My last race in Princeton, I missed every single goal on my checklist. This time, I nailed all but o...

2016 Worlds Trials Recap

My last race in Princeton, I missed every single goal on my checklist. This time, I nailed all but one. My goal coming into this regatta was, first and foremost, to learn a lot. A tight race in the heats between me and Cara Stawicki checked that one off easily.

Things are looking up for me. pc: Dan Copenhaver
Before the heats, I was so nervous I thought I might throw up. I'd beaten Cara in the time trial the night before, but not by much.

The time trial was 1900 meters.
Off the start, I knew Cara would be fast. I didn't want to let her get too far away, but the pace was smoking hot. I had to make a decision to let her go, even though Guenter told me not to. I was a boat length down, plus maybe some open water, coming into the halfway point, and definitely scared.

But I did what I came to do—go fast. I kept my head in my boat and let the speed come to me instead of forcing it. As I moved to level in the 3rd 500 meters, I definitely had some doubts. Again, I refocused on the present and put in an awesome sprint for the win in the heats. (I crossed the line at 40 strokes per minute and 1:49/500m pace.)



That win earned me the day off on Wednesday (and helped me get my nerves under control). I went to the race course anyways, to spectate and mingle.

While I was there, I got to watch the quad from Potomac (whose selection camp I skipped) qualify for Worlds. I'm super excited for all of the girls in that boat but it was definitely difficult to know that their choices had led them to a place where I so want to be someday—Team USA.

Watching that race definitely revved me up for my race the next day: the FINAL! Although a win was never realistic for me, I knew that one of my other goals was to set myself up for next year. Coming in second place overall was crucial to achieving that goal, and the closer I could be to Mary Jones, the eventual winner, the better.

The final was similar to the heat—I was down at the start, and moved through both Cara and Kat Schiro over the middle 1000m of the race.


In the end, I was 11 seconds behind Mary. I would have liked to sneak under 7:50, especially as many of my training paces indicated that was reasonable, but I was ecstatic with second place. I know I have my work cut out for me, narrowing that 11-second margin

For the month of August, I am scaling back my time in boats and giving myself a mental break from the grind of training. I will be running, lifting, and occasionally picking up some oars, but also trying to do all of the things I don't normally get to do—gardening, visiting family, hiking, maybe drinking some alcohol?

I will also be running some road races and posting some of my workouts on Twitter—follow me (@lightweighteats) if you want to see what a "fun" month is for an elite athlete.

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ICYMI, I've been racing at World Championship Trials all week! A link to results should be poste...

My 2015/2016 Weight Plan

ICYMI, I've been racing at World Championship Trials all week! A link to results should be posted on the US Rowing website and available from herenow.com
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Good weight management has been a foundation to my athletic success. I've found a place where I can put the scale away for a month or two in the fall and winter, but still get myself within 100 grams of my target weight on race day. I'm really proud of how I've achieved precision without obsession.



A big part of that is knowing the plan in advance. So, here was my weight plan for the past season, with feedback for myself below.

I came out of 2015 Seniors Trials in June. I weighed in around 56kg (123 pounds), but I played a lot of tricks with salt and carbs to get there. I pretty quickly came up to 58kg and then put the scale away and slowly gained weight until September.

THE PLAN
Start: end of September - 133-134 pounds

--> two and a half weeks to lose 1-2 pounds
**October 17 - Head of the Charles - 132 pounds

--> 3 weeks to lose 2 pounds
**November 7 - Fall Speed Order - 130 pounds
**November/December/January - 132-136 pounds

In preparation for trials, I scheduled weigh-ins about every two and a half weeks, starting February 10th. These were just for me—no coaches involved—but the weigh ins helped me stay accountable.
--->10-12 weeks to lose 10 pounds

Weigh in reminder in my training log...
...and weight recorded the next day.

Weigh-in date --- goal weight --- actual weight
Feb 11 --- 60kg (132.2lbs) --- 60kg (132.2lbs)
Feb 29 --- 59kg (130.0lbs) --- 60kg (132.2lbs) <-- oops!
Mar 18 --- 58kg (127.8lbs) --- 59kg (130.0lbs)
April 5 --- 57kg (125.6lbs) --- 57.8 kg (127.6lbs)
April 19 --- 56kg (123.4lbs) --- 56.5kg (124.6lbs)

**April 21-24 - Olympic Trials - 55-56kg / 121-123 pounds
[n.b. to make this weight, I did NOT lose 2-3 pounds of fat in two days. I lost some water weight via reduced salt/carbs and sweat out 1-2 pounds in the mornings, pre-weigh-in.]

