Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter Training: Sucking it up now so you can hit the GoFast button later


Last Sunday I went to a great class in Seattle at Flywheel, a cycling studio that my former coxswain and always badass Mary Whipple now teaches at. What’s different about a Flywheel class (versus a standard spin/indoor cycling class) is that competition—if you want it—is there for the taking. You zero in on targeting certain RPMs or power output as you’re cycling along, but a few times throughout the class, everyone’s total work done—listed with a username which can be as anonymous as you want—flashes up on a screen, so you can race others if that’s your thing (yes, that’s my thing.)



The instructor, Aina, a past rower at Trinity College, said a few things during the class that made me think about winter training. Besides “Suck it up!”, which she announced at the start of class was her motto, she also said, “Getting faster is what you do when no one is watching. Getting tougher is what you do when you keep working even when your body says it’s done.” And then: “What is your goal for this practice? For this minute?”



Winter training is about all of those things. There’s a lot more work on land, and maybe only work on land. Land workouts, in general, require a lot more sucking it up. The erg, like the single, is honest and makes you accountable for your speed and power. So does the weight room. That can be harder, but it can also be so much more motivating. Thinking back to high school—sometimes on the water I’d be working on something technical, or pouring everything I had into a piece, and we weren’t clicking as a crew and working together, and there wasn’t any feedback on whether I was getting better or faster. When you're just starting out, that can be pretty frustrating.

The erg, as much sucking it up as it requires sometimes, is by and large a what-you-put-into-it-is-what-you-get-out-of-it tool. You can either look at December, January, and February as three hellish months, and spend each practice feeling sorry for yourself that your team isn’t on the water—or you can show up to each practice, each day with a goal in mind. What goal? Well, that’s up to you. Going faster or being more consistent than the last time you did that workout is a start. Test your limits on what you think your 5K/6K, 2K, and max paces are. Chase down the teammate whose seat you’re after. If you’re the fastest one already, see how much you can widen the gap. Each day you set, pursue with your best effort, and accomplish these little goals, you get closer to your big ones—making the boat you want to make, helping your team build the fitness, strength and mental toughness you’ll need to win together, and getting faster than you ever thought you could be.


Michelle Guerette, one of my first erg inspirations, in our college erg room. Photo: NYTimes.

In a race, you have to be confident in the work you’ve put in, sitting on that starting line. You have to trust your teammates because you’ve seen them push themselves beyond their limits. And you have to trust yourself that you aren’t going to let up for even one stroke, no matter how much your legs or lungs are burning, because you know that you’ve pushed yourself so many times through workouts that hurt even more than this race is going to. In a race, you don’t get to see your teammates pushing themselves, and they can’t see you. You can only feel each other committing and trust that you will go to the absolute bottom of the well for each other to get across that line first.



What motivates me on these dark, freezing mornings or pitch-black evenings when I’m heading down to the boathouse or erg room or the little alcove in the basement where the old rattle-y erg lives is knowing, like the instructor said Sunday, that getting faster and getting tougher is about being your own competitor. It’s knowing that I am working alongside my teammates, even from far away, because we know how hard we are working towards our goals each practice, each day. And it’s about loving to win and to put in the work it takes to do that.

Happy Winter Training,
Esther

Saturday, October 19, 2013

HOCR 2013: For the Love of the Charles


If all of American rowing has a Homecoming weekend, it's Head of the Charles here in Boston, Mass., and it's glorious. Every year I wonder if it's just something I'm nostalgic about, but day one is done, and no, it's just as wonderful as I thought it would be.

It's impossible to duck into a coffee shop or even walk 20 feet without running into a former teammate or rowing friend. The whole weekend passes in a blur of new stories and familiar faces, although over the years the evolution has shifted from new significant others or fun summer coaching gigs to babies, jobs, houses, rings, surgeries, family, and everything else. Our worlds have gotten so much bigger, but the rowing world, even as the schedule at the Charles is full to bursting, remains so wonderfully interconnected.

Every year I've been in training, no matter how in or out of shape I am, the trip down the race course remains equally lung- and leg-burningly painful, although it never seems as excruciating after, recollecting a magnificently-made turn or boat passed with teammates. In spite of myself, I'm already looking forward to racing again the following year.

