Friday, 23 November 2012


From now on you can find me at - as always, I'm on Twitter @NRODTweets.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

New Start

It's been a while but I'm back - back blogging and back rowing. 

An up and down summer; the torture of running with the team right to the edge of the Games, knowing it would all end too early for me, followed by a great Olympic multi-medal performance by some of my closest friends.  I explored the world of work, met some great people and inspiring businesses. There were a couple of exciting opportunities which gave me a real dilemma - cut my losses and start 'real' life or throw the dice once more? 

Ultimately, I still have that Olympic dream.  I have one hesitation though, it has to work - I have to be performing, I have to prove to myself that four more years are a worth while endeavour.  The main marker will be the World Champs next summer, I need to be there and need to perform at a standard that inspires belief.

I thank all those that have spoken with me over the past couple of months, it's helped form my view and it's good to know other people care.  Most of all, thank you to all those that have shown their support - not just recently, but over the past few years.

Soon I will look to blog on my adventures over the past two months, for now you can follow me day to day on Twitter @nrodtweets (a new name but the same account - if you previously followed me you still will be!). 


PS - I will also be moving the blog to wordpress in the coming weeks, I will post details here when all ready.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Thank You

Thank you to all those that have sent messages of support, an amazing response to the blog post - not expected at all.

I'm currently in Aviz on the pre- Olympic holding camp. Weather is hot and the boats are really gearing up. For the Games. I will bring more updates to try and give a flavour of the final preparations camp.

Feel free to comment or ask questions. You can find me day to day on Twitter @nrod2012.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

End to the Dream

The Olympic kit that never was.

Two days ago Jurgen told me that I hadn't made the final cut and wouldn't be in the 2012 Olympic Team.

I feel a whole spectrum of emotions; grief, shame but also pride.  I grieve for what could have been and the failure to reach the goal I set myself on the 6th August 2006, the day I became Junior World Champion.  I feel shame for those that I have let down; the family, friends and supporters who have been there during what is a very public process.  Beyond those emotions I also feel pride; the journey hasn't been easy, just this season I've overcome a serious back injury and a lingering virus.  Consequently, back in February I took beta blockers to settle an irregular heart rhythm and I questioned whether it was all over then.  But I made it back, I took risks, I dug in and endured the pain.  I didn't want to let go of the dream and I dared to be.  As to the final decision, I cant agree with it and the lack of process hurt.

I would like to thank those that have been so supportive.  My family - immediate and extended; there are only 7 "Reilly-O'Donnells" in the world, remember that name and if you come across one, brace yourself.  My Granny is just outstanding, I have amazing aunts and uncles and my cousins (each with their own story) inspire me.  To my girlfriend Louise, she has stuck by me even when I'm being "lame" and is a huge support; elements of her life have had to go on hold too, thank you for being so understanding.  My friends have been so understanding, right from school, people knew what rowing meant to me and many since have given me the space to go after my dream.  I'm a proud Catholic, Fr Corbett and Fr Hayden have been pillars to both myself and my family, thank you so much.  Those that have financially helped me - Atos (in particular Amanda, Colleen, Nicola and the Threshold girls - Sinead, Kate and Penny), Berry Chiswick BMW and the County Durham Community Foundation.  I would like to give a special mention to the lovely people at the CDCF, they have been my longest standing backers - particularly John Elliott of Ebac, who is an unbelievable force of nature, thank you John.  My clubs - I've been a member of two boat clubs, my school (St Leonard's R.C. Comp. Durham) and now my university (University of London Boat Club).  Those places changed my life.  Thank you to the coaches who have helped me at every stage Malcolm, Bill, Peter, Jamie, Big Steff, Stu, Pete, Rusty, Dan C., Andy, Brian, Christian, John, Thrust, Paul, Shep and Jurgen you have all shaped me.  A shout out to all those that have supported me through my clubs and those that have aided me through medical support.  It is also worth thanking those that have offered me employment to help me cover the costs (and gain experience) to follow my dream thank you to Tyrian Club, Putney Town RC and most recently Telefonica UK (O2).  I have also been the recipient of a Lottery Funded UK Sport grant, it makes a serious difference thank you.

I will be running with the team until the eve of the Games.  The guys are a great group, each with their own stories, each with their own qwerks.  Over the past four years I have loved the spirit within the team, we are a real unit with a great sense of humour.  I know what each of them has done and they all deserve to succeed in front of a stunning home crowd.