--> come up to 125-126 quickly, then slowly gain 2-3 pounds
**July 18th - Worlds Trials - 128-129 pounds


THE GOOD
I did better than expected managing my weight in December and January when I was visiting family. I didn't have a scale for most of that time, and came back late January at 133-134 pounds despite copious holiday eating.

I fell behind on weight loss in February, but instead of freaking out, I adjusted my plan. Instead of the original plan of losing 1kg every 2.5 weeks, I adjusted my goal to 1.2kg every 2.5 weeks, or about a pound a week. Since my original plan was a little generous, I ended up losing weight in a very sustainable way.

March through July have gone great. I didn't lose too much muscle coming down to 56kg. That has allowed me to add muscle compared to where I was in February, as I come up to single racing weight. What fun.

THE BAD
I really struggled with the October and November portion of the plan. Losing weight as it gets colder is always difficult for me, and I had to work harder than expected to make weight at Head of the Charles. Coming down another 2-3 pounds for speed order was even less fun, and as a result my weight bounced up really quickly afterwards.

THE UGLY
Even though I came down to weight smartly, I haven't had my period since February. Boo! Although my doctor has said it is ok for to lose my period for months at a time, it's still concerning. I have to imagine that if my body can't perform its natural functions, it is barely handling the training load I'm giving it. I was hoping that I would get my period back as I came up to 128 or 129 pounds, but as of yet no luck.

I am also having trouble accepting the way my body is changing. At 123 pounds, I felt like a certifiable badass—I looked the way I expect an elite athlete to look. Now at 129, although my muscles are bigger, my muscle definition is significantly reduced. Clothing fits differently, as well, and is oftentimes uncomfortable because my summer wardrobe is sized for me to be 125 pounds. I would also feel embarrassed to have been at 123 in April and struggle to make 130 in July, even though my body has clearly indicated that 130+ is a happier weight for me. These are emotions and self-criticisms I need to examine, because I train to go fast, not to look good.

Looking super lean at 125lbs for 2015 Elite Nationals.

If you race as a lightweight, I'd love to hear how your plan is the same or different. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome! This is something that not a lot of lightweights address publicly, and I get a lot of questions about it.

Racing begins Monday evening on Mercer Lake in New Jersey. Because not all boat classes are represen...

2016 World Championship Trials

Racing begins Monday evening on Mercer Lake in New Jersey. Because not all boat classes are represented at the Olympic Games, the World Rowing organization also hosts a non-Olympic World Championships. For lightweight women, five of our seven available seats are contested at this event.

US Rowing

This trials event selects the athletes who will represent the USA in Rotterdam in late August. This year, the race also coincides with Junior and Under-23 Worlds, so these boats will also be selected this coming week.



I'll be racing the lightweight women's single. Heat sheets will be posted at herenow.com after the athlete meeting on Monday afternoon and live results will go up during racing. I will try to update my Twitter so you can follow along. Typically, US Rowing also live streams the finals, so if I make it through to the final, check the US Rowing YouTube page.

I appreciate all cheering, but if you'd like to be a super fan, I've gathered information about my competitors below.

Approximate Race Schedule (weather permitting): all times EST
Monday 5:45PM - Time Trial (all advance)
Tuesday 10:50AM - 2 Heats (winner to Final, rest to Rep)
Wednesday 11:20AM - 2 Repechages (winner to Final, rest eliminated)
Thursday 8:50AM - Final (winner to Worlds)

Competitors (7): Mary Jones, Michelle Sechser, Cara Stawicki, Kat Schiro, Michaela Copenhaver, Sydney Taylor, Annie Couwenhoven

What to expect:
Mary Jones and Michelle Sechser are the big guns in this race. This quadrennial, Mary represented the USA in the lightweight quad at the 2014 World Championships and in the lightweight single at the 2015 Pan American Games (where she won gold). She is coming off of an impressive 2nd place finish in the open weight double at Olympic trials.

Michelle has represented the USA in the lightweight women's single at the 2013 World Championships and 2016 World Cup 2 (coming away with a fourth place finish, less than six second back from current world record holder Zoe McBride). Michelle was also part of the USA lightweight double in 2014 and 2015, and helped qualify the boat for the Olympic Games.

A lot of experience is an understatement.

Cara Stawicki, Sydney Taylor and Kat Schiro all recently switched clubs. Cara made the move from Vesper down the street to Penn AC (racing as Schuylkill Navy) while Kat made the move cross country from SoCal Scullers to Potomac Boat Club. Sydney moved from Lincoln Park BC in Chicago to join the Pocock RC in Seattle.

