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Post Viral Fatigue

I’ve been intending to write this as part of my triathlon series of posts, and noticed on my recent bathroom post that it was my 99th post. It seems fitting that my 100th post be related to what was happening when I first started this blog.

I think I’ve mentioned already that I was diagnosed with post viral fatigue in March 2014, just before my rowing National Championships. I feel like this is something I should write more about, mainly to raise awareness of this but also just to get it off my chest.

I first started having problems in December. I was very tired physically, but also not coping particularly well mentally. December is always a pretty tough time in our training as it’s when the workload really ramps up, plus the intensity goes up, and the pressure comes on as the serious testing (trials and racing) starts to happen. I talked to my coach, we thought I was possibly overtraining a little, and generally stressing about my performance – I’d done surprisingly well the previous year so now there was more pressure to perform this year. He sent me off on a holiday. A week off training and completely away from all things rowing.

I came back refreshed and re-energized, but still not quite on top of things. I went to a training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport (Canberra) in January – a week long with a very heavy training load. I survived the week very well but never recovered when I got home, even after a few days off. It all went downhill from there. I was struggling to complete training sessions at full intensity and was also increasingly unstable emotionally. We reassessed my training, and had some more time off, but I was coping just well enough to not call everything off. It was pretty unpleasant though.

I was tired all the time. Walking was hard work, with my feet scuffing the ground a lot of the time because lifting them up was too much effort. I struggled to hold proper posture (sitting upright) in the boat, let alone actually rowing well. When I did have to do something at intensity (eg sprint work) my legs would give out after about 30 seconds. As in, I’d try to exert effort and it just felt like there was nothing there . . . like when you’ve just done a huge amount of hard exercise . . . but this was when I was fresh. I was crying a lot, when training was so hard, when I was forcing myself to go to training, when I couldn’t do it . . .again. I was having panic attacks, hyperventilating at the thought of a trial, or sometimes just at the thought of a training session. At my worst I struggled to hold a conversation. I just could not put the right words together in the right order.

(To make matters worse, I was eating more to try to keep my energy levels up, which meant I couldn’t lose weight and was struggling to make the weight limits for trials and races)

All this time, there was nothing obviously wrong. Was I just not good enough? Was I not cut out to be an elite athlete? Was I just weak, being soft on myself? Was I not trying hard enough?

Finally, towards the end, I had decided that there was definitely something wrong. What I was feeling, and how my body was failing me (simply not responding, or failing during intense efforts) was not normal. I went to the doctor and had some tests done. Every test they could think of actually. It didn’t really matter – I was sure by this point that there was something physically wrong. Luckily the tests came back to indicate that I’d recently had Glandular Fever (despite not showing any symptoms) so there was a probable (but inconclusive) diagnosis that I had “Post Viral Fatigue”.

There is no cure, or even any treatment, other than to rest and recover. After Nationals (you can read about that experience, here, especially the fatigue bits here and here) I rested. Not completely, because I wanted to keep in touch with rowing, and also because rowing was the most useful indicator of my condition. Other things could feel fine, but rowing is where the fatigue really showed up. I rowed about 3 times a week, and only for about 8km. We used to do 20+km in a session. It was 3 months before I completed a whole session without feeling tired. That was a very exciting morning for me.

I had trouble getting back into training properly. Sometimes I’d start to feel tired when I hadn’t done much work and I couldn’t tell whether it was fatigue (in which case I should back off), or my head playing tricks on me. Had I got so used to feeling fatigued that my head and body now automatically shut down at the slightest sign of work? Sometimes I just didn’t want to push through it anymore. It had been so hard for so long, and I couldn’t be bothered fighting it.

I didn’t know how to deal with this but I didn’t want to give up so I went to see a sports psychologist. He gave me some useful tips, the main one being contingency plans, or giving myself lots of little goals to re-assess ie “I don’t know if I can do it. OK, I’ll get to there, then assess how I’m going. If I’m still not feeling good, I’ll finish off with this. If I’m OK, I’ll keep going to there and reassess again”. This helped me deal with getting back into training, even if not at full intensity, while still being sensible and sensitive to my recovery.

I also felt like I’d failed, or that I was being soft, or that people would think I was weak . . especially if I was giving up because of my head – because I didn’t want to push through it. The sports psych reassured me that what I’d been through was actually a valid thing and that how I was feeling was actually normal and justified. And that my mental recovery might take just as long as my physical recovery. Just like the relief of actually having a diagnosis, to be able to say “this is wrong with me”, it was comforting to have someone validate how I was feeling and tell me it was OK.

Some six months after Nationals, I finally did some intense work and didn’t feel fatigued at all. I just felt normal tired. Wow. What a revelation. I had been fatigued for so long that I’d forgotten what “normal” was. I rowed at intensity, and my legs didn’t shut down. I got puffed, and my heartrate was up, and it was hard, and it hurt, . . . . but I could keep going. Wow. This was another reminder that it hadn’t all been in my head. There had actually been something wrong and what I’d been feeling wasn’t “normal”.

