Minnesota All-American Jenny Barnes earned an invitation to participate at the United States' Under-23 Selection Camp, which began on June 4 on University of Virginia campus. Barnes is one of 16 rowers invited and hopes to make the team that will compete at the 2007 FISA Under-23 World Championships held in Strathclyde, Scotland in July. Barnes will submit a weekly journal throughout the course of her experience at the training camp. The Columbus, Ind., native is the first Gopher to earn first-team All-America honors in the program's short history. Holding the No. 6 seat for the First Varsity Eight, Barnes and the Gophers won the Petite Final at the 2007 NCAA Championships, while the team finished sixth in the country.
Day 5: June 8, 2007
This morning the focus was on connection, moving the boat. Two eights and two doubles for the sweep camp; I was in 3 seat again, in Jamie’s boat again. Coach and Kevin Sauer, the Virginia Women’s Head Coach, were with our eights this morning. We were going to venture up stream today, but we didn’t get much past 4k mark before we turned it around. Kevin had to be at a meeting and was unable to help us navigate up the shallow portion of the river. Like normal, we stayed on the 2k course below the dock. My posture was good but I still wasn’t getting the connection part right. Coach told me that I needed to have a fast connection but a patient mid-drive. I understand what he means; I just don’t know how it feels. After plenty of work with eights Coach gave us a challenge. We were to go 2k with a max of 130 strokes while trying to complete the course faster than the other eight. This test was to bring the focus back in my eight (our eight finished the last 2k about 18 seconds behind the other eight), more of a punishment. We kept the rate low, focusing on the send, and were able to finish the challenge only a second behind the other eight. The first round of practice lasted from 7ish until 10ish.
At the break we watched some video of past World Championships. The main point of watching the videos was to concentrate on the connection in each of the boats. It was also a reminder that every stroke will not be perfect, even at the elite level. The goal is not perfection, it is speed. With about 35 minutes to rest and re-hydrate everyone was feeling southern comfort, humidity style. The heat advisory today must be why the afternoon workout is an erg.
During round two the eights split up; one with Coach and the other with Melanie Onufrief, coach of Columbia’s Women. I was sitting 5 seat in the boat that went with Melanie. I liked having Melanie. She gave us a lot of individual attention. I guess I missed those sweet nothings. Focusing on connection again, we started out with the stand-up drill. This drill was really fun! We went by pairs and as you took the catch you stood up completely off the seat. I’ve done this drill before on an erg with my coach at Purdue, but it was so much better on the water. The first stroke I could feel that I was still grabbing with the shoulders, but the next two times I could really feel the connection with the legs and core. After the drill we moved onto to pair add-in drill. I was still reaching with the chest too much at the catch, but with those sweet nothings I found the right length of my stroke. After what seemed like an eternity upstream, we turned it around and went by sixes legs and body only. This is when I figured out that my swing needs to happen earlier in the stroke. Melanie asked me if it felt really different, which it did, and then followed with a “good.” At full strokes it still felt different, which was good. So, progress on the swing; now I just need to keep that until tomorrow morning. Hopefully it is what Coach wants to see.
This afternoon’s workout was a mixture of erg, bike, and using the tanks. Not everyone went in the tank room, but those who needed a little more work on their stroke. I was one of those people, and I am glad that I had a chance to see myself in a mirror and try to fix my stroke. I now realize how nice our tank room is, even though I think it looks like pieces to a Matchbox racecar track.
The Virginia tank, singular, was built in what looks like an old racquet ball court. There are mirrors on the front and both sides of the room. The tank it’s self has 5 seats but only 4 can be used at one time, there is a minor design flaw in the stroke seat. The total depth of the water is only a few inches, 5 at max, and it has an oval shape. The water travels in a similar path to that of our tanks, but without the donut hole in the middle. The blades used are these tiny little spoon guys, the tank is too small to have full blades. It was really hard to feel the connection to water because any press with the legs would send you flying to the back of the slide. After a few minutes I got used to the feeling and worked on connecting with my core. Coach had me row inside arm only for a while, he said that my connection with the outside arm was good but he could tell that I haven’t done much rowing with my inside only. I felt like I was starting to get the hang of things, literally.
