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[Links to my Olympics photo albums!  Here, here, here, and here!   Enjoy and share!]

Christening our namesake: the new Yale Crew racing shell! (thanks to Meg Sullivan for the photo)

In early October, the seven Yale Olympians returned to New Haven for a Elis-in-London celebration. It was a glorious weekend—going to practice with the current Yale team, answering questions at a panel discussion at the Yale Law School, being honored at the Yale football game, reconnecting with Yale alum young and old at the Head of the Housatonic, dedicating new racing boats at Gilder Boathouse…  It was such an honor and a privilege to be welcomed back at Yale, and the entire event was the perfect way to add closure to the whole post-Olympics period. Now it’s time to pick myself up off the couch, dust off my 48-month calendar, and start looking forward to my next steps.

Rowing with the Yale varsity– a good reminder that before we were Olympians, we were just wide-eyed college freshmen, learning how to row on the Housatonic.

The Olympics were surreal, exciting, and absolutely magical—a never-ending adrenaline rush! It’s as if your birthday, Christmas, college spring break, the Super Bowl, NCAA March Madness, and a family reunion all fell in the same two-week period. You’re surrounded by celebrities, and you receive VIP treatment wherever you go. There’s an open bar, a famous chef in the kitchen, and children asking for your autograph outside the Village gates. You have front-row seats and a backstage pass to the hottest show in town. We didn’t have enough suitcases to take home all the free swag that sponsors were throwing at you.  For two surreal, exhilarating weeks, you ARE a superstar.

And then, just as quickly as it began, the Olympics ended… the smoke of the fireworks from the Closing Ceremonies had barely cleared away, and already volunteers were already starting to close up the facilities, take down the signs, and ship the athletes on their pre-dawn shuttles back to Heathrow International Airport.

Taylor and I enjoying the Closing Ceremonies with Lolo Jones (an incredible athlete, and one of the nicest, most sincere woman I’ve ever met)

The team receives so much mental preparation in the lead-up to the Olympics—how to cope with the pressure, the ever-present media, the distractions of the Village, the intensity of competition. But no one can prepare you for the emotional roller-coaster as you transition back into ordinary life.

I’m taking a short break from the Princeton Training Center in order to pursue my education—a doctorate in physical therapy at Eastern Washington University. But training at home leads to a myriad of challenges: after the excitement of London, how do I motivate myself for that lonely gym session? How do I keep myself accountable for that 6am workout if my pair partner is 3000 miles away? How do I balance the pressures of training, work, school, and family when I don’t have a coach and a team manager to establish a daily schedule for us? It’s definitely a struggle, and I’m still figuring it out!

Back in Washington! After enjoying my first true summer vacation in years, it’s now time to get back to work.

For this fall, I’m focusing on health—I still need to resolve the lingering injuries from the January car accident, and try to maintain fitness while not flunking out of school (first Clinical Anatomy exam this morning! Eek!). But come winter, it’s time to start rebuilding up my calluses! If I’ve learned anything in the last two months, it’s this: you gotta use it, or lose it; I’ve rowed almost everyday for seven years, and it still only took eight weeks of cross-training to leave my hands as smooth as a baby’s bottom. !!!

Sorry for the much-belated blog post… I’ve done a much better job at updating my facebook albums!  Please check them out (and share!) for a behind-the-scenes look at the Olympic life.

Let The Games Begin: our final week of training before Olympic racing begins
US Rowing at the Olympics: racing for gold! and out and about in London with the Redman posse
A quick photo tour of the Main Village Dining Hall
A Photo Tour of the Olympic Village:
Time to Enjoy the Olympics!: front-row tickets, VIP lounges, rubbing shoulders with celebrities… life is sweet for Olympians!  I’ll be adding photos everyday or so, so keep checking back!