I had another reminder of how bad things had been in October, when I had a relapse. I had been ramping up my training, but don’t think I was being silly about it. I started feeling a little bit tired during the week, then all of a sudden, in one day, I crashed. I went from feeling normal to being at my absolute worst of fatigue overnight. The first time this had happened, it had come on gradually, and amidst all the normal tiredness and aches and pains of an elite training load. This time it came on suddenly when I was still only in moderate training. The feelings were instantly familiar though. Heavy, dead, ‘flat’ legs (and arms too, now that I think about it). Fuzzy head that can’t think properly and can’t hold a conversation. Panic at the slightest thing. Dread of any kind of exercise. And a really miserable, hopeless despair.

I immediately backed off everything I was doing and pulled out of all the rowing trials that week. The worst symptoms (the head related ones) cleared within a week but, even doing virtually nothing, it took me 6 to 8 weeks for the physical side of things to return to mostly normal. It was very interesting though to recognise all those things that I’d put up with for so long. The feelings were so distinctive. It gave me a lot more confidence in my ability to recognise “fatigue” versus tiredness or laziness.

So now I am still “recovering”. I still don’t feel like I could tackle a proper training load. Most of the time I feel fine, but sometimes (like now) I feel a little bit flat. I don’t know whether this is just normal ‘flat’ness or whether it’s a bit of fatigue coming back in. Sometimes I decide to push through it, and sometimes (most of the time at the moment) I give myself the benefit of the doubt and back off.

One of my rower friends who is also a doctor was telling me some things about post viral fatigue. He said (this is my interpretation, so sorry if I’ve got it all wrong!) that the condition eats away at the cells in the muscles, which is what causes the tiredness and the flat, dead feeling. He then said that not only does it eat away at the muscles, but it actually eats away at the cells in the brain, which is what causes the emotional instability – panics, depression etc. My friend and I joke about my “brain eating zombie disease”. It’s nice to have some humour around what was otherwise a very horrible part of my life.

The condition is essentially unprovable, with no outward signs, and I always felt like people would think I was just being soft, or a drama queen, or making excuses. However, I’ve been surprised how many people have understood my condition (because of friends or family having it), or at least been very supportive and sympathetic. This is nowhere near as bad as many other medical conditions, and is not life threatening, but it can certainly destroy someone’s way of life. And it is very much a real thing. Hopefully this will give you an understanding of what I went through in case you ever come across it in your life.

Pre-hike weekend

A few things came together this week that made it the perfect time to go for my first multi-day test hike. Firstly, there was a rowing regatta in Bunbury on Saturday that one of the girls was keen to enter a crew for. Secondly, there was a 10km trail run ‘fun run’ in Greenbushes on Sunday which my masseuse had been telling me I should enter for ages. The next obvious thing was to stay down in Bridgetown and do a four day hike Monday to Thursday. Clearly racing a pair then running 10km is perfect ‘recovery’ prior to a long hike!! I think it will just help condition me doing weeks of walking.

Unfortunately I’ve got so used to doing things whenever I want that I’d completely forgotten that I said I’d be available (in the office) for the next few weeks so organised the trip without thinking about it. Luckily for me this fitted in OK with work as they wouldn’t have the data I needed until Friday!

The rowing regatta went pretty well. It was a bit cold, raining and a little windy, but much better than most Bunbury regattas I’ve been to. I was racing a pair. The pair is a crazy boat which has two people rowing it, and only two oars. So that’s one oar each. That means that if you don’t pull at exactly the same time or the same power as the other rower, the boat starts turning in a circle (or does little S-bends all the way up the river). It also means that you have very little control, individually, over balance, or anything else for that matter. It is the ultimate in teamwork.

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Mackenzie and I in a pair. Pretty crazy boat isn’t it!

My pair partner had never rowed a pair before. I haven’t rowed one in about 5 years, and very infrequently even back then. We did three training sessions during the week, which we were very happy with, but even then were pretty intimidated to be up against some big girls with a lot of experience in pairs (e.g. National Champs, albeit in U19s). We came second in our heat (wow!) and were fast enough to get into the final. We then managed to come third in the final (out of four crews – it’s a narrow course), out of a total of nine crews entered. Very happy with our result and also with the racing and rowing in general.

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Merlin and I hanging out at the regatta. I’d already been asked once if his owner was out on the water since he kept staring out there rather than wanting to be with me!

On the way to Bridgetown we stopped off at Barrecas winery to get some wine and have a lovely chat with Kelly. Merlin had a wonderful time running around the olive trees and rolling in the long grass.

