The One I Didn’t Want to Write

I don’t want to write this post.  I don’t want to, and I haven’t wanted to since NSR 1 finished up on Saturday morning.  I’ve had a lot of dark and complicated emotions in the past 48 hours, and I haven’t wanted to articulate them.  I even thought, I don’t have to write about it.  I thought, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.  And I don’t.  I don’t have to write it, and I don’t have to explain anything.  NSR selection is as transparent and completely out-there as anything else that we do on the National Team.  It is full out, pure, side-by-side racing with officials and spectators and everything is all right there in front of you.  It doesn’t need interpretation, or subjectivity, or anything at all, because this is what we do.  We race.  You cross the line, and you have a result.  That result sets the tone for the rest of your spring and summer selection and is the first step toward making the World Championship Team at the end of the season.
So even though I don’t want to write this post, and I don’t have to, I do.  I want to set my tone.

This result was not what I wanted.  And this is where it gets complicated.  Because there are lots of people–my teammates–who would have loved to have raced to second place at the NSR.  Lots of people who would have been really happy with that result, because on Saturday they were 3rd or 4th, or 10th.  But I am not one of those people.  It’s complicated.  But it’s not delicate.  Racing is not delicate, so I’m just going to dive in.

NSR1 results

I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed because I feel like Kerry and I had a very special opportunity over the past year.  We had an opportunity to train together in the pair, exclusively, for the past four months in order to get faster.  We were given that chance to work together, and skip the process of rotating through partners, and seat racing, and figuring out what to do and who to do it with.  It was a gift. A rare gift.  And it was such a pleasure.  We continued to get to know each other, and get closer as teammates and as friends.  We learned more about rowing the pair and working together as a team.  We continued to learn how to trust each other, and to communicate when things were going well and when they weren’t.  We got faster, fitter, stronger.  We had this awesome chance to do all of those things, and just act and train like a pair.  I really enjoyed it, and I never took it for granted.  But, when it came time to put all of that to work–that time, and energy, and development and focus–it wasn’t enough.  The work we did wasn’t good enough.  I know that we both benefitted from the experience of rowing and training together over the past year.  But it feels like we wasted our opportunity.  It feels like we are a disappointment.

I’m sad.  I’m sad because after all the time we have spent together, it may be time for Kerry and I to do different things.  We may still train in the pair together, and we may not.  Before the NSR, I knew what to expect from training, and that was: Kerry.  Kerry every day.  And now, I don’t know.  I do know that I always look forward to getting in to the boat with her, and anyone who has rowed for a while knows that that is not something that comes along very often.  And I can’t help feeling like the trip we took last summer was dependent on a certain element of magic; in that there are certain experiences that can only materialize when things just -click- or work out in some cosmic, organic way and exceed all of your wildest expectations beyond explanation.  The romance of it, the idealism, is incredibly addictive because it too, is so rare in our world of physics, numbers, matrices and systems.  Letting go of the magic… is very hard. I know how special it is to find it, and to have found it again after many years without it, makes it that much harder to let go.   If we do end up on different paths this summer, I’m really going to miss training together.  Moving on to a different boat, or a different crew that might not include Kerry is hard.  Knowing that I could have earned a seat with her, but that I failed to do so, is sad.

I’m happy.  I didn’t want to lose to anyone at the NSR.  But if I had to lose to anyone, I’m glad I lost to someone who is absolutely awesome.  I said that Kerry and I got faster.  We did.  We got faster, had a great race in the final, and there is still a pair from our group who is faster than us.  That means:  they are really fast.  Elle and Felice have been very consistent and very fast all winter, and we knew going in to racing that they were going to be very competitive.  We were right.  Elle is, in my opinion, the strongest female rowing athlete in the world, and without question the strongest woman on our team.  Felice has done her fair share of pair rowing, and is a two-time U23 gold medalist and two-time U23 world record holder in the pair.  Together, they are quite good. They proved that they are the fastest combination in our group, and that they have what it takes to be competitive this summer.  I’m happy that our group was able to produce a combination with that kind of speed, and that in the process, the whole group has improved and gotten faster.  It means good things for our USA W2-, and for the rest of our crews.  I am genuinely happy to have been a part of that, and to have contributed to our team being better and stronger than ever.

