Looking out over Varese
Time has slipped by and I haven’t written here for ages. Life is busy at the moment and I often find myself at the keyboard with good intentions, only to feel my eye lids drooping and a comfy area of desk beside. I wake up a while later, out of time, un-productive with something else I have to do or somewhere I need to be. So here I am, sitting in my room in Varese Italy, with time and energy. Make hay while the sun shines….
The windows are open wide and there’s a warm breeze blowing in. We are staying in ‘The Grand Palace Hotel’ which in it’s heyday must have been incredible. It’s a seriously huge gothic style hotel perched right on the top of a hill in the centre of Varese. The views are amazing all around, one side looks down over the vast Lake Varese which is where we go to race. The other looks over different parts of the town and beyond onto the mountains and forested peaks in the distance. It’s the prime location in the city for views that’s for sure! I’ve spent many, many weeks here in the past, this used to be one of our regular training camp locations and I will always have memories of this lake. Much blood and sweat has been spilt over the side of my boat here, the lake is a part of my rowing history.
This time we’re here for the second of this year’s rowing world cup events the first of which was held a while ago in Bled, Slovenia. Unfortunately we didn’t race there, we chose to attend the European Championships in Poznan which was our first International event of the year. After a very slow start in the heat, we woke up, sharpened up and raced well in the final to come in second behind Germany. Were we disappointed with that? I see the dissatisfaction in people's eyes and hear it in their voices when they ask me, but honestly no I wasn’t. Perhaps that’s the wrong attitude but It’s the way I see things. In the GB rowing team we are always expected to win. If we come away with anything other than gold then generally we haven’t performed. In reality that’s not a realistic expectation. Of course I would love to have been through my career unbeaten, to win every race I have ever done, that would mean I was the very best there has ever been right!? Well the truth is that if that had happened I wouldn’t be who I am today. I use those hundreds of times I was beaten, thrashed and failed, daily in my training and racing. It’s an important part of me and I treasure it. So yes, a couple of weeks ago in Poland I would have liked to have come away with the gold medal but it’s useful that we didn’t. Instead I came away with a very positive feeling and a clear idea of where we need to go.
We are a relatively new crew, formed a couple of months ago once our trials had finished. We had prepared for the race in our training but never alongside another crew and certainly never alongside another eight. We went into the event with the boat feeling OK but nothing very special and that showed in our heat. We were beaten comfortably by a number of crews most of whom had raced at other events previously in the season. It was the kick up the back-side we needed, we hadn’t done anything particularly wrong, we had in fact been replicating what we had done in training but it just wasn’t fast enough. So we talked about it, raced again and put it right. From the heat to the final, comparing to the other crews around us we made up around 9 seconds over those three days. That was enough to put us into the silver medal position. A very positive change, learning experience, lesson, and confidence boost. Nothing but positivity came out of our trip to Poland.
On the lake here in Italy a few weeks later we are a different crew. Same athletes but different approach, ethos and feeling on the water. The boat is starting to move in a way we want it to. We are beginning to hook up the work and use our physical strength in the right way. We are starting to get some efficiency of which we were lacking in Poland. Training has been going well and we arrive here with confidence that we can put in a good performance. In no way am I saying we are the finished article, far from it. I don’t even know if we will hold our silver medal position from a couple of weeks ago. There are new strong crews here widening the field and increasing the intensity of the event, but we are in a good mindset and eager to test ourselves. Yesterday the heat went well, we won it taking us straight through to the final. Tomorrow (21/06/15) we race again and that race will be tough. It will no question be a race right to the line, a real battle and a test to see if we can hold everything together under pressure. If we do then great, if not then no panic. We will go away and keep working on things. There’s only one race this year that we must get right - the World Championship final.
I’ve written plenty for now, my job for the rest of the evening is to rest up and prepare my legs for tomorrow. I’m excited about racing on this beautiful Lago de Varese again, it may even be the last time I ever float on it’s waters.