Friday, July 14, 2017

Lost

First things first, over the last couple of weeks and especially this week at Nationals in Cincinnati, I've had so many come up to me and tell me they've been following and reading the blog for the last few years and I have loved hearing everyone's different stories. It makes me very happy to know that my pursuit has provided some sort of inspiration or fuel to others out there. My guess is that I don't need to recount the events of Henley considering how public all of the races were, but I'll just say that it has been very difficult for me to put that one behind me. Because of how much that race meant to me, it will sting for a while. But because of how much I felt that loss, I came back to Princeton last Monday energized in a renewed pursuit of speed. I think just the way in which I lost has made me re think the way I'm rowing, how I'm rigged, what my race strategy is, etc. I got an up close and personal look into the world of New Zealand rowing and that has really influenced the way I have been proceeding. The last week in Princeton was one of the most engaged weeks of training of had in a long time. I was excited to come down to the boathouse every day and experiment with changes that I had observed in the NZL crews and that had peaked my interest. I knew I only had a week before I left for Nationals in Cincinnati, but I felt like that racing would be the perfect chance to test out on a buoyed 2k course in a race environment whether these changes had merit or not. Before I left I experimented with various oar lengths, loads, and foot stretcher placements in an effort to find a lighter more sustainable load that might allow me to rate a touch higher and keep the speed more constant and even throughout the race. I have been racing the single with the Fat2 blades for as long as I can remember and have loved them, but especially after having the sprint of my life in Henley and still coming up short, I wondered whether my rig was too far through the pin and hence allowing me to be too fast early and paying for it later. So, I guess and checked, I trialed and errored. I had a particularly good  3 x 4.5k workout at 24,26,28 against some of the Training Center pairs where I felt like I was able to maintain consistent fast splits over this distance compared to what I was used to with the Fats.  Although I think a lot of this may have had a lot to do with just moving to bow slightly and having a lighter overall load. The problem with this, however, is that testing this at mid cadences is not the best way to test for 2k speed. But I reasoned that I had three races coming up at Nationals to do that. Fast forward to right now where I am sitting in my hotel room in Cincinnati feeling bummed about how my Final went this morning at Nationals. Internally and conceptually, I'm OK and I understand that there were risks with changing things up in and around racing, but no matter how you slice it, it sucks to lose. My intention for the rigging change was a combination of learning from Robbie Manson and the rest of the NZL team and to change to what Ben Davison and I will use in the 2x starting next week. Manson uses standard skinny smoothie 2's which is also what we used in the 4x last year and what Ben and I will use in the 2x. I also wanted to emulate Manson's higher cadence and even splitting race tactics. The Time Trial on Wednesday was my first race pace work with the new rig and honestly it went great. It was a light headwind, maybe 2 mph, and my goal was to rate around a 35, a couple beats lower than I planned to race the Final. I just held 1.45 wire to wire and the rhythm felt great. I crossed the line feeling like I had more to give and that this was a rhythm that was really carrying me. It didn't feel labored, just light and well suspended. I got off the water feeling like I had really found something. In the Semi yesterday, conditions were considerably faster, probably a tailwind of 6-8 mph. I rolled off the start much more reserved than I typically race in hopes of not overdoing it early and finding an even pace. I was down off the start to my brother Tom, but my plan was to just hold one split the entire race and watch people fall back. In the faster conditions, I really struggled to find the suspension and the lock at the front end--something was missing. I gradually moved through and qualifying for the final was not of concern to me but the lack of rhythm and pace was of real concern. The rate was lower and it really felt like I was chasing it at the front end. This time, I crossed the line feeling discouraged and like maybe I better switch back to my known rig for the Final. I was struggling so much to find connection in the tail that I felt very vulnerable; like I wasn't capable of the speed I know I can hit with my normal set up. Last night I thought about it a lot and finally came to the conclusion that if I just switch back now I will not have learned anything. Essentially, nothing ventured nothing gained. I decided to stick with the new rig and to just race it up. This morning, conditions were slightly calmer than yesterday but there was still a really