The trail run was very hard. I don’t think I’ve worked that hard in ages. For a start, the 10km turned out to be 11.4km. The tracks were pretty good – mainly dirt car tracks and some sections of Bibbulmun track (see next post) on generally gentle hills . . . although a couple of quite steep sections! People keep telling me that I should be able to run 5min kilometres, so I decided to give it a go. Luckily I reminded myself that I wasn’t a “Runner” so didn’t get disheartened when a few girls tore away from me at the start. Instead I just kept running my hardest to try to get my 5min/km pace. It was really hard! It turns out that trying to run 5min/km for 11.4km on gravel hilly tracks with no training (I’ve run twice since March, and they were both with the dog so had heaps of stops in them!) is not such a great idea!

Anyway, I ran it in 47:40 (5:03min/km – so close!!!), 5th girl and 13th overall. Not too bad, and I definitely couldn’t have done much more! On the plus side, I was using my new Scarpa Enduro shoes (for my hike) and they felt good. Also, while I was puffing the whole way and pretty exhausted at the end, I didn’t feel the “flat” tired, fatigued feeling I was getting before Nationals.
One of my friends won the 5km run in a very quick time. I’m classifying him as a “Runner” (capital R) as he’s not really into sport and managed to do that without even training for it!! Good work Russ!

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Me, getting nervous (and un-colour-coordinated) at the start of the fun run.

While I was at the trail run Merlin went to the Million Paws Walk, then dog training, with Mum and her dog, Captain. No photos from that unfortunately but from all reports it was a lot of fun. Merlin then proceeded to run around the farm like an idiot all afternoon, including several “swims” in the mud-pool that has substituted for our dam these days.

Nationals 2014: Wrap Up

I thought I should do a closing post. We picked up our boats on Thursday and unwrapped them all thismorning so it is definitely all over for this year (for me at least).

Sunday (Day 8) involved a sleep in, packing, checking out of our hotel then heading to the course to load the last few parts on the trailer. We also watched some World Cup races, including seeing our lighty womens doubles come 1st (Maia and Hannah EH) and 3rd (Ella/Nes) with NZ slotting in the middle. It was a pretty impressive performance by Maia and Hannah who pushed out in front to clear water by the middle of the race and just kept going.

We also all made a big effort to watch (and yell for) Rhys. He did a fantastic job, pushing into second and up towards 1st through the 1000m mark (about where I was watching from – photo below), but he just couldn’t hold everyone off at the end and came fourth. Still pretty amazing, and better than the other Aussie sculler, who came 6th. Rhys (along with Tom Fairclough and Alex Murphy) now have to keep training to go to selection trials at the end of April.

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Then it was off to Sydney, with a stop off at HJs for frozen cokes, ice cream sundaes and all manner of bad stuff. Just half a sundae for me – my binge on Saturday night was perfect so I didn’t really need much more. Most of us were staying in Potts Point at a pretty interesting, and suprisingly nice (for the price) hotel called De Vere’s. Some pre-dinner drinks then off to wherever the ‘after party’ was (I’ve forgotten the name!!!). Wherever, it was pretty nice. Got some fantastic dinner and chips and aioli, and lots, and lots of drinks. Everyone had a lot of fun (I think). One of our boys got thrown out for being too drunk, when he wasn’t (he has a lazy eye) but luckily coach Joe stepped in and fixed that. I got a midnight kebab. Yum. Amazing. So long since I’ve had one of them. We eventually tried going to the next after party destination, at which I was very much in demand as it was a 1 guy to 1 girl ratio to be let in (and there were only 2 girls in our group!), but decided that it was too packed and crazy anyway and just went home. Had a pretty good sleep, . . . except when I woke up being squashed after the biggest guy from our squad had stumbled out of the bathroom and into the wrong bed! A little disorienting, and rather humorous (especially the next morning, when he couldn’t remember me pushing him off the bed!).

3 of us were leaving on the same flight the next morning so were up at a respectable hour.  I was feeling much better than I thought I would (expected a massive hangover), and one of the boys was very fragile! We drove to the airport through Monday peak-hour traffic, which caused some concerns but in the end we got there in heaps of time. There are some amazing old buildings in Sydney – that’s one thing I miss in Perth.Image

And I didn’t have any troubles with my luggage – I was over-weight on the way there and had picked up a fair few clothes and bits and pieces! The flight home was completely full, but still fine for me. Not so great for the two heavyweights sitting next to each other behind me!!

It is great to be home and eating and drinking normally again. Well, I wouldn’t exactly call this normal, but it is not as bingy as most lightweights go post-season. I think my Saturday and Sunday nights gave me enough excess that I’m actually happy with just ‘normal’ food now! I have had a cupcake though! And a bottle of wine!

While my results this year were disappointing, I really enjoyed the Nationals week and will even miss my squad a little when we all disband and go our separate ways (at least some of us are). I’ve learnt a lot, I’m really happy with how I raced and coped with things and in general it was a very positive experience.

’til next year!

