August 9, 2008: The day of my Olympic heat in the women’s double. After much preparation and anticipation, Ellen and I launched and headed in to the warm up area of the Shunyi Olympic park to execute our pre-race warm up and get ready for our Olympic debut. Things went fairly well and we had a good warm up–things were clicking and we felt loose. As we worked into the last part of our warm up, a 30-stroke piece at race rate, I watched the turnaround opening in the buoy line fly by as we overshot it by quite a bit, leaving us to row 500 more meters before we could turn and head back to the start area. This little addition of 1000 meters to our warm up put us just a bit behind schedule, and we ended up having to row quite quickly back up to the start area, and then very quickly as the time to race start wound down to 5, 4, and then 3 minutes. We ended up pulling on to the race course to find the other five boats aligned in their lanes and waiting quietly for the last countdown call: 2 minutes to go.
Crews must attach themselves to their start pontoon at least 2 minutes before the starting time of their race. [...] Two minutes before the designated start time, the Starter shall announce “Two minutes” and this shall signify to the crews that they are formally under Starter’s orders. (FISA Rules of Rowing)
Fortunately, we had drawn lane 5 for the heat, and only had to cross in front of one boat in order to make it to our lane and get locked on. We did so hurriedly, and our stakeboat holder took hold of our stern with exactly two minutes to go.
In the end, I think it ended up being good for us because it gave us less time to sit on the line and let nerves build before the race started (I can’t say the same for our coach, who may have been a few seconds away from a panic attack waiting for us at the start). We locked on, got our point, were polled, and started. And just like that, we were off.
April 10, 2012: (today) I raced the heat of the United States Non-Qualified Olympic Trials in the W2X. Ellen and I are back together in the double and up to our usual antics like Beijing was only yesterday. Still firing insults back and forth in the boat, taking forever to dock and launch, and so on. And like so many other things, my impeccable timing hasn’t changed a bit. This morning was a virtual replay of our Beijing heat as we warmed up for our race–I had a plan to get us there on time, and it just didn’t quite work out. I watched a little anxiously as my watch ticked closer and closer to race time, realizing with about five minutes to go that we were going to make it to the start line right on time. And so we did. We arrived at the starting docks with three minutes to go, and then turned and got aligned so our stakeboat holder could put her hands on the deck as the umpire announced “two minutes“.
Ellen wasn’t very impressed with our dramatic entrance, but again–we dealt with the circumstances, got ready to race, and then we were off.
Afterwards, we laughed about it. And I took full credit for not giving us more time at the start. As the bow seat in our crew, I have three primary responsibilities: 1) match my stroke 2) make sure we don’t hit anyone or anything (also still working on this one) 3) get us to the start on time. Even with all my experience and all the races I’ve competed in domestically and internationally, I still managed to cut it pretty darn close this morning, and it could have affected our ability to compete.
As we’re getting ready for the final stages of preparation and selection for London, it’s good to be reminded that with as much as I’ve learned over the last four years, it’s never too late to learn from mistakes (even ones that you’ve made before). In this case, it was a relatively minor one that didn’t prevent us from getting the result we wanted. But even so, at this point in the game I don’t want to make a habit of repeating the same mistakes I made four years ago.
All in all, racing went well today. Ellen and I were happy with our piece, and are looking forward to putting together an even stronger piece for our final. Racing will be very close as we narrow the field to just four boats for Thursday’s race through tomorrow’s rep. More rest and recovery between now and then.
See you at the start line on Thursday. A little earlier this time.
Long Live the Dream,