As to my future, I am still to decide.  I have the desire to win at an Olympic Games, but I have to look to other options too.  Im a highly numerate law graduate seeking a new and exciting challenge, find me on LinkedIn or Twitter if you think I could make a difference.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Camp life

So what do I do in my spare time while 1,900m up a mountain?

Sleep is a quick answer.  We come to train at altitude to work the body harder - we don't train any more than normal, but the lack of oxygen has a significant effect on the body.  The day starts with a 7:30 breakfast (a lie-in compared to my usual 6am!).  We then have our first session at 8am, lasting for about 2 hours.  We then head into second breakfast with a gap for a 40min power nap before the second session. Second session will probably be slightly shorter than the first and it then leads into lunch for about 1pm.  Then I can get another short nap aswell as read a book or watch some TED videos I've saved to my iPad.  3:30pm tea followed by the third and final session (2 hours again).  Dinner starts at 6:30pm and there is a chance to catch up on the internet for about an hour afterwards.  Bed by 9:30pm.

We stay in log cabins - a bed, running water and that's about it.  If only we had wifi.

I would say I find stuff on the internet every day that makes me want to tell someone else about it.

[As mentioned above] Recently I've really got into watching TED talks.  I've been known to YouTube surf, and TED allows me to do a similar thing, while feeling a bit more intellectual about it!  I would say I have a 75% hit rate for being "seriously impressed" by the ideas and projects on TED.

I read a fair amount of online news content and comment.  I've found my iPad has been great for this.  I have a standard set of sites I look at each day, and then let the content take me to further sites to learn more.  Specifically the BBC, Telegraph, Sun and Bloomsburg cover most bases.

A couple of weeks ago my mum (yes my mum!) was able to tell me about something I hadn't come across before.  The site is  Kiva is a crowd-source lending site designed to help individuals and small businesses fund expansion.  The site is primarily focused around projects in poor and developing nations.  How does it work?  You can browse hundreds of projects - e.g. help Joseph buy more cows for his herd in Kenya - and then, if you are capable and willing, you lend Joseph a proportion (from $25+) of his target fund.  You receive no interest on the loan, but you will be repaid according to a strict repayment schedule.  My mum's school sold produce from their vegtable patch, they then used the profit made to help fund farmers across the world.  A help up rather than a hand out.  Amazing platform that can do some real tangible good.

Another crowd-source funding site that's worth a look is Kickstarter.  This is generally a site where design start-ups look to build an order book large enough to go into business and production.  Some great gadgets and innovative ideas - worth a look, just to see what is up-and-coming.  Esty is a site selling similar types of things, but you can order there and now rather than wait for the start-up to be formed.

For a laugh then look to David Thorne or - a fair amount of content, but not regularly updated.  Both have a great reviews from the team - prepare to spend a couple of days reading these.

Anyway, I best go.  Feel free to comment.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Live feed

I will be hosting a "watch me eat dinner" live feed from altitude camp tomorrow evening. As before, I will be joined by Alex Gregory from the men's four and other guests. Hopefully the weather will be nice and you'll be able to see the view we have for every meal. Tune in from 6pm UK time tomorrow (Fri) for about 40mins. I will post the link to the feed here and on Twitter once we go live.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Altitude Camp - delayed

Today I was due to fly out on altitude camp with the rest of the team but this morning I woke up with a stomach bug.  The decision was made for me to stay at home, that way I can recover and not spread my germs.  The plan is to head up onto the mountain on Sunday.  Once up at altitude I'm planning on hosting a couple of Twitcasts where you can tune in and watch us while we are having dinner.  I'll post details on here and on Twitter so you know when to watch.

A couple of people have asked about selection etc.  At the moment I am none the wiser.  There are four guys for three seats - one place in the eight and two reserves.  I expect to find out the final decision in the next 2-3 weeks.

To receive posts to your email inbox then sign up on the left.  You can also follow me day to day on Twitter @nrod2012.  Feel free to make comments and ask questions.

As always, a sincere thanks to everyone sending their best wishes.  A special thanks the The National Lottery (UK Sport), Atos and BMW - without which I wouldn't be able to fulfil my ambitions full-time.

p.s. If you missed it on Twitter, here is a video of the crew room at our training centre at Caversham.  The whole team was enjoying watch the Olympic sculler fall in on camera. :-)

A day in the life...

