Throwback Thursday: Rowing

Going through some old files, came across the visualisation piece I had written for our final race. This was the race we had worked together for 2 years to win. When I read this, I still get nervous! I never recorded big races as had a superstition that the recording may add subconscious extra pressure, plus pressing play was another thing to remember.

Photo credit: cover photo by Benjamin Valsler, Cambridge

The back story…

I moved back from Switzerland after a great autumn coxing and racing there and needed a new crew that wanted to be competitive. I met the Nines boys who had a goal of racing at Henley. The goal was to win a round in two years time. So we got to work.

We were your typical town crew, Okay-ish boat (The Client – part of my heart will forever exist in that shell), we all worked or studied full time, sporadic coaching, and we never had a full 8 due to injury. But we were so hungry, and for some reason, pretty raw. We were also lucky to have a hugely supportive club backing us.

We made it through the Henley qualifiers that first year in 2013 to be knocked out by Vesta. We were on Bucks, they on Berks and we, myself very much included, were inexperienced. We lost. It hurt.

But it was not the end goal so we went back to work. 2014, we pre-qualified and this made all the difference. It changed our view of ourselves, we deserved to race there. We knew what we were doing this year and trained for a week on the course, warming up alongside olympic athletes. I got us the best boat rack I could get – right at the far corner of the boat tent, where it would be quietest and with the least people walking through, and a top rack so our hull would not get knocked. We controlled everything we could.

We did not go to the Town Hall to hear the draw, we were on the water training when our coach stopped us mid-outing. He had a text from Vesta. They were at the Town Hall. They had drawn us. We were on Bucks, they on Berks. We had our chance at a re-match.


Vesta RC Vs. Cambridge 99’s 2014 Thames Challenge. 15.30pm.

Waiting at the start, check footplates, gates, top nuts and empty your water.
Loosen your shoulders and take a deep breathe, in, now out. 
There was a worry that we may not reach our potential. This crew has shown everyday that this is not the case. You have shown it in your attitude, focus and determination. This crew has put egos aside and taken the risk in trusting each other. Look where we are. No one is underestimating you. ‘Expect nothing, blame no one, do something.’
****head to the start******
All 8 to backs stops, ready,  go.
On the stake boat now, hand is up, Pete tap, Eddy counter, that’s it, perfect, come forward, calm and loose now boys, smile and square, heels on, covered, head up. Hand is down. so is theirs, eyes on the flag. We are ready Nines.
***Stake boat******
Prise, pick, press, legs… , legs… arms, legs… breathe, legs… down, legs down…. now Burn. Burn them.
Solid start, moving together, arms, arms, breathe, nice nines @42, breathe, 1.29, calm. Light on the toes, light and loose. sharp through, sharp through.
Vesta have 3 seats, breathe. Hitting our rhythm now, hitting that 1.32, Nines rhythm, back, sit up, sit back. Yes nines. Together on the arms, ready, go, arms, arms, nice. vesta 3 seats, Nines holding. 
*******at the 1/4 (45 secs)********
At the 1/4 mile, holding our pace to the half mile, sending it to the finish, lock send, lock send. lock, send.
Eyes forward, 1.35, lets get it on the front, in together, out, in there, out. Good, together, in, in,  good. At 35.5, 1.33, perfect boys. Our race, our tone, composed. Vesta 3 seats up, Nines are moving. Calm boys, you just took half a seat.
Right boys, real lose into the front, lets get in and get connected, this one, GO. keep it calm, Loose, back, loose, back. Good change Nines. connect, Now accelerate from that platform, accelerate, accelerate, 1.32, and swing, swing, swing through. NINES, ANOTHER SEAT!
****Coming up to the barrier******* 2mins in
At the Barrier Vesta 1.5 seats up, Nines moving. YES Nines, thats it. OUR Race, OUR terms. Lets go. Sit up. Sit tall, breathe, calm, she is screaming, we breathe, Nice, On the set up together NOW, GO, arms, arms, inside foot, nice, bow, bow. Yes Nines, holding at 1.5 seats to Vesta.
****Coming up to Fawley*****
holding them at 1.5 seats down, this is great, right where we need to be, brilliant commitment, lets see this through nines, now we are in OUR water, we are in that 3rd 500!! This is where we hold on, where we crack Them. Sit tall and loose on the front, here is the wash at Fawley, ready, go, sit tall…clean, sit tall… clean, tap down, tap down, out side hand, that its, glutes on the finish. Glutes! 
They are starting to move. 
Nines lets walk. off the platform as one, ready go, each stroke build through the platform, connected, build, build, now squeeeze. keep it covered on the finish boys, lets go Nines! WE WILL BE HERE TOMORROW. Yes Nines we have a seat. vesta up 1, Nines moving. breathe, build, breathe, calm. Our hand is in the fire. Light and lose on the front, you are moving now boys! Punish them for going to hard, punish them here in this 3rd 500!

