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11/9 2011

Welland 2011 (NRCs)

“It’s time” has sat on this website as the last blog entry for the past 2 months. Seconds before I left the hotel room in Bled for the final I scribed it in order to build suspense towards my next entry. Along with the great race I expected, the entry never came. We finished 5th, well out of the medals.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting on the events that unravelled in Bled. In the end, the best thing an athlete can do with a poor showing is learn from it and put it behind them – so that’s what I’ve done. We’ve had some great training since, and now I find myself on an Airbus 321 en route to Ontario for Rowing Canada’s National Rowing Championships (NRCs). It’s our small boat regatta, our ranking and our 2nd performance requirement for federal funding.

There are 25 pairs racing. 4 pairs from the Victoria Training Centre (VTC) Small Boat Group (SBG), the group I train with, and 5 from the guys fighting for a spot in the 8+ (the 8+ group). The other 16 are development and provincial teams from all across Canada.  I have an innate respect for the rowing skills of the 8 pairs I know I’ll face this weekend, and know better than to count out any adversaries I’ve never faced before. As such I walk into this weekend with my eyes wide open.

My first race in on Friday morning. I will update my blog afterwards.

Dave

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09/3 2011

It’s time

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09/2 2011

Job 1: The Pair is Qualified

heading-to-recovery-stationThank you for all the emails, Tweets and FB comments.  Yes, Scott and I have secured a berth in the men’s pair event for Canada at the 2012 London Olympics Games.  At this regatta in Bled, the top 11 boats earn a berth in London, with 2 spots open at a late qualifier next May in Lucerne.  By finishing second in the semi and advancing to the A final we have secured one of the top 6 spots.

In 2007 the boys who raced the pair for Canada finished in 12th position, 1 short of qualification, forcing Scott and I to qualify the boat late in the 2008 racing season in Poland.  Needless to say it was very stressful and I am glad to have accomplished this very important, and sometimes overlooked step now.

Our focus can shift slightly now to having our best piece of the season tomorrow in the final.

A bit of trivia for you: in 1999 Morgan Crooks and I managed to secure a spot in the pair for the 2000 Sydney Olympics but the M8+Lake Bled missed qualifying by 1 spot.  Morgan and I joined our team mates in the M8+ for the 2000 season and had to race the late qualifier to secure a berth for the boat.  We managed to win the qualifier, Croatia finished second and the Germans did not qualify an 8+ by finishing third.  Sydney was the first Olympic Games in which Germany did not race an 8+.

Does anyone know where my 2000 qualification medal lives?

Our final goes off at 12:52 PM (CET) tomorrow, 3:52 AM (PT).  Wish us luck!

Dave

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08/29 2011

Heats from the Worlds

Yesterday marked the opening of the 2011 World Rowing Championships.  Scott and I drew lane 4, with Cuba(1), Australia(2), the Czech Republic(3), Spain(5) and Hungary(6) in the other lanes.  The warm-up area was very bumpy with umpire, announcer and camera boats ripping up and down the course.  Races were on 6 minute centers, so there was simply no time for the wakes to dissipate.  We knew that was the case before we went on the water though because we were able to collect intel from the other Canadian crews racing before us.

Scott and I agreed not to worry about taking rough strokes in the warm-up area – we needed to get sweaty – and if we could string a few good ones together than that’s all we needed to do.  Our attitude was the right one to have – the warm-up area was laughable at times.

Once we were in the starting gates we had a water bottle float into the space I’d need to take my first stroke.  A bit of a distraction – but by then Scott and I were calm, focused and ready to race.  In training we have found the buoyed course difficult to see depending on where the sun is in the sky.  We also discovered that there should be two more buoys in each lane in the start area.  It is challenging to line up centered in the lane when the buoys don’t start until past your bow.  The starter pulled the lanes and we were off and running – most small boats are taking about 150 meters to find the center of their lanes – we were no different.

