We will be racing in the Final on Wednesday for a shot at an Olympic Medal.
But let’s back up a bit: racing at the Olympics is more than just racing for a medal. Just like every other year–there’s a process to medaling, and before you can even think of standing on the podium, or even lining up for the Final, you have to take the necessary steps to earn a place in that Final.
Heat: we drew our friends, the Germans, for our heat on the opening day of racing. We have raced the Germans a lot over the past two years and they are always fast, so it was great news to us to have them for our Olympic debut. Along with Poland and China, we were prepared to have a very tough, very close first race down the course at Dorney on Saturday. That is what we ended up with–fighting all the way down until about the last 500 when we fell off the pace and ended up finishing second. That meant a trip to the rep for us, and an extra race to continue to put things together and find more speed as a crew. Since our heat was our first international appearance in this lineup, having another opportunity to gain experience and preparation for the final in the rep was not a bad thing.
Rep: Referred to by the BBC commentators none-too-kindly as “the race of death”, the rep was our second (and last) opportunity to earn a place in the Final. On paper we anticipated that this was going to be another very closely fought race. Splits between the two heats of quads from Saturday’s racing showed that crews in the rep were all fully capable of producing a six boat race; then factoring in the intangibles of the pressures of “last chancing” it through the rep and anything was possible, from anyone. We handled the pressure of the situation well, executing our race like we wanted to. We also handled the conditions well–which, according to most everyone, were pretty challenging today. I honestly don’t remember much of the race at all, let alone the state of the water, so I take both of those things as good signs. Once again we slipped back a bit in the closing meters of the race, giving Australia just enough advantage to nip us at the line, so the last quarter will definitely have to be a focus for the Final.
Drug test: I got snagged by anti-doping this morning after my race, putting my record at 2/2 for Olympic Games drug tests. My notifier/chaperone was very sweet–although seemed a little baffled by my casual approach to the whole chaperoning thing. She handed me my bright green and pink lanyard “Anti-Doping Control Station Pass” which I then got to wear around like a scarlet letter for the next thirty minutes. The anti-doping chaperones are all radio linked like secret service here, so we spent some time confirming with mission control that it was going to be ok for me to head back to the team tent to get a banana and a granola bar (and some pants) before going to the doping control station. We were joined shortly thereafter by Dr. Hosea and then lounged about in the Team USA tent (“Welcome, come on in, sorry the place is a mess, we weren’t expecting visitors!”) for a while while I gathered my things and then we strolled over to the station. I watched the heats of the M4- with the other randomly selected athletes and then made my way to my private office with my two anti-doping agents and Dr. Hosea. The process is pretty straightforward–we fill out some paperwork with identifying info etc., produce the sample (pee in a cup–no blood test for me today), process the sample, sign the papers and go on our way. WADA (or at home, USADA) do their part to make the process as simple as possible, but even still, drug testing isn’t my favorite. At least at the Olympics we get a slight change of scenery plus closed circuit race footage and as much Powerade and water as you want!–notable for me was that the sample room with the toilet and sink had reflective surfaces on three of the four walls so it was sort of like peeing in a Fun House (not that I’ve ever done that). Honestly, I’m probably always going to feel like being drug tested is an inconvenience since I would rather be eating, sleeping, cooling down, stretching or doing any other number of things after racing besides peeing in front of a stranger and inevitably spilling some of that same pee on myself or on the table thanks to the awkward flimsy containers that just never seem to work right. But I know, somewhere deep down, that drug testing is an important part of elite sport that keeps things fair and keeps people accountable for their actions and their performance. Happy to oblige, however begrudgingly it may be. And in the end we all had a nice time together today!
In the meantime, I feel like we are keeping busy. The commute to and from the course (even if only once a day) seems to eat up a lot of the day, and then with just a short trip to the gym at the village for an afternoon flush out stretch, the day is gone. There is not nearly the amount of downtime and boredom we had to endure in Beijing, and in some ways I’m grateful for that. In others, I am annoyed that I can’t watch more episodes of Samantha Who? streaming on Netflix here (did I mention how amazing it is having streaming Netflix here??) but in general I am occupied with one thing or anther, and don’t have too much time to get in to trouble or anything else.
People are starting to ask about the List. I will be able to discuss and or confirm/deny following the conclusion of my racing on Wednesday. All I will say right now is that one of my teammates had a phenomenal idea for this year that I’m excited about adding.
I’m happy to be here. Relaxed. Enjoying the experience. The nerves will come on Wednesday, but I am ready for that. I think for us to have our best result on Wednesday, the simpler and more streamlined we can make our approach, the better. We have achieved what we came here to do, which is earn a place in the Final. Now, what we do with that opportunity is up to us.
Thanks to everyone for all the support here, on Twitter and on Facebook. It is so awesome to see the Team USA family coming out in full force as we prepare for our Final in London. Thank you thank you thank you.
Long Live the Dream,