Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Post- race letdown is the name of the game here in Chula Vista. We returned from Oklahoma late last night, and now have just two weeks of training here until I go to Pan-Ams in Montreal. As you can see, we are just a bit antsy... but finding ways to keep occupied.

Hello, chiquita?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Olympic Trials: Day Three!

If I could use the word "fun," to describe any part of trials, I would not be able to pick out one specific experience from the multitude of ridiculous “fun” that I had all weekend of racing.

Just kidding!! I’d use it for Day 3, when I raced the k2 1000m with Lauren Austin.

We were determined to have a good time (literally! ha ha!) and our attitude made the whole thing more enjoyable. To be honest, my shoulder was killing me. I had the trainer and the chiropractor work on me, and then I disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, came out, and announced to Lauren, "I just took 6 Advil and washed them down with a boost. I'm ready." She just looked at me and burst out laughing.
See what I mean? Lauren is all- smiles!

She was laughing even harder 20 minutes later, when I was heaving over the side of the boat halfway through the warm-up. (Just kidding. Lauren would never laugh at someone throwing up.) My troubles were quickly forgotten though, when the gun went off and we had a stellar start, an even more stellar middle, and a kickin' finish to our race! I wouldn't have changed anything. We finished second to Emily Mickle and Emily Vinson (Don't you wish your name was Emily?) and the four of us hugged it out.
I have always looked forward to an opportunity to use the phrase "hugged it out"

Blue boat: Maia Farrar-Wellman/ Kaitlyn McElroy; white boat: Emily Wright/ Lauren Austin; other boat (which is black and yellow but I wasn’t sure if I should say “black” or “yellow”): Emily Vinson/ Emily Mickle

All in all, Oklahoma was a beautiful success. I had my best k1 result ever (come to think of it, my best k2 result also), had fun, and most importantly, learned a whole heck of a lot.

Okay, I won't sugar-coat this too much. I’ll be honest: I just lost my chance to go to the 2008 Olympic Games. Even though I tried my hardest, second-place finishes are not good enough. I am disappointed, sad, and frustrated with myself. I wish I'd trained harder, hadn't torn my shoulder, had done better last year.... anything, everything. I wish I'd done it all. I wish I wasn't so darn mediocre when sometimes I feel like I put in a monumental effort.

But the truth is in the training. You'll see me in London in 2012, and it will not be the same story. In fact, I have 4 more years to create my story... and it’s going to be a page-turner.

Olympic Trials Report: Day Two

Me and mom!

Picking k4 combinations is no easy task. For the eight of us in the "assessment pool" it involved two months of seat racing. Seat racing, for those who aren't familiar, is the process by which Nathan, the head coach, split the eight of us into two crews of four. Every single Tuesday morning, we'd be up before dawn for time trials. We'd eat cereal and bananas and be at the boathouse by 6:45 to stretch and warm up for the races, which always started at 7:30am. We'd be split into two k4s, and do one time trial. Then one seat of the k4 (say, 3rd seat, for example) would switch, and we'd do another time trial. Nathan would analyze these races, looking at which people could make boats go faster in which seats, which people were consistent, who could follow whom best in the boat, which crews had better timing, better swing, better cooperation, etc. All these considerations over many weeks went into choosing the two k4 teams for this race. The k4 that won US Team Trials would go on to Montreal. The k4 that wins in Montreal gets to go to the Olympics. So we all knew this was the first hoop to jump through in the long road to the Olympics.
The k4 assessment pool (from left to right): Emily Wright, Emily Mickle, Katie Hagler, Maggie Hogan, Emily Vinson, Lauren Austin, Susannah Stuccio

Cut to: sitting on the line for the start of the race at 8am on Saturday morning. Was I thinking about any of this? No. My thought process was more along the lines of: Power down the course. Legs and body. C’mon Em, let’s do it. Big body, big swing. Power down the course. Legs and Body. C’mon Em, let’s do it. (My inner monologue is continuously repeating, you see. Otherwise I might forget the first part by the time I’m at the last part. Also I’ve just noticed that I apparently talk to myself as if there were two of us.) You can be thankful you will never have to be inside my head for one of these races. Ever.

The gun went off and we had a great start. I wasn't looking at the other k4 out of the corner of my eye, so I'm not sure where we were in the race. (Lucky for both of us, my mom took all these great photos!) All I know is that we paddled great. Our strongest point was from the 250 through the finish. We were very powerful, together, and we finished strong.

“Finished strong,” of course is a euphemism for “We lost by three seconds.” And just like that, we did not earn the nomination to the Continental Cup Qualifier. The disappointment hit us as soon as we put our paddles down: this is the end of the road. [The k4 was our best-and only- chance to get to China this summer.] I'd be lying if I said it wasn't very emotional. Losing hurts badly, and all four of us shared a heavy sense of letdown.

We have stuck close by one another from the beginning; long ago, we sat down together and planned exactly how we would carry ourselves across the finish line of this very race: that the four of us would win or lose together as a team. That very sentiment was echoed through countless measures of support through the duration of the weekend, and especially now.

