With rowing everything you do is reported to be what wins the races. One coach says its the start that wins a race, another says its the middle 500m. Someone else claims its the mental preparation but it appears every coach says ‘summer races are won with the long winter miles’. At the moment we can get them in on the ergo, but training on the water is a little more difficult due to high river levels.
When water sessions are swapped for land sessions it can be pretty hard to make these sessions interesting. Luckily the coaches always have something up their sleeves and last weekend we undertook ‘The Superstar Challenge’. This involved a 1000m ergo followed by testing how many press ups, then crunches, then squat thrusts we could do in a minute. Then a plank challenge and finishing up with a run.
The most competitive aspect of the challenge was probably plank. The aim was to hold the plank position for as long as possible and we were all trying to beat someone else. Victory for plank went to Ellie Bennewith who pulled off a 7minute plank (something she is still gloating about) and as this section of the competition had most weighting in the scoring system, she also had the overall victory.
The final part of the competition was a short run to round it all off. I have to say the boys did better here but by now it was too late to change much in the overall standings. The spreadsheet with all the data in revealed that the podium places all went to girls – woo girl power :).
It was enjoyable, tiring and different but we’re still looking forward to be able to get back on the river as soon as the inclement weather clears.
I’m sat on the ergo. 13 minutes left of my half hour test. Over halfway. The clock seems to be standing still and my legs have taken leave of my body. The heavy breathing of the lad next to me and the drone of the fan is all the company I have. I’m straining against the handle but, contrary to the law of Physics, I appear to be going slower. The phrase ‘No Pain, no gain’ flutters across my mind but the will to stop is growing in attraction. Motivation is a scarce resource in the heat of the ergo room but then, in this most carnal of moments, I begin to think…
Winter training is such a bitter-sweet thing. The brutal mixture of pain and progress, of fatigue and achievement is something I dread and look forward to in equal measure. The unrelenting program is written to mould us into the most competitive athletes we can be but it has other benefits. Our schedules are all busy, with exams and regatta’s looming. For me, this combination of physical and mental exertion brings about a disciplined and practical approach to my studies, an attitude I would not have had it not been for rowing. This is one reason why I don’t stop on the ergo.
The floods have caused obvious disruption. Believe it or not, we have been extraordinarily lucky with the amount of water time available to us. Many of our competitors haven’t boated since before Christmas and the Henley Regatta Course currently bares a striking resemblance to the English Channel. All four of our scheduled events thus far have been cancelled and this has obviously had an impact on crew morale. However, the last time our competitors saw us race was at the Fours Head.
Since then, our training has increased in intensity and duration and crews are beginning to take shape. The Saturday morning paddles, the long winter ergoes, the heavier weights have become a mainstay of the program and this places even more impetus on the Schools Head, where we can lay down the first marker for the summer events. This heightened anticipation is another reason why I don’t get off the ergo.
I have to admit, I have asked myself ‘Why do I row?’. It’s too much of a philosophical question to be discussed at any great length but the answer is twofold. The first reason is the racing. Anyone who knows me will know that Henley Regatta is, in my opinion, the single greatest place on Earth and, if given the opportunity, I will regale even the most disinterested with anecdotes from my experiences there.
The most important reason however, is the people around me. I spend an awful long time with these guys, both on and off the water and the friends I have at rowing are far more likely to outlast any I have at school. Rowing is like a community and you are always surrounded by people who share your interests [Even if the banter is, at best, sloppy]. These guys get me through winter training, through the juggling of various commitments and even through this planned 12 hour ergo in the half term.
These guys will be the lads I end up sitting with on the start line in the summer so they are the main reason that I don’t get off the ergo.
Georgia Gowing – Fours Head!!
For me, fours head was a day of firsts. It was the first time I had worn my wellies on the underground, the first time I had rowed in London, and the first big event of the season.
Thanks to the fact that the stretch of the Thames we were rowing on was tidal, the racing didn’t start until one o’clock (a reasonable time to be out of bed on a Saturday). We caught the train to St Pancreas and the majority of the way there I was thinking about the race (probably making me pretty awful company for my crewmates!). At St Pancreas we headed for the underground under the direction of Tom Morgan, who knew the route well due to travelling to the Chelsea Football grounds on a regular basis. 11 juniors and assorted family members piled onto the tube and we made one change, being careful not to lose Ellie F, the youngest member of our crew.
