The life of a UEL Sports Scholarship student- Part 4

6th December

On the train again home from a particularly late one tonight. DLR totally buggered so cue running around at gone 9pm trying to find some kind soul to give me a lift to anywhere that wasn’t on the DLR. Abi – you are a lifesaver. Spent the tube journey in an especially bad mood, but faith in humanity has been restored by the lovely train driver who told me firmly to sit in first class. It might be the middle of the night, but at least I have a comfy seat to snooze in.

So rowing. Well, its getting distinctly more wintery in Henley, my toes seem to spend more time frozen than not, and the ice is getting thicker on my car in the early mornings. We’ve been getting an 8 on the river a few times a week since October trials, which has given me a welcome break from cycling and coaching with a chance to put my new knowledge into my coxing. Saturdays at the moment see two men’s eights side by side tanking up and down the Henley stretch, which makes for some pretty challenging coxing with the hundreds of tiny juniors and ageing veterans from all the clubs out for a chilled weekend paddle. Great experience though and perfect to keep our racing instincts sharp during the winter. I say this, but I was actually told off last time for being too aggressive in my shouting to Katie, my fellow Leander cox… the comment was “if she’d been from another club, fine, but she’s wearing matching kit!” Oops.

Last Saturday however was indoors, but certainly not less exciting. It was 2k day. In rowing, the ergometer, or rowing machine, is synonymous with the sport. Rumour is that it was created in Canada as a way of training for rowing when the lakes were frozen. The boys (and girls) spend hours on them in the gym, knocking up hundreds of thousands of kilometres. The famous test, used all over the world, is to row 2000m on the ergo, as fast as you can. Its brutal, pushing the aerobic and anaerobic systems beyond to the limit.

4 ergos. Side by side, lovingly cleaned by Katie and myself, wedged with weights at either end to stop them jolting when the boys start at race pace. All the coaches and athletes from all squads mill around. We weigh the boys in before the test, then organise them into waves. I call them to sit ready. “Have a good one boys. All ok? Attention…. Go.”

As noted, it’s pretty brutal. The ergo numbers don’t lie, and the results can be agonising or elating. Throughout the club, there were some awesome scores jotted down by Katie and myself that day, many of which will be submitted to the GB selectors. Our UEL boys did us pretty proud, with some solid scores from all!

At the end of the tests, it’s a fairly emotional scene. Many of the boys crawl outside, and can be found lying on the landing stage in the winter sun, with plumes of steam rising and floating downriver.

19th December

My last blog entry described part of the trialling system for the rowers, but last Saturday was the first of the GB trial dates for me in the 2012 season. While all the Leander boys and girls headed up to Boston in their singles and pairs, I had the welcome difference of sleeping in my own bed, as the GB Adaptive Rowing Team trials are held at Caversham Lake, just outside Reading (and about 3 minutes from my house).

Last week was stressful. Not being selected in 2011, after coxing the GB4+ in 2009 and 2010, means I am now trialling against the current cox, who will be defending the seat. I was nervous before these trials last week, a feeling which continued until the briefing began in the crewroom at 08:30 sharp. Walking into the crewroom was like the first day back at school after a long summer holiday – many familiar faces, but some new ones too. A little bit of surprise to see me, and although it was great to see people who I hadn’t seen in a while, my mission for the day was the primary focus of my mind.

Trials ran smoothly, with water trials in small boats, ergo trials for new potential Paralympic athletes, and then some video sessions in the 4+ (which I coxed). It was great to be back in the mix again, and hopefully from here all of us triallists can move forward before the next set of trials in January 2012.

Home in the late afternoon to an empty house (save for the cat, who is now HUGE – he’s only 8 months old and he is 5.3kgs!!). Sat down on the sofa and had a biggest headache ever, so took the aforementioned feline and cuddled up in my duvet. Two hours later I emerged looking rather more crumpled and feeling rather better – gym time. I’m doing pretty well training at the moment, so took myself off and did a long cross-train session, rewarded with a few minutes in the sauna afterwards.

30th December

Writing from the best place in the world – my parents home in Herefordshire. This time there is a different cat curled up next to me – this one is lazier though a less likely to try and sit on my laptop. We were given a pretty long break from coached training this year, of which I’ve spent the whole holiday back home. Weirdly warm though isn’t it?! Last year I could barely drive up the track. Home for me really is the middle of nowhere, it’s at least 30 mins to the nearest town. Most of the holiday days have been spent catching up with friends, attempting to avoid eating the vast amounts of amazing food my Mum seems to produce on a production line from the kitchen, and going for runs and long walks in the mountains. Fairly blissful and so healthy to get out of the bubble of the rowing world. It can annoy me that few people at home understand what I do in most of life, but really, I love the way I have two distinct bubbles, which rarely touch.

GB Trials are drawing ever closer now, on the 21st January. It’s been made more complicated by the Leander Club (where I train day to day) training camp in Spain cutting across the trials date, so meaning I have had to arrange separate flights to return early from camp, and then be super organised and ready for those trials that weekend. Pretty busy! Looking forward to going to Spain though… despite my moaning that Christmas Day was too warm, I’m still really looking forward to a couple of extra degrees in Spain for a few days, plus the chance to get out in the 8 again for some super long sessions on the beautiful Banyoles Lake.

Dad appears to be hovering, hoping I will join him on a bike ride and escape to the pub a few miles away. Love Christmas…


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