09/3 2009

IRONMAN: The Definition of Success

Scott Frandsen

Scott Frandsen

How do we judge whether a person is successful or not?  It is easiest to place our individual values on others – after all, our values are the constructs of the glasses we view the world through.  Certain people however, elevate themselves above the individual value-based constructs to be judged more globally as either successful or unsuccessful.  Bill Gates, Jean Chretien and Michael Jordon seem to land in the former, while Bernie Madoff, George W. Bush and Ben Johnson fit the latter.  It is important to note, though, that all 6 personalities were considered extremely successful at one point, and can easily argue that they still are.  So that begs the question…how do we judge success?

In order to enter the realm of success, either in the negative or the positive, one has to take a risk.  It is impossible to move mountains if you don’t get out of bed… 

Scott at Cal

Scott at Cal

Scott Frandsen is someone who fits into the globally-accepted successful column.  Scott took up rowing as a second sport to golf late in high school.  As a ‘walk-on’ at university he muscled his way on to the best college rowing team in the States at the time.  He was awarded a scholarship only after he proved himself more useful than the full-ride kids.  Then he went on to win a couple of national championships for the school while completing a BS in Business Administration from the University of California.

Scott winning the Boat-race

Oxford 2003

He went on to finish a Masters of Psychology at Oxford University a few years later.  The letters behind his name are worth a few dollars, mostly paid for through Scott’s grit and talent.  While in England, he also happened to win the most watched, oldest running rowing event in the world, the Oxford/Cambridge “Boat Race”. 

Upon returning to Canada Scott had to prove his valour once again with the national team, and within a year had indirectly knocked me out of a seat in the defending world champion 8+, heading into the Olympics.  His dreams weren’t realized in Athens though, and four years later, kilometre after kilometre of training under his belt, he won an Olympic silver medal in Beijing.  I’m tired just writing about the things he’s accomplished…you’d think he might take a break.  Not Scott!

It’s guys like Scott who continually redefine what success means.  One might think that after a life-long pursuit of excellence in sport, Scott might want to sit back and relax.  You know, maybe get a job in the public service.  Not Scott, no.  Over the last year, between a few injuries and a lot of stress, Scott trained for and competed in triathlons, building up for Ironman CanadaLast weekend Scott raced and finish Ironman Canada.  In rowing we trained for hours on end, week in and week out, month after month for years – for a 6 minute race.  On Sunday, August 30th, for 10 hours, 41 minutes and 16 seconds Scott raced to prove something to himself.  He raced to redefine success one more time.  He raced because life did not end on August 16, 2008 in Beijing China.  Scott looked for the next great thing.  Well done Scott. 

Remember this then, there are two major steps to success: 

1. You MUST take a risk, and
2. You MUST always look for the next challenge.

Food for thought,

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
08/30 2009

West Shore Roots

2009 Canada Summer Games Men's Pair

2009 Canada Summer Games Men's Pair

On my trip to Prince Edward Island (PEI) I convinced Rachel to lend me her fancy camera.  It was great to have on the trip, but I could hardly take any shots myself.  However, Ashley from AthletesCAN did.  I’ve looked through them and I’m glad she captured one moment in particular.

After the 2004 Olympics I was hired by Go Rowing and Paddling Association of Canada to run their West Shore Rowing and Paddling Centre program.  It remains one of the most rewarding coaching gigs I’ve ever held.  I coached kids who were keen about rowing and actually looked after each other.  It’s great seeing them now around town.  I just saw Jill the other day.

Awarding Noah O'Connell

Awarding Noah O'Connell

Noah O’Connell was one of those kids, strong, eager to succeed and dedicated.  His parents were very supportive.  In the end, Noah’s school path has looked a lot like mine did; he attended Brentwood College School and now is at the University of Washington.  Great choices Noah.

Last week I was in an umpire boat as Noah and his pair partner sped down the PEI course to win the 2009 Canada Summer Games.  A few hours later I also presented him with his medal.  It felt good to know I had a small part in his beginnings, and that he is at the beginning of an exciting journey through the ranks of the sport and life.

