I’ll be honest, my lead up to Henley Women’s Regatta wasn’t great. I’d missed a lot of training through illness and injury and was really not in the shape I wanted to be. To the extent that, I was seriously considering scratching about 2.5 weeks before the race. Coach wasn’t having any of it thankfully.
To have even half a chance at winning, I knew I had to stay well and get the most out of the sessions I had left.
With good fortune, I stayed well and injury free and managed to commit to some decent training. I regained speed quickly and my erg scores started to tumble. With a few days to go before I started to taper, I finally managed to produce some scores I could be relatively happy with, and the belief that I could perform started to reappear.
So I bundled everything (but the kitchen sink!!) into the car, and set off to Henley. I arrived just in time to see some of my squad mates race. I met some friends for the first time, saw some old friends, and generally had a chilled out afternoon.
I had a straight final so was only due to race Sunday afternoon, but I love Henley Women’s Regatta, so went
down for the whole weekend, it’s such a great event.
I went to prepare for an evening paddle, to discover that my foam roller, that I use under my knees in the boat had been removed and left at home. So after a quick strop, we used some bits of kit for a temporary job and I went out for a paddle. It was good to be back on the water, although being surrounded by 8’s is always a little unnerving in a single. It’s like being in a Smart Car surrounded by HGVs!! The session went mostly to plan. I found my balance (well as much as I ever have!!) and did a few starts. It seemed okay, and I managed to hold off the 4’s and 8’s coming down for a while. I did nearly capsize just before coming in when I had my right blade parallel to the boat and my left was well into arms away, but I managed to stay calm and rescue it, phew!!
We then went back to the hotel, unpacked, had food etc…. The plan was to chill out for Saturday and have an evening paddle. So I had an early night and a late morning, my PA and I went out to get some snacks, but otherwise I sat around and mooched. My parents arrived in the afternoon, which was lovely. I was going to go out for the paddle, but we decided that driving 30- 40 minutes, for a 40 minute outing and then the same back, was probably not worth it in the grand scheme of things. I wasn’t going to gain anything significant from the outing, but I could injure myself, or tire myself out so I decided to stay watching DVDs instead.
My coach was kind enough to run around the shop and get a new foam roller, whilst we acquired a saw to do the job.
I had an early night, having packed everything and prepared all my kit and drinks for the next day. Not long after I woke I got a frantic phone call from my coach saying there was a problem with the timetable and we were due to race at 1150 not 1500. This gave me less than 2 hours before I needed to boat. Many phone calls, tweets and emails were sent, and I managed to get hold of someone, who said that they’d just noticed it as well and were in the process of checking it. Thankfully 1500 was right, which is what we’d been told originally, so I had to spend some time calming down.
We arrived at 11 so had plenty of time to prepare and cut down foam rollers. I just rested and chatted until it was time to prepare and get on the water. We were heading up to the changing room when an unfortunate incident occurred, which involved me being tipped out of my wheelchair and dislocating my shoulder in the process. This resulted in a very stressed and annoyed me, with a rather wonky shoulder. I quickly put my shoulder back in and tried to get my head back into the race plan.
I boated and rowed up to the start focussing on balance and length, and remaining focussed on my race and my boat not what was going on around me. I got up to the start, and had fun with the cross wind. We were called up to attach to the stake boats. I arrived got lined up and then they decided to change the person holding it, and also move the length of the platform out as well. Eventually we were called to Attention. I quickly checked my blade position, took a focussing breath and then “GO”.
I had a good start, and moved off quickly, I powered through my first few strokes, and realised I could already see my competitor from the corner of my eye. Without losing focus, I continued to push on, by the Island I already had about 2 L clear water, so I settled into a safe rhythm, remembering my coach’s sole instruction “Don’t F*** Up” I continued to pull away, so I started to wind down a bit- I was told to keep it safe and not push on unnecessarily. I settled into a 75% pressure pace, and just kept my focus and calm, whilst trying not to get too excited. As I drew towards the finish, everyone was cheering and shouting, and suddenly I heard “Claire, you can stop rowing now” Possibly the most bizarre hooter/whistle in the world. Suddenly I realised I had won!! Yes, finally after a horrid season, I’d done it. I wound it down and continued rowing so that I could get back to the boathouse. Some people didn’t realise that I had finished racing and were shouting at me to keep going and not give up- I think I was doing arms only at the time to try and recover a bit!! As I continued rowing down people were still clapping and cheering- this is what I love about HWR, people support everyone, complete strangers came up to me to congratulate me, it’s a lovely feeling.
I got back to the boathouse and out of the boat- for once I didn’t throw up!! But I did cry instead. I know it sounds daft, but it’s been such a rubbish season, it was such a relief to have done this. I got an understated fist bump from coach and then I went to roll into a shower before getting dressed up for presentation. I discovered I was only 12 seconds off the course record and I’d only been rowing at 75% so I was a bit annoyed about that, but the time I won in was about the same time I’d won my semi in last year, so despite all my problems this year it shows I’m in better shape than I thought.
