If the point of training camp is to experience pain in places you didn't know you had places, then this one was a cracking great success. On every other level, it must be said, it was a pathetic and agonizing failure.
It started out well enough. On Sunday I took my single out in the morning and racked up 16k before either the double or the coxless 4 managed the same distance. I felt good. In the afternoon I went out with the quad scull. God it felt great to go fast again! My back was pretty stiff, but I still managed a good outing with some race starts. By the end of it, though, my back had gone into complete spasm and I couldn't move. Coach O had to carry the boat for me.
That night it was announced that the top crew boat the club would be racing would be a coxed 4. That would be the Henley crew. This is fine, except I can't row in a coxed 4. A coxed 4 ("4+") is a sweep-rowed boat, not a scull. And because of my back problems, I will probably never sweep again. I am now, and for the rest of my life, a sculler. So what it boiled down to is I had just been thrown out of the Henley crew in my final year at Bristol and my last ever year to row competitively at Henley. "Heartbroken" doesn't begin to describe it. I was devastated. I sat in my room alone all night and cried.
Monday morning I was still crying, and had a chat with O. He understood how felt, but had to make decisions that were best for the team, and he thought the team stood the best chance of winning in a 4+ (never mind the fact that we don't actually have a coxwain, that's just an insignificant detail!), and it was a shame that a, I had been left out of it and b, that I train the hardest out of anyone on the crew. He promised me that if I could find a doubling partner from another club that he would do everything he could to help us with training and drive us and our boat to practice regattas. I personally am of the opinion that it's absolutely SHIT that
a, I have been with Bristol for 3 years and now, at the end of my career, i have been effectively abandoned by my squad. There is no more racing for me with Bristol.
b, participation is not a factor in selecting crews. When I was an undergrad it would have been inconceivable that someone who spent 3 years on the squad and did all the training would be denied even a chance in competition.
c, apparently all the hard work and painful physical therapy I've put myself through since I ruptured my disk back in November of 2006 has been for JACK. SHIT. All that effort, and here at the end I get NOT. A. FUCKING. THING. The only thing I got was screwed.
After having this out with O (who is, goddamnit, a really nice guy and yelling at him is like kicking a puppy; i just can't do it), I was still a bit stiff, but took my single out again. I could only do short distances and had to come back to the pontoon frequently to stretch. I tried to do some short pieces to burn off the aggression, but only succeeded in pulling my left hip flexor. By Monday evening I was not only discouraged, I was in serious pain. Sitting in a chair, I was unable to raise my left knee off the floor. I could not walk up stairs. Another night passed crying alone in my room.
Tuesday morning I was somewhat better for a bit of rest, but I was still stiff and sore. I tried going out in the single, and actually went in circles. I had lost at least 30% power in my left leg, maybe more. The strength just wasn't there.
(Now, you have to understand my relationship with my legs. They are huge. They are like tree trunks. They are not attractive, but damnit, they work. They work hard, and they have never, ever let me down. They take everything I throw at them, and they give as good as they get. They are the one bit of my body that I can absolutely, unequivocally depend upon. To be betrayed by one's own body in the pursuit of one's dream is traumatic at best. To be betrayed by my legs is like, well, imagine if Pirate left me and married my sister. That kind of betrayal. I have never been so angry at my own body. It's difficult to know what to do with that kind of anger.)
After 2k of trying to compensate by sculling primarily with my right leg, I had a massive knot in my right lumbar spine, at the top of my glut. I came back in and rang my chiropractor, Miracle Mike. He said he could fit me in Thursday morning.
I announced to the rest of the crew that I was leaving camp early, quitting the Bristol boat club, and they could all please go fuck themselves. With a pineapple. Sideways.