Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Update from Austin

At the halfway point of the Pre Trials Camp in Austin. Here’s a little video of the training over the last couple of months. Enjoy. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2020


This summer, I waited for a moment when the fog would lift and I would be excited again about training and racing. I waited and waited and it never came. Only after some very difficult gut check moments, was I faced with a choice: either I let go of the past, let go of the disappointment, and commit to bringing quality to the moment, or it's time to move on. The video below is a reflection of the decision I made and the focused enthusiasm that has ensued. 

Brings to mind a quote. It's been attributed to many people, so not sure who to give credit: 

"Success is not an act of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire."

I'll be in Ann Arbor hanging with Felice for the next couple weeks and then our group will be shifting back down to Austin, TX to, once again, prepare for Olympic 1x Trials. Still plenty of uncertainty, but we are going full speed ahead with clear eyes about what could happen if the pandemic accelerates again. 

Here is the link to the video. Enjoy.


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 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Update from Austin

Can't believe we just finished our 7th week of training here in Austin and Olympic Trials are just a few weeks away. Hoping to write a bigger update soon, but for now here are a couple of vids of training from the last week. 

The first is of a 8 x 2k steady state workout with Mary Jones and Emily Schmieg, where we are shifting rates from 16-22 spm. In this clip, I am cruising at 22 and trying to keep the boat running flat while drawing the stern to me with my hamstrings. 

The second clip is of a very challenging 20's and 30's workout going from 28 up to 36 spm. I am focusing on letting the legs dominate the drive and keeping that black bow of the LW2x away from me! 

Overall, it's been awesome down here and I have especially enjoyed training with Dave O'Neill out of the UT boathouse. It's been so helpful feeding off the energy of a college team and having Dave around to keep the focus high and the main thing the main thing.

That's all for now, but more to come as things start to ramp up into Olympic Trials. Let's go!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


As I read through my last post from Colorado and revisit my words about needing to rediscover my passion for training and competing, I get pretty emotional. A month after winning the Head of the Charles and coming back from last place to win the Lotman Challenge, I am confident that none of that would have happened without my time on my own in the mountains. That trip was less about altitude training than it was about taking the time to slow things down and move forward unburdened by things that had been weighing heavy on me. It was so important for me to reconnect with why I began this journey in the first place and how I wanted to go about ending it. To go jaunting, in the truest sense of the word. 

I am proud of the initiative and responsibility I took this Fall in charting a new course of action for myself. I spent the last year seeing limitations and ceilings to what can be achieved and now I find myself rejuvenated to the point where I am not phased by the difficult task ahead. I just see opportunity. There is no space for doubt. I am confident in the plan I have in place, the support I have around me, and am not wasting any time getting to work. 

 117 days until Olympic M1x Trials
179 days until the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta
248 days until the Olympic Games 

A card I made for my Dad on Christmas 2016. 


Here's a quick vid of me paddling in Craftsbury prior to HOCR with Dan Roock in the launch.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Nearing the end of my second full week in Colorado and so far I couldn't be more smitten with this place. While the majority of my time has been spent taking pictures of the foliage as I cruise on the lake or jaunt through the trails, the training has been going well and I feel like I have made progress especially in this second week. I was pretty cautious during the first week about going up in altitude too quickly and overdoing it before I was ready. I paid close attention to resting HR and HR variability and after I saw a clear shift in the numbers and my perceived exertion , I was able to turn the dial up a bit. 

I started the week hiking up Grays and Torreys—two fourteeners( >14,000ft) that can be clearly seen from Lake Dillon. I am told that the Frisco Rowing Center logo is comprised of the rising sun between the peaks of Grays and Torreys. Anyways, this was meant to be 120-180’ easy cross train but it ended up being very challenging for me. I think I attacked it somewhat irresponsibly and ended up paying for the early pace as I crested above 12,000 ft. When I got to the summit, I was greeted by a very cold wind that really made me regret wearing shorts. I spent just enough time to snap a few selfies, take a video, and then I bolted across the saddleback to the peak of Torreys. It’s only a 30 min hike or so across to the other peak, so its a very efficient way to knock off a couple of 14ers. 

