It's important to note just how raw this lineup was when we raced in Poland. I was fully aware of where we were in the process and accordingly, I had tempered expectations. It was so important to get those hard strokes in together on a FISA course, against the top boats, and to make mistakes. Knowing how long it can take to form an identity and a unified way of operating in the quad, I did not expect us to be even close to our potential on the first trip out. We had some moments where we were holding the best crews in the world and we had moments where we were catching diggers. Such is the reality of a crew that had been together for two weeks. No sweat. Try, learn, adjust, try again, repeat. We did something better every time we hit the water and that's all you can ask for. In the B Final we got sprint through in the last 250 by the Lithuanians, three of whom were World Champions in 2017, and have a notoriously potent sprint. Sean was upset we got sprint through, some of the guys were discouraged. I looked over at Rolandas Mascinskas, World Champion in the 4x, many time medalist in the M2x, and gave him the thumbs up. To me, it was hilarious that we almost beat them considering we were in the infant stages of our development. The challenge would be to bottle those lessons, take them home with us, and put them into action. There is huge upside to this crew but only if we bring purpose to our training every day.
Upon our return home, we wasted no time applying changes. The first change we made putting Mike in stroke seat. It is a testament to Greg's lack of ego and strength as a teammate that this was an easy transition. All he wanted was to help the boat improve and if that was in two seat then great. From my perspective, this switch really freed up the boat in a lot of ways and gave us some flexibility both off the start and in the sprint that we had been missing. We probably could have cultivated it eventually with the other lineup but sometimes there is a simple and quick solution and we were fortunate enough to find it quickly. Don't get me wrong, there was still plenty to be desired from a technical standpoint but I felt like this was a very positive change. We did not get much chance to test the new lineup at race pace before Trials but after our first 250 in the Final, it was clear to me that we had made a step forward. Mike led an explosive opening minute and we were able to find relaxed base pace rhythm for the rest of the piece to punch our tickets to World Championships. This was a solid no drama execution that felt significant to me and made me excited for the coming weeks of preparation.
A couple hours after our win at Trials, I threw my single on my car and drove out to Cincinnati for Nationals. Due to my poor finish at 1x Trials in April, I had not secured a spot in the Lotman Challenge for 2019. Winning the 1x at Nationals would be my last opportunity to get in. In theory, it sounded pretty fun to take a few days away from the quad and get back in the 1x. The reality was that I hadn't rowed the 1x since April and it was pretty rusty! I wasn't able to get a practice in before the Time Trial but was able to use each race to prepare for the Final. In the Final, I got out to a good lead early, but definitely was spinning my wheels and ended up going pretty slow in what were near perfect conditions. I was pleased to get the win and shouldn't take that for granted, but it definitely reminded me that speed in the single is not just automatic and that I will need to put substantial time in it this fall to get back up to pace. The good news is I am back in the Lotman but based on the standings, I will need a great performance at HOCR in order to get into the top 4 in points.
Since Nationals, we have been working hard in Philly and enduring some brutal training in the heat. Despite our bodies being in a pretty big hole, the boat continues to shed inefficiencies and inconsistencies. There are three large engines in front of me and I am using every faculty I have to channel it all into positive boat speed. It is a real credit to the guys that they have bought in to how we are trying to row and have allowed me to be the maestro in bow. There is a positive dialogue in the boat and it feels to me like they know I am not talking at them or down to them, I am just doing everything in my power to bring this boat together. I am using every ounce of experience I have to fast track this boat to the standard we are shooting for. I am thankful for their trust and for their willingness to buy in. Since beginning to row with these guys a couple months ago, I have constantly tried to bring the focus away from just rowing and doing mileage for the sake of volume, and rather focusing on the quality of those miles. It's fine to do 20k, but unless there is purpose to it, it's somewhat folly. Even when we are continuous I have tried to bring a specific focus or additional challenge to everything we do. Perfect matching, perfect bladework, and always imagining we are at race pace. The steady state splits only matter if they are achieved the correct way. Only when we can hit the target speeds without working will they be relevant. Leaving no stone unturned and trying to get absolutely everything out of a boat is what excites and motivates me and I feel thankful to be in a boat where everyone is onboard with that concept. We have a short timeline to World Champs, but I am eager to see just how much we can push it in the next few weeks.
More to come, but for now I need to jump in the car and cruise on up to Ithaca. Go USA.
B Final at WC2. Lithuania in the background.
With a 6'6'' avg height in our boat, I typically just get the oars...
The pain is real!