Greetings from Florida! My season opener is in a little under a week and I've been in the Sunshine State for about a month preparing for...

Greetings from Florida! My season opener is in a little under a week and I've been in the Sunshine State for about a month preparing for my first trip down the race course. I've learned so much in the last few months, so let's start at the beginning: February.

As I mentioned at the end of my last update, February was my first full month at home since June of 2018 and I was hoping to take full advantage of it. That's what I did.

In the Northeast Kingdom, February is one of the hardest months. The days are still short, the cold still bitter, and the end far away. Rather than fighting this truth with willpower, I chose to accept it and lean on the power of team to get me through. My coach, Guenter, and I made sure I had training partners for almost every session.

I'm particularly grateful to one of our juniors, Gabby, who fearlessly chased me down (and occasionally beat me) on the ergs throughout February. From sitting next to her, I learned to trust my racing instinct: whenever she closed in on me, a switch flipped and I was able to work harder than I thought possible. I'm also grateful to one of our masters athletes, Paula, who showed up every morning and helped me get through a lot of 75-minute steady state session.

Throughout the month, I saw improvements and personal records on a variety of workouts and came into March full of optimism.

In early March, I got my bloodwork done again with InsideTracker (that link gets you and me both 15% off if you want to try InsideTracker) and things were heading in the right direction. (Again, big thanks to Paula, who's also a registered dietitian and who helped me interpret the results and make effective changes). More optimism there.

I also started working with a sports psychologist in early March. My 2k erg score has never been fast, but recently, it's been slower than expected despite other improvements. I had somehow convinced myself that it was just my peculiar biology holding me back, but after both Paula and Margaret (my boatmate from this summer) told me it was a mental thing, I decided to believe them and do something about it.

We 2k tested three times in two weeks. I'd had very little time working with the sports psychologist, but felt the utility of the tools she gave me as I improved each 2k test. Ultimately, I didn't reach my PR, but finished out my indoor training block with my best 2k since 2016 and my first well-executed piece in years.

On March 10th, I loaded up my car and hit the road, spending two days driving into the heart of spring. On my first row, it felt like somebody had finally plugged in my solar panels: my energy levels were incredibly high. In fact, much of that first week was spent holding myself back. I came off the water after every row wanting to keep going, fighting the urge to tack on an extra run or a quick bike ride.

This was especially difficult as I was surrounded by other women who were doing more volume than me. Over the years, Guenter and I have found that I thrive on a lower volume plan than most of my competitors, usually averaging 800-900 minutes a week of active work. Seeing the women around me continue on for 1200 or 1400 minutes in a week made me feel lazy and inadequate, like maybe I just didn't want it as badly as they did. It took a huge amount of self-confidence, trust in Guenter and faith in the process to stick to my own plan. This is something I spent most of March actively working on in my time outside of practice. It turns out, the amount of work you do is not directly correlated to the amount you want it. In fact, sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to step away from the grind. Maybe someday, I'll fully believe that.

The time down here in Florida has been exactly what I hoped for.

My first goal was to get comfortable in my boat. I've spent the last weeks figuring out how to work hard without trying hard, and I'm finally starting to figure it out. When it clicks, it's the most magical feeling: something worth chasing regardless of the outcome of racing.

My second goal was to work with the group down here to get faster. I didn't know who would be here or how cooperative they would be, but I knew how much team had helped me in February. It turned out to be better than I could have imagined. We ended up with a group of 6-10 fast lightweight women here, pushing each other in singles and doubles, and supporting each other, despite being competitors. Helping your competitor improve is terrifying. All of us have demonstrated a stupendous amount of courage these last weeks, pushing each other to be better. But our faith has paid off: we are all the faster for it. And, if nothing else, I now fully understand the power of courage.

And suddenly, it's just the finishing touches.

Racing starts on Thursday, April 18th. With 27 entries in the lightweight single, it's going to be a full four days. Live results will be available at HereNow and information about the event (including a tentative schedule) is posted at USRowing. There are no direction selection implications for lightweights at this event. Instead, it's an opportunity to gauge our early season speed before we hop into doubles and prepare for the first trials of the year in mid-May.

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When athletes go quiet online, it's usually a sign that things aren't going super well. And to say that November and December we...

When athletes go quiet online, it's usually a sign that things aren't going super well. And to say that November and December were rough is an understatement. I had a few major setbacks in the late fall that, at the time, were incredibly frustrating.

First, on November 20th, I had an awful 6k test. I was more than 45 seconds off of my PR and spent the whole test gasping for air. Guenter thought we just needed to develop my lungs by incorporating more running, which led to an aggressive 80-minute run the following day. Deep down, though, I suspected something more was going on.

Then, in the wee hours November 24th, as I was getting ready to rage on a 2x6k workout and turn things around, I woke up and vomited 4 times in a row (and then got my period five minutes later). Great. I couldn't stomach anything for breakfast the next morning and ended up spending the whole day in bed, four hour nap included.

Finally, on December 4th, after a hard lift Monday afternoon, I tweaked by back during the morning erg session and found myself hardly able to walk by Thursday morning. Putting on pants was a struggle and getting onto an erg was absolutely out of the question.


Somehow, though, one month later, I snagged a PR on a 4x1500m workout and haven't looked back since. So what happened?

Well, first things first, I signed up with InsideTracker and got some bloodwork done. It turns out I was pretty low in both iron and vitamin D, and had worryingly high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. To fix the first two, I started taking supplements and about four weeks later started noticing marked improvements. I'll be re-testing in early March to see how things are looking.

The cortisol was its own issue.

The summer racing season was incredibly stressful and I never really took the break that my body needed. After Worlds, I rushed my time off to jump back in to training for Head of the Charles. All fall, my body was screaming at me for a break, and I ignored it. Hurting myself was exactly what I needed.

I spent about two weeks training primarily on the bike, which gave me the mental and physical break I needed from the erg. Although the sessions were challenging, they didn't use my whole body and so they didn't leave me as deeply exhausted as workouts on the erg would have. I came out of my injury feeling refreshed and ready to go, when I'd started it burned out.

I also made some serious changes to my sleeping habits. After skipping coffee on November 24th (like I said, couldn't stomach anything for breakfast) and taking the world's best nap, I decided to try skipping coffee on November 25th as well. I thought it might help me get back to training faster. I was rewarded with another epic nap. And so, I cut out coffee on November 26th (nap) and 27th (nap) and 28th (nap). It turns out, I was hiding a lot of my fatigue with caffeine.

I've always known I was a strong responder to and slow processor of caffeine, but I hadn't realized just how much it was interfering with my sleep. Nearly overnight, I added 60-90 minutes to my daily sleep totals. What a difference!

Now, in the back half of January, I'm feeling strong and ready for the challenges ahead. I just finished up a 10-day training trip to Florida with my highest weekly volume ever. More importantly, I was able to recover enough throughout the week to get something out of all that work. Next week, I'm back in Connecticut, training indoors and hoping to see some of the fitness improvements reflected in my erg scores.

February brings my first full month with no travel since June '18. I'll be using the four weeks to test my limits indoors and hopefully rack up a few more PRs before heading back to Florida in March to prepare for racing season.

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