Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sixth Fastest in the World

I don't have much time to write. It's 7 AM here and we are preparing to leave... cab comes at 9 for Heathrow.

Nice article on US Rowing this morning.

If you consider winning a medal the only measure of success in an Olympic contest, I respect that and understand it. However, we have all been delighted that Margot and Sarah held their own during a very challenging race where the winner, as Margot put it "Was on a different planet." That British single was simply awesome! We all knew how stiff the competition would be.

I think Tuesday was the best race I've ever watched Margot race. So maybe that's part of why all of us feel elated even though she is not wearing a medal around her neck. Watching our women secure a spot in the A Final in a boat that wasn't qualified the year before, despite their own rowing career setbacks a year ago, gave us goosebumps. I think they earned respect and showed that they were the world class athletes that they are.

So, we leave London... sad to leave Margot, sad to leave the home of our wonderful hosts, Julia and Nic and Rosie; sad to leave Julia's brother and family, Nic and Isabella and Samuel and Michael... but happy to know that Margot ended her rowing career on a high note and will have until the 13th to spend some time enjoying this amazing city.

Did I say she ended her career? Quote from last night: "Hmmm, Mom? I did put my name in for the Head of the Charles." Fine with me, one of my favorite races : )

More about our post races celebrations, including pictures (probably already on Nate and Tom's Facebook pages) of our late lunch with Matt, our dear coach.

More from the USA in a day or two. Meanwhile, thank you all again for all your love and support. It meant a lot to share this with you.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A FINAL - 12:10 tomorrow, British time (7:10 AM US Eastern).

A Final Friday, August 3. Good luck birthday girl!

Matt Madigan, Margot Shumway, and Sarah Trowbridge - go USA!
Double Time at Eton Dorney (US Rowing article)

Royal Digs, Part II

Our rowers may be staying at Royal Holloway but John and I are no less fortunate. 20+ years ago, my sister Sheila gave her four year old son, Will, twin brothers, James and Michael, to play with. Although she is very competent in every area, she and her husband George thought it might be a good idea to have some help managing all those little guys. Enter Julia Oldham, their first au pair from overseas, in this case the UK.

We met Julia when the whole family came to visit us at our home in Cleveland, Ohio. What a perfect fit Julia was. In addition to obviously adoring the twins and William, she was even more organized than my sister. She was a dedicate list maker and very observant about the details of childcare. She also planned ahead so that travel, as well as daily life at home, was certainly facilitated for a busy mom and dad. She also has a lovely personality, is very smart and well educated, loves art (made her an instant hit with my art teacher/artist sister), and is fun to be with.

Long period of time intervenes until 2012 when Margot makes the Olympic team. Sheila had mentioned previously that if Margot made the team, Julia had offered to have us stay with her. So, I called Sheila and said "Do you think Julia was serious when she made the offer?" Sheila said, most definitely. So Julia and I began the communication process and shortly after Margot and Sarah qualified the double, John and I had arrangements to stay with Julia and Nic and their daughter Rosie. Nate and Tom had a room at a hotel next door to the Clapham South tube station and about a 10 minute walk from Julia's.

Julia lives in a row house in Clapham midway more or less between the Clapham tube station and Clapham Junction train station. So the location is terrific. We can take the tube (Northern line) to London Bridge which is close to the P&G Family house, or take the train straight to Windsor which we did on Monday and Tuesday. Free trip with the transportation tickets we received with our event tickets.

This house is beautiful! I will take some pictures before we leave. Meanwhile, on Wednesday night, after a day of rest and jubilation, all of us (except Nic who was off on business) had dinner together her, Indian delivery. Very good!!! Best part was the fellowship -- that's something no hotel really can offer. We are so blessed to be here with such warm, loving, hospitable people. So here are a few pictures of last night's festivities!

