finish, just a tad too early.

On Monday we flew very early from Gatwick to Malaga; it was then a 3-4 hour coach journey up into the mountains to reach the training centre at 2320m altitude.  Camp started hard, I reckon I was still feeling the effects of the testing at the end of the previous week and I particularly struggled Wednesday morning.  Thankfully I turned that round and moved my scores in the right direction, showing pace significantly stronger than I had been capable off when we were last here in January.  Then last night disaster struck.

As regular readers will know, rowers and their backs are like a naked flame and a polyester jumper.  Something that really don't mix too well.  My back has had its fair share of problems, but for the past year it has been getting stronger and more reliable as time passes.  Suddenly last night my back went, leading to a massive spasm and severe pain.  24 hours haven't even passed yet, and im still in a significant amount of discomfort, but I'm already showing signs of improvement - even if I can't sit down, walk naturally or even lie down without getting twinges.  It makes typing awkward and so I hope you will excuse me as I try to rest up.  It is now a waiting game, hopefully it will pass nearly as quickly as it came.

On a quick positive note, thank you to those that have donated to the Movember Campaign (thanks to Atos for chipping in too!).  If you've got a spare £1 to help raise awareness for men's health issues please visit - .

Below is a picture Tony Fleat from O2 and his tashtastic growth.  There is also a Freddy Mercury-esque picture of me.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Busy week ahead

Sophie "don't mess" Atkinson @ O2

A reasonably big week has gone by, definitely feeling it - but in a lot better shape than I expected. 

I woke up Wednesday morning with a hot/cold fever and thought it was going to be a double-tops check out (c.f. darts); I toughed it out and actually started to feel better.  Jurgen says "what comes with rowing, goes with rowing" - it didn't quite work like that when I had a chest infection, but this time it worked out just fine.

This week see's us taper down for our first internal trial of the year; it will be followed by a 2km ergo test on Saturday.  Both will be first markers for the season, I hope to convert strong training performances into good results.

The photo above was taken earlier in the week.  I'm with Sophie (my gaffer at O2).  My moustache makes me look like Cyrille Snear and she looks mean - but she's actually really nice.

Coming up - Next Monday I'll be flying to Sierra Nevada [Spain] for the first altitude camp of the season.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Movember, Four's Head and month of pain.

Training has gone into 6th gear, the problem is I thought I was only driving a five speed. In the next fortnight I've got an internal trial on the water and an ergo (rowing machine) test. I'll then be heading out to Sierra Nevada for one of our altitude camps. You can read about last years Sierra Nevada camp by checking out the blog posts from January in the archive.

I came second at the Four's Head (in our boat class) and came 8th overall. We were 2.3 secs behind the winning Molesey crew, which isn't very much over an 18min race! We should have won, but we ended up taking a detour towards Westfield and the King's Road - sadly didn't pick up any decent bargains to give that cloud a silver lining.

If you follow me on Twitter you will see that I've been supporting the Movember campaign. Fundamentally it's about raising awareness for male specific illnesses, specifically prostate and testicular cancer. I will talk about it again soon - in the interim you can do three things

1) Men, make sure you don't become that statistic, book your annual doctor's appointment and get that check-up. (Women you can encourage your nearest man)

2) You can donate to the campaign at

3) Pass the word on.

As always, thanks for reading. Questions or ideas welcome.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Fours Head

Tomorrow is the Fours Head.  It's an annual race held on the River Thames; running from Mortlake to Putney (the boat race course in "reverse").  Until a couple of weeks ago I didn't realise I could actually do the race this year (I thought we wouldn't be released from GB commitments), and it was only a few days ago that I found out I would be racing at all.

I'm filling into a Leander four as one of the other guys on the team hasn't recovered from an injury.  I row for the University of London, but lots of guys are enticed to go to Leander as they offer free breakfasts.  I won't be selling my soul anytime soon though, I'll sort my own breakfast out thanks.

If you're in West London, the best places you can watch the race are from Barnes Bridge, Hammersmith Bridge or one of the few pubs that line the route. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

County Durham Community Foundation event

The County Durham Community Foundation held their Realising Dreams event today.  Sadly, I couldn't make it, but my mum and Emily went on my behalf.  Above, Emily is posing with Chris Cook (Commonwealth, World & European Medalist & Olympic Finalist swimmer), she said it was like the paparazzi when she went out for photo's!  By all accounts (well, my mums account) she was shy at first but everyone made her feel very welcome and she had a great time.  The Foundation has helped me several times over the years.  Most recently they helped my buy a new single to train and race in.  They have been a fantastic support and have always been very helpful; John Elliott of Ebac Ltd (a donor to the Foundation) has been a particularly strong supporter.  The Foundation, and it's staff, champion the North East at any opportunity - helping projects, groups and individuals.  Their website is - give them a look.

Emily has been on half-term and blew her life savings on a Transylvanian families House.  My family in Leeds are going up to Durham on Sunday, I'm sure Emily will be showing my little cousin Eve round the new toy house.

Thanks again to the County Durham Community Foundation, good luck with all your current projects!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

What it feels like to be back in training...

Training in Seville seems like it was months ago, it's actually been 10 days.  Lots seems to have happened, in reality there hasn't been a huge amount going on.

