It's hard to believe that seven months have passed since Lindsay and I took the World Champion title in New Zealand. Time marches forward and now we found ourselves blurry eyed and marginally feeble as we suffered through our first day of jetlag in the Netherlands. Despite feeling like we were rowing in la la land during the first row, it was remarkable how much we were able to rally up more strength & more stability as the day progressed.
Testing the Water
Luckily the Holland Beker Regatta doesn't start until Saturday, so we still have a couple of days to reset our biorhythms and get into the groove.
The races will begin on Saturday morning and as it stands (with the current number of entries) we will race five times over two days (given that we progress through to the final on each day). There is nothing like jumping in full throttle; having so many races in such a short period of time allows us to carry the lessons that we've learned from one race straight into the next with no delay. So often when racing on the International scene the time between races can seem like an eternity, which means the lessons that you've learned and wish to take forward cannot be tested immediately. All in all it means that this weekend will be a real opportunity for us to test our race plan and tweek it as we see fit prior to heading in to World Cup racing in Luzern.
So far there have been very few sightings of our competitors. I'm expecting that things will pick up on the scene tomorrow. The Holland Beker is an Internationally sanctioned regatta and the Canadian team had been invited and are staying (all expenses) courtesy of the Netherlands National Rowing Federation. We (along with all the other Internationals) are staying at the Hotel Schiphol A4 near the airport. We've now had three meals here and I simply must comment on the buffet....wow....thank gawd we are racing in the heavyweight division this weekend is all I have to say. The dish options are endless and the flavors are to be savored. Why? Salt. The sodium content in these dishes enhance and brighten, to a point where n average salad (let's say) turns into an inspiring work of art. As lightweights around race time we are very careful to keep our salt intake low so that we don't retain unnecessary water weight. So to be able to indulge in such salty dishes prior to racing is a pleasure for us. Oh, to be a heavyweight, such wishful thinking.
June 24th, 2011
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Holland Beker Regatta Race Recap
Day One: Day one of racing seemed like a complete haze. We faced our toughest competitors straight away. The British lightweights (and leaders in this years World Cup Circuit) also raced in the open double today. We knew going into the race that three boats would progress through to the afternoon final. We had a great start but as the race progressed things got messy. We lacked that crisp/sharp feeling of gripping the catch and really sending the boat with conviction. Steering and course corrections set us back as our reaction time to the crosswind was less than stellar. Great Britain and the second USA boat slipped out of our grasp, but it was good enough to get us into the next round.
The critical points of the race were discussed among Lindsay, Al, and myself so we were armed and ready with new focuses for the final. However, staying focused on the technique changes proved to be the easy part of the day; staying awake between races turned out to be the real challenge. There is a tennis club adjacent to the course, so in an effort to stay dry (it has been raining cats and dogs since we arrived) and warm I headed over to their restaurant for a little rest and recovery. I thought that a hot chocolate was the perfect remedy to perk up and increase my body temperature. While it did warm me up, it certainly did nothing to keep me awake. So I dove into my crossword puzzles hoping that the increased cognitive demand would renew my energy, but again the attempt was unsuccessful. Listening to music, lively pre-race music to be exact became my last ditch effort to bring life back into my body. To no avail, an afternoon nap was unavoidable. Shortly thereafter, I bounced back from the cap nap and Lindsay I hit the line flying in the final. Apparently, succumbing to the nap wasn't a bad idea after all. We raced and we had clear focus and sharp intension. We executed our plan as we'd discussed and we ended in a duel with the Brits. They nipped up in the end, but we were satisfied with our improvements.
Day Two: The clouds lifted and the sunshine appeared. The day started well, we had good momentum coming off of our final yesterday. I would argue that we executed our best race of the weekend. We rowed technically and tactically well; we were in control line to line. We won the heat and were once again pleased with our progress. Then everything went south. During the afternoon final the most comprehensive way to put it is “we lost our mojo”. There are several areas where we could highlight the contributing factors to our forth place finish. You could say, “well we just got off a plane and three days later were full on racing; jetlag may have played a part”, or one might say “we didn’t row the tailwind well enough”, or you could simply say “we were outraced”. We have not competed in either World Cup I or II and this was our first kick at the can. Race readiness comes from hitting the line as many times as you can and building from each experience. So if that’s the case, then that’s the direction we are heading.
This weekend we backed into the gates four times. So I figure we’ve had a good taste of the competition, we have a better idea of the areas that we need to target in practice, and we have to use these next two weeks in Italy as an opportunity to get faster. I know that we can rewrite the chapter in Lucerne. I am looking forward to the next two weeks, but right now I’ll admit I’m looking forward to a good meal and a good night sleep.
