Posted in All Blogs, Perspectives
09/14 2010

My comment on David Asper’s National Post Article

In response to David Asper’s National Post Article:

Think about how the 2010 Games unified this country. The pride we collectively felt for our athletes seeped from our living rooms out into the streets. ‘Canadian Culture’ grew that month. As a nation we realized our athletic potential, realized we were really good at something. After the much anticipated men’s gold medal hockey game our national anthem was sung (but mostly shouted) through the streets of Vancouver and every other community across the country. Culturally, the games were worth every dollar spent.

If we can recreate that pride in communities across Canada, we will also create locally based identities (and economies) that communities will invest in, financially and emotionally. If that takes joint local and federal funding initially for arenas, theatres, or galleries, then all Canadians will be better off for it.

As a three time Canadian Olympic rower and Olympic Silver Medalist, training three times a day, six days a week, for my fourth games, I depend on my wife’s salary and the charity of others to be able to live at or close to the poverty line. We are not rich people, our facilities are not the best in the world, but we are so dedicated to our craft that we force success. I had the privilege of winning Canada’s first medal of the 2008 games.

I know that my story, as with many other Canadian Olympians, has brought Canadians closer and has helped to create a piece of Canadian Culture, Canadian Identity. Could you imagine the power of these stories at a local level? What if they were told more than every four years? Could you imagine if those stories weren’t just of hockey legends, but also of musicians, artists and performers – oh, and don’t forget those brave amateur athletes.

David Calder

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
09/14 2010

Preparation for a time trial

The women and the adaptive teams rolled in last night.  I recognized a handful of the athletes from years past and the Henley/Lucerne, but mainly new-to-me faces.  I feel older when all these young faces appear, but it was one of the old faces that made me realize just how long I’ve been rowing for Canada.  Jeff Powell stroked the men’s 8+ to two back-to-back World Championships in 2002 and 2003.  He went on to stroke the 8+ at the 2004 Athens Olympics and then moved on to the real world and started a family.  Jeff was a big stud on the team; he had stroke seat locked for years.  Jeff lives on in folklore; Mike Spracklen reminded me last week that Jeff lead us to the 2003 World Championships at a 36.  Mike emphasized that length and power is more important than the rate-of-striking.  Jeff’s now one of the women’s coaches.  I had been rowing for over a quadrennial BEFORE he became a legend.  Now, over six years after he took his last stroke with the maple leaf on his oar, I’m still chasing the dream.  Perhaps so is Jeff?

We have been ‘sharpening our teeth’ this past week.  The volume is way down and the intensity is way up.  We have done a 1250, three by 1000, and yesterday we did two 500s and two 250s.  When eight tapered men are rowing together in a boat it is CRAZY how hard they can pull to make the boat go fast.  Of course I cannot post times, but this ain’t Kansas and I ain’t in the pair anymore.

We are heading out to test our race warm-up this next session.  The water looks flat and the sun is shining – great conditions that hopefully will be here tomorrow too.  The format for the time trial is similar to a head race.  We have a start time for the first boat, which is also the fastest boat, which of course is the men’s eight.  We race fastest to slowest, so the women’s single will race last.  There will be a standard gap between boats, long enough for the wake of the boat ahead to completely dissipate and not be an issue, as the boat ahead will also be travelling faster than and away from the following boat.  In theory, all boats want to be on the course at the same time, to ensure similar racing conditions.  That said, there are so many boats that it is not possible to have them all on the course at the same time.  The gaps will likely be 45 seconds.  I like the system – it seems fair.  Little issues have to be considered though when you run such a time trial.  A headwind will disadvantage smaller boats, while a tailwind will give a slight edge to smaller boats – never time trial into a headwind.  All boats have to race down the same lane, especially on courses that potentially have a current of some sort.  The distance behind the line that boats start impact their relative speed going through the line – it takes a longer time for an eight to get to speed than any other boat – so all boats have to start on the line or well behind the line.  When you take a closer look, nothing is simple.  Rowing Canada and the coaches have to worry about a bunch of factors.  At the end of the time trial all our times will be compared to our gold medal standards and we will be given a percentage of standard.  The coaches will discuss where to draw the line and who will, and who will not be going to the World Championships in New Zealand later this fall.  For me though, it’s easy…

All I have to do is perform as I’ve been trained.  My coach will worry about the rest.  We race at 9:30 AM (eastern) tomorrow morning.  If you’re in the GTA or Niagara region you should stop by the old Welland Canal and cheer us on!  Go Canada Go.


