April 30, 2004

MUBC training camp

An almost clear desk and I've just got a few moments to relfect on magnificent Mimizan, south or Bordeaux, the location for the training camp.

Although I was working the whole time coaching rowing I have to say this was the best holiday of my life. Everybody had so much fun. Rowing 4 - 5 times a day, coaching rowing, sculling, canoeing, coxing, watching rowing videos (Boat Race, Gold Fever, videos taken at Mimizan and the Drivers' Union video of the journey overland with the boats), talking rowing and relaxing in the sun when it eventually came out.

Then there was the excellent French canteen cuisine. Local red wine with every meal. And the hospitality of our hosts! Bernard was not just any old coach driver collecting us from the airport. He fixed the coffee machine, mended our boats, put out buoys, he did everything. Except for his day off he seemed omnipresent and always wishing to help so that we all had a good time. He even apologised for the weather upon our arrival.

The weather was somewhat windy on the first few days. This did not stop Karen from attempting an atlantic crossing from Mimizan Plage on a body board. Dan dared to rescue her on his, earning a kiss as a result. Then he was called to excercise his diagnostic skills on Dave Elliott who had gone over during a touch rugby game and twisted his knee. Poor Dave, he's still out of the picture.

Then on the first training day we ran the first eight over some underwater object and seriously damaged the hull. Bernard to the rescue again.

So the camp was not without incident. Three people drew attention to themselves by suffering from exhaustion. It is easy after so much rowing every day to deplete the body of glycogen. A lot of training at low intensity is OK. The body burns fat mostly. But as soon a some hard work is undertaken, seat racing or timed pieces for example, then the tank is quickly emptied. Once empty is can take 48 hours to replenish. We had to call an ambulance for Speedy who was stretchered from the 2nd eight and could not even muster the energy to open his eyes. Oxygen revived him.

The objective of improving everybody's rowing was undoubtedly achieved. The women worked out that they had done six months worth of rowing in one week. At the end in a scratch regatta involving 6 eights the winnning crew contained one of the weakest girls. The crews were achieving ratings of 42 and nobody caught a crab. Actually all the crews looked really good together, which had been one of the week's objectives - to make each person sufficiently neutral so that they could be substituted into any crew and it would make little or no difference to how it sat.

The effectiveness of this strategy was demonstrated when the first and second men's eights were pitted against each other in a 2000m race in a brisk following wind. Ben (stroke of the 1st Novice men's eight), miraculously recovered from a recent hit and run accident, stepped into Dan's shoes in the first eight, as Dan had had to return to Manchester, and promptly went under 6 minutes for the 2000m.

OK the wind was strong. But we had an average start, and the boat had a big scratch down its whole length and the heights were set too low so that in the rough water the crew was a little troubled. Equally enouraging was the performance of the 2nd VIII who clocked a remarkable 6.11.

So with two very strong men's eights and two very strong men's novice VIIIs Manchester look well prepared to take BUSA by storm.

The development of the women's side is about two years behind that of the men and most of them are novice. But amongst them are some excellent athletes and some great personalities, some of whom were unable to attend the camp. Their rowing came on leaps and bounds and after seat racing they were divided into a first and second group.

Almost immediately after this pauvre Clover got tenosynovitis so she didn't receive much coaching. Whereas formerly I would have put this injury down to her rowing technique and overuse, now I am of the opinion that her recent fall down some stairs is the cause.

Lizzy went sculling and then rowing in a pair (with Alice who seemed to strike up a relationship with everybody including Bernard by the end of the week) for the first time since women's Henley. Lizzy has really missed her rowing so she was delighted. She also seemed pleased at the opportunity to don all my protective clothing and shout at me with my megaphone when I went double sculling with Nick. There are some amusing photos and some video, which I have yet to see, of this incident.

Most amusing incident of the week had to be witnessing Martin rolling out of his single during a sculling race in the regatta on the last day. He put on a brave face.

We were all sad to leave and it was difficult to adjust to normal life upon return to England. But we'll be back next year, for sure, with an even bigger and better group.

Special thanks to Stuart Travis for orgnanising flights, Evan Bickmore for taking on so much responsibility, Paul Prestine for interpreting and for finding Mimizan in the first place, Nick Aldridge, Lizzy, Nick Ireland, Stuart and Anton for assisting with the coaching, Clare, Lou and Pete for doing so so much coxing and finally Evan, Nick and Graham for getting the boats there. What a great team. What a great club.

Posted by Stephen Walker at 11:00 AM