Below is a photo stream of a typical day's training in the UK.  I started at 7:30am in the EIS gym at Bisham.  Followed by second breakfast and then a session on the water.  Post water session I had lunch and then went on the ergo for the final session of the day.  From the photo's I noticed there was quite a few car journeys - thanks to Berry Chiswick BMW for making this all the more comfortable!
Feel free to drop any questions!

Third World Cup - Munich

Last weekend saw the last World Cup race of the season.  It ended with disappointment and opportunities lost.  I raced the same pair (with Cam) that raced in Lucerne a few weeks earlier. 

Post Lucerne we had a really positive week of training, I felt like we were building from a reasonable start.  Then we had to split up to cover illness in other boats and came back together with just over a week to go.  From that point onwards we seemed to struggle to find the cohesiveness we have had.  Our work at higher rates seemed to be better than at paddling, so not all was lost.  Going into the final World Cup there had been a few crews pull out who had ranked above us in Lucerne.  This meant we should really move on up, without letting anyone behind passing us.

Racing started OK.  We caught a buoy early in the heat, which meant we had to truck back through the middle of the race.  The Frech dominated from stroke one and so the single qualifying spot was sewn up early doors.  We tested a slightly different race strategy and it meant we came through 2nd overall, the French clear.

The repercharge was the next morning.  I think we both had a clear idea of what we were looking for - a strong start (getting in the mix) and then turn the screw on the field through the third 500m.  Our pace was a little slower than I would have normally expected and as we went through 600m to go the wheels came off and we crawled to the line, 3rd (top two into the final).  I don't know what happened, but we finished with Cam exhausted while I felt well within myself.  Normally we would both have emptied the tank equally, I was a bit concerned.

It meant we had the B-Final to race early Sunday morning.  Our main opposition would be the German top pair (winners of the first World Cup) and the Australian 2nd pair (we had beaten earlier in the heat and in Lucerne).  I was worried that we would have a major blow out (like the previous day) and so the first 1250m was all about setting up a consistent but "within ourselves" pattern.  We were then able to step on and have a dog fight with the German pair.  The Aussies found pace they hadn't previously shown and were ahead by a length.  In the final stages of the race we were neck and neck with the Germans, sadly just losing out, but with a much stronger final 750m than the previous day.

Overall a disappointing regatta, I think it's best to just put it behind us and move on.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Problems Posting

I'm having problems posting on my Blogger account and so there will be a delay to my next update.  Hopefully Blogger will sort soon.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Junk mail

I received this email from Nicholas Story of the FBI. As a piece of creative writing I thought it was worth posting.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Counter-terrorism Division and Cyber Crime Division
J. Edgar. Hoover Building Washington DC

Dear Beneficiary,

Series of meetings have been held over the past 7 months with the secretary general of the United Nations Organization. This ended 3 days ago. It is obvious that you have not received your fund which is to the tune of $850,000.00 due to past corrupt Governmental Officials who almost held the fund to themselves for their selfish reason and some individuals who have taken advantage of your fund all in an attempt to swindle your fund which has led to so many losses from your end and unnecessary delay in the receipt of your fund.

The National Central Bureau of Interpol enhanced by the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation have successfully passed a mandate to the current president of Nigeria his Excellency President Good luck Jonathan to boost the exercise of clearing all foreign debts owed to you and other individuals and organizations who have been found not to have receive their Contract Sum, Lottery/Gambling, Inheritance and the likes. Now how would you like to receive your payment? Because we have two method of payment which is by Check or by ATM card?

ATM Card: We will be issuing you a custom pin based ATM card which you will use to withdraw up to $3,000 per day from any ATM machine that has the Master Card Logo on it and the card have to be renewed in 4 years time which is 2015. Also with the ATM card you will be able to transfer your funds to your local bank account. The ATM card comes with a handbook or manual to enlighten you about how to use it. Even if you do not have a bank account.

Check: To be deposited in your bank for it to be cleared within three working days. Your payment would be sent to you via any of your preferred option and would be mailed to you via FedEx. Because we have signed a contract with FedEx Express which should expire by the end of this month, you will only need to pay $200 instead of $500 saving you $300 So if you pay before the end of this month you save $300 Take note that anyone asking you for some kind of money above the usual fee is definitely a fraudsters and you will have to stop communication with every other person if you have been in contact with any. Also remember that all you will ever have to spend is $200.00 nothing more! Nothing less! And we guarantee the receipt of your fund to be successfully delivered to you within the next 48hours after the receipt of payment has been confirmed.