Viva Italia July 1st, 2011
Since the Holland Beker Regatta, the Canadian Women’s team plus Malcolm (our Cdn. Single sculler) have been calling Corgeno, Italy home. Stepping into new territory has given us the ability to push the refresh button and switch the focus from race mode to training mode. Our hotel is right at one end of the lake and our boathouse is at the other. So every morning at 6:30am, bright eyed and bushy tailed (or blurry eyed and silent- depending on the personalities in the crew) we make our way around the lake, giving us ample time to scope out the water conditions.
I must say that the heat and sunshine for our first two days were a welcome change to the rainy, cool conditions that we experienced for most of our time in the Netherlands. Another welcome sight, (to be read with a giant hand-raising, Halleluiah style voice in mind) flat water!! Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I saw flat water like we’ve experienced here already, perfect conditions. For Lindsay and I in particular this was exactly what the doctor ordered. We have been working really hard on a technique point that becomes exponentially easier to engrain when the wind factor is eliminated, in other words, gains can be made much faster at the moment (this may call for another halleluiah)!
For now it’s been business as usual and our next day off is not scheduled until Sunday. So little side adventures and excursions are on the back burner, but I have a feeling that a bike tour may be in the cards. In the meantime, I will play tourist in our own backyard here in the village. One of the highlights, as usual, has been the divinely delicious Italian cuisine. Only the freshest ingredients will do, only olive oil that melts in your mouth is placed on the table, only the sweetest balsamic vinegar can be used as a dressing. The Italians take pride in their food and are completely offended if your plate is not overflowing. So serving a lightweight is incomprehensive to them, they cannot understand why I am not eating the pasta (“momma mia- what is wrong with this girl”). On the other hand Malcolm is adored and from the chefs and wait staff he receives constant pats on the back, lots of smiles, and even two thumbs up when they see the amount of food that he polishes off in one seating. I take pleasure in seeing how happy it makes the kitchen staff when they see how much their food is being enjoyed.
These are a few of my favourite things July 6th, 2011
Our training camp in Italy was excellent, we had our final row there on Monday before loading the boats on the trailer and heading to Switzerland. Before we are compared to the World’s best this coming weekend I have to say that I am really proud of the gains that Lindsay and I made at camp. Obviously we were disappointed in our racing in Amsterdam, but in my mind the true test of a champion is how you handle setbacks. You can either fall into a downward spiral of self-helplessness or you can take a deep breath and refocus. After a micro-pity-party (that may have lasted 10mins; while lactic acid was oozing through my body), we flipped the switch and made the camp a ground for refining and defining our skills and race strategies. That chapter is behind us now and we are really excited to see how it all shakes down.
As I mentioned we arrived in Lucerne on Tuesday. This will be my sixth time racing here and I can say with absolute certainty that this is my favourite course in the world. I experience such nostalgia here. It’s almost like I’ve come home. Julie Andrews voice chimes through my mind, “these are a few of my favourite things”… even though the Sound of Music was filmed in Austria it represents all of my feelings and emotions as I get set to race here in Lucerne.
So these are the “things” that make me happy:
- the protected emerald green waters that are tucked into the hillside.
- the swans that mingle among us with that display such power and grace
- the coming together and the comrade of all races, religions, genders, and abilities to compete for that top world ranking
- the fresh, clean, delicious food that is served at our wonderful Grand Hotel Europe
- the strength & confidence that my team (Lindsay and Al) and I have
- an afternoon stroll along the lakeside promenade to the historic covered bridge
- an caffe mit milch at the Heini where I can sit under the yellow umbrella and people watch
- butterflies that I get pre-race, the anticipation, and then the execution of the plan…oh my heart just flittered just thinking about it!
The draw will be posted in a few short hours. This is it; this is what we train for; this is the real deal. I LOVE it!
Things are Heating up on the Rotsee! July 8th, 2011
Racing action got underway in the beautiful Swiss Alps this morning. In our event there were four heats and only the winners of these heats would advance directly to the semi-final tomorrow. All others would head into the repachage slated to begin around 7:30 tonight. Based on this progression it’s clearly an advantage to win the heat so that your legs don’t have to take the abuse of racing twice in a day. Although winning was the outcome that we wanted to achieve, we had clearly defined tasks that we set out to accomplish as well.