Cara, Kat and I have all traded back and forth wins. In 2014, Cara made her way into the A-final at the first National Selection Regatta. Kat (who represented the USA at U23 Worlds in 2011) earned a spot in the final at the 2015 PanAm trials, where both Cara and I were eliminated in the semi-final round with near identical times. Shortly thereafter, I bested Kat at Elite Nationals, after racing together in the quad at Senior Trials. I suspect all three of us will be racing for a spot in the A-final, and looking to close the gap to Mary and Michelle.

Kat in stroke seat (left), with me in bow (right), for our lightweight quad in 2015.
Cara (far left) and I won gold together in the light quad at the 2014 National Championships (where she also won the light double)
Sydney will also be looking to join the mix with Cara, Kat and me. After a strong debut result at PanAm Trials last year, where she beat me in the time trial and bested Cara in the heats, she's had a tough spring of racing to start 2016. Sydney is one of the youngest athletes in the group.

The biggest unknown in the field is Annie Couwenhoven. She has raced in a few U23 trials as an open weight, but this will be her first appearance at a Senior trials event.

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As I gear up for another four year cycle of training, I am thinking about the things I want to do better this time around. I'm really ba...

Be a Super Fan!

As I gear up for another four year cycle of training, I am thinking about the things I want to do better this time around. I'm really bad at asking for help, but the few times I have asked, the outcome has blown me away.

These past few years, I've been hosted by generous families, borrowed equipment, used expertise and been buoyed by your love and support. I suspect there are more of you out there who would love to help, but don't know how.

So, I came up with a list of the things that mean the most to me and keep me on track even through tough times.

1. Be a super fan.
Find me on social media (Twitter Instagram Facebook), where I post regular updates and upcoming race information. Tweet at me, comment on my photos, and get your friends involved. Share this post with your network!

How it helps:
After a hard race or brutal training week, there is nothing better than loving words from my fan club. It helps me be proud of even bad performances, and that means I can learn from them and do better.

As I try to secure sponsorships over the upcoming year, your support will help me show companies that they want to back me.

2. Send fan mail.
Want to be a super fan? You can send me postcards, letter and care packages! I can be reached at the boathouse:
Michaela Copenhaver
c/o GMS Rowing Center
172 Grove Street
New Milford, CT 06776

If you're sending a care package, my mom is a care package professional, so if you know her, ask for suggestions! Otherwise, please keep it veg friendly and remember that we don't have a lot of space for knick knacks so consumables are preferable.

How it helps:
Getting fan mail makes me feel like a rock star, and when I feel like a rock star, I treat myself like one.

3. Help me save money.
Travel is a huge expense for me. Road trips to Princeton, Boston and Florida. Flights to warmer weather (and hopefully to international races). Hotel stays for racing.

Most people love to travel and use their rewards points to the max. BUT if you travel for work and have a lot of rewards saved up, you can help me save a lot of money on race travel. Most rewards programs either allow you to transfer points or book travel for somebody else.

If you don't travel because you live someplace where the weather is perfect year round, you can help me save money on a training trip! I'm looking to take a 2-3 week trip in December, and would be looking for a host family and a host club with equipment I could borrow.

How it helps:
Every dollar I save on racing and training trips allows me to either reallocate that money to nutrition and equipment or take on fewer hours at work. That makes a huge difference in the quality of my training.

When I do travel on a budget, I can't always book the best accommodations. Sleep is one of the most important factors in successful racing and better housing begets better sleep. A good hotel could help me win a race.

4. Connect me with companies.
Over the next year, I'll be looking to secure corporate sponsors to help support my training. Know a small company in Connecticut that would benefit from associating their brand with a dedicated, high performance athlete? Have connections in a major sports-related retailer? Let me know! Examples include real estate agents, financial services, sports/running stores, health food manufacturers, or clothing companies.

How it helps:
Cold calling is hard. Your introduction can help my conversation with these companies start on the right foot. Even if our specific needs don't match up, it is useful practice and helps me learn what companies need.

5. Donate.
Your time and energy mean the world in supporting my journey. At the moment, I am not prioritizing donations, but I know that they represent your time and energy. If you have the resources to support my journey this way, know that donations make a huge difference and I cherish every one.

Donations are tax-deductible, and can go through the Northeast High Performance Rowing Foundation.