And the great thing about the Charles: it is the epitome of the rowing family. We're packed into our extended (rowing) family's living rooms, sleeping on futons and floors. It's unthinkable to have a meal this weekend that isn't shared with a long-missed friend. Rowers span over seven decades, generations upon generations, and it's impossible to tell who's the most excited to be here. We're a family brought together by love--the love of this crazy sport and everything that comes with it.

I'm racing tomorrow in the Championship Four at 2:39pm--I'll be bow #4, sitting in stroke, and could not be more excited to tear up the course with an awesome crew, coxswain, and everything I've got. If you're not on the banks of the river, watch live racing here. Good luck to everyone racing and GO USA!!!




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chungju WRCs: On to the Final!


WHEW!

200m to go...finished just over a second behind Poland (L), and just over half a second ahead of New Zealand (top). Finding bend and love, L to R: me, Susan, Kara, and Megan. PS...Sue and I are pulling even harder with Team Byron wristbands! And PPS...Radcliffe: yes, that's the Mary McCagg we're racing in! So awesome! Photo Credit: Igor Meijer.

We had many improvements in our repechage ("second-chance race") yesterday and did what we needed to do--net a top-2 finish to advance to the medal-level A final Saturday. It was not an easy, graceful, or pretty race, but we were able to establish a strong and effective rhythm for a good chunk of the race, as well as find another gear at the end to respond to a kitchen-sink sprint from New Zealand.

We now have a couple of days to recover, but more importantly, to keep progressing as we have over the last few weeks since being named as a crew--to keep getting a little bit better every day. There were many things we could see, watching video, that we will be trying to improve on technically for our final. But the most important thing--the will to win and the belief that we, as a crew, CAN win--are there, and we are much stronger going to the line knowing that.

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Your USA W4x...excited to get out there Saturday and give 'em hell! Photo credit: Kara Kohler

Today was awesome as we had our first USA medal--our LTAMix2x, Paul Hurley and Natalie McCarthy, took bronze. LTAMix2x stands for Legs/Trunk/Arms Mixed Double, meaning that these athletes have at least partial use of all limbs and may have other para-abilities, such as blindness, etc. We also had two close 4th-place finishes, in the LTAMix4+ and TAMix2x. It is awesome to have every possible boat class that's training towards the 2016 Paralympics represented on our team here as well as every Olympic and non-Olympic boat class. Paul and Natalie: thanks for inspiring everyone heading into finals here in Chungju! #OneTeam #OneGoal

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Natalie and Paul, USA's first medalists, bronze in LTAMix2x! Photo Credit: Allison Frederick.

Pulling hard for Team USA and Team Byron--every stroke, every day. Thanks for your support and Go USA!
-Esther

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Annyeonghaseyo (안녕하세요) from Chungju, South Korea!


Housemate Emily Huelskamp (W4-) and I ready for our big trip...our first glimpse of South Korea from the air...and our first taste of Korean pop culture, a welcome from a K-Pop boy band!

(That's "Hello!") Team USA arrived in Chungju Thursday and are now fully in the swing of things here in South Korea. After a long (just shy of 14 hours!) but stress-free flight, as well as customs and a two-hour bus ride, we were thankful to simply arrive in one piece. However, our arrival was made very special by the welcoming committee, who brought out their best hospitality, even at 9:00pm!

Team USA with our awesome hotel staff as we arrive!

Posing for a photo with our cheerful regatta volunteers. They told us that instead of "Cheese!", we are supposed to say "Kimchi!"

Many of the regatta staff we interact with daily are volunteers--mostly college students (including college rowers) who are donating their time and English skills to helping us figure things out that might have been lost in translation. Since a few things are a little different--that's really awesome, and we owe you big time!

Regatta mascots...the "fire escape" outside our hotel room, aka a chest strap/pulley to rappel down the building...and a gentle reminder not to lean against the elevator door.

It's hot and humid here, but after a summer in NJ (and before that, for me, in DC), Team USA is doing just fine. Turns out the best training trip to acclimate was training at home!

With Susan and Kara on the Chungju Dam, 322 ft. up!  Photo: Kara Kohler.

The hotel where we're staying--a bank training center campus near a large hydroelectric dam--is awesome, with everything from a giant indoor gym to rooms with balconies overlooking the mountains to a dining hall with great food. On our first morning, we took a run around the neighborhood, including to the dam, which has speakers playing Elvis...in Korean. We also have been enjoying finding some of the more exotic wildlife around the campus and at the course.