We’d drawn a couple of much respected crews, USA2 and DEN are tough competitors, so we knew we’d need to stay edgy. At the end of the day we successfully accomplished our mission by winning our heat and posting the fastest time of the day by two seconds!
We are happy with our win, but our coach continues to remind us that today is only day one of a three day regatta. So tomorrow is a new day; a fresh start where the results of today are history. Now it is time to pick up the pen and attend to the business of preparing ourselves for the semis. The draw will not be released until after the repachage racing is over tonight…it may be after my bedtime before we know who we’ll be racing.
On that note, if you are keen you can find most details about the regatta and results on the World Rowing website at www.worldrowing.com.
Thanks for all your cheering!! Keep it up J
Building Momentum July 9th, 2011
The Semi Finals
In the semi today you could feel the momentum building across the line. It’s a do or die situation for all crews; top three in each semi would advance to the final. So crews that get behind the lead boats will throw everything but the kitchen sink to snag that third place finish. Strong crews will try to establish the lead early and hold their position. So that’s exactly what we did. To quote one of my favorite rowing coaches (Milan Urimavic) from my humble beginnings at the Calgary Rowing Club, “get in front and stay in front and don’t shit pants”. Milan’s words of wisdom never get old for me!
The dye has been cast and the final line-up is in. Tomorrow at 11:27am in Lucerne SUI you will be able to watch the live feed of our race online. There you will see many of the usual suspects:
Lane 1- Italy
Lane 2- Greece
Lane 3- United States of America
Lane 4- Canada
Lane 5- Great Britain
Lane 6- AustraliaToday was one of those days where I can say in all honesty, I love my life, I love racing, and I am having so much fun!
And now it is time for a coffee break!
Outside of racing there’s been another bonus for me on this trip. For the first time my boyfriend Jarret is here and he has embraced the International Regatta scene. He is soaking up the experience and making oodles of friends on the sidelines. He’s actually converted many spectators (whose crews have been eliminated) and has built a posse who will be cheering for us tomorrow! It makes me smile J. So at the end of the day, when all is said and done, it has been absolutely fabulous to have him here. To be able to escape the World of Rowing (if only for an hour or two), sipping my Café mit Milch with my best friend has been a real treat!
The Final Finale ( a.k.a. The Extremes ) July 9th, 2011
So this morning when I woke at 6:00am the first order of business is the scale. How much weight did I sweat off through the night and more importantly how much do I need to sweat in the next few hours. Ya see, if Lindsay and I don’t average 57kg, we don’t get to race. So this whole weigh-in thing is kind of a big deal. I step on the scale, one eye open, head tilted sideways, trying to will the number…I see it and know what I need to do…I draw a hot bath and go to my imaginary spa. Today was different. As I was sweating I had time to contemplate the extremes that I get to experience in my life. For instance on race day in a two hour window of time, I know what it’s like to be really hungry, thirsty, hot, and weak…hit the fast forward button, post weigh-in I know what it feels like to be really full, water logged, cold and strong. After going through these extremes I face the World’s Best lightweight women’s scullers. For me it’s a true test of peak performance; who can handle these extremes best?
Today the answer to that question was Canada. Lindsay and I had a great race. We felt calm, strong, and in control. I want to describe it as being on a plane somewhere between reality and surreal. A place where you are watching things unfold when challenges from the other teams are mounting but it has no effect on our rhythm, our flow, our race plan. This state of flow is amazing and I wish that everyone on the planet could experience this. This is my challenge for you. Go out there, live it, experience something to the extreme. I can tell you for sure the rewards are truly great!
Thank you so much for living it with me. Now, where is that bottle of Cotes-du-Rhone 2008!
Also, below is an image from our win today by Getty Images!
Click the link below and Select the LW2x Video to see Tracy's Gold Medal Race!
© 2011 Youth Achievement Society - All Rights Reserved
Back in the saddle August 21, 2011
We are officially one week out from the first races of the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. (http://www.worldrowing.com/event_categories/world-rowing-championship)
As some of you may know a few weeks ago I was diagnosed as having a slight stress fracture in one of my ribs. Lindsay and I were out for our usual Monday morning paddle when I first recognized that something was off. Immediately after the row I checked in with our medical team and recovery train was set in motion.
In a weird way having an injury can be very stimulating. I have learned so much over the past few weeks about bone health and treatment protocols. Instead of being an obstacle it actually became a new challenge to work through. I had a lot of fun cooking up new recipes that were full of the nutrients necessary to improve bone strength. I’ve also discovered the power mind throughout this entire process; I can say with certainty that keeping a positive outlook is a critical part of recovery. While cross-training, regardless of the form, keeping my minds eye in the boat racing has also been a huge benefit.
