Tales From the Cold Plunge posted by: Megan Kalmoe (August 31, 2011)
Enjoying the Cold Plunge
It’s been an exciting couple of days for the W4X. We had an ok start to racing on Sunday coming second to our friends in the German quad in our heat. That race meant a trip to the Reps for us yesterday. The Reps aren’t always such a bad thing–especially for a crew like ours that doesn’t have a lot of racing experience together. This year, however, the Reps weren’t just a battleground for a place in the Final, because a place in the Final isn’t just a place in the Final this year. This year, Finalists are also Olympic Qualifiers, which has a significant impact on the way crews approach progression.
For the W4X, only the top 7 quads from this year’s World Championships have guaranteed entries for the Games next year. Missing one of the six spots in the A Final adds a lot of pressure for B Final crews who want to have an opportunity to compete in London.
For yesterday’s race, it was a fine balance between acknowledging that–yes, Olympic Qualification was on the line–but also not letting a fear of not qualifying define the way we raced. For a younger crew with limited international experience, I think we handled the emotion of the situation well. If you missed yesterday’s results, we had one of the closer finishes of the day with China and GB. The entire race was very tight, and a lot of fun to execute. We finished just .12 seconds ahead of China, and .87 ahead of GB to win the Rep and qualify for the A Final. With the conditions we had on the course yesterday, I realize that it just as easily could have gone the other way for us. So full credit to the Chinese and British crews for some very tough racing. That is what we’re here to do–making the Final shouldn’t be easy.
So the next step for us: recovery. That means resting and taking care of our bodies in order to be sharp and ready for the Final on Thursday. One of the many things this entails is the cold plunge. In Bled, there is a small but very cold brook that runs next to the path into the lake. The good news: the water is clean, clear, cold and great for recovery. The bad news: we are prime targets for public ridicule when everyone at the racecourse walks by and sees us shivering and smiling awkwardly out at them (what else can you do when you’re sitting in a stream eating a sandwich?). But sometimes bad news is good news, since we’ve also had some of the curiosity of passersby turn into conversation, photo ops, and LIST encounters. This morning we had extra morale boost with a whistle from some French heavies and a very friendly greeting from Marcus Bateman (2010 #15) and Matt Wells [www.redexpress2012.com].
More bad news: the cold plunge also slows metabolism and alertness as evidenced by my sub-par interactions with more handsome British men in the Men’s Four and Men’s Eight. Admittedly I was a little dazed during the full-scale inquisition from Greg Searle, Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell (cheeky), and cox Phelan Hill, and wasn’t having one of my better hair days, but they did make me laugh through my shivers on the bus ride home. It seems like the GB Men’s Team is stepping up their game for this year’s List…
Unfortunately for them, I was awake and alert when I got back to the hotel just in time to ride the elevator up with the Australian Men’s Eight including Bryn Coudraye (2010 #2) and Matt Ryan (2009 #10). They were all very sweet and each individually wished me good luck for my race tomorrow as they got out of elevator. What gentlemen!
I was just telling Natalie last night that this is the first time I’ve considered expanding the List to 30.
Off for another row, then laying low until the Final tomorrow. GO USA!!
We've got just one day to go until racing begins for the W4X at this year's World Championships. We are reaching the end of our taper, and as can typically be expected about this time, moods, energy levels, and appetites are completely unpredictable. For the next 24 hours it is our primary responsibility to manage our own individual eccentricities inflicted upon us by the taper in a manner that does not annoy the hell out of those around us. This must be balanced with remaining focused and preparing ourselves to race through rest, hydration, and fueling. For me, appropriate distractions include: writing, iPad video games, reading, endless cups of tea in the lobby with my teammates, naps, and wistfully watching boats practice out on the lake. Others become more reclusive and get lost in books or television series in their rooms with the doors shut. Since this year's racing schedule is new to most of us, we are also learning to accommodate for some team members being at different points in their racing preparations than others (i.e. some of us race tomorrow, others Monday, some start as late as Thursday).
Outside of our hotel, the race course has come alive. The boatyard is packed, and we finally have some other boats on our rack! The course is very busy for practice and apparently bumpy (I am the only one in my boat that has not noticed or been bothered by this). With the influx of bodies to Bled, inevitably this means one thing: full buses.
The bus ride to the course is a standard for just about any World Championships. In Bled we are fortunate to have a very short bus ride compared to, say, last year (45 minutes). We only spend about 5 minutes going to the course and maybe another 10 coming back since we take the long way all the way around the lake coming home. But the bus rides never fail to provide us with entertainment and a variety of distractions in the form of meet and greets with other delegations (intentional or otherwise), general people watching, and the always scenic view out the windows.
Buses leave from the hub every 20 minutes. But with the number of athletes here in Bled, there aren't many bus rides anymore that aren't full up, which leads to a pretty cozy feeling going to and from the course. Sometimes this works to our advantage (sharing seats with handsome French and Spanish rowers), sometimes not (the rear end of a hefty, sweaty male coach pressed into the small of my back). But since we're all in this together, there's not much you can do except make the most of it, since after all: we're all friends here...