Watching my teammates launch for the Olympic Final

This week has been the complete emotional rollercoaster… watching my teammates race for gold in their Olympic Finals was one of the most inspiring moments of my life. I’m so so so happy for their success, and I’m honored that I had a role to play in helping them achieve their Olympic dreams.  It was a total affirmation for me to see the American women perform so well  (6th in W2x, a close 4th in W2-, bronze in W4x, gold in W8+)– it is a small comfort to know that I didn’t lose my spot in the boat to mere mortals, but OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS.  I am so so so proud of them, and proud to be called their teammate.

The best cheerleaders a girl could ever hope for

Now that racing is over, we’ve moved into the main Olympic Village in London (we were previously located in the satellite Rowing Village, about an hour away).  As is evident by this much-belated blog post, life is a complete whirlwind. So much to do, so much to see, so many people to meet, and SO LITTLE TIME TO DO IT ALL!  I’ve sadly neglected my email inbox, I haven’t even unpacked my suitcase, I barely have time to sleep or shower… there is just *that many* amazing opportunities!  Paradise on earth!  (Don’t even get me started on the dining options)

Look who we ran into on the bus ride back from the gymnastics arena! Pictured: The Fab 5 (!), Anthony and Robin (LM4-), and Ty (reserve pair)

For example: several nights ago, I was faced with a tough decision. Do I go to the Team USA hospitality house (delicious buffet, open bar, fun scene) where the US Swim Team (Lochte and Co.)  was having a reception? Or do I get a free ticket (front row balcony) to gymnastics finals?  Or last night: do I go to an exclusive party thrown by Coca Cola for their corporate execs? Or do I stay in, and watch track and field finals with other athletes in the US Athlete Lounge?  Does this decision change when I realize that the other athletes are the men’s 4x100m relay team and Serena Williams?  (On the outside: a super-chill rower, just playing it cool and chillin’ with her fellow American athletes. On the inside: “AAAAHHHHH!!!”)

Track and Field: capacity crowd, great seats, amazing competition… my ears are still ringing from the deafening cheers

This experience  has been completely surreal. I am so so so blessed and excited to be here. THANK YOU for all the support and encouragement!

Inspiration for Rio? (a big thank you to Esther for loaning me her medal)

Hurray for Spokane Olympians!!!! (Amanda Furrer, Mead HS, 50m rifle)

**For more behind-the-scenes photos, be sure to check out my facebook albums! I’m adding new pictures every afternoon or so!  Album #1  and Album #2

The Olympic Torch!

The Olympics are *almost* here: t-minus twenty-four hours! All fifty-eight countries have arrived at the race course, ranging from the lone single scullers from Ireland, Algeria, or Cameroon, to the full squads from Canada, Great Britain, or Germany. Everyone tries to be courteous and professional while on the race course, but there are still some close calls!  (For example: in our effort not to get run down by the Italian men’s double, we nearly stampeded the Iranian women’s single. But no harm done, we all emerged unscathed!)

58 countries, 500 athletes, and one goal: GOLD!

It’s been exciting to see the transformation of the venue into a race-ready Olympic stadium. Yesterday was the “dress rehearsal” for the hundreds of volunteers, timers, stake-boat holders, announcers, and safety launches… it was fun to watch the teenaged volunteers stage a mock medals ceremony, complete with the inspirational music (from “Chariots of Fire”), honor guard, and national anthems. The starting-line officials were also also rehearsing yesterday, so everyone had the chance to practice a mock “start”, complete with the boat-holders, the official countdown, the lighting system, and the “boot” (a little plastic starting gate that holds our bowball—very cool!). The best part about the start simulations was that the officials didn’t discriminate between boat classes, so we were able to race it up with the Canadian M8+, British M4x, and an assortment of doubles/fours. Fun!

A morning practice at Eton Dorney (photo by http://www.row2k.com)

Amanda and I have been busy—even though we’re not officially listed in a boat roster, we still have to be fit and able to race should our team need us. So we’ve been putting in some mileage in a pair, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes pacing our official US pair, occasionally hopping in the eight when someone needs an afternoon off.