The icing on the cake was presenting Noah’s little brother Will (who was too young for rowing when I was the local coach) with his medal for the quad.  What a powerhouse family.  “O’Doyle Rules!”

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
08/27 2009

De-rigging with Tecla

Dave and Tecla in PEIOne of the highlights of my trip to Prince Edward Island (PEI) and the Canada Games last week was getting a chance to hang out with my little cousin Tecla. She’s not so little anymore. Now 18, she represented Manitoba in rowing, racing the pair (2-) and the eight (8+). Yes, of course rowing.

Ask any rower about the feeling they get de-rigging their boat after races are over. There’s an overwhelming sense of ease; the work’s done. The blood, sweat and tears have all been shed, and now, no longer fearful of the sun’s ability to zap your energy, you get to pack up and go home.

De-rigging with TeclaIt’s also in these moments, when there is no crowd, there are no cameras, when no one else is watching that you get to be yourself – this is when you get to really know someone. In the heat of the PEI late morning summer sun, as close to Cavendish as I was going to get, Tecla and I de-rigged and washed her boat. We talked about her races, the victories and losses, about her summer, her fights and her friends, we talked about all the details that got her from the Red River to that makeshift 1250 metre rowing course on the West River of PEI.

Thanks Tecla, I really enjoyed that.

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
07/16 2009

Support: The small things…

Renovations 013During the year leading up to the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, my employer, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resource (MEMPR) created a part time job for me. The position was structured so I could work remotely – from a coffee shop near Elk Lake or in an internet cafe in Europe.

A few people at MEMPR were instrumental in its creation.  One just returned from a vacation to England.  Her cousin has Royal links into the Royal Enclosures at Ascot, Wimbledon and Henley.   The 2008 Henley Royal Regatta saw Canadian crews win multiple trophies; this year there were hardly any entered – sorry Kate.  But if anyone can make it over next year I want to race the 2009 Henley Royal Regatta in the build-up to London 2012.

While Kate was there she stumbled upon a gift shop and found this coffee mug for me.  This morning I used it for the first time – I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the coffee.

Thanks Kate.


Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
07/12 2009

Rowing with Scott and Terry

terry-scott-and-daveIf you follow these blogs like a book, which I know millions of you do, than you will know that I promised to give an update after my next row with Scott – the row Terry joined us for.  Well, it was just as fun as the first row only we had Terry following us in his launch getting us even more excited to be back on the water.  Just what we needed, an outside source to encourage us!  That morning the heats at World Cup II were running, and Terry had all the stats ready for us on the water.

It was just like we had never left…

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
06/18 2009

It’s just like riding a bike


Scott has been in town for a few days staying with us. It’s a treat to have him here. He and I often find ourselves reliving stories from last summer – going over races as if they happened yesterday. You can see us here socializing.

I’ve been rowing my single as often as I can, and I have been working up my volume. Initially I just touched the ends of the lake and headed in. Then I spent a few mornings doing the typical Rowing Canada warm up: paddle up to point one, pressure pyramid to the bottom of the channel, stretch the hamstrings to the island, and then a pressure pyramid on the square back up to point one. Finally I moved into doing the warm up and a work run or two. That’s when my blisters came back. On Monday I joined in with the entire team for their 7:30 AM row. Mike programmed 5 work runs for the boys – of which I completed two and a half.

I’m glad to have the option to train in the single, but it became clear to me this morning that I love the 2-.

This morning Scott and I jumped into the 2- for the first time since the Olympics. We went on the water before the guys showed up for the team row – and had just enough time to getting 10K under our belts. Surprise, surprise, we had to throw in a few sparkers before heading into the dock. We did a 3 and 10 up into the mid 30s that went fairly well – it was a ton of fun. So we did another. And then Scott wanted to do a longer one. We ended up doing a 3, 10 and 10. Hitting the mid 30s and then reaching up into the low 40s.

It was like we hadn’t missed a day. So we’re doing it again tomorrow – only the dynamic duo will be joined by their coach Terry Paul in the morning.

Update to follow.

