Friday, December 16, 2005

Foot Injuries and the Positive Side of Winter

I rolled my ankle on a run sometime this week; doing anything but swimming laps has been tough. I erged for the first time in four days today, and it hurt a fair amount, but not undoable. It's just going to be a while until I can put any serious pressure on it.

We've hit finals, so morning practices have ceased as of lately. It's weird not getting up for 6:00 am practice. Nice, but weird. I've found that the best part about this, though, is that practice usually ends around 7:30 and my earliest class during the week is at 9:00. So I usually end up eating breakfast with the team and getting back to my room at 8:00-8:15. Instead of showering, I end up laying down with my headphones on some soft music. It's not really sleep, but it's definitely know, that state of semi-consciousness like before you fall asleep. That 20 or so minutes before I roll out of bed for classes is probably the most relaxing part of my day. I suggest you try it some time.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subsude and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."
-Lance Armstrong

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it."
-W.C. Fields

Everyone quits at something at one point or another in their life. Perhaps, in a society that constantly stresses moving faster with quicker results, the idea of failure has changed a little. Or perhaps the door to the easy way out is marked more clearly. The "why" is a topic for another blog. But you've given up on things before. Whether it be a research paper, a diet, or a marriage, they're all things that you decided weren't worth going on. You threw in the towel. You gave up. No person in the history of the world has succeeded in every thing they ever set out to accomplish, so don't feel bad. I'm not trying to blame or point fingers at anyone.

In rowing, however, quitting is a concept that is so far removed from the sport as to make it an abberation. Rowing is a sport where the legends are virutal ironmen, able to continue long after their bodies have decided they would stop. A sport where the act of pulling to the point of vomiting or passing out is regarded with respect, not disgust.

Maybe that's the reason failure during an erg piece is so prevalent in my mind during the winter months. Maybe that's why the sting of failure is so much sharper. The coach can see everything you do during each workout. The little monitor in front of you doesn't lie. The numbers may be harsh, they may be cruel, but they don't lie. Ever. Unless you're retrofitting a PM3 to a Model C and your connection is funky. But that's also another story.

I don't talk about quitting during erg training lightly. So when I
do quit, the failure becomes that much more sharp, a mark of my lack of strength. And this morning, I broke. I quit.

I was extremely angry at myself after the exercise was over. Championship oarsmen never quit. My teammates who were attacking the ergs during our rest time didn't quit. So why did I? The only answer that I could come up with was that I was wearker than the rest of them; that I wasn't as good as they were. At that point, one of my good friends on the team told me that being angry at myself wasn't going to make it any better for the next piece.

Now, eighteen hours removed from that piece, I can fully understand that he's right. This was the first high-level threshold piece we've done all year, so it was unrealistic for me to expect that my splits would be around where they were at the end of last year. My weakness today was one of the mind, not one of the body, and I fully recognize that. However, like every weakness, they can be worked on. Anerobic threshold levels
can be raised, erg scores can be lowered, and my mental breaking point can be put to a higher level. Breaking is never pretty, and rebuilding from this point is going to be harder than if I had been able to sustain my efforts throughout the morning. But taking it in context, this wasn't a National Team trial, an Olympic or Worlds final; it was a Category III workout for my college crew club. So get back on the horse.

Sometimes the only challenge is realizing that the horse isn't as big as you think.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Dreaded Winter Begins

There's snow in them thar hills! Or at least that's what NOAA says for the weekend. I think I might've even seen a few snowflakes on my way to classes today. Once those little white specks fall from the sky, you know what that means. Another season indoors, three to four months on the ergs.

There's something about winter training (if you row on the West Coast, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about) that just helps to sap the sprits of even the most dedicated oarsman. No matter how nice your facilities are, from Newell Boathouse on the Charles to the near-gulag basements that many clubs use, being indoors is nothing near as exciting as driving your oar and your boat through the water. Being one of those club rowers that trains in said gulags, I'm already itching for that winter training trip down South.

Despite the lack of satisfaction that comes from erg pieces as opposed to moving boats, I appreciate the process that comes from working out indoors on the oars. In an article by Topher Bordeau I read a while back, erging is to rowing what fast food is to a meal. The stress that's placed on the body during a long winter can make or break crews in the spring, and it's where you weed out the guys on the novice squad that are hanging on by their fingernails.

So for all of you guys out there who are digging in for the long winter season, good luck and many PR's to you.