Only 3 weeks until the first day of heats at the 2015 New Zealand National Rowing Championships on Lake Ruataniwha, Twizel and the feeling is good. I had my Christmas break without sustaining an injury or losing form, I sat my 2km erg test and finally set a new personal best, our squad has been put through its hardest week of training, and I still managed to produce some decent performances at the regatta just past.
I didn't appreciate it at the time but I was fortunate enough to spend the majority of my adolescence in Tauranga. I remember moping around with my friends complaining about how we had nothing to do, driving my parents insane. Well either my parents or some sucker on the other side of an Xbox controller. Now, like when I recently went back for our one break of the season, I feel there is never enough time to do all the things I would like to. However, spending a few days with family, helping my brother to do his first matt paint job on my car, catching up with friends and sponsors, and taking my pup to the beach was not such a bad use of the time I did have. Turns out my pup doesn't do a bad job as a wingman either.
Two weeks back into training and we had our second of three tests that contribute towards our selection for the nationals trials, my nemesis, the two kilometer erg test. The last time I did a personal best in this test was in early 2013 and it wasn't a time I was overly proud of. I have always been someone that does a lot better in a boat on the water than on a rowing machine. So setting a new personal best that is 5.5 seconds better than my last and 9 seconds faster then the time I did in this test last year was both immensely satisfying and relieving. I believe sometime during my despite attempts to clear my legs of an amount of lactate that would be the end to the average male, an "F word" and "2km erg" were uttered in there somewhere. I still have a way to go before I am matching the fastest lightweight scores in New Zealand but to be improving on my weaknesses is very rewarding.
With that test done it means there is only one type of test left before the nationals trials and this one I am a fan of. Racing. Lots and lots of racing. The weekend just past was the biggest club regatta of the New Zealand domestic season. This is because there are a lot of high school athletes competing on behalf of their clubs prior to transitioning into secondary school regattas which happens now.
I put my hand up for the biggest event of the regatta with 31 competitors, the Men's Premier Single. Just looking at the entries makes me wonder if I would be better of racing in an international event. 3 current Olympic Champions, 5 Olympic medalists, 13 NZ Summer Squad athletes and 16 RPC athletes. Like the Christmas regatta it ended up being a skinny mans final with most of the national lightweights in the B-Final. I didn't pull off quite the same form that had me lead them all home at the last regatta but I wasn't to disappointed to only be 6 seconds off the race leader, Peter Taylor. This is because the week of training building up to the regatta was our hardest week of training to date. 28km rows, 3km time trials, distance ergs,... the whole squad felt like Muhammad Ali's punching bag in the days prior to racing. The purpose to this was to give us the opportunity to see if we could still perform when we were off our best. When I realized the reasoning for the workload I was grateful to the coach for creating that opportunity, prior to realizing I was trying to think of how many different ways I could sabotage his coach boat.
I also teamed up with fellow lightweight and on-and-off training partner over the last couple months, Hayden Cohen, in the Men's Premier Double. Having produced some results that were far from something to be ashamed off in 3km time trial training, it gave me great confidence knowing what we are capable of. Through a lack of time together in the boat we didn't put forward an amazing performance in heat but in the final we felt we held our own with our mid-race speed and ended up finishing only 0.5 seconds behind the NZ summer squad lightweight double.
I now have 2 weeks of training before the North Island Club Championship which also doubles as the Rowing New Zealand National small boats regatta. This means that there will be an opportunity to gain automatic selection for the national trials. Then the Thursday following we will be on our way down to Twizel for nationals. Having just written that reinforces to me just how close it is until the national selection trials. This time around that realization makes me feel more excited than nervous.