Only the winner of the heat advanced directly to the semifinal, so it was important for us to get things right.  We managed to get out on the field and carry that all the way to the finish line.  Just as the warm-up area was rough, the race course was terrible.  We only had one 250 meter stretch that we felt the water was calm.  The Australians and the Hungarians got into a strong battle for second place, with the Hungarians coming out on top – but only by 0.2 of a second.

In the other heats of our event the Kiwis, British and Italians won.  The Italians and the Greeks faced off against each other in their heat and exchanged the lead a number of times before the Italians pulled away in the last 500.  The rep-recharge of our event runs tomorrow and the three start lists are posted on World Rowing already.  I’m sure we’ll head down to the course to have a look.

For other Canadian results from yesterday and today please check out Rowing Canada’s website.  The entire team has raced now, and we are each on our own track towards our 2011 rowing destinies!

Check out our post race interview with row2k.com:

Dave

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08/25 2011

Getting Settled: T-minus 3 Days

Okay, three days left before we race our heat.  This is an exciting time for every racer out there, including me!  Tomorrow we will go through our race day routines to ensure we have our timing down pat, including a short pre-race row before breakfast.  It’s great to wake our bodies up with a short, sharp row before we eat.  We then can focus on our race, preparing our bodies and our minds.  The transitions between the hotel and the course are fairly easy here because of how close everything is.

The course is beautiful.  Nowhere else in the world that I’ve raced has castles and churches everywhere you look.  Riding back from the boat enclosure (yes, I have a rental bike – no, I will not hurt myself) I was thinking about the history of this area, and how little I know about it.  I decided to read up a bit, if you’re interested check out this site.  I can’t help but reflect on Dee Brown’s book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee because I am reading it again on this trip.

How often do Canadians travel to Europe only to be awe-struck with the depth of history around every corner; reading about the castle in Bled that dates back to at least 1000 AD is inspiring.  We have an amazing history in Canada though, that dates back at least that far.   The only difference is that from 1492 onward we’ve decimated that mainly oral history and it is all but lost to a few.

The course is a little bumpy.  The lake is similar in size to the lake we train on in Victoria (Elk Lake).  That said, because the whole rowing world has descended upon Bled there is never a time when we are not rowing in the wash of another boat.  It is easy for a small boat (say, like a pair) to resent a big boat (hmm, like an eight) in times like these – this morning we were doing laps along side the German men’s and women’s eights.  The assumption (as a rower of a smaller boat) is that the wash feels worse for smaller boats.  The reality is that it’s challenging for every boat out there to adapt and adjust and find comfort again rowing in that bounce; especially crews that have just traveled from Erba where the water is dead calm all the time!  Ha, our own worst enemy!

No matter – when races start there won’t be the boat traffic out there to kick up the water.

Dave

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08/23 2011

2011 Rowing World Championship Progression

August 22nd, 2011

Before I post my blog I’d like to take a minute to briefly reflect on the death of Jack Layton.

Having the privilege of representing the red maple leaf of Canada as an athlete I feel tied to all that is good about our country.  I remember attending the flag lowering ceremony during the Sydney Olympic Games to honour the passing of Mr. Trudeau.  As a 22 year old Canadian I had a feeling of loss without a personal closeness to this great leader.

No matter what political view any of us have, we all must agree that Mr. Layton has sacrificed so much over the years to enhance the functionality of our political system – providing a voice for many who have had little or no voice until this year’s federal election.  I can only imagine the toll that the election campaign took on Mr. Layton’s health – a toll that he could not recover from, even with the incredible success he accomplished.

To put what Mr. Layton has done into a sports analogy: he trained for years to race at the Olympics (preparing his party for this year’s election)  The race was run, and Mr. Layton and his team finished winning a silver medal (official opposition status).  En route to the medal podium (the house) and with thoughts of winning a gold medal in 4 more years at the next Olympics (the next federal election) Mr. Layton passed.

Rest in peace Mr. Layton, and my deepest condolences to your wife and family.