I’m uncertain.  Last year gave me a glimpse back in to the sweet, sweet world of self-selection.  I’ve had three seasons in my career during which I have won an NSR and gone on to race in that boat at the Olympics or World Championships.  It is divine.  Not only do I love and prefer small boats, but avoiding the process of camp selection is a luxury that only a few athletes get to enjoy by self-selecting themselves through the NSR.  You win, you qualify, you’re in. Simple.  Clear.  If you don’t, you get to go through the subjective process of camp selection that can be long, confusing, and… well, really shitty. Coming second at the NSR is the best possible result you can ask for if you can’t win.  But it does mean that you are much more likely to end up at big boat camp, and I can’t say that I missed that experience last year.  Added uncertainty:  8+? 4X? 4-?  None? Only time will tell.  Stressing about it begins: now.

I’m proud.  My team is amazing.  They impress and surprise me all the time.  I could not ask for a stronger, more dedicated group of athletes to surround myself with and to lift me up when I am being dramatic and over-analytic.  These women are truly, truly great.  It has been very special to see the group grow and develop over the past three years.  I will fight for them, harder than anyone else, when the time comes.

I’m lucky.  I’m healthy.  I’m learning.  I have teammates and coaches who allow me to play the game.  If I keep working, I will have more opportunities.  I know how few days remain between myself and the end goal, and I know how fast they are going to fly by.  I have the love and support of my friends, my family and so many amazing people.  This is hard, but it’s not everything.  There is more to come.

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–MK

 

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4 responses to “The One I Didn’t Want to Write

  1. Dear Megan I would like to plaude you for the courage that you showed by talking about what you consider a defeat.
    I have been reading your beautiful blog for a while and I enjoy your writing, but I feel that this is a particularly well written piece that I would like to show to many of my former and present athletes.
    I agree on most of what you wrote. I just would like to encourage you and your partner not to give up.
    To build a fast crew it takes years and too often here in the States we are ready to give up at the 1st failure (although I don’t consider this a failure). As you said it you faced some of the toughest competition in the world at this trial. I think that whatever is going to happen what you learned by rowing the pair will help you in the future. You lost 1 race by 2 seconds that in a pair is a really small margin. I think there is potential maybe is time to sit down with your coach and your partner and see what is needed to squeeze few more seconds out of the boat and give it another try. Remember that some of your potential opponents outside the US are training in the same team boat for years.
    Obviously it’s smart of you to be pragmatic for the time be and find another temporary solution, but I don’t think you should consider this an experiment that is over.
    Best of luck.
    Marco

  2. Hello Megan —

    When I’ve fallen short in my athletic goals (too many times, alas!), the following has always provided me support in the present and fierce inspiration for the future:

    “To enter the arena, make the attempt and pursue excellence.”

    — Olympic documentary filmmaker Bud Greenspan on the Olympian ideal

    That’s what you have done. Take genuine pride in it.

    Keep on keepin’ on,

    Richard

  3. Hey Megan,
    #1 C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S

    #2 take it as what it is: the next challenge
    Other olympic medal winners that you know, lost that chance and retired … at least in Germany’s Sculling Team (male & female)
    #3. If you think you both had given all then go on and do not hesitate to look back with an proud eye

    one big point you made is: you even write about things that are hard to go through or might feel like a defeat. You share your thoughts and heart in almost every Situation even the more uncomfortable ones where others tend to prefer the silence. They wrote each week before their national selection, each day and race up to the final … and then there is nothing than silence for months.

    You learned your lessons well and that is the real big progress – at least in the long run. That’s what your readers here could see: at least how you improved your writing over the years.

    If you are hesitating then look back to your BREISACH days and your way since then. Can you remember your first thoughts about coming from the single scull to the pairs?
    Do you really gonna think about a future in a quad?

    Stay hungry, nothing big has been lost

    LONG LIVE Y O U R DREAM

    WOLF

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