Thursday, 26 May 2016

Q and A, or A and Q?

It's a tricky task to answer a question before it's asked, but that's what this blog article will endeavour to do. The question in question is, "Why aren't Mark and Etienne racing the World Cups?". The short answer is that I will be visiting my wife, Georgie, in Nicaragua whilst they are happening. This means that I will be able to continue training at a good level through the rest of the season and fulfil our duties as the Olympic reserve crew. The slightly longer explanation is below:

Throughout March I had really been struggling in training, really struggling. Try as I might I could not find a way to bring the best of myself to our crew. I seemed to lack the critical amount of energy needed to allow me to focus all my effort on my contribution to our team. The consequence of this was that I was not a very good teammate. Short on patience, short on ideas, short of soundness. Our paddling was pretty bad and canoeing wasn't much fun. As well as being generally not very good, I was angry with myself about my behaviour and this was hurting me twice. Of course, Mark bore the brunt of it, and I knew that this dynamic was unsustainable for me and the crew. I can say that I was close to retiring there and then.

Try as I might, I could not find a way to sort myself out. I worked on lots of different ideas and tried lots of methods to get myself back to a place where I could be motivated to put all I could into the crew. None of it seemed to work. Then, one night as I lay awake thinking about this mess, I realised that I had a possible solution, and with it, I came to understand the problem. If I knew that I could take a break in the middle of the season, I thought that it would give me two clear phases to work on. The first phase would consist of the final preparations for the season, and would be focused on the European Championships. The second phase would be focused on training in C2 in London to contribute to the Olympic team's preparations by being a credible and swift crew to spar with. I think the problem was that being away from my wife for such a long time was harder than I thought, and this was coupled in with a season of very uncertain shape and demands.

I spoke to Mark and asked him if he would approve of the plan. Thankfully, he could see where I was coming from and could see the gain in it, even though there would be some costs. Missing the World Cups would be a shame, it means losing the chance to spend more time with my friends and teammates and race in some cool places. But the more I thought of the plan the better I felt. I believe the certainty and structure that it gave me was vital. I was suddenly energised and I found myself able to focus completely on producing a good performance at the Euros. I could also picture how we could train sustainably through the summer and be able to test David & Richard in training during the Rio buildup.

Thankfully, our European Championships campaign was a success (read about it here) and I have been putting my best work into our training. I wish I could be in two places at once, but it is impossible and I am at peace with the choice. I will be away for the three-week duration of the World Cup tour (I hope I can find a decent internet connection to keep an eye on the races), but when I return I will be back down to business. Season 2016 was always going to be a challenge, and it is certainly proving so. But now, thanks to this decision and the support of my team, I feel that we are doing a good job of it, and I intend for that to continue! Thanks for reading.

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