Being in the tank room was a substitute for the bike workout. Next was the erg workout; 2 by 4k. Most people were holding near a 2:00, something which I should be able to do at this point. For some reason I am behind in my erg fitness, which is not a good sign. I had quite a time holding a 2:04 and then around a 2:08 with my heart rate well into the 190s both times. I’ll just have to work harder to catch up.
Day 6: June 9, 2007
This morning started bright and early at 5:30am. Some girls from Dartmouth are graduating this weekend and had a flight to catch, so we moved up practice so they could catch their flight. In the eights today we did 10’ pieces, only four. After a day like today I feel like I should shave off a few inches on these thunder thighs; I sat bow. It was hard to concentrate on all of my new technical issues today, because I can guarantee I did not get enough compression. Rowing half slide was fine, I didn’t get stuck then, but full slide took a while to get used to. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to be that girl. I’d rather keep the Coach’s attention on my stroke. It’s not like rowing bow was impossible, just another challenge to overcome.
Anyway, the pieces were pretty good despite my extra friction in the boat. The first piece was to be at a 23 SR for 3’ then 25 SR for 2’ and then repeat. The rate kept creeping up and the boat was not really flowing together. Katelyn, coxswain from the University of Washington, called us down and by the second half of the piece things were flowing much better. The second piece had the same stroke caps as the first. The send was much stronger and we stayed much closer to the other eight. The third piece was our best. For the first 4’ the stroke rate was to be a 23, the next 3’ at a 25, and then the final 3’ at a 27. Things were definitely going well, I could feel the send together, and the rating was much more consistent. That piece we edged out the other eight, seeming that we had finally brought the boat together. Before the last piece there was a switch of the 3 seats. I think Coach expected our boat to go faster with the change, but unfortunately that did not happen. From the start of the piece the send was not there. It was a disappointing end to a practice that was progressively getting better. Some rows are like that though; in the future I want to have more consistent pieces, and I am sure everyone else does as well. Today was a good day for me despite all the small stuff. When in doubt pull hard, even if you are too big for the bow.
The day ended with some ab work, but today I was ready for the challenge. Arrows today were for a total of 6’, but only could be broken up in three segments. Our group chose 3’, 2’, and 1’. We also did 2 times 4-3-2-1 and Supermans for a total of 4’(we did 2 by 2’). My arrows are getting better. This time I made it to three minutes, barely, but I still made it. I feel like I am getting stronger, and it is getting easier to find confidence when we are doing ab work. Now I just need to find it on the erg again.
Day 7: June 10, 2007
Aggressive steady-state, there are two problems with that statement. One, extremely vague considering steady-state is not defined, and two, this is U23 camp so no one is going to ask, and even if they did, the coaches wouldn’t tell you. Planning for 3k at aggressive steady-state doesn’t sound that bad, but then add 4 more 3k pieces onto that (that’s right, 5 by 3k). Let’s just say I planned poorly.
The first piece I went out way too hard, an issue I have always had. Everyone went around 1:55, but the next piece some people, me, realized it would be a rough day. The second piece I tried to keep near a 1:57, but things turned bad fast, ending near a 2:00. The final three pieces I will not discuss, but I’ll tell you that they were over 2:00. From this great rendition of a 15k, I learned that proper planning prevents poor performance, the hard way. Next time I will stick to what I know and not let the competition in the room dictate my pieces. It was a hard and disappointing lesson to learn, but much needed. I must say, I am glad to say that I finished all 5 pieces, something which not everyone could claim. After the third piece the rower across from me couldn’t control her breathing, which after a minute got me riled up, and she was unable to complete the fourth piece. Wanting to get off/throw up numerous times during the workout, I just focused in on me and tried to keep my head up during my 3k’s from hell. I am certain that my technique was atrocious, but when things got unbearable I thought about the changes that I need to make to keep in the running.
Now as bad as that workout went, I have been able to get past it, with some encouragement from friends. One good day will not make you, and one bad will not break you. I am sure Coach is wondering what happened, but I’ll just have to work that much harder to prove myself.