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
06/4 2009



Well, it finally happened to me. I knew it was only a matter of time…

I had just started a big project at home when I looked out the window and there, walking up my front steps, were two semi-official looking people. My first thought went to Jehovah Witnesses or maybe Mormons. Looking closer I recognized one of them: Joanne, a very friendly master’s rower from the local club.

What on earth was she doing on my doorstep? Then it hit me, and I blurted out: “Oh S**t in front of five-year-old daughter: I had been randomly selected for “out-of-competition” drug testing.

Joanne is a Doping Control Officer for the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. Her husband Dave, who I had never met before, accompanied her as the CCES Athlete Chaperone; aka, the guy who was going to watch me pee.

See, as a Canadian Olympic Athlete I have to provide a quarterly report of my daily locations, known to athletes as their Whereabouts Form. For each of the 90 or so days in a quarter I have to provide general locations, like home, the office and the lake, but I also have to provide a 60 minute window on every-single-day of where I’ll be, guaranteed.

When I saw them, my first reaction was to lock the door and pretend I wasn’t home.  Have you ever had to pee for a perfect stranger? Well, try peeing for a perfect stranger while your shirt is tucked under your chin and your shorts are at your ankles. They call it “Knees to Navel” and are quite serious about it. 

It reached 32 degrees yesterday and I was dehydrated.  My first “specimen” looked more like a Guinness than apple juice. I only coughed up 50 ml of a required 100 ml on my first go-round. I drank all 3 and half litres that the testers brought…and nothing. Rachel looked around the house and found an extra 3 litres of bottled water for me. Trying to hurry things along, I over compensated and drank them all. Although my second specimen was a mere 20 ml, twenty minutes later my third specimen was overwhelmingly enough – indeed, nearly overflowing.

But it’s not just peeing in front of strangers or even the invasion of privacy that bothers me. Yeah, collecting pee samples at the table can disrupt dinner. Sure I had plans for that hour and a half that Dave and Joanne were in my home. And yes, it was annoying to have to pee every fifteen minutes for the next 8 hours. But what bothers me most about drug tests is not-knowing the results.

There are many stories of athletes testing positive but claiming their supplements were contaminated, the meat they ate was pumped full of steroids or that it wasn’t their action at fault (snowboarder…). It bothers me that I can be as clean as a whistle and still be scared out of my wits of a positive test. What if the tea I drank was bad? What if there was something in the protein powder I had in my shake? It’s 1,000,000 times worse than the anxiety I feel crossing the border into the states. Would it be that much trouble to get a confirmed negative test?

I don’t know – is all this a small price to pay to ensure a clean playing field? Do other countries work so hard to catch their cheaters? Can an organization like CCES and the World Anti-doping Agency take drug testing too far?  It is nice to know that my teammates are not cheating, but I already knew that.  I want to know the guys I’m racing aren’t cheating.

By the way – Joanne and Dave are both wonderful people, and made the evening as pleasant as possible.


1 comment
05/15 2009

Rowing Canada Talent Detection Events – May 23

Do you have what it takes?Mens8-2008Olympics

Rowing Canada is looking for “NEW ROWING TALENT” to support it’s success in years to come.

To help identify potential rowers and introduce them to our sport, could you forward this video to friends that fit one of the following criteria:

Non rowers with a sports background
Athletes who have achieved a high level of success in other sports Individuals that you feel would excel at our sport.


Be a positive role model for someone today!

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
05/15 2009

Boat Speed

OLY-2008-ROWING-FINAL-CAN-AUSGetting back into some rows in my new Hudson 1X I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on my technique. My thoughts move to what worked well for us this summer in the 2-. Scott and I were accused of rowing a short stroke, but perhaps we were misunderstood. Even as we won the Lucerne World Cup the announcers claimed we were rowing “like lightweights”. No matter what you think about our stroke, it worked, but why?

Mike Spracklen always talks about the importance of power per stroke and stroke length. For his crews, rate is a by-product of how much power can be applied to a long stroke. At the 2003 Milan World Championships we won the 8+ in a 6-minute plus headwind; we were three beats lower than the field with a full boat length lead at the thousand.