nice tailwind on the course, probably 4-5 mph. I had a solid warm up but still was experimenting with different focuses and rhythms in the warm up to find the sweet spot of the rig. My plan was to be aggressive off the line but to cap my high(er) strokes to 20 seconds and then go right to 37. I had a clean and relaxed start, shifted and found rhythm. I was focusing today on hooking the catch better to find suspension in the tail and keep consistent traction. The boat was lively and it was clear right away that I had made a great change from the semi. I was creating good connection and the rate and relaxation were both there. To row this high, its counterintuitive, but you do have to be ultra relaxed. I was pinning 37-38 and leaving town. I crossed the first 500 in 1.38.7 and everything felt aerobic. I was executing very close to what I had visualized. At 750 down, I made a concerted move to hold the speed and keep it consistent through the 1250. Crossed 1000m, 3.21.9. I remember saying to myself, " Yeah, legs, breathe" And I was breathing, really well. I crossed 1250 and was thinking of reeling the 1500m mark in. I was being carried by the rhythm and it felt simple and repeatable. I crossed 1500: 5:05. At this point, all systems are go and I am thinking that I just need to stay in this rhythm and this boat is just going to keep moving for me. I would say it was around the 1650m mark where I started to feel my forearms but its really tough to put my finger on exactly when it was. But somewhere in there, I started to feel the handles rolling down into my palm and my dexterity disappear. I remember looking up to see where everyone else was because up to that point I literally hadn't thought about it. I was just thinking about suspending at 38 spm. I saw that Mike was a few lengths away and so I had a good cushion even if things were failing a little bit. I didn't know just how bad it was going to get. It got to the point where I could barely square the blade or hang through the middle of the stroke. We got hit by a little wake ( it really wasn't very big!) and it was enough for me to lose my oar a little bit. But still, I had a cushion. I would say with even 10 strokes to go I still had a length lead but I was limping along at 1:53's. I felt like I was in quicksand. Mike passed me in the last couple strokes and beat me by .8 seconds in 6:53.0. Ugh. Just what I needed, another loss in the last ten strokes. This one was very different though. In Henley, I had the sprint of my life and somehow it was matched time after time for about 500 meters. This time its a combination of factors INCLUDING but not limited to Mike being fast and going 6:53. I don't want to discredit him because that is really impressive and I'm happy for him. That being said, theres no doubt that my head, heart, lungs, and legs were ready to go in the mid 6:40's but my forearms were not having it. I knew Andy Sudduth had gone 6:44 at the 1988 Olympic Trials on this course and thats what I was going for. Time and time again this sport teaches me that preparation is king and the honest truth is that I hadn't prepared to row a 2k at 38 spm with this rig and I took a risk by choosing to give it a try. Today I lost and Mike was better, but I'm trying not to let this result distract me from why I was trying out new things. I'm doing it to be faster, I'm doing it to go to the Olympics and win a medal. I'm doing it because I don't want to be changing things or feeling like I left a stone unturned when it really matters. I want to be sitting on the start line in Sarasota and in Tokyo knowing that I am rowing the rig and the style that maximizes my effort. This was the perfect setting to try these things out but unfortunately, like Henley, my failures recently have been quite public and that makes it tougher. These have not just been training sessions where I am learning things privately to bring out on race day. My flaws and my shortcomings, my entire process has been out in the open for people to see and to judge and thats fine, I can handle it. I have thick skin. In years past when I've had a disappointment I have second guessed myself and let the result dictate and influence my path going forward, but Carlos really called me out on that this winter. He told me, " if someone challenges you, or if someone beats you, you say THANK YOU, because they are helping you achieve your dreams. They will make you better. If you have a bad piece, you go eat some food, get some sleep, and then come back harder!! The goal doesn't change." This really hit home for me and has been shaping how I've been training and racing this year. Everything is learning and experience for when it gets real in 2019 and 2020. So, yes, today, I lost. It sucked. I hate losing. It makes me feel sick to lose like this, but I am also proud of the way I went after it and the way I chose to take a risk and not do what was comfortable or easy. On the road to Tokyo, today was actually a great day. Henley Sunday brought me to tears, but choosing to learn from it got me asking myself the right questions. Just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost.


