World Champions!! posted by: Jamie Redman (September 4, 2011)
Celebrating World Championship
Six minutes, three seconds: the past ten months of training, the hundreds of kilometers on the water, the gallons and gallons of sweat… and it all came down to the six minutes and three-point-six-five seconds. The competition was tight, and the rowing wasn’t always pretty, but when those six-odd minutes were over, it was the American bowball that crossed the finish line first.
At the close of our prerace pep talk, Coach reminded us of Olympic qualification. “Just try to get top five,” he said, only half-joking. We were strong and fast enough to contend for the gold, he told us, but if a catastrophe should occur (as it did in 2003), we should fight to the death for that fifth qualifying position. So when we crossed the 500m mark in fifth place, I suppose Coach might’ve worried that we took his final advice a little too seriously!
Great Britain, Netherlands, Canada, Romania, and China were all extremely fast off the start, and the first few minutes found us in the back of the pack (eek!). However, Mary kept us from panicking or becoming frazzled. Our lane was right in between Great Britain and Canada; the two English-speaking coxswains could’ve rattled our concentration, but we had prepared for the distractions during our pre-race visualization… amidst all the yelling coxswains and splashing oars and cheering spectators, Mary’s voice was the only sound we heard. And because all eight rowers were absolutely focused on their coxswain, when she told us to move, we MOVED!
Gradually, seat by seat, we worked our way back through the field. We pushed our way through Great Britain and the Netherlands, but the Canadian crew was determined to hold our charge. As we crossed the 1500m mark, we were neck and neck. I don’t remember too much of the next ninety-seconds: exercise-induced amnesia, if you will. My lungs were burning, I couldn’t feel my legs, I heard Mary call for the final build, and I just prayed that we would make it to the line before my arms fell off!
But all of our training paid off during that final sprint, and the Americans earned the gold medal by point-seven seconds! An absolutely thrilling race!
As we stood on the medals dock and listened to the national anthem, I felt so honored and proud to be wearing the red, white, and blue. This 2011 Final was a telling preview of the tight and intense racing we can expect at the 2012 Olympics. This was not an easy victory for the Americans: Canada fought us for every single inch. In fact, every boat in our final displayed impressive speed and racing strategy, as evidenced by the tight margins between first and fifth place. We will have to work especially diligently during the next eleven months to defend our title!
What’s on tap for the next few weeks? Well, under the new Worlds schedule, there are still two days of finals. So I plan to cheer on my teammates, enjoy the sunshine, and sample Bled’s many tourist attractions. Then Mom and I are off for a week’s tour of the Slovenian Alps (!!), before I head back to New Jersey to recommence training. Thank you so much for all your messages and positive support! I could not have achieved this success without all your encouragement!
P.S. I just discovered that I might or might not have added the wrong postage to all my postcards. Oops. But never fear, they should arrive by Christmas…
The Waiting Game posted by: Jamie Redman (September 1, 2011)
Redman at start of Monday's heat
With only a day until our Final, it’s not surprising that we’re all starting to feel a little bit antsy. At our team meeting last night, Coach gave us some sage advice for surviving the next twenty-four hours: “Rest, stay healthy, and try not to drive each other crazy.” Wise, wise words.
Everyone has a different method for coping with the restless energy and anxious excitement that thrives in this prerace atmosphere. Some rowers find outlet through cerebral pursuits, and spend their hours reading books or solving crossword puzzles. Others become rowing aficionados, and eagerly watch the live feed in the hotel lobby, offering their opinion on all matters of technical advice and racing strategy.
But for many of us, these pre-race hours witness an unusual (and often hilarious!) regression into childish distractions. A prime example: at the 2009 Worlds in Poland, my roommate and I spent hours creating an elaborate “tapestry” with the hotel stationary and a deluxe box of Crayola crayons. Juvenile? Perhaps. But did it keep the pre-race jitters at bay? Absolutely!
The past few days in Bled have seen some similar antics. The evening after our heat, still a bit loopy from our postrace nap, we spent an entire bus ride bedazzling ourselves (and several unsuspecting athletes!) with “Happy 4th of July!” stickers. Several boatmates delightedly grew a crop of sponge animals in the bathtub. And last night, Esther’s collection of rubber duckies made an appearance during our ice bath in the alpine stream, much to the amusement of chuckling onlookers. As for myself, I find myself enthralled by the vintage children’s movies on Slovenian cable: I sat captivated for almost ninety minutes as I watched a ten-year-old Elijah Wood discover the meaning of “family” under the guidance of Bruce Willis in a pink Easter Bunny costume. (I think the movie is called “North”… definitely Oscar-worthy! ha).
In twenty-four hours, this waiting game will be over, and we’ll go back to the educated, sophisticated, and mature young women we are. But until then, we’ll do what we can to stay sane, even if sanity requires that we resort to childlike pastimes.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Disney movies to get back to…
And it’s almost race time! posted by: Jamie Redman (August 28, 2011)
Front row seats at the starting line
With every practice, we see more reminders that racing is *just* around the corner. Yesterday, the huge Jumbotrons arrived, and the bubble-making apparatus was installed along the finish line. Classical music blared from the loudspeakers as local dancers practiced their routines for the Opening Ceremonies. This morning, the inflatable meter-markers were put up, and the EuroSport cameramen began testing out camera angles. Several athletes nearly had heart attacks when they passed the finish line right as officials tested the decibel level of the finish line horn! (“honk. honk! HONK! HONKHONK!” )
The excitement is palpable… all the countries have arrived, the boatyard is full, and the race course is crowded with practicing crews. I have the utmost admiration for the course marshals making this event possible: running the World Rowing Championships is no small feat! Almost 450 crews, representing 68 countries, are entered into 27 different events. With so many boats practicing on the course, it’s not surprising that there have been a few close calls… however, I’ve found that any language barrier can be overcome with some frantic yelling (“Hey China/Italy/Cuba, look out!!!”). Kudos to Mary, our fearless coxswain, who bravely asserts our place in the traffic pattern while keeping us safe from collisions!
