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, 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.


Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
04/1 2010

The flipping video

As promised: proof that I’m a little nuts.

I thought that by pulling off a few stunts and even flipping the other day in the single I might just make it easier to row the boat.  I’ve been out in the single only once since that practice, and in that session the wind was huge – moving me 1.5 metres/second sitting there.  Needless to say there was not noticeable benefit when I was trying to ‘survive’.

The next time I’m in the single on a ‘normal’ to even ‘moderately bad’ day, I’m curious to see how much further I can push myself.  It’s length that I need more than anything, and it’s length that I’m going to get.  The stunts I pull in this video may not seem like a big deal to all of you, but believe me, they were really pushing my boundaries.  Length comes at the catch and finish and those are the spots I work on in the video.

I’d tell you to enjoy the clip, but I already know you will.


03/31 2010

Mood Swings

Camps really test your strength, and I’m not just talking about physical strength.

Here we are, as I said in an earlier note, focusing only on rowing.  As such, when I get off the water from a good row I am happy, and carry that mood into the afternoon or evening.  However, if I have a bad row, or a frustrating row, I also carry that into the afternoon or evening.  There is a compounding effect that can swing the benefit of a camp for days.

One can argue though that a really good athlete can get the most out of any situation.  For me that means that I have to get as much out of rowing the single here as I can, no matter if the other guys are miles ahead of me in the singles, pairs, doubles, fours or quads.

If the single is the boat I am training in then there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to get the best training effect out of it…one man…one boat…get it done.

That has been the attitude that I have tried to have here – “embrace the single, learn as much as I can”.  Two days ago I flipped the single three times to learn as much as I can, then yesterday was such a windy day.  Sitting there the wind was pushing me 1.5 metres per second.  That was faster then I was moving when I was rowing into the head wind.  A little laughable, but again – I tried to get as much out of it as I could.  I know that I was rowing really short, so I tried to row longer.  My forearms were so tight from all the tension that I carried dragging my oars along the top of the water, so I tried to get my oars off the water.

Although flipping my boat in calm water metres from the dock didn’t feel totally applicable to me in the really rough water, I know it was because I didn’t just try to survive…I thought about what I was doing a little bit more.  Granted – I did just try to survive at points too.

But I got the miles in – my fitness will benefit – I will benefit – I didn’t give up.  With my boat halfway full of water Mike had us all spin at the dam here on Lake Natoma and do a portion of our long pyramid ladder, 4 minutes with the tail wind and then 3 minutes into the head again.  It wasn’t mandatory, other boats went in, but little moments like that make us stronger, braver and somehow turns a 2K race at the end of the season into something very simple.

In 2003 the final in the 8+ at the worlds had a huge head wind pick up in the last few minutes of the warm-up.  Because of training like last night not a man in the boat flinched and our fearless cox got us better prepared in the warm-up for the wind than the other 5 crews – presumably because we won that race.

I had a sense of pride knowing that I survived the conditions last night, even if it was really ugly most of the time.  But my frustration has been building because I am not getting markedly better in the single.  My fitness is coming back faster then my speed is increasing in the boat.  That pisses me off.  I carried that into the evening along with my tiredness and negativity.  But this is all part of camp, and I forgot about that last night, and went to bed wanting to destroy something.

This morning Morgan Jarvis and I rowed a pair together.  We jumped into the boat last minute – I had already taken my sculls to the dock – the boat was not perfect for us but I was rowing again, not sculling.  My shoes were so small, but I squeezed into them because I just wanted to row the boat so much.  We went out and sorted through a few style differences, and had a great time.  The workout was 10 by 90 seconds, and we did okay.  We weren’t setting world records, but we got stuck in and that is what matters most.  I was getting good training in, we were working well together to try to raise our game, and once in a while we picked off a boat or two.

As you can probably tell from my writing I am in a much better mood than I have been in for a few days – and that will carry into the single or back into the pair this afternoon – whichever boat the coaches need me to row.  I am glad to be here at camp, I don’t want to get in the way of the guys who are fighting for seats for the first World Cup, and I also want to get the most out of this camp for me so that when I return to Victoria I get REALLY STUCK IN and ready to crack into the top boat when the boys return from Bled.


PS.  I have the videos from flipping on the desktop of this computer, but have to process them a bit now.  There may be a few words I don’t want younger audiences hearing as I hit the freezing cold water!  Stay tuned…

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
1 comment
03/30 2010

Sick and tired.

I am going to nap right now.  I think I was in the cold water too long yesterday.  Last night I had a rough sleep.  I was able to get the miles done this morning in the workout – but it was NOT pretty.  I will rest and see if I can bring my A-game to the afternoon workout.


PS. Video to follow soon.

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
1 comment
03/29 2010

Doing whatever it takes

The main reason for a camp is to get away from the distractions of home.  These are the words of my coach, and that is why I am in Sacramento right now.  I’m a month into my comeback, and everyday I can feel more fitness return to my body.  Coming on this camp may be my very best opportunity to kick start or boost my comeback.  All I have here to focus on is rowing.  When I’m not rowing I’m planning my next row, or recovering from my last one.  My loving wife and friend and support is back at home taking care of all those things I left behind.  Bowen has his first ear infection and was up all night last night.  Mira had Sparks tonight and wants all of Rachel’s attention. And Rachel, well she only has her Masters to finish over the next handful of weeks.  No big deal.

I have had a mental block rowing the single.  Something about the boat has made me feel vulnerable, scared, ready to flip.  It isn’t a fear about dying, or not being able to get back into the boat – our coach Mike has us flip in a pool every couple of years.  It is more of an irrational fear of getting too close to the flipping point then actually flipping.  Anyway, today I thought it would be a good ida to push my limits and get more comfortable in the single.

I went down on my afternoon off and started to see how far out to the catch I could get.  I pushed and pushed and pushed.  And eventually I flipped.  It was great.  I also tried to see how deep my oars could go in the water before I flipped, and I couldn’t.  Then I put my oars parallel to the boat at the finish, and I was very surprised to see how hard it was to flip – but I did flip again.

By this point there were a few local rowers wondering what I was doing.  One of our guys told them that I was an Olympic Silver Medalist getting over my fear of flipping.  Plain and simple.

The third time I flipped was again at the catch, because that is where I am most stressed.  It was great.  At this point are you wishing you were there to see it?  Well, we caught it on film.  Watch for it on my website or on Youtube.  I will try to edit it and get it on-line sometime tomorrow.

To bed now – Dave