Thursday, April 13, 2006

Longer post

Finally got around to finishing the training camp entry. Would have done it sooner but I wasn't around much on the weekend, and when i was was around i was too tired and couldn't be bothered, owing to a lack of sleep. *cough*

Well, not as long as HC's latest (brilliant) creation, but it's gonna be a long one nonetheless. It's training camp. It's a week's worth of diary entries. Some of it might be vaguely interesting. A lot of it is going to be rowing shit. Deal. Or not - your choice.

Wed, april 5

2 outings in a.m. did a couble with C from mortlake. both outings rubbish. she throws her weight around in the boat like a sack of flour. drove me bonkers. she understands slide control like my ex-bf understands emotions. got back for lunch, which was fab. the hotel has great food. and it's right on the adriatic. proper beach-front palace! rooming with J and A. room has an ocean view. holy fucking shit. is this training camp? from the dirt-floor shed that is the Bristol boat house to this, well, lets just say i feel a bit like Pretty Woman. After lunch went for walk to buy Hairy man a postcard. EVERYTHING is closed. Fucking siestas. instead walked on beach listening to waves and ipod. noticed huge piles of deep purple shells along water line; thought of phoenicians and famous purple dye made from shells. must be these shells. beautifu! if i don't look to the left at the miles of tacky hotels or to the right at the off-shore oil rigs, but only down at sand and shells, i can imagine that this beach looked exactly like this 3000 years ago. i imagine small children running about with baskets collecting the shells to be made into dye and jewelry and all sorts of things. what history! stormy sky was good backdrop for view of oil rigs, which sprout from the horizon as incongruously as mushrooms in a sand dune. got caught in a cloud burst, which did not dampen my mood, and then chased by scary dog, which did. spent most of walk thinking about hairy man, where we are are, where it's going, what do i feel, etc. reached zero conclusions, just know i miss him. went back to lake for 3rd outing of day. did double with J. much better. got on rather nicely. focused on posture, clean finishes.

thurs, april 6
feeling much more comfortable about my standing in the club today. 3 more outings in the double. first one w/ C again. lovely girl, but just can't row! we raced the mortlake women in a 1750m piece and came in dead last against a bunch of lightweight singles. a heavyweight double getting passed by lightweight singles. fucking embarassing. the coaches saw how badly it was going and swapped her out for J. J and i repeated the piece and easily had the fastest time of the day, as it bloody well should be. After a (too) brief rest, i went out with A for a UT2 recovery paddle. both A and J commented on how much i had improved since the banyoles training camp. J said she wouldn't mind doing the double w/ me at Henley. Feeling much relieved.

fri, april 7
fucking cold this morning. frost on the ground. WTF? how is it that the temperature in italy in mid-april is the same as the temp in england in mid februrary? that is just not right. J, A and i took a quad (brand new empacher) out with a mortlake girl, H. She's not v. experienced in a scull, but she's tall, strong, and super-keen. We liked her a lot and got on very well. The outing was productive. I'd never been in an empacher before. I could never understand what all the fuss was about. After 3 strokes in that boat, i understood. It's like if you've been driving Micras and Fiestas all your life, and you just can't fathom why people spend all that money on mercedes and bmws, when your little micra gets you from a to b just as well. and then you test drive a beemer, and suddenly you understand farfegnugen. that's how the empacher was. it was farfegscullin. i want one. i want one right now. the thought of the brand new stelph quad sitting back in bristol no longer makes me quiver with joy. balls.

speaking of things i want, there was a very friendly (as if there's any other kind) newfoundland retriever snuffling around. how cool that the water sports center keeps a water rescure dog around! as it should be! i made friends with him. my team mates couldn't undertand how the sight of a jack russel terrier off its lead can freeze me wth terror, but a newfie large enough to be easily mistaken for a bear makes me all ooey-gooey inside. i dunno. i just like newfies.

