Last days in Italy before heading into London

Australian Rowing Team Loading & Leaving the European Training Centre 

The final days in Gavirate were fantastic. A mix of weather, water and training experiences. Our last week saw a little unloading, not much just a few less work loads. Kilometres stayed up and intensities were challenged. Boat speeds were focused on with clear intention driving some great outcomes. Last night I had my last great pizza for a while I think. This week I enjoyed my last great gelati. Could be my last row on Lago di Varese. Might be last bike ride in Italy. Could be my last time training with the Australian rowing team. Sure I have no idea but it did hit me this week that possibly this is my last of a few things and I am ok with that either way.

Lightening Storm over Varese on last night
So this week then has involved more than some possible lasts.

After posting a video during the week of some paddling it was funny to see the comments. We have without doubt worked on rowing the boat as fast as we can. The style is similar to early days Oarsome Foursome who also worked to maximise boat speed for effort. We have focused on many things but one clear thing stands out to me. When we set ourselves to engage in getting energised about boat speed and efficiency we enjoyed great rewards. What followed was a collective organising of form, function and style that came from clearly targeted intent and action. Things is its been done before by others and we are realising it as a team now. Its been a wonderfully insightful journey with ups and downs. Loads of learning and at times frustration. 

Out on Lago di Varese was not all hard work. Wilber just hanging out on the bow deck must have been working to hard in one of our efforts.

From a movement perspective I will attempt to describe what I have felt and seen within the boat. 

**This I have had difficulty explaining but I must share as its important in contrasting experiences

To begin I must acknowledge no two strokes are the same. Sure we have trained to make each stroke effective, powerful, long, loose, rhythmical, involved care for the boat, deliberate, fast, easy and flowing. Still no stroke is the same. Even during times of begin what could be described as in the groove I have noticed subtle differences. On the outside the water obviously changes and conditions differ, but within we could be forgiven for trying to make each stroke the same. Yet each one is new and different and through letting go of the previous and any in the past I have found it easier to maintain speed. This is hard to explain but in the past I can recall a build up of pressure as I have with a crew strung a heaps of great strokes together. The focus to make the next one as good as the previous. Make them the same thats how to keep the boat going fast. Yet the concept of the same, an expectation of an accumulation of ideal, perfect and same strokes becomes pressure. With each stroke came an over laying of memory and further layering of need and expectation for keeping it together and not letting it go. Pressure would build and so to tension until finally at some point a slight mistake would happen. A slight glitch or error would unhinge the fabric of sameness and then the battle of those together and right strokes would fight against what was now happening which was off or not right. In the past I can recall that this was not always the case but I probably didn't recognise or understand it like I do now. The mistake or glitchy stroke or strokes was a release after things became tight. It was a natural thing to occur with the approach. The difference I have noticed now is this still happens at times but this recent experience has involved a number of moments quiet different. 

All still able to smile during the heavy training. 

Recently I was sitting in the boat and stroke after stroke was letting go. Each stroke was new and with each stroke I found I listened better and was feeling more. Each stroke was vivid and distinct and I had no sense of the accumulating effect I described above. The subtle joy I felt every time my blade released the water was very cool. As my breath left me so to did the stroke and I felt like I just sat there in the glory of the speed created with the guys. The boat was on the front of the bottle (or wave). My handle just went away with easy momentum and lead me to the font as once again I let go and settled into the rhythm of the boat with the guys. I felt taller in the boat and rangier as we set off with the seats sounding in time. Once again I let go and as the boat slide under us I felt no resistance to reach forward and take a deliberate front turn and catch. Once again I let go and together we slide our hips back with speed and drive as the hang gripped and create a wonderfully dynamic tension through my body. Not the sort of tension of muscles but forces from feet, through hips, to bowed bodies and long arms hooking the handles. Again I let go and felt the surge of speed from the shell as it speared forward with energy and intent. The action has felt so good when we settle into our rhythm and with feedback from the stoke coach at my feet I some time have almost giggle or laughed out loud as we have hit a sweet spot, a high note and a cord of resonance that we have all remarked on. Sure we have made mistakes and not even come close to the feeling above but many times we have hit this moment together. When we have I have felt like it had no end, no accumulation or build up or pressure. I have felt like each stroke is different and have been happy to leave each one behind for the joy of what the next one brings.  So we have rowed many great strokes but they have passed and I don't feel like we are relying on a concept of 'because we have, then there is a better chance we will'. Rather I feel like we are prepared because we are ready to row each stroke based on what each stroke requires to make the boat go fast with out pressure but with information, energy, intent and action each will be what they are. Not good or bad just what they need to be to make the boat do what we have planned and discussed.

Moving together as we head back to the Gavirate sheds.
So I don't know I could be imagining it all but I like what we have done thus far and have really enjoyed our training. Its been bloody solid but I feel like I am personally in a good space and have seen the guys come so far since we first came together.

We have worked a lot on space during the recovery. Here doing square blades we are enjoying the space and boat run.
Italy and more importantly Gavirate has been great. I have loved it hear every time I have come here to train. To have been able to share this quiet and beautiful part of the World with my family of a few years now has been a joy. We all have some great memories and experiences for staying here while I have trained. The Australian rowing team have been very fortunate to not only have come here for years but to have recently had a place like the ETC built is an amazing benefit. We are all very luck to have been here.

Now we travel to London and the team is packed up and ready to go. Once we land the circus will begin. The real work is a head of us as everything can come unstuck quickly if not handled well and managed well. Now is not the time to become conservative or to loose clarity about the most important things. I am looking forward to getting there and enjoying some great racing.


Unknown said…
Yes - this is surely interesting stuff. And Drew your flow of words seems more or less meditative - I mean like the same feeling when repetitive machine-like smooth strokes creates emotions.
It's more or less like Nietsczhe put it: “When one rows, it is not the rowing which moves the ship: rowing is only a magical ceremony by means of which one compels a demon to move the ship.”
I'll put my money on the AUS four any day.
Lots of speed at the Olympics from Nikolaj, Denmark
Chris Hammon said…
Shit Drew, Thats what I've been doing wrong all these years!

Mate you sound like you are in a great place right now. All the best for London.

Tell the coach to remember the little people.
Kate C said…
Drew, I love reading your posts, I particularly love that after all of your years on the water you are willing to extend yourself and seem to find joy in each new stroke in the water.

We'll be cheering from afar.
Wishing all of the crew the best strokes of their lives in the coming weeks.
Unknown said…
Far less spelling mistakes, and such an awesome story so far!

Good luck guys, kick some butt
Andrew Ward said…
Hey Drew,

Love your blog and it sounds like you have really nailed the preparation. My friends and family are rooting for you. AW (5th Wiggle...)
Gavin said…
Looking forward to seeing you row in the heats a week on Monday at Dorney. Will be there cheering you guys on!
Anonymous said…
GO AUSSIE FOUR good to see use are having fun! hope you 4 have a fun race. good to see chappo repin SRC.

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