I'm keeping this short as I'm really quite tired at the moment, my blood tests have shown I've been working on the edge a bit to much, but should be all ok.  My day at the moment is constant muscle fatigue, tightness and struggling to keep my eyes open. Two pieces of good news though - 1) My Granny won £75 on the bingo at the Irish Centre in Leeds on Sunday night - all ended up behind the bar no doubt. 2) My brother Ben has been selected to be a stakeboat boy at the Olympics.  In one of my May posts I explained what a stakeboat boy actually is!

"Some rowing trivia for you - when you line up on the start line you can be easily blown by the wind as you try and hold your position.  Two things help you stay in a straight line and make sure that you all start exactly on the line. 1) The stakeboat boy/girl - my brother Ben is hoping to be one at the Olympics and basically consists of hold the end of the boat while lying on your front on a pontoon. 2) Electronic "Clog" system - "Clogs" (they look like a lunch box) are raised from under the water, when you are held by the stakeboat boy/girl.  Its a small perspex box where you position your boat so that if the wind blows across the boat won't move.  The starting system is all electronic, so when the buzzer and lights go, the clog drops (fast) and releases all six eights like greyhounds at a dog track.  If you click on the link to the footage above, you can see a small splash of water at the front of the boat when the buzzer goes, that's the clog retracting back to its watery grave."

Ben will be experiencing the tension, nerves, excitement and aggression of the Olympic start line several times a day.  He's really pleased to have been selected and, if I'm lucky enough to be on the team, it would be amazing to have him there on the start line.
Right, I'm off to bed.  I've got some more training to do.  Night.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Debut on BBC Look North

A few weeks ago I met up with Katie Gornall from BBC Look North.  The final edit was shown on TV while I was away in Seville, so they sent me down a copy and said it was fine for me to post on here for my none North-Eastern/regional news viewers.  I particularly like the bit where I get rinsed by Paul the weatherman (right at the end); one day I might get to meet him and I can show him I'm a dab-hand at getting the weather wrong too :-)  The clip also features Hexam's very own Matt Wells (Olympic Bronze Medallist 2008); before anyone says it, yes I have told him how camp he sounds.

As alway you can follow me day to day on Twitter @nrod2012 plus you can receive blog posts to your inbox by signing up on the left hand side.  Comments and questions welcome.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Seville Training Camp (Vlog)

My Video Diary from the first training camp of the season (Seville, Spain).  It's not great, so feel free to leave comments for improvements.  As always, you can follow me on Twitter @nrod2012.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

First week back & Berry Chiswick BMW

The first week back at training has been a mixed bag.  It's been good to get back into a routine; it's been bad that the routine is being knacked and needing afternoon naps.  Training itself has gone reasonably well, been doing weights, ergo and water work.  All seems to be going ok - I proper chinned myself on the erg for the first couple of days but I settled down by the end of the week.  It's been a good laugh catching up with everyone, and with the rugby World Cup in full flow there is plenty to talk about.  If you were reading during the Six Nations you will know I like my rugby and Ireland are my team.  Things are looking good for them and they seem to be loving every minute they play - the England team seem to be loving every moment they aren't playing.

I recently signed a sponsorship contract with Berry Chiswick BMW (hence the new logo up top).  On Saturday I picked up an amazing car.  Flicking into sport mode to go to Sainsburys has never felt so good.  For the past couple of years I've been loaned a car by my housemate James.  I cannot thank him enough for the support he has (and continues) to show me; cash has been very tight at times, and he has helped keep me on the road throughout.  Getting to training, to the physio, doctor, weights room etc all requires a vechicle and the more reliable the better.  Thanks to Berry Chiswick I will be arriving on 18" alloys with Dolly Parton blaring out from the stereo.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Back to school

Tomorrow we start back training at Caversham.  Today feels a lot like the last day of the school holidays, except i haven't got a new uniform and my backpack has held-out for another year.

The time out has been really quite hectic.  The first half spent on holiday (see earlier posts) and the second half seeing family, friends and doing some work.

A week ago I did my first ever corporate conference speaking gig.  Atos provide a bursary to help with training related costs and they invited me to speak at the Best Western Annual Sales Conference - bit of a mouthful but it was an interesting event.  I find it intriguiging to hear what companies are upto and how they plan for the future.  My role was to chat about what I do day to day and how I play my part in a team.  I think I did ok, nobody walked out!

Last weekend I made it home [Durham] for a few days to see family.  It's rare that there is a gap big enough in the programme for me to go home, so it's always hectic meeting up with people I haven't seen in ages.  I picked up my Granny on the way up (she lives in Leeds) and made it just-in-time to pick up my little sister Emily from school.

