First, I want to thank everyone SO MUCH for all your encouraging comments, emails, and letters! Every time I felt depressed or discouraged, a heartening message would pop up in my inbox, or a fun postcard would appear in the mail, and all my doldrums would slip away. THANK YOU!
The good news: I’m not broken! I’m not brain damaged! Starting in mid-February, I was cleared to rejoin the team at practice. After two weeks of medically-mandated rest, I was understandably excited to jump straight into full-time rowing. However, it would be foolish to go from zero activity to 200km/week, unless I wanted return to the doctor’s office with an overuse injury! (No, thank you. I have enough to deal with at present!) So it was a delicate balancing act—trying to get back up to speed as soon as possible, but without hampering my physical recovery.
I couldn’t have asked for more capable medical care… Gerard (our team PT) was an absolute godsend, and Prima (my PT at an off-site clinic) was both a skilled therapist and patient listener. Between the two of them, along with the entire medical staff of the Olympic Training Center, I was in very good hands.
Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. There were a few times when my enthusiasm overcame my better judgment, and I experienced the classic symptoms of overtraining (extreme fatigue, night sweats, crazy emotions, loss of appetite, etc). However, with diligent recovery and rehab, I became stronger, to the point where I can now complete the week’s training cycle with minimal pain. I am forever indebted to Susan, my pair partner over the last few weeks, for her wonderful patience and encouragement—she keeps my spirits high, even during the most exhausting workouts.
The finale of our California training trip was the National Selection Regatta—an intense weekend of racing with aspiring Olympians from all over the country. This race is the first step toward Olympic qualification: coaches will use the results as a good indication of an athlete’s speed, and a top-five finish can guarantee an invitation to the W8+ selection camp this summer. In addition, the NSR winners have the opportunity to race the pair at a World Cup race later this spring (and potentially earn their spot on the Olympic roster).
For me, this race was even more significant. For the past eight weeks, I’ve been constantly asking myself the same questions: Am I recovered? Am I fast? Am I capable of holding my own with my powerfully-strong and extremely-motivated teammates? The NSR would serve as a symbolic measurement of my physical recovery to date, and of my reentry into full-time Olympic selection. While I’m disappointed in our final placing (5th place, in a chaotic and windy race), I was heartened by our solid efforts in the time trail and semifinal races. I may not be at 100%, but I’m still in the mix!
What’s next for Team USA? The scullers are staying in California to prepare for the Non-Qualified Small Boats Regatta (for the women’s single and double sculls), and the rest of us have returned to New Jersey to continue our training in Princeton. I’m encouraged by my progress so far, and my plan is to stay positive, stay healthy, stay tough, and take my recovery one day at a time.
In the meantime, I am constantly inspired by my teammates. Read about Taylor Ritzel’s motivation on Fox Sports, Kara Kohler’s profile in Sports Illustrated , and the USOC’s video profile of Susan Francia. I am so lucky to train with such amazing athletes!
Side note: my sister just published several updates about her public health research in Siberia… between her medical discussions, Russian election commentary, Moscow exploits, and springtime pictures, I was on the edge of my seat! Her ability to connect with people across language barriers and social differences is truly compelling; any med school would be lucky to have her. Check out her blog at www.romanyredman.wordpress.com