I took my parents shopping, well I mean I showed Mum lots of things I wanted and convinced her to part with her credit card for some of them!! They sadly had to go and couldn’t stay till the presentations as it’s nearly 4.5 hours for them to go back home and Mum had work the next day. My aunt and uncle stayed a little bit longer and then headed off. I was called into the presentation enclosure and we kept having to move people out of the way as otherwise I wouldn’t get to my presentation!! There was a bit of talking and speech by Naomi Riches MBE, before the presentations started.
Eventually it was my turn- after remembering to take off my brakes, I made it to the front. I’m not good in these sorts of situations, I get really nervous, but I managed to not drop the trophy which was the main thing, and remembered to try and smile as well!!
We made a quick exit after that as I was pretty tired and still had to do the drive home. We did our goodbyes and made for home.
So that’s my story of Henley Women’s Regatta. It was as ever a fun experience, and really enjoyable.
Sorry I’ve been away for so long. So much has happened, but I’m not going to bore you with history.
Important information though it’s my birthday today!! So I’m feeling loved and supported, and all cozy inside.
Moving swiftly on, I was inspired to start writing again as part of an agreement with the Cambridge University Sports Centre was that they would give me a membership, if I would blog for them about my road to Rio.
I went to visit the gym, as it’s the only place in Cambridge which has a bench pull system which is essential for my strength and conditioning training. I was very impressed with the setup, lots of equipment, looking well maintained, clean, and enough space. The fitness suite looked good as well, nice and smart looking, plenty of modern cardio equipment.
I was delighted when they offered me membership in exchange for some random rambles by me!! I was also happy as Matt, who I used to work with at a previous gym is also there so can help support me as he’s done some rowing and is drawing up my S&C plan at the moment.
I also got to experience the classes and went to my first Pilates class yesterday. I always feel a bit awkward turning up unannounced with no warning about my mobility impairment. The class was really good, the instructor very welcoming, and as I have done some Pilates already I was able to adapt any moves appropriately, surprisingly my core was still pretty good. The time flew by, some classes you count the minutes, but this one seemed to move quickly. Even the leopard print leggings didn’t put me off too much 😉
Overall I’m very impressed so far, although it would be better if there were lockers in the accessible changing rooms.
I hope to return to blogging more often now, but that remains to be seen!!
First of all thank you to everyone who has shared my fundraising campaign over at http://www.makeachamp.com/claireconnon I’m overwhelmed by the support and generosity of people so far.
As a public thanks to you all I shall have a roll call of all donators proudly on this page. So here we go:
Colin Bullock my first para coach
Julien Huppert MP
I’m so grateful to you all, I can’t believe you’ve all been so generous and this is just in the first 24 hours of the campaign. I will do my best to honour my dreams and get that Paralympic medal. Every penny really does make a difference. You’re all awesome
Updated- sorry it’s taken so long to get you all listed.
The Lumb Family
Helen & Kurz
Sorry I got distracted with life and the list was growing faster than I could keep up with!!
Linus Harrison & Grace Quantock
Denise & Paul
Girl on the River
Pete & Jen Fuller Green
That’s all 107 of you, plus there’s been a few offline donations as well. Thank you all so much.
Words cannot express how much your generosity means, but I am spurred on by your support.
I’m known for breaking things, but seem to have taken it to a new level recently. I’m currently in the VW van centre, getting my van looked at. It’s randomly losing power which is not very helpful. Hopefully it’s nothing too major and I can get it fixed quickly and get back home.
My powerchair still remains broken, I need to get that chased up, dragging myself through the car is really not good for me!
Manual chair is fixed though. I replaced the brake myself and with some fiddling, have managed to get it so it is working again. That’s one to me, 2 to inanimate objects.
The final major failure is my rowing seat, I’ve broken one weld and completely sheared through another bit. It needs to go back to the seat hospital. So now we need to change the seat and rails back to my old ones, which aren’t as good, but better than nothing.
Update: managed to get my chair fixed, which is rather handy. Does mean the rails have to be changed again tomorrow, but never mind!!
Car isn’t a VW fault, they believe it’s the alternative ignition that came with the hand controls. Phoned the relevant company who were adamant it wasn’t anything to do with them, until I mentioned what the guys at VW said, then suddenly it was possible it was to do with them!! They, however, haven’t rung me back so need to chase them next week.
I went back home on Thursday afternoon, until this evening. Was a nice change of scenery. Ready for a hard week of training, as I’ve been selected to row for England next weekend, assuming there is still a race. I haven’t heard much so not sure what’s going on. Fingers crossed it’s happening, I loved it last year. It’ll be good to see where I am, and where I need to be for the National Championships in October.
I’m also rather excited as I’m going to see Ash on Tuesday night, (definitely worth skiving off one session to see them!!).