The next day after the hike, I rowed an easy 18k in the morning on Lake Dillon and then rode my bike to Vail in back in the afternoon. The bike path starts in Frisco at 9,100 ft and then goes up and over Vail Pass( around 10.6k) and then drops down to 8,000 ft in Vail Village.  All in all it took about 150’. When I got home, I loaded up the car and headed down I-70 to Denver for a day at lower elevation. Down in Denver, the plan was to do a weights session in the morning and then rip off some pieces in the afternoon. With all of the easy rowing in the mountains, its crucial for me to make sure I am turning up the volume as high as it goes a couple times a week to remind myself what it feels like to go fast. Considering that Denver is still decently high( 5,400’), I am not quite able to hit the speeds I would at sea level, but the extra oxygen definitely helps to produce more power and push my heart rate near max. I completed 3 x 10’ at 22-28, packed up, and then drove back up to the mountains. 

The day after the pieces, I took advantage of an gorgeous day and ticked off 22k in the morning and then biked for 120’ in the afternoon. During the morning row, I don't think I saw another boat or a ripple of wind the entire time. I was focusing on being patient on the top 1/4 of the slide, letting the blade swim, and then really hang through my lats. Hanging with my lats is something that I am not sure I have ever truly been able to feel, but I have been trying my best to feel a stretch in my lats before I do anything. Slowly, that stretch has become more natural and as a result I feel like I am able to push from my legs better while the lats are truly engaged. My hope is that if I can take some of the tension out of my shoulders and keep it down low, I will be able to maintain speed better when fatigue sets in. 

This weekend I drove out to Steamboat Springs and did a few sessions with Pete Morelli at around 6,800 ft. After a good lift on Friday night, I tortured myself on the erg on Saturday morning. 2 x 6k is the worst workout even at sea level, but at almost 7,000 ft, it’s freaking torture. Sometimes during a piece at sea level, I will spend the first minute or so trying to get my breathing rhythm down and it can be pretty uncomfortable. But sooner or later, I always find a good rhythm and am able to relax. I experienced that discomfort for the entirety of the workout. 41 minutes of self imposed suffocation. I was going laughably slow compared to what I normally do, but I was very proud of myself for getting it done. I’m hoping that workouts like this will help make a 3 mile race at sea level not feel too bad. After the erg, Pete made me a quick smoothie and then we hit the roads on our bikes for a 100 min easy ride around Steamboat. Huge thanks to Pete and his wife Lib for putting me up! 

I’m now back in Frisco for the final few days of my camp out here. I am sure I am missing some great weather on the east coast, but honestly, I don't want to leave. This has been a dream trip and has met or exceeded my expectations in every way. I needed to have some time to reconnect with what brings me joy about this pursuit and make sure I am in the right head space moving into what will be my final year of training at the elite level. In some ways, my worst fears manifested themselves this year: first, having Ben choose not to row the 2x anymore, losing 1x Trials, and then really struggling to make sense of it all. After 2016, the only reason I wanted to continue training was to get it right this time around, to be prepared at 2019 Worlds to qualify the boat, to not leave it to the last chance regatta. So when Ben told me a week before 1x trials that he was going to sweep, that long term goal was shattered, and while I didn't want to show it, I was shattered too. I am proud of the way I gave everything I had to the quad this summer, even though it was not exactly where I wanted to be, but I knew when the summer came to a close, I needed to get away and really take a moment to reflect before I go again. I am so thankful I’ve had the opportunity to do just that in such a beautiful place. I can’t say for sure what my path will be going forward this year, I think I’ve learned my lesson about trying to control what can’t be controlled, but whatever opportunity presents itself, I am going to pursue it with everything this mind, body, and spirit can muster together. I’ve given a lot, but not everything, not yet. 

Thanks for reading. See everyone in Boston. JG. 

Here are a few pics from the last couple of weeks.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Colorado Camp

Greetings from Frisco, Colorado!

I am out here for the next two weeks rowing on Lake Dillon and cross training in the mountains. This was a camp that we had planned for Ben and I in the 2x, but since that's no longer an option, I figured I would come out anyways and enjoy a change of scenery. I am being hosted by Mark "Stormy" Stormberg who has set me up with everything I need to have a productive camp including boat and oars in both training locations. I am doing all of my low intensity volume up here in Frisco( 9,000ft) and then shifting down to Sloan's Lake in Denver(5,400 ft) for higher intensity sessions and weights. I am just getting back into training after a couple weeks off after Worlds, so I am easing back into it by only rowing in the mornings and then biking, running, or hiking in the afternoons. The mountain biking and trail running around here is incredible and the time just disappears. Obviously, it's pretty challenging to breathe and it's definitely easy to overdo it at such high elevation, so I am having to be very careful about my exertion and meticulous about my recovery. But so far, so good.

