After several unsuccessful seasons of struggling with 4th and 5th place finishes in sculling events, this year’s USA W4X executed a great race in the Final yesterday and came out with a silver medal just 1.53 seconds behind a strong German crew. The race was just awesome. Again we threw down a stronger first 500 to put ourselves in a better position going in to the body of the race, and once we got to the second 500 just let our training take over. I haven’t seen video from the race but I can tell you that we raced relaxed, composed and mature in our rhythm while staying aggressive as hell. Though I have yet to have my dream race down the course which is a ferocious middle 1500 at a 37 or higher (see New Zealand Women’s Pair), we did row an tough race, consistently overstroking the other boats through the middle which allowed us to push the pace on the lead boat while moving away from the field. (GPS results here).
What I liked about this race, and even about our race in the Rep was that it felt like a race. This might seem strange to say, especially since I’ve been doing this for a while now. But we spend so many hours on the water and on the erg learning how to successfully maximize performance through pacing and executing a plan within specific parameters that it is an entirely different sphere for me to remove the training harness and just perform with no rules or limitations (stroke rate caps are a big one). It may seem like an easy transition to make–racing is simple. But for me, figuring out how to translate my base fitness into a sustainable rhythm that allows everyone in the boat to relax and add as much power as they want to the stroke has been one thing, and then adapting our race plan to not just rely on planned “moves” or surges in the race but to be pushing the pace and our position on every stroke has been a very important second lesson for our crew this year. I think we maintained a good balance of racing within our boat, and also using the positions of other boats to push us and to generate a physical response from our crew. I haven’t ever raced like that in a quad before, so it was very rewarding for me to feel that we had all of that come together for us for this year’s World Championships.
However, even with all of that in mind, I haven’t forgotten that we didn’t win yesterday. Despite a very strong push in the third 500, Germany still had an answer for us coming in to the last quarter of the race, and they out-sprinted us. There was a point where we had the opportunity to take control of the race, and we didn’t. We still have a lot of work to do over the next year if we want to stay in contention for medals in London. It will be a completely different game next year.
But in the meantime, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be excited about this step. The support that we have received from friends, teammates, families and fans has been awesome! I think I can say with some certainty that with the USA’s less-than-stellar record in women’s sculling events, no one was expecting us to do much yesterday. To be honest, I think we even surprised ourselves a bit–which adds something special to the result. But it is a great feeling to finally feel that I’ve made my teammates, coaches and supporters proud. Probably the most unexpected support came from our hotel staff. When I returned from dinner last night, Natalie and I had these waiting for us in our room:
So awesome! (and delicious)
So now the bad news: now that racing is completed for the W4X we are on call to be spares for the W2X who have their semifinal today, and their Final tomorrow. The USA W2X are fit, happy and healthy and there is no reason for concern–but this is Team protocol for us, “just in case”. So despite having an open door to enjoy a successful run at Worlds this year with all the other crews who finished racing yesterday, Stesha, Adrienne, Natalie and myself got back from dinner, put on our pajamas and spent the evening clicking through Row2k photos and watching other [dreamy male athletes] head out of the hotel in droves to celebrate. My favorite part of last night was when an unnamed USRowing staff member approached us in the lobby and asked incredulously: “Girls! Why aren’t you out celebrating? The Canadian Men’s Eight is just across the street, dancing with the oompah band!” Come on buddy, why don’t you just tell me they’re shirtless while you’re at it.
Heartbroken and completely crestfallen I continued to sit in my chair and remember that this is all part of being a good teammate. I kept reminding myself of this late into the night while the sounds of party music and happy cheers drifted into my hotel room from the courtyard below. You’re welcome, Sarah and Kate (and good luck today!!).
Final additions to the List happening over the next three days. Very exciting.
Good luck to the USA W8+ today!
Long Live the Dream,
PS: my video interview for Rowing News can be found HERE