Nationals 2014: Day 7

Well, Nationals are done for another year . . . almost! My racing is done at least. We still have Rhys’ World Cup single scull A Final plus a final bit of trailer loading tomorrow, the trip back to Sydney, a night in Potts Point (we finally got around to booking somewhere) and some logistics to get cars/luggage/people to where they need to be. But, I have finished all my racing, had some hot chips, ate a big dinner at the buffet, had my first bundy and coke and am now sitting around with the rest of the squad (well, the 8 of us that are still here and don’t need to be racing tomorrow) in one room. It’s a little squishy, quite noisy and very smelly. All the ‘kids’ are just bouncing of each other, eating way too much and making themselves sick. It’s great that everyone’s having a good end to the week.

I had the Interstate Lightweight Quad today. We thought the Tassie crew would just be miles ahead and they actually weren’t. The NSW crew went out pretty hard and it was them, Tas and us to the first 500m. Then NSW and Tas pulled away, with NSW in the lead. NSW started to fade in the 3rd 500m, with Tas overtaking them, but NSW continued to fight. We had a really big push at the 1500m and made up a lot of ground, but weren’t good enough to catch them. I didn’t feel like I had a great race – just didn’t settle in that well and never really got onto the rhythm, but tried hard to not upset the boat, put as much power on as I could and made sure I didn’t get my oars stuck in the water.

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All the other girls had a great race (which is important to me) and we certainly had a lot of fun. We had some fun bantering with the NSW crew on the way to the start line, then had hysterical giggles on the start line when Nell had trouble with her diaphram/chest cramping up and me having to pat her on the back while she burped for about 5 minutes trying to get it to clear! It was pretty funny and the TV camera was focussed on us for the whole time, so hopefully they didn’t televise too much of it!Image
(Oh, we got bronze, if you didn’t catch that bit!)

Then some hot chips, a couple of cups of cider, a bunch of boat loading and general phaffing around, then back to Blacktown.

Rhys got through his repechage in the morning . . . he was coming 2nd in a super competitive race (all 5 people within 2s at the 1000m), then the guy in the lead blew up, stopped, put his head in his hands! The first 4 got through so after that guy had stopped everyone else just slowed down and paddled home.Rhys also came 2nd in the President’s Scull. Pretty impressive as everyone else in that race hadn’t raced already that day. He has the A Final of the World Cup scull tomorrow morning.

My battery is almost dead, and I can’t think of much else to say, so I’ll try to put some photos in (none of mine) and leave it at that for now.

Thanks for all your support, I’m looking forward to coming home and seeing you all.

Nationals 2014: Day 6

Very quick post today. I’m about to head back out to the course for interstate quad training then to our WA team dinner afterwards. The dinner is not much fun as a lightweight!!

Our quad today went really well. We got silver and pushed the winning crew all the way. I thought they’d beat us easily so it was a nice surprise to be so close. Also a good sign for our interstate quad tomorrow which is 3 of the girls from the quad today.
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So, just the interstate quad tomorrow (I’ll prob have to be ~57.5 as Maia is a bit under. Was 57.7 today), then pack everything up and load the trailer (hopefully the brakes are fixed now!!). Oh, and eat. A lot!! And drink.

Other exciting news today, our poster boy, Rhys, got a call last night asking if he could row the single scull for Australia in the World Cup because one of the guys was unwell. So thismorning Rhys had his first race for the Senior A (open age) Australian Team. Good on him. He really deserves it and has just missed out for so long.

Nationals 2014: Day 5

Double scull this morning, had to be 57 by 11:55am. Thanks to a very light dinner last night (soup and a piece of bread) and no food or water thismorning except for 2 handfuls of Special K and a mini easter egg, I actually managed to be on weight by about 10am.Image

I decided I needed a haircut (it’s got a little long and has been getting in the way) and thought I’d feel stupid getting it cut a couple of days after I’d put so much effort into weighing in, so just did it thismorning. One of the boys had scissors, but didn’t want to help me, so I just did it myself. OK, maybe my brain was not functioning very well for not having enough energy, but I’m actually pretty happy with it, even now after I’ve eaten! (Photo below: that’s actually where my hair stops, it’s not just hanging behind my shoulders!)
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I managed to drive everyone to the course successfully (had Special K next to me in the car in case I needed emergency food) and weighed in. I actually weighed in at 56.8, and Carly was 56.7 so we had a whole half kilo to spare!! Then I sat down to eat. A small carton of Sustagen milk, 2 crumpets and honey, 1 bit of bread and honey, 1 plain bit of bread and a bottle of staminade. I reweighed (just out of interest) and was back up to 58.15. 1.35kg in 20 minutes is not bad!!

Our race went fairly well, but we just weren’t fast enough. I think all of the other crews in the race had been training a fair bit, whereas we had rowed about 6km together before the race. We came together pretty well but were probably only 90% together (or 100% together 50% of the time) so only had 90% of the speed of the top crews. I felt like I contributed for the whole race, and Carly said it felt good, so overall a positive row but just a shame we couldn’t get a medal. Not really much else to say.