Marlow Regatta, for me nearly didn’t happen. Having come down to the area the night before, to ensure I was on time, relaxed and ready for it, none of those actually happened. My Sat Nav has gone on a holiday and appears not to have found its way home again, so I was relying on printed directions. I left at 9:30, for a 15 minute journey, I eventually got there at 11:10, having had to send someone to let race control know I was on my way. You wouldn’t believe the number of ways you can get lost in Slough!! Thankfully I found a vaguely helpful gentleman, who pointed me in the right direction.
The consequence of this, was that I was wheeling around at high speed to get boated in time. I just made it to the start line in time, but I wasn’t at all prepared mentally, so my race was pretty poor. I finished third and then was approached by someone from BR, who congratulated me. I was a bit surprised by that, until he explained that they hadn’t realised that two categories were racing, and that I’d actually won my event!! Sadly no medal, but I was presented with the winner of the other category’s medal, then had to give it back, but they’re going to get me one engraved and sent out to me.
I was meant to finish this entry off before I went to Henley Women’s but it didn’t quite happen. HWR was a fantastic experience, although it would have been even better if we’d had more para-rowers. I’d had some coaching by a different person between Marlow and HWR, and I was pleased to see the technical changes we’d made, I managed to produce on the day. I was the only entrant in my category, so raced up a category. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I was determined to do my best. I had a good start, on which I built, and managed to lead for the first 400 m, but as the wind increased, the difference between being able to use just your shoulders, versus the whole of the trunk, became very evident. I dug deep though, and I had nothing more to give at the end, so I can’t be disappointed with my race. It has given me things to work on, which is a good thing, especially so early in my rowing career.
I had to try and hold a coherent conversation with the umpire until we got to the landing stage, who wanted my thoughts on the event, para-rowing in general and a bit more about me. My main thought was, I’m tired, and cold!! Can’t remember what I actually said, but she seemed happy enough with my responses.
I think that’s the main races done for me for a while. There’s the National Championships, but they aren’t until October, so will probably do a few local regattas with my club in the mean time. Other than that it’s mostly training for now. Well, when I can avoid hospital appointments. Not sure how I’ve managed it, but I seem to have loads of tests at the moment, and appointments all within a few days of each other. Not my favourite past time!!
This morning the fun is radioactive egg, with toast and jam. I’ve only got an hour left. I’ve had 3 or possibly 4 scans so far, each an hour apart, so I’m quite bored!! I nearly escaped the last one, if my stomach was behaving, but there’s still quite a lot of the food left, so I’ve still got one more scan. Time has been passed talking to the other girl, who is also having the same scan. I’ve been abandoned now though. The most trying bit of the experience was having to eat the jam. I don’t like jam, let alone jam with seeds in it *shudders* seeds are a big problem for me, I’m terms of my ASD, so I’m kind of proud of my success!!
Tuesday I spent an hour trying to sleep in an MRI machine, whilst also following instructions, multitasking at its finest!! I’ve got two London consultants to see in the next 12 days and a dermatologist up here. I’d been working so hard to cut down on the number of appointments, and don’t know how I’ve managed to end up with all of these.
Right time to go and do something useful, or procrastinate until it’s time for my outing!!
It’s Marlow regatta, at Eton Dorney, (home to the Olympic and Paralympic rowing), this weekend. which is rather exciting. Sadly I don’t think my fitness is the best it could be. I need more stamina, it’s coming on, but not fast enough for me!! I think that the week in hospital didn’t help things. Also using my lightweight chair more is a bit of a shock to my arms!!
Currently I’m waiting to see my nutrition team, which hopefully will be okay. I have a few things to discuss and also see what they have to say about things.
Preparations for the race have started, motivational, head focussing music is on, and the cards are up. Training is starting to taper as well. I’m quite excited about the race, although it appears I’m racing up a category again, which is annoying, but a race is better than no race, even if it’s just for experience.
Not much else is happening in my world, it seems to revolve around sleeping and rowing, which is fine by me!!
Well that’s what I hoped, but in reality I seem to have spent the last month trying to work out how to get one oversized object from one part of the country to another. The last resort plan seems to be the most serious contender at the moment, which trust me is a plan that nobody wants to have to resort to, but if that’s what it takes for me to compete then that’s what I’ll do.
In other frustrating rowing news, I’ve just been informed that there isn’t another entry for my category at HWR. I’m really disappointed about this, it would have been a fantastic experience. Someone from the committee phoned me this evening to let me know. They have suggested that I could row as a demo event, to hopefully raise the profile, but it’s a long way to come just to do that. So I’ve made the suggestion that I row up a class as my times previously weren’t that much slower than the ones they did. At Bedford I was considerably closer to their times than I was the other two in my own class. I hope the committee allow this, it’s not against any para-rowing rules, so it should theoretically but okay.
Fingers crossed please. Find out tomorrow.