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Posts Tagged ‘training’

**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!

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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

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An April sunrise on Lake Carnegie. Less than six weeks until the Olympic boat is named!

We have less than three months until the Olympics, and only six short weeks until the boat is named.  It seems that wherever I look, I see reminders that the Opening Ceremonies are just around the corner. This week, I opened up the New York Times travel section to see a full feature on London, the TV networks are starting to run the inspirational patriotic ads, I’m spotting the Olympic rings logo plastered on various credit cards and grocery items, Boathouse Sports (our gear sponsor) arrived in town to take our measurements for the Olympic gear package. I even met the cast of “The Today Show” when they came to the Princeton boathouse for a learn-to-row session with the Princeton varsity– Al, Matt, Ann… the whole gang!  With all the increased publicity and excitement, it’s often a humbling reality-check to realize that there are still 24 very qualified athletes competing for 15 coveted spots.

You’re Fired! Some of my teammates met Donald Trump at the “100 Days Till London!” celebration in Times Square

Healthwise, I’m feeling night-and-day better than I did in San Diego. A capable physical therapist + diligent stretching = a better-than-new rower! The training is intense, the volume is high, but I know I’m finally reaching my pre-accident level, whew.  Thank you for all of the positive messages; I’m so grateful to have such a stellar cheering section!

It’s going to be a crazy few weeks for Team USA. I’m typing this blog post at Newark International Airport, where we’re waiting to board our flight to Europe. Some of our teammates raced this weekend at World Cup #1 in Belgrade (see results here!), so we will join them in Breisach, Germany, for two weeks of training and selection.  We’ll then head down to Lucerne, Switz., for World Cup #2 (May 25-27).  Row2k wrote an excellent overview of the Olympic qualifying process for the US crews, you can check it out here.

I’ll try to stay updated with news and photos, but in the meantime, check out some of the media coverage of my talented teammates!

– Natalie Dell’s profile in USA Today
– Mary Whipple’s radio spot on NPR
– Megan Kalmoe named as World Rowing’s “Athlete of the Month”
– Giuseppe Lanzone named “#1 Most Mouth-Watering Male Olympian”  by Ryan Seacrest. com

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Team USA has arrived in Slovenia!

The view from our hotel room: race course, castle, island church, Alps... beautiful!

Bled is one of Slovenia’s premier tourist destinations, and it only took us several seconds to comprehend why: Lake Bled is *unbelievably* picturesque. Photos can not do justice to the incredible beauty that Mother Nature has brought to this rowing venue!

The water is a deep emerald green, surrounded by the majestic Julian Alps. A medieval castle stands guard on the bluff overlooking the lake.

Bled Castle, the oldest castle in Slovenia

A 15th century church occupies the island at the 500m mark, and bells can often be heard tolling from the chapel steeple.

Bled Island, with the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church

Even with such stunning scenery, Team USA remains focused on our pre-race preparations. We’re entering a critical period (t-minus four days until Opening Ceremonies!), so our training is a unique blend of race-pace work (to keep us fast), steady state (to keep us fit), and smart tapering (to keep us rested).  If all goes according to plan, we’ll show up at the starting line with rested legs and a killer instinct. So excited to race!

Rowing in the shadow of the Julian Alps

Finally, I just uploaded my first batch of photos onto some public facebook albums. Check it them out:   Munich’s facebook album and Bled’s facebook album

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Hello from Switzerland!

Hello from the country of chocolate, cheese, and handy pocket knives!

We’re here in Lucerne to race at the third World Cup Regatta of the summer. The World Cup Circuit allows a team to test a boats’ speed/race plan/lineup before the all-important World Championships in August. And because the 2011 World Champs are also the official Olympic Qualifying Regatta, you can rest assured that everyone is bringing their A-game to the starting line this weekend!

Many of our European counterparts already attended the first two regattas—World Cup I in Munich (May), and World Cup II in Hamburg (June)—but the Lucerne World Cup is the first summer race with a full American squad. With only six-odd weeks until the World Championships, this regatta is definitely well-subscribed: fifty countries are represented!

The American women are entered in six events: the single, double, quad, two entries in the pair, and the eight. We’ve made some line-up changes since Henley, but I’ll still be racing in the eight. We’ve spent the last few practices solidifying the boat rhythm with our new line-up, and I can’t wait to test our speed during tomorrow’s heats!

With beautiful water, a mountain view, and the clanging of cowbells along the shore, could an afternoon row get any better?

I absolutely love training on Lake Rotsee. Blue-green water, warm weather, Mt. Pilatus in the distance, Swiss chalets overlooking the course… the scenery alone is worth a visit! Update: Mother Nature is keeping us on our toes. This afternoon, out of *nowhere*, a huge Alpine squall descended upon Lake Rotsee! (Check out row2k’s video footage!). We had a narrow escape: we were putting the boat away in the racks when the storm descended in all its fury. Mad dash for cover!  Fingers crossed for sunny skies and calm winds for tomorrow’s races!