3 weeks to Trials.

10 weeks to Worlds.

( You can watch the full Nationals Final here, scroll to 21:10 for the beginning)











Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hanging out on an afternoon off and am feeling like writing for the first time in a while. I think part of my lack of motivation to write recently has had a lot to do with how much I have been moving around. After I returned from Belgrade, I spent a little bit of time back in Ann Arbor, then Craftsbury for a couple weeks, and now I am in Princeton getting ready to go across the pond to Henley next week. I finished racing in Belgrade feeling tired but very energized to get back to work in the US. I felt confident in the way I was rowing and with the speed I was producing given my training leading up to the racing, but before I could get back to work, I was fighting a severe fever and migraines. I spent the next week at home feeling miserable and it took me almost two weeks to get back to feeling normal in training again. Spending two weeks in Craftsbury was crucial to me regenerating and getting back on track. I then transitioned down to Princeton to join the Training Center group that was also preparing for Henley. When Teti arrived last week, he nixed the guys' Henley trip, but I have still been able to get some good work in with the pairs that were not boated in the eights. Teti has drastically changed things here and I have to say, I think its great. I have mixed in every now and then rowing both in the eight and the four on some steady state rows and I have enjoyed the simplicity and clarity of his message and technique. He has a very good sense of what is important and what is not, and more specifically, what is important to making an eight fast and what is not. There are definitely some guys that are experiencing some growing pains with the change of leadership, but that is natural. I am definitely still committed to the 2x with Ben but I also want to keep my options open and find myself wanting to buy in to what Teti is selling. The allure probably has a lot to do with contrast to training on my own and doing so much on my own. Showing up to practice, hopping in the bow seat of an 8, and just going to work is wonderfully simple. There seems to be this clear on and off switch right now for me that has very rarely existed in my training when I am on my own or feeling like I have a stake in making the training plan or helping coach the boat. The ability to just turn the focus up all the way for 90 minutes and lean and absorb what the coach is saying, then shut it off. The coach can think about what he wants us to do at practice--not me. I'll just rest. Obviously, it would be wrong for me to say that I don't enjoy, in some extent, thinking about what I want to do at practice and controlling that. There is certainly great value in taking ownership of your training and your results. Anyone who has read this blog would know that I truly value that type of self-reliance, but I guess I am simply asking, at what point is it counter productive? At what point am I not being the best athlete I can be. I am not trying to be the best athlete/physiologist/coach/logistics coordinator. If I truly want to be the best athlete version of myself, it feels like this set up is ideal for that, but who knows. I believe Ben and I can be an A finalist M2x and could challenge for medals this year,  I really do. But I have to say, sculling and organizing everything with no support from USRowing feels like fighting to stay awake when you're really tired and sweeping at the Training Center feels like giving in and just falling asleep. Sometimes I just wonder why I am trying to stay awake so badly, It would feel really nice to just doze off and get some rest.