J, A and i couldn't be bothered to eat dinner at the hotel (4 courses and it takes 2 hours, besides which we just couldn't face another plate of pasta), so we went out for pizza. it's italy, after all. we also stopped in a baker to buy some sweets, and the woman recognized me from the day before (i know i know, i have a sweet tooth, so sue me) and i indicated that i had brought my friends, and she was so delighted (it was the off season and business was obviously slow) that she gave us free donuts. cool. (stop looking at me like that; we also went to a grocer's and bought fruit.) in the evening H came by our room and hung out with us for a while and gossiped. we're going to try to steal her for a composite quad at henley.

sat, april 8

beautiful weather today. cold in the morning again but clear and sunny and (most important) calm. the water was like glass. oh yeah, baby, let me at it!!! J and i did a 22km UT2 in the double. my body posture is much improved, and i'm beginning to change the muscle memory so i don't have to consciously think about it every stroke. Seeing the video hamish took of me the previous day really helpe. we went through it frame by fram w/ S from mortlake who, instead of just telling me to 'sit up more,' which was causing me to shorten my stroke, told me to think about the angle of my pelvis and to rock forward on my sitting bones, then lead up the slide with my navel rather than my shoulders. it sounds contradictory, but the result is i get a much longer stroke because my compression is better, and i have a much stronger back from which to support the leg drive. i was getting really frustrated, though, because i can't seem to clear my port blad from the water through the recovery. i thought it was because i wasn't tapping down enough with my right hand, so i tried exaggerating that movement, but all it did was make the boat smack down to port. then i realized i must not be tapping down enough with my LEFT hand, which was making the boat go slightly down to port and therefore not giving my right hand room to clear. so i tried tapping down a touch more with my left hand, but that didn't work either. mumph. i don't know what the fuck i'm doing. it's like when i was studying botany and everything i learned only made me realize how much i didn't know. every answer just makes you ask a hundred more questions. maybe it's a sign that i'm becoming more sensitive to the movement of the boat that every tiny thing that i do wrong drives me absolutely fucking nuts. it wasn't a bad outing, but i worked myself into a real tizzy.

saturday afternoon we had off. some people went into ravenna to do some sight seeing or shopping. i needed a beach and some sun. i needed to be beached like a dying whale. i donned the famous purple bikini, grabbed a towel and the pod, and hit the sand. i still have lycra lines, but they're not as pronounced at least. and god did it feel good to just lay there in the sun. i'm going to get skin cancer, i know. but i'm a sun slut. i can't help it.

Sun, april 9

i don't really remember sunday. i forgot to write anything down at the time, and now it's all running into a blur. i remember the weather was nice again. and the theme park next to the lake opened so all day as we were training we could hear the screams of the kids on the roller coasters. nice summer atmosphere. that's about all i remember. i'm sure i learned something about sculling as well, but i don't remember what.

oh, wait, i remember that A and i practices some race starts in the double in preparation for the next morning's scrimages. i was rubbish. i can't get my hands around the finish fast enough, and so i'm slowing the whole process up. i need a LOT of work on this. starts have always been my weak point. (ask anyone who saw my performance at henley in 2004.)

mon, april 10

scrimages. jess's back went out, so i was in her single. it was my first time in a single this training camp, i am not familiar with her boat, i have never done race starts in a single (except for last summer, but that doesn't count because it was only one day, almost a year ago, my sculling technique is miles better than it was, and i crabbed anyway), and the water was absolute SHIT. the wind was ferocious, there were whitecaps on the lake. i was convinced i was going in. i managed to get up to the start, do a (really shit) race start, and finish the piece, but i never even looked to see what my time or standing was. i know i was last. i was absolutely terrified.

