Thursday, 31 March 2011


31/03/2011 by n_r_o_d

Classy wrist-ware; one Bellarussian time piece, the other is to monitor my daily activity. The "ActivWatch" monitors my general activity on a 24/7 basis.  It can be used to measure how much and the quality of sleep I am getting. The data will be analysed by EIS physiologists to see if I need to alter my sleep patterns to aid recovery.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Weekend and the boat race

Oxford wins the boat race with ease, shock result really but wasn't an impossibility.  I thought that Cambridge would win but I was obviously way off the mark.  You can watch the race and build up here (probably UK users only - BBC).  When Isis (Oxford reserves) beat the Goldie crew (Cambridge reserves) by a decent margin, I started to doubt my first opinions.  My main impression of the racing was how relaxed everyone looked in both boats - I know when people are good at what they do I looks easy, but I thought the race didn't have the aggression I expected (particularly when the crews were approaching Hammersmith Bridge).  Don't get me wrong, you don't train for years to then not try hard, I was just surprised how collected it all looked.  I've rowed with Karl and Stan in the Oxford boat, and known Si Hislop (the stroke man) for a few years; I'm pleased for them all, but think Si deserves a special mention as he's a classy rower, cancer survivor and genuinely nice guy - you will never hear anyone have a bad word to say about him.  With Cambridge I feel for George Nash, a good friend and I know he will be bitterly disappointed.

Asside from watching the race, I've had a reasonably busy weekend and it's taking its toll.  I rowed all afternoon and evening on Friday, followed by coaching Saturday morning, then training before and after lunch.  This morning I was coaching again and then had a meeting with my crew at UL.  I'm not sure how long I slept for this afternoon and I'm about ready to sleep again.

This week is about preparing for the race on Saturday. Luckily the guys in my crew don't have too much Uni, so it means we can train at relatively sane hours rather than early and late.  I will keep you updated on how the week goes.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

2k Erg Test

It's not a neck injury, I'm just wiped out.  Today was "2k day".  I did 6:01.3, it's a PB (my previous best was 6:04), but I had hoped to break the 6 minute mark.  The scores accross the team were very strong, the strength in depth was phenominal and it should hopefully translate into some really quick boats this summer.  My feeling towards my test is neutral, neither pleased nor disappointed.  Last year I really messed up these tests and struggled with tight painful legs that cramped up as soon as I came to pace, this year my splits were consistent but possibly slightly slow to the half way mark.  Even with a proper warm down my legs are killing me some 6 hours after doing my test.  Recovery is really important, so I will try to breath some life back into them before tomorrows training starts.

Until a week Saturday (2nd April), I will predominantly be training in London at my club - UL.  I will do some of our sessions at the Gym at Bisham Abbey - this is where we do most of our EIS guided strength and conditioning work.  It is the Eight's Head of the River on the 2nd, where hundred of eights from round the UK and the world come to compete on the River Thames.  The course of the race is exactly the same as the boat race but from Mortlake to Putney rather than Putney to Mortlake.  The race is conducted as a time trial with each crew set off ten-ish seconds apart.  I will be racing in the UL 1st eight, with my brother Ben (who is studying pharmacology at UCL) in the UL lightweight eight.  Most of the other squad guys will be racing for either Leander or Molesey boat club.

It is the boat race on Saturday, for those wanting a flutter I would recommend backing Cambridge.  I have close friends in both boats but would have to say the Cambridge boat looks stronger on paper.  That doesn't mean Oxford can't do it, they have a couple of classy rowers in their crew, but on balance I would say Cambridge is likely to win.  As they won last year the odds on Cambridge won't be great so it may be better chancing it with Oxford.  On Betfair you will get better odds for the under-dog as you get closer to the race (mainly because the "pundits" on the TV coverage nearly always predict the previous year's winners to do it again).

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

2km Erg Test Tomorrow

The Olympic racing distance is 2km, and so one of the major tests each year is to measure how fast we can cover that same distance on the ergo.  Many rowers dread "2k day", when man (or woman) meets machine for 6ish not so beautiful minutes.  My first memory of a 2k is when I was 12, that day I posted 8 mins 12 secs - I now train for 20km significantly faster than that pace.

