James Chapman’s Olympic Diary: Reflections on training
We are now officially part of the Australian Olympic Team and we have departed the land of men wearing bum bags as a sash and women as young as 14 speeding around on scooters in a full aero tuck, as though they are all Valentino Rossi’s younger sister.
Training at the AIS European Training Centre, in Varese, Italy, has been an up at dawn, pride swallowing experience amongst many good athletes.
The whole Australian team has been chewing up kilometres on the water, sweating out litres (literally) in the testing lab and shifting steel in the weights room.
But amongst this elite environment, I have spent the last five weeks since our race in Munich with four guys who are now closer than anyone else could be right now, whether you like it or not.
Josh, our stroke, quiet, thoughtful with the appearance of being highly organised.
Drew, our three seat, happy to row formal in a polo, our most experienced athlete, but still with the energy, positivity and maturity of the man he was half his age; and that maturity manifests itself in the ability to enjoy his own jokes, giggle at his own farts in the boat, and ask us to score him on his jokes on the water.
Will, The Furry Missile we’ll be sending down the course first in the bow, with his seemingly unending stamina to be horizontal, working through movies, like that his own personal Olympic event.
The four of us have covered a lot of hours training together.
Three sessions every day, except for Thursday and Sunday off. It was in a five week period that I sat down with the coach and wondered if I’d make it through the whole training block.
For those who have been on one or two-week club rowing camps, they can relate.
This was five weeks.
There was one cycle we did that was definitely pure vert. Known to the locals as Basso’s Climb (Ivan Basso of Giro, Tour de France and Liquigas fame). It was approximately 9.5% gradient and it went for over 50 minutes.
Holy testicle tapout.
I was already at the bottom of my leg drive barrel and I’d had the chat with the coach and Drew that morning about my fatigue state, realising there was still two more weeks left in the camp.
I was dropped early by the other three crew “mates” and was left to scale solo.
I can tell you, it was emotional. I had no power. I couldn’t tap into my lungs cause I couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough in my ‘easiest’ gear.
I was wondering why I needed a helmet, I was going so slow.
But I was going so slow the bike was in danger of tipping over. Keep the helmet on.
I thought about fast legs. I thought about dancing on pedals. I thought about what it’s like for Cadel. How my teammates are finding it easier than me (they weren’t).
I hated the coach for the program. I hated Drew for being a better cyclist. I thought of home.
I thought of what I would say to me if I was coaching me. No one understood my fatigued state and how drained I was.
Training at this intensity this consistently, you have to use many mental skills, mind games and tricks to get through these kinds of sessions and weeks. And I felt I used them all up in the first ten minutes.
But I made it. And I made it home.
My power was down for another day or so, but I kept telling myself that I want to be here.
I want to be racing for my country in a few weeks, at my second Olympics. I want to race proud.
I want to attack my opposition knowing I have looked at, and attacked, my own internal oppositions.
And now, here I am, in London, staring down a taper, feeling like my blood is starting to recalibrate to adrenalin, endorphin charged race mode and all I want is to perform fast.
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