Rosie, Julia and Nic's daughter

Samuel, Rosie, and Michael wearing their USA gear (boys belong to Julia's brother Nic and his wife, Iabella 
Nate and Tom

India food - yum

Sister-in-law Isabella and John

More Indian food

Rosie and our lovely hostess, Julia

Isabella and Samuel


Michael and dad Nic (Julia's brother)

Tom and Nate

My sister Sheila's son Will (brother of the twins) and his fiancee Erin

Nic and Samuel

Appropriately dressed UK children!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Repechage Details

Monday night - Tuesday morning, July 30 - 31

Restless, little sleep night. About 4 AM the rain started pelting away outside the window so I became preoccupied with the best way to stay semi-dry at the race course. A bit more drifting in and out of a doze and it was time to get up - 5 AM. Did you ever notice how fast time goes very early in the morning? Stumbled around making sure I had the tickets, the map, rain parka, portable umbrella, chapstick (next to the tickets, the most important) and as much kleenex as I could find.
The boys made it at 6 and our trusty cab service loaded us in for the brief trip to Clapton Junction Station. We've become quite knowledgeable "New entrance, please" and learned through nephew Will and his fiance to ignore the ticket lady and simply walk through the turnstiles if they were open. The previous day, we ended up paying 9 pounds each plus our free transportation tickets because Eton Dorney is outside the 9 London zones. So we sailed through the open stiles (the ticket lady's window was down, apparently she overslept). We caught the 6:38 train to Windsor and everyone had seats this time. The half hour earlier train was far less crowded as someone advised us the previous day. The rain was sporadic, with a bit of sun trying desperately to fight through the clouds.
About an hour later, the train pulled into Windsor and we went immediately to the pub across the station for breakfast. As I mentioned, I think in an earlier post, the bread here is awesome. Julia Child would be pleased (I think she once said American white bread tasted as though it was made of Kleenex). We made it to our handicapped shuttle around 8:10 and took off with a British couple and an Asian family.

We chatted with the Brits who, of course, were over the moon about Katherine Grainger, for good reason. They were lovely about wishing Margot luck. It's not as if there is one person we meet that we refrain from telling about Margot. They promised they would remember her name and cheer her on.

We got to the course and Tom, who is the best of pushers, got us through security, up and down the bridge (there's a lift), and to the stands. This time we decided to take the elevator to the wheelchair access area in the stands. Nate was a little worried about my stair tolerance. So, except for the extremely loud speakers that were placed at intervals along our railing, we had a very comfortable front seat view of the course.

I was worried about not being anywhere near Sarah's mom and dad. I turned around and, good grief talk about coincidences, they were right behind us in the section above our little balcony.

The rain continued to hold off and the water was almost as smooth as glass. I believe there was a tailwind for the rowers. Things like the direction of the wind certainly affect the times, but since all the rowers are in the same place at the same time, it's shouldn't be a factor in their comparative performances.

Then the pre-race ritual of praying for her success, and then asking God to forgive me for praying about something so trivial relative to world peace, to just praying that she will do her best and be happy about her performance. Lots of thank you prayers for my wonderful family and friends and being able to be there. And amidst it, random thoughts of "yes, she and Sarah can do this" to "good grief, these other boats are so good" and the like mingle with the ongoing theme of "Keep her strong and focused. Don't let her be afraid. She's a pro. Help them to calm their nerves and do their thing."

If someone tries to talk to me during that time, I'm likely to be very grumpy. I can't think of anything except the upcoming race. The races beforehand are a welcome distraction, but I am waiting for "Women's Double Sculls" to display on the jumbotron in front of me.

Finally, there is no more waiting. The screen display appears,  I see a close up of the starters. They are sure to mispronouce Margot's first or last name, and also do a good job botching Sarah's last name. I am straining to get a look at her face -- is she looking fierce and focused? Yes.

Waiting... waiting... and they're off... looks like a good start and then, what? The boat in Lane 2 seems to be at an angle. The announcements begin. False start. Seemed to be equipment failure rather than one of the boats. For about half a second, I worried that it would rattle her. And then I thought "she is a pro," no problem.

Nate thought she looked ticked off in the next picture they showed, I just thought she looked fiercer and more focused. "False start? HA! I laugh in your face!"

After what seemed like half an hour, and was I think at least 5 minutes, the race started again, with a flag drop.

