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A year of rowing surprises

These last 12 months have been full of rowing surprises for me. Last December, I entered the British Rowing Indoor Championships because I had moved to London just around the corner from the Olympic Velodrome and had often thought how great it would be to race there.

On the day, the surprises began: greeted at the registration desk by dear Sally Lawrence, I met Eric Murray, saw a Tom Cruise look-a-like (who was actually Tom Cruise!), found myself leading, and then winning, my 2k race! I was a British Champion. Who’d have thought? Not me, for sure.

This year, my BRIC thoughts were more targeted than last year’s ‘I think I’ll have a go’ attitude. I thought I’d have a crack at the 2k British record! Looking at the opposition, I wasn’t expecting to win, even with a record time, but the record was the focus.

In October, after persuasion from a couple of erging chums, I signed up for some coaching, just to get a different perspective on what training I could be doing. Up to that point, I had been making up as I went along, although that had been reasonably successful.

Then British Rowing announced that the BRIC 2020 was going be virtual and not the usual Velodrome get-together. Luckily, I had some virtual racing experience over the summer, including the first, and hopefully only, British Rowing Virtual Championships in June. I was very pleased to be the first winner of both the 2k and 500m titles in my category.

For BRIC 2020, there were 2700+ competitors from 42 countries. The start of our race was a bit of a trial on the nerves as several competitors were struggling with connectivity. We were held, poised, and ready to go, for 11 minutes, while the race software went through several tedious but necessary restart processes.

My race actually went pretty much to plan. Although my main (Dutch) opponent had fallen ill, there was still one Czech guy who seemed to be as fast as I’d hoped to be.

I managed to get a lead from the go and, sticking to my split plan, I remained 2-3 meters ahead up to 1000m. At 1k, I went up a gear. By 1500m I was 9 metres up; at 1750m I was 18 metres up. By 2000m I was 35 metres ahead and had clocked a time of 7:08.1.

I thought I’d equaled the record. But I’d remembered the lightweight, not the heavyweight time which was actually 0.6 seconds slower than mine! I now have to get Concept2 to ratify it. Due a couple of technical hiccups, this could be a bit of a problem - but that’s another story.

On Sunday I missed out on the 500m title by 0.6s (3 metres), but it was a close race, so I was happy enough.

Happily, winning the BRIC 2k qualifies me for the World Rowing Indoor Championship 2021, next February, when I can also defend my current World title. I will again race in my kitchen. A sacred and hallowed ‘Twickenham of kitchens', according to my youngest!

I had a very gracious message of congratulations from Roger Stainforth in Durham, who had held the 2k record for the last 6 years. I happily messaged congratulations to the 500m winner Robin Sterk, from Holland, who I'd raced at previous events. No medals to show yet. The presentations will be made through my letterbox by an unwitting postie in due course!

During the post-race interview, I was switched on enough to show my new T-shirt celebrating 40 years of Lea R.C., but totally forgot to explain what it was about!

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