There is a long way to go and the journey has only begun but unlike these blokes we aren’t waiting for time to pass us by or for something to come along as an opportunity.
On the weekend was the first time since Beijing that I was able to again race in a boat with Duncan Free. It was cool fun to be able to get in with Josh Dunkley Smith, Duncan and Tom Larkins. It was for our state championships here in Victoria.
Prior to the fours race Josh and I got to race the pair and we had a little win against Beijing silver medalists in the four James Marburg and Cameron McKenzie McHarg with Duncan and Tom Larkins in third.
After NSW state champs we knew we had to improve how we got out of the blocks and our focus of setting up well through the transition worked well.
The four though capped off the day but only after a relatively sluggish period from 250-750m were we finally got into a better rhythm and started to move the boat properly.
What’s encouraging is being able to make changes stick during racing and being able to find rhythm while racing even when it’s not spot on to start with.
It’s no secret we are keen to race the four this year so the two old blokes if all goes well will be combining with some young guys possibly. It’s not that I or we feel it is just going to happen, actually it’s the opposite. We have been proactive and pushing for opportunities to come together and improve.
Personally working with Josh has been great and refreshing. Not to say I haven’t had moments when I consider the differences or similarities to other pairs I have been in. When it has not been up to scratch I have had to be mindful of us being a new combination and that Josh is still very young. Josh obviously has shown in the last few years he is a talent and will do very well in rowing. Yesterday though was a nice little test. We headed to Nagambie at the last minute due to my mid thoracic spasming the day before. So we arrive up there and pretty much had 60min before we would be racing. This always challenges an athletes routine. We then had a terrible warm up on the water. But as my old mate James Tomkins said once the warm up is just the way we get to the start. I said to Josh forget the warm up let’s trait ourselves to nail it once the gun goes. After the race Josh indicated it was somewhat disconcerting and distracting and he had to remind himself to block it all out. To me this is more impressive than his physiology and early career results. He flicked the switch and we jumped out well and I actually felt we had it on a string. We could tension and loosen it off as needed as we stretched out through 250 and onto 500m. We did as we planned and after the drive up, last minute snack at the service station. Add the foot stretcher adjustment we made once we arrive plus the warm up which didn’t really have us coordinate one solid stroke together we turned all this into a positive experience and delivered on our plan. This is a trait which can not be easily measured but is more important that most indicators of possible performance.
Years ago James Tomkins rowed with Ian Belot who funnily enough was my first form master at school in 1989. Ian once mentioned to someone who years later told me that he and James first raced a pair back in 1985. It was a state champs regatta too but in Ballarat. At some stage during the race the had veered off course and about to hit a post which mark the side of the rowing course. With one call from Ian in bow James at speed pulled his oar in to miss the post and slotted it back out against the button and never missed a beat. They went on to win and Ian new then this kid James Tomkins had something special. That day was presence and composure under race pressure. My experience with Josh was the capacity to flick the switch and turn a negative into a positive. Why I liked it is because it is probably something I have felt I have been able to do many times over the years and it enables great performances when it could be easy to let things slide.
Back to the four and I have to say it was great fun being in the boat with these guys. I am aware that Tom would have been up in the bow and maybe pinching him self to get to row with Duncan in the pair and then the four. Duncan is impressive in size, power and again a special quality which is to be able to flick that switch and turn it on when required.
For the weekend it came at the end of a solid week with state team training and a week of pair rowing with Josh. Forgot to say…. You little ripper I have made it through rowing each day for a week. Even the back spasm was not a big concern as I have had it before and it needs treatment and some rest. So we are not waiting for things to come to us we are ready to make things happen. For now still here, still kicking and enjoying is great sport.