I have survived another year. And so for the second consecutive year, I celebrated my birthday in the middle of a trip with the senior national team. Birthday festivities yesterday for the big 2-6 included: rowing, getting a butt massage, wearing a pretty green and purple t-shirt with a peacock on it, and trying to avoid the question, “so how old are you?”. Overall, I have to say that 25 will probably go down in history as the most epic birthday of my life, but 26 wasn’t bad. Being on social and physical lockdown at the hotel in Poznan limited my activity choices for the day somewhat–but I was greeted with an almost continuous stream of ‘happy birthdays’ from teammates, staff, and competitors from other federations all day yesterday at the hotel and at the course. I guess the lockdown factor contributes to the speed at which ‘birthday girl’ status is communicated between individuals (Facebook also helps). But the day was highlighted by a team serenade of the birthday song at dinner led by the James Twins (complete with sombreros and candles–where they found those I have no idea) and introducing Pass the Pigs to a new generation of players. I got some great messages, cards, snacks and presents from friends near and far yesterday that were all much appreciated and made me feel very loved. I am grateful for having the opportunity to spend my birthday surrounded by a group of such amazing, talented people. It doesn’t get much better than that.
That was Friday. This is Saturday. And in just over 12 hours I’ll have started competition in my first ever senior World Championships–and I’ll be thinking very little about how old I am, or how old I used to be. We’ve drawn our heat for tomorrow’s racing, and it’s a good one. We’ve got Germany, Australia, and the Ukraine. We haven’t seen any of these crews yet this year, as our friends from the German double have opted for a bigger faster boat and will be racing in the quad for this regatta. They will be missed. But in their place are two very capable athletes, and we are looking forward to testing our speed against them tomorrow morning. I don’t know much else about the other athletes we’ll be racing–and I don’t need to. Though I wish I could say that things have been going to plan over the past week and that the USA W2X going to the line tomorrow without a care in the world, I can’t say that. I’ve got plenty of things to focus on and keep together within our own boat for tomorrow’s race, so other rowers’ pedigrees are really of little concern to me at this point. I am thinking only of how to get our double down the course as fast as possible and to beat as many boats as possible in the process. This is what we’ve been training for this year, and our redemption and growth from Beijing starts tomorrow at 11:24 a.m. This may not have been the plan; circumstances may not be in our favor; I may have to fake a lot of things and be more flexible than ever before. But even though I haven’t been consciously training for all of those things, or for everything to go wrong at the World Championships (when all I want is for things to go right), I’ve never felt more prepared to charge headlong into the fray than I do right now. Bring it.

Best of luck to all of my friends and teammates who hit the water tomorrow–let’s hope for some great racing and a nice, quick tailwind!

Long Live the Dream,