No matter who you are – on race day, in the 2- as in the 8+, every athlete has a maximum power output that translates into boat speed. Scott and I meshed our strength, our length and our understanding of the benefits of a consistent boat speed to maximize our absolute boat speed.

The difference in speed of a 2- at its fastest point in the stroke versus its slowest point has to be minimized. It is inefficient to have to pick up the weight of a slow boat every stroke – same theory as the fly wheel on the erg. That increased weight, when shared across an 8+ is minimized; however, in a 2- it can quickly weaken an athlete and lead to the breakdown of technique.

So how do you maintain your boat speed? Watch your stern.

As the stern of a 2- rises and falls per stroke cycle, the stroke-guy can visually see when to catch. The most efficient rowing stroke keeps the stern riding high out of the water. Scott saw this every stroke, but he also felt it. Keeping the boat out of the water decreased the waterline on our hull, but also decreased the change in the waterline per stroke – both factors decreased resistance.

The guys who beat us had a longer lever and a greater power output than we did. They used their length and power to race at a 35, a few beats lower then us, while maintaining the same boat speed.  Their power output per stroke came at a greater cost to them, but it was a load they were trained to handle. Their strength gave them a higher maximum boat speed per OLYMPICS-PODIUMstroke, but their stroke rate also gave them a lower minimum boat speed per stroke – that is, until the 3rd 500 metres of the race.

Ultimately they were a faster crew, but we were able to race alongside them more so than other crews who tried to race a similar style to them, without having a similar body type.  If that means I rowed like a lightweight as was called in Lucerne, so be it.


Be a positive role model for someone today!

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
04/30 2009

Washington: Men of 2009

1997-uw-freshaman-crewWOW! I just watched the 2009 Cal/UW Dual on – What a race!

It was 8 years ago that I last wore the “W” of Washington on my chest into battle. It was as captain of a very talented group of men. Watching the dual on-line brought me back to my last dual race against Cal.

I also remember in 1998 when the polls came out with us on top. My chest swelled; it felt great to be considered the best by the rowing community. Well, that was the year that Cal started their surge – and our ranking amounted to very little at the Pac 10s as we lost to Cal. I will never forget the Cal freshman coach yelling to us after the race to: “Get used to it Washington, get used to it”. Not many from that crew will. We rallied and beat Cal that year at the IRAs, but Princeton got the better of both of us.

It is extremely easy to follow your coach blindly when you are winning – it is equally as hard to keep that faith when you start to lose. Going into the 2009 season, boys, you were ranked number one, for good reason. Well, that didn’t last long. From up here in Canada it looked as if you boys had a few expectations going into San Diego – and why not? I did for you too!

Your cage was rattled, and then Wisconsin and Stanford both struck hard at Redwood Shores. I can only imagine what the flight home to Seattle was like for you. It is at moments like that when your character as men is tested. The entire team had to rally behind the leadership of Mike, Luke, Will and Rob. The entire team had to follow, trust, and believe. The entire team, from the Coach, to the Captain, to the Stroke to the Spare, had to make winning against Cal at the Dual your number one priority.

Cal had the target on their backs!

Well done Washington – you bounced back from San Diego and the Redwood Shores. You raced hard against Cal and it worked. You believed. But the season is long. Now is the time to reflect on what you learned flying home from the Redwood Shores. Now is the time to apply those lessons with fervour.

It really doesn’t matter who tops the polls this week – does it?

Lock and load. Put your heads down. ML: no more noises to inspire your competitors. You have found yourself in the middle of a street fight, and the tides will turn a few more times before the IRAs. Hang on tight – but do more than just go for the ride. With every training stroke you row, with every kilometre you erg and with every start-line you place your bow-ball: think about the finish line of the final at the 2009 IRA Regatta – and think about how much better it will feel 8 years from now having done everything you could have done to win. Looking back, it will help you sleep at night.

If you do everything in your power then you will show your competitors the respect they deserve. If you do everything in your power then you can have the confidence at the start-line of the IRAs that you can move 5 seats in 10 strokes. If you do everything in your power then you will prove the first poll of the racing season right.

The work has just begun. Sing it loud Rookies: B-D-T-Washington”


Be a positive role model for someone today!