On the way home we went to get Dad an early Birthday/Christmas present - ok very early Birthday/Christmas present.  That chat at home had been that Dad was impressed with what the Ipad could do, but he would never justify that expense to himself.  So Louise, Emily and I went to PC World.  It turned out the 3g model I wanted wasn't in stock, after umming and arrring Emily churps up "well there is Argos, I think you can get them in there".  The bloke at PC World looked a bit shifty and then laughed in a belittling manner, I said to him "I reckon you might", he said "no, they only do accessories".  Emily says - rather quietly now (obviously feeling a bit put out and embarassed) - "you know, I think they do them in Tesco now too", "are you sure Emily?" "I think so, but it might be ones that look like it".  Again, PC World guy says they don't do it, they just do accesories - no Apple products.  He also tells me what a great deal the next model up is.  We leave, I reckon I can get the one I want in Durham the next day.  Just to make sure, I run into Argos - low and behold Emily was right and the one I wanted was in stock!  I popped into Tesco to grab milk, boom Emily Reilly-O'Donnell strikes again - not only did they also have the one I wanted, but the accessories I couldn't get hold of in PC World were there too.  Nice one Emily, I should never have doubted you.

The weekend was busy but it was great to catch up with lots of people.  Between games of Angry Birds we made it to Beamish Wild for some high-ropes fun.

Posing "Asian style" as Ben put it - bit different from the usual "Irish Catholic" [below]

This last week has been as busy as the last.  I've been into O2 a couple of times; went to my first ever O2 Legal Meat Club meeting - lots of steak; met up with my mate Tom for dinner and drinks Thursday night; had a brief apprearance on Harley Street (I will talk about that next week) and Dan Richie (in my 8 at the World Champs) had his stag do in London this weekend.

You can follow me on Twitter @nrod2012 and you can receive posts direct to your inbox by signing up on the left-hand side.  Feel free to ask questions/make comments etc.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Holiday after the Worlds

After the Worlds had finished I stayed out there and went to Venice with my girlfriend Louise.  It was a great place to visit, fantastic weather and enjoyed somewhere different.  Here are some photo's -

When in Venice you can't really not go on a Gondola, but at £80 a go I was expecting a bit more speed and less stinky chat - probably why I don't look totally excited there.

From Venice we went on to a place called Grado on the Med.  As soon as we arrived we realised it wasn't all that it said it was.  After avoiding a coach party of pensioners from Dusseldorf, we decided to not bother checking in and to make our way to an internet cafe.  We decideded to head back in the direction of Bled, with a couple of phone numbers for apartments in hand.  Luckily we struck gold with a great apartment and amazing hosts.  We did lots of water sports type stuff and had a great time. I got back on Monday and I've been into O2 the past few days.  Now trying to get some washing and admin done before I go to home via Stoke for the Atos event.

You can receive posts to your inbox by filling in your email on the left; you can also follow me on Twitter @nrod2012.  Feel free to leave comments or ask questions - it's always good to be given ideas to write about.

Racing round-up

All of the Eight plus Christian, our coach.

So it's a couple of weeks since we have raced, lots has happened since then and soon I will need to hit the gym more often.  I've got a few things happening over the coming days including a conference with Best Western and Atos tomorrow and then heading on up home to see my family.

To the racing; the Eight is the biggest and fastest event in rowing, and an event that is becoming ever closer – meaning the margins between winning and losing, qualifying or not qualifying are closer than ever.  We had a consistent Championships with wins in the Heat and the Semi-final; sadly in the final we couldn’t quite make it to the front of the pack and came away with a silver medal.  The race itself was differcult due to choppy conditions in the second half, it meant making no mistakes and dealing with it as best we could.  It wasn't our greatest of rows, but we can't come away saying "if it wasn't for this or that we would have..." as second place is where we have been positioning all year.  A silver medal feels good, but our team is so successful and our ambitions are so high, that anything less than the win is a disappointment.  The winners of the event were the German Eight, they are a formidable force (world champions ’09, ’10 and ’11) but they’re not unbeatable – they just seem to be at the moment.  Placing in the top 7 at this World Champs automatically qualifies the boat for the Olympics – this is important as next year there is only one last qualification slot available.  It means the boat, but not the individuals, will be guaranteed a place on the start line in 2012.  For the next 11 months my sole aim is to gain a place on the Olympic Team.  If I do that, by trying my hardest and being the best I can be, I will be putting in the work to go for Olympic Gold.

If you missed the racing you can watch the semi-final here by scrolling through the clips at the bottom, the mens 8+ semi's are at the far right (we are semi-final 1).

You can watch the final on the BBC here  and you can watch Greg's video diary here (Greg sat 5 seats ahead of me).

Friday, 9 September 2011

On Holiday

Coming towards the end of my holiday in Europe.  I've been to Venice and been fleeced left right and centre (really nice place though!) and now back in Slovenia for some relaxing and adventure activities.  Check out my Twitter (@nrod2012) for day to day photo's and updates.  I will give a full round-up of the racing and holiday adventures once back in the UK next week.  I hear the weather is a bit pants back in the UK - gutted for everyone - I've been in shorts for the last two months #unlucky :-)

ps while I've been away Emily turned 10, she had a great day with lots of presents ("mainly clothes, bling and transylvainian families; all really good").

Friday, 2 September 2011

World Silver Medal

Yesterday we won a silver medal at the World Champs.  There is much to say but the most important thing is to thank all those that have helped and supported me on my journey so far.  I thank the numerous coaches and support staff - past and present; Atos; UK Sport/National Lottery; Ebac/County Durham Community Foundation; Siemens/GB Rowing; St Leonard's School; University of London Boat Club and all the friends and family that have been there through thick and thin. 