now, i'm one of those people who can hold it together in a crisis. i never go to pieces. i do that afterwards. when the shit hits the fan i do exactly the right thing, keep it cool and under control, and get it done. it's why you want me around in a catastrophe. i'm great. it's just after it's all over that i fall apart. even when i was in primary school and there was a fire drill, i would always be the one assigned to make sure that the lights were off, the windows in the classroom (and cloakroom) were closed, hold the doors for the rest of the class, yell at anyone who was talking, and do the head count to make sure everyone was safe. (you're probably wondering where the teacher was in all this and why was it the job of an 8-year-old to take a head count. i'm wondering the same thing.) after the principle announced the time it took to clear the building (a minute 41 secs was our school record) and gave us the all-clear to go back inside, i would file in silently with the rest of the class, take my seat, the teacher would put the lights on and begin the lesson, and i would suddenly be a pile of weeping, blubbering, hysterics. once the crisis was over (and i was terrified of fire, so i treated every drill like a crisis), i fell completely apart. it took my second-grade teacher a while to get used to this, but she had known me since i was 3 and knew i wasn't nuts, it was just my way of releasing the pressure behind the valve.

Firefox just crashed me out. I had completed the post. was, in fact, typing the LAST SENTENCE when it crashed. this is all i had saved. i'm too annoyed right now to rewrite the rest, so i'm going to let it hang for now. i'll finish it up tomorrow. sorry.

Hi, by the way, and thanks for all the great comments to other posts. it was nice to have notes to read when i got back.

And now for the conclusion...

So there I was in J's single, having finished the worst piece of my life in absolutely lycra-shitting, nerve-shattering conditions, and I was alive. Moreover, I wasn't in the water. The crisis was over. Can you guess what happened next? Oh yes, mis amigos, that's right. I cried. Not just a little sniffle, mind you, but full-out, snot-dripping, chest-shaking bawling. For the first time that morning I was grateful that I was no where near another boat.

And then of course Hamish Coach found me. Came zipping up in the rubber duck, and just for good measure, J and another bloke were with him, you know, to watch. Cuz what i needed most right then was a fucking audience. Hamish totally ignored the waterworks. He just said "that piece wasn't much to look at; i know you can scull better than that. Ignore the conditions. Sit up, tap down, and just put the blade in the water. Good, now push." And he kept on me like that for 8k. Every single stroke a correction, every single stroke it was "let's get some more squeeze on. that's it, squeeze with the legs, squeeze your bum. Squeeze! good, now..." and he never let up. he was fucking relentless. It was all i could do to get my breathing under control and listen to what he was saying (tho i badly wanted to just tune him out). By the end of that outing I was taking the best strokes I'd ever taken in my life. The boat just fucked off. I could feel the lift, the run. It just moved. I took 10 of the cleanest, strongest strokes of my career thus far and he said, "well done. you can go in now."

I know they say that a kick in the ass gets you farther down the road than a pat on the back, but i've always been one of those people who responds much better to encouragement than abuse. On this occasion, however, Hamish managed to do exactly the right thing. I don't know if he was oblivious to my state when he found me in the launch, or if he saw how poorly i was and didn't know how to cope with it so he just ignored it, or if he somehow knew that the absolute best thing he could have done for me at that moment was to make me stay out there until i got it right, but whatever the reason, I learned a lot about myself that morning, my abilities, and my demons.

H took a video of my work that morning. Apparently that last minute or so is stunning. If I can ever get him to email it to me, I'll try to find a way to post it on here.

Tues, April 8

Last day. We were supposed to do 3 race pieces in the a.m.: a 500m, a 1000m, and a 1500m. We got out to the lake. Conditions were horrendous. They were actually worse than the day before. Strong cross-head wind, whitecaps. Now, there is a difference between nuissance conditions and flat-out unsafe conditions. These condidtions would have been a serious nuissance for an 8, but for small craft they were simply not safe.

I know my coach. I didn't even ask if he thought it was safe. I knew what the answer would be. I just got my blades and carried them down the pontoon. While I was untieing (untying? how the fuck do you spell that?) J's boat from the rack, P, the head coach at Morlake approached me and said, unsolicited, "If I were you, I'd develop a sudden back injury and tell your coach you're not going out."

Apparently he shared my assesment of the conditions. I asked him, "Having seen my progress this week, in your professional opinion, do you think it's safe for a sculler of my experience and abilities to launch in these conditions."

"Honestly," he said, "no, I don't. But i'm not your coach."

