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04/28 2009

Brentwood Regatta Revisited

One of the coolest parts of being an old boy, on the outside looking in, is hindsight.

This past weekend I took Mira up to Brentwood College School to enjoy the 39th Brentwood Regatta with me. It was great, the sun was out, the races were running, and we saw so many old faces. One of the standouts was Captain Marco Rusconi, Class of 1997, currently flying with the Snowbirds. I was asked to hand out a few awards at the regatta, and I laughingly passed the honour onto Marco, as a Snowbirds pilot trumps an Olympic Silver Medalist any day. Way to go Marco!

The rowing races often run the risk of becoming the side show at the regatta. If it wasn’t a Snowbirds pilot, one of the several national team guys representing decade after decade of racer, or the plethora of university scouts hunting around for the diamond in the rough, the festival atmosphere of the regatta site kept spirits high every time a voice came over the loud speaker announcing “The regatta has been officially delayed until further notice.”

Premier-Calder-BrentwoodRegatta1It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that I realized even I fell into the trap of being distracted. BC Premier Gordon Campbell made a quick campaign stop at the regatta to say hello and shake a few hands – the school kindly asked me to help host him. As we were walking around having a quiet, personal conversation, him, me and his entourage of supporters, staff, film crews and photographers, Tony and Yvonne Carr redirected my attention to what would have been my ONLY focus 13 years earlier when I was attending the school – the Boy’s Junior A School 8+ Final (Race 66, Event 11).

Oddly, the entourage moved on even though I stopped and turned my attention to the race.

This race was the key race of the regatta, and it was shaping up to be a great race between the two rivals Brentwood College School and Shawnigan Lake School. If the Premier was going to be there for the race, I sure as hell wasn’t going to let him accidentally have his back to it!

Premier-Calder-BrentwoodRegatta2At risk of his security detail tackling me, I ran up after him calling “Premier, Premier – look at the race course!” as I fought through the camera crews and Liberal Party Loyalists. As I explained the significance of the race to the Premier the Brentwood boys started their sprint! Shawnigan Lake, having led the entire way down the course, fought hard to prevent Brentwood from sprinting through them, but to no avail. Brentwood rowed through them right before the eyes of the Premier.

What a great race for the Premier to be on the regatta site, and what a great finish to highlight how exciting a good rowing race can be. Good job to all 18 athletes from both crews for putting so much blood, sweat and tears into that race. I know it must be hard for those Shawnigan boys and amazing for the Brentwood kids, but trust me, win or lose, you all will remember this race fondly 13 years from now.


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Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
03/31 2009

The Ball is Rolling

terry-scott-and-daveI’ve taken the first steps to becoming a real athlete again.  Thanks to that run with RC I was shocked out of complacency!

For the past few weeks now, ever since that run, I have been biking to work.  The first day I rode it in 26 minutes and 47 seconds.  I was pushing pretty hard.  By the forth day was able to cover the distance in less than 24 minutes.  The neighbourhood is still new to me – and so is the route I take.  I hit a major development in my second week of riding – a shortcut onto the Lockside Trail a block from my house!  The only problem is that I’m too chicken to ride down the steep incline. The neighbours must laugh when they see me ripping along the road, only to dismount and run my bike down the path.

There is a warning sign – it requests all riders dismount.

My comeback does not stop there folks – I’ve been erging too.  I am joining the training centre (The Canadian rowing team training out of Victoria) on Monday and Friday nights for their erg session.  They train over at the new Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence (PISE).  I sit in the back row or off to the side right now.  There isn’t much excellence happening yet.  But I enjoy it.

Scott was making fun of me for joining in the sessions.  He was making fun of me on the phone when he was in California.  Then, when he came up for a visit last weekend it only took a day before he was erging right beside me.  A 10K erg, too!

I had to miss today’s session for work reasons.  I emailed Mike (the coach of the Canadian Men’s Team) to let him know – not that he was looking for me.  I asked him for some erg workouts that I could do between their Monday and Friday sessions.  He sent me three workouts.  I only just got the email from Mike on my way to bed – but getting them made me so excited that I can’t sleep – so I blogged.

Tomorrow I will do the first workout Mike prescribed!


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Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
03/9 2009

Life is Getting in the Way

2008_4_jr_rc-5210I am dying to get on the water. I’ve hung out with other athletes a whole bunch over the last few months – and I want to be in the game again. It is so cool to hear firsthand accounts of star triathletes cross-training with star kayakers in Hawaii, hearing stories of four-hour rides around the big island or dangerous paddles on the open ocean. I want back in!

My cousin James is working hard to earn a spot on the Canadian Rowing squad. There’s nothing glamorous about rowing through the winter on Elk Lake – especially not on snowy days like today (March 9th). He’s out there though, day in and day out. He’s unable to train full time because he has to support his habit by working – but he IS out there.

I think it’s because of hard conditions like cold winters and athletes being poor that make Canadian athletes succeed. It’s just the contrast at the big show from these Spartan training conditions that cause a bit of culture shock when the lime light is directed at them.

James had a disappointing 6K test this morning, but what he doesn’t see is the big picture: he is laying the groundwork that will get him on the podium in three and 1/3 years. This far out you can count by years, especially when you are not in the thick of training, like me. What I would give to be able to race a 6K test today (good, bad or ugly).

Balance is always hard to find. It takes great focus.

