Monday, July 30, 2012

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.


Margot Shumway said...

Laughed out loud several times Mom. You're doing a great job and spot on with your summaries. Love you.

Margot Shumway said...

Very funny writing mom and great summaries. Love you.

Carol Langley said...

Lovely post about your first day at the games. Thank you for sharing your wonderful day with us.