So our reward for the months of work together unfortunately does not include a gold medal... but perhaps our extraordinary sense of team accomplishment is equally valuable.
Lauren Austin, Susannah Stuccio, me, Emily Vinson

After the race, we warmed down in k4 one last time, and then Lauren, Emily Vinson, and I grabbed our k1s for the 1000m heats.

The k1 1000m is not an Olympic event for women, but it is featured in Pan-Ams as well as World Championships. I had an uneventful heat and was able to progress straight through to the A-final. Skipping the semi-final allowed me several hours of rest, during which I walked back to the hotel, took a shower, and tried to decompress. One of the hardest- and most obvious- elements of sprint racing (or any racing in general) is to race well after a disappointment. With the k4 and the k1 finals just 6 hours apart, it was sometimes a struggle “put the k4 race in the bag” so to speak, and just focus on putting together a good race in the k1.

In the final, I lined up in lane 7. Emily Vinson, known for her speedy starts, was next to me, and I wanted to stay with her off the line (I am not known for my speedy starts). The gun went off, and I stayed a half-length behind her for the first several hundred meters. At 400m, I pulled ahead and maintained a slight lead until the 500m, when she surged and broke even with me. By this time, the two of us had broken away from the rest of the field, and were streaming down the middle of the course, battling it out. (I‘m told told it was exciting!)
The last 250m: Emily Vinson (on the left) and me (on the right)

We stayed about dead even until the 250m mark. I remember seeing the orange banner and telling myself to pick it up. Time to finish! Finish hard! I started to pick up the power, but Vinson had the same idea. I couldn't break away, so I held on to our dead-even sprint and figured I could try to get it in the last 50m and shoot my boat across the finish line. However, that was not to be, as Vinson put on an admirable kick with 150m left to go and I just couldn't match it. I crossed the line in second place. Losing always sucks, but I couldn't have gone any harder, so I supposed I'm not entitled to disappointment.

In our race packets we got a coupon to Scheffler's cowboy store. Even though I was exhausted, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. My mom drove us there and boy am I glad she did. I am now a real-live cowgirl (I have a hat, duh). The whole place smelled pleasantly of leather and contained hundreds of boots, belt-buckles, hats, shirts, and all sorts of western items. I'm going to save up my pennies and next time I'm in Oklahoma City (for nationals this summer) I want to buy a pair of boots.

4 Silver Medals at Olympic Trials

Oklahoma was, on the whole, a great success. I shall start from the beginning.

We left the training center in San Diego on Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Oklahoma city that evening. Our hotel was right in the heart of Bricktown, across the street from the stadium, and across the railroad tracks from the venue.

Wednesday and Thursday were practice days. It was extremely windy, but that was fine with me- kind of felt like paddling on the bay back home. The river itself was about as wide as the Genesee River, with lots of bridges going across. The Chesapeake Boathouse was absolutely gorgeous. The design is really modern-looking... it's a circular building with a moat around the outside (!) and everything is white.
The course, of course

Friday was the first day of racing. We had the k1 500m (heats, semis, and finals) and the k2 500m (a direct final). I was a little bit nervous before my first heat in the morning (the first-heat-of-a-regatta jitters) but that disappeared as soon as I got on the water to warm up. I progressed through to the semi-finals, and two hours later, came second in my semi-final, which put me in the A-final. Success! I have never made the A- final of senior team trials. (The past two years I have placed 11th overall.) So already I was happy with my performance.

The semifinal: Emily Mickle for the win, followed by me in 2nd and Susannah Stuccio in 3rd

The A-final was pretty stacked. I lined up in lane 2 and took a few deep breaths. When the gun went off, I just raced my race. I dunno. I never think during those things. I just go down the course and try to be fast. I had Emily Mickle on my right side in lane 3, and she remained a half boat-length ahead for most of the race. I tried to pull up even at around the 350m, but an especially big gust of wind came across the course. I missed a paddle stroke on the right side and lost my focus for a few seconds: a stupid mistake. Mickle pulled further ahead and beat me, (placing 4th) but I held my spot and crossed the line in 5th. Carrie Johnson won the race, and thus secured herself a spot for the 2008 Olympics! We are all so happy for her, and proud to be a part of the team that helped create a champion.

Carrie Johnson is Beijing-bound!

Susannah and I had already decide to do our warm-down in k2, because the k2 final was only an hour after the k1 final. We ran our k1s up into the boathouse and hopped in the k2 together. It felt solid, and, satisfied, we headed back in to the boathouse to decide What To Wear.

That's hot.

We decided to rock the arm warmers. Our race went without a hitch. We placed second to Carrie Johnson and Maggie Hogan. This means that Carrie and Maggie will move on to Montreal to try to qualify for Beijing. Suz and I weren't disappointed though, because we felt we had a solid race, as well as healthy potential for improvement.