Czech came 1st (blistering 1st and last 500m, with a really slow patch in the middle!), Laura/Georgia M came second and Alex/Eve came third. Nell and Jess came 5th and I don’t know where the others came. (Oh, sorry, forgot to say . . . we came 4th!)

It turns out that Carly only started training again in November (after taking a few years off) and is still only up to doing 3 sessions a week on the water so she is doing amazingly well. She’ll probably be crazy fast next year!

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I have my open lightweight quad tomorrow with 2 of the girls from my interstate quad (Nell and Jess) and another girl from WA (Amy). We have never trained in that combination and are not pre-rowing, so we’ll just wing it for the race I guess. I don’t even know what order the seating will be. The other girls have all rowed together a fair bit so I assume I’ll be in bow and it should be OK. Luckily Amy is super light (55.4 today) so I don’t have to be down at 57. Unfortunately I think I’m supposed to be weighing in at 57.5 and I think I ate too much for dinner tonight (back up to almost 59 now!!) so it could be another miserable morning. Damn . . . I was 57.4 before dinner so thought I could relax for 5 minutes!!

Other good results for today:
Fairclough won his U21LM1X, so is a National Champion
Rhys got bronze in the OM2X
Alex Murphy got bronze in the U23LM2X
Jack and Matt C got 4th in the U23M2X
Mitch Boros won the B Final of the U21M1X

Nationals 2014: Day 4

Today, finally, it’s Wednesday. And first day of finals. Thanks to yesterday’s sluggish performance I was in the B Final, so the pressure was off (I had already not achieved what I had set out to do) but I did still want to finish off with a good race. I wasn’t expecting much more than a 6th place though. Even though I had organised a bit of a sleep in and no pre-row to give me a little bit of a boost, I was still pretty flat when I got to the course. Walking over the bridge to the island got me a bit out of breathe and by the time I got to my boat I was getting pretty tired. My enthusiasm from the morning (just after getting out of bed) was starting to slide. Still, I weighed in (58.4), had my raw crumpet and honey and half a mars bar (my secret racing weapon this year) and waited for race time.

Just before I went on the water I got to watch Rhys come 3rd in the Men’s Open Single Scull A Final (bronze medal). It was a really gutsy performance and his first Open Scull medal (he came 4th last year, then won the Interstate Scull). He was coming third, then in the last 500m the guy 4th pushed at him. He managed to overtake 2nd, but 4th pushed through him so Rhys still had bronze. Very inspiring and nice to see just before I went out, . . . but also not something I was expecting to match, especially as I hadn’t even made the A-Final and was so far off the pace yesterday. (Photo below: Rhys heading out to race with coach Joe)Image

Out for my warm-up and I was not feeling great. Relaxed and calm, but certainly not lively. I did a short warm up as it was a bit rainy again today and I thought I should save my energy. Still, I was blowing like a freight train after 30 strokes at race pace! Not a good sign when a race is probably ~250+ strokes long! I was pretty exhausted by the time I’d rowed to the start line and my enthusiasm and optimism was definitely wearing thin. I was trying a lot of positive talk though and was just determined to get out and row my own race and go as fast as I could go in this condition. Still, when I had to shake my head a few times while sitting on the start line as my vision kept going unfocussed I was seriously wondering if I should’ve even been racing!

But, I wasn’t going to pull out now!

Attention . . . . . . . . . Row!

I had a reasonable, but not super aggressive start, and also dropped my rate down to race pace (~33.5 strokes/minute) about 10 strokes earlier than usual. My coach had suggested I try to be as efficient and smooth as possible during the first half of the race so I had something left for the second half. Dropping the rate early didn’t wipe me out as much and gave me the energy to really get my race pace settled in. So much so that about 500m into the race, when I was reminding myself to keep pushing, I found that the rate had crept back up to 34.5. That was a little extreme for 500m in, so I settled back down so I wouldn’t blow myself up!Image