How it helps:
This spring, I used a donation to cover all of the costs of our 6-week training trip to Florida—something that has set me up for a lot of PRs in the single this summer. Donations help me cover race fees, equipment maintenance, and proper nutrition. Mostly importantly, they help me focus on being the best athlete I can be, rather than how to fit training needs into my budget.

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you aren't following Oiselle and their a...

Picky Bars: Feed the Dream

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you aren't following Oiselle and their athletes on social media, I recommend you start. One of their top athletes, Lauren Fleshman, is also co-founder of Picky Bars.

Early this spring, she posted on Twitter about a new opportunity from Picky Bars: the Feed the Dream project. The idea was to give athletes competing at Olympic Trials some really great nutrition in the months leading up to their big race. Since rowing is a fringe sport, and these opportunities usually specify running, cycling, triathlon, etc, I almost didn't apply.

On a whim, though, I decided to submit the application—and recommend my doubles partner also apply.

Success! We were both accepted into the program, which included a 5-month subscription to the Picky Club, a monthly bar delivery. (It also came with a new cheering club, and awesome notes from Lauren every month.)

Snacking on the run at Olympic Trials.

We have one more month of deliveries left, and before our time comes to an end, I wanted to give the bars a review on the blog.

TASTE

These are by far the best bars I've tried. They aren't as sickly sweet as LaraBars or as chalky as Builder's Bars. They just taste like real, well-rounded food. I found them a little bit on the greasy side, especially compared to Clif bars, but they were light on the sweetness, which I loved.

I tried all five vegan flavors:

  • Smooth Caffeinator: By far my favorite. Only 25mg of caffeine, so they're safe for PM consumption. Concerns about dried apricots were unfounded.
  • Cookie Doughpness: Surprisingly good. Tastes like a walnut raisin cinnamon cookie.
  • Blueberry Boomdizzle: Also surprisingly good, and I generally don't like cooked blueberries. It was pleasantly fruity, without tasting like fruit leather.
  • Ah Fudge Nuts: Did you know that brownies make good post workout snacks? Yea, this is basically a brownie with big chunks of nuts.
  • All-in-Almond: The most disappointing of the flavors. I thought it tasted mostly like cranberries, and was too fruity for my taste.

NUTRITION

Designed to be perfect, Picky Bars hit the nail on the head. By the numbers:
200 calories
7g fat
28g carbs
7g protein

That's the exact recommendation for a post-workout snack to get your muscles refueled as quickly as possible. I can attest that they also work well as a pre-workout snack. Unlike a Clif bar, these didn't sit in my stomach even when I ate one 5 minutes before practice.

More importantly, they are real food. If all I ate all day were Clif bars, I'd wouldn't be super proud of the fuel I put in my body. If all I ate all day were Picky bars, I'd be neutral to positive. It'd be kind of like eating rice, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate all day. Not perfect, but really not bad at all. Seems like a good litmus test for a bar.

PRICE/VALUE

On an athlete's budget, these bars are out of my price range. (That was the impetus behind the Feed the Dream project—many of the country's top athletes can't afford top quality fuel.) You can buy them at Trader Joe's for around $2.50 apiece, or join the Picky Club and get 24 bars for $50 (about $2.08 apiece). Seems expensive, right? Especially for a bar that is relatively small. But you get what you pay for.

When I thought about making these on my own, and using rice protein, organic dates, hazelnuts and Stumptown coffee beans, I realized that the actual ingredient cost per bar is probably almost $2. If I were making them myself, I might choose to skimp on some ingredients (e.g. non-organic dates, or soy protein instead of rice) which would bring the cost down. But, if you have the budget and you can afford to be picky about what you put in your body, these are worth every penny.

They might also make their way onto my Christmas/birthday list...

Want to try Picky Bars? (or buy me some for Christmas?)

Not only did they provide me with five months of Picky Club membership, but the fine folks of Picky Bars are also extending a 25% discount to friends, family and my fan club.


Just go to pickybars.com/ftd and enter the coupon code FTDfriends for 25% off through August 31st 2016. (Note: I don't get any credit for this. They just did something cool for me and I like their product. I think you probably will too.)


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Olympic Trials came and went. We trained hard, raced hard, and still missed our goal. It was difficu...

One Times

Olympic Trials came and went. We trained hard, raced hard, and still missed our goal. It was difficult to process, and is still difficult to face.

Photo by US Rowing.
Thanks to GMS and Guenter for the equipment that made our race possible.

Still, I came out of the process in a good place. In two months, I lost 13 pounds, got down to my lightest racing weight ever and still gained fitness. I spent a lot of quality time on the water, learning to move singles and doubles. And I raced, hard.