Brrr! Team USA’s ice baths

USA has garbage bins, New Zealand has a kiddie pool… tomato, tomahto; if it holds freezing water, it’ll work!

Now that racing is around the corner, the Village is bustling with athletes. I first noticed it a few days ago in the dining hall… the evening before, Team USA was King of the Cafeteria—no lines for hot food, plenty of extra dessert, our pick of which table to sit at. The next morning, it was a completely different story! Hundreds of athletes scampering around for their pre-practice breakfast, waiting for the harried catering staff to refill the coffee/ oatmeal/ cornflakes/ bananas, trying to find an empty seat near one of their teammates. The zoo atmosphere only lasted until 6:55am, when the dining hall abruptly emptied as everyone left to catch the 7am bus to the race course (only to repeat itself in the twenty minutes prior to the 8am bus!). Thankfully, everyone has quickly adapted to the increased traffic in the cafeteria, and both the athletes and dining hall staff are working together to keep the chaos to a minimum!  *More details to come about the Olympic dining experience, a culinary blog update coming soon!*

An example of some AWESOME rowing shirts– Team Ukraine wins for “most colorful”!

One interesting distraction is the colorful and patriotic Olympic apparel worn around the boatyards. A popular favorite is the colorful print on the Ukrainian coaches’ outfits. The British uniforms (designed by Stella McCartney!) are chic, but can’t compare with the fashion-forwardness of the Portuguese double’s green berets! Also interesting—despite the warm temperatures (hottest day so far this year in the UK!), the Egyptian W2x still train in head scarves and long sleeves.

The Portuguese 2x: super stylish! (photo by row2k.com)

The Egyptian W2x (photo by row2k.com)

The Opening Ceremonies are tonight (wow!, where has the time gone?!), and as much as I’d LOVE to be in the Olympic Stadium to enjoy the festivities, Team USA is headed to bed early… racing starts tomorrow!!!  (You can see the heat draw here)

Go USA!

Arriving at the Olympic race course

As the years go by, it sometimes gets hard to remember how I celebrated a certain birthday. Was it my 23nd when the team threw me a surprise party? Was it my 16th or my 17th that fell during our family raft trip on the St Joe River? How old was I when we celebrated with a backyard bbq? Well, I will never have any problem remembering my 26th birthday: I WAS AT THE OLYMPICS!

An Olympic Birthday!

Coach tries to stress that, for all intents and purposes, this event is just like any normal World Championships, but there are still minute-by-minute reminders that this is no ordinary competition—this is something special!

The magic started the moment we landed at Heathrow. A LOCOG (London Organizing Committee) host and a USOC rep met us at our gate to expedite our trip through Customs and Immigration. On the bus to the Olympic Rowing Village, we took advantage of the “Olympic Lanes” on the highway—designated lanes to help athletes and othe VIPs avoid the typical London traffic.

Arriving at the Olympic Rowing Village. Despite their huge guns, the policemen are actually quite jolly and excited to see us.

We arrived at the Village, where a security team greeted us, checked the bus for bombs, screened and x-rayed our luggage, sent us through a metal detector, and put us onto a secure internal shuttle to pass through two more guarded gates before we reached the Village Center. (For all the media hubbub over Games security, the athletes at the Rowing Village are feeling *very* safe! It seems that there are more policemen, soldiers, and armed guards than there are athletes!)

I get my own room!

This superstar treatment didn’t end at the security checkpoint– as we were one of the first delegations to arrive, our reception was especially enthusiastic. The LOCOG volunteers and staff could not be more cheerful or accommodating (“Oh my, look! A real athlete!”, spoken by the volunteer in the athlete internet lounge). We have single rooms (!), a laundry service (!!),  a well-equipped gym and hi-tech rec center, and a 24-hour dining hall! AND, if all this wasn’t enough to make my birthday special, there was the gear!  Nike and Ralph Lauren were almost overwhelming in their generosity, and thanks to my awesome teammates, Amanda and I are outfitted in head-to-toe USA Olympic gear!

Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.

Of course, we don’t spend all day just trying on posh Ralph Lauren outfits and noshing on tea and biscuits in the dining hall. We also have a job to do: stay fit, hone our top-end speed, and perfect the final race plan. We’re logging the miles out at the race course in Eton Dorney, enjoying the quiet boatyard before all the other countries start arriving. (Like the Village, we’re one of the first countries to show up at the course, so the multitude of officials and volunteers are extremely excited to see us!)

Two friendly volunteers gave me a tour of the bike rental tent (free bikes for any athletes or coaches who want to ride around the lake!)

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable birthday! Definitely one for the record books!

Hurray for the Olympics!

I just posted many more photos up online! For a more detailed behind-the-scenes look at our life at the Games, check out my two facebook albums!
-“Headed to London”: Team USA flies across the Atlantic and arrives safe and sound at the Olympic Village
-“Welcome to the Olympics”: Team USA begins their final week of preparations at the official Olympic race course at Eton Dorney

Off to London!

[I just posted a new public album on Facebook: "Headed to London!"  Check it out and share!]

Off to London!

Today’s the day!  Team USA headed to the airport in t-minus one hour! My bags are packed, my passport is up-to-date, I have my in-flight entertainment (NY Times crossword + People Magazine= bliss!)… I’m ready to go!

The past three weeks have been an absolute whirlwind… team fundraisers, media events, athlete meet-and-greets, and of course, good hard training. I don’t want to give away any team secrets, but suffice it to say: Team USA is FAST!

Not only is Susan an amazing rower, she’s also baking rockstar! Her W8+ cake was over six feet long, and came equipped with eight Barbie rowers (and one Skipper coxie), each with a custom hairstyle and a hand-stitched unisuit.

Amanda and I were selected as the reserve pair, which means that should any medical disaster or unforeseen catastrophe befall one of our teammates (knock on wood!), we will step in and race. We must be ready to hop in any seat, in any boat, at any time; so for the last three weeks, we’ve found ourselves in singles, pairs, doubles, fours, eights… the goal is to be fit, fast, and adaptable!

Amanda and I preparing for another training session

It’s easy to get distracted by all the pre-Games hype: everywhere we look, there’s another magazine cover or celebrity tweet or news article about the Olympics. But from now until race day, Team USA will be focused on only one thing: preparing to RACE. Until then, we won’t be distracted by the hubbub over the Ralph Lauren apparel (made in China!), or the London nightclub scene (parties everywhere!), or the perks of being a US athlete (gear package!). USRowing has some business to take care of at Eton Dorney…

Eton Dorney, here we come.

Go Team USA!

P.S.  On a different note, my teammate Megan Kalmoe put together an insightful video blog and essay about “What it Means to be an Olympic Hopeful“. Check it out!

**UPDATE!!** Shortly after I added this blog post, I received an invitation to travel to the London Games as a spare. I’m thrilled… even if I can’t race, I’m excited and honored to support my teammates/best friends in their Olympic preparations.  The Dream lives on! Go Team USA!

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2nd at Trials… (photo by Alison Frederick)

Last Thursday, I had the chance to finally punch my ticket to London: all I had to do was finish first in the pair at the USRowing Olympic Trials. We had won the “race for lanes” by several seconds on Tuesday, so we knew we had the fitness and strength to pull out another win.  We were strong, we were ready, we were in the best shape our lives. During our warmup, we knew it was going to be a tough race, but we were confident in our ability to push through the pain.

All we had to do was win… and we lost.

What do you do when your best isn’t good enough? I keep on replaying our race in my mind, trying to find that one moment that made the difference, or that single stroke that might’ve boosted our momentum. I think back on all my work in the last few months… maybe I should’ve rested more, or done more sprint work, or lost more weight, or met with the sports psychologist. Maybe I’m in a two week funk. Maybe I never actually recovered from the car accident. Or maybe I just choked. Woulda, shoulda, coulda…  on the one day that mattered, that was the day I faltered, and now another crew is going to London. Kudos to Sarah and Sara— they absolutely raced like champions at Trials. If they bring that relentless mentality to London, they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.