I was dropped pretty quickly by the front runners (Nell, Alex (yellow, red and blue), Annabel (orange, black and yellow stripes)) off the start – when I had a quick glance over I could see Jess (white, aqua and black) next to me (and slightly behind) and Eve and Amy on the far side of the course also dropping back behind. I settled into to a strong rhythm at about 32 (a bit lower than normal as I thought it better to be strong and smooth at that, than frantic at 33). I was still not feeling strong but just kept focussing on being smooth and efficient, rowing well, and always keeping the pressure on. I remembered all the things I’d been told (“Make sure you push at 700m, that is where it gets really hard” – Jamie, “Just need to get the first 3 minutes done and the rest will follow” – Ben, and so many others) and most of all “just keep going”!!! Jess sat just behind me the entire way and I definitely wouldn’t have gone that fast without her there. I kept pushing to the 1000m then just got really stubborn and decided I’d done enough races this year where I’d had to switch off at the 1000. No more! So, I kept going. Everytime the split really crept up, I tried to push a little bit harder. Every time I was in the middle of a distance e.g. 850m (there are markers every 250m, and everyone tends to push on the 500m marks) I pushed a little harder to try to get a bit of ground on Jess before she pushed. I’d seen Jess had an awesome race finish on Monday so, with about 600m to go, I pushed again, stepped up my rhythm and power (same rate, but just more power so a more aggressive rhythm). She went with me and I just kept driving. The rate was back up to 33, . . . and she was still with me . . . just before the 250, I started stepping the rate up. It only got to about 35, but I was trying to really drive each stroke to get more speed at that rate, rather than just taking the rate up. It worked. I pulled away from Jess, but knew I had to finish the race off so I kept going. It turns out that I’d actually closed the length + gap to Alex and Annabel who were fighting for second and third and I actually slotted in between them to nab 3rd! Pretty happy with that given my current state. I was only 0.3s behind Alex in second, and I had hit a buoy about 10 strokes before the line (luckily I saw it coming so it just slowed me down a bit rather than stopping me dead!) so maybe that would’ve made a difference? But also, maybe I could’ve just pushed a bit harder? I didn’t have any idea I was close enough to get them – I was just racing Jess at that point. Anyway, very happy with my race, happy with the way I raced, how I continued pushing, the positive talk that I kept up all through the race and the calm, composed, GOOD, technique that I had. I think I actually raced like a real rower. Finally! 🙂

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Also have to mention my coach, Joe, who rode down on the bike path and yelled at me the whole way. Some encouragement, some useful technical things, and some new technical things (not my usual key words) which I simply couldn’t decipher during a race!! Also thanks to everyone else who was yelling at the other competitors whose names sound a lot like “Helen” because I thought I had so many people cheering for me! And to Jess’s coach for yelling at her and giving me extra incentive to stay in front of her (and warning me when she was going to push!)

Finish was: Janelle, Alex, me, Annabel, Jess, Eve, Amy.
A Final was Ella, Hannah EH, Mac, Maia, Carly, Hannah C, Sarah, Laura

Other good results from today, Alex Murphy came 3rd in the U23LM1X (did a usual Murphy finish to storm home from 5th)
Jack also got 3rd in his B Final (U23M1X)
Fairclough won his semi, reasonably easily still so hopefully his final goes well.
Jack and Matt Cochran won their U23M2X rep so are into the final
Fairclough and Boros came 2nd in the U21M2X rep so are into the final

I have my double scull tomorrow (1:55pm here time), so am hungry and tired tonight. Currently 57.9kg so basically 1kg to lose by midday tomorrow. Should be fine. If we race well we are a good chance at a medal so fingers crossed and I’ll try to maintain my racing composure and determination from today.

Can’t think of anything else to say. I feel like that is already enough of a massive post for you and I’m pretty tired so will leave it at that.

Nationals 2014: Day 3

The morning started dark and early (5:30am) with a horrified exclamation of “I can’t believe it’s not even Wednesday yet”. (It is still Tuesday isn’t it??) It feels like we’ve been here, and racing, forever. Also, Nationals usually starts on Monday, so the Sunday start and rearrangement of events is throwing everyone a bit. We headed out to the course at 6 (arrive 6:30) to pre-row for my single semi.Image

My pre-row didn’t feel great, but it didn’t on Sunday either so I was trying to stay positive. While waiting for my race, I got to watch one of our boys, Rhys, come 2nd (almost 1st) in his semi to go through to the A-Final in the Open Men’s Single. It was an awesome race – a powerful performance and he really broke some other guys and helped put a pretty serious contender (and one of the guys who beat him in the heat) into the B Final. Especially good as a few people had been doubting his capabilities . . . and this was a pretty emphatic rebuttal.

I was in lane 8 today, which has orange numbers, so I took a terrible looking selfie with all the orange racing gear I had today.Image

Today was a stark contrast, weather-wise, to yesterday. Yesterday I was sitting at the start line shivering, dripping with rain and covered in goose-bumps. Today I was sitting there dripping with sweat. I knew I’d have to go fast to make the A-Final, but also knew that I was capable of it, if I was fit and strong. Unfortunately I was not. As most of you know I’ve been pretty tired for a while now and have most likely had/have some kind of virus (glandular fever or similar). Based on Sunday, I seemed to still be able to race OK, but I think the last two days of racing have taken their toll. I did everything I could in my race today and am actually pretty happy with it, except for the actual speed. I rowed technically well, kept the rate up, pushed myself all the way and most of all, didn’t drop my head or do any stupid panicky stuff (sloppy technique, messy strokes etc) when I wasn’t going well. I just didn’t have the speed, and right from the start was off the pace. I came 7th, a long way from an A-final finish. I didn’t feel as physically wrecked as I did after races last year (lactic, burning legs, naseous/crampy) but am still sure I gave it my all and was pretty emotionally tired from pushing myself. I got my boat off the water and back to trestles and just sat down next to it for a while. I was exhausted.