Posted in All Blogs
09/12 2010


I am in Welland ONT right now – not sure how or why, but I am.  We live in this large country and somehow this is where we have to travel to Welland to do a time trial with the women.  I’ll fill you in later on the details, but I am in the 8+ now.

Anyway, I’m here now – I’ve missed my son’s first birthday, first steps, and you better believe I am going to make the best out of this trip.

This morning’s workout in preparation for the time trial is 3 by 1 Km.

Look out…


Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
08/4 2010

Training, training, training.

I will never forget the first time I raced in Lucerne.  It was in 1997 and we won a silver medal in the eight.  Terry Paul was our coach, Adam Parfitt was our stroke and Morgan Crooks and I finally raced in the same boat again for the first time since 1994.  It was so fun.  I think we flew over to Europe a few days ahead of the regatta, and we raced our guts out.  I don’t remember much about that race, but I think that we may have been in 5th place with 500 metres to go.

That year I learnt one of the greatest lessons of international racing – don’t take the foot off the gas pedal after Lucerne.  If you can, picture Lucerne as the gut-check, the temperature gauge, the reality check.  It’s not how you do in Lucerne that matters, it’s what you do about it in the weeks and months to follow. 

This year I finished 11th in Lucerne.  When I got home Rachel told me that she had never known me to finish that low, ever.  It’s true, that was my worst international result, ever.  Well, there are two ways to look at that:

  1. The sky is falling, run and hide; or
  2. The sky is falling, stand and fight.

Anyone who knows me knows how I have responded.  Since coming back from Europe I have pushed harder than I have pushed in training for a very long time.  Will Crothers, the man who stroked the four (4-) we raced over seas, and I have been training in the pair together.  He brings so much passion, drive and strength to the boat.  Rowing with him is a lot like rowing with Scott Frandsen, it becomes easy to work harder than you thought you could. 

This year is a funny year, there are still 10 weeks before we leave for the worlds in New Zealand.  In a regular year we would be packing up and heading off to Europe this week or next.  These 10 weeks were critical in my planning when I staged my comeback.  Over the weeks to come we will continue to squeeze everything we can from our training and then when we get to New Zealand, we will see who else put their pedal to the medal after Lucerne, and we will see who didn’t.


07/13 2010

2010 European Tour: Quick Update

Hello All.

My first trip back on the international rowing scene was not at all like my last one in 2008.  Although the trip promised many great things, it was cut short quickly.  As you can see from the picture of Terry talking to us after we were knocked out of Henley by the USA – we looked good.  To compliment our uniform, Oakley sent us each a pair of racing Radars and each a pair of casual sun glasses.  Of all the perks of being an under-payed athlete, having a good relationship with Oakley has to be the best!  Thank you Pat!  One of the new guys in the boat must have told me every other day of the entire tour just how much he loved his new glasses.  It blew him away that the Oakley Radars didn’t fog up on him.

Henley turned out to be a bit of trouble as I got quite ill.  A few days before the races started I was hit hard by Campylobacter jejuni, something associated with traveling in Mexico.  I was knocked out with blood for diarrhea and yellow bile for vomit.  It was wonderful.  Somehow I managed to pull through, however, there was one point that I was certain I was having a seizure in the middle of the night.  It was just my body shaking from the chills of my high fever.

