It was early morning well before ten when I received a phone call from a friend and rowing buddy Tom Broadway. He asked me if I was interested in going with his London University rowing club group to train near Strasbourg (North East France, South West Germany) in preparation for final GB Trials.
It was clear that if I wanted to go to final trials and put in good performance my newly found partner and I were going to need time together and good facilities. Strasbourg sounded perfect - the river Rhein had 8km of almost still water with distance markers every 250m, useful for timing pieces and so forth. We could then travel straight from Strasbourg after the camp, out to Hazewinkel where the trials were to be held. This seemed as good a preparation as possible and to add to it Tim Foster was to be our coach.
On arriving it became clear that we would be staying in France and training in Germany; this sounds complicated and time consuming but in fact only took a walk over the river Rhein. The next ten days involved three outings a day and some core stability sessions, in total we travelled from France to Germany and back over twenty times. They do say that rowing is a good sport to travel with but that's not quite what I had in mind.
Tim Foster's main words of wisdom were 'Sit central' and 'Get it on the big boys'. Sit central means that both rowers need to slide up and down the slide centrally and not to sway to either side. Tom and I both had the habit of leaning away from our riggers at the finish and in to our riggers at the catch. Both of us doing this magnified each other's problems and so it was to be our main point to work on. Tim had another saying of if it doesn't make the boat go faster then its not worth doing; this makes a lot of sense but it is easier said than done. The other main phrase he used was 'get it on the big boys'; that basically means push harder with the legs.
Over the period of the camp our pair came together and we started to show some good speed especially over the shorter 250m pieces.
Upon travelling to Hazewinkel we all got our bearings and settled in to the accommodation supplied by the ARA. With only three days till racing we went for a long paddle and a few bursts. The first time trial went reasonably well and left us competing in the semi-final for a place in either the A B or C final. With James Cracknell and Matt Pinsent in our semi final we were always going to struggle to make the A final as there were so many top athletes, most of whom are all in the senior squad.
We ended up making the B final, at half way through we were in fifth position, to my surprise with a push of ten on the legs we came through the senior pair of Tom Stallard and Biff Simmons and managed to hold off the push of Henry Morris and Matt Smith both from the winning Blue Boat that year. Coming in to the last 200m we were fourth and were being lead by only a second or so by the other U23 pair from Imperial College London.
We would later discover that the Imperial College pair would be the other two athletes to make up the coxless four for the U23 world Championships. This wasn't the first thought to cross my mind on crossing the finish line. The first sensation is always the pain of lactate acid and thirst for oxygen, but within a minute or so there is an overwhelming feeling of relaxation and relief that the final racing is over, well at least for the time being.