So now, what's next?

Immediately after Olympic Trials, we began the process of getting a quad together for non-Olympic World Championship Trials. Since not all boat classes go to the Olympics, the World Rowing organization holds a World Championships for all non-Olympic boat classes. For lightweight women, both the single and the quad will be contested at non-Olympic Worlds.

In the U.S., Trials for non-Olympic Worlds will be held July 18-22 in New Jersey.

I was invited to a quad camp at Potomac Boat Club in Washington, DC. That would have entailed several weeks of selection followed by several weeks of training for those athletes that made the boat. I seriously considered that option, and at first it seemed like the obvious choice. I would have the opportunity to race side by side with some of the girls that beat me at Olympic Trials. Making the boat would also have been a big step towards making my first National Team.

But when I thought about it further, and really thought about what was important to me, it stopped making as much sense.

My goal isn't to make national teams, but to be the fastest rower I can be. I moved across the country because GMS is the best place for me to train effectively, and Guenter is the best coach I've ever worked with. Under his guidance, I thrive.

Going to quad camp was probably my best chance at making a national team this cycle. It was very scary to say no to that opportunity and instead choose to race the single this season, knowing I would be going head-to-head with some really fast women. Now that I have committed, though, it feels like the right choice.

I have posted my fastest times ever for 4x500m and 2x1000m in the single. I am listening to my body and adjusting the plan to my needs. I have gotten to put back on some of the weight I lost for Olympic Trials. And I managed to fit in some work, to start refilling the bank accounts!

So, long story short, my next race will in the 1x at Senior non-Olympic World Championship Trials. I will post more information as it becomes available.

Obviously, my A-goal is to win the thing, but that would be quite something. My (more realistic) B-goal is to make the four-boat final—something I have never done at a Trials event with more than four boats entered.

Many thanks to Picky Bars for feeding my dreams. Here's to chasing the next one!

Two dreamers at Olympic Trials. photo thanks to Sydney Taylor

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Last weekend, I watched Olympic marathon trials on TV. If you aren't following the brand Oisel...

Olympic Trials

Last weekend, I watched Olympic marathon trials on TV.

If you aren't following the brand Oiselle on social media, you should start. One of their favorite hashtags, #WomanUp, embodies everything about this brand. They have made it very easy to follow and cheer for a group of hard working female athletes, including Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher.

In my own lead up to Olympic trials, I have found lots of moments of doubt. Do I deserve to be dreaming this big? If I dare to think that I can win, what does that say about my ego?

So watching Kara Goucher, a two-time Olympian, place a heart breaking fourth place, was incredibly moving. It told me that you are allowed to dream big, even if you don't make it. If some of the biggest names in a sport can reach for the stars and still fall short, there is no shame in falling short.

I had lofty goals for my training this winter, and, although I'm ahead of where I was last year, I'm still facing the disappointment of not quite reaching them. Every missed or poorly executed workout, I could feel some of my dream slipping through my fingers.

Maybe I was crazy to expect a 7:10 2k from myself this year, a 9 second improvement from my PR. But maybe I can still keep dreaming. There is no shame in falling short.

Our last training block was a 10-week lead up to a 2k test. We started with a huge block of high volume, low intensity cross-training, followed by a rapid transition to higher intensity erg work. I nailed the first half of this block, and then really struggled with the second half.

Physically, it can be great to push so hard you have to back down. But mentally, I was left with a lot of doubt heading into our 2k test. I ended up nailing the execution, just a full split slower than I'd wanted, and pulled an exact match of my 7:19.5 PR from last year—definitely not the 7:16 of my fantasies. Although it was a great piece, the combination of doubt and missed opportunity left me with mixed feelings.



Fortunately, our coach, Guenter, is super responsive. I asked to add some confidence building work into our training schedule, and he also added another 2k erg test after another 4 week training block.

Already, I've hit some personal bests on some of our bread and butter workouts. Guenter is optimistic that we have nailed the timing of a final buildup before trials. Hopefully our next 2k lives up to those expectations!

That will be our last big erg session before Olympic Rowing Trials in late April. Here at GMS, we have had some intermittent access to rowable water. Morgan and I will head down to Florida in March to get consistent water time in the lead up to Trials. Hopefully we can get a few sessions out on the water before heading south, to work out some kinks and break in our hands.

It is also the beginning of weight loss season. I have started a slow and steady descent from winter weight of about 134 pounds down to racing weight of 124 pounds. I like to give myself at least a week for each pound I have to lose, and even that rarely feels generous enough.

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