Finally arriving at Putney bridge station, we proceeded to London rowing club, where our boats were waiting to be rigged. The short walk from the station to the club was more daunting than I expected it to be, owing to the fact that despite being told the river there was big, I hadn’t expected it to be quite THAT big! As we crossed it via a bridge, I saw a four training in the middle of the river, and it looked significantly smaller than the boats in Bedford looked!
Once we had rigged our boat, we ventured inside the club in search of a warm place to sit and eat some food before the race. At this point I was so nervous I could hardly eat but a 7.2km race requires quite a lot of energy! Lunch was followed by a quick chat with Mark, and a rundown of the race plans. Then it was time to boat.
With the boat on the water we began rowing down to the start and getting a feel for sculling on the Thames. It was quite a bit choppier than Bedford, and rowing to the start was against the stream, so quite difficult. However, it was the same stroke we’d repeated thousands of times and being in the boat made me feel a lot more confident about the race. There were about 500 boats in the competition, all on the river at the same time, so there was quite a lot to look at but it was important not to get distracted. The earlier boats started racing and we cheered for the star IM1 quad, containing 3 of the junior boys. It was also an opportunity to see some of the top scullers in the country competing.
The crews were set off quite rapidly so we were racing before I could think about it too much. I was concentrating so hard on getting the technique right that I hardly noticed the banks of the Thames rushing past. We got a good start but the water turned choppy making it difficult to stay balanced. Our bow, Ellie Bennewith, was determined to steer a competitive line and consequently another crew crashed blades with ours as we were overtaking them. Fortunately we recovered well and heard the ‘half way’ call from Ellie.
The second half of the race went a lot faster than the first, and we were motivated by some interesting calls from bow. The waves calmed down as we neared the end we bought the rate up and overtook another crew just before we crossed the line. Crossing the line absolutely exhausted, we rowed back to the club, to anxiously await results knowing nothing we did now would change it. We’d done all we could. It wasn’t until we’d collected the boys from the Putney Bridge cafe and were on the train back to Bedford that we found out the results. We came 16th/30, the junior boys’ quad came 12th/46 and the IM1 quad came 28th/45. All fair results at this stage in the season and gives plenty of ground to improve. And we’ve got no more races until star head in January, so we have plenty of time to train hard and improve!
Will White – Trials!!
GB Early ID Trials
Last Saturday GB Junior Rowing held the first round of the trials process. This event is very important for candidates aiming to be selected for the 2014 World Rowing Junior Championships and Coupe de la Jeunesse. As with many sports the selection process for the national squad team is a brutal one, you either make the cut or you don’t, you can’t have an off day or be nearly there.
The first aspect of the demanding selection process was a 2km ergo test, with numbers invited being restricted to the top 150 Junior men, drawn from across the length and breadth of the country and of course from some of the preeminent public schools. From Star Club both Tom Colbert and I were under the cut off time and eligible to attend Early ID’s.
We started early on Saturday morning to get to the initial briefing for crews at Boston RC at 9am. Conditions on the Witham were bitterly cold, adding to the apprehension we felt waiting to boat with the other trialists.
However, once boated I was much more focused. I paddled up to the start, reflecting on all those coaching points Mark and Steve have been drilling in over the weeks. I surprised myself with my lack of nerves; the focus on the job in hand seemed to have had overpowered them.
Tom Morgan – Star Head!!
For many of us at Star Rowing Club, and in the general Junior Rowing world, the idea of having to get up on a cold, blustery Sunday morning to complete a gruelling time trial in a single sculling boat is less than appealing. However, the thrill and pride of representing your club always compels even the least enthusiastic of us to race hard.
Personally, I have a mixed relationship with this class of boat. It’s good to know that your ability, and your ability alone, is responsible for the outcome and so I always view such races as a trial for the more important boats. However, if the race goes wrong then there is no-one else to blame!
For me, the build up to a single is far more focused. In a crew boat, the banter often overrides the nerves but, in a single, there is a feeling of isolation and direction that you don’t get in quads. I’m always more nervous, sitting on the start line of a singles race and this was no different at Star Head last weekend. I was in the first division and leading out J181x, with Tom Colbert directly behind me. There was the added pressure of a small wager which Bav, our head coach, had placed with the senior men’s squad. He had bet that I would finish in the top 4 scullers from Star Club [The senior men, some of whom are extremely proficient in singles, were all racing in singles too] and this actually helped my preparation for the race.