Cool bugs spotted at the hotel and course. All larger than they appear! Photo (Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle): Ross James.

The main regatta building at the Chungju course. Really beautiful venue!

Our Para-Rowing team will be arriving tomorrow, which will make our squad complete and ready to take on the world. I think this my first World Championships where Team USA actually has the largest team here, and it's an incredible one to be a part of. Click the photo below to check out more photos and videos from the trip in my Facebook album. Thanks for supporting our journey and Go USA!

Team USA representing #TeamByron as we headed out from Princeton. Go USA!!!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Getting Back on the Horse


One of the hardest things about our sport is the "we would have" stories. You know--that season that the team was doing so well, and then that one guy fell down the stairs and broke his leg and you didn't even make the final. Or the race where there was a miscommunication about which move would happen where, and the boat finished just outside the medals. You swap those stories and inevitably someone says, "Come on, you know that if things had been different, you would have won."

The thing is: they weren't different. The crew that won, won. Our sport, just like every other, is affected by freak acts of nature, mistakes, health problems, and plain bad luck. Just like every other sport, the crew that wins the race is the fastest over that particular course, on that particular day. You train not just to be the fastest, fittest rower, but also the one best able to recover from a bobble, the one healthy enough not to get sick easily, the one who can anticipate not just the expected but also the unexpected.

In our final at the Lucerne World Cup last Sunday, we were in fourth place coming into the final few hundred meters. We called our final sprint...and seconds later, I heard a sickly crunching sound and the boat pulled hard to the side. Looking over my shoulder, I saw something I've never seen before in my career--a teammate's oar sticking directly up, jammed in the oarlock. We responded as practiced rowers do to a crab: (1) get the oar un-stuck! (2) everyone okay? (3) get back in the race! But as we started step 3, the oar snapped completely in half.

It was not a happy feeling for us, nor for any competitive athlete, to paddle across the finish line, make a U-turn, and then row past the medal docks, past every spectator on the course, back up to the dock and the boatyard. We'd all just spent the last several months training for a race that we did not get to finish. Having the opportunity to race taken from you is a feeling worse than losing.

We all took a bit of time to calm down, cool down, and then headed to the grandstand to cheer on the rest of our team--in what turned out to be the United States' best World Cup ever. As we watched our teammates make history, we committed to coming back to our next race with this one as fuel for the fire--to channel our anger and frustration into boat speed.

The next day, someone emailed me the World Cup points tally--the listing of every country's performance across all events. The United States sat at the top, just two points ahead of New Zealand. Tracing my finger down to the women's quad, I saw that for finishing our race--instead of U-turning and taking the broken oar back to the dock--we'd earned our team...two points.

The rest of Team USA set a very high bar at Lucerne, and we are back to training hard and rising to that challenge. For now--lots of miles, more selection, and working every practice to earn the results we want in South Korea. Getting back on the horse is a lot easier when you know exactly where you want to go on it.

From Princeton--happy training and Go USA!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lucerne Finals Day!


First 500, long and strong, in our repechage yesterday.

This morning, we line up against Australia, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Belarus, and race for gold. The women's quadruple sculls will be a great event to watch--there are boats with pedigree and experience, and boats like us that are coming in with focus, excitement, and the knowledge that if we have a great race, we can exceed all expectations.

Staying focused at the start with the swimmers and cowbells!

Yesterday, we raced our repechage, and had our best piece together yet. With so many things going on around you--from the giant, singing Dutch crowd at the starting line swimming area, to the warm-up area wash that shakes up the 500m mark of the course, to the other countries in the race who throw in moves out of nowhere--it is important to be finding our rhythm and race, with awareness but not distraction, and we did a great job of that yesterday. I'm very excited to race today and build on that--and to put all of the work we've done together into something awesome!

We line up at 11:27am local (5:27am EST/2:27am PST) and you can watch a live video and audio feed here. You can also check results post-racing here.

Team USA is doing a fantastic job at this regatta, and we have many, many boats contesting for medals today. Send fast thoughts our way--we're racing to put USA on top of the medal stand!!! Go USA!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

America Rocks: Team Byron and Team USA!


Hi, readers! For the last several years, I've written on here about everything rowing. On this day, celebrating everything amazing about our country, I'm switching gears for a moment to talk about a different goal that's extremely close to my heart. I would love if you would support me in pursuing it.