**********************************************************

Rowing:

On Sunday we race the heat of the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.  There are 24 boats entered in the men’s 2-, which means there will be 4 heats of 6 boats.  The winner of each heat will advance directly to the semifinals on Friday, while the remaining boats will race in the rep-recharge.  There will be 4 reps with 5 boats each, the top 2 finishers from each rep will also advance to the semifinals.  There will be 2 semifinals on Friday with 6 boats each, top 3 advancing to the final on Saturday.  The progression is typical, while the days we race are not.  We have a new schedule this year so that there are 4 days of finals, Thursday through Sunday, ours being on Saturday.  It will be interesting for our event, and others, to have such a large gap between the heats & reps and the semis & finals.

We are currently in Erba, Italy at our training camp.  We have been here for a week now and have one more workout before we pack up and head to Bled, Slovenia where we will race this year’s championships.  It should be about a 6 hour drive from here to there, but I’m guessing it will be closer to 8 or 9!  Bets?  Kevin Light has taken a few shots of the different boats training here.  Have a look of his shots on his flickr site.

Enjoy!

Dave

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07/12 2011

Home again, home again…

There is truly ‘no place like home’.

It is 6:15 AM.  I’ve been up nearly an hour.  Mira was asleep when I got home last night – our AC flight from TO was delayed 3 hours.  It’s hard to complain.  There was a problem with a flap.  Although I wanted to get home when I was supposed to, I didn’t want to get somewhere over northern Ontario and experience mechanical problems.  I’d think that AC would have an extra plane somewhere in a hanger at a big airport like Lester B., but I guess not in this economy.

I’ve had my coffee.  Wow was it good.  There is something to be said about being served your coffee in Italy and Switzerland each morning for 3 weeks, but my coffee is better!

Scott thinks I spoil my kids.  Bollix.  But it does look a little like Christmas here.  I’ve set out three piles of gifts that I’ve collected for Rachel and the kids over the last three weeks.  It’s really not that much.  I can’t wait for Mira to wake up though!

So it’s back to training around here.  Targets are set.  We have a better feel for where we need to be by the time the World Championships (and Olympic Qualifier) come at the end of August.  Faster.

We always knew that Lucerne would be a ‘speed check’ for us.  Walking into an established event with two boats that have captured the hearts and minds of rowers world wide, well, it’s a hard place to be.  FISA called it in a pre-event blurb they wrote, stating that the Canadian pair would be fighting for a bronze medal with Italy and Greece.  I got to know the Greeks a little over the weekend – and they are great guys.  I didn’t chat with the Italians – but they also seem quite nice – they certainly were very intense, especially heading into our quarterfinal.  I am glad that Scott and I ended up on top of that fight – between the Italians and the Greeks, but they are both crews I deeply respect.

The hotel we stay at in Lucerne is also the hotel the Brits stay at.  Scott knew both guys from the pair because he spent a few years in England racing at Oxford.  Over the build-up towards racing we got to chat a bunch with Andy and Pete.  They too are great guys.  It’s hard to be too friendly with guys you have to race, but we are all so similar that it is hard not to be friendly.  We actually had lunch with them after the race.

But you probably want to hear about the race.  At the world cup we have about 700 meters to warm up in, back and forth.  During races on Friday and Saturday it’s a lame warm up area because races are on 6 minute centres.  Besides being waked down every 6 minutes there are up to 30 boats warming up in that small space – and they can be all different boat classes and consequently speeds.  But if you make the final on Sunday, races are usually on 15 minute centres.  This weekend they were 13, but that doesn’t matter!  With that much time there were only two wakes to deal with from races, and only 11 other boats in that space.  I have to fight feeling like I am late, or that there is something wrong, something missing.  Usually, a big part of conducting the warm up for me is picking the stretch of water with no boat traffic and no wake.  On Sunday it’s a luxury.  We had a good warm up.

There was little external pressure that we felt.  We’ve made waves at Rowing Canada this year, standing up for what we believe in, and so there was potential to feel pressure to back those waves up with a good performance – but even that pressure faded before the start line.  We had earned a spot in the final, and now we got to race 2 kilometers to see how fast we could go.  That’s what we did.

