Posts Tagged ‘travel’

[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!


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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!  

Although our body clocks are still a bit out-of-whack, we’re healthy, happy, and in possession of all our luggage (in itself a miracle!)

Morning Practice at Henley

This week, Team USA is racing the Henley Royal Regatta, the historic and illustrious rowing race held every year on the River Thames in the town of Henley-on-Thames, England. This race is one of the oldest in the world (first staged in 1839!), and I feel extremely lucky to witness the pomp and tradition from the perspective of a racer!

As the Regatta began well before any national or international rowing organizations were established, this race operates by its own rules, and doesn’t have to subscribe to the guidelines of the International Rowing Federation (FISA). On that note, instead of the standard 6-lane races we are used to, we will be using dual-boat, single-elimination knockout races over the course of three days. Instead of little plastic lane buoys, the course is lined with huge wooden “booms” (you definitely wouldn’t want to run into these!). And instead of the official 2,000-meter race distance, the Henley course is “about one mile and 550 yards”, which equates to about 2,112 meters.

The morning practice rush; note the stylish blue-and-white boat tents!

Seven other women’s eights are vying for the “Remenham Challenge Cup”, including the British eight that finished fourth at the 2010 World Championships (they’re racing as “Leander Club and Thames Rowing Club”) . The racing draw is set up as single-elimination dual races, set over three days. The British eight is on the other side of the bracket; hopefully we’ll have the good fortune to meet up with them in the championship race!

The Goal: the Remenham Cup!

Our first race is on Friday against the reigning NCAA champions and our fellow New Jerseyans, Princeton University. How ironic is it that we travel halfway around the world, only to face a crew we see every morning at the Princeton Boathouse?

You can follow racing online at www.hrr.co.uk, or www.row2k.com.

Update:  For your entertainment, check out Esther Lofgren’s “Henley: Day One!” video!

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Rowing in Middle Earth (thanks to Esther for the photo!)

Sorry for the belated update… I didn’t expect the hotel’s internet to be so expensive! ($2 for 15 minutes! Highway robbery)

We arrived safe and sound in Hamilton, New Zealand, after a long 36 hours of travel (35 hours, 46 minutes, and 56 seconds, not that we were counting). The journey itself wasn’t too difficult, just lengthy. However, any jet lag grumbles were eased by the beautiful sunny skies and welcome reception we received at the Auckland airport. We had an official escort through the airport, and our own expedited line through customs and inspections. An interesting contrast: while American airports have bomb-sniffing dogs, the New Zealand airport hosts a pack of fruit-detecting beagles to sniff out any rogue apples or bananas… NZ is obviously very protective of their biosecurity.

The surest cure for jet lag is exercise, so after a short rest at our hotel, we all loaded the buses for the forty-minute drive to Lake Karapiro. A visit to the course answered the age-old question: “How do your boats get to New Zealand?” Well, after the Lucerne World Cup, all of the shells are packed into shipping containers and loaded onto a cargo ship for the long trip to the Southern Hemisphere. In order to fit into the containers, the largest boats are actually split in half and bolted together on site (see the photo, below)

Dr Hosea, Mary, and Anna assembling the two halves of our 8+

The rigging process is probably the most time-consuming task of our sport (besides trailer loading!), as everything has to be assembled, tightened, measured, and double-checked. In a perfect, non-jetlagged world, it would *still* take a few hours!

But now that everything is put together, we’re quickly getting into our pre-competition routine. Lake Karapiro is absolutely beautiful, with eight lanes on the course, with an additional 4k stretch of water above the starting line. The countryside along the water is green and beautiful; we actually feel like we’re actually rowing through Middle Earth! I haven’t spotted any hobbits or orcs yet, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled!)

Racing begins on Oct. 31 and everyone is getting more and more excited to duke it out against other boats. As more countries arrive, the course becomes more and more crowded, and it’s not uncommon to hear “Look Out!” yelled in several different languages. Lucky for us, Mary is without-a-doubt the most adept and talented coxswain on the water, and she keeps us safe from any rogue men’s quads and the like. Our heat is temporarily scheduled for noon on Tuesday (that would be Monday at 4pm on the West Coast!), and good news!, racing will be streaming live on both universalsports.com and worldrowing.com.

Wish us luck, and send fast thoughts our way! Go Team USA!

(more updates to come as soon as I find any $2 NZ coins to put into the hotel computer…)

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I’ve been home for two weeks now. I’ve slept through my jet lag. I’ve laundered all my unisuits. I’ve restocked the fridge. I’ve downloaded all my pictures. And we’ve repaired our faulty wireless router.  I no longer have an excuse to procrastinate…
SO, without further ado….  LUCERNE RECAP!

Translation: "World Cup at Rotsee"

Team USA sent 18 boats to race at World Cup III. I was lucky enough to race in two events: the straight four (4-) and the eight (8+). And boy oh boy, was it fun!  I think we spend so much time training, that sometimes we forget how exhilarating it is to suit up, line up, and duke it down the race course!

USA W4-: Gold! (Mara Allen, Laura Larsen-Strecker, Sarah Zalenka, and me)

The W4- only had four entries (USA, Germany, China, and India), so it was straight to Final A for all crews. We established a good rhythm early on, and built up a solid lead all the way to the finish line. And while the race was intense, it almost paled in comparison to the race against Mother Nature: rowers and spectators alike sprinting for the bus as a gigantic summer thunderstorm descended upon Rotsee.

USA W8+: Gold!

The W8+ race was an exhilarating event, culminating in a blazing last 500m to win the gold medal by a hair. We knew going into the regatta that Canada was the crew to beat: they’re strong, motivated, and have a super-fast start. They had almost a length lead by the 500m!  But we just focused on Katelin’s coxing, had faith in our fitness, and set up a strong enough base rhythm to eat away at the Canadian lead. 500m to go, we were still three seats down, but when Katelin told us “sprint”, we sprinted, ekeing out a 0.2 second victory.  A close win, but a win nonetheless!

The margin of victory: about 0.2 seconds

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, a few pics from the weekend:

Morning on Rotsee, with Mt. Pilatus in the background

Picture 1: A beautiful race course– blue water, mountain views, lakeside chalets, and Swiss cows with Swiss cowbells grazing by the starting line.

Marc Nowak, physical therapist and boat-rigger extraordinaire

Picture 2: Marc, our PT-extraordinaire and resident miracle-worker, helping us rig our brand-new straight-from-the-factory boats.

Enjoying Lucerne's tourist attractions

Picture 3: Sarah and I in front of Kapellbruke (Chapel Bridge) and Wasserturm (the Water Tower), two of Switzerland’s most famous landmarks

A Big Mac meal was running around $12, latte plus scone was about $9...

Picture 4:  You can take the US team out of America, but you can’t keep the American franchises away from the US team (Starbucks and McDonalds, right next door to our hotel)

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After a week of seat-racing (in pairs!), we have finally narrowed down the ten sweep rowers racing in Lucerne. We still don’t know the exact line-up, but this group is POWERFUL. We’re going to go fast!!!

World Cup Regattas are a valuable opportunity to gain international racing experience without the pressure or formality of the World Championships. Because our group is relatively young, we’ll all be doubling up between the eight and various small boats; I’ll probably be racing the straight four.

We leave this afternoon! I’m all packed and ready to go: racing gear? check. passport? check. blister pads and neosporin? check. I decided against packing laundry detergent (it’s only a week, after all), so with all the training outfits, my bag was almost fifty pounds! Two rows a day times eight days equals a lot of clothes.

I don’t know the internet situation in our hotel, but I’ll do my best to keep everyone posted!

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