Funday Sunday posted by: Jimmy Sopko (September 2, 2011)
Set for Sunday now
Getting your first race out of the way at any regatta is a relief. The first race at the World Championships in the lightweight 8 is another level all together. Most of the US crews at this year’s world championships have raced this summer and they know who is fast. They also know where they stack up in the mix and have had time to work on things to get faster and make improvements. We went in to yesterday blind.
The lightweight men’s 8 is not an Olympic event. We did not race at this year’s world cup series and yesterday was our first 2k where we lined up against someone. It was a little nerve-racking. We knew that there was speed in this line-up, but what we didn’t know was what everyone else had. The only prior result was that Italy beat Denmark at the Lucerne World Cup 7 weeks ago.
Italy is a perennial powerhouse in the lightweight men’s 8. We knew they were going to be fast and we knew Denmark lost to them, but not by much. Then there is France, whose stern pair won the lightweight men’s pair at the 2010 World Championships in New Zealand. So they’re fast. Then there is Australia, who is returning at least 6 guys from last year’s 8 that placed 2nd, beating the Italians who got 3rd and us, who placed 5th. Basically, everyone is fast.
So our plan was to row our race. We had a malleable race plan based on what we and our coach (Dan Roock) had seen over the past 6 weeks. The tricky part is that whenever we did pieces, they were solo; us against the clock and none of the pressure of another crew screaming next to you, distracting you. So yesterday was our test run.
The test went well. However, Sunday is funday. Everyone will show up with strong intentions of beating us. That is when the race is real and now we have a result against other crews in our event to build off of. The race yesterday was tight and the finals always seem to be a little tighter. We’ll bring our A game and put it all on the line. That’s all you can do.
Spicing It Up Before Racing posted by: Jimmy Sopko (August 31, 2011) Here's a video of us doing a few spice pieces (40 sec on 20 sec off) in preparation for our upcoming races. Our first race is this coming Thursday so we are getting antsy. It's especially tough to watch everyone else begin racing when we are just beginning our taper.
Congrats to all of the crews who have moved on so far and good luck in the rest of the regatta.
Bee Aggressive posted by: Jimmy Sopko (August 26, 2011)
As racing comes closer and closer, the adrenaline begins to flow a little more. We, the lightweight men’s 8, did some 500 meter pieces this morning. We were trying to focus on swinging together and being aggressive. There are some other Slovenian inhabitants bee-ing aggressive as well.
Some of the first Slovenians we met when we got to Bled were the local bees. They are not bashful. They will visit while you are walking, shopping, rowing or running. Austin was stung in between his toes. Nick was stung while rowing and at least 3 others in our 8 alone have been stung. I saw some members of the US heavy men’s 8 dancing around some bees this morning.
Yesterday, as we were preparing to launch on the dock, I was putting my oar in and all of a sudden the dock began gyrating and I heard a lot of commotion coming from behind me. It was Nick and he was trying to swat a bee with the towel he brings in the boat to prevent his water bottle from bouncing around. It was hilarious. Nick was jumping like a monkey and swinging the towel like I would imagine a caveman waving his club. Unfortunately, Nick did not kill the bee and just managed to piss it off more.
I was doing some postcard shopping with Kenny and Nicole Dinion from the LW4x and felt a pinch in my left thigh under my shorts. I lifted the shorts to see what it was and I couldn’t believe it. A bee (more like a yellow jacket because it didn’t die after stinging me) was lodged; butt first in to my leg. It was flying furiously, trying to get away and did not do so until I flicked it. It was funny, except the pain in my thigh began to grow and the humor began to escape me. I couldn’t believe how aggressive that bee was.
The first related story that came to mind was high school basketball. I used to go to all of the Mathews High basketball games to try and socialize. One of the things I remember is the cheerleader cheer (I can’t believe I’m documenting this memory) Be Aggressive, B – E Aggressive, B- E A-G-G R-E-S-S-I-V-E. I can sing it for you some time to get the full affect.
So like the bees, the US Team is hoping to go for broke on the race course and get the job done this coming week. Only 1.5 days until racing starts! Get Aggressive and BEE Aggressive.
Traveling as a Lightweight posted by: Jimmy Sopko (August 21, 2011)
Any kind of traveling is tough as a lightweight, but air cross-continental travel can be brutal. Airports are littered with calorie rich goodies. If you talk to any rower they will tell you that most lightweights have a serious sweet tooth. I, from experience can tell you it is a mental challenge to not inhale sweets all day.
To avoid this predicament I have learned to travel prepared. If I do not bring some food along I WILL end up snacking on trail mix, candy or tuna salad sandwiches (tuna salad in airports is mostly mayonnaise). Trail mix may sound great too, but it is loaded with fat that does not make weighing in 2 hours prior to racing easy. So I bring fruit, vegetables and premade sandwiches. This trip was a pretty good one. I had an apple, a crown of broccoli and baby carrots. Obviously, I don’t think many people could last an entire trip on those foods alone so I do eat some of the airplane food.