Example: on today's return from the course, Stesha had an aisle seat, I had a window. Adrienne was standing in the aisle behind some cute Greek guys. Stesha leaned over and whispered to me: "should I make Adrienne grab this guy's butt?"
With a single deft movement, Stesha swiped Adrienne's unsuspecting hand through the air and landed a solid but playful hit. Adrienne was mortified. Though the target played it pretty cool initially, it soon became obvious that he had definitely noticed and was discussing amongst his teammates how to respond. Soon, all six of us were smiling and giggling uncontrollably. Another great play for international relations.
The other wonderful multifunction of the bus ride is scouting for this year's LIST. When provided with a few idle minutes here and there--what else would I rather be doing? So far I've ID'ed two or three serious contenders on the bus, as well as having the pleasure of sharing the commute with a few old favorites over the past week. Overall I have to say that things are shaping up quite nicely and I daresay that people should be prepared for some shakeups for this year's group. It's going to be GREAT.
Speaking of the List, here is my shattered dream of the day: After we had racked our boat this morning, I took shade under a nearby top rack shell while we waited for Natalie and Adrienne to return with our oars. While we were waiting, suddenly a few familiar figures appeared, weaving in and out between the overlapping boat decks, and who seemed to be coming right toward me. It was none other than the Canadian Men's Eight, a boat filled with a number of my very favorite (and dreamiest) athletes from my time as a Husky. I threw all my stuff on the ground so I could give them big, proper hugs, while also making quite a noisy scene with happy greetings and big smiles. I was just sublime seeing them all at once, and all looking so great. Then my coach cleared her throat, and said "Ahem--Kalmoe, I think Mike would like to meet with his boat now." Ah yes. So they hadn't come directly across the boatyard just to see me? As it turns out, I had chosen their eight to stand under, and Mike Spracklen was sitting just at the end of the rack, waiting for the men to arrive.
Oops. Hope you had a great row, boys! Sorry about that.
Arrived in Bled posted by: Megan Kalmoe (August 24, 2011)
Thankfully for everyone involved, we ended up taking a bus from Munich to Bled yesterday, and left the vans behind. The drive took us about four and a half hours, not including the 25 minute pit stop in Austria. Despite slamming a triple espresso as soon as we got on the bus, I immediately dozed off as we left, and when I woke up a while later, I was greeted by towering sheer rock faces on either side of the bus as we cruised through the Austrian Alps. The drive was spectacular, and disgustingly picturesque with all the alpine valleys dotted with perfect farmhouses and small groups of cattle or draft horses manicuring the rolling green pastures. I wonder if the people who live here realize how lucky they are to have such a wealth of beautiful natural resources at their disposal all the time.
Getting to Bled was another story altogether. The women who came here last year for World Cup 1 had only good things to say about the course, the scenery, the people, and the hotel. I could feel with our arrival the hotel yesterday afternoon their palpable excitement at finally being able to share all of the delights of Bled with the rest of us.
The view from anywhere is absolutely stunning. From our hotel balconies, from the path along the lake, or from any given point on the lake itself, we are fully immersed in a magnificent display of the very best that nature has to offer--the excitement of which I think will take a few days yet to sink in or wear off. If the locals don't take time every day to appreciate the scope of the beauty around them, then I certainly will while I'm in Bled. What an incredible opportunity to compete here.
Again we are rowing on cerulean alpine waters--deeper this time, so none of the unmistakeable black shapes of Munich's aquamarine residents darting around under the boats (at least that we can see...), but the water is equally clear, cold, and enticing after a sweaty practice out on the course. Still lots of recreational cyclists, sunbathers and swimmers, plus a healthy tourist population, so the lake is lively all day long in addition to the World Rowing crews prowling around for practice. Fairly dense, dark green forest covers all the surrounding landscape, which rises pretty dramatically off the shores of the lake. Then, hills and mountainous terrain seem to roll into infinity under sunny blue skies...making me feel quite small, but also quite happy to be exactly where I am.
The boatyard is still fairly quiet as many of the European delegations have yet to arrive, including the big groups from GB and Germany. My quality of life will improve another few points tomorrow when Team Canada arrives (oh...and the USA heavy men), though I have to say I'm already way ahead of the curve seeing as how we are sharing a hotel with both the Australians and Kiwis. This year's List is practically going to be like shooting fish in a barrel. It almost takes some of the fun out of it. Almost.
A few short happenings and observations from my first 24 hours in Bled:
-a few of the Team Newbies locked themselves out on their balcony yesterday for somewhere between 35-45 minutes because they closed their door behind them to keep the bugs out of their room. This maneuver also succeeded in keeping humans out of the room, and they were forced to wait until their boatmates in the neighboring room came back from the lobby to be let back in.
-Karsten spotted at the course this morning sporting a snakeskin-printed uni.
-don't step on the black joiners between dock sections: not a lot of support there.
-cheese at every meal. EVERY MEAL. Plus some sort of amazing fried cheese inside a cornbread batter. You have to go in guns blazing to get any of them though--they go fast.