But for now, the focus is on the Diamonds at Henley. This has been my number one goal from the onset of this year and if I'm totally honest, probably since I saw Jamie Koven win the Diamonds in 1998. I was 9 years old walking on the banks of the Thames with my brothers wreaking havoc and watching the boats go by. Our Dad had told us about Jamie Koven, World Champ in 97, and I thought Jamie Koven was as cool as Michael Jordan. I have always wanted to come back and win the Diamonds. I have competed in it twice, the last time being in 2013 when I lost in the Semifinal to Alan Campbell by 2 lengths. I am eager to improve upon that showing. The entries came out today and the top names include Robbie Manson from NZL and Cam Girdlestone from AUS, among many other talented guys. Obviously these are top caliber scullers but I do not feel scared to get on the plane. I am going over there with loads of respect for them and all the other competitors but all the confidence in the world in myself.  Belgrade showed me that I have as much raw speed as anyone and I am excited to use a couple new tricks to allocate it better over the course. I felt like my biggest limiting factors at WC1 were poor pacing and not having enough belief in myself that I could hold anyone off in the last 500. I hadn't spent enough time in training visualizing crossing the line first, not just being competitive. I have thought about Mahe a lot. Many call him self centered and egotistical but his confidence is his greatest tool in his racing. He has the strongest belief on the course that he will cross that line first, no matter what. Yes, he goes 5:40 and is an absolute machine, but that alone does not make you as consistently dominant as he has been. All those heats, semis, and finals over all of those years. The only way you can produce time after time is with a rock solid belief in yourself, an unbreakable confidence. When analyzing how I raced in Belgrade, thats where I saw the biggest room for improvement. If I am a length up at the 1500m mark, no matter who I am racing, the only reason I lose that race is if my belief in myself is not strong enough. In Belgrade, I thought, " I am length up on Aleksandrov, but he's stronger than me, so he will probably come back on me". And thats bullshit.  I've been told for so long by people that I am not strong enough to be a top sculler, that my erg score isn't good enough. I block the majority of that out and don't listen, but even if I let 5 % of that in, over time that adds up and you begin to believe it. When things are going well those thoughts don't come up, but its when you are in the 6th or 7th minute and you are in real pain, thats when that 5% I let in comes to the forefront of my conscience. After having those thoughts in Belgrade it occurred to me that the only thing holding me back from being up there with the best is allowing those thoughts in my head. So I've been working on bringing the Mahe mentality into the second K of my race. I've been working on introducing a Damir belief into my last 500. But it also can't be totally plagiarized, it has to be my own, and it needs to be authentic. I've written on this blog before that " I am as strong as I believe I am". I have never thought that to be more true than now, I am just not sure I truly bought into it they way I do now when I wrote it last.

Also, the website The Frynge is running a campaign on my behalf over the next couple of weeks. 10% of every purchase made on the website will go directly to helping me fund my season. They have some cool stuff on there so check it out. Here is a link to an article they published a couple days ago about last year's experience in the quad. Thanks a lot!

Point Seven From Rio




The Hosmer was a little angry when I first arrived, but she finally calmed down.






Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Great video on polarized training with extensive research done on Norwegian xc skiers and rowers:

http://fasterskier.com/fsarticle/nordic-nation-stephen-seiler-training-intensity/


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Really tough day here in Belgrade. I have been feeling great so far and was very eager to have a crack at the A Final this afternoon, but it just wasn't it the cards. Due to weather, the Rep was moved from yesterday afternoon to this morning, and so I had to race the Rep and the Semi over the course of 5 hours. Plenty of analysis to unload when its all over, but for now I have one more opportunity to show what I can do. I race the B Final tomorrow at 10 am local time. It's a packed B Final and should be a great test. While I am bummed to not have made the A Final this go around, I am more confident than ever that I have the speed to be there and trade blows with the best. While this afternoon's semi was an incredibly painful experience, I don't have any doubts about my effort, mental game, or capabilities. Everything was there, everything was firing... except my Legs. They felt like they had concrete in them. I just flat out was too tired to compete with those guys today. So, now I rest, eat a bunch of food, and come back even harder tomorrow. No doubt, just more work ahead. Thanks for all the support.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