Today will be the first time in quite a while that I have a day off from training.  I will fill you in on this week in due course.  Have a great Friday.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Two Days to Go.

Lake Bled 

So we've been in Bled for a few days now, being in civilisation is a welcome change.  After several weeks either high up in the Alps or in the outback of Portugal, it's nice to be around new people.  We've been lucky to train in some really picturesque locations and Bled doesn't disappoint as a final destination.  In two days time the World Rowing Championships will start and it's time to execute all that we have been doing in training.

While we are pretty serious on the water, we've generally had a good laugh when on the land.  There are several dozen running jokes, which when you try to explain you never really capture the same moment, sometimes they make their way onto Twitter, many do not.  Towards the end of the camp in Portugal the hotel dog gave birth, ironically it gave birth under the balcony of the resident Keith Lard of the team, leading to several "come to daddy" jokes for the next 24 hours.  There was also a twittergate incident where it was joked that one of the crews fell in, it didn't go down well so we had to delete the tweets.  After our journey out to Bled I posted a video of us "training" in the airport - it's had a great responce and has been featured all over the t'internet.  These are just a few of the laughs we have, but now it's time to get down to racing.

Last night we had a reception hosted by the British Ambassador to Slovenia, it was a mainly informal affair for the team to meet Embassy staff and dignitaries from Slovenia (including the Mayor of Bled, the Slovenian Olympic Committee chairman, the Slovenian Minister for Sport, some famous gymnast and the leader of the Organising Committee for the World Champs).  I'm told that the UK Minister for Sport will be joining us next week, along with the British Olympic Association chairman - Lord Moynihan [I'll be keeping my wallet close when he's about].

Ambassador Reception 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Still in Aviz

I can't even remember when I actually got here and don't even know when we leave, but I know we will be here for a few more days yet!  I really feel we are on the cusp of some really key changes.  The building blocks of work we have been doing all year are hopefully coming together to place us in the best shape to perform come the end of August/beginning of September.  Being in an eight means that things can become complicated very easily when really our objective is shockingly simple - to WIN.  I think we have been mindful of that all season; now is when it really counts.

We live, eat, sleep, work and socialise together; this can get pretty intense and this means we know each other so well but it also means we can probably frustrate each other too.  I feel I have probably been frustrated and the frustrating at times this last week; not that anything has kicked off or anything like that.  It's sometimes hard to get the balance of expressing/not expressing - and sometimes not expressing is worse that expressing!  All teams are made stronger by the diversity of the individuals; we all bring strengths, perspectives and skills.  We also have a shared journey, each getting there in our own way, each with our own story to tell.  Over the next few days I'm going to compile a video introducing the rest of my team, hopefully you can get a flavour of the guys I'm pleased to call "my crew".

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Riot in Aviz - August

As JD Sports is taking a kicking from 250 chavs, I'm in Aviz [Portugal] on our final preparations camp for the 2011 World Rowing Champs.  Positives - the pictures look great and the water is great for rowing on. Negatives - its so hot my wee evaporates before hitting the toilet seat [joke].

So far I've escaped sunburn (thanks to factor 50+ cream and stick) and have only come close to passing out once.  The day in question was yesterday; an hour ergo, no air flow and a body temp resembling arrests per hour in Hackney.  I'm not really a heat person, much prefer the cold - surprising when I grew up in the OC (Old Cassop not Orange County).

The camp has so far been dominated with discussions on the riots and the love/hate of the heat out here; therefore I haven't really got much more to talk about!

My current daily routine -
6:15am Wake - take heart rate, produce blood and urine samples.
6:30am Breakfast
7am Row
9am 2nd Breakfast
11am Row
1pm Lunch
4pm Afternoon Tea
4:30pm Gym
7pm Dinner
9:30pm Sleep

Around that I will have meetings/physio/sleep/quick 10min cool off in pool.

My bro's Ben and Paddy are back from China and Peru, my sis Emily is still available for chimney sweep work.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Back from altitude camp

Yesterday I landed back in the UK after a gruelling altitude camp.  I was pleased with my personal performance, with a PB on every ergo I did. 

The lake has a large cafe at one end of the dam; so throughout the day you have coach loads of austro-german pensioners stopping off for a quick bite to eat and a good old push-in the queue.  The views are amazing, but this can be lost on you as you get into the tiring stages of the camp.  Today I've been training at Caversham and tomorrow I will fly out to Portugal for our final preparations for the World Championships.  We will fly straight from the camp to the Championships in Bled [Slovenia].  I'm generally in great shape, but with some back niggles - as many rowers have!  Thankfully we have great medical staff.

My brother Ben is racing well in China and my brother Paddy is on his flight back from Peru - hopefully he doesn't start spouting "gap-yah" tush.

I will be able to give more updates while in Portugal.  If off to buy some more suncream as will be 40+ degrees!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Silveretta 2011

If you've been following me on Twitter (@nrod2012) you will have seen the pictures above already.  This is Lake Silveretta, the location for GB Rowing's [heavyweight men] summer altitude camp.  The weather can change very quickly and so it can be green one moment and then a blanket of snow a blink later.