The city of Lucerne is always a place of peace; even in the bustle of the World Cup regatta.  There has not been a year that I have been around the regatta with so many entries though.  It seemed like every other event had quarterfinals, which is generally reserved for only the men’s and women’s singles.  This is a result of being the last race for three months heading into the late world championships this November.  In the 4- we were only two boats away from quarters.

The field was tough, and we were only a few seconds away from making the final.  Momentum is such a critical element in events like Lucerne, and we kept having ours interrupted.  Over the entire trip we had less than 10 workouts in the line-up that we raced in.  Including the races themselves, we boated the line-up less than 20 times the entire trip.  The field in the 4- is amazing too, so to have any disadvantage in big trouble.  I watched the A-final of the event live on Eurosport, and it was amazing to watch.  Next time I will be in it!


07/13 2010

Royal Henley Regatta

If you could imagine stepping back in time, depending on where you look, 20 years, 50 years, some glances even 100 and more years. This is a time-warp regatta that can boggle an athlete’s mind much the same way the “Olympic Spotlight” can – only Henley’s older. There is a brief and interesting history of the regatta and the course on their website, but here are the nuts and bolts of what you need to know:

  1. Two boats face-off against each other, winner takes all, moving to the next round of races until a champion is crowned;
  2. The course is 2112 metres long and is rowed into the stream, so the race becomes very long in a headwind or after a decent rain;
  3. There are wooden booms chained to pillars that have been pile-driven into the river bed every 20 metres or thereabouts. If you hit the booms you are screwed – if you hit a pillar you are injured;
  4. The regatta is very popular with rowers, so many schools, clubs and countries come – but it is also a cultural experience because the regatta is also part of the British social class system. There is a huge cost to get into the “Steward’s Enclosure”, but then there are dress expectations once you are inside the enclosure. Men: Pants, Jacket and tie – don’t take that jacket off! Women: Dresses – nothing that divides your legs, and the dress must go past your knees. I thought that there was also a hat expectation, but it appears that hats are an optional sideshow.
  5. As popular as the regatta is to rowers, there is no loud cheering allowed. Clapping only from the Steward’s Enclosure.

Anyway, the first time here was with Brentwood College School in 1996.  Tony and Yvonne Carr coached (and mothered) us to the Princess Elizabeth Cup.  My second time was with Canada (UVic and VCRC) in 2003.  Mike and Anne Spracklen coached (and mothered) us to the Grand Challenge Cup.  Now, in 2010, with Canada (Shawnigan Lake and VCRC) Terry Paul is coaching us in the Steward’s Challenge Cup.  Our first round was against Argentina.  We advanced and face USA (Princeton T.C.) today at 5:10 PM over here – 9:10 AM in Victoria.
Well, wish me luck! And if you’re up you can always listen to the race on the internet!

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
06/24 2010

Eton England

It’s been a while – I’ve been getting myself selected to teams.  Lots of hush hush stuff that I shouldn’t really talk about in a public forum anyway – but needless to say – I have been doing well enough to get myself locked into the 4-.  The boat is going well and we are having a good time with it.  We are in Eton now, training on the 2012 Olympic course.  It’s great to be here, seeing the sights, as Bob Ernst would always say in San Diego – making the course our ‘home-course’.  I even started asking the hotel staff for local information to help the family search for places to stay.

From here we travel to Henley and then on to Switzerland.  I will write a few more posts from here.  Internet is spotty at best, so it has been a huge struggle.  Mind you – I remember when I used to have to access the internet at the public library in Lucerne, so I’m not complaining!  Hopefully I’ll also get a bunch of pictures up on the next post too.


Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
04/17 2010

4 by 2K with Pete Dembicki

The first row on this slightly rainy Saturday morning, which keeps the wind down, was 4 by 2K timed.  Mike always tells us that we can pick which ones to go hard on, and which ones to work our technical issues on, but he likes having the clock running for two reasons: (1) with the coach boats at either end of the lake there is no wash, and (2) with the clock running people always are a little more serious.  He does get mad when guys don’t take the timing for the warm-up seriously.  Pete and I were the first guys on the water at 7:30 AM for a 8 AM start time.  Oddly, the warm-up felt rushed and we were still not the first boat to the start line.