Note: Everything has been taken care of by the Federal Government of Nigeria, The United Nation and also the FBI and including taxes, custom paper and clearance duty so all you will ever need to pay is $200.

DO NOT SEND MONEY TO ANYONE UNTIL YOU READ THIS: The actual fees for shipping your ATM card is $500 but because FedEx have temporarily discontinued the C.O.D which gives you the chance to pay when package is delivered for international shipping We had to sign contract with them for bulk shipping which makes the fees reduce from the actual fee of $500 to $200 nothing more and no hidden fees of any sort!

To effect the release of your fund valued at $850,000.00 you are advised to contact our correspondent in Africa the delivery officer David Sunday with the information below,

Name: David Sunday

You are advised to contact him with the information?'s as stated below:

Your full Name..
Your Address:..............
Home/Cell Phone:..............
Preferred Payment Method (ATM / Cashier Check)

Upon receipt of payment the delivery officer will ensure that your package is sent within 48 working hours. Because we are so sure of everything we are giving you a 100% money back guarantee if you do not receive payment/package within the next 48hours after you have made the payment for shipping we the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) will get your funds refund back to you with immediate effect

Yours sincerely,

TELEPHONE: (206) 414-1408

Note: Do disregard any email you get from any impostors or offices claiming to be in possession of your ATM CARD, you are hereby advice only to be in contact with David Sunday of the ATM CARD CENTRE who is the rightful person to deal with in regards to your ATM CARD PAYMENT and forward any emails you get from impostors to this office so we could act upon and commence investigation.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Olympic Team Announcement

Today the vast majority of the GB Rowers were announced as selected for the Olympic games.

There are still a couple of final selection decisions to take place. I'm training well and feeling more effective in the boat each day. Agrra los cuernos de un toro.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Second World Cup - Lucerne

The 2nd World Cup of the season saw a change from the eight into a pair with Cameron Nichol.  This had been the original plan for the 1st World Cup, and with on and off opportunities to get out in the boat, we were finally given the nod a week before the event in Lucerne.

Over the week build-up we concentrated on positive actions that would bring us speed.  It's often easy to get caught up with what isn't right and address those technical points until they are fixed.  But with a short amount of time, the real priority was working out what we could do pro-actively to put in a solid performance.  With a few timed pieces under our belt, we had a few ideas on what did and didn't work.

Our heat went reasonably well, we drew the 3 x World Champions from New Zealand and Olympic Silver medalists from Canada.  Three crews went through and we were able to pick up the 3rd position by picking crews off as we went down the course.

The semi was an opportunity to place a marker relative to the lead GB pair and gain a place in the A-final.  We knew it would be a tough challenge and we looked to build off what we had done in our first race.  But almost immediately we were dropped by the whole field, leaving a lot of work to do.  Our start had been a bit ineffective and the other 5 crews just stepped away from us.  The row on the whole wasn't bad, but due to being on the back foot so early on, meant we didn't quite find a good enough rhythm and came in 5th (needing a top three position to progress into the A-final).

Sunday offered a chance to show that Saturday had been a mistake and not a true reflection of our speed.  We talked more about the pro-active lessons we had learnt over the previous week and looked to be more bullish in our execution.  Things went much better, leading from stroke one and coming over the line with an overall ranking of 7th at the Regatta.  We placed above crews selected and qualified for the Olympics and were the fastest "No. 2" boat from any nation.

As usual, we were back training on Monday morning.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

It's Nathaniel not Nathan

Current Serbian top ten.

Last weekend was the first World Cup race of the season.  Due to an injury I was asked to step into the Eight a few days before the race.  I slotted in well and [hope] I helped the Eight continue to step on and get positive experiences under their belt.

Choices, choices.

You can watch the race on the BBC here or, for international readers, on the World Rowing website here.  On the BBC commentary I am re-christened "Nathan" - it's not the first time this has happened on commentary, hopefully someone gets themselves to specsavers in time for the next race.

Those who have regularly watch our Eights races, we have tended to be more of a Kelly Holmes circa 2004 crew (slow to begin with then fast into the line).  As you will see in the footage above, we "got up in their grill" early doors and looked to put ourselves in a different position, earlier in the race.  Mixed result, but the boat will use the experience to shape their plans as the season progresses.

