So once again I have taken a few days to decompress, think, and rationalize how I feel about our race on Thursday. Despite everything that happened this year (different… though equally ridiculous as last year’s story), coming 5th in the quad was every bit as disappointing. A lot of what I struggled with accepting at last year’s World Championships were things that were out of my control. This year as a crew we gave away our shot at a medal by not commanding the one thing we could on Thursday: our rowing.
The water was absolute shit on the day of our final. Watching any videos of the racing on Thursday it’s quite clear that the conditions were not good for racing, and the fairness of the course was questionable, at best. The warm up area was unrowable, and conditions were certainly not any better than the Sunday prior, when racing had been canceled. I don’t think anyone should have had to race a World Championship Final in that water.
As a crew we hashed it out and acknowledged that the conditions were not going to be good, and that we were prepared to do the best we could with what we had. I have never liked rowing in bad water, and probably never will, but I was committed to lining up and bashing it out with my teammates. As the race unfolded, we rowed a very poor technical race and never really found a way to stop fighting against the water. Muscling through the conditions worked for about 500 meters, but traps and delts alone aren’t going to get you through a full 2k, so the field just continued to slip away past the 1000m mark.
Afterwards, I furiously humiliated, and then I was really angry that I had allowed my chance at a World Championship to be dictated by something as stupid as the conditions on the course. All I could think about was how I couldn’t understand why we’d had to race in water like that; and why we struggled so much more than the other four crews in front of us. I was angry that no coaches or officials had petitioned to delay or cancel racing in order to provide athletes with the fairest possible racing conditions. And ultimately, comparing my result this year with my result from last year, I couldn’t help but feel angry that it just always seems to be something. Something has to keep me from having my perfect race.
But I know that blaming my 5th place finish on something isn’t going to get me through to 2011. Something didn’t stop me from coming in to the medals on Thursday. I did. I didn’t handle the conditions. I let myself be uncomfortable. I did not perform at the same level as the girls in the GBR, UKR and GER boats. It wasn’t something, it was me. And after talking about it with my boat mates, we all feel that we didn’t handle the water well enough. Period.
And I accept that. I am not happy about it, but I accept that I am not ever going to be satisfied with that race and that Final, because I didn’t perform my best. The one difference between last year’s race and this year’s race was that in spite of everything, last year I felt like I did everything that I could in a bad situation to have my best race. It just wasn’t good enough. This year, I felt like I let that best part of me be overcome by a circumstance–a circumstance out of my control–and I can’t be proud of that.
Looking back on the race now, the racing almost seems surreal. It didn’t feel like my Worlds Final. I felt like a track runner entered in the 2 mile and when I showed up got told the last minute that I was running a steeplechase instead. Somehow it wasn’t what I had seen for myself, even though we knew well in advance that Karapiro was going to have challenging, crappy water. The next two years have to be spent on improving a lot of things; not the least of which has to be continuing to develop my ability to adapt to absolutely everything that happens between launch and dock. Since we’ve already covered injury and extreme weather, the only things remaining on my checklist are: equipment failure and cosmic event. I wonder which one I’ll get next year.
In spite of my disappointment and hatred of the actual racecourse, this World Champs was a very memorable experience from my time spent as a spectator after my racing was done. I spent Sunday’s A Finals in the grandstands, and listening to the Kiwi support for their home crews was truly awe-inspiring. I was so happy to hear such impressive cheering for our little sport.
Also… really great party this year. Up there with the best of them.
This will be my last racing blog from New Zealand, as I’m already on the South Island with my family to do some touring before heading back to the States. I may or may not post updates while traveling… this is my vacation, after all.
Congratulations to all USA crews for surviving this disgustingly long training cycle, and coming to New Zealand to put it on the line. It was great, as always, to see the Team come together for these few short days in order to share the World Championships experience. I’m so proud of all my teammates for coming here and representing the USA.
And thank you to everyone for Tweets, emails, texts ETC. during and after racing… I appreciate it so much!
Now, grab your helmets and grip the ripcord: Olympic Qualification starts pronto and it’s going to be a short, wild ride. Hang on.
Long Live the Dream,
P.S. for those of you concerned about it… the 2010 LIST is still in the works… and it is HOT!!!