Spotted at the race course: a Belarusian pair-double combo (a “pairouble?”). One boat, four rowers, two sweep riggers, and two sculling riggers… I’m not quite sure what they were doing, but it looked like they were going fast! Another funny note: the American rowers have bought out all the peanut butter from the local grocery store. Hopefully they restock soon, lest we go into PB withdrawal!
Lake Bled continues to impress us with its stunning scenery, even though we’ve lost the glassy, calm water of the past few days. The Slovenian heat wave has broken (thank goodness!), but with the cooler temps comes a gusty alpine weather. Alas. But we welcome the opportunity to train in wind-- because who knows what Mother Nature will have in store for us on race day? That being said, our weather woes are miniscule compared to those of the teammates and friends on the East Coast. We’re constantly checking for updates on Hurricane Irene, and we’re all praying for your safety! Best of luck weathering the storm!
The W8+’s first race is on Monday, at 11am local time/5am Eastern time. So excited!! You can keep track of Team USA’s progress on www.worldrowing.com, or you can always trust www.row2k.com for comprehensive racing coverage!
Learning to be Lazy: Mastering the Taper posted by: Jamie Redman (August 24, 2011) This week begins perhaps the most difficult part of our Worlds training program: The Taper. Tapering involves the gradual reduction of mileage and increase of recovery time in the final days before racing begins, with the goal of reducing the accumulated fatigue of the past few weeks. However, to a group of women accustomed to high-volume, high-mileage, and time-consuming workout schedules, the taper week can leave us antsy and chomping at the bit.
- “You have the morning off tomorrow. You get to sleep in.”, Coach will tell us. - “Ok”, we reasoned, “that means an hour run when we wake up, right?” - “Nope, I want you to stay off your feet. Recover.” -“ Ok, ‘recover’. So I guess that translates to thirty minutes or so of light erging, right?” - “No, it means rest.” - “Wait… we aren’t supposed to do anything?” - “That’s right. A morning off.” - *baffled silence*
To the rational side of my brain, tapering makes prefect sense. We’ve already done the hard work—there is no more strength to be gained, no more fitness to be achieved. It’s just a matter of sharpening our fast-twitch muscles and perfecting our final race plan. But to the athlete’s side of my brain, the idea of a “restful morning” is totally and utterly puzzling. After all, it’s in our nature to work hard; it’s how we got to where we are today! (Take a strong work ethic, mix in a few physiological gifts, add some height, and voila! you’ve got all the trappings for an elite rower!)
This is the moment when we just have to trust Coach, trust the training plan, and trust the work of last ten months. So this morning, instead of going on a run around Lake Bled, or a vigorous hike up to the Castle, or even a leisurely tourist stroll through town, I’m going to stay off my feet, sip my tea, and calm that inner voice telling me to go workout.
And because we trained—and tapered!—intelligently, the Americans will arrive at the starting line with fresh legs, a reenergized spirit, and no fitness lost.
Conquering Jet Lag in Munich posted by: Jamie Redman (August 21, 2011)
Hello from Munich!
This week, the American women joined a few of our heavyweight and lightweight men’s boats for a pre-Worlds training camp at the 1972 Munich Olympic Course. Rowing in Munich provides an excellent opportunity for us to overcome jet lag, acclimatize to the conditions, and prepare our game-faces for Slovenia. Aside from a few small boats from Chile, Japan, and Azerbaijan (as well as Munich’s recreational kayak-polo league!), we have the entire course to ourselves, a true blessing when compared to the crowded conditions we’ll probably encounter on the Bled course!
We arrived Wednesday morning, and almost immediately headed down to the course to rig and row. Sunny skies, clear water, calm wind… perfect conditions for our initial post-airline workout! We took a hint from the sunbathers along the lake, and as soon as our practice was over, we all dove, cannonballed, or bellyflopped our way into the water. Glorious! (If it wasn’t for all the “Team USA” workout gear, we could’ve been just any random group of young people, enjoying a summer dip… all that was missing was the Ultimate Frisbee and the barbeque!)
Energized by our row, refreshed by our swim, and caffeinated by the handy-dandy espresso machine in the hotel lobby, we kept the worst of our jet lag at bay. By the next morning, we were ready and rarin’ to go!
When not rowing, we’re either eating, or napping, or preparing for the next practice. The Ibis Hotel has been more than accommodating--- many a concierge might run for cover when several dozen tall, muscular, and hungry athletes pile out from the minivans and make a beeline for the lunch buffet. However, the hotel staff has risen to the challenge, and no one bats an eyelash when the crazy American rowers eat their way through several bread baskets, or hang their clean laundry to dry out the windows, or camp out in the lobby to take advantage of the complimentary wi-fi.
We only have a few practices left in Germany, then we’re off to join the rest of Team USA in Bled. T-minus seven days until racing begins!!
Finally, a huge congrats to all the winners of Pan-Am Trials! Woohoo, you’re headed to Guadalajara! Good work!
P.S. The 2012 Power & Grace Rowing Calendar is ALMOST READY! I’ve seen some of the photos, and believe me, it will be even *more amazing* than last year! We are soliciting corporate sponsorships this year; if you or any brand you know is interested in supporting our fundraising efforts, then please contact me! Go USA!