Serbia was an interesting country.  The people were friendly and I was pleased to be able to meet up with my Serbian friend Fil.  The weather was pretty good, 30+ degrees with a slight tail wind on the course.  Their national elections were held on the Sunday while we were there, it meant that every billboard was dominated with a political poster - gave it more of a Soviet era sort of vibe.  We didn't have a chance to see much of the City, but what we did see was not quite what I expected.  I've visited quite a few Eastern European countries and seen the full spectrum of change from "Soviet poverty" to "Western wealth".  I had expected Belgrade to have some Austro-Hungarian type architecture, some 50's/60's rubbish and the occasional new modern buildings.  If I'm honest, nearly all of what I saw was repaired 50's/60's rubbish.  On the plus side they did have quite an impressive spaghetti junction/bridge thing going on and the course was lined with some quite nice looking bars, all with sun booths and lounges.

There was a fair amount of sport going on in the City that weekend.  Their was the Serbian Tennis Open, World Cup Rowing and the Partisan vs Red Star Belgrade derby (football).  Had we not been racing, I would have loved to go to the football, sadly we had to make do with a smaller game [Video - for some reason uploaded upside down!]

Fred and Ron Weasley at the airport.

Training started straight away Monday morning and it's been quite a big week.  Enjoying a day off today, I resisted the urge to go out an buy a small white dancing dog.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

First World Cup race of the season

The first of three World Cup races this season is this weekend.

Initially I wasn't due to race (due to not knowing if I would be quite
ready yet off the back of illness) but was then selected into what is
effectively the spare pair. A few days later this changed again and I am
now racing in the men's eight (the Olympic class boat that I won a
silver medal in at the World Champs last summer). This is due to an
injury to one of the guys within the boat.

The racing is being held in Belgrade, Serbia and started Friday. Winning on Friday meant we made it straight to the final from the heat.

Finals will be Sunday (tomorrow) morning and start at 9:30 and
we will be in the last final of the day at 12:30pm. The BBC will be
showing the finals live on the red button or on BBC 5 live radio. All
racing (heats, semis, final) can be watched live at
Alternatively there is a highlights programme on Monday lunchtime BBC2 11:30-12:30pm.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Back from Varese, preparing for Belgrade.

Things can change a lot in a couple of weeks. In my last post I said I had been disappointed not to be racing at the first World Cup event of the season, now I will be. I'll be racing in a pair with Cameron Nichol - he has been in the GB World silver medal eight for the past two years. We both went to university (UCL, Univ. of London) together and in the past raced quite a bit together - inc. winning Henley in 2007.

So for the next week we will be making are preparations to race in Belgrade, Serbia. It will be a good chance to get some higher intensity work done even though we have been put together at quite a late stage. George and Will are the selected GB pair and so the World Cup is a good chance to gauge progress against the guys currently selected in the Olympic seats.

My friend Fil's family are Serbian big wigs (his grandfather was the Serbian President), so I'm really looking forward to visiting a country he has raved so much about.

Feel free to ask questions / make comments. Day to day you can follow me on Twitter @nrod2012.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Varese, Italy

I'm currently in Varese on training camp. Living the dream of afternoon coffees with Italian supermodels*.

*some or all of this statement may be false.

A few things have gone on while here -

• I turned 24 a week ago today. Sadly nothing too exciting went down, I had three session in my single scull and had happy birthday sung to me 5 times by the exact same group of people. I will always remember my 24th b'day though, as it was the first day I noticed I had a grey chest hair. I must be getting old!

• Training has been going well. I'm feeling much better than the last month and have been getting some good training done in my single. It means I've been in a boat on my own, which can be less exciting, but also gives me freedom to work on my things. It has been difficult to work technically on things as we have had quite strong rolling cross waves which has made things challenging, but I'm pretty happy with my base skill and looking to develop my efficiency and proficiency at closer to race pace.

• Today was the flattest and sunniest day we have had here - cold, wind and rain has been the forecast for the past two weeks. So there I was, part way through my session - enjoying some really good paddling - when crack, splash, bang. My oar randomly snaps in the middle of the lake - nowhere near anything, it 'crabs' (flips round) and throws my boat over. I'm then upside down, under the water trying to undo my feet. I get free and find part of my oar has sunk to the bottom. Thankfully I was out with others and there was a coach to pick me up and take me back to our boathouse. The other guys loved it, nothing like someone else's misfortune to cheer you up!

In a couple of weeks it is the first World Cup race of the season, sadly I won't be racing this time - but expect strong performances from all the GB boats.