Right around the time I found out I made the Olympic team for London last year, my cousin, Byron Plapp, was graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, where he was also one of the Black Knights' top swimmers. As I was competing overseas, he was getting married and reporting for duty in Huntsville, Alabama to receive training for flying Blackhawk helicopters.


The timeline of his plans changed very suddenly when he was diagnosed with T-Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a highly aggressive variety of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, or blood cancer. Byron is now partway through an extremely intense chemotherapy regimen at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, where I had the chance to visit him in February. He's kicking cancer's butt, but I know he'll kick even more with your support.


I am running the Marine Corps Marathon this October for Team in Training, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's fundraising team. We're required to raise a minimum of $1,500, but I'd love to raise much more than that with your help. You have been incredibly supportive helping me with training, and I know that you will continue to be for fundraising towards The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's cure- and treatment-focused research.

Please help my cousin know how many people out there are pulling for him! You can find my fundraising site here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nca/corps13/elofgrekb9. I'm making him a "Team Byron" shirt with every donor's and sponsoring company's name on it so he'll have something to wear for his first workout back in action this fall--your name will look great on it!


As a thank-you and way to continue to support Byron--and help you say Go U.S.A. year-round!--donors will receive awesome American flag "Team Byron" wristbands, with big thanks to our team sponsor Boathouse Sports! The U.S. National rowing team that competes at the World Championships this year in South Korea will also be rocking them. Donate today to support research for a cure and join Team Byron and Team U.S.A.!

Please make a donation in support of Byron--to get him back swimming and flying helicopters in support of our great country--and to help advance the research for blood cancer cures. If you can't donate now, please leave him a message of support and let him know that you are pulling for him!


Thank you for continuing to support the causes and dreams close to my heart.

-Esther

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hydration: Notes from a Sweaty Kid

Staying hydrated is key to performing at your best.

Holy toledo, it's hot this week. If you are like me, you had at least one practice this week that knocked you on your butt because your body wasn't adjusted yet to training in 80-plus weather with near-100 percent humidity. I am now in full hydration mode and thought I'd share with you some of my tricks for staying hydrated when it's grossly hot out but you have long miles to log and championship racing to do (good luck to everyone racing this weekend and next!)

Delicious, delicious glass of water. It's erg puddle season!
First, hydration happens ON AND OFF the water. You need to be taking in more fluid than before all the time--when you wake up, when you're rowing, when you're in class or at work, and at meals. It will probably make your stomach feel a little weird for the first few days, but stick with it. You should be drinking at least 32 ounces more--that's one more Nalgene-worth of water--per day than when it was colder and drier. If you're not a water bottle carrier when you're not at practice, add a glass of water to every meal, and one more right after practice.

Hydration aids like Nuun, Powerade, and Gatorade are all great tools.

Second, hydration is ESPECIALLY critical DURING PRACTICE. You can see and feel your sweat, but you're also losing water through breathing. When it is this hot out, using hydration products is essential. I am a big fan of Nuun, but other products, like Powerade and Gatorade, and DIY methods (recipe below) will also keep you powering through long, sweaty practices.

If your workout runs over 75', a small electrolyte boost from gels or chews can make a big difference.

When rowing for at least 60', I bring something more hydrating than just water, and for practices longer than 75', I usually bring an additional hydration tool such as electrolyte-enhanced chews or gel. My favorites are Margarita flavored Clif Shot Bloks and Just Plain flavored Gu, but there are many, many products on the market to choose from!

Everything you need for a tasty, electrolyte replacement sports drink!

DIY Electrolyte Drink
Makes 1 Nalgene full (~32 oz/1L)

1/2 c orange juice (ideally not from concentrate--the fresh stuff has the most potassium!)
1/8 c lemon juice (ditto)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda (optional)

Place all ingredients in your water bottle, stir, then fill to the top with water. Make this just before practice as the one downside to DIY is that letting this sit in the sun for hours can make it go bad. If you find yourself short on OJ and lemon juice, you can also substitute things like an Emergen-C drink powder packet or two, or a tart, strong juice like Cheribundi. If you do substitute, you may want to add 1/2 teaspoon of a potassium-based salt replacer like Morton Lite Salt or Morton Salt Substitute.

Stretching after practice is a great time to finish your workout hydration targets.

