Monday, 28 February 2011

Back in London and Happy Birthday Charlotte

Last night I landed at Heathrow, from what definitely started to feel like early summer in Portugal to the unmistakeably winter chill of West London.  At the end of the camp Jurgen annouced it had been the biggest camp he had run, and I certainly feel improvements have been made over that time.  I come back to the UK with more "water time" under my belt, a better idea of how I am applying the power in the boat and what changes I need to make over the coming weeks.

The spirit on camp was good.  When we go on camp there is often two groupings of athletes - the very top few guys just mixing between themselves and a larger group with only intermitant cross-over.  This camp was different as we all mixed together for the full length of the camp.  This certainly helped me re-acquaint myself with my boat skills and meant I always felt we were moving in one big direction as one big group.  I think this really helped everyone develop further.  Alot of the camp was conducted in two 8's, with a pair or four going out too.  We generally had continuity to who was in which crew, but mixing it up every now and then to keep things moving.  When we wern't in the 8's we were in fours, again very much mixed in.  All of the camp's timed pieces were done in fours.  The first batch I was in a four with Pete, Alex and Alex - you can check out their biographies and see that these are pretty talented guys to row with.  The pieces felt Ok and we did alright, middle-top of the pack, but was slightly disappointed I hadn't done better.  On Saturday we did the second batch and I was in a four with Moe, Hodge and Alex [again].  This time the pieces felt similar but we gained a better overall position (winning three of the four pieces, with all the boats being very tight together).  Overall I was pleased with how camp went and I am looking forward to the coming weeks.

In 10 days time we be having some seat racing.  I will explain later what this actually entails, but the crux of it is that we will be raced and raced and raced, to find out how we all rank relative to each other.  This will be real tough and so the focus for the next week and a half has to be on recovery and preparation.

My general health is good and my back is feeling ok - but it still needs to pregress further for me to have total confidence in it.

Finally, my sister Charlotte is 21 today.  Happy Birthday Charlotte.  It's traditional to embarass relatives with photos from the past when approaching these significant milestones so I've had a dig about on the computer and found the pictures below.  On the left it shows Charlotte at 15 in all her brace's glory (with mum, dad and Emily).  On the right is Charlotte at 16th, minus the braces but plus a hooligan. 

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

5km and camp

I'm most of the way through camp and certainly feeling fatigued.  Trials was a long, tough day and the mileage and intensity has been high on camp.  I'm in Aviz, Portugal (for location, see the google maps to the left) - until today the weather is mainly damp, some heavy rain, a little wind and not so much sun; all that changed this afternoon and the gingers on the team have got "a proper rouge on".

Last thursday I had a 5km test on the ergo.  Most other guys in the squad did it a couple of weeks ago, but I and a few others were unwell and so it was rescheduled for this time.  I was pretty nervous before the ergo as I didn't particularly feel prepared and the ergo is not my strongest subject.  I did 5km in 16:08, two seconds off my PB and 9 seconds off where I was aiming for.  It wasn't good enough and just wasn't as strong as I had hoped.  I really hoped to continue with the forward momentum I had been having, but things that you really want are the things that are not easy.

Since then there have been plenty of big days.  The longest ones being 52km on the water including a tough last 10km piece.  Today we had a 30min ergo test at rate 20.  Even though we have been working hard, there were alot of PB's and the team is definitely moving from strength to strength.  I was one of those PB's and did 1:42.1 which is 8810m in 30mins.  Those sorts of ergo's are where I lag behind most of the guys on the team, but I keep chipping away at it and will get there at some point.  I was pleased that today was a PB after the dissappointment of last week [5km].  When all you do is train each day, your mood is dictated so much by how training is going.  If you're doing well and feeling strong it's great, if not it can be real misery.

Today has been a half day, I've mainly slept and tried to catch up on some paperwork and emails I've been needing to do.  We have three more days of training before we fly home.

Feel free to drop comments or questions.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Trials Report

Last Saturday (12th Feb), was the GB rowing Feb trials.  They were held at Dorney Lake, on the course where the Olympics will be held.  The first real opportunity to test your speed against those trialling for places in the 2011 team.  The trial was scheduled to be a 1900m time trial [Sat. morning] followed by semi finals [Sat. afternoon] based upon the ranking from the time trial.  The finals were due to be held on Sunday morning.  The semi's and final's were held over 2000m (the Olympic distance).  Due to concerns about the weather, the racing was all packed into Saturday.

I was racing with Tom Ransley (profile in previous posts).  We felt our time trial went ok but certainly felt we could make improvements.  We ranked 5th overall and I was reasonably pleased with this position.  Two hours later we had our semi.  We had some pretty impressive speed out of the blocks, this was a bit unexpected as we hadn't had any opportunity to test our speeds before hand.  Our speed lagged alittle in the middle and ended up in a dog fight to get into the A final.  Luckily we did enough and it made sure we placed top 6 whatever happened.  In the final we altered our race plan to ease off at the start and save energy to deliver a stronger middle section to our race.  This didn't really work out and we just ended up going slower off the start and the same speed through the middle.  In the last 500m it was very tight between ourselves and the pair of Cameron and Dan for the 5th and 6th placings; we didn't have a good enough sprint and ended up 6th (aka last).  We learnt alot on how our pair worked and compared to other guys, and we will know how to use this if we race as this combination again.