More to come, but for now, time to get back out there.

Bike trails through Breckenridge

Friday, July 26, 2019

Today we are packing up and driving north to Ithaca to set up camp. It's been a busy period since returning from World Cup 2 with Trials, Nationals, and some very challenging training, but I can't help but feel like we have made tangible progress. Despite 95+ degree heat and heavy flow on the Schuylkill at times, the boat continues to strive for a very high standard of rowing and I am pleased with the focus and intent of our crew. I am excited to see what we can do this week when we escape the noise and encounter some still water.

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!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Dear Reader,

It's been a while and I am sorry for that. I wrote something substantial but I decided it wouldn't do any good for me to post it. A lot has happened in the last 8 months since I last posted and the journey has been laden with unexpected turns and blows. There have been highs, breakthrough moments, and PR's as well, but they are not the reason I haven't posted since October. It is important that I do not forget my experiences; after all, without memory there is no learning. But it is also vital that I move on and embrace the moment that I have right now.  I am sorry that I won't share everything with you, maybe someday, but for now I just want you to know that I am leaving for World Cup 2 tomorrow and am excited by this new challenge in the quad.

We fly out tomorrow night and will begin racing Friday. There are 12 entries in the M4x and a few notable absences, but we will still have a great opportunity to test our speed and inform our training going forward to qualification later this summer.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

So after spending some time in the cavernous depths of sorrow about losing a week's worth of writing, I have found it within myself to start writing again. The possible regret about letting an important chapter of this blog go unwritten has outweighed the inconvenience of losing the draft and I'm back to tell the tale. Who knows, maybe even in a more coherent and grammatically correct manner than the first time! I know I am not always great about posting regularly, but this minor crisis has shown me that this process of writing and recounting my experiences is not only hopefully interesting for the reader but is also an important exercise for me to gain and maintain perspective on this journey. Admittedly, the lost blog post was a difficult one for me to write which was why completing it was very satisfying and consequently losing it equally upsetting. It was not quite as dramatic as the shredding of the million dollar Banksy painting this past week, but pouring my heart and energy into something only for it to cease to exist did leave me wondering where it goes? Sure the draft and the words in it are gone forever but I know the meaning and awareness that I drew from the act of writing it doesn't just disappear.  No one will ever read that post but because of it I think I can write another. And here it goes. 

No Margin for Error

In the last week before we left for Worlds, I would describe my mindset as hopeful. It felt like up to that point we had a summer that was fun and full of purposeful distractions but that we hadn't really peeled off all of the layers to uncover new 2018 speed. Nothing had been particularly underwhelming, in fact, I would say we were breaking ground in a lot of exciting areas, most notably flexibility and technical mechanics, but we just had not seen new speed yet. It felt like we were producing similar things to 2017, which were acceptable, but the year to year growth had not shown up on the speed coach quite yet. That all being said, I was hopeful that during this last week of race prep work and as we started to rest we might start to see the fruits of our labor. And it was the case. Right as we started to sprinkle in a little more rest and some more speed, boom, we're cooking. A particularly memorable workout for me was 4 x 1k/7' rest-- probably the most honest 2k pace workout we do. Our big goal for the summer was to break 6:10 and this would be a very good indicator of how we were doing in that regard. We did all the pieces in a decent 4-5 mph tailwind. Two from a start, two finishing. The targets were 3.04 for the two starting pieces and 3.06 for the finishing pieces, hoping that our average for the workout would be 6:10 pace or under.  In the past this was a workout that, Ben Dann and I could throw down a 3:00 1k and then struggle to finish the workout. With Ben Davison, it's a different profile. Off the start, we got to rhythm, didn't overwork it, and had two really solid pieces going 3:03.7 and 3:03.4. On the finishing pieces, we went 3:03.4 and 3:03.4. It was remarkable consistency and definitely the best rowing we had done together--not to mention the fastest set of 1k's I've done in a double. I think Ben Dann and I had averaged 6:14-15 before and we the fastest 2k we ever did was 6:14.0. There is not a workout that is a perfect predictor for a 2k other than a 2k, but this workout gave us confidence that sub6:10 was definitely not unrealistic. You don't always need numbers to validate what your doing and give you confidence but this was a particularly important workout for us to feel like we were not the same boat as 2017 and we were going to Plovdiv with realistically high expectations. The thing about expectations is...they are the root of all heartache. Or so Shakespeare said. 