The last week has been slightly frustrating as I came down with an eye and chest infection during the physical low after the seat racing the previous weekend.  After a course of anti-biotics and several squirts of eye-drops, things seem to be back under control.  After camps or heavy racing your body can react in all sorts of ways, over the past couple of months that has been on the edge of illness.  I'm tweaking my recovery strategy to try and improve this.

Tomorrow I will drop an update on how things go.

p.s. Thanks for all the comments and feedback.

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Monday, 14 March 2011

500 Days until the Olympic Opening Ceremony

Today is 500 days until the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic games.  Schools up and down the country will start to gear up for the games; one of those will be St Mary's Primary School in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, they will be taking special interest in the GB Rowing Team.

At the Beijing Olympics there were several North-East athletes competing at the games - two of them were rowers; Matt Wells (won bronze) and Jessica Eddie (placing 5th).  The boys and girls at St Mary's will have the opportunity to send their questions to the GB rowers and they will receive updates on how training and general preparations are going.

With 500 days to go, St Mary's are launching a special award scheme in school that links with the 5 Olympic principles of courage, determination, equality, respect and friendship.  Each child will be recognised when they have done something remarkable towards each theme then anyone who has demonstrated all 5 will be awarded with their very own Olympic medal.

To the boys and girls of St Mary's -
Think up your best questions for Matt, Jess and others to answer.  Maybe - what food is good to eat if you want to go really fast? or do you have any lucky pants for racing in?  And remember to watch out for the rowing when it's on TV!

Matt and Jess are both on twitter -



We completed this season's first set of seat racing at the weekend.  The racing was all in pairs in a time trial format; it meant we raced multiple races with different partners - a total of an hour flat out.  This is a lot of intensity and so I'm feeling pretty spent right now.  Thankfully it all went well, as it hurts more if you go through something like that and it doesn't give you the result you hoped.

Overall I came 2nd in the matrix, this would rank me very well in the team.  Last season I was ranked 7th/8th and was borderline in the eight or spare.  These results place me firmly where I want to be.  There are more trials to come and the team is very competitive - things are by no means safe - but this result hopefully shows the hard work I have been putting in.  Coaches will use many bits of data when selecting boats for the World Cup races and this year's World Championships, including ergo tests, trials results and seat racing.

I normally struggle to perform on the ergo at the same standard that the other guys in the team do, and so I always feel under pressure to perform.  If you're struggling at the back of the group then there is a risk that you just arn't the standard required and will be asked to train back at your own club.  I've often felt this is a very real risk and doubted my self for long periods of time.  Results like today don't give you job security (this is sport, not your every day employment arrangement) but they give you confidence that actually you do deserve to be where you are and that the determination to keep striving forward is actually generating tangible results.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Delay to racing

Due to wind the seat racing has been delayed by a day.  Racing will start tomorrow and will go on until Sunday.

"Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred."

Monday, 7 March 2011

Step test

Today I had a step test on the ergo.  A step test can be used to measure a number of things, but it's primary function is to measure aerobic capacity (the secondary function is to sting).  In the photo above you can see one of the other guys on the team doing his test.

The test consists of six steps, four minutes each step with thirty seconds break to take a blood sample.  We are given a set wattage to row at for each step and multiple measurements are taken.  The first couple of steps aren't too bad, but they start to bite after a while.  For the final step we are let loose and we try to go as hard as we can for the full four minutes.  While doing the test we wear a heart rate monitor (e.g. polar) and a mouthpiece.  The mouthpiece, and it's associated wires and tubes, are held in place by a headpiece and suspended wire from the ceiling.  Oh yeah, you also wear a nose clip so the only air coming in or out is through the tube in your mouth.

For each step there are loads of measurements taken;  from the ergo, our lung function, heart rate and blood lactate.  These bits of data will tell us things that can help shape training, measure progressions and help us (myself and the coaches) understand how my body functions.

I don't have any results at the moment but I think it generally went OK.  There were a couple of mishaps.  Firstly it took a bit of time to get used to having the mouthpiece in and it caused me to dribble excessively, definitely a hot look.  Secondly was that the nose piece started to slip on my last step.  I tried to push it back on but it popped off.  So the physiologists tried to but it back on, while i'm going flat out and rating high; the first attempt was a miss - suprising considering I'm nasally endowered - the second attempt resulted in two fingers in my eyes...nice.

My general training is going fine; I'm currently in various pairs in preparation for the seat racing later in the week.  Tomorrow I've got three sessions plus massage and physio.