The better you want to be at something, the harder it is to find balance. Ever hear about the 20/80 rule? Well, in my amateur athletics reality it is more like the 5/95 rule. It takes 95% of the time, energy and effort to gain that last 5% of speed – but it is that last little bit that would have made the difference for me in Beijing. And the way you gain that last little bit is by working your tail off the way James and the other 11 guys are doing out on the lake today, the way Simon is every day, the way Adam is, and the way I have not been.

Did I learn my lesson or not?


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Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
02/20 2009

First Row Back

ROWINGRight now, I’m not training full time. I justify this fact in two ways: My body needs the rest, and my family needs the money. Although both may be true, there is no avoiding the higher truth: neither excuse is getting me closer to winning an Olympic Gold Medal in 2012. Any of you remember my first CBC TV interview after crossing the finish line in Beijing? I hadn’t even been given my Silver Medal and the reporter asked if only training for one year cost us the race. Well – a few more years could’ve helped – thanks for asking though. That’s what’s referred to as a ‘total buzz-kill’.

For those of you not directly in the high performance sport world – “desk-jockeys”, if you will – you will know how hard it is to actually get to the gym in the middle of the work day. Other things become more important. To combat this, I have started developing the “team” approach. A group of us run the seven hills of Rockland (a very hilly part of Victoria) every Friday. Another group has developed a weekly squash tournament at the Victoria YMCA. Both are great ways to have fun while staying somewhat in shape. Neither is enough to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

To extend the “team” theory further, and to raise the ante a bit, I gave Kevin Light – 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, Men’s Eight (8+), Rowing – a call last week. I asked him to go for a row with me. You see, the primal function of a team training environment is to teach you to never to let your team-mate down, and to never be at the back of the pack. After setting up a Saturday morning row with Kevin, I knew it would happen no matter what.

So, on Saturday morning, I went for a row with Kevin in a pair. There was no one else on the water (intentionally – so there was no pack to be at the back of). This was the first time I had rowed since the Olympic final in August. Although our performance on Elk Lake wouldn’t have won either of us a medal, it was great to be back on the water.

We pushed off the dock, and apart from the first few awkward stokes, I was pleased at how quickly it all came back. About 20 strokes off the dock I wished that I had made a technical plan – in order to stop some of my poor rowing habits from returning – but I soon began to just enjoy the experience.

There was a strong wind coming from the north, which pushed us down the course once we reached the water ski beach on Elk Lake (a.k.a. Point One to the Canadian National Team). The wind gave us the sensation that we were going fast – without having to pull all that hard. I didn’t earn a single blister. We decided to touch both ends of the lake, and call it a day – a tease, a taster!

We are going to support each other to increase the frequency of our rows. Who knows – before long I might even be rowing every day again.


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Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
02/13 2009

London 2012

OLY-2008-ROWING-FINAL-CAN-USI miss rowing.  I miss the cold mornings, pushing off the dock in time to beat Mike Spracklen’s launch to the water ski beach (what the Canadian team calls ‘point one’).  I miss the games all the boats played in the warm-up runs: push the bow-ball a foot or two in front or let it fall a foot or two behind, but never more than that. I even miss the square-blade work we’d do every row.  I only just sorted it out in the pair with Scott last fall but I’d still be challenged to keep fully squared in the single.

Most of all, I miss the anxiety I felt at the start of each work run that quickly shifted to sheer grit and determination within a few strokes.  The satisfaction at the end of each work run would fire me up for the next run.  Each time I finished a piece I knew that I was two kilometres closer to my goal of that Olympic Gold Medal.

It had always been my goal to win an Olympic Gold Medal.  I remember the day on Elk Lake, over a decade ago, that I decided that I wanted to do it.  In my mind it was going to happen in Sydney, but we didn’t even make the final.  Then I thought it would happen in Athens, but we were disqualified from the final after a collision in the semis.

Beijing was a different story. Experiencing the racing in Beijing with Scott, I realized that the reason I row is not for the Olympic Gold Medal. It is for the experience itself, of racing and training and camaraderie.  There is nothing in my rowing career that I am more proud of than the Silver Medal Scott and I won – and there is nothing we could have done more that day to win the Gold Medal – and if I never took another rowing stroke in my life I would feel extremely proud of my rowing career.  However, apart from that, there is that goal that I set for myself so many years ago that I just can’t shake. I have the physical ability to continue rowing another four-year cycle. I have the metal ability to stand up to the high demands of the training centre. And so, the question had to be asked: Why wouldn’t I try to win my Olympic Gold Medal in London?

Thinking ahead I know that I will have over ten 6000 -meter ergs, probably six 2000-meter ergs, countless pair trials and weekly races around the lake in single.  I am looking at a huge pay cut; I am looking at being so exhausted by the end of Monday that Tuesday scares me.  The half-day of rest Wednesday afternoon feels like Spring Break.  By Thursday my mind thinks my body is crazy – or is it my body thinking my mind is crazy?  Whatever it is, I get through – I push hard – I make something of myself.  By the time Friday roles around I feel like I am on a freight train heading towards Saturday morning time-trails and of course, the random number of hard strokes that follow.  All this is worth it because racing at the highest level of a sport is one of the most fulfilling feelings I have ever had – winning at that level is the icing on the cake.  Of course, you don’t do one without wanting the other!

So consider this my first official statement that I will be vying for a spot on the 2012 Canadian Olympic Rowing Team, and I will be using the time from now until then to be as prepared for my final shot at an Olympic Gold Medal as I possibly can be.

Look for me out on Elk Lake starting in March.

Be a positive role model for someone today!