For the rest of the day my ‘tiredness’ symptoms from the past month or so kicked back in – light headedness, out-of-breath walking up hills, generally shakiness and just needing to sleep. I hadn’t realised how much better I’d been feeling for the last week!! Anyway, it’s not too bad and I’ve organised to not pre-row in the morning so I’ll just get to the course in time for my weigh in tomorrow (B Final) so I can get a bit more sleep and rest. I’m going to attack the B-Final (10:30am tomorrow, 7:30 your time) with the same race plan as today – go as fast as I can for 2km, . . . regardless of what everyone else is doing. It’s the best I can do, and hopefully it goes a bit better than today.

I chilled out in the grandstand for a while, and took some photos to give you an idea of the atmosphere. I also had a lay down under some sculls in the boatpark for a while, which was pretty relaxing and surprisingly comfortable. I didn’t think I could capture the moment on camera though! Also got some clothes shopping done in the regatta store!

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Can’t think of much else to say. Despite the poor racing performance, I’m actually quite enjoying my time here. The squad is really good and I’m a lot less stressed than I have been for previous years. I’ll be trying to make weight over the next few days, so may be having less fun then, but hopefully it won’t be too bad.

I know the comments thing on here is not super easy, nor private, but you guys are welcome to just email me any comments/conversation stuff from these posts instead of commenting on here. I love hearing from you.

I’m going to try to add pictures to the past couple of days posts, so check them out again.

So, now a run down of results from today:

Rhys 2nd in scull, into A Final
Mitch Boros last in scull, into B Final (he was 4th for 1500m then just couldn’t hold it so he gave his all to try to get into the A Final)Jack last in scull, into B Final (he had a completely blocked nose from allergies or sinus-y thing so couldn’t breathe!)
Rourke/Mitch U23M2- last in rep, into B Final and heaps faster than yesterday
Mackenzie U19W1X 6th in rep, eliminated AND 5th in U19W2X, into rep
Alex Murphy 3rd in U231X semi, into A Final
Cassidi U21LW1X 5th in rep, into B Final AND 5th in U23LW2X, eliminated.

Nationals 2014: Day 2

Today started very early (5:25am alarm, leave the hotel at 5:45am to get to the boats by 6:30am) and overcast. My doubles partner, Carly, and I went for a quick (4km) practice row. It felt OK – reasonably natural to fit in (I’m in bow of course!) and good power. Just needs some work on getting the connection together. The racing piece we did felt a bit messy, but felt like the main problem was just tenseness/nerves . . . so good potential and hopefully it will come together well in the race.

Then back home for a bit of a rest before heading out again just before lunchtime. By this point the drizzle had set in at the course, and pretty quickly ramped its way up to proper rain and a pretty stiff headbreeze. Still 2 hours until my race so hopefully it would settle down.

I weighed in for the single, 57.7 . . . looking good for my “sweat run and re-weigh” plan for the double later. Then, a miracle! The weigh in guy said one of the doubles had scratched so we’d been consolidated to a straight final on Thursday. Yay! No 57kg weigh in until Thursday, after all my singles racing is done. (Also no practice race to get it together before the final, but we’ll probably do another training row later in the week)

By the time of my race the wind had dropped to a slight head but it was still raining, . . and cold (vs the weekend, which was pretty hot). My repechage went pretty well, but just didn’t feel as good as yesterday, and this was reflected in the times (ie slow!!). I got out in front from the start and didn’t have to push too hard to stay there, although I did make sure I had enough margin to prevent any stressful sprint finishes and was very careful to stay well away from all the buoys!! It felt a bit slow, heavy and not as easy as it should’ve, but I think that was (hopefully) because I wasn’t having to push so I just wasn’t as upbeat and pro-active about it.

I have the semi tomorrow at 12pm (9am your time). My semi looks like it’s way harder than the other one, but I think that’s partly that my perception of how fast everyone is going it a bit wrong (ie people that I think should be really fast, actually aren’t going that fast and vice versa). I just have to get out there and attack it like I did the heat, and hopefully it feels good like the heat did.

As a positive, apparently a couple of random coaches said to my coach “Wow, Helen was going really fast in that heat” . . . so my 300-500m after stopping with the buoy problem was really flying! I didn’t have much idea because the timing through the 500m wasn’t working and I couldn’t see my stroke coach (looking forward to getting the data off my garmin though to see exactly how long I was stopped for and how fast I was going). The coaches weren’t really random . . . probably people I knew, but my coach didn’t know them.

Then had a pretty cheerful and relaxed afternoon, helping the others out, browsing the regatta shops (not in a shopping mood though, couldn’t decide what I wanted to buy) then came home to a lovely meal of steak and veges (don’t have to be 57 for another 2 days!!).