Finally, remember that hydration is also about timing. As they say...if you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated, so keep on top of your fluid and salt intake. A good goal is to head into practice having had at least 8-16 ounces of fluid within the hour before you start, and aiming for around 8-10 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes you spend actually rowing. Within the 30-minute window after practice, try to take in the balance of fluid if you missed any during practice, plus another 8-16 ounces, along with your normal refueling snack.

80 minutes of active rowing in a workout means half a 32-oz bottle before,  two bottles during, and the remaining half after.

If you still feel like you're bonking, try adding a few shakes of salt to your meals and the fluid you bring to practice. You won't notice a small amount of salt in your morning oatmeal, but it will make a huge difference!

It's never too early to start hydrating!

If you have any other hydration tips, post them in the comments below. Keep training and racing hard, and Go USA!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Athletes Without Limits



Athletes Without Limits from Damone Brown Images.

Since moving to DC last fall, I've had the opportunity to get involved with an incredible club and organization: Athletes Without Limits. For rowing, AWL supports both athletes with intellectual disabilities and veterans who are a part of the U.S. Paralympic Military Rowing Program, rowing out of the Anacostia Community Boathouse and training at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Capitol Hill Martial Arts and Fitness Academy.

Our recent Military Adaptive Sports Program Rowing Clinic at Walter Reed!

Did you know that there were 42 medals awarded in sports specifically for athletes with intellectual disabilities at the London 2012 Paralympic Games? The U.S. sent only one ID competitor. The 2012 Paralympics consisted of 503 events, and while the U.S. won an impressive 98 medals--including the AWL-supported Rob Jones and Oksana Masters trunk and arms mixed double sculls crew that took bronze--we lagged far behind China's 231. Much more important than comparing numbers, though, is our country giving intellectually disabled and physically disabled athletes opportunities to train and compete. Athletes Without Limits does just that, and it has been an amazing experience this year to work with the athletes training towards the 2016 Rio Paralympics and for the World Championships and domestic competitions in the meantime.

Training with some of our ID guys before Erg Sprints this year!

Besides indoor and on-the water training, AWL also partners with the rehabilitation and gym facilities at Walter Reed National Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethesda, MD to bring rowing to veterans as part of their physical rehabilitation program. It's made me appreciate rowing in an entirely different light--getting to see an athlete become passionate about rowing as it gives them the physical activity, the limit-pushing, and the personal confidence that they weren't sure they'd find in another sport after injury. This article gives a great veteran's perspective on the rowing and other sports programs at Walter Reed.

Coxing as Justin brings the BOOM! to the MidAtlantic Erg Sprints.

To learn more about how you can get involved with intellectually- and physically disabled-focused rowing programs, visit USRowing and Athletes Without Limits. We're all one team. Go USA!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Racing Underway at the Sydney World Cup!

So today kicked off World Cup racing for Team USA here in Sydney, and we are so excited to finally get out there and go after a week of acclimating and training!

Sunrise at the regatta earlier this week.

This morning, we were the very first race of the World Cup in our 4x heat. I couldn't have asked for a more amazing boat to be a part of, with Elle Logan in stroke, Susan Francia sitting in front of me, and Megan Kalmoe rounding things out in the bow. As far as atmosphere, there's quite a bit of it at the moment, as there is a controlled burn brushfire somewhat nearby and we've had some spectacular sunrises and sunsets (as well as a little haze) at the course.

View of the brushfire from our hotel.

As with any regatta, we had a few wait-around moments--officials figuring out where the bow numbers were, a last-minute photo ID check--but got in a solid warm-up and headed up to the start excited to see what we could put together for our first piece together as a crew. Lots of good things and lots to work on, but we met our goal of crossing the line first and heading straight to the final on Sunday. Like many of our competitors here, all of us in the 4x are racing other events, so the idea of having one fewer race added to that pile made the one direct-qualifying spot (if possible) an even more definite goal!

Off the start in the 4x.  Photo: Detlev Seyb/MyRowingPhoto.com.

We headed straight for the dock, weighed our boat, set it in slings, and went into intense recovery mode. The World Cup schedule has been greatly compressed because of the Australian National Championship Regatta and the smaller number of competitors, so whereas racing would normally run from maybe 8am-1pm and then 4-6pm for repechages, all morning races were condensed into 8-10am. That meant that Megan and I had a luxuriously long break compared to Elle and Susan--our second race wasn't til 9:30, whereas the two singles were racing at 9:12 and 9:18! We had enough time to grab a snack, go to the bathroom, and stretch, and then it was time to head back out again.

