For a few weeks every year, the best rowers from around the globe congregate in a foreign land for a week or two. Together some of the most fit people on the planet spend time training, racing, eating and sleeping, a life that doesn't feel too different from the one they lead in their home nations.
Although an outsider may be drawn to the racing and results, most of the rowers only race a handful of times over the course of the regatta; it's the day-to-day happenings that are consuming their lives. Unlike row2k, they don't spend all day at the course; many crews don't even see other racing except for what they catch on the water during their warm up or cool down rows. You see, it's sort of like training camp, in a foreign country, that ends with one of the most important seven minutes of their lives. Since it's hard to imagine what it's like being at the World Championships: representing your country, practicing with the best in the world (we hear everyone loves rowing past the Kiwi pair), and taking two naps a day (well maybe you can imagine that part), we spoke to Michael Hwang, coxswain of the USA LM8+ to hear what his day is like.
6:00am: Good morning Chungju! 7am bus to the course today for our morning training session on the water. Had some close calls nearly missing the highly punctual shuttle bus already, so I’m getting an early start this morning.
6:30am: A majority English-speaking countries staying with Team USA at the IBK Training Center (Great Britain, Australia, Germany), so most of the buzz in the dining hall is comprehensible. Pretty standard Western-style food being served: scrambled eggs, bacon, yogurt, toast, jam, etc. I join my boat at one of the far tables—they all look highly sleep-deprived (more so than me, which is pretty impressive to say the least) but luckily are downing coffee by the cups (good thing that it also quenches your appetite).
7:00am: Board the bus. The Australian women are awfully chatty this morning. Most of the U.S. coaches are jamming away to their iPods. Thankfully the scenery (Chungju Dam, rolling green hills, tall mountains in the distance) makes the 25-minute bus ride fly by.
7:30am: We hit the water for our first session. This morning is steady-state and drills. Big boats have to take the outer two lanes of the 2k course during practice sessions, which makes spinning at the top and bottom of the course quite the adrenaline-inducing experience. Think 10-15 boats—most of which are blind, small boats—navigating around one another, all while yelling at each other in opposing, unintelligible languages. This morning we slink on by without too much drama.
9:30am: Bus back to the hotel. Some guys are taking a later bus so that they can go watch some racing, buy some World Rowing merchandise, or—for those who are lucky (read: light)—grab a Korean treat or two from the local food vendors.
10:00am to 4:00pm: In no particular order…lounge about, stay off our feet, nap, get an ice bath, get a physio massage with the US support team, etc. Eat lunch somewhere in there. And who says that rowing does not require good hand-eye coordination? Some of the guys have demonstrated otherwise during friendly bouts of ping-pong and pool.
4:00pm: Bus back to the course for the second training session. There are usually fewer boats out there in the PM practice window. On the docket: short pieces. I get mistaken to be a Korean local this afternoon (I’m Taiwanese). Not the first time this has happened this trip. Many confused stares from the local Korean volunteers when they try and match my face with my USA credentials and clothing.
6:30pm: Return bus to the hotel. Half the boat decides to shower and be more presentable at dinner; others go straight to the dining hall. I get some menacing glares at the food on my plate from my guys during dinner tonight.
8:00 to bedtime: Sit back, read, relax, catch up on e-mail (read: Facebook), and get ready for bed. It is an honor to be here representing the United States, and the boat is soaking and living up every second of the experience.