the Shark Tank

It’s been some time since I’ve taken the time to blog about what has been going on.  I wrote a long post about the NCAA championships some weeks ago and never posted it; I went through some erg testing and selection prior to Lucerne which were a little underwhelming and uninspiring; Lucerne was fun this year but not my best performance; and in general I’ve felt really detached from my blog and continuing to write my story over the past few months.   I have found my creative energies preferring outlets in my gardening, yoga, and various artistic and organizational projects around the house.  Part of the detachment has been that the deadline I have been giving myself for the past year about making a decision about Rio is nigh… well, passed now, actually.  But now that I am on the other side of 2013 Team Selection, I am still no closer to a decision on whether or not I want to spend the next three years doing what I did this year–and the past six years before that.

2013 is the post-Olympic year.  This means one of two things: to young athletes, it’s a wide-open door.  For veterans, it’s a rare opportunity to take a few percentage points of pressure off of ourselves in order to let our bodies cope with the stresses of preparing for, competing in and recovering from, the Olympics.  I didn’t expect for 2013 to be a walk in the park – the American system doesn’t work that way.  But I did expect to get by a little more on experience and a little less on my physiology numbers since my fitness took a pretty hard hit during my time off in September, October and November.  Even with that in mind, 2013 has been tougher on me in a lot of ways that I couldn’t have predicted, and I’m approaching the end of the season feeling exhausted, still out of shape, and wondering if I have three more years in me.

Selection for the W4X was especially hard on me this year.  Not particularly intense, or even more physically demanding than it was last year (it may be a long while before I go through something like that again, if ever.) But emotionally, it was even less fun than usual.  Our personnel for selection camp consisted of a two-time Olympic gold medallist, an Olympic gold-medallist, three of the Olympic bronze crew from last year, and one multi-Worlds medallist.  Overall, a very accomplished and competitive group of six athletes for four seats.  No matter what happened, someone very qualified was going to be cut from the 2013 National Team in the post Olympic year and that was very difficult to process.
A National Team alumnus said to me once, “it’s fun when you finally transition from hoping to make the Team to expecting to make it.”  That was several years ago now, and I’ve always remembered him saying it.  Not because I have ever expected to make a Team per se, but because my expectations for myself and for the selection processes for Camp have certainly changed over my many years in Princeton, and I do come to expect certain things around this time every year.  I expect that tensions will be high, and judgment about when to offer support to teammates and when to offer them space will have to be exceptionally fine-tuned.  I expect that I will be minimally productive, and I will nap much more of the time.  I expect that new athletes making their first team will be excited and that I shouldn’t ruin that for them by being cynical and twisty.  But I also expect that athletes returning to the Team with Olympic medals will not be seat raced off the Team.

Welcome to American Women’s Rowing.  That’s selection.  Our Team is relentlessly strong, deep and competitive.  Numbers are continuing to drop this year leaving the erg scores from the 2012 Team in the dust.  PTC remains a shark tank of talent for women’s rowing and its athletes are only going to continue to get bigger, stronger, younger, and more talented.  Selection margins are going to get narrower, and the advantage of experience is going to begin to drop off.  Which is precisely why I wanted to wait until the end of this season to make any decisions about continuing to train through 2016.   I have written before that I hate selection.  I hate the emotional stress that goes along with watching my teammates struggle and suffer, questioning my own place on the Team, and essentially being miserable for a string of days that also happens to involve doing multiple racing pieces per session and three hour rowing practices.  Even having come out on the right side of the selection process for the past four years, I still have doubts about my ability and desire to go through it again.  Even though I know selection is hard, and I know I hate it, and I know I don’t always understand or agree with my coaches’ decisions,  I still somehow didn’t expect that selection for returning Olympic medallists in a post-Olympic year was going to be so unforgiving and that some of us were really going to be left home.

The challenge now is to balance how much I hate selection with how much I love racing in order to put all of that absolutely behind me and focus on what lies ahead:  I am geared up to row the W4X with Susan Francia, Esther Lofgren, and Kara Kohler.  I raced to silver at World Cup 1 with Susan and Esther, and of course raced in London last year with Kara.  According to the USRowing press release, all of my boatmates are 6’2″ (maybe not totally correct) and I am listed as 5’10” (correct).  So I guess I will be packing my stilettos and my three seasons of experience rowing the W4X to get us down the course at Chungju and hopefully up on the podium.  The talent, experience and ability is all there, so it’s up to us to put all of those pieces together over the next two weeks to make the quad as fast as it can be.  We owe it to our teammates staying home this year to be fucking fast.

More to come from me as things heat up over the next two weeks.

Long Live the Dream,

–MK

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One response to “the Shark Tank

  1. Good luck in Chungju! Thanks for finding the energy to post. Your candor about the camp experience is appreciated. All the best…

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