Overall we were dissappointed not to hold the 5th position from the time trial, and hoped to actually improve on that ranking in the racing, but it was still a reasonably good showing and we learnt something along the way.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Fog, Harley Street and dinner at UL

The wind dropped yesterday but then fog arrived.  It meant we weren't allowed onto the water until it cleared enough to be "safe".  "Safe" seemed to be when they got sick of saying "no not yet" as it was still pretty thick by the time we got out.  By the second session it was clear and we had great water to paddle on.  I had a good session with TJ (Tom James) as T-Ran was unwell.  Today he was back and feeling better, so we did the first session together.  The second session I did with TJ and had an opportunity to do some slightly longer pieces at race pace.  This isn't the kind of preparation you would hope, and sadly this kind of thing has happened a few times in the last two or three years.  It's frustrating as it means you enter into trials with very little preparation against some really strong athletes.  On a positive note, when I have done some work at race pace (once with TJ and once with T-Ran), the pace has been good and we have performed reasonably well compared to the other GB squad pairs - que sera, sera.

Yesterday I popped down to Harley Street.  Thankfully not for any treatment but for a CT scan.  My legs were scanned to measure the individual bones, to see if the apparent leg length discrepancy I sometimes have is actually down to a difference in bone lengths.  Dr Ann should have received the report this afternoon so I should find out relatively soon.   There is no real rush as I've survived 22 years without knowing.  If there is a difference I may have to adapted the boat so that I am driving straight.  If my legs are different then there will be twisting forces being put through my pelvis which will twist my spine as I push in the boat - we obviously want to eliminate this to prevent injury and to apply more force in the right direction (=speed).

After Harley Street I went coaching at Putney Town and then onto dinner at UL.  Bev (coach Brian's wife) cooked a really nice meal, served up with help from out very able boatman "Uncle" Stef.  Every Tuesday the club comes together for dinner; last night Rusty (best described as UL's "Godfather") hosted the evening and invited all the current UL and Alumni athletes and coaches on the GB squad.  The current UL members in the squad are Jess, Fran and myself.  Alumni athletes are Cam, Mel, Tom and Matt.  Coach Darren Whiter and Logistics Manager Maurice Hayes were also in attendance.

Feel free to comment and ask any questions.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

I've got wind

The lake has defrosted and I'm back on the water.  My back is feeling in reasonable shape and I'm preparing for trials on the 12th/13th Feb (next weekend).  I was due to be pairing with Tom James, sadly this hasn't worked out due to injury.  Tom's an Olympic gold medalist but his highest achievement has to be "Wale's Most Eligible Bachelor 2008", a true honour.  In 2009 he made the top ten again - Rachel Mainwaring adding "Won the Olympic gold medal in the coxless fours, Cambridge-graduate Tom is brainy and gorgeous, the perfect package".  Instead I will be racing with T-Ran, or Tom Ransley as he is known to his mum.  Pictured above, T-Ran is powerful, rugged and a World silver medalist.  We are a late combination, with other guys training in their pairs for a bit longer but will make good use of this week to gel together - if the wind dies down that is.  They say that a leaf falling here causes a storm on the other side of the world, this week must be the exception to the rule.  Queensland has been blown to bits and, albeit on a smaller scale, the UK has been too.  Rowers like smooth flat water, the sort of water you can see your reflection in; North Sea style waves are never a good thing.

My muscles are aching from working in ways they havn't done so in a while, but my back seems to be holding out ok.  I just need to make sure I keep it loose and well conditioned.

Other news this week included MTV's annoucement to commision "Geordie Shore" - can't wait.  Super Bowl tonight, will be on too late for me to watch but will have it recorded to watch tomorrow evening.  Six Nations started this weekend; I love to watch the Six Nations, Ireland is my rugby team, so I'm hoping they raise the standard of play after a dodgy start to the competition.  I'm off to my friend Kara's for dinner, should be good food.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

It's a dogs life

This last weekend has been reasonably eventful.  As usual I was training on Saturday and then went on to coach mid-afternoon.  In the evening was the GB Team Dinner.  It's an annual event where GB athletes, sponsors and other dignitaries come together for a presentation to those that have won medals at a World Championship level.  I went with Louise and sat on a table with Matt, Stan and George (we were the U23 coxless four last summer - winning a silver medal, for more details of last year look up the "Season Round-up" in the blog archive), along with Laura, Hester, Adam, Chris and Rich (all GB lightweights).  It was good to catch up with friends, but the main entertainment came from winding-up George and Stan (George is at Cambridge, Stan is at Oxford - they are the strongest two athletes in this year's boat race but are also good friends).  The presentation was long, usually due to excessive speeches, but this year was down to a bumper crop of medals.  Hugh Robertson MP (Minister for Sport and the Olympics) was our guest speaker and made a good speech about the building excitement for the games.  The dress code was black tie/club blazers.  Many wear club blazers, I wore my UL blazer, a dark purple number.  As usual there was at least one person inappropriately dressed.  There are some who make little effort, there are some that make too much of an effort.  One junior girl decided "Shakira" was to be this year's theme and came dressed to impress. 

I had Sunday off training (next one will be in quite a while).  I went coaching in the morning and went to watch UL race at lunchtime.  UL were hosting Durham and Newcastle University, there were some good races and UL performed well.  A report of the racing can be found at  As the last race of the day was taking place I noticed a reasonably large crowd had formed on the bank.  I was impressed at the number of parents that had turned out to support; it was then that I realised they weren't parents, but dog lovers.  A labrador thought the Thames looked inviting and jumped in for a swim; due to steep banks the dog couldn't get out and was starting to struggle in the freezing water.  James (a coach at UL) drove the launch over to the dog and I fished it out the river.  I have had to drag a few people out of the river but this was my first dog.

My back is strong and I am pretty much recovered from the fever I had last weekend.  The focus for training is the up and coming trials - 12th/13th Feb.  On the 14th Feb we travel to Aviz, Portugal for a water based training camp.

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