Again, they got out to a good start. The Chinese popped out in the lead and continued to hold it throughout the race. They can certainly maintain an unholy stroke rate for a long time. And the battle was on with the rest of the boats. By the time Mar and Sarah seemed to have captured third place, we were all screaming so loud the non-USA fans behind us just stayed still out of respect (and they weren't from one of the countries competing). I knew Margot felt she had missed a call during the heat and also knew she wouldn't let that happen again. I knew they hadn't pushed it yet, and you could see it when they did. They just surged ahead and although it's tough to see who is ahead even when you have a big screen and even when they are in front of you, it was clear that they were going to do it. They were going to get 2nd place and that chance for a medal. And for a few seconds at the very end, it looked like it was possible for them to pass the Chinese... Margot said the Chinese rowers were about ready to drop and that if they'd had 50 more meters they would have had them.

What struck me was that in that race and in the ending, although Margot may think it wasn't pretty, Margot and Sarah looked confident and competent. It wasn't a question of if they could make it, it was when they would make it happen.

Family celebration time and then over to Sarah's mom for a good old mom hug and cry. I know dad's and brothers and sisters love their daughters and sisters, but there is something special between mothers and daughters, at least for Mar and I, and I think for Sarah and her mom too. We have heard it all from the beginning. We have ached for their sorrows and been delirious with joy when they are happy. We are each others' go to person emotionally.

We raced to get down the elevator so we could stand behind our Federation stands and watch them come down the warm up/cool down "river" behind our stands. Again, a lot of screaming ourselves hoarse with Sarah's family. Then back up to watch a bit more rowing and then leaving because we couldn't think about anything other than meeting her at the Family tent.

Took a while, but seeing their faces when they arrived at the tent was just the BEST BEST feeling in the world. I told Margot that of course I want them to medal, want Friday's race to be awesome, but nothing can take away from the joy of this rep, the joy of seeing them do what they needed to do. Matt wasn't too happy!!! He said it's been about this race since they qualified the boat -- that this was the point they were working toward, making the A final possible.

The three of them made it happen and here's hoping there's a medal in the offing for them on Friday!

PS. We ran into the British couple at the train station when we arrived back at Clapham Junction and they were delighted for Margot (and us).

Row2k posted a raft of wonderful pictures. Here are just a few. If you are interested in purchasing any photos of any of the Olympic rowers, check out the Row2k site. You can click any photo in the blog to increase size.

In third, behind the Chinese and the Czechs (top left here) - about to make their move!

Overtaking the Czechs - worthy competitors indeed! 
Creeping up on the Chinese - also worthy competitors...

Over the finish line and into the A Finals

Sarah's Dad (red cap) and Mom (camera far right)!!!

Ouch, ouch, ouch, darn it, OUCH!

Pain is meaningless -- WE MADE IT!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Amazing Race

Margot and Sarah rowed the most amazing race this morning, taking second place and qualifying for the A Final on Friday. Needless to say, coach Matt is over the moon. We are all so proud of them.

Can't think about the race without crying. WOW! Thanks so much everyone for your support.

More later, need to take a brief nap.

Monday, July 30, 2012

9:50 AM British Time - Tuesday Reps

Repechage (Second Chance to Make the A Final)








Wonder why Mar and Sarah have their first names first
and last names in upper and lower case...

Strong Third Place Finish in the Heats

Two very fast heats this morning for the W2X in Eton Dorney. Kat Grainger/UK and her partner won the first heat in record time. She has been trying for a gold medal for quite a while, has three silvers to her credit, which isn't too shabby. In the second heat, Mar and Sarah rowed very well moving from 4th to 3rd by the end of the first 500m I believe. They battled with Poland over second place with Poland making their move at a better time to maintain their lead. So the Aussies won and along with Poland, join the previous heat's winners -- the UK and New Zealand -- in the A final. Tomorrow morning at 9:30 British time, Mar and Sarah will try to earn first or second place in the rep to move to the A final on Friday.

In a way, the heat is a teachable moment. Although moving directly to the A final is always a plus in terms of stress reduction (at least for parents, etc : ), having the rep or second chance, is another experience with the competition and hopefully can help you move ahead with confidence. If I am off base, it could be because I have never rowed. From my perspective, I just love watching her row as often as possible!

