Hello from Florida!
Penn AC’s spring training trip is well underway. I’m knee-deep in three-a-day training sessions and living with four other women on the team—two things I haven’t done since college and never really expected to do again! For me, the trip started with a week at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota and will wrap up after three weeks at Canal 54 in Fellsmere, FL.
I trained solo for much of the early part of the trip because a small group of us—four open men who were attending a camp and me—travelled two weeks before the rest of the team. I worked in with athletes from Sarasota Crew and Craftsbury for part of the week but a lot of the water time was spent on my own.
I anticipated that this would be tough for me. I work best within a team structure and with close support from my coaches. Without a similar setting, I knew that I’d need to take extra care to stay positive, confident, calm and composed. I also understood that the time at Benderson offered an opportunity to work with my splits in the absence of current, which is something that impacts our numbers on the Schuylkill at home. All things considered, I approached the week by with two themes in mind:
1) Keep the focus on the work, one training session at a time, and
2) Commit to being a little bit better each day.
Simple? Yes. But simplicity has been part of the goal. I’ve been preoccupied and discouraged by variables that were out of my control many times in the past. I’d think too much about the big picture and feel an enormous amount of pressure to perform. Or hold onto “bad” workouts or disappointing races, and allow them to affect the training day, days or racing that followed.
The winter was all about changing these habits and approaching progress in small, defined chunks at a time—work, improve, reset, repeat… work, improve, reset, repeat. Within this framework, the week in Sarasota was a success. The rowing left something to be desired and gave me a number of technical things to work on at the Canal. But I learned a lot throughout the course of the week, in terms of both moving the boat and how I’d like to improve my mindset next time I’m in a new place or managing workouts on my own.
Training at The Canal
Twelve days into the trip, after changing locations and settling in with a host near Canal 54, I had plans to meet up with a teammate for an afternoon run at the beach. Kat had arrived a few days ahead of the group. As I drove to meet her, fresh off the week at Benderson, the words “winning team” popped into my mind.
“Winning team” is one of my dad’s signature phrases. It was a central theme in his father of the bride toast at my wedding, and has since appeared in countless cards, emails, text messages, toasts, speeches and prayers. I laughed when I thought of it. No wonder why I was feeling so psyched about my running date and the impending arrival of everyone else from the club… the notion of “team” runs in my blood.
I love the energy that’s shared by a group and the lift you can gain from the collective momentum or mood. I love stepping back and observing how each person adds to the whole. I love how on any given day this winter I could look across the erg room at Penn AC and learn from somebody’s focus, feed on another person’s intensity or pickup on another’s calm. I love that my teammates fuel me, challenge me, inspire me, support me, frustrate me, surprise me and push me to grow.
In A Nutshell
Spring training started out great and only got better when the team and trailer arrived. We’ve continued to build on the momentum from winter and support each other where we can. I’ve looked to emulate aspects of other people’s rowing or the way they execute drills. I’ve admired how others have taken ownership of various responsibilities and tasks. I’ve relied on my doubles partners for energy and recognized when they’ve needed a boost from me. I’ve valued how certain people’s humor balances a group that’s working so hard toward their goals. I hope I contribute and teach and provide as much as I learn from and gain.
I also know that my team expands well beyond the athletes and coaches at Penn AC. I have a large support network at home that has worked for years to make my training and racing a reality. I want to acknowledge them individually when the time is right but for now, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who made this trip in particular come together. The kindness and generosity of the people I’ve met has been amazing. I’m truly grateful for everyone who, without hesitation, has expressed interest in my rowing and offered hand.
My hosts in Sarasota were the most warm and welcoming family. When I arrived, Kellie, Todd and their kids greeted me with huge smiles, ready to unload my car full of luggage and help me setup in the guesthouse. When I pulled in with groceries later that day, Grace surprised me by running out to the car to help with the bags. I immediately felt relaxed, at home and at ease, and only wish I was able to spend more time getting to know the whole gang.
Dr. Prokopiak a.k.a. Dr. Pro
Dr. Pro is a chiropractor that specializes in Active Release Technique. He was incredibly generous with his time, and did nothing short of work small miracles while I was in town. His manual work was invaluable, and we covered everything from movement patterns and body mechanics in rowing and weightlifting to yoga and stretching at home. I even adjusted my single rig after seeing him, which seems to be paying dividends so far!
Sheri, my host in Sebastian
During my first week training at Canal 54, I stayed in a town called Sebastian with Sheri who hosted me through AirBnb. Sheri was awesome and her home was amazing – I slept like a rock star thanks to the comfortable bed in the guestroom! I also really enjoyed spending time on her porch. Her yard is a beautiful array of vegetable gardens, flowers and herbs. Sitting out back for breakfast was the perfect way to recharge.
Lauren at Treasure Coast CrossFit
I love the CrossFit community! Everywhere I travel I find one awesome affiliate after the next. Treasure Coast CrossFit in Sebastian proved much of the same. I emailed Lauren, the owner, while planning logistics from home and she immediately said she’d be happy to have me. As it turns out, Lauren hosted the high performance group from Craftsbury last year, leading up to Olympic Trials. She’s clearly supportive of our efforts, plus incredibly inviting and warm.
Kyle, Dad and my family at home
Kyle and my dad drove Fat Patricia to Florida! I still can’t believe that they made a 16-plus hour road trip all so I could have my boat and my Jeep for the month here. I spent a lot of time debating whether I should go away for so long. Once we settled on “yes,” the question of how to get my single to Florida soon followed (such a long drive mixed with training would crush me). Kyle immediately jumped in with, “I’ll drive it down. I’ll ask your dad to come with me, it will be fun.” Wait… seriously… what?!!!
During all my years rowing in and immediately after college, I can remember people constantly commenting on the sacrifice involved. The funny thing was that all the time and the training never felt like sacrifice – I was doing what I loved by working hard and competing. Recent years have been different. I’m still doing what I love and everyday I am grateful. Some days I can’t believe that my body still complies with what I ask it to do!
But the longer I’ve stayed in this sport at this level, the more I miss time with my family. It’s hard. But it’s also a choice that Kyle and I discuss and reevaluate at the end of each year. This trip… the pursuit… the commitment to the sport… none of it would be possible, desirable or really worth anything without my family’s support and Kyle right by my side.