This blog comes to you from the rowers athlete village in Chungju and after the week we had before we left, I am pretty happy to be here. Despite the temperatures that left me unable to feel the handles of my oars and likely performing some pretty interesting blade work, our squad put ourselves to the test when we lined up against the crews of our fellow NZ teams in a set of winter regattas. After sitting my 16th tertiary paper, the team made it up to Auckland to do some familiarization in Wintec’s before boarding the big metal chicken.
I have never known cold like this winter. As you can see by the photo, despite probably only just falling short of amount of clothing Hillary used to tackle Everest, the only way I knew I was in the boat instead of the water was because I wasn’t breathing in the lake. Other than overheating, the challenge with wearing so many layers is it can restrict mobility, resulting in a shorter stroke and consequently slower speeds. The flip side has your cardiovascular system prioritize the internal organs in the state of panic, leaving the blood supply to the muscles in the extremities severally compromised, resulting in the loss of feeling. Finding the balance is not easy, especially when it can take so long to warm up and you are unable too rest for too long without the body temperature rapidly falling again.
Thanks to a quick rower or two, our elite team raced NZ to the title of the fastest rowing nation in 2014. Lining up at the start line of the winter series regattas held by Rowing New Zealand for all of the selected NZ crews to get in some race experience before our respective international campaigns, you can bet you’re in for a good fight. Personally, I find there is no better way to improve than to train with the best so I relish the opportunity. Our team raced in 2 of the 3 regattas and in each race I came away with learning's that would help me acquire elusive improvements. The first was psychological in that when it is going well, don’t anticipate the worst. I do all this work to get faster so being surprised when it happens is a little silly. Secondly was to technically make sure the blades are fully submerged at the catch before driving so I am making the most out of the stroke. Third was also technical in maintaining the effective use of my strength with a strong rhythm instead of rating like a jack rabbit.
Filippi, arguably the best boat make in the world as shown by their popularity on the world circuit, is not attending this years’ Universiade. Instead this year our team is hiring Wintec boats (Classically white with a red strip along the top) from the organizing committee. Since there are no Wintec’s that matched our size in the mighty Waikato we spent the weekend before departing in Auckland using some owned by North Shore Rowing Club to do a bit of speed work on Lake Pupuke. Compared to my silver KIRS (Kiwi International Rowing Skiffs) I have had since 2007 and the odd filippi, I found the Wintec was easier to accelerate and less effected by technical errors but harder to maintain top speed. Solution, just keep accelerating come race day.
Before we departed I also sat and passed my semester 1 exam, leaving me with only 5 papers remaining before attaining my degree. 2 of these 5 I will sit semester 2 of this year and then, providing I can fit it in, I will don a motar board at the end of 2016. The training demands of an aspiring NZ rower, having to train for 4-5 each day 6 days a week, takes studying to a new level of difficulty. What makes it possible for me, someone admittedly not a brain box but with a solid work ethic, is Massey University’s extramural program. Through the program I am able to study wherever and wherever I want, but being plugged into my laptop for hours on end reading endless notes with no interaction with educators or students is no walk in the park. For those that have a significant other commitment, like being married to rowing for example, I highly recommend the program. For those without, I recommend being on-campus; Massey Universities campus of course.
After 18 hours in the air, 9 hours in airports, and 5 hours on the road, all for a 3 hour time difference…. Don’t ask me how to do that math, we made in from Cambridge to the Chungju Athletes’ village. Rowing is the only sport of the Universiade that is not being held in Gwangju as South Korea has a new world class rowing venue in Chungju that hosted the World Rowing Championships in 2013. As such we are living in a construction training centre with the other rowers, 280km away from the main village. We still get the opportunity to cheer on the rest of the NZ team as after our racing we will relocate to the main village and switch into the role of support staff. I imagine there will also be a celebration here or there and in my case, broadening of my culinary options from the salad bar…
For now, I am off to bed ahead of my heat I will be racing tomorrow at 10:00am local time (13:00 NZ time). I have drawn lane 5 and am up against Italy, Russia, Netherlands and Malaysia. Time to put all this work to good use.
Here is the schedule for the Men’s Lightweight Single - http://www.gwangju2015.com/info/?discipline=rowing.
NZ has 4 crews competing at the Universiade:
Rachael Kennedy in the LW1x,
myself in the LM1x,
Josh Earl in the M1x and,
Adelle Stead in the W1x.
Follow this link - http://www.livefisu.tv/ - to see the live stream of all the sporting events. It will be showing the semi-finals and finals of the rowing.