This camp is heavy work and used to prepare us for the World Championships.  There is a distinct self-harm sort of feel to the camp, but at least with this you know it will actually help.

My brother Paddy has just gone off to Peru to find himself; probably will half-way through being eaten alive and having the runs for the third time.  He will be back in a month so really looking forward to hearing his stories; I'd love to swan round South America for a bit.

My brother Ben has been selected for the British Universities rowing team that will race at EUSA (European Student Champs).  Really pleased for him as his season has been marred with complications.  The competition is in Russia, again somewhere I'm really keen to go.  I was in Belarus last year and loved the Soviet vibe, I imagine Red Square takes it to a whole new level.  Ben will also be racing with UL in China, I think he leaves in the next week or so.  I've been on a similar trip with UL and loved every minute - well nearly.  China takes tat to a whole new level, hopefully Ben can fetch me something particularly ridiulous.

My sister's Charlotte and Emily are chilling in Old Cassop, living the no brother dream.  If anyone is reading in Durham and they are interested in a bit of personal training/advice then Charlotte is a Sports Science Graduate from Loughborough (with Hons) and looking to pick up a bit of work before she goes travelling next year.  If you're looking for a chimney sweep then Emily is tall and skinny and so should do the job pretty well.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

GB Rowing Team Annoucement - World Championships 2011

Today is the annoucement for the team that will compete at the 2011 World Champs.  The Champs also double up as Olympic qualification (if your boat fails to qualify for the Olympics it is possible to qualify in the early summer of 2012).  I have been selected as part of the Men's Eight; the crew remains unchanged (see the Team Announcement post from May).  We have had a pretty reasonable season so far and I'm really looking forward to cracking down to some good training over the next two months in the lead into the Championships.  Racing for the medals will be tight and exciting, I have every confidence we will be right in the middle of it "giving it some cheese".  On Friday I am off to Silveretta [Austria] on altitude camp, I'm really looking forward to it.  It's no holiday camp - hard work is on the menu every day - good things don't come easy.

Monday, 18 July 2011

New Single - with help from John Elliott & the County Durham CF

All wrapped up.

I recently took delivery of a brand new single scull; an Empacher V12 [reverse wing, carbon trim].  For the non-rowing geek, this is the Audi R8 of the rowing world.  Many of the top scullers in the world use an Empacher single including Ondrej Synek (current World Champion) and Olaf Tufte (reigning Olympic Champion '08 and '04).  The wing rigger is made from an aluminium composite; the main hull is a kevlar and carbon fibre mix.  You can say I was pretty chuffed when it arrived.

Every season we race and trial in our single sculls to gain our place in the national team.  So owning reliable and top spec. equipment is key to consistent training and a good performance.  Next year is the Olympic season and I want to demonstrate good speed in all that I do.

My previous single was also an Empacher, and I used the funds from selling that and some savings to put towards this boat.  Without the support of John Elliott of the Ebac Fund at the County Durham Community Foundation I would never have been able to purchase the boat.  John and the CDCF have supported me several times since I was a junior; their financial support has been pivotal to being able to purchase equipment that I would have never had access to.  Rowing is expensive - this single cost close to £10,000 - yeah, you read it right.  CDCF do great work and the staff there are really friendly, supportive and, thankfully, interested.   You can visit their website by clicking on their name above or by clicking on their logo on the left hand side (probably need to scroll down) or follow them on twitter (@CountyDurhamCF).  I can not thank them and John Elliott enough.

You can leave suggestions for boat names below!*
Tomorrow is the annoucement of the GB Rowing Team for the 2011 World Championships; pop back tomorrow for an update.  You can also follow day to day on twitter (@nrod2012).

*T's and C's apply - one entry per person, no entries from DH6 4QB [Emily exempt].

Ondrej Synek using the Empacher V12

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Trip to the House's of Parliament

Big Red's BIG chin ruining my shot of Big Ben

Today was the Parliamentary Boat Race; the event was supported by Siemens - who sponsor the GB Rowing Team.  A few of us were asked to go along and represent the team (Marcus, Rich, Rob, Hester and myself).  It was the first time I had been into Parliament.  Inside was different to what I expected, to be honest it wasn't as good as I imagined - some bits were very good, others not.  Just past the main lobby there is a small holding area where you can head off to function rooms etc; there is seating by a fire place, well I call it a fire place but it was a plastic facade with a 60 watt bulb behind it - pretty tacky.  We were then led out to the Pavilion (function rooms and bar along by the riverside, by accident I went in the House of Lords area.  The first thing I saw was a fat security guard smoking, learning at a heavy angle against the side of the gazebo.  None of the Lords seemed to stick to smoking or non-smoking areas, and most seemed to be smoking - I found this pretty shocking as any pub or restaurant in the country would have their licence revoked if they operated like that.  Thankfully the event I attended was well run and there were plenty of interesting people to talk to.  Things sorts of events can be a little sterile but everyone seemed pretty open and they was definitely a lot of schmoozing going on.

Siemens are great supporters of the GB Rowing Team and have now had a long standing relationship with the team, this is led with enthusiasm from the CEO Andreas.  With the support of Siemens GB Rowing is able to run programmes and offer support at levels that our [generous] Lottery Funding would not be able to afford on it's own.

