I went up to Peterborough on Saturday morning for a weekend of racing. My head was a cloud of sleep deprivation brought on by a late night out. Just say "no" when it comes to a night out before a regatta. Not ideal preparation for up to 6 x 1000m of racing in one day.
Not long after I arrived at the lake I would need to head out for my first heat. I was about to compete in only my second single scull race, just a few weeks after my very first. As I paddled towards the start, going through some warm up drills, my body filled with nerves and adrenaline and washed away the fatigue of the night before.
I knew I would have 4 x 1000m in my legs to make it to the sculling finals. So if I was going to still be competitive at the end of the day I would have to be strategic. I only needed to finish second to progress. I would have to conserve my legs as much as possible.
So when I got away in the first heat and established a small lead I wanted to slow down. But the gap between 2nd and 3rd was too close. I would need to stay in 1st or risk misjudging 2nd and finishing 3rd. So I held a pace that kept me in 1st and progressed to the semi finals.
For the semi final I would meet 3 new opponents. I had another good start and again found myself in the lead. With about 300m to go 2nd would be just over a length behind, 3rd even further back. This time I decided it was safe to switch off the gas and cruise home. I finished the semi second, but it was enough to book a spot in the final.
The next event for me was a heat of the pair. After this race I had about 3 hours of recovery before my final in the single. So I decided to go for it. Unfortunately we were only able to achieve 3rd and would not progress to the final. I just hoped this wouldn't take the precious kick out of my legs I expected to need in the finals of the single scull.
By the time I was paddling up for the final I already had 4000m of racing in my legs that day. I looked at my competition. I would be meeting 3 young scullers. In lane 4 the lad who finished 2nd in my heat, lane 3 the young guy who was first in my semi. Then in lane 2 was a guy who sculls for Rob Roy. I saw him as my biggest threat. He had equalled my fastest time of the day and others had said he looked good in his races. I was grateful he would be starting in the lane next to me, where I could keep an eye on him.
I managed a good start in the final was able to get an early advantage. From there I could see lanes 3 and 4 starting to fall behind. But Rob Roy, in the lane next to me, was holding on and not more than half a length down.
As we approached the 500m mark I began to feel the day of racing in my body. Various limbs and muscle groups began to protest. Then with about 300m to go Rob Roy launched his attack. I was on rate 34 when he drew level. It was time for me to go. So I kicked up a gear, taking the rating up over 36. If Rob Roy had another gear I don't think I could have done anything to stop him. So I just dug in and gave it everything. With less than 150m to go my boat started to move away. Whether I had done enough to crack Rob Roy or he just ran out of steam. It was enough for me to hold onto 1st all the way to the finish line.
You can't really do the traditional "3 cheers" when you're alone in a single scull. Nor does it seem necessary for small boats. There is just an implied respect for each other and plenty of mutual appreciation for what was a great and enjoyable race.
Not having any crew mates in the boat makes racing more exciting and significantly more nerve racking. I have to thank Drago for helping me through the day with his typically calm demeanour. Getting through those races was only possible with his support.