Finally, at the conclusion of Day 1, I was careful to stretch and ice my shoulders. The wind can really do a number on your body without you even realizing it. (A spoiler for Day 3!)

For dinner, a bunch of us (including my mom, who flew in from Rochester!!) went to Toby Keith's bar for dinner. Yum! Oklahoma City is Toby Keith's hometown, and apparently the bar was inspired by his song "I love this bar." he he he.

I am not exaggerating when I say the four of us went to bed brimming with excitement for the next day's k4 showdown. With nothing to lose, we couldn't wait to throw down a good race and compete for the win that would send a crew to Montreal to try to qualify for the games.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Double the Fun With Double the Irony

I exited the airplane last night singing "Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain..." which was a total riot, as it was windy like the song, and furthermore (this is the double part of the double irony) I was stepping off of a PLANE. Get it?? Plane... plain?

And now, dear reader, for lack of any other interesting updates, and to hold off on any more hilarious puns: a glimpse into the here-and-now of suite #325 at the Marriot Residence Hotel in Oklahoma City! Featuring Susannah Stuccio, Lauren Austin, and yours truly!

Lauren stands by the mirror, furiously ripping a brush through the wind-created snarls in her hair. "The results are in," she says, grimly defeated. "I should have shaved my head before coming to trials."
Susannah, meanwhile, is flopped on her bed in the next room with her cell phone, willing her pictures to send to fragmob-- holding out on a sliver of hope that this time-the 57th- will be the time that they go through.
Emily is laying horizontally on the crisp white sheets, peering repeatedly over her shoulder out the window and cracking her knuckles while she dreams up what to type next. It's not the racing that she hates but the waiting, though she does concede that waiting is better in a deluxe two-bedroom, two-bathroom, fireplace-included suite overlooking the river.
(It doesn't really overlook the river. I just made that part up. I also made up the part about Susannah sending 57 pictures to fragmob. She actually only sent 32.)

Apparently the snapshot into our afternoon is only good if embellished.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I'm in the San Diego airport now, enjoying free wireless and huge windows, awaiting the commuter jet that is taking us to Oklahoma City for Olympic Trials.

I wanted to include the event website: here you can find athlete bios, results, and information about the event.

For those of you who may be curious about what these trials actually decide, I will attempt to explain in as few words as possible.

These are US Olympic Trials, but for most people, the road doesn't end here. The winners of each race at these trials will go on to the Montreal Cup Qualifier in mid-May, which is also Pan-American Championships. The winning boat from each event in Montreal will get to send that boat to the Olympics. So, although these are our domestic trials, they don’t guarantee most people a spot in Beijing. Of course it's a bit more complicated than that; some people have qualified already according to their performance at last year's World Championships. Additionally, for those athletes who are younger and do not qualify for the Olympics, there will be a Pan-Am Team and a U-23 World Cup Team which will go on tour in Europe in June.

The bottom line for me, of course, is to forget all this qualification mumbo-jumbo for the next 5 days and do what I do best: race as fast as I can. No sweat. (Well, okay, maybe a little.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

We Leave for Olympic Trials Tomorrow

“The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Now I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong... to measure yourself at least once.”

-from “Bear Meat,” by Primo Levi

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It's Good to Be Prepared

What do you do when you're anticipating a big competition?
As it happens, I bite my nails. And wash my clothes. (Loads of laundry are loads of fun!!) And organize all my things into carefully labeled zip-lock bags, then line up the bags in perfect rows in my big red suitcase. I've been packed and ready to go for 3 days.

What's the most ridiculous thing you packed?
According to my teammates, a headlamp. (How else am I supposed to read at night!?) I have also figured out that I have packed enough drink powders, boost, powergels, and cliff bars to meet my caloric needs through these things alone for the next 5 days.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Wright’s Tuff

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Friday, April 11, 2008


There were two rattlesnake sightings at the training center today, and one of them was made by yours truly. I was on the phone with my brother, biking up from the lake to the dining hall, incidentally talking about the first snake sighting from earlier in the day when I looked down and saw a baby rattler right in front of me. You may be pleased to know that I swerved to avoid it and had a lovely venom-free rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


(Apparently the only rollerksiing photo I have is of me in the 4th of july parade when I was 14.)

Among other fun toys that my dad brought me (such as my rock-climbing stuff, camping gear, and mandolin) were my rollerskis! I’ve been itching to take them out for a week- cautiously, of course, as I have to be careful not to get hurt- and I finally did today. Just a short little jaunt: after all, it’s my first day on skis (Or, as I would have told you in high school, it was the first day of off-season training for the winter).

Man, we had some good rollerskiing adventures back in the day. I’m told that some diehards can be found skiing up and down the sidewalks along one of the beaches here. I have to check that out, along with... sand skiing? Is anybody familiar?

So much fun stuff to DO!! I just wish I had some nor-dorks out here to enjoy it with me.

Friday, April 4, 2008

“You’ll have good days and bad days, but on the bad days, you must never think that you’ve failed.”

-Susie Maroney, Australian open- water marathon swimmer