Official USRowing selection has started for the 2013 season with the first two days of the National Selection Regatta #1 being held at Mecer Lake in West Windsor, NJ. We have already raced a 1900m time trial and Heats on Wednesday as well as Semi Finals today. A and B Finals in the women’s single will run on Saturday morning. I am pleased to say that we have a very strong field in the A Final tomorrow morning. I will be racing alongside Elle Logan and Esther Lofgren who are Olympic Gold Medalists, Ellen Tomek is a 2008 Beijing Olympian (with me in the W2X) and Stesha Carlé is a four-time National Team member and two-time World Silver Medalist in the W4X. USTC newcomer Meg O’Leary has had a very strong regatta so far, and will be the only A Final participant with no National Team background.
For some of us, this isn’t our first rodeo and taking a few spins down the 2k course at Mercer is just part of what we do, year after year, as part of the process of making the US Worlds Team. For others–notably Elle and Esther–this is their first go at an NSR in the single. But whether you’ve raced no NSRs or a hundred, there’s always a first time. I remember very clearly my first NSR 1 back in 2009 and it was horrifying (daunting)–up until I got my first complete 2000m race under my belt and I was surprised to learn that racing the single can be fun despite how ungifted I am as a single sculler. The single is a huge challenge and has been a pretty significant roadblock in my athletic development for a long time. I have never been the fastest single sculler at the training center, and while some days are better than others, I still have a long way to go. Some of it is mental–using my experience to find the confidence you need to continue to find speed in the little boat; some of it is technical, as the single is perhaps the least forgiving to those of us who are not finesse athletes; and some of it is physiological, as this year I am still building back into my fitness after having had some time off this fall. None of these things are excuses for me, they are simply the challenges that I acknowledge having to take on every day when I launch for practice in preparation for this regatta so I can continue to learn and get faster every day. As with every sphere in my athletic world–whether it’s the single, the team boats, the weight room or on the erg–I readily admit that I will never be done learning and I am still discovering both limits and releases that I apply to myself. Hopefully my decade-long learning process is still working me ever-closer to the balance that will allow me to have my best race in the final tomorrow against my teammates.
For anyone who may be attending, or just cheering from afar their first NSR, or just want to know what is going on, here’s what I’m talking about:
The National Selection Regattas are a series of two or three (depending on the year) races that are run in the springtime to organize small boat selection in a trials-format for one- and two-person crews. Trials-format* means that everyone shows up, we race heats, semis and a final. Whoever wins, takes all. This year we are running just two NSRs: Women’s and Men’s singles are selected at NSR 1; the Women’s and Men’s pairs, doubles and lightweight doubles are selected at NSR 2 in May. Registration in the regattas is open so anyone with a USRowing membership may sign up to race for an opportunity to be selected in a small-boat crew. Typically there is a good mix of athletes representing the official USRowing Training Centers (mostly National/Olympic Team Members and elite development athletes ID’ed by USRowing), as well as elite athletes who train out of any number of rowing clubs across the country. Everyone’s primary goal is the same: to have the best possible performance at the regatta. But a good performance at either of the NSRs can mean different things to different athletes.
- Route 1 with an NSR win is to take that small boat crew to any of the FISA World Cups during the season and compete for a top-4 finish. A top-4 finish automatically qualifies that crew to be nominated to the 2013 World Championship Team in that boat.
- Route 2 with an NSR win is to use your finish position to either make a two-person crew combination (singles in to a double for NSR 2) or to get invited to a USRowing big boat selection camp. NSR 2 results are typically more important for invitations to 4X or 8+ camp, as selection procedures dictate that the top 2 doubles and top 4 pairs are automatically invited to camp.
- NSR results are also important to athletes as they are one of many evaluative criteria which USRowing uses to allot Direct Athlete Support (funding), Elite Athlete Health Insurance, invitations for residency at the USRowing Training Center or discretionary invitations to big boat camps.
The short answer is: you always want to perform as best you can with every opportunity you are given. A lot rides on these races, despite the fact that they are just one or two steps of many that all athletes have to take if they want to be a part of the World Championship Team at the end of the summer. We all invest a lot of time and energy both on and off the water into preparing our singles, or selecting and fine-tuning two-person crews in order to be as fast as we can at the NSRs.
So. Line up, get ready, and go fast. Watch for me tomorrow morning on USRowing’s live feed of the finals in Lane 2 between Ellen and Esther. I’ll be easy to spot as the only Filippi in the race (and my muppet racing face):
Long Live the Dream,
* notably different than camp selection system where crews are named at the head coach’s discretion.