Airplane food can be very dangerous. It’s mass produced food, which I’ve had plenty of while in the navy, meaning it’s probably not healthy. However, there are healthier versions. I choose to not eat quite a bit of it as well. Last night’s flight was a choice of bbq chicken and vegetable pasta. I went with pasta. The meal came with pasta, salad, bread, crackers, cheese, ranch dressing and a brownie. I ate most of the pasta, the salad without the dressing (Tim McLaren would be proud), a little bread and of course the brownie. There are a lot of bad calories in ranch dressing and the cheese that I don’t need. The brownie is not the healthiest choice, but everyone needs a vice ;-).
The best part about this entire process is the looks you get from fellow travelers. I happened to be traveling by myself this trip so I didn’t have numbers of other lightweights to reinforce my “odd” eating habits. I was sitting in the Atlanta airport and pulled out a ziplock bag of raw broccoli. A family, just 5 ft away began whispering and giving me odd looks. I almost stood up and bought and icecream cone to raise my self-esteem (j/k), but I stuck to my guns and nibbled on the greens. On the plane I pulled out some baby carrots and received similar looks from my neighbor.
There are some hazards to this healthy eating. In Munich I caught up with the LW2X of Julie Nichols and Kristin Hedstrom and the USA M1x, Ken Jurkowski . We took a flight together to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We arrived, waited for a bit and took a van to Bled. During the ride I was eating some broccoli and Ken made a joke causing me to laugh. Well the laughing caused me to inhale and small bits of broccoli flew to the back of my throat and I began choking. Headline: Rower Dies Due to Broccoli Inhalation.
Thankfully, like parting my hair down the middle, this is just a phase in my life. It seems to come and go in conjunction with my race schedule. Weird, right? Needless to say I won’t be eating this way on the way home!
P.S. We had our first row today. Bled is beautiful and the course is pretty amazing
T-Shirt Time posted by: Jimmy Sopko (August 16, 2011) No Bob, I'm not referencing the Jersey Shore. Duff, who is about to race the LM2x in the PanAm trials is a huge fan of that show. He even got me to watch a few episodes in Chulajuana. What I'm referencing in the title is what every lightweight man thinks about when they are named to the national team: GEAR (or kit for our Oxford coxswain).
I remember when I made my first team. I was so excited to go to Poland and race in the lightweight 8. So many great lightweights before me were able to row in that event and many great lightweights I know never had the chance. I was ecstatic. All nine of us were sitting in the boat bay discussing the paperwork with Margaux Jackson and she said, "are there any questions." Immediately, I thought of "how do we get from the airport to the hotel? What do we wear? Did I really make the US Team?" I didn't express any of these questions, but I thought them. Then one of my closest friends on the team raised his hand. "Yeah, I heard we may be getting track suits. Is that true?" I lost it in laughter. All summer, the heavyweights I knew made snide remarks about lightweights and gear and I resented every little comment. I was wrong and they were right. We are gear whores.
I myself enjoy a new gear package, especially when it's unexpected. Many times, I have been the designer of extra unisuits, vest or any piece of workout clothing I can think of. In fact, I designed this masterpiece. A few of the US lightweight women may be sporting this gem as well. (RIP Seattle Supersonics) Well this lightweight 8 camp has a nickname: Lightweight Gear Camp.
It started off slow, but the gear soon came like an EF5 tossing trees and houses at us from every direction (OKC Reference). First, we were blessed with some HOC gear from Fred Schoch. He was wearing a nice article of clothing and one of my teammates said in a half joking/half serious tone, "Fred, that's a sweet jacket. If you have any extra you should bring some by." Well Fred showed up 4 days later with a box full. It reminded me of Christmas with my 3 brothers, CHAOS. We tore through the boxes like vultures, ensuring that we all had the correct sizes. Then came the boat gear. We tested out a King and Fillippi this year. The King rep gave us all hats and the Fillippi rep gave us all t-shirts. There is a another jacket on the way too. THEN, our coxswain shows up with t-shirts that say Hanover Training Center. Then a few of us got some NYAC gear. Then we got our U.S. team gear packages. We're riding the gear wave and it's not over yet.
Today I started talking to shirt makers about the t-shirts for our big donors for a small donation of $500 dollars you can have one. We have gotten them made in the past and will again this year. Due to an excellent suggestion from our coxswain, Jack, we are going to try to change the design a bit from previous years. I found myself getting a little excited and saying, "I might buy myself one." The problem is that I have huge tupperware full of t-shirts at home. T-shirts from high school, college, the Navy, Pocock, different regattas, blah, blah, blah. My wife, Shaunnah, who I love, is going to kill me if I show up to our apartment in Annapolis with ANOTHER t-shirt. God knows I don't need another one.
The worst part is that I probably will get one. Why? Because I'm a LIGHTWEIGHT.
P.S. from Jack -- as further proof of the obsession Jimmy describes above: somehow unsatisfied with the copious amounts of gear we have already received, 6-seat Nick LaCava saw fit to charm a Black Bear Sculling Camp bucket hat straight off of the head of one of our launch guests ! Perhaps Nick just has a penchant for all things "bucket"...