Day 8: June 11, 2007
This morning we did a 1’ piece with the guidance of the Women’s National Team Coach, Tom Terhaar. The point of a 1’ piece is to determine the capacity of a rower. I am pretty sure I have done this test at least once before, but I don’t remember what I got on it last time. Coach Tom said that all of the women in the Senior Eight pull between a 400 and 550 watt average for the 1’ test. His prediction that everyone would be at least 400 watts and that anything over 400 watts was pretty good. Also, he said that there are different training regiments that can affect the outcome of this test. Training too much for your anaerobic threshold will increase your watts, but your 6k will not be as good. The same goes for too much training in the aerobic range. The most improvement on this kind of test will be around 40 watts, so if you pull 400 watts it is very unlikely that you will ever reach 500 watts. Capacity is something that can’t change by training; it is more of a skill. The one minute test went well for me, and the other girls. The highest was a 526 from a freshman that goes to Cal. I was 465, and the lowest was 400; so I am happy with the outcome. The stroke rate for the piece was no higher than a 40, which amazingly I had an average of 39. Doing the test at anything lower than 37 is a disadvantage, with that said I got my ass into gear.
After the erg test we went out on the water for some 2k pieces. I was boated in 3 seat in Katelyn’s eight. The first two pieces went very well, our boat found the rhythm right away and 2k at a 29 SR didn’t seem so bad. The third piece the bow pairs were switched and our boat had some trouble finding it. By the end of the piece we were able to move the boat, but by then it was too late. For the last piece the boats went back to the original lineups, and with a little more focus, we were able to find it again. During the pieces I was still trying to find how to swing the way that should. It seems really different to me, and I don’t think I understand what to do differently. I know that I am supposed to swing with my abs, but I don’t know what that feels like. I know that relaxing my shoulders helps with the position that I need to be in, but I still am not sure what is wrong with my second half of the drive.
After our morning break we went back out on the water. I was boated in the double this time. I took this time to concentrate on my shoulders and the lock up. In sculling boats I can definitely feel the pull against my hands more than I can in the eight. Part of this is because I grab with my inside arm. While I practiced navigating the Rivanna, I focused on pushing with the legs and feeling the pull on both my blades. My doubles partner wanted a little more guidance as to the position to her shoulders, which I occasionally gave, but today I was more focused on me. I am taking every stroke as a learning opportunity, but I want to be learning more in the eight. I have found that the times in the double really help me focus on what I need to do to make my stroke right. The next step is keeping the focus in the eight so I can spend more time there.
Tut, tut, looks like rain; which means erging! Good thing the lightning warning only lasted until 5:45. The first 45 minutes of practice we spent on the erg waiting out the storm. This was very beneficial to me. We worked on the different parts of the stroke: legs, legs and back, then full strokes. The leg press seems easy enough, but I finally figured out what the second half of the drive really means. As we did partial and full strokes we cranked up the drag all the way to 10 so we could feel the “water.” This helped me a lot with relaxing my shoulders. It finally allowed me to let the drive come from my mid-section and not my upper body. I also learned that at the finish I collapse my core, a big no-no. The last few minutes of our technical erg I worked on the proper position on the seat that would make it easier to keep my core stable at the finish. I was worried since the coaches didn’t really say anything to me during the erg session; it made me feel as if I was a lost cause. But I kept working it, trying to engrain the leg press and core stability into my stroke.
After the lightning warning was lifted we went out for a quick row, 50 minutes, working on the leg press and swing. I was boated in 3 seat in a different lineup from this morning. We did a lot of fours work to feel the weight on the handle and then we did the pair ad-in drill. I focused on keeping my shoulders quite, letting the handle come back naturally. I also tried to stay tall at the finish, something that will take a little bit more work than just today. It felt different, so I kept doing it. We took it up by all eight toward the end of the row, using the same leg press and swing. The eight felt good and the rhythm was very smooth. Coach finally said something, which was a compliment. “Looks good” is something I am always waiting to hear him yell. On shore, as we were waiting for the quads, Coach said it again, “looked good today.” So there is another good end to a long day. I’m starting to feel what it should be, or at least the beginning of what it should be. It’s too soon to tell, but this could be a turning point (knock on wood). I just need to keep putting that double to good use, and keep working with my core.