June 29, 2010
Laura Cowal, like her former varsity eight boatmate Emily Regan, is spending the summer at the Under-23 camp for her national rowing program. A native of Thorold, Ontario, Cowal was the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors this past spring, helping the MSU varsity boat to a third straight Big Ten title. Cowal recently learned that he had earned a spot on the Canadian U-23 eight that will compete in Belarus in August. Cowal, like Regan, will be turning in a bi-weekly journal from her experiences at this camp to give an inside look at the training and experiences that she'll be having during this fun, yet intense and competitive, summer.
After leaving Nationals in Sacramento, I was very emotionally charged. I was ready to immerse myself in a new environment where my rowing ability would be tested to its full potential, and I would be forced to adapt to new people and new coaches. The Under-23 Canadian National team camp in London, Ontario started on June 2, which was two days after nationals finished. Although I didn't get much of a break, I am glad that I was able to come to camp in a ready-to-race gear. The first two weeks of camp were very interesting and exciting. We rowed in different lineups, which helped us to get used to each other - and also allowed the coaches to asses our technical prowess and coachability.
I was very fascinated by was all the support staff for rowing Canada. In the first week we meet with a physiologist who had worked with several rowing teams across the world. We were given blood tests to check our hormone balances, b-12 and iron levels (which I learned have a major impact on elite athletes performance). We also had anthropomorphic measurements taken to asses our body compositions and lean muscle-mass levels. Finally, we endured lactate threshold testing which was not very pleasant, but definitely very informative and helpful to show where our strengths and areas to improve on where. This was based off of the average levels of the senior national team.
After the first two weeks, we began the selection phase of camp. This was something that I have been working toward mentally preparing myself for over a long stretch of time. Rowing at a national level has been a dream of mine since I was ten years old. Selection was based off of seat racing in pairs over a four-by-fifteen hundred meter matrix. Although I was nervous, I constantly reminded myself of all the intense training I have done at Michigan State, and how I knew my body could handle this. I reminded myself just to take it one race at time, think internally every race, and not let pressure that I could put on myself overwhelm me. This seemed to work for me because I made the selection for the eight!
After the eight girls were selected we had to time trial the eight to see if it would be close enough to the gold metal standard - this is the standard which would determine if we would be going to Belarus or not. Fortunately, we were fast enough - so Rowing Canada officially announced last week that we would be going to Brest, Belarus.
Over the last week we have been doing some very intense training incorporated with some lower intensity rows to trim technique and allow us to blend together and learn to row as a unit. We have been rowing twice a day, and also lifting and doing Pilates a few times a week. We have also had the opportunity to race the senior national team women's eights, as well and some men from the local university's rowing program. This has allowed us to have some very intense racing against fast crews, as well as a variety of coaching all with different ways of explaining similar concepts.
Overall, I have been having a really great experience and have been learning what it will take if I would ever consider trying out for the national senior team. It's really inspiring to be around women who have been to several Olympics and some who have won medals.
I am excited to go to Poland July 11 for a week of training, and then onto Belarus on the 18th. I am very hopeful and confident that my MSU teammate Emily Regan will be going as well [as part of the US eight] and although we will be racing against each other, we still have a special bond because we both know the work that it has taken for us to get this far and we have personally pushed each other and had our sights set on this goal for a long time.
Looking over at her at the start will be a strange feeling, because I know exactly what she will be saying and how she will be responding to the race atmosphere. I am very proud of her, and also thank her because she was one of the many people who were instrumental in helping me to get this far!