If there's anyone out there that is still interested in this blog, thanks for your patience over the last couple of months. I guess I just felt like it would be better to wait until after this race for a big update. This was not quite like Steph Curry deleting all of the apps off of his phone or LeBron not using social media during the Playoffs, but I didn't want to create much of a stir before this race by writing about how training has been going and what I plan to do after. I just wanted to prepare well, race hard, and execute, without any distractions. That was slightly affected by the article Row2k published about Ben Davison and I between the Heats and the Semifinals this week: Bound by Shared Olympic Dreams. In fact, that was exactly the type of buzz I didn't want to create at the time. Everything in that article is true, it was just not ideal timing for either of us. But I guess, in a way, it was good to make our intentions known. The interesting detail about choosing to pursue the 2x with Ben is that the majority of my time will still be spent training and racing in the 1x. He will be in school until the summer of 2019, so I will have to truly enjoy life in the single while still maintaining a longterm focus in the 2x. This week racing at the first domestic race of the new quadrennial was a great way to start things off. Given the way the year is laid out, with late Trials and late Worlds, I had planned on racing the first World Cup in early May. The goal was to use the Speed Order and WC1 as a mini competition phase before getting back to training. So back in late March, I petitioned to go to WC1 under the condition that I won the Speed Order. I knew that if I could manage racing well in Princeton, I could have a shot at a great performance in Belgrade. However, that is a big IF. In the past, I have showed up to NSR's and Speed Orders very well prepared and tapered, determined to put down my very best racing. Learning how to do that is vital, but there is certainly a cost. A huge mental, emotional, and physical cost comes from truly pouring everything into a four day regatta or even just one race for that matter. A great example of this was last year at Olympic Trials in the M4x. We had a Final only and the race was not even close, but because of the stress of the buildup and the incredible weight lifted off our shoulders by getting through that race, all four of us got sick after the race. We were miserable for at least a week and I have to believe that affected our performance in some degree at the Final Qualification Regatta in Lucerne. As a I planned this year and looked at what I could improve upon, this was a huge focus. If the goal is truly World Cup performance or World Championship performance and not just to perform at NSR's and Trials, then my training and approach would have to shift. In the last few months, my main focus has been 2 x 6k speed, strength in the weight room, and 4 x 2k @ 24.  My 2 x 6k improved 1.5 splits on the C2 since last Fall and I'm hoping that by improving this system, I will be able to get through a 3-4 day regatta without burning the candle too low. Especially at Worlds in 2015, it occurred to me that we were just not able to repeat our speed in the same way other crews were able to. We could hang with the A finalists in the Heats and then gradually drop off throughout a regatta. So it definitely took a leap of faith to come into the Speed Order with minimal race prep, but as Gregg Stone reminded me, " Thats what Time Trials and Heats are for!" Despite some tough headwind conditions, I really enjoyed racing again last week, and I feel ready to go lay down some great racing in Belgrade. I am training in Princeton this week with the men's team and then flying out of Newark on Sunday. Carlos Dinares will be meeting me over there and helping me throughout the week. This week I am putting in a normal week or training with modest mileage and 3 x 2k on Wednesday with the sweep group. I saw the entries for the M1x at World Cup 1 this morning but it looks like they took them off the website. They will definitely be released tomorrow. It is a pretty stacked field especially for the first world cup of the post olympic year. There are 21 entries including Damir Martin, Martin Sinkovic, Angel F. Rodriguez, Aleksandr Aleksandrov, and many other proven scullers. I couldn't be more excited to go up against a quality field and see what I can do. While its a lot of fun to get caught up in who will be in the lane next to me, I will need to stay focused and just maximize my speed in my lane; after all, I have the experience to know how hot the pace will be and I have been preparing all year to handle the heat. That being said, this field is full of Olympians who will be at various stages of returning to training, so it will be important not to take too much stock in the results, good or bad, and use everything as preparation.

After I get back from Belgrade, I will be waiting a few weeks for Ben to finish up racing with Washington, and then we will get to work in the 2x. If Washington goes to Henley, I will go and race the single at Henley and then return back with Ben to prepare for Trials. I'll try to keep writing while I'm in Belgrade. Back in October, I wrote about racing Damir Martin at HOCR and how the goal now is to race him toe to toe for 2k. Well, here it goes. Thanks for all the support.

Go Green, Go Blue!







Monday, March 20, 2017

A couple more vids:

1. 18 spm into a headwind, working on flow and sequencing.
Headwind SS


2. Base pace, working on hanging off the legs better and coming out square--thinking a lot about Xeno right now.
Base pace

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Spent the last week training in Oak Ridge and am now down in Sarasota for the week. Here is some video from this morning. Didn't miss that Sarasota crosswind! Sorry for such a long hiatus. I really just haven't found the time to sit down and write recently. Hopefully this week I'll have a chance to gather my thoughts on the last month and what lies ahead. But to sum it up quickly, its been strange. I woke up this morning thinking Trials were 5 weeks away and I am going to bed thinking they are 5 months away! Just give me a date, I'll be ready.

3/8 Sarasota