We arrived in Plovdiv and joined the rest of the US Team at our now infamous hotel, Hotel St. Petersburg. I will spare you all the details but lets just say the majority of the hotel was under construction, we had no air conditioning, and no shower curtain. It was pretty funny at times but the no AC thing really wore on me the first week we were there and it was around 90 F every day. Fortunately, the rest of our transition went pretty smoothly.  Probably the smartest thing we did this summer was lease a boat from Empacher for Lucerne that we would row at Worlds. We set the boat up the way we wanted in Lucerne and then were able to confidently slap the riggers on and go for a row right away. Of course, we had to make some minor adjustments but it was a great feeling to have the boat variable taken care of. We underperformed, no doubt about it, but it had nothing to do with our equipment, of that I am sure. The buzz around the boat park all week was about how fast the water was and how fast everyone was going in training. No doubt the water was fast and with the right wind there was certain to be some records broken. I wish I had paid more attention to what exactly was making the times fast because I think it might have been able to inform our strategy a little better going into our Heat. Looking back, my sense is that the first 500 in particular of the Plovdiv course is crazy fast, for whatever reason. Maybe its the way the chop builds throughout the course or the way the wind hits the water, but it just seemed like comparatively, the starting 250 was almost free, and the rest of the race was choppy and hard to row in. When we did starting 250's leading into racing, I was amazed by the numbers we were getting but I just chalked it up to the entire course being fast. More on that later. 
On Saturday afternoon, the Draw came out and the board was finally set. But there was an unexpected twist. Lithuania and Serbia had scratched so the progression had changed. Instead of having 5 heats with the top 4 going to 4 quarterfinals it would be 4 heats with only the winner going to the Semi and the rest going to 4 Reps. I was initially excited that two decent boats had scratched and that the event might be slightly more forgiving, but upon a more thorough look there was potential for some unfortunate situations if anyone bagged their heat. This progression works fine as long as the Heats are seeded well and as long as the seeded crews don't play games. Our heat featured Great Britain( winner of WC2 and Henley), Romania( Silver at Europeans), Bulgaria, Norway, and Ukraine. With only the winner progressing directly through, it looked unlikely that we would miss the Rep, but we felt like the best game plan was to finish as high as possible to get the best draw we could in the next round. Our plan was to go the full distance and we felt like in order to do that we would just need to draw upon the 1k's we did in Craftsbury. We didn't need to set a record to the 1k, we just needed to keep repeating speed the way we showed we could. If we were relentless, we felt like we might not win, but we would be a handful for whoever is ahead of us. 
As I mentioned earlier, we did not realize just how pivotal the first 500 would be in the race and our plan to race the full distance ended up translating into a less aggressive start. We found ourselves farther down to GB than expected and I called an audible for us to stick with them around the 750, but the damage had been done. They were already open water up and we were beginning to feel their wake in an already choppy third 500. Still, we were ahead of Romania, we were moving through Bulgaria, and Norway's stern was starting to come back into view. To be honest, I was really surprised. It just seemed like no one was paying for their quick starts the way that people normally would. It was as if the first 500 was just free to go as fast as you want with no repercussions. As we began to really dig into the fight in the third 500, the water was getting worse and worse and we were really struggling to find and maintain our traction. We had passed Bulgaria and were still ahead of Romania, but the Norwegians were hanging on. We caught a couple diggers in the chop and were never quite able to get the grip we needed to come through for second. We crossed the line in third and drifted towards the dock with our heads down. Neither of us felt totally gassed, it was almost like we couldn't row well enough together to actually full use our fitness. We were understandably frustrated but we also knew that the Heat was just the beginning and this regatta was just getting started. A lackluster Heat cannot define your entire regatta, we thought. And we thought wrong. 
Ben and I stood by the results board, looked at the times of the other Heats and waited for the Rep draw to come out. At the time, I can honestly say that I was not anticipating the Rep draw to be anything particularly surprising or damning. I was happy we had finished ahead of Romania and Bulgaria because I was confident we could beat all of the other non-seeded crews in the other Heats. Sure we had plenty to work on but I kind of felt like we had gotten jumped off the start and that was something I knew we could fix. We would have a great opportunity in the Rep to get back on track and then be ready to make a charge at the A Final in the AB Semi. Ben left the Results board and went to change and just as he did, an official came up and stapled the draw on the board. Rep 1, Switzerland, Poland, USA, Greece, Slovenia. Top 2 to AB Semi. Rest to CD Semi. Hmm...what? First of all, I didn't even see that Poland was in the Reps. I looked back at their Heat and sure enough they got fourth. The last time we raced Poland they won Lucerne, how were they in the Rep? We would later find out that the 2017 Silver medalists were slightly sick in the Heat and decided to shut in down early and save it for the Reps. Like I said earlier, once somebody does that, this progression is not great. When I told Ben, I could tell he was thinking, " Why does it feel like this always happens to us?" It doesn't always happen, I think this one is pretty egregiously bad, but its true that last year we had a significantly more stacked Rep than the other and although we won our rep, it took a lot out of us and didn't put us in a good position for the Semi. It's not that Ben and I looked at the Rep and immediately relegated ourselves to the C Final; in many ways, we yearned for this type of showdown with two proven medalists. It might not be exactly the setting we envisioned, somewhere down the line we would need to beat these boats to achieve our goals. So, yes, we definitely let ourselves have a "why us?" moment, but then we quickly moved to thinking how we were going to get over this hurdle. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the wind was swirly and it was unclear what kind of conditions we were going to be dealing with. As we paddled to the start, we saw the LM2x quarterfinals coming down and we could immediately tell that something was up. There were huge margins and every boat in the inside lane was winning. A cross headwind was building and as we took some warm up strokes into the headwind we began to realize that this was going to be a messy and slow race. Still, Ben and I both felt really good and confident. In the headwind, we would focus on holding the feather slightly, slotting the blade, and having a broader power application. As we pulled into the starting area, we were informed that the lanes were being shifted to the other side of the course and there would be a 20 min delay. We stayed loose, took a couple more short warm up loops and by the time we got back down to the starting area they told us to go back to the docks because racing had been cancelled due to unfair conditions. For a guy that hates to warm up and loves to race, this was a difficult experience.  A good amount of beet juice and espresso was wasted that afternoon. 

