Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Dans le UK

I arrived back in the UK on Friday night (Louise picked me up from the airport - thanks again).  A few things have changed since I was away - petrol prices are through the roof, economy has shrunk, Irish PM ousted and numerous resignations.  The only positive thing I have heard is that My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is back on.  I was training on Saturday morning and went coaching in the afternoon.  I returned home feeling really quite ill and became feverish for several hours.  I'm not sure what caused it but I was still shivering Sunday morning.  I've recovered reasonably well since then and expect to be back training tomorrow.

There has been a state of mourning at home; one of my little sister's goldfish has gone to the big flush in the sky, RIP John.  Our thoughts are with Edward (the other fish) during this troubled time.  Brian and Buddy, the tank cleaning snails, are said to be finding the passing differcult and stopped sucking.  Emily thinks they might be dead too; gutted.

I forgot to mention that my bag was ripped by Malaga baggage handlers.  I felt like Rhod Gilbert - watch this, very funny.  As I saw a squad bag coming round the baggage carousel, boxers falling out each time someone brushed it as it passed, I found it pretty funny.  Sadly I quickly realised that only I had such good taste in boxers and that the offending luggage must be mine.  I had to report it at an Iberia Airways desk (even though flying BA) and nearly missed the coach as a conseqence.  I've ordered a new bag as this one can't be repaired, BA should repay me when I send them the receipt.

Hope you have a good day.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The home straight

With only three more sleeps until I travel back to London, the end of this camp is in sight.  So far i'm pleased with the progressions I have made (you always want more though!), and envisage this will translate into a step on at my performances at sea-level.  My split times are [on average] a couple of seconds better than this camp last year, with a significantly better lactate score (I will come to the meaning of this later).  We have two days of training left, two more opportunities to improve further still.  My back is improving, but can be frustrating at times.

Today I was on the ergo twice, once for some work pieces and once for a longer paddle.  This afternoon I have been recharging my batteries and receiving physio.

The last week has followed a similar routine but I did spice things up with a trip down into the village on our last half-day.  Moe, James and I went down on the ski-lift; I thought I would blend in with the locals and leave the restraining bar up, this only helped confirm my fear of heights and I spent the 10 minute journey trying to "man-up" but in reality just got cramp in my forearms from gripping so hard.  Brendan was voted our athletes rep and Sam and I have been enjoying my stash of Rhubarb and Custard sweets.

In my last post I mentioned the morning monitoring we use daily while on camp.  Most days we follow a similar routine.  After seeing Homer I head to breakfast, the breakfast here is shocking - dried bread rolls are a high-point.  When I went into the village I bought some Kelloggs Cornflakes as the fluorescent yellow cardboard served in the canteen was not hitting the spot. 

At 8am our first session starts (weights or ergo).  Our strength and conditioning coach (Alex of the EIS) is out here with us, so we receive top class coaching on our technique.  Jurgen has made it his mission to increase our bench pull scores and has been cracking the whip hard.  On the ergo we sometimes complete the mileage in one hit or we can put a break in at just over the half-way point.  Whenever we stop, Homer will take a blood sample from our earlobes.  This will then be analysed in 60 seconds to give us a lactate reading.  This reading will give us an idea of how the body is coping.  Everyone has experienced the lactate "burn", this helps put a number on how much lactic acid is circulating in our system.  We look to hold our lactate at roughly 2.0 mMol concentration.  We do this to maximise the endurance adaptation to the training.  When we do work pieces we also take the lactate, but this will be a gauge of how hard we have worked rather than a target concentration.

We then have second breakfast at 10am.  At 11am we will start the second session (generally weights or ergos).  Lunch is at 1pm and afternoon tea is at 5pm.  We will start our third session at 4pm and go into tea when finished.  After tea we will complete our final session; this is usually a more varied session - e.g. football, swimming etc.  At 8pm dinner is served.  10pm bedtime.  Repeat 16 times.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

At the half-way stage

Today marks the half-way stage of camp; so far I'm relatively pleased with how training is going.  In the first few days my back was hurting and this interfered with training; but in the past few days I've been working a lot with Sally (physio), and we seem to have made a break through with it. 

This morning I had a heavy weights session and a 20km ergo (this takes roughly 75mins).  This afternoon we have had weights again and a swim.  I seem to be coping better with the training than my previous visit here.  Yesterday we had 16km on the ergo and then a 30min test (I did this on the bike).  Afterwards most people spent time in the ice baths and jacuzzi to flush lactate out of the legs.  I also went for a walk to the top of the cable car with Foady, Moe and Cam (picture above).  Over the next few posts I thought I would run through standard things we do while on camp; today I will talk about morning monitoring, so if your sitting comfortably, I shall begin...

