Essay | Selection Reflection
Momentous weekend defined by moments. Stories behind the story. Here, I aim to share snippets of the inside scoop the results board doesn't show...
…Distracted in training a few days out, knowing what gives me headspace…
Three days out from racing I had a bad session. I felt connected and was generally moving the boat well but clumsy, uncharacteristic errors were creeping in. I was getting distracted easily and needed to get my subconscious back on side before racing.
I have a friend, ‘Bully’, who is always the first person I call if I have things on my mind. He’s like family. As an athlete too, he ‘gets it’. I’m always super chilled when we hang out and following a quick chat on the phone I realised I was actually free until the next afternoon so I made the 2 hour trip to go see him.
I had to weigh this up, it’s a little unorthodox to take a road trip so close to racing (especially with how my back responds to travel) but the pros outweighed the cons and I committed myself to extra stretching / foam rolling on returning home.
My inspiration stemmed from former teammate Mark Proctor who I remember taking a trip to Liverpool between Heats and Finals at the 2015 World Championships. He took a lot of value from that experience, came back refreshed, and performed very well at the race! It was good to get out of the ‘bubble’ that a competitive lifestyle sometimes creates. I came back to Lee Valley on Thursday refreshed and ready to go. Craig, my coach could see the difference in my demeanour both on and off the water. I had an awesome final two days training before racing started. In order to perform in high pressure environments, this story/experience reinforced the importance of knowing the people, places, and activities that give you perspective.
Bully and me last year at the Link Centre, Swindon. I'm not actually that short... He's on skates!
….A poor start to the series ending day 1 down in 5th place…
I raced well so it wasn’t easy to take. Competition is extremely strong in my event but it was a poor start for me to end day 1 in 5th place. I didn’t do a lot wrong but with the nature of the course, there wasn’t much opportunity for me to make up for the small errors I made.
We reflected that actually I was in very good shape and my performance was solid. It was important not to get too down about a bad first day (we’ve been here before).
What it did mean though was that there was a bit of a mountain to climb over the next two days. We get one ‘disposable’ result, and I had mine already so I couldn’t afford another mistake. When talking about the scale of challenge we were facing, our team psychologist pointed out to me I actually had a big smile on my face. There was something in that, I couldn’t help but be really excited by this prospect of needing to respond. The pressure was on. Yet it was the opportunity to demonstrate all of my mental skills excited me so much. Game on, this series was going to be a rollercoaster, and if I got what I wanted at the other end I knew I was going to feel SO proud of how I dealt with it.
… using the nerves to sharpen my focus for day 2 of racing...
‘These are the moments I feel most alive.’ This was the feeling I had warming up for day two. I felt a lot more nerves than I had on day one. If I was going to keep my hopes of being on the team alive, delivery was now essential.
But at the same time, I felt immense connection going through my drills and self-belief that I was capable of producing the performance required. This intensity was really exciting too!
We don’t actually get to experience pressure like this very often. Therefore I CHOSE to experience it positively, which is why I had this feeling warming up. I had that uncomfortable feeling in my belly, and my mind wandered to infinite possibilities of what could possibly go wrong… But I also felt hyper aware, strong, and focussed. It is difficult to explain. In a way, the feeling extends beyond language. I felt lucky to live such a rich experience. I wasn’t about to let that moment slip. I fully immersed myself, I enjoyed and savoured it. I won that semi-final and then went on to finish 2nd in the final. I put myself right back into the running for the final day of racing.
The energy flows where the attention goes. Photo by Phil Hutchinson Photography.
…It all comes down to this, delivery under pressure on the final run…
Fast-forward to the start pool ahead of the final run of the series. Results up to this point pretty much left me in a straight shoot out with one competitor. He was up first and whilst waiting on the water, the commentary resounded his performance. He had delivered a very strong run.
This news wasn't new.
I had been there already, in my head and with Craig. We had already had the same conversations that were going through my mind at that moment in time.
On reflection I am really proud of how powerful we made that exercise. It served its purpose because the news did not elicit a negative response from me at all. I knew my job was and I knew I would be ‘locked’ into it as soon as I broke the start beam. When faced with a difficult situation, I am not sure I have been calm quite to that extent before. It is a credit to the mental training we have been doing… make no mistake, ‘mental toughness’ is hard earned.