Munich - Then and Now posted by: Megan Kalmoe (August 22, 2011)
A few more days have rolled by in Munich and training is still going well. Just one day of rain and wind so far, otherwise sun and high temps for training, and lots of post-practice swims.
As we've been puttering around the 1972 Olympic Park, I have been fascinated with the art and design elements that went into creating it, forty years ago. The buildings are strongly geometric with very stark, clean lines. Materials are high contrast and very simply colored (interior: white vs. very dark brown throughout, with minor color accents). There are wide doors, LOTS of horizontal lines, and of course, irresistibly cool iconography used for all the signage. I've commented with some of my teammates that despite having a dated feel to it, the boathouse and buildings at the '72 Olympic Park also have a decidedly "trendy" feel to them, as many of the design elements that were fashionable forty years ago have come back in to vogue in some form or another since then.
My favorite part of the park have been the series of 1972 Olympic posters that are hung in the hallways of the gymnasium building. I took snapshots of all of them yesterday (sorry for the glare and poor centering... It was taken with my phone while trying not to be late for the bus). There are a total of ten posters depicting different Olympic sports, and I just love them. I'll post the rowing poster here, but it's taken over an hour to post five of the photos in an album on Facebook so the rest of them will have to wait.
Today we leave Munich's vintage charm for our road trip it to Bled. We have three vans for 24 bodies for a four hour drive. At least the view out the window will be nice. Will make a point to be early to the queue so I don't get stuck with a middle seat...
Arrived in Munich posted by: Megan Kalmoe (August 19, 2011)
Munich Finish Line
So here we are in Munich--the weather has been beautiful, and the jet lag has been merciful (full night of sleep last night after a less-than-restful flight over). We are back at the same hotel that our 2008 World Cup team stayed at which means at least one thing: awesome breakfast (and seriously precarious parking lot situations). We are here with the USA light and heavy men logging a few miles on the 1972 Olympic Course at Munich-Oberschleissheim and we are LOVING it. The course is a beautiful manmade lake with Caribbean-blue waters and overgrown carp which quietly patrol the length of the course.
These fish prove to be very distracting since their enormous black forms can be seen clearly at any point on the lake in the clear, shallow water...even when cruising by in a rowing shell. The park is only vaguely reminiscent of a World Class competitive arena as various elements of the concrete architecture are now overgrown with local vegetation, and the crowds that now frequent the park are typically families with strollers and umbrellas, rollerbladers and cyclists. Only the giant stone grandstands that remain really serve as an indicator of the scale of the energy and competition that created the venue...and they are impressive. Even with a nearly-annual World Cup being held here, there is very little to suggest that the lake is much more than a quiet recreational facility for locals and their families to enjoy.
Then the Americans crash the party.
After practice yesterday as a means to combat the jet-lag doldrums, most of the Women's Team took a swim in the lake off the docks. We were joined by the men's pair as they finished their workout...they docked their boat and promptly jumped in the water themselves without even taking oars out. It was a wonderful way to end the afternoon and a huge morale boost for everyone. There is talk of taking another post-practice swim this afternoon.
It seems that we are joined by a few other elite international athletes from Chile, Thailand and possibly (?) the female single sculler from Azerbaijan (I swear...I would recognize that uni anywhere because it is the one I covet the most for trading this year). And of course a few colorful locals...such as the 70+ gentlemen who were out for a spin in their wooden 2X this morning wearing matching magenta polo shirts. The stroke seat whipped out a pretty impressive Canon DSLR on the dock after their row as we were getting oars and requested a few photos of Stesha and me. Not with them...just of us standing on the dock. Flexing.
Anyway, on to more important things: mainly my current video editing crisis. In an act of personal liberation, I decided to take this trip to Europe with only my iPad, leaving my MacBook Pro at home (and all my work files that are stored on it as well). I decided to do this as an opportunity to take some time away from work, to relax, and focus on my "real job" while at Worlds. The only things I wanted to be able to do were: email, blog, Facebook and be able to upload photos and videos. I believed, foolishly, that I would be able to do all of that with just a simple purchase of the iPad camera connection kit. However, the wonderful HD movie files that are created by my little Kodak Playsport camera are not compatible with my iPad. I cannot make videos!!! I spent all day yesterday furiously searching for a solution on Mac help forums, the App store and finally a Hail Mary Google search...with no positive results. I need to be able to convert MOV files to MPG4 in order to edit them on my iPad. The trick is I need to be able to convert them WITH my iPad, not on a second machine (because I don't have a second machine...that's the whole point). I have iMovie, I just need the content! If anyone has any ideas on how to make this work...I'd be much obliged. Otherwise no videos from Worlds this year...
Back to the course again this afternoon for another spin. The boat is going well, when I can steer it straight, and when I can hear Stesha's calls from bow. I keep telling her that I'm getting older and it's harder for me to hear all the way in the front, but she doesn't seem to be sensitive to the needs of us geriatrics on the Team. Kids these days.
Long Live the Dream,
P.S. Speaking of geriatrics, Coach Volpenhein's birthday was this week, so be sure to wish him a happy 50th!