You can follow me day to day on Twitter @nrod2012 - please feel free to ask questions or leave comments!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

March Update

The view from breakfast in Aviz, Portugal.

Yesterday was four months until the games; how quickly time has passed.  Within our team the initial selections for our pre-Olympic races have taken place and there is a definite "preparing" sort of feel to training.

Personally, I've had a nightmare first three months of 2012.  Previous posts have documented a tough January camp and illness.  I'd thought I had put these behind me, but during preparations in Portugal for our National Trials I fell ill again.  Very similar symptoms to before, and looks like it was a re-occurrence of a virus I contracted.  It meant two 10 day stints of little to no training within just over a month - this is rare.  If I have a day off I get agitated, so 10 days was an eternity (to put it into perspective of my normal "time off" - from the end of last season to the next we got two weeks and I started training again in the second week).

There has been a huge effort to try and clearly define what it is that has caused me to be ill.  Due to the huge list of differing symptoms, it has made it quite hard.  Some aspects are very similar to glandular fever, but the test came back negative.  It meant I was sent back to the cardiologist for more investigations.  Again, this came back as abnormal but not of serious concern.  It has meant we (the coaches, medical team and I) have treated this as something very similar to glandular fever.  I've been building up my training - altering it here and there for when I am too fatigued.  It has been a lot slower than I would have ever expected, but I'm hoping for a break through soon so I can get back into the full programme.  Until I'm ready to fully train and race I'm not ready to be selected for anything.  As I said at the start of the post, the Olympics are only four months away - I fear that time is ticking too fast.

Beyond rowing, all is well.  My granny is in fine form, showing plastic Paddies how the real Irish do it on St Patrick's Day!  My sister Charlotte is off travelling South Asia with her boyfriend Mark; I've been getting regular photo updates of random Vietnamese streets and Mark's burnt neck #livingthedream.  My dad has been looking for a folding bike on Ebay, says it will save him £££'s in parking for work - what he saves in cash he will lose in dignity.  My brother Paddy had a staring role in a Tyne Tees TV report on my school boat club (St Leonard's R.C. Comp. Durham), you can watch it here.  My brother Ben is on training camp in Portugal with our boat club (University of London).  UL had a great Eights Head (the most important time trial race on the domestic calendar) and Ben stroked the second Eight to a strong row, just missing out on winning their category.  My little sister Emily has been on a creative streak, her latest creation was "Jeggie J" for the school egg decorating competition.

A final nod to my mum.  A couple of weekends ago was Mother's Day, I'm sure she was felt the house was empty with only two of my brothers and sisters at home (I'm one of five).  She gets soppy over the smallest of things, so I'll keep this short.  She is a great mum who has, is and always will be there for all five of us.  She's a highly respected teacher turned headmistress and we are all very proud of her! 

You can follow me day to day on Twitter @nrod2012 and you can receive posts via email by signing on the left hand side.  Feel free to leave comments and to ask any questions!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Catch up!

It's been a while since I've blogged, apologies to those visitors that have tired of my old content.  A lot has happened these past couple of months, I won't be able to cover it all - but I'll try to give you the gist!

January started with a bang, a two and a half week altitude camp in South Africa.  Over Christmas I'd really strengthened my injured back and was pleased with the progress I'd made on the ergo.  This translated to a good start in SA and I hoped to jump straight back into where I had been pre-torn disc.  A couple of days in and I started to pick up a few niggles and struggled.  The rest of the camp became a survival strategy as I nursed my way through a gruelling training program.  Most of the camp was on the ergo, broken up with weights and some cycling every other day.  There was no real time to do anything "touristy" in SA, but I did enjoy staying within a small town - it meant I could experience a little bit more of what it's like for the locals day to day.

Off the back of the SA camp we had the annual GB Team Dinner.  The dinner was held at Twikenham Stadium - about 6 mins drive from my house (unless the lights are bad!).  Invited are the good, bad and ugly of British rowing and sponsors.  The night can be a bit of a stiff occasion for those that have ergo tests a couple of days after, but it is a good chance to hear about how all the GB rowing teams did the previous season (Junior, U23, European and Senior).  Medalists are presented with a framed photo from the World Champs, the World Champions also receive a certificate from the World governing body (FISA) telling them they are World Champions.  I'm not really one for momentoes, but the my 'Junior World Champion' certificate is something different and special.

