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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.


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