Shrewsbury School

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Friday 21 December 2018

Never get drawn into a challenge over a beer or two at Henley!

Having taken up rowing after a 20 year gap late in 2017 and qualifying and racing at Henley this year it seemed a good idea at the time! Not being someone to go back on my word (or what was recorded on WhatsApp group) I thought it a good idea to see what I’d committed to. I knew through the exploits of Wiggo the previous year that the British indoor rowing championships were held at the velodrome in London over 2K and I probably needed a time similar or better than my PB, set as young lad, to be competitive. The obvious person to discuss training plans with was our GB cox Charlie Clarke (O 2009-14) who knows a thing or two about ergs and what you need to do to get a decent time. So, a large spreadsheet later and a bit of a break after Henley I was good to go. Plan was to get in as much long distance and fitness work as I could do through to end of October, then raise the rate and shorten the efforts through November into December. It also dawned on me that I stood a much better chance in the lightweight category, where I didn’t have to take on the likes of Graham Benton aka “TheErgDaddy” who general wins in something under 6 minutes, but this meant getting my weight down to 75kg or less…

4 months later, a fair few more km’s on the erg’s odometer, and I was good to go. Changing from long slow efforts that you would typically do over the winter, to doing short intense efforts more familiar with the regatta season. This proved a shock to the system! although I only had to lose 3kg this also had a surprising impact on my score, so I went in not quite as confident as I had been back in July. The day arrived and first up was the weigh in at 8.00am. Everything had been considered to make the magic 75Kg weight. I had borrowed a 150g AIO from Mr Clarke, and like any boxer, I’d drunk virtually nothing in the previous 24hrs and ensured any ablutions had been completed earlier that morning. I nervously stepped onto the scales, and weighed in at a meagre 74.6Kg. Then for an hour or so wait before we got called up for the 40-49 LWT men’s event at 9:45. Time to rehydrate, listen to some motivational music and try not think too much about the pain of a 2K erg. The call came and we descended into the bowels of the velodrome ready for a warm up. Ahead of me I could see the hulking figure of TheErgDaddy getting ready for his event just before ours. In the main arena there were 100 or so ergs to warm up on, then in the centre 2 large screens, on which everyone could see how well you were doing in relation to your competitors, with 50 or so ergs in front of each, I was on lucky erg no 21 in the blue section. Warm up finished and we got called through. It was at that point that I realised on the computer screen of the erg you could also see how your direct competitors were doing. so, this was a proper race rather than a time trial that I had mentally prepared for. However, before I had time to worry too much about it we were under starters orders.

Attention! Go! A proper racing starts and I was up to 2nd place. all good, and only 1800 meters to go. Time to settle into a 1:38 that I knew I could maintain.

500 in and I’d been bumped down to 3rd but only a couple of meters behind 2nd. After that it became a bit of a blur. At one point a camera was shoved in my face, and I also heard the commentator saying that James Stuart (O 1988-93) was fading.. right we’ll see about that! 500m to go I was 6m off 2nd place, and gave it all I had for the last 90 seconds. Unfortunately, the gap was never closed and I ended it in 3rd having done a 6:31 just a shade off my PB and a couple of seconds behind 2nd. With barely time to catch our breath we were ushered off to the podium to collect our medals. Tim Male (ex GB lightweight) had won overall in an excellent time of 6:26 and Keith Darby 2nd in 6:29. Could I have gone a bit earlier or kept less in reserve for the end? Easy to say after the event, and despite swearing to myself in the warm up that this is a one off not to be repeated, I’ve already made plans for how I can find those extra few seconds at next year’s event.

Anyone interested in joining me, have a look at the GB rowing website where there is plenty of info on the event. Whether you’d like to compete or just go along to watch and enjoy the racing, I can thoroughly recommend it.
Go Sabrina!

James Stuart

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