Now where did that come from? Seeking shelter from a sudden storm

On a fun note, I spotted some Bloomsday shirts in the grocery store at the Lucerne Train Station!  “WAIT—are you from Spokane??!” And sure enough, the six teenagers were cross-country runners from North Central High School, on a summer tour of Switzerland!  We had a mini Spokanite reunion in the produce section. Woohoo, yay for Spokane! What are the odds?

It’s a small world: Spokanites reunite in the Lucerne Train Station’s grocery store!

We race tomorrow at 1pm against Poland, Great Britain, and Romania. Check out results at www.row2k.com, or www.worldrowing.com. Go Team USA!

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April showers bring May flowers… and flooding

April blizzards? 80 degrees and torrential downpour? Gusty winds? Sunshine and a calm breeze? Mother Nature is certainly keeping us on our toes, and Team USA is quickly learning to adapt to New Jersey’s tumultuous weather.  Last weekend’s thunderstorms resulted in some flooding at the Princeton boathouse, but today the water has receded, the sun is out, and there are flowers everywhere!

Springtime in Princeton

We are transitioning into the pairs (two rowers with one oar each) to prepare for the quickly-approaching summer of selection and racing. Both physically demanding and mentally challenging, pairs rowing is the surest bet to improve our rowing technique and fitness.  After all, you don’t have a coxswain and seven other rowers to rely on when you get fatigued—it’s just you and your pair partner!  Just remembering the assigned workout can be a task in itself, but we also have to monitor our stroke rating, time our racing/resting intervals, maintain a certain speed, and practice correct rowing technique, all the while steering around bridges, other boats, and a few kamikaze Canadian geese. [Whew, it really makes me appreciate our coxswain in the 8+!]

The best scullers in the nation are all in town this weekend for the first National Selection Regatta at Mercer County Park. Best of luck to all my teammates! Check out the results on USRowing’s website.  (The pairs group is training through this weekend, so we’re waiting to race until NSR#2 in three weeks)

Bloody knuckles: one of the occupational hazards of sculling

Our summer’s calendar is rapidly filling up: potentially two World Cup regattas, the Henley Royal Regatta in England, a possible regatta in Germany to scrimmage the German Nat’l team, not to mention all the stateside regattas (National Selection Regattas, US Nationals, and Pan-Am Trials, etc etc).  Team USA has never looked so strong, and it’ll take some tough seat-racing to determine the travel squad for these European races.

Walking to practice in the spring sunshine

 The college racing season is underway, and I’m overcome with nostalgia every weekend when I see the boat trailers and parents’ tents at the Princeton boathouse. Has it already been three years since I rowed to the starting line in my Yale unisuit? Alas, where did the time go?

Update:  Susan Francia recently submitted a video profile of our team to the official USOC Team USA website. Check out how US Rowers are living the dream (while trying to earn a living!) on her Team USA blog: http://www.teamusa.org/blogs/susan-francia-blog

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Rowing on beautiful Otay Lake (photo by Alison Frederick)

For the past three weeks, Team USA has been enjoying the glorious sunshine at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego.

The services at the Olympic Training Center could almost qualify it as a luxury resort (in a crazy, workouts-three-times-a-day sort of way!). The Sports Clinic is fully staffed with physical therapists and chiropractors to heal our aches and pains, and we can also soothe our sore muscles in a hot-tub-turned-ice-bath. The Athlete Dining Hall, with their delicious meals and expansive salad bar, keeps us well-fed and happy. And during our downtime, we have the AT&T Athlete Center to watch movies, play ping-pong or pool, or check out the latest games on the Wii– provided, of course, that we’re not napping!  Add to all that a weather forecast of 70 degrees and sunshine… how could life get any better???

Relaxing in the Athlete Center

Without a doubt, the main benefit of San Diego is the open water. On Otay Lake, we have over 3k of flat, clean, current-free water, shared only with the US Kayak Team and the occasional fishermen. On-water training, especially during the winter, is a valuable chance to improve our bladework and technical skill, while still maintaining our aerobic fitness. We’re mainly working in singles and quads, with the occasional Sunday afternoon jaunt in the eight.

Now, just because it’s 75 degrees outside doesn’t mean we haven’t abandoned on-land training entirely. We’re still erging almost everyday—we just finished a round of erg testing this week, hurray for 6ks! We’re also taking advantage of the facility’s impressive weight room to make critical gains in our strength and power.

The weight room

The Olympic Training Center is a bustling facility: between track and field, rowing, field hockey, archery, canoe and kayak, and rugby, all the beds are filled! The US Soccer Team arrives for a two-week camp on Sunday, so we are temporarily relocating to the Midwest to train at the High Performance Center in Oklahoma City. I’m stoked to see what Oklahoma City has to offer, although a headline in today’s newspaper has me a bit worried:  “Oklahoma Temps Colder Than South Pole’s”.  Eek! Wish us luck!

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