My early years of rowing were at Ridley. Five novices in varsity lightweight eight in a very tough category–competing with the finest from elite prep schools in Canada and the USA. It just happened we were Ridley where there were no novice boats and every boat was a championship shell expected to win Gold.
In our Ridley boathouse, we had the Canadian men's Olympic gold medal eight–the yellow Empacher shell consisted of alumni that had gifted the boat to the school for our heavy men's eight to train in. It just so happened that our head coach Neil, was also the Canadian men's Olympic head coach. This brought with it a dedication from all athletes, both women and men to train to our utmost ability and not be held back by any what ifs.
Our land training consisted of: 4.1 mile run with hills every other day as our coach Rhys held a stopwatch and recorded our times even in the coldest days of the Canadian winter. Running was combined with weight training and erg training. Once on the water, we had to learn to row in a gorgeous wooden shell named "Endurement."
Training together, my crew grew closer, we persevered, trained hard, listened to our coach, believed in ourselves and won gold at both the American Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia as well as the CSSRA Canadian Schoolboy.
Before the race final, our coach reminded us of the racing he expected. We were to be strong and persistent, to take the first couple of strokes to build and then focus on the length, power, and rhythm. "Try to hold off chasing crews," he said, "but if passed stay strong and keep going. Your body can keep working hard for longer than you think. You can push yourself for long periods of time and to push harder as time goes on, taking on whatever challenge is posed and that is the strategy today. I want you to go out in front and lead from the front." We then watched the video of Canadian Olympic oarsmen win Gold similar to the video attached here and were wired as we took the boat into battle.
The race plan: Lead from the front. I have recently been invited by the school to return for reunion with my men in June. We have all done well.