Dé·jà vu: something overly or unpleasantly familiar.
Rowing is a sport that involves spending exorbitant amounts of energy doing the same thing, over and over again. And then, waking up and doing it all again the next day, and then the next. And yes, you guessed it: the next. Rowers are a rare breed: slaves to a training regimen in the name of the pursuit of excellence and becoming our best.
The physical act of rowing demands the perfection of one repeated motion: the stroke. And then perfecting this sometimes in synchronization with another one, three, or seven people in a boat. Training itself becomes a repetitive routine of practice, eat, sleep (rinse and repeat 2-3 times a day). Mental toughness is a necessity in order to successfully endure long weeks of training broken up by a relatively small amount of racing opportunities. In an environment where you are constantly judged by numbers and ranked against your teammates, it’s important to not let the ups take you too high or the downs bring you too low. You’ll drive yourself crazy; and chances are, you’re going to do it all over again the following week.
This concept of letting go and realizing not every test or every piece will be your best, is something I’m beginning to get a hold on, but still find myself struggling with from time to time. Last summer I had a season-ending injury, breaking my rib and straining the intercostal muscles. I swore up and down after those long torturous months, I wouldn’t let it happen again (read: I may or may not have control issues when it comes to healing). I treated my physical therapy exercises as a religion; I drank my milk; I took my vitamins. Only to have the same rib give out on me again three months later, just three weeks into Team training. Broken again, I was out the remainder of the fall, missing the Head of the Charles, the Fall Speed Order, and valuable time on the water. Once again I was confined to the bike, stadiums and running path. Talk about dé·jà vu.
What was supposed to be my time to really “get ahead” and hopefully put myself in a great position to make the team in 2013 became an unbelievable disappointment. It was not the successful start to the Olympic cycle that I had planned, but as is all too common, plans don’t always go accordingly.
The great news is that I’m seven weeks into being fully back and 100% on the training plan. Coming back from an injury or just time off of training takes some humility, patience, a lot of maturity, and the ability to see the bigger picture. So you missed some opportunities; but they’ve come and gone and you can only focus on what’s next. You won’t get fast overnight. You have to be okay with seeing numbers on the erg screen that are five, maybe eight splits off of your normal pace–be it steady state or race pace. You have to maintain the confidence that you have been there before, you will be there again; it just takes time. As easy as it is and as good as it may feel to sulk, you can’t let yourself dwell on how much “right now” may suck. If you continue to allow yourself to sink into that cycle, it only slows down the process of healing or getting back to where you want to be. Trust me, it takes a lot of energy being mad at the world or feeling sorry about your own bad luck. It’s exhausting.
Rather, it’s about taking the right steps forward and sometimes just putting your head down and getting the work done. Despite the oftentimes maddening moments of dé·jà vu, I truly am living the dream. And every day I learn something new about myself, discover unrealized potential, and break through personal and physical limits.
Here’s to another week.
Every day counts.