Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The off season

The last time wrote on my blog was the morning returned to Australia after wrapping up the season early with my busted ribs and to enjoy some rest. As always this “recovery” period went way to fast and I am now back in Italy about to embark on my second training camp with my new team Liquigas Cannondale. On our first camp we simply had 3 days getting to know each other. Some team building exercises, time playing and literally rolling around in the snow. Of course no initial training camp would be complete without some form of time at the local pup, and after giving every different variety of grappa a test run we went outside to the adjoining ski slope with ski biscuits to have the annual slip and slide destruction derby. The winner was, well no one and with limited injuries was a good time had by all. I can honestly say I had never thought that I night out could culminate in sliding down a ski slope in rubber tyres, the main aim being to get as many people on one tyre as possible whilst attaining the most out of control velocity. It was certainly fun to experience this annual team ritual. So following the camp it has been back to the less glamorous side of cycling, training in the winters rain and snow for the past few days. It iks the first time I have seen a European winter and although I won’t pretend I was prepared for it, being Tasmanian and spending so many hrs in the depths of winter rowing a boat has meant that I don’t mind it so much. I am still might I point out looking forward to getting on the plane tomorrow for our 2 week training camp on the Italian island of sardenia where I have been assured the weather is very pleasant. At the caps conclusion on the 22nd it is straight on the plane for to be home in time for Christmas.

So the off season for as I said before went far to quick. My main aim in this period is to spend as much time with my beautiful girlfriend as possible after our time apart during the season. I stay off the bike for 3 weeks which gives me the opportunity to enjoy my other sporting passion of golf. I really enjoy playing golf simply because I don’t care how bad I play as I don’t have to be good at it. Sure I love it when I play well but the game gives me the chance to relax in a sport and enjoy the company of a wide range of playing companions you come across. As I said before sport is a great leveler and it is certainly a humbling experience when someone twice your age gives you a hiding on the golf course, you cant help but a admire a sport where this can regularly occur. I just hope when I finish cycling I can dedicate a lot of time to improving on my stagnant 10 handicap and have a crack at getting low into the single figures but that can wait. So through in a few weekend escapes and long sleep ins on weekends and the 3 weeks of disappears and then it back into the gym and on the bike. This year I have spent a lot more time in the gym than previous and even got myself back onto the rowing machine. I was told once by neil stephens that the rowing machine was his weapon of choice in the off season so figure as a former rowing it is something I can most likely enjoy again. To be honest I was very surprised how I was able to get back on without feeling like I had much of that strength, sure all the muscles have disappeared thanks to 3 years on the bike but in all honesty I feel more comfortable now than I did before on the machine. The thing is although I harbor no ambitions to ever row a boat full time again, I often think about and wonder how techniquely I could have done it better. As a result I think I must have been sub consciously training in the sport and feel pretty good doing it. I am certainly happy about this as it is nice that 6 years of dedication to a sport has left me with atleast a few skills in the discipline. The off season is also a great time to see all the doctors you don’t make time to visit during the year, dentist, skin cancer analyist, gp and optometrist just to ensure you are in tip top shape to take on a new season. Also admin tasks like tax return always get pushed aside until this period. All in all it is a great opportunity to catch up and all you have not done.

Another past time I have undertaken in the past 2 off seasons is assisting rowing coaching my school 1st eight. It is great to give a little back to a sport that gave me so much and also to my school hutchins whish certainly instilled the patriotic sporting culture into my veins. Coaching is something I have always enjoyed and as my great coach aldo sassi once told me, “a coach is only as good as the athletes he chooses”, in the case of me with the hutchins boys, they have won the past 6 head of the river rowing titles so there quality is certainly very high and not even I am able to bugger them up. It did at times means long days, up at 5am to get on the water, home for breaky, out on th bike for a few hrs, lunch then off to the gym for a couple of hrs meant the days turned into weeks pretty quick but it is a great thing to experience along the way. Watching them perform and most often win gives me great satisfaction and enjoyment, it is amazing to witness sport from the other side. The other side being the hrs in the dingy on the water refining there trechnique to the time in the gym and rowing machine room motivating them to push harder. It gives me a greater perspective of what our team directors must go though during the season, those endless hrs in the car screaming in the radio, having all logistics organized and now it is nice to know that when we do what’s asked and get the right result they enjoy the satisfaction that can only be gained from putting in so many hrs of hard work. All the things I have benefited from by numerous coaches and mentors over the years and it is great to get an appreciation for what this role entails. I have been even more fortunate in the fact that the great roger Drummond was the man whom I was fortunate enough to be assisting. Roger tragically passed away on the 11/11/11 and like the day represents, will be greatly remembered. Roger was the most successful school rowing coach on the scene. His crews had one countless head of the rivers and his athletes have gone on to win both Olympic and multiple world championship medals. I was so honored when roger asked me to be involved with his crew as I obviously had immense respect for him as a person but also had always been intrigued to see exactly what made him such a successful coach. What I learnt that there was no mad science behind his approach, no the secret was simply roger. His way of coaching revolved around finding ways to get the most out of each and every athlete and helping to perform at levels they most likely knew they were never capable off. He was not a dictator nor did he except misbehavior, he did however leave to the athlete to decide if he was prepared to put in the hard yards rather than force it down there thoughts and in every athlete in this group they chose to get stuck right into there collective goals. He was truly a special a person and his skills were not those taught in a classroom but simply ones he possessed from being such a special wonderful person than anyone lucky enough to have been involved with will attest to. Over the 2 years I have been helping roger I therefore became very close to the boys and really felt a responsibility to help them wherever I could. Roger did not stop at rowing, sport was just a part of it and he basically became a life coach for his athletes also. Having been so fortunate to witness him at work I did all I could to fit into the mould as best I could, while I could never ever dream of possessing these special skills roger had I certainly have done all I can to be there for the boys and in the process made some great little buddies along the way. So thanks roger, you have made a massive contribution to this world and any that had time with you are truly blessed.

So that’s my off season In a wrap, I will certainly Endeavour to update my blog a lot more from now on as I return to a more normal routine. Just in closing I would like to share a great achievement from one of my rowing boys in the 2009 head of the river winning crew George Burbury. When I met George last it was obvious he was the natural athlete. It came then as no surprise to me that he excelled in many other sports besides rowing, mainly Australian Rules Football. I realized that Football was certainly his passion longer term and therefore prescribed him more football related training over the summer break. At the time when I sent him his programme via email I gave him some goals which I had done for all the boys of what I thought they could achieve for the season. For George I felt he was certainly capable of winning national titles in rowing with his school crews and following the football season be drafted to the AFL. He achieved the rowing side of things at this year’s nationals and went onto have a standout season with his football. 12months on and he has been drafted to the Geelong Football Club and will begin life as a professional footballer tomorrow. Although I was merely an observer in the whole process it has been a nice experience for me to see something special in someone and follow that journey with him, I am now very excited to watch him progress into life as a professional Australian Rules Footballer. It is always very important to enjoy and celebrate the success of others as one day when you may be lucky enough to enjoy some yourself you hope that others will also share that joy with you.

From Italy’s sub arctic conditions I will say by for now