I then proceeded to find Hamish and have the predicted conversation. At least he let me out of doing the pieces. Instead I had to paddle across the lake to the leeward shore where there was a slight wind shadow and do a 12k UT2. When I came in (cold, wet, and annoyed), I discovered that the far more experienced Mortlake scullers never even went out. Grumble and mumph. After that much de-rigging and loading ensued, followed by lunch at the hotel, followed by a sight-seeing trip into Ravenna. (we had the afternoon to kill as our flight didn't leave until 10 pm.)

Here are the highlights from the sightseeing excursion:
* It pissed it down with rain
* so we hid in a cafe' and drank coffee and ate chocolates
* then we went lingerie shopping, and i didn't buy anything because i'm not willing to pay 12 euros for a pair of knickers that contain less material than a roll of dental floss and if my team mates think i wear really big pants well then they can either cough up the dough for the outrageously expensive panties or just deal my comfy cotton flowered skivvies. grumble and mumph.
* i'm told there are hundreds of stunning, well-preserved mosiacs in ravenna from the byzantien empire or something. i wouldn't know; i didn't get to see any of them. we didn't go to any cool museums or churches because we were busy dragging me through expensive, high street, italian lingerie stores and mocking my underwear.
* i bought a bottle of olive oil for the Hairy Man. with chili peppers in it.
* we ate gellato.

bus ride back to hotel. dinner, bus to airport, queue, flight delayed, wait, more queueing, bumpy flight, no sleep, land, queue at passport control -- for almost 2 hours! -- get luggage, find car, have wee in car park (it was 3 am by this time, no one was around), drive back to bristol from stansted airport, discover that M25 is CLOSED, take detrour through downtown london at 4 am (got from the tower bridge to buckingham palace in 10 minutes!) passing all major landmarks, arrive in bristol at 6 am having been awake for 24 hours. (and not just any 24 hours; 24 hours following a training camp when i really would have preferred to sleep for 24 hours.)

well, there you are. that's training camp. might post some photos later. sorry for the delay. even sorrier that you waited all this time for that, which was not terribly interesting. will make next post more entertaining, i promise. (spend weekend with Hairy. loads of material.)


First Nations said...

first! first! first! first! first! first! first! first! first! first!
I've been checking all day!
i just went on a little mini vacation with you to the only place in the world i have ever wanted to travel to...italy! and it sounded dreeeeeeeeeamy..xpt for the rowing. not a rower. maybe if there was a pile of pasta waiting at the end of the course.
omg. murex shells...beaches...ravenna...sigh....

Timorous Beastie said...

Welcome home Bitch.

No Shit Sherlock said...

Sounded really incredibly fun, but I hate rowing and exercise. So not that interesting for me. Love the thing about the fire drill, highly amusing. I was the one at the back calmly packing my bag because I was fireproof (...) whilst everyone else screamed... Happy days.

Loganoc said...

Ah man, I miss rowing. Of course I was never anywhere as pro as you but it did used to be fun. But Bristol Uni rowing is just way too hardcore for me.

Did you watch the Boat Race then? I'm convinced (even though slightly biased) that the light blues rowed much better and more cleanly than the dark blues, they just had the wrong boat. Looked like they were getting close to sinking!

ZB said...

empacks are the bollocks. They're a bit twitchy when you're just paddling but when you start putting the power down they go like a thoroughbred whose arse has just been stung by a wasp.

"Can't get my hands around the finish fast enough, and so i'm slowing the whole process up" _ hands move at the same speed whether they're going in or coming out. Flowing hands, always moving with a waltz ratio. 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 or stroke, 2, 3, stroke 2, 3...2, 3 being the rec. The ratio never changes either.

Cambridge were a prettier crew to watch but Oxford had a better rhythm for the conditions. Their stroke man had a very crisp and defined punchy stroke profile ideal for rough water. Cambridge's more flowing style couldn't cope.

That and the fact that they shipped 100kg of water on the bend where Oxford went ahead. They should have fitted a pump.