The confidence that Bav had in my sculling ability was a great boost for me and gave the event a new dimension. Additionally, when racing the single as one of the more senior members of the Junior squad, it is important to perform so as to show the younger members the benefits of an intensive and rigorous training regime.
The race felt good and I settled into a pretty good rhythm, pushed on by the local support from the bank. I got 7:44, finishing 4th from Star Club members and so Bav won his bet! Unfortunately, I finished 2nd in my category behind Jonti Vincent from Bedford RC, who went on to finish 15th at Early ID Junior GB Trials this weekend, a place behind our very own Will White! This shows the strength of Junior Rowing in Bedford as having two scullers in the top 15 at GB trials from a small, provincial town is very impressive.
Overall, I was happy with my race as I was the fastest Star junior by 21 seconds and was beaten out of a pot by one of the best scullers in the country. The race also gave me the chance to push for those extra seconds and develop my leadership skills at Star Rowing Club, skills that are complimented by my position as bowman of the Fours Head quad and skills that are easily transferable into school life.
So, now it is already onto the Fullers Fours Head this coming Saturday in a quad with Will White Tom Colbert and Tom Stace – the first big national time trial race…we start just four places ahead of local rivals Bedford Modern School and their 1st Quad for added spice!
I’ll let you know how my nerves were when I report back in after the race!!!
In many ways the transition from junior rowing at Star to rowing in the Senior team at Newcastle University was a bit of a shock! For starters I now find myself training alongside Junior Olympian Emily Ford amongst other young GB athletes and I need to step up to the challenge and the new intensity of the training. Although its difficult at times to be able to compete on the same level as these girls, as I watch some of them pull 2k ergo scores under 7 minutes beating some of the top junior boys at Star!
I had my first race for Newcastle in the senior women’s second eight at Rutherford Head a few weeks ago which was all very surreal as suddenly I was wearing the wrong colours and racing under the wrong club. Although, it was strangely reassuring as we raced past the boat club to cheers of “Go Blue Star!”. Despite finishing a disappointing second behind Durham I think we all have high expectations for this year.
Rebecca in the 2 seat of the Newcastle crew
I miss the calm 2k stretch at Bedford and training with close friends and family as rowing on the Tyne can prove to be quite challenging as the waves threaten to sink the boat and you have to remind yourself that you are not actually coastal rowing! Alongside the technical challenges that such waters can bring now being able to row for a longer stretch then 2k means that early Saturday morning I am now being told that we are aiming to cover double the distance I ever would have in a session at Star with 10 x 3k on the programme after the standard 5k warm up run.
Although at times I question why I am still rowing as a 7am start in Newcastle is just as bad as a 7am start in Bedford and perhaps even worse because its about 5 degrees colder; but I really appreciate the foundation that Star has given me. Rowing at university provides a quick way to make friends with the same interests and fall into a similar routine to home which is nice when suddenly everything else is so different. I have also found that rowing is helping me to achieve some of my other ambitions for this year as it has played a major role in my application to be a counsellor at Camp America this summer and I owe Star Club for the experiences, especially in coaching, that it has provided me with.
Rebecca stroking a Star crew – aboard a Swift racing boat
I am still following the success of the junior squad from Newcastle and I hope they get all they deserve this year. And finally I would like to reiterate my thanks to the club for my time as a junior as it truly has set me up with an amazing opportunity to race with some outstanding athletes and to challenge myself beyond what I thought was possible.
Rebecca was also the recipient of a Connolly Foundation Prize award through her 6th Form at Biddenham Upper School – one of 6 partner schools with the Foundation, the others being Redborne, Biddenham, Sharnbrook, St Thomas More and Cardinal Newman.
I finished sixth form at Biddenham Upper School with A*AA in my A levels: History, Spanish and English Literature. I first found out about the Connolly Foundation at the Bedford Rowing Lake Dinner when I was encouraged to apply later that year. Ian Rowe also came to do an assembly at our school and explained the process and benefits of applying for the Connolly Foundation bursary.
At the Bedford Rowing Lake dinner with Olympic legend Tim Foster
I am already grateful for the help the foundation has provided me with so that I can continue rowing at university as the bursary has helped support me with the membership fees and new racing kit. I am currently studying History, Spanish and Portuguese at Newcastle University and hope that in the future I will work in an environment where I can use my language skills, perhaps even working abroad.
Junior men and women
Under 23 men and women