The official US Olympic roster should be published this evening, there isn’t a single crew in the world who can match the American squad for strength, athleticism, and heart. It’s been an honor to train alongside these women, and I’m proud to call them my teammates. Look out World, here come the Americans.

Thank you to everyone who has cheered for me over the last few years: this is a community effort, and I absolutely could not have made it this far without all your encouragement and support! I’m so so so sorry I couldn’t pull it through for you in the end…

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On a [slightly] happier note, even though my Olympic dream might be over, a different life-long dream was realized last week: namely, to appear in the New York Times. Check out the NYTimes’ coverage of our world record-setting race in Lucerne (I’m not mentioned by name, but I’ll take what I can get…)

The New York Times also published a cool article about rowing in the 6th Floor Blog, in conjunction with the *awesome* photography published in the NYT Magazine.

As a reward for our first-place finish, we received an awesome Swiss Army knife! Susan and I are super excited. (photo by Alison Frederick)

What an incredible three days of rowing!  Excitement and drama was the order of the day at the World Cup Regatta in Lucerne, Switz… there were close finishes and surprise upsets in almost every single boat class! Definitely a good foreshadowing of the intense competition we’ll see in London.

The women’s eight race was no exception: all seven entries were serious contenders for a podium finish. During the heats on Friday, the brisk tailwind made for some very fast racing… so fast, in fact, that six world records were broken!  The men’s eight, the women’s quad, the men’s quad, the men’s four, the lightweight women’s double, and the women’s eight (USA!) all set new World’s Best Times.  (Of course, Mother Nature is primarily responsible… you gotta love a blazing tailwind).  Check out some awesome writeups here and here.

Some faaaaaaast conditions on the Rotsee! (photo by Alison Frederick)

Our win in the heats granted us an automatic berth in the Grand Final, so we lined up this afternoon against Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Great Britain, and Germany. A beautiful sunny Sunday, light tailwind, tons of spectators cheering on shore, the Swiss dairy cowbells clanging at the starting line… a perfect day for racing!

From the first stroke, it was obvious that this race was going to be a barnburner.  The entire field was only separated by a few seconds at the 500m mark, and we only led Canada by a seat at the halfway mark. In years past, the USA would start to seperate from the field in the third 500m, but not this year! There was absolutely no letup from our competition; it was obvious that we’d have to fight for every inch. Coming into the final stretch, it was USA ahead of Canada by about ¾ of a second, followed closely by Netherlands, with a tight race for 4th between the Australians and the British. And all of a sudden, Canada started to sprint. At 300m to go, they were 2 seats down… then they were 1 seat down… 100m left… ½ a seat down…. they’re level!… 5 strokes left, we’re giving everything we’ve got… they’re still level!… and we cross the line dead even.    We wait for the official time, and it’s USA, by only THREE-HUNDRETHS of a second.  Whew! (Here’s the USRowing press release)

Only point-zero-three seconds! (We’re in the yellow boat) The official photo-finish from worldrowing.com.

A thrilling race, a tight race, but it’s obvious that we still have some work to do before London. We only have two weeks until Olympic Trials (for the pair), and less than a month until Naming Date (for the quad and the eight), so we’re headed straight back to NJ to continue training and selection. Send me some good vibes over the next few weeks… as intense as the World Cup Regatta is, I think it’ll pale in comparison to the seat-racing we’ll see in the next few weeks!

Any blog post would be incomplete without a HUGE CONGRATS to my American teammates for their success this weekend!  Silver medal in the pair, bronze medal in the quad, and a close 4th in the lightweight women’s double, woohoo! Another shout-out to my Yale teammate and good friend Tess Gerrand ’10, who just punched her ticket to London with the Australian W8+!

Check out race results or racing coverage at www.worldrowing.com or www.usrowing.org

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