It was great to get the invite today and thanks again to all those at Siemens.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Lucerne World Cup

At the weekend I raced Lucerne [Switzerland] in the final race of the Rowing World Cup Series.  The Series is made up of three European races, generally used to prepare crews for the World Championships later in the year.  This year the GB team only competed at two of the three races due to Ecoli infection concerns in the Hamburg region.

This is the first time I had raced in Lucerne and so enjoyed the change of scene.  Lucerne has a certain "je ne sais quoi" about it.  It is pretty much always been the last race in the World Cup Series and so always has a strong attendance as all nations want to test themselves against the best, before the World Champs.  The course is set in a tight valley along a thin long lake, only just big enough to hold an Olympic size course; as a result the weather can change very quickly with dramatic effect.  Above is a picture of us in our 8 the day before racing, below is a youtube clip of the very same storm - watch out for the size of the hail stones! 

Racing started on the Friday; we needed to win the race to go straight to the final, any other position and we would have to race the repercharge the next day.  The photo on the left below is the photo finish from the heat.  We lost out to the Dutch National 8 by 0.01 seconds - the race took 5mins 30 and meant we lost by a margin of less than an inch over 2000km [or 78,740 inches].  Unbelievably tight and a kick in the teeth as we had beaten the Dutch in every race in Munich some weeks earlier.

This meant we had to race in the repercharge on Saturday to secure our place in the A-Final.  Our main opposition were the French and Polish.  We had beaten both crews in Munich (where the Poles came third, ahead of the Dutch).  A strong sense of deja vu swept over us and again found ourselves in a tight battle on the line.  This time losing out to the Poles by 0.23 seconds, but well clear of the French and Ukrainians.

This wasn't an easy or nice situation to be in, we had come to Lucerne believing we were at least ranking second in the World and were ready to take the challenge to the Germans; now we had been beaten by Dutch, Polish and had seen the Americans run the Germans closer than we have so far this season - and then see that American crew be beaten by a re-invigorated Canadian 8.  It meant racing was going to be unbelievably tight and we could end up being 6th, within several hundredths of a second of several other crews.  The final would require us to step up big time.  Below is the photo finish, this time missing out to the Dutch by 0.04 secs, coming in 3rd ahead of the USA.  You can watch the race here on the BBC (including Greg's video diary) or here on the World Rowing website (click on the Men's 8 in the bottom right to view our race)

It has been a busy few weeks and I'm looking forward to digging back into training.  You can subscribe to the blog post via email on the left hand side; also feel free to leave comments or ask questions.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Henley Royal Regatta - Sun

                        View from finish in the Final

Leading the Australians on Saturday

View close to the finish against the Germans.     

On Sunday I raced the German National Eight in the final of the Grand at Henley.  The race followed a similar pattern to our previous encounter with ze Germans - they lead out, we come back a bit, they hold on and beat us.  They won by a length and set a new course record.  I won't give a comprehensive breakdown of our race, trade secrets and all, but I can say it was a disappointing result and a missed opportunity.

There was a little controversy over the steering line the German cox took, mainly that he cut right across (very early) and washed us down so that our strokeside puddles were running straight into the puddles from their bowside.  For those not into their rowing lingo - we were forced to take strokes in their turbulance for most of the way down the course.  In coastal rowing that's part of the game and at Henley it's not allowed but it's tolerated to an extent (it is strictly forbidden everywhere else we race).  It was unfortunate as it meant we struggled to get back level, but was not the reason we lost.  Henley is a unique and special event and that is just one of it's quirks.  It's something we were in part expecting as a possibility and not a suprising move from a German cox who has called the GB Rowing Team "dirty dogs" on German National TV.

Our focus continues to be on ourselves, our boat and our progression in speed.  On Wednesday we will fly out for the last of the last race in the World Cup series [Lucerne, Switzerland], where we will meet 11 eights from around the World.  Germany and others will be there, we'll be ready to go again.

Report from the Daily Telegraph.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Henley Royal Regatta - Sat

Today we raced the Australian national eight at Henley Royal and won by a margin of one length.  There was an amazing atmosphere, a great turnout and an unbelievable amount of noise the whole way down the course.  We came close (1 second) to breaking the course record that has stood since 1989 - I was born April 1988!

Tomorrow [3:30pm] we will race the two time World Champions from Germany.  It will be a great race.  If you can't make it to Henley to watch, you can get the result on twitter (@HenleyRegatta), on the Henley Royal Regatta website or you can listen to live commentary online at Regatta Radio.

Tomorrow is my mum's birthday, it's rude to ask a lady her age - but you can work it out, she was born in 1965.  Happy Birthday Mum.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Henley Royal Regatta

Stepping into the boat

This week is Henley; every major rowing club in the world has made the trip to this regatta, some every year.  It's a special event with old traditions, a unique atmosphere and quality racing.

Tomorrow will be my first race of the regatta.  I will be racing in the GB Men's Eight for the Grand Challenge Cup.

Wikipedia Entry -
The Grand Challenge Cup is a rowing competition for men's eights. It is the oldest and most prestigious event at the annual Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames at Henley-on-Thames in England. It is open to male crews from all eligible rowing clubs.