So, now some details:Tomorrow, 12pm, semi 2, lane 8. Also in race is Amy Walters, Janelle, Annabel, Laura, Ella, Maia, Sarah Pound
(Other heat is Eve Mure, Jess, Hannah C, Hannah EH, Alice Mac, Alex Hayes, Carly, Aisyah Gala)

Highlights from yesterday:Mitch Boros straight through to U21M1X (3rd)
Alex Murphy straight through to U23LM1X (3rd)

Results from today:Rhys Grant won his repechage, into OM1X semi
Pete/Thom pair 5th in rep, into B Final, but much happier with their race today
Jack Clearly 2nd in rep, into U23M1X semi (a great effort for his first year in U23s)
Caitlin 6th in rep, into B Final of U21W1X
Rourke/Mitch pair 7th in heat, into rep of U23M2- and potential for big improvements
Mackenzie 6th in U19 W1X, into rep, and happy after her first race at Nationals for the club (not school)
Me, 1st in rep, into OLW1X semi
Cassidi 7th in U21 1X, into rep
Tom Fairclough, absolutely blitzed his U21ML1X heat to win easily (into the semi)
Mike/JIP pair 3rd in U23LM2- race for lanes. Final later in week.
Jack and Matt Cochran (WARC) 3rd in U23M2X, into rep
Fairclough/Boros U21M2X 3rd in heat, into rep (Fairclough here racing heavyweight, ~1hr after his LM1X heat win!)
Cassidi and a Vanuatan 5th in U23W2X heat, into rep
Fairclough and Tom Horton (UWABC) 2nd in U23LM2X heat, into Final (now racing U23L, instead of U21, and 3rd race in ~3 hours!
Alex and Will Clark (Mosman) 1st in U23LM2X heat, into Final
And an honorary mention to our coach Joe’s Trinity quad who came 2nd and got into the semi of the U17M4X+
And to Joe for doing over 60km on the bike just today to watch all our races!!

And, now it’s bed time again, so I’ll put some photos on for you tomorrow (I’ve taken heaps!!).

Here’s one of the boat park:

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Nationals 2014: Day 1

Hi guys,

Lots to say and even got some really nice photos of the course for you today but it’s bed time so I’m going to keep it quick. If you saw the results today, don’t be alarmed. I’m actually pretty stoked after my race. I had a reasonable start and settled into a really good rhythm. It was smooth, probably the best I’ve felt I’ve rowed in ages and actually felt like I’d be able to hold it for the race. I thought I was comfortably in fourth, but apparently I was actually pushing up into second. Then I hit a buoy (at about 700m in). And not just hit it and slowed down, but hit it and got my oar caught upside underwater parallel to my boat. I didn’t think I’d be able to get it out either! Anyway, eventually I did get my oar out and took off again in pursuit of fourth place. When I crossed back into my lane (because the oar stuck in the water had spun my about 45 degrees and dragged me into the next lane) I hit another buoy, which caused me to knock my stroke coach (which gives me stroke rate, distance and speed and is pretty vital for my rowing) off it’s mount and onto my foot. Face down unfortunately so I couldn’t see it anymore!! I did chase fourth down and had just drawn in front when she did a really big push/sprint and I just didn’t have enough left to go with her. I hung on for a bit longer but then chilled out a bit for the last 300m or so when I realised I wasn’t going to catch up and wasn’t going to lose 5th position either.

Obviously not the result I wanted, but really positive in that I actually felt capable of racing and was doing a pretty good job. Big thumbs up.

My weight is also better (weighed in at 58.3kg today, and was the same after the race) and I’ve decided I want to give the double a try. We’re going for a practice row early tomorrow (hence the early bed time), I’ll weigh in for and race my single at 1:35pm, then try to get down to 57kg to reweigh for the double. The double is at 4:45pm. If we are going to scratch, we have to do it by 2:45. I have to weigh in (57) between 2:45 and 3:45, so I’ll make a call at 2:43 as to whether I think I’m going to make weight within that extra hour. Good news is, looks like our double heat will be achievable to go straight to the final so hopefully if we are half decent and I make weight we can do that . . . which means I don’t have to be 57 again until Thursday!! My double heat has Georgia Miansarow/Laura Dunn (both from camp etc), Alex Needoba/Amy Walters (from Perth clubs) and one other double I don’t know (but they weren’t fast in singles). Top 2 go straight through to final on Thursday. Rest to repechage on Wednesday. (Other heat has Alex/Eve, Jess/Janelle, Mac/HannahC, Czech Republic and a crew I don’t know!! Glad I’m not in that one!!)

Also, my single rep should be OK. Top 2 through to Semis on Tuesday. All people I should be able to beat . . . . but as we saw today, anything can happen!

Feeling upbeat and good. Will hopefully have more time tomorrow. Goodnight x

(Reminder: 1:35pm and 4:45pm tomorrow. 10:35 and 1:45 Perth time)

Photos, added later to post:

Our race was actually delayed for 1hr 20 due to a storm coming in. This is a picture of everyone sitting around waiting during the delay.

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And here are some nice photos from the finish line end of the course.

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