We had a chance to visit with her in the Family and Athletes enclosure at the end of the course. Also, had a chance to see Matt after quite a long time, and give him a big hug and thanks for all his excellent coaching and support, all the hours away from his wife Katie and their three adorable boys. This threesome has worked so hard together. We also had a chance to see Sarah and meet her family.

All around there are wonderful athletes and families from all over the country and the world.

Margot felt good about the race and explained a bit about their observations about their performance, but if I told you, I'd have to kill you, so that's all for that subject.

Now let's get down to the nuts and bolts... I am sitting on the bed in Julia's house typing this because I promised Tim from Channel 3 News that I would update the blog. He gave me a deadline and I haven't had one of those for a very long time. So, partly out of a sense of responsibility, partly because I can't bore all my Facebook friends with lengthy posts, and partly because it would be a very bad idea to go to sleep right now, I will fill in some of the nightmare logistical details that made today an achievement, but a very exhausting one.

I arranged for cabs from a recommended company to take us to Eton Dorney every day. I knew it would be expensive, but also thought that it would make sense because there were four of us and we had to lug my portable wheelchair around. Advised that it might take us 3-4 hours to make the normally 1 hour drive to Eton Dorney and considering that Mar's races were at 10:30 and 9:30 Monday and Tuesday and later on Friday, that seemed a bit unmanageable. Especially because we were advised to get to the course an hour before the event.

After enough discussions with John, Nate, and Tom to have solved the US budget issues, we decided to take a cab from Julia's house to the Clapham Junction station at 6:30 AM and catch the 7:08 train to Windsor (where the venue is located). So... John and I didn't sleep a wink last night. The boys slept well due to Ambien thoughtfully provided by Nate. We left promptly at 6:30 and made the train. However, the train was jammed. Nate got me a seat by shaming a perfectly healthy guy into vacating the handicapped seat. The rest of them stood for the hour it took to stop and start our way through various stations to our destination. Uncomfortable as it may have been, it was also a nice opportunity to chat with the people nearby, most of whom were from the UK and love rowing.

We arrived at the station and noted that the lines to the shuttle buses that were ferrying people to the race course were depressingly long. BUT, the Olympic Committee has done a wonderful job of preparing for people who have mobility issues. We were directed outdoors to a separate van which kindly took all of us and my wheelchair onto the Eton Dorney grounds. What a lovely drive past the row houses and shops and pubs that nestle at the bottom of Windsor Castle -- occasionally glimpsing the castle hovering imposingly above. Then onto the grounds themselves and past the horse racing track and grandstands on the left and a river on the right (you can also take a boat from the train station to the course).

The van stops a brief wheelchair ride/walk before the security entrance. Through security, there is an elevator strollers and chairs can take to get up on and down off the bridge over the river, and then, there was a place where you could store your wheelchair and get transport to the stands. However, we were allowed to continue in my own chair (which is really a portable transport chair) and stored it on an extra seat in the stands. The stands presented only one problem, lots of stairs up which I don't do particularly well, but that was our choice. There is an elevator you can take to a section of the stands where you can sit in your chair (which I don't need to do) but which is enclosed so you can't move to another section.

As we approached the stands, we ran into Sarah's mother, Lynn, and she told us what section she was sitting in. So that was quite a coincidence to meet her like that, and we decided to brave the stairs to be with our team. Once up in that section, we sat down and realized in about 5 minutes that we were sitting next to Sarah's mom and dad, brother and his girlfriend. Two coincidences in a row. They are, as we knew they would be, lovely people.

So, kudos to all who worked hard to make sure that everyone in the athlete's families were taken care of. And there were some seriously long walks involved in this, far more than in Beijing.

The day itself was gorgeous, very cool (low 60's), breezy, sunny for the most part and NO rain.

Overall, sitting there in the stands feeling relieved to be there ON TIME and even early enough to watch all the preceding races, looking across the water to the grandstands where my nephew Will and his fiancee Erin were sitting, surrounded by my family, waiting for my dear Margot to get on the water and begin this exciting experience in earnest... well, you can't feel a whole lot more blessed than that. And you can't help but say one of many prayers of thanks for being so lucky to be there/here, with the people you love best in the world, supported by wonderful family and friends at home.