Our race was rescheduled for first thing the following morning. We came down and took a quick 4k loop on the course and then sat around for about a half an hour and sipped coffee before beginning our race warm up on the erg. It was a beautifully crisp, clear, and cool morning with little to no wind. We had perfect conditions but this early morning quiet environment was strange for a do or die race like this. Eerily similar to an NSR or Trials race on Mercer. I honestly don't even remember if the announcers had made it down for this early morning race, I just remember it being so quiet. I would say we did not have quite as sharp or explosive of a warm up as we did the day before, but I know Ben and I were both on the same page about what we were about to do. We needed to get off the line and put ourselves up in the fight right away. We backed into the stake boat and I looked over at Switzerland and Poland on our left and Greece and Slovenia on our right. All the action would be to our left. Gold and Bronze medalists from World Cup 3 right next to us and we needed to knock one of them off. If Poland was still sick or even a little off their game, we were going to make them pay. Last year at Worlds, we finished right behind the Swiss in the B Final, so this was a great chance to show that we had made a big step forward. 

The red light turned to green and we blasted off. Weight off the seat and launch. We had a clean start and clearly were bringing another level of speed off the start compared to our heat. Unfortunately, Switzerland also had a lackluster start in their heat( despite finishing in 6.05 in the second fastest time of the day) and they were also intent on leading from the get go. Still, both our boats were blazing our of the blocks and we sat slightly ahead of Poland and Greece, the reigning U23 World Champs, going through the 500. We shifted slightly down to 37 and the Swiss crept out a little bit on us. We were still sitting up on Poland by a deck or so and the three of us were moving away quickly from Greece and Slovenia. As we got to halfway, Switzerland had pulled out to 3/4 of a length and Poland had pulled even with us. I knew we had to try to match them here and for about 250 we did. It did not feel like a particular move that they did, but rather just gradually moving away from us with inches. By the 1500, Poland has slipped out to our bow and we sat a couple seconds down on both boats. Our boat felt light and I could fell Ben trying to go, but as we got into the red buoys I was stalling. My left forearm was going and I couldn't shift gears with Ben. It saddens me to even write those words but it's the truth. I spent so much time this year working with Marc on my shoulders and forearms to make sure nothing like this would happen, but here we were when it really mattered, and I was holding us back. I did my best to just send my legs and back with fury, but I didn't have enough dexterity to go to the type of speed we needed to go to.  All three boats held their position and we crossed the line in third, a couple seconds behind the Swiss and Poland. I don't know if we could have gotten through Poland but I know we had another gear to show and I held us back from going there.   Switzerland would go on to win Silver and Poland would just miss out on the A Final finishing 8th.  Romania and Bulgaria, who we beat in the Heat would finish 6th and 12th respectively. And your US double was on it's way to the C/D Semifinal later in the afternoon...