Our race will be about 3pm and will be against the Australian National Eight.  This will be a big race.  There are no second chances, there are no runners-up; you either win or lose, continue racing or be sent home.  This makes it so much more personal.

In the words of PJ and Duncan - "Let's get ready to rhumble!"

Thursday, 23 June 2011

400 Days to Go!

As you can see from the countdown clock on the left, today is 400 days until the Olympics.  Time is ticking on and each day of preparation is important.  St Mary's R.C. Primary were marking the day today and here is a short series of clips from other GB Rowing Team members made especially for them.

[Featuring Alan Campbell, Steve Rowbotham, Adam Freeman-Pask, Craig Williams, Jess Eddie, Alex Gregory and Caroline O'Connor - thanks for their participation]

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Day off & building for Henley Royal - Oh and Happy Father's Day!

Today was a day off, it's been a while so it was nice to have a break.  It's been a mixed week and so good to get some time to prepare for the coming weeks.  Henley Royal will be our next race, our event is packed with talent - our first race will be against either Germany, Australia or USA (the gold, bronze and 6th place crews from last year's World Championships).

I had a great nap yesterday afternoon, much needed. I then had dinner with my brother Ben, Louise and my housemate James.  Louise cooked a great Terry&Aggy Chicken thing.  This morning I went coaching and then went to Women's Henley for a picnic lunch.  Above is a picture from my day, I'm there with Sarah, Kara and Louise [L to R].  James was taking the photo, good job really as he has a face for radio.  After a couple of hours by the river, and numerous duck attacks, I headed home to relax.  After mentioning Henley Women's there are invariably many "poo-sticks" and "competitive drifting" jokes, today I will refrain.

As anyone who has passed a Clinton's Cards in the last week will know, today is Father's day.  I am lucky to have a great dad who has done so much for me and all my brother's and sister's.  It would be nice to have our training centre closer to home as it would mean I could see my family more; I get to see Ben more often (he is studying in London and also rows for ULBC).  My dad was the one who got up early on school days to take me to training before lessons started, my dad was the one who was/is always in my corner, my dad is more of an influence on me than I would ever had imagined (for better or worse!!).  There are four other "Fathers" that have had a distinct influence on me and how I am.  My grandfathers, John Reilly and Patrick O'Donnell - both victims to cancer, both so much more than that.  JR took me to my first ever Sunderland game and encouraged my interest in sport, POD had genuine physical strength I am yet to see any Olympic athlete match in the gym.  In a paragraph I can't do justice to their stories, but they are regularly in my thoughts.  Two other "Fathers" that have shown me great support are Fr Corbett and Fr Hayden; they were my local parish priests as I grew up but are so much more than that to our family (Fr C is now based in Newcastle).  Fr Corbett was my sponsor when I was confirmed and he recently celebrated 40 years as a priest, he must be cracking on a bit now, but there are no signs of it showing.  Fr Hayden is calm, considered and, like Fr C, has a great sense of humour - a truly good man.

I best go, training starts again at 07:30, lots of sleep stops the wheels falling off.  Feel free to subscribe to blog posts on the left or leave comments below.

Oh nearly forgot, congratulations to Gina and Alex Partridge who became first time parents to Eva Florence!  Great Fathers Day gift!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Update and Henley plans

I raced in the Diamond Challenge Sculls last year at Henley, this year I will be racing in the eight.

As I've mentioned, the GB team has pulled out of the Hamburg World Cup as the risk of ecoli is too high; some other teams have also pulled out since we announced our withdrawal and the Germans have insisted there is no risk to athletes.  That means two things 1) we will get beasted at home instead 2) Henley Royal Regatta is our next chance to race.

The eight is going well and we are progressing on a few fronts, hopefully gaining the necessary edge to overturn any opposition.  I feel I have made some good personal improvements but still need to apply this on a more consistent basis.

Henley Royal is a unique event; for those who haven't been, you will no doubt have connotations of hoorah Henry's and dusty WASP farts. There is no denying that those stereotypes exist, but Henley is so much more than that.  We will be racing in the Grand Challenge Cup, the blue ribband event. We will be racing against the fastest eights in the World - side by side, Mano et Mano.  For the athletes involved it will be one of the most electric feelings you will ever get, as a result I'm getting goosebumps as I write.  If you are available you should get yourself down on the 29th June - 3rd July.  It's held in the centre of Henley and tickets for the Regatta Enclosure can be purchased here or you can watch the whole thing for free by finding a spot along the river bank. Due to high numbers of drunken chavs and rowdy toffs, Saturday night is not a family environment.  Any other time it's a fantastic way to relax and watch some really world class racing is a fun and carnival atmosphere.  I hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Pulling out of Hamburg

Last night GB Rowing announced that all GB crews would be pulling out of the Hamburg World Cup (meant to be in 10 days time).  There has been a significant outbreak of Ecoli in Germany, originating in the Hamburg region.  With one of the symptoms of ecoli being death, it's a serious thing to consider.  If anyone caught anything like ecoli, it could very easily end up being the end of their Olympiad.

Plans have been changed and we will look to make just as good a use of our time.  I don't know to exact plan yet, but I am assuming Henley Royal will be the next chance to see the men's eight race.  It's disappointing not to be racing at this event, but there will plenty of other opportunities ahead.