Thats it half a seat more, now on the release, glide, release, glide release, calm. They are looking at you Nines, what God is propelling this boat! (note – this was a joke call from another outing)

Vesta half a seat up, Nines holding. They are fighting boys, we do this our way Nines, with cool heads, moving together. Dumping it on the footplate, hold the body angle, hold the angle, good change! Bring me to their cox on the low drive nine, drive low, drive low, and dynamic! Swing. Yes! Now we are level!  Keep it calm, and together, arms, arms, arms, toes toes, light in, catches stroke side. They are pushing, they are moving, we are calm. On the finish, tall, long, tall long, Vesta 1/2 a seat up, Nines holding. We are going walk again, each stroker, stronger longer than the last, lets go, now!
Lets go nines, tall, long, tall, long, nice, great change, nines are moving one seat up! Vesta holding, vesta moving. on our connection, connect back, connect, back, and calm, Nines holding 1/2 seat up!
****just past the mile***** (1.40 seconds left)
 The final 500m!  heading into the enclosure, smile Nines, on the finishes, go! Finish back, finish back, Vesta are moving, hold them off on the set up , set it up, set it up, vesta level, heads are calm, breathe, breathe, up 2 on the suspend, ready go! Lets go! Suspend, suspend, breathe, suspend, outside hand, hang, hang squeeze At 37, nice nines, holding them level. 
lets finish this Boys, here comes the hole in the wall. They do not know know what is coming! breathe, calm, vesta up 2 seats, Nines Sprint, ready, NOW!
Heels down, heels down, heels on! Fuck yes Nines! Lets go, on the glutes, glutes, glutes, breathe, sharp calm, back in it together on the back, arms, arms, heels…arms, at 39, 1,28. Nines are level and moving, leaving the enclosure, I need you now, Now nines, NOW NINES, legs down, legs down, legs breathe, LEGS LEGS LEGS!
Wind it down.


The race did not play out the way we visualised. We were up on them straight off the start, and there was no fucking way they were going to come through us!


I learnt nearly all of my most important lessons in those two years with the crew. The really big lessons, ones you can guess at maybe. I also met my husband. I think this moment, the race, is the accomplishment I am most proud of. Not necessarily crossing the line first, but everything it took to do it. The sacrifice, the teamwork and support from the club. The honest way we had to look at ourselves, and be true with the crew; there is little space in a racing shell to be disingenuous, especially when you train together morning and night! It also taught me it is what you do every day, not on a single day, that really counts.

I have conditioned an anchor, when I need to get into the right head space to tackle something I am not sure I can do. I touch my forefinger and thumb to bring myself back to this moment in time and see the boys, the boat, the water… On the stake boat now, hand is up, Pete tap, Eddy counter, that’s it, perfect, come forward, calm and loose now boys, smile and square, heels on, covered, head up.

The Crew

Left to right: Ben, Eamon, Eddy, Mark, Stacey (me), Dan, Jonno, Max & Pete.


About to push out. Well wishes from the club and our coach, Silvia.


Up on Vesta through the enclosures.

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Recovering and happy 🙂

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