Lessons Learned from U23s

On the flight home from the U23 World Championships in Rotterdam last year I wrote this note in my computer:

Things I’ve learned:

-Never count out China

-Never never never give up

-Appreciate the people who will help you through the training, not the people who only acknowledge your success

-Love your parents

-Be nice always

-Someone has to come in last place

I was pretty upset after the regatta (My final bullet point was about coming in last because we came in last, lol). We were all incredibly disappointed, but as time has passed I’ve taken a lot more from the experience than the place we finished in.

My boat-mates, Julia, Alison and Marlee, actually taught me how to row. Before last summer I was a hack. Big and strong, but technically incompetent. They forced me to row up to their level and develop boat feel. We got along great, we pushed each other and we really had fun every day.

The biggest benefit of last summer was seeing the top end of rowing. I thought that I was a big-shot before I went to selection camp. I came back to Wisconsin humbled. I looked at what I had done in the past and knew I would have to do a lot more to be competitive in the future.

That experience prepared me for this summer. It was very different the second time around.

The first week or so was a bit rocky, but I eventually slid my way into the seven seat of the 8+; a boat class that American women are known for winning. Going from a program that has never made the “A” final at NCAAs to getting into a boat that has had something like a 12 year streak of medaling at u23 worlds was an insane turn of events for me. It came with the kind of pressure that churned my stomach for days leading up to the final.

By the time we lined up in Plovdiv, Bulgaria for the final, we had visualized the race so many times, it felt like I had already rowed it. I had so much trust in my coxswain and boatmates that there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win.

We were down off the line, like we expected. We took our 750 move, got even and then pulled ahead of the pack. As we took our 1250 move, we were at least 4 seats up on Canada, maybe open water on Russia in third. Everything was going according to plan. All we had to do was execute the last bit and we would be World Champions.

Someone caught a digger. I was unfazed. We were good enough that one digger wouldn’t matter. Then it happened again. And again. And again.

What the hell.

Our 2 seat’s seat had jammed in the middle of a stroke and then popped off of the tracks. She finished the last 750 of the race rowing with no seat: sliding her butt up and down on the deck.

We crossed the line in second, barely edging out the Russians. We sat there in disbelief as Canada celebrated over our shoulder.

There’s nothing wrong with silver, but losing because of something that was so random; totally outside of my control is the most frustrating thing that I’ve ever experienced.

It took weeks to feel proud of this outcome, instead of disappointed. I’ll never forget that race, but what I’m going to remember more is the time I spent training and hanging out with my boat (awww ❤ ❤ <3). So even though I didn’t walk away with a gold medal, here’s what I learned this year:

-It’s a federal offense to kill a bald eagle.

-Don’t let anyone choose your fate. Grind until they have no choice but to give you want you want.

-The toughest people have been through the toughest shit.

-Love the work.

-Hype is free speed.

-No amount of preparation can combat unforeseeable circumstances. Shit happens. Do the best you can.

-Be someone you would want to row with.

I’m heartbroken that I won’t be competing at the college level with the rest of my boat this year, but I can’t wait to watch them kick some ass.

Hook ’em, Go Bears, Go Tigers, Dubs up, Fight on you Trees and also Yeah Yale.

XOXO, I left my heart (and one of my Birkenstocks) in Bulgaria



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