We got an early lead that was eaten up quickly by the Kiwis, probably by about 700 meters.  Then it was a matter of the British.  We held them a long time.  They pushed away from the Italians and the Greeks and moved into our lead with 500 to go.  In the end, with less than 10 strokes left in the race, the Brits pushed their bow in front of ours.  We finished 3rd.

We’ve learned a lot about the other crews in the event.  We’ve learned more about ourselves.  It will be exciting to get to line up against all these crews again in about 7 weeks at the World Championships.

Dave

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07/10 2011

Lucerne Final

Sorry again not to post quickly during the regatta.  I will put a longer post on after I get home.  The races went well enough for now.  We lost to the Kiwis in the heat, won our quarterfinal later that afternoon, lost to the Brits in the semifinal on Saturday, and then came third to the Kiwis and Brits in the final.  That’s a very high level overview of the regatta for us, but I will post more details later.  I am in the Zurich airport about to board my plane.

Thank you for your emails and support.  Hayden, we did not do the Brentwood 20 at the 1000, but maybe we should have!  Thanks for the advice though.

Dave

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07/8 2011

Lucerne Racing has Started

Today is the opening day of racing here in Lucerne Switzerland at the third and final World Cup of Rowing for 2011.  There are 28 boats entered in the men’s pair (M2-) and we raced our heats this morning.  You can check out our results or the entire regatta results on-line and watch the on-going races live through the split tracker.

We will race our quarter final sometime later today.  I think it’s after 4 PM our time, 7 AM Victoria time.  I will be sure to update you all after the racing is over on Sunday.

Thanks for the well wishes.

Dave

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06/30 2011

Lightning

Each year at our training camp in Erba (northern Italy) we have at least one big storm, which usually includes lightning.  It’s welcomed though because the accompanying rain cools and clears the air, which is usually a humid 36 degrees.  Coming from the west coast I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been faced with lightning there while rowing.  The one that stands out most in my memory happened in Seattle:

It was my freshman year at UW and the legendary John Parker was my coach.  We were about a kilometer from the boathouse, at the finish-line end of the Cut, when a storm rolled in.  John saw the first flash of lightning and hit the throttle of his wakeless launch.  Only as an afterthought did he yell back at us over his megaphone to: “Take the boats back to the Conni!”  His fear of lightning endeared him to us, as that was the first sign of emotion he’d shown us all year that wasn’t perfectly calculated.  Later that year when we painted our class motto on the side of the Cut we remembered John and that stormy day, painting: “Every move is like lightning”.

So here’s my question: How much of a risk is it to stay on the water during a lightning storm?

I started rowing in 1992, 19 years ago, and I have never heard of a case in which a rower has been killed, let alone hit by lightning until today.  When I Google searched it 10 minutes ago I found one story, from last year, of a 16 year old rower being killed by lightning in China.  Before that incident the only rowing specific article I could find about lightning came from The Rowing News in 2000, and listed no specific injuries due to lightning.

Reading through the article in The Rowing News it seems a rower has just as likely a chance of being struck by lightning as a cow does in the middle of a farmer’s field.  As the ‘high point’ on a body of water, even if it is only by 1 meter, a rower will become the target of a lightning bolt – if a lightning bolt so desires to strike.  But what determines if it is going to strike?

If anyone out there has insight into the physics behind lightning strikes, or knows what the odds of a rower being hit by lightning are, please step forward and enlighten me.  In the mean time, as the article in The Rowing News suggested, I will use the ’30-30′ rule.  What’s that you ask? It assumes a rower is safe as long as (a) the gaps between seeing lightning and hearing thunder remain 30 seconds or greater, and (b) that you wait 30 minutes after a storm passes before you head back on the water.

I find the discussion interesting.  Most rowing clubs follow a strict rule that no rowing is to be done during electrical storms.  Is that what keeps us safe?  But missed workouts, even just here and there, have the potential to add up; even in colligate rowing multiple missed workouts can spell disaster for a crew.  Was John too quick to hurry back to the boathouse?  Or is there a real threat to staying on the water during a lightning storm?

I do know this: it would be impossible to win any kind of championships if you were dead.  I didn’t google search the number of cows killed by lightning each year.

Dave

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