When a race starts, I can only clasp my hands and send out positive thoughts. I do know that Margot feels most comfortable once she is sitting in the boat. The time leading up to it can be a period of agitation and nerves, but once she's settled in there, she's ready. They had a good start and although they didn't take the lead, I could see how strongly and smoothly they were rowing together. I guess the worst fear you can have is to worry that something will happen and they will trail by miles behind everyone else. That's never happened, but that's the mommy fear for me. This  W2X is an extremely talented and challenging group. And it was huge to feel that even though they were in third, they were rowing with confidence and strength, and great times.

Here's a link to an article on US Rowing that explains a few of the nightmare scenarios that took place this morning. We saw these and trust me, you do NOT want these types of things to happen: catching a crab, breaking an oar, etc.

We had arranged with Margot to meet at the Family tent at 11:30 so we left a bit early (we could have stayed to watch the last few races as it turned out timing-wise, hate to leave early because we had teams in the last races... but saw them from the pathway). We ran into Matt right outside the tent (see more above), and then Margot. We had a good visit, took a bunch of pictures, hugged and cried (well that last one was me), and wished them well for tomorrow.

When we finally left everyone, the six of us (including Will and Erin), decided to take the van into Windsor and have lunch before taking the train back (hoping the crowds would be smaller).

So we found a lovely pub and had a delicious lunch. The bread here is just wonderful. We've had multi grain sandwhich bread and hamburger buns here at Julia's. Today, had a chicken and avocado sandwich on white bread, but white bread that not only had texture and heft, but had been grilled (you could see the grill marks) to toast. Excellent french fries which I rarely eat. They were so good though I had to give them to Erin who does not need to watch calories.

Took the 2:23(?) train back, this time with lots of seats so much more comfortable. Will and Erin continued on to get back to Kensington where they are staying. The boys are at the hotel and John and I at Julia's. Resting. Not sure what we will do tonight, but for me, it won't involve much action!

The plan for tomorrow is to leave a half hour earlier and catch the 6:38 train so we can maybe find a seat. Another family recommended we do that and then have breakfast in Windsor before catching the shuttle. So we'll see how that works. Mar's race is at 9:30 AM and we were in plenty of time for the beginning of the race leaving a half hour later this morning, just don't want everyone to have to be standing all the way there.

Overall, wonderful first day. I know Matt and Sarah and Mar were going to do some talking and planning for tomorrow, and resting. After the race, they cool down (usually by rowing for a while, but often by erging or running, some other exercise like that), sometimes they sit in barrels filled with ice water (not sure if they did that), they get a massage, in short, after that type of exertion, there are routine activities they need to complete to restore their bodies. And there is the debrief with the coach, and the strategizing for the next race.

Wow, I am rambling along. Reminds me of something one of my English teachers, Ms. Bechtel, used to recite when she came in and we were chattering away in class: *"I chatter, chatter, as I go -- Along the Birming River. Men may come and men may go -- But I go on forever."

Pictures later. Keep your fingers crossed for first or second place tomorrow! GO USA!

*Had to look that quote up. Where would we be without the magical google search engine? It's Tennyson, an excerpt from Poem #80, The Brook!

"I chatter, chatter, as I flow

     To join the brimming river,
     For men may come and men may go,
     But I go on for ever."

UPDATE: Facebook post from Matt:

W2x raced did a good job today, posting their best 2k time thus far. Rowed very well in rough conditions and are positioned well for tomorrow's reps. If we finish top 2 out of 6 we are in the A Finals. 
Great base piece for us, the Polish crew brought up their rate and finishing push around 600 meters to go. More importantly it was before we did and countered momentum that we had as we closed to about 1/3 of a length. 
We have to do more tomorrow to advance, but will stick within the game plan. Germany and Czech held back some today with China and us having the two fastest times going into the rep tomorrow. 
Thanks for the great support and cheering us on!
9:50 Tomorrow UK time.