Monday, July 16, 2007

Last week of U23 race prep in the US

We've finally come into the home stretch of hard work in preparation for racing in Strathclyde. It's funny how 45K a day seemed a daunting amount of work a month and a half ago, and now it just means the normal 3 practices a day. We still have all of this week, leaving on Saturday from Newark to Heathrow and then on to Glasgow, albeit after an 8 hour layover that has us all debating bringing running shoes to the airport. 36 giant athletes jogging through the would have an absolute field day with that one. Not sure that the Brits have a contingency plan in that arena.

Yesterday afternoon we had a tremendously successful practice--hit some splits doing 20 at race pace that we haven't seen yet in the boat, and into a headwind to boot. The morning pieces were frustrating--our boat has a tendency to be unable to walk back into other boats if we're not sure that we can, like when we race our 8 and we're both at the same stroke ratings. It seems like as the other boat starts to move through us, we stop racing and flounder a bit, each trying to do it ourselves; then we switch into making it very technically sound, but the power application gets lost in the focus. We rearranged the lineup for the second morning swing row, with me stroking and Gevvie back in 2. It wasn't a particularly good-feeling row, but I was able to feel what strokes felt like for her and Lindsay when Alie and I aren't together with them, and also see how the recovery can be rushed even at a 15 1/2 or 16 if the knees don't break properly. Also, feeling how important it is to gather at the catch, placing the blades before engaging the quads--the stroke has to hesitate for soooo long in order that everyone else has a slight breath. So, frustrating, but very educational. Coming back in the afternoon, I had moved my feet down two cm, and the extra compression/room for my shoulders feels just brilliant. I feel like I'm not lifting up and out the way I was before we decided to keep my feet high, so I'm probably getting an even longer stroke but with much more effective technique.

Everyone is making good changes--Gevvie is keeping power on through the entire stroke, Lindsay is keeping tension out of her shoulders and power down in her lats, I'm gathering at the catch and driving out with the hips without lifting the work into the shoulders, and Alie is gathering at the catch and keeping suspension on during the drive for longer. We are finding so much free speed, and it's really exciting!

There are 11 possible entries listed on the Strathclyde website at present--meaning heats, reps (although hopefully not reps), and finals. Looks like we'll be racing around 5pm Thursday and hopefully not again until 3:30pm Sunday. Anyhow, there is lots of work to be done in the meantime--for instance, trying to track down some longsleeve shirts for racing in, since we won't be issued any's supposed to be 40-60 deg F, rainy, windy, cold...the whole time we're there. Sounds just like home :)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Updates from P.T.C.*

I'm finally starting to get the hang of this sculling thing in an effective way. The technical changes we were asked to make after arriving here are starting to become more natural and less a mental effort to maintain throughout practices and pieces.

Some of the new and effective changes we've made include a "gather" at the finish and a very separate recovery/drive cycle. The blades exit the water at the finish and the hands are held for a moment in the lap, while holding the body upright with very little layback. Then the arms lead out of the release, followed by the knees breaking and the body coming forward simultaneously with the knees compressing up. At the catch, the blades are placed quickly but fully before the legs are engaged, rather than being "rowed in". Then the legs drive back with a forceful suspension, keeping the core engaged but not opening with the shoulders until the very end of the drive, and with the body still being kept almost entirely upright.

It's difficult to "convince" myself that even if the leg drive doesn't start until I can feel that the blades are fully buried, the blades will not be slowing the boat down. But it makes sense that the boat isn't moving as fast as we think it is, and as we get better and the rates get higher, we'll be able to place the blades more quickly and unconsciously, and it won't be an issue. The gather is also something I am still having to work at remembering to do the same way on every stroke--it's hard because it turns the stroke cycle into a 6 count instead of a 4 count. But I'm getting more consistent, and as all of us do, it's showing in the times we've been able to post. With the lineup changes we've had this week and our continual improvement in becoming technically more proficient rowers, I think we'll be able to get very, very close to the gold medal time standard by race day. We'll be getting a chance to test all the improvements we've made with our time trial on Thursday!

*Pterodactyl Training Center