At our pre-worlds camp I’ve been surrounded by our world-class medical team who are working just as hard to have my body, mind and spirit ready to hit the line flying next week. Since arriving in Corgeno, last Tuesday, training has been going really well. In typical fashion as an elite athlete, I wanted to be healed overnight. The hardest part of the recovery process is slowing down, and taking it one day at a time. As the Italian’s say, “piano, piano” (step by step or literally translated floor by floor?!?). Healing time is unpredictable, dates and timeframes unknown, response to training and treatment can be trial and error….I think that is why it’s been so stimulating…it’s so similar to racing!
Same Stroke, Different Boat August 25th, 2011
Decision day has come and gone and my fate for the 2011 World Championships has been decided. I’ve been given the green light to race, but I will be representing Canada in the Lightweight Single Scull this year versus the double.
Before leaving Corgeno, Lindsay and I put the double to the test. My healing was coming along nicely so it was time to delve into the unknown, and determine how would my body respond to the feel, force and speed of rowing in the double. Being back in the boat with LJ felt amazing; the grace, the easy speed, the feeling of lift was all there. However, the post-workout story was different; swelling, pain and disappointment was the tale.
After several days of deliberating the coaches and medical team decided that racing in the double (in such an important regatta) was too risky for the team and for me. However, since I’ve been tolerating training well in the single, they’ve granted me clearance to race in this event.
From a business standpoint, the main goal at this regatta is for Canada to qualify as many boats as possible for the 2012 Olympic games in London. In my heart I would’ve loved to have been in the boat that was setting out to accomplish that mission. However, given the circumstances and understanding the risk, I am very confident that there are now two girls (Lindsay Jennerich & Patricia Obee) in the boat that can get the job done. They are both very strong and determined women; they can be certain that I will be cheering for them with every ounce of energy that I have!
Shift in Mindset
Now that I am racing in the single I’ve experienced a slight shift in mindset. Instead of racing for an Olympic qualification, I will be racing for my personal best. I have an opportunity to see how far I can push my limits when I am alone, to race with a slight amount of naiveté as to who my competitors are and what they are capable of, and finally to race with no pressure, only joy. I imagine that there will be something very simple and pure about racing in the single here in Bled, Slovenia.
Racing the single is not where I imagined I would be, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. The reason at this moment may not be clear, but I have faith that somewhere down the road this will all make sense. In the meantime, I will be enjoying the moment. Bled is a magical place, and I fully intend on embracing every opportunity that lies ahead.
The photo is from my perch overlooking the finish line from the Island
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone" August 27, 2011
It’s the night of the opening ceremonies at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. The draw is up and the preparatory work is finished. You can bet that athletes heading to the start line tomorrow are imagining the desired outcome of their race.
In past World Championships, I’ve always been chopping at the bit at this point. Tapered, feeling strong, ready to take the world by storm. This year however, I’m in completely uncharted territory; whether I would even race has been a huge question mark.
To be completely honest until today there was some reminisce of doubt, fear, and trepidation in my mind, as to whether or not I should be racing. So, this afternoon I went on a pilgrimage to the church, on the island, in the middle of Bled Lake. From the church, I perched myself on a bluff overlooking the finish line and I simply took some quiet time to reflect on the year and all that has passed. I thought about a question that a teammate posed to me earlier in the day, he said, “why are you racing?” As I sat in quiet refection the answer was clear; I’m racing because that’s what I do, it’s what I train for, it’s what I love, my body is healing nicely and I know that I am ready. Yes, I am nervous, but this is nothing new…before any major race I’ve always had butterflies…I know this feeling and it’s a good one.
As a footnote on my email correspondence I’ve recently added the quote, "life begins at the end of your comfort zone". Well folks, this week I plan on doin’ a whole lot of livin’!!
The Time in Between August 30th, 2011
Three full days have past since my first race in Bled. The heat went off without a hitch; really there was nothing special to report race wise. The most important information for me was to see how my body held up to the force and speed of an official start. Check. Now on to the semi!
The real challenge has been keeping the balance between resting for the race, staying sharp mentally, and keeping focus without going absolutely stir crazy. Since racing takes place throughout the day the only time for me to get on the water for my workouts has been at the bookends of the day (at the crack of dawn and as the water quiets down in the evening). This means that I’ve had nothing but time to kill.