Without doubt we have one of the best support structures in the sport, and all athletes in the team never have to worry about things like this as the right decision is often made.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Hard week plus O2 and London Youth Games


I've had a pretty tiring week post Munich World Cup.  We got straight back into training but certainly had to tough it out towards the end of the week.  As I've mentioned before, your body can react in funny ways after hard races, particularly when racing over a few days.  I was in a bit of a bad way, but kept recovering enough to make it to training the next day.  There is a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you're tired and ill but still able to plough on.  The light on the horizon was the day off on Sunday, without that I'm sure I would have crumbled quicker than a digestive.  Along with training I had two events to attend this week.

On Thursday evening I went straight from training to an O2 employee event at Battersea Park.  I've recently taken up an offer from O2 for work experience in their legal team, admin stuff is still going through but I hope to start in the next week or two (more about all this in a later post).  The event was for management from all branches of the O2 family, looking towards the next 12 months and how O2 wants to develop in that time.  I have found that anyone to do with O2 is unbelievably positive about the company, and from what I can see there is good reason - lots of positive stuff, particularly for customers, will be rolling out over the next few months.  I met and spoke to quite a few people, I also joined in the 1 minute ergo challenge that was going on - hopefully I still had the top score at the end of the night (if I didn't then I will look like a right mug).  It was particularly good to chat to Ronan Dunne, the CEO at O2, a nice guy with a great knowledge of sport.

On Saturday I had my second event of the week, which was probably my second event of the year come to think about it.  After training, I shot across London to the Royal Docks by London City Airport.  The Thames Water London Youth Games Regatta (catchy title) is a competition held each year between all the London boroughs as part of the wider Balfour Beatty London Youth Games; points are won for the borough in each event, with an overall borough champion named at the end of the games.  I was there with Andy Triggs-Hodge, who is sponsored by Thames Water.  While there I met up with Amanda from Atos Origin (who provide a bursary to aid my training to 2012), it was great to chat to her again and will hopefully see her at Henley Regatta this year.  Andy and I gave out the medals to the winning crews.  Each person celebrates a victory in their own way, some were very smiley and excited to receive the medal; others were more stoic.  Every village has it's idiot and every Olympic champion has a super fan.  Well Andrew Triggs-Hodge met her in East London on Sat 4th June 2011.  I don't know her name, but she won the girl's single scull event.  As her win was announced she jumped from the floor (from a cross-legged position, and didn't use her hands!), ran [arms flapping] to the steps of the stage.  As she climbed up the steps she squealed to Andy - "Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God, I follow you on Twitter" (with various excitable noises).  Andy laughs nervously and the girl nearly collapses with joy.  Nearly forgetting her medal, she leaves quicker than she got up there.  All in all a good day and a great story for the lads down at Caversham.

Surprisingly, I know a lot of people missed out on Olympic rowing tickets.  You can register on before midnight in France (11pm BST)  TONIGHT and you will have an exclusive 48 hours from June 13 to buy tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.  After the two-day window, the remaining Olympic tickets will be on general sale.  This is a genuine website and there is a further article on this on the Telegraph website today.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Silver in Munich

For those of you that havn't seen the race, you can view it here on the BBC.

Some rowing trivia for you - when you line up on the start line you can be easily blown by the wind as you try and hold your position.  Two things help you stay in a straight line and make sure that you all start exactly on the line. 1) The stakeboat boy/girl - my brother Ben is hoping to be one at the Olympics and basically consists of hold the end of the boat while lying on your front on a pontoon. 2) Electronic "Clog" system - "Clogs" (they look like a lunch box) are raised from under the water, when you are held by the stakeboat boy/girl.  Its a small perspex box where you position your boat so that if the wind blows across the boat won't move.  The starting system is all electronic, so when the buzzer and lights go, the clog drops (fast) and releases all six eights like greyhounds at a dog track.  If you click on the link to the footage above, you can see a small splash of water at the front of the boat when the buzzer goes, that's the clog retracting back to its watery grave.

All in all, it was a strong weekend of racing for GB Rowing and my crew was very much part of that.  We had four strong races and performed consistently against the rest of the field.  I, and the rest of my crew, don't get up in the morning to collect a silver medal - we are here for one thing, and that thing is to beat people; but what is positive from the weekend is that we tried a few things, we raced honestly and we have clear focus' for the coming weeks.  What was very clear to me was that we were the only eight (bar possibly the French) to have total faith in our own programme.  On the first day we had two races; one a time trial, the other our heat [report here].  With the exception of France, we were the only crew to totally commit to the time trial.  In my eyes that can be for only one reason - that they didn't want to put themselves at a disadvantage during the "real" racing and therefore conserved energy aka they didn't know if they could still perform under extra pressure/fatigue and therefore opted out.  The World Cup races are very important races (they are 3/4 of the main international races we do each year), but they are a means towards the World Championships (which are a means towards our primary goal, the Olympic games).  It's important to use every opportunity on that path, and I feel we used our weekend well.  We raced Sunday afternoon and I was back training 7:30am Monday.

The next World Cup is in Hamburg [Germany] on the 17th-19th June.