Post the GB Dinner we had our 5km ergo test.  With no preparation I went into it a bit blind.  Previously I'd probably gone too hard too early and paid for it in the second half.  This time I took a risk, I waited and waited.  I wanted to go under 16 mins, that meant pulling an average split of under 1:36.  I only got down to this in the dying stages of the test.  I finished with a time of 15:58 - a PB of 6 seconds.  I was pleased with the way I did it and happy to be stepping forward after what had been a miserable camp.

A few days later we did some testing on the water.  This has generally been where I could show my abilities and prove my worth.  This time I wasn't that good.  I lacked technically and needed to get more shove on through the stroke.  These are things I thought I had been doing far better earlier in the season.  The testing showed the great strength in depth in the team, there are plenty of others ready to perform and shine if you don't.  I'm dissappointed with my performance and, if I'm honest, it puts my Olympic dream in jeopardy.

Towards the end of that week I started to develop funny heart rhythms.  They came and went, sometimes stronger sometimes weaker.  During racing your body can react in strange ways, it had been particularly cold and I had experienced a couple of these weird beats while away in SA.  CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) conducts regualrly screening and last October they had picked up that I had an eptopic beat - its not particularly serious but something to keep an eye on.  As I settled to tuck into the Six Nations on the Saturday afternoon, I noticed that my heart wasn't beating normally, I felt pretty rubbish, lips tingled a bit and noticed I was getting breathless.  I let it go, expecting it to settle like the previous days, but by the evening I thought it would be best to contact Dr Ann (our team doctor).  She sent me to A & E to get it looked at, I think the main purpose was to catch it on an ECG while it was happening.  Several blood tests were done to check other stuff wasn't going on (e.g. Thyroid issues etc).  Come Monday I was still getting these beats and I really struggled during my first session.  Dr Ann sent me to see a cardiologist [Prof Sharma] at St George's Hospital.  I was told this guy was THE guy to see, and I believe it.  They ran through quite a few tests, including an active ECG.  I was told they would put me on a treadmill - "get me moving and see how the heart reacted".  I thought this would be a light jog at worst - I was wrong.  I was rigged up with 12 or so sensors and then informed it would be a test to maximum heart rate.  I was sat in jeans and trainers (laces not done up).  I sweat pretty quickly on a cold day, in a warm hospital I thought this can only get messy.  Inside I didn't know what to do - ask to do it in my boxer shorts or just get on with it? I bottled it, jeans it was.  I don't think they'd had anyone sweat quite so much but thankfully they didnt make me go to max heart rate ("Yeah, this is going to take too long").  They gave me a 24hr ECG to wear and I finished my training for the day.  Over the next couple of days I felt pretty rubbish and feverish at times.  On the Wednesday Dr Ann said to take a break, I had more tests and was given time to let things settle.  My 24 hr ECG had been to try and gauge how many eptopic beats I was getting - if it was more than 2,000 then they might need to do something about it.  It turns out I had over 10,000 in that 24 hr period.  By Friday these beats had still not settled, I was put on a very low and short dose of beta blockers to bring things back into line.  By the end of the course they eptopics had settled significantly.  On the Monday I had an MRI (just to make sure) and trained in the afternoon.  I felt terrible; fever, shaking, no appetite, queasy etc - heart stuff all fine though.  I some how also picked up an infection in my elbow joint.  That week was up and down as I fought this virus off, eventually back training on the Friday and feeling like I had turned the corner.  Since then I've been tired, but feeling stronger and back into full training.  The medical team reckon the whole episode was down to some weird virus, it was annoying to get so many things as once.

Since then I enjoyed a visit to the World Cup racing at the velodrome with Atos UK - I'll write about this in the next couple of days.

A week on and I'm now in Portugal on the second training camp of the season, preparing for our national trails (at the start of March).  I'm in a pair with Tom Ransley, things have started pretty well and I'm looking forward to getting our boat motoring.

I must say thank you to everyone who has sent their good wishes, it is much appreciated.  A special thanks to family, friends, Atos UK/Threshold Sports and the medical staff at GB Rowing - world class.

Feel free to leave comments/ask questions below.  You can also find me on Twitter @nrod2012.

p.s. does anyone know anything about the flowers I received on Valentines day?! Denials from everyone I know!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

On way to South Africa

Just about to take off for the first camp of 2012. Weights, ergo's and cycling in South Africa at 2000m+ altitude.

Hope you've had a good new year!