So, how does a single sculler fill that time in between?
1. You make friends. Janus, my rowboat captain for my island pilgrimage, and I hit it off immediately. Somehow on the day of my journey I was his only passenger, so in typical form we got into conversation. He’s lived in Bled his entire life so he shared insider information about weather patterns, local cuisine, and stories of local athletes who have gone on to succeed on the world stage. He’s even offered to teach me how to row his chariot (after racing is done of course)!!
2. You do a lot of walking. Walking is about the only acceptable activity when you are trying to save your legs for racing. It is done in short intervals with lots of rest built into the circuit. At this point my two feet have taken me to all of the major hot spots and beautiful vistas in town.
3. You escape the confines of the hotel and go on a wine discovery mission. This is the one that could get me into a lot of trouble, but it had to be done. When I visited Ljubljana (the capital) in 2007, I bought a bottle of wine that, according to the sommelier of Movia, was the favorite bottle of the Japanese Emperor. After tasting this vintage, I had to agree with the man I immediately bought a few bottles to share and enjoy upon my to Canada. Since Slovenia does not export it’s wine, I’ve lamented the fact I could not enjoy this sweet nectar on a regular basis. Now that I’m so close, there really was no option but to retrace my steps from the past, and stock up.
4. Analyze my competition for the semi-final tomorrow. It’s a numbers game and I can keep myself busy for hours going through current and past results with a fine toothcomb.
Thankfully the semi is tomorrow & I can get on with the more important things here. RACING…whew….finally!
Bonus September 1st, 2011
Today I raced in the semi final and am happy to report that I clinched a lane in the A final tomorrow (Friday) at 12:27pm. Going into the race today my job was to be in the top three. Early in the race USA, BRA and I began to separate from the pack. Still playing on the conservative side I was content to find a nice rhythm and stick to it. With 500m to go, I felt confident that the three of us who’d gotten out early would maintain our position.
However, it is the semi finals and if the crews behind think that there is even a slim chance that they could catch the boat in third then they will attack. To my chagrin, this scenario played out to a tee. Hungary who was sitting 4secs behind me turned on the heat. I kept a keen eye on her and countered the attack when the time was right. Apparently, it was a nail biter for the Canadians who were watching from the grandstands.
As I was rowing in the cool down zone I was stuck with several thoughts (as per usual). Two weeks ago from the day, I rowed for the first time (after a three week hiatus from water training), five days ago it was still debatable as to whether I would race or not, and today I secured a position for that coveted A final at the World Rowing Championships.
I consider racing tomorrow a bonus. I am already ranked top six in the world and I am still in the hunt for a podium finish. You can bet that I will bring my best to the line tomorrow; the final result has yet to be written.
I want to end today’s note by extending huge congratulations to our Men’s 8+ who had a fantastic performance today. They are returning to Canada with a bronze medal in tow!! Way to go boys!!!
The Final Word September 2nd, 2011
At 12:27pm today, the lightweight women’s single race was delayed on account of a swan swimming into lane 6, the race start was delayed by several minutes. Even at an extremely well planned event, such as a World Championship Regatta, something unexpected can happen that completely changes the course of the day. It seems I’ve learned this lesson all too well in the past several weeks.
I need to share a story that changed the course of this regatta for me. Last Saturday, I had to make a call as to whether I would race this regatta or not. In any other circumstance the medical team would not have allowed me to row, they would have recommended that I sit on the sideline and heal. However, since it was the week of the World’s they committed to helping me manage the pain of the injury, while continuing to promote the healing process. It has been a real dance of two steps forward, one step back.
During my pilgrimage, I considered these facts: I was still mending, I had not done the physiological workouts that are necessary to gain that top end speed, and the strategy and tactics of racing the single on this stage were foreign to me. I also thought about how bruised my ego would be if I failed. Despite all of this my gut was still telling me that I needed to try. But here’s what really sealed the deal. As I was launching my boat on the final decision-making row, the Iranian single sculler was launching with me. I looked at her and thought she’s not afraid. In fact we were likely in similar situations, since they are a country that is new on the scene she likely has little support in terms of physiological work-ups, she lacks experience, and she probably not expected to be in the pack….but she was racing because she could…I looked at her and thought about how brave she must be.
Yes, it’s hard to lose. Yes, rowing in pain is not ideal. Today I rowed because I could and I have no regrets.
I am so thankful for the copious amount of support that I’ve received from my medical team, my teammates, my family, my friends and everyone who has sent me words of wisdom and cheer in the past few weeks.