Unfortunately, once I burned my forearm up in the Rep, it was very aggravated for the rest of the regatta. We had our week come to a very anticlimactic end in extremely messy conditions in the C Final where I think Ben’s forearms were toast by the end, as well. We led handily in the first 1k when the water was more manageable, only to fall apart in the chop have Argentina move through us. It was insult to injury. We had beaten Argentina by 8 seconds in the B Final in Lucerne. So why was this happening and more specifically why now? Well, for me in the Rep I think it was doing more work with my left arm than my right arm and after a while of rowing at your max, it just shuts down. When we had the Empower Oarlocks on the 2x, this was the biggest thing I was working on. My Work value on my starboard oarlock was always significantly higher than my port. In order for the values to even out it would feel like I was only pulling on my right side. Clearly, I had a mechanical advantage on that side probably through some inflexibility in my ankles or hips. It’s crazy how it’s all connected. I think so many people have similar problems with their stroke but especially in the single you can compensate to make it work. In a team boat, you have to row as symmetrically as possible or in at least in a way that will help you match the arc of your partner. 

I’d say this is part of what frustrates me about our situation in the double; we know that there are important differences in our strokes that cause issues but we don’t have enough time to really dig into them to make lasting change. The imbalances that cause a forearm to freeze up are 100% fixable, but its only possible by rowing a massive volume of perfect strokes together. This is just something, up to this point, we have not been able to do and thats why when we race, our range of performances are much more sinusoidal compared to our competition. I know that we are capable of qualifying the double for the Olympics next year by getting top 11 at 2019 Worlds, but only at our best and with a few things going our way. We need to be operating with a much tighter margin between our best and worst performances to reduce the possibility of this year’s regatta happening again when it really matters—next year. In the M2x, there is no margin for error and if you're staying the same you are falling behind. Romania is a great example of a boat we beat last year that is now in the A Final and won a medal at Europeans. There's no reason we couldn't have moved up into the A Final instead of them this year. I guess, to be fair, we beat them in the Heat.  I guess one silver lining about us having a disappointing experience this year is that it has us asking the right questions before it’s too late. 

Something that we were certainly not missing this summer was support. We were incredibly fortunate to have Steve Whelpley, Dick and Judy, Troy Howell, and so many others at the Outdoor Center totally in our corner and behind our efforts. We are bummed that we didn't get to shine a brighter light on the GRP and the Outdoor Center with our performance but I hope people recognize that our double would not exist without the GRP. Thank you, Steve, for having limitless energy and passion and backing it up with a ton of hard work behind the scenes to make a special summer in Craftsbury. 

In the short term, Ben and I are both rowing the Champ 1x at the Head of the Charles against an incredibly deep international field. I have been down in Princeton for the last couple of weeks just getting back to normal training in the single but will be in Boston the entire upcoming week rowing out of CBC leading into HOCR. I raced this morning at the Head of the Kevin and am excited to spend the next week tuning myself up to race and working on my steering. I think considering I drove all day yesterday and this morning was my first practice on the course, HOK went decently. I wanted to race because every year I feel like I finish the Champ 1x and wish I could do something differently or better. I wanted to give myself the chance to make some mistakes and then correct them on the day that counts. I thought I rowed very close to my ideal race for about 2.5-3k and then had a pretty big lull from Anderson to Belmont Hill. Kevin Meador, this year's M1x at Worlds started behind me and while I had moved out well early in the piece, he was really closing the gap during that 3k-4k section. Once we got to the final stretch I was able to take the rate up and move out a little bit but I will need to eliminate that lull if I am going to have a chance at staying ahead of the crowd of Manson, Drysdale, Zeidler, Martin, Campbell, Davison, and many others. 

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

John is angry. I just wrote probably 5,000 words recounting World Champs and thought I posted it, but instead, I DELETED IT. It's gone. Forever.  How buddhist of me. 

Update from Austin

At the halfway point of the Pre Trials Camp in Austin. Here’s a little video of the training over the last couple of months. Enjoy.  https:/...