My alarms goes at 7:10, I hit the snooze button and give it another 5 mins until I get up.  Before I get moving I take my waking heart rate, currently this is about 40-44 beats per min.  I then fill a vial with a urine sample, living the dream.  I then put some clothes on and make my way down the corridor to Homer's room.  Homer (first name - Mark) is one of GB Rowing's physiologists, he takes the lead on the men's squad.  Outside of Homer's room will be some weighing scales, I strip back down and weigh myself (currently I'm about 91kg, which is roughly 14st 5lb in old money or 201 lbs if your from America).  I then put my clothes back on and place my urine sample on a table covered with 20 other similar bottles of nectar.  There are a choice of two laptops to then fill out our weight, waking HR, sleep quality %, perceived shape %.  Homer will then take a blood sample from our earlobes.  This will then be analysed by a machine, looking at our blood urea levels, but sometimes measuring other variable too; our urine will be analysed too.   Homer will fill out the rest of the spreadsheet with a value for our hydration (urine test) and urea levels.  The urea is a measurement of broken down proteins in the blood.  If you have a high urea content this could show poor recovery and that the body is stuggling.  Often on camp our urea levels will fluctuate as we have harder and easier training days (I mean "easier" relative to other days!).  At 7:30am I go to breakfast and make my way to the gym to start training at 8am.

All of the data will be processed and printed by the start of the first session (Homer is very efficient).  This gives the coaches a snap shot of your physical state at the start of the day.  They can use this data to then alter the training if you're struggling or on the verge of becoming ill.  This routine happens every day on camp and sometimes when training at Caversham.

p.s. I have had over 500 page views so far (the blog is two months old), please feel free to comment.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Manuel loses it

This morning Spanish-UK relations were further strained.  Due to an EU working time directive, the Spanish kitchen staff decided that breakfast opening times should be 7-7:30 am then 8-10 am.  Unknown to the GB men's squad, who all planned to eat from 7:30, ready for training at 8am.  Tension's in the canteen had been rising, sources at the training centre claim this may be due to excessive glass smashing (currently an average of 4 a day).  At 7:30 am all diners were told to leave, and food was removed from the counters; at this same moment a group of GB rowers arrived to feed.  Security was called and arrived in the form of an out of breath, baton wielding Guardia.  Mark "don't touch me" Earnshaw, GB coach, was not impressed and stood in the doorway.  A heated argument took place with neither individual sure of what was being said, but eyewitnesses claim "Gibraltor" was a key theme.  The doors were subsequently locked and feeding resumed at 8am.  Lunch took place with no drama [except for a further 3 smashed glasses].

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Half day on camp

This is the training centre in Sierra Nevada [Spain].  You can make out the oval running track on the roof (under the snow in the middle is an astro-turf football pitch).  As you can see the views are spectacular.

This is where the magic happens; lined up and ready to go.

 This is the view from just outside the erg room.

And this is the view from the erg (apologies for poor lighting).

Training has been going well but my back has been sore; the journey on the plane and then coach for 3 hours isn't ideal coupled with an increase in time spent on the ergo, it was likely I would get some grumbling.  On the positive, my erg splits have been coming down and I have been holding my body form well, which will all reap rewards as the season goes on.  Work in the gym (lifting weights) has been going well and I expect to produce some PB performances by the end of the camp.

The camp generally works on a 3 day cycle, with heavy work for the first 2 days and then intensive pieces on the 3rd day.  For the next 3 days I will be focusing on reducing irritation in my back and building up the mileage on the ergo.

p.s. the battery in my watch went today, gutted, that bad boy has lasted since 2006.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Last Supper

This will be my view for the next two+ weeks.

Tomorrow I will fly to Sierra Nevada [Spain].  This camp is notoriously savage; just over two weeks of pure physicality at 2320m above sea level.  Nearly all of our sessions will be on the ergo or in the weights room.  With four sessions a day (and sometimes more) this will be a real test of my body.  My memories of this camp last year are painful, you end up in a dark place - living from session to session, hoping to hang on.  Very few people will complete the camp without injury or illness, the challenge is to be one of those few.  Deep down I love it.

The camp will be a huge strain on the body; it is this strain that your body adapts to and thus gives you a greater work capacity, and will mean you return a significantly better athlete.  As the camp is at altitude the training is substantially harder, meaning you have to re-adjust the 500m split time you pull on the ergo.  The programme is also intensified with more sessions, bigger mileage and less rest.  You have to be time efficient; eat, row, sleep becomes a 3 hour ritual. But the time I put in at Sierra Nevada will be worth double that time I put in at Caversham - I just hope I can survive!!

Today I came across this on the BBC website.  It's a short article and interview with Jurgen.

For my last supper I will be having Spring Chicken with Rice.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!!!

If you missed the fireworks on the BBC at midnight, here is a clip.  I wasn't at the Embankment, but was impressed by the BBC coverage.  Every now and again things are done that make you sit up and go "wow, someone actually did a decent job this time, that was really good". 

This New Year's Eve was more low-key than normal.  I trained in the morning and then got the train back to London.  I went for dinner with Louise and then watched The Blind Side before the fireworks at 12.  The Blind Side is one of the best films I've seen and definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it yet (rent for £3.49 on iTunes).  Today I'm relaxing and will be back at Caversham in the morning.

I hope you have a good year.