Sunday, April 26, 2020

Six weeks ago

Six weeks ago at this time, I was paddling back to the dock after our final pieces before loading up for Olympic Trials. The hay was in the barn at this point and we were just staying in touch with one of the staples of the Stone training plan: 2k's at 24. It almost felt like a pianist playing his favorite chords backstage just to privately prove his readiness before going onstage. My first piece in following conditions was the fastest I've ever gone at 24 but my second piece in the headwind left something to be desired. Perhaps part of my discontent was the fact that Gevvie produced two exceptional pieces. But such was the nature of the last two months. When measuring up against Gevvie, you can be certain no one would be getting lulled into a false sense of things. Perform or be embarrassed. Sometimes you would perform and still get embarrassed. As Coach Mark Wetmore said in Running With The Buffaloes, " When you live on Monster Island, someone is breathing fire every day." Between me, Gevvie, Cicely, Mary Jones, Emily Schmeig, and the UT women, that quote was certainly personified in Austin this winter.

We came in, loaded the boats, and joined the UT team for a farewell taco party that the coaches had arranged for us. At this point, there were some rumblings about how the outbreak might affect the NCAA season, but nothing major. As I enjoyed a breakfast taco with Dave O'Neill, I made sure I was out of earshot of any of the athletes before I told him what was on my mind. " Hey, what are the chances NCAA's get affected? " He responded quietly, " I'd say it's very likely." I took that as it might get moved or postponed but I definitely did not anticipate how much our lives were about to change. 

As the party was winding down, we took a moment to share some stories and say goodbye to the team and the coaches. Without knowing what lie ahead, I remember feeling the gravity of the moment and how sad I was to leave. This had been a special camp for me and the boathouse had begun to feel like home. No matter how tired I was walking to the boathouse at 6 am, when I walked through that boat bay and heard the music blaring, it all faded away. That energy lifted everyone up and made it fun to push to the edge and hold it there. Whether it was holding a plank or racing five boats across, Dave taught us that when you think you can't go anymore, that's just where the fun begins. I knew I would miss these mornings, but given how the last few weeks have unfolded, I have developed such a strong nostalgia for our time in Austin. The last section of track before the train was derailed. 

It's now been a month since I last rowed in my single and most of that time has been spent trying to make sense of this situation. As Trials and the Qualifier approached, I felt myself nearing the end of this journey and I was pouring it on in a way you only can when the finish line is near. It was a bittersweet feeling to know that I was doing it better than I ever had and also that this was my final opportunity. But this was how I wanted it to end--at my very best. Olympics or not, this journey has always been about finding just how much speed I could squeeze out of this mind, body, and spirit, and leaving no stone unturned in that pursuit. And the only way to truly to get everything out of yourself is to free yourself of a safety net and go after your goal without the possibility of another chance. So, it has been quite challenging to shift gears from being two days away from Trials and being ready to culminate physically, mentally, and emotionally to possibly waiting a full year to get another shot. But when I start to feel like this season has been completely lost, I am reminded of what I told the Texas team after NCAA's were cancelled: 

" It may seem like with the end of your season all of your work is erased, but remember that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Only transferred. What you have is special, it's real, and it's valuable in whatever you choose to do in rowing or beyond. So, take a moment to be sad, but then get back to work, because whether it's in rowing or life, the world needs more people like you who know how to stay tough in the third 500." 

It's remarkable how quickly those words came to me back in March and how difficult it has been for me to arrive back at this perspective after coping with the loss of my own season. Man, John in early March 2020 was a wise dude! I think the reality is that it's just easier said than done. Alas, I'm trying to stay patient and available for the next opportunity, whatever and whenever that may be. Thanks for reading and hope everyone is staying safe. 

Photo: Scott Del Vecchio 

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Six weeks ago

Six weeks ago at this time, I was paddling back to the dock after our final pieces before loading up for Olympic Trials.  The hay was in the...