Row hard, row fast

Monthly Archives: April 2013

As part of my preparations for next months trial, a GB coach came down to swap the rails on my current boat, to fit the ones that go with the seat I’d been set up with previously.

Sadly, the weather was far too bad to go out, but we decided to put the boat on the water, just to look at positioning. We nearly hit disaster at this point. The coach was holding the boat with his foot, suddenly a big gust of wind sent the boat on a trip along the jetty, along with the coach. I had visions of him going straight into the water, which I fear if it had happened would have been the end of my GB hopes!! Thankfully all was fine, but I was still rather nervous about drifting away when I got in.

The weather was so bad I think I could have rowed a new record time, but then never have managed to return. I went out the day before, and it was more a strength training exercise than actual rowing and it was even worse when the coach was down, so rather pleased I didn’t have to go out, even I know where to draw the line!!

Trials are now less than 2 weeks away. Someone asked me today if I was feeling ready for them. Honestly, I don’t know. I know I’ve been putting in the hours to improve, but have I done enough? I am trying to remain realistic again. Getting to this stage was unexpected, so anything more would be utterly amazing. By the time I trial I’ll only have been training properly for 11 months, 4 of which I spent in casts and splints. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately want a place on the team, to be doing what I’ve dreamt of doing, to be on the road to Rio, as they say. If I don’t get a place this year, I will work even harder to get a place next year, once I’ve set my sights on something it’s very difficult to shake me off the path.

In semi related news I spent much of last week writing applications to try and receive some funding to help with costs associated with the sport, and also for new equipment in terms of a handcycle for cross training purpose. The latter application, as well as having a judging panel, each week people can vote for their favourite applicant. The link is here I would be very grateful if you could take a minute to help my Paralympic dreams come true. Thank you.


After a less than auspicious start, in that, communications had failed and the people who were meant to be helping me boat, mistimed things and I missed the division I was meant to be racing in. Thankfully they let me go in the next division, which worked better for me in the long run as it meant I was with a few other adaptive rowers.

There was a bit of chaos just before I was due to race, as the competitor who was meant to go down after me, was ready ahead of me, and so it made more sense for her to go first. After rushing to get various grips and splints on, I was ready (These included the hand grip I’d only tried the day before on land, which turned out to be great).

I think my theme of the day was ‘being difficult’, I’d not only missed my own division, disordered the other division, and then I was informed I’d have to do a standing start, rather than a rolling one as the others had done. The main difference being that you’re at full power as you cross the line in the latter, as opposed to building speed from stationary, which isn’t so fast.

My race was okay, not fantastically paced, but I think the conditions were responsible for that as it felt like rowing through treacle at various points. I made the best of it though, and managed to overtake the competitor in front of me, yay, survived going under the bridge, and not into it, as had been my biggest worry!! I had lots of support, which was lovely, and as we were rowing a shorter distance the finish was just by where the rest of my squad were, so I got an extra kick to finish. Although that did mean I had to be lifted out of my boat again!! To be fair my legs are pretty duff at the best of times, so adding a body full of lactic acid into the mix never bodes well.

There was one more competitor in my category, but she was in the next division, so I didn’t know the result straight away. My parents and I nipped across the bridge for a tea and refuel, by the time we got back, all the racing had finished so mum popped upstairs to see the results, while dad helped me with my car. Adding to the category of ‘being difficult’ we discovered the stair lift up to the bathroom was dead, so I now have some pretty bruises from crawling up the stairs!!

Mum came to rejoin my dad and I and told me I hadn’t won, I was gutted, but then she read out of the times and presented me with my winners tankard!! Lucky I love her!!

So yes, my first head race win, a confidence booster as I was only 3 seconds beind the winner of the more functional category above me, and showed that the hours I’ve been putting in are paying off, which is the main thing in terms of progress and the road to Rio!!

I love race days, the chance to see if all the work I’ve been putting in has paid off, plus there’s the adrenaline rush. Race days also scare the beejeezes out of me, I’m inherently competitive, so the prospect of not winning, is unpleasant, albeit not as much as the prospect of not doing myself justice. I can live without winning, but trying to console ones self about not winning when you know you could have done better is immensely difficult.

My biggest opponent will always be myself. I learnt that a long time ago, I’ve always been self critical, but I need to learn to be realistic as well. I need to try to remember that this is a learning curve, and there’s no point beating myself up about things that went wrong. I was taught that the only mistakes we make are when we don’t learn from an experience.

This is my first race after my surgery, so it’ll be fantastic to get to do some high speed work done again, just not sure how fit I actually am. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. I’m more nervous as well than usual, as I’m trying out a new piece of kit. Generally trying out a new bit of kit for the first time on race day is a *bad* idea, but I’m not sure I’d actually complete the race without it, so wish me luck!!

I shall spend my evening relaxing, getting mentally prepared, and resting lots. I’ll hopefully update tomorrow.

I received an email a couple of weeks ago, post the first set of trials, requesting that I came to meet with the medics and also have further discussions with the lead coach. In all honesty I was terrified. My medical history on paper, is complex to say the least. I knew that I had to be honest, but was worried that they would deem me to risky to take on.

After a fairly long discussion, the medic seemed happy enough that I really was much better, healthwise, than I look on paper. I’ve left her reading my most relevant medical letters, as there was a fair few, but I’ve still got two lever arches full of medical info at home!!

I then had a nervous 10 minutes whilst the doctor went to discuss me with the lead coach. The news was definitely positive. Their only request was that I’m able to push a manual wheelchair at least 800m, which currently I struggle to do, but I’m getting a much lighter manual chair so I’m confident that it will be fine. I also had to sign a load of paperwork, so that they can apply for exemptions, for my TPN and a few other medications, which are on UK doping’s banned list. A release letter was produced and signed so the chief medical officer can contact my specialists if she needs more information. We are under some time constraints as we need to get all of the paperwork done before the next round of trials.

In an ideal world I would have gone out on the lake to set up a seat that was adjusted to suit me better than the current one I use. Sadly the weather Gods weren’t in my favour, and we had to stay indoors on the rowing machine. I mostly spent the time trying to stay warm, whilst an outside door was open due to maintenance!! We spent a lot of time making adjustments to the seat, making it international standards compliant, whilst as beneficial and supportive for me as possible. It is a lot more restrictive, but I wiggle round less, so it is generally a gain, I just need to get used to it.

Hopefully the seat will be transferred to my boat at some time next week as I’m racing next Sunday, so it would be good to get used to it before hand and it would also be helpful to get some speed work done before trials.

That’s pretty much where I am now. Trying to get lots of practise in before trials which are the first weekend in May, rather than being next weekend, which is where it was originally meant to be. Getting in practise, however, is easier said and done!! I went out to training last night, took one look at the river and decided sadly that it was far too windy to go out safely. It was hard enough on Tuesday, but last night looked worse. Now to hope that it calms down by Sunday morning.

Today is my day off, which my body is very grateful for, catching up on bits and pieces, and generally getting stuff sorted out. I need to go into town, I’m hoping it isn’t too busy with all the kids off for Easter.

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