Megan and I launched and did a quick tune-up warm-up, since we were still quite "warm" from our race. This was my first international race in a small boat, and I have really been looking forward to the experience and opportunity to learn that will come from this regatta. Having a double partner who has as much international experience in that boat as anyone on our team--and who is helping me learn a ton every practice--has made this an amazing experience so far. Our race results were not what we had hoped, but it also was a great first race because it gave us so many things to improve in the repechage tomorrow.

Susan off the start in the single.   Photo: Igor Meijer/FISA. 

This afternoon, we're all resting up. Elle and Susan had great races in the 1x, with Susan taking a strong third in her heat, and Elle putting together an incredible piece and winning her heat to go straight to Sunday's final! I am so impressed with both of these women--both of their first international races in the 1x, and Elle's FISA sculling debut, and they are doing incredible things. So pumped for USA sculling!

Caroline and Meghan in the pair.  Photo: Detlev Seyb/MyRowingPhoto.com.

In sweep racing, Caroline and Meghan won their heat in the pair to advance directly to the final Sunday, and the men's eight finished second in their race for lanes. We're all dialed in here at the hotel, watching the women's eight's heat, as well as the men's Australia National Championships final in the straight fours.

The live race tracker for all races can be found here: http://www.worldrowing.com/live-results?type=live, and Sunday's live streaming for finals can be watched here (check to see specifics for your country, which may include pre-registering): http://www.worldrowing.com/video.

Finally, I want to give a big shout-out to our only other fellow Americans here in Sydney, the junior women's eight from Saratoga, coached by the awesome Eric Catalano. These girls are blazing fast on the water and crushed their final today by more than a length of open water (and they have some pretty sweet gear!) Way to drop the hammer, ladies!!!

Teams USA earlier this week!

Thanks so much for supporting us back home, and Go USA!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Seeing the Sights (and Baby Wallabies!!!) in Sydney!


USA women in Sydney!

Yesterday, we had an awesome Sydney adventure—in just a few hours, we managed to check off all of my non-racing-related to-dos for the trip! We (very briefly) walked through the 2000 Olympic Park, took a ferry through the Sydney Harbor and saw the Sydney Opera House, and stopped by a wild animal park on the way home and got to see some kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and incredible birds, very up close!

The USA ladies visit the 2000 Sydney Olympic stadium!

After starting the day off with some solid racing pieces, we packed up into a small bus with some of our fellow racers from South Korea and Portugal and headed out to quickly see the sights! First stop was the 2000 Sydney Olympic Park and athlete village. Giant statues of the Olympic symbols--a runner and others--towered overhead, and we maneuvered around the dozens of columns in front of the athletic stadium, trying to find US teammate names!

Couldn't have picked a prettier day to cruise into Sydney!

Then it was back into the bus and off to a ferry that took us through the beautiful Sydney Harbor--lined with amazing houses, yacht and boat clubs, and natural and historical parks--right up to the Sydney Opera House and the Financial District/downtown! We got in a bit of sightseeing and souvenir-ing before it was time to take off again.

Baby wallaby!!!!!!!!

This time, we headed to a wild animal park, and we were SO EXCITED to get to see real Australian wildlife up close--REALLY close! As we got off the bus, a park guide handed me a swaddled up baby wallaby, which was about the cutest thing I'd ever seen. We also got to see kangaroos (with joeys!), kookaburras, echidnas, ghost bats, and everything Aussie in between.




Emus are startlingly large! But friendly, if slightly aggressive. I also saw the most brightly colored bird ever--wow! Thankfully, the animals were incredibly friendly. It was amazing to get to see so many awesome creatures up close!







Finally, it was time to head home--our friends from Portugal and South Korea had another training session, and we were all pretty wiped from the adventures! Many thanks to the Sydney International Rowing Regatta (SIRR) and World Rowing/Sydney Rowing World Cup organizing committees for planning this trip for us. What a great glimpse into Sydney and Australia, and an awesome chance to meet some of our fellow international racers, before we get into straight racing mode this week!

Power naps for everyone!

Thanks for following our journey, and Go USA!
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