The row was great.  Pete and I have been rowing the pair this week.  We have been in the boat a handful of time, and we have our moments, but we also can really struggle.  I am really working my swing out of bow, clearing the knees and not over compressing with my legs – which seems to really throw me off in the pair.  Poor Pete – he is quickly gaining back his fitness, but to add to that he is also forced to row with a guy trying to make a major change.  Needless to say, when we are ‘off’ in training we are really off.  But today was great, it was fun, it was progressive and it was aggressive.  I left the water feeling like we attacked each one a little harder than the last all the while holding on to technical changes.  I am sure it can be  lot better, but I am also certain that it was change in the right direction because my hamstrings are SCREAMING right now.

I must fuel myself now for 500 hard strokes.


Posted in All Blogs
04/11 2010

Transitioning Home

Wet from the flipping video in Sacramento

The camp is over, and we are all back at home now in Victoria.  I have taken a long hard look at the benefits of the camp and have taken time over the past few days to figure out how to implement those aspects into my daily training.  Here are how some of those have manifested:

(a) Sunday nights I make 6 protein shakes and freeze them.  They are for after each of my first rows.  Instant 30 grams of protein and a whole host of other good things makes the engine hum.  Thanks for the advice MH.

You may be wondering what I put in my protein shakes, then again you may not!  Well, in my blender I had to make 3 shakes at a time, and in each blend I put 2 bananas, 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 1.5 cups of soya milk, 1.5 cups of V8 Fusion juice, 1 cup of yogurt, 80 grams of protein, 9 tsp of Greens+ and a little flax seed oil to boot.  Mmm mmm, tastes good!

(b) I will wake up at 6 AM and eat more food ahead of my first row.

(c) I will stretch, I mean really stretch, ahead of my first row.

(d) I will arrive at my first row with 15 to 20 minutes to spare.

(e) I will shower at the boathouse as part of my recovery process.

(f) I will stretch before bed each night, I mean really stretch.

(g)  I will go to bed by 9:30 or 10 PM each night, ensuring 8 or more hours of sleep.

(h) I will drink more water, and not just during workouts.

Look out for huge improvements from this cowboy over the next few weeks and months, not only as my fitness rushes back into my body, but also as all the little things start to add up.  There are so many more little things that I would do too, if I had a little extra money to spend on them.  As my 92 year old grandmother still says, “I guess I’m still waiting for my ship to sail in!”


Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
04/2 2010

Win-d Day

Kevin Light's Picture

Today was a very windy day, again.  However, the waves were not as high and so we didn’t get as wet.  For a rower, wind can cause a ton of stress because it can impede performance on the water.

That’s why Mike hardly altered our workout today to ensure we did not avoid the wind gusts.  Learning how to row aggressively in conditions like today helps if FISA tells you to race in similar conditions at the worlds or even the Olympics.

That said, I had a new pair partner today.  I’m not sure how to spell his name, but I know it’s Romanian and pronounced Rarge (with a soft ‘g’).  We got out there and tried really hard, and you know what?  Eventually we went a little faster, then a little faster, and then a little faster.  We even passed a boat or two that we probably shouldn’t have been able to pass.  It was fun to feel the rhythm of a pair.  I got a little length at the catch and even some time over the toes.  I really love sweeping so much.  The single is a great training tool and I need to be able to get really good sessions out of it – but there’s nothing better than pulling really hard, going really fast, working together with a team mate or crew.  Thanks for the row Rarge!

I was thinking about my comeback in 2007 for the 2008 Olympics today.  If I compare the progression of my 2007/08 comeback to what I am doing now I feel better about where I’m at.  It’s hard to be slow on a team like this – to know where I used to be, and where I plan to be once more – but after over 17 months off I need to keep putting in miles, keep working my length of stroke, and I have to stay healthy and injury free.

That is the recipe for a great 27 months of rowing, so to bed with me so I can row hard again tomorrow.