Sunday, June 19, 2011

OTW with Matt Miller, Part II: Blazer up!

Thursday night send-off at the Boathouse Grille (Photo: Clem Bezold)
Since this post, Matt has packed his bags and taken off for London along with the rest of the Cavaliers, pictured above (they will be racing an eight and a four, in the Temple Challenge Cup and the Prince Albert Challenge Cup, respectively). Once in England they will look to get settled in and resume their training as quickly as possible prior to beginning the taper for Henley Royal, which starts on June 29th, and runs through July 3rd. While this is certainly an exciting prospect, the last few days of practice have been bittersweet for Miller, who graduated this year and whose last strokes as a Virginia oarsman will come at Henley. Here's the second installment from Matt:

Preparations are making the Henley trip feel more real by the day. The first adjustment to history and tradition was in converting weights to stones for roster submission. It had been a while since the last weigh-in (last erg testing week) and many were pleasantly surprised to be leaner and lighter—results of tough workouts in Virginia heat.

That task was followed closely by the highlight of the week last Friday: distribution of Henley jackets. We were unsure at first whether orange piping would be worth the added cost, but it was well worth it! The jackets turned out perfectly with the team logo embroidered on the left pocket, deep orange piping and custom fit. 
The next Thursday marked the arrival of another key component of Henley attire, our orange team polo shirts. Thanks to our team sponsor, B.W. Furlong & Associates, and the work of team manager Kyle Davis, they came in looking great. That night represented the first chance for us to sport the new jackets and polos at a team send-off reception, appropriately held at Charlottesville’s Boathouse Grille. The event was a chance for alumni, board members, local paralympic rowers, parents, women’s team rowers, and members of the Rivanna Rowing Club to chat over hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Many of these guests support the team financially, and all follow the team’s results. In addition to providing a forum for meeting the rowers who will be representing Virginia in England, the night showed the team’s appreciation for the encouragement and generosity of our rowing community. 
The team has thankfully avoided injury during tough training, but the newest member of the eight, Ben Hammond, was diagnosed with strep throat on Wednesday. Despite this temporary loss, training continues. After near death by boredom during 22k steady state rows, workouts are becoming more “peppy” as Frank would say, as we translate drills and low rate technique work to intermediate rates at high intensity. Both boats have benefited from the perspective of Virginia women’s rowing head coach, Kevin Sauer, in two guest-coaching sessions.

The team was on the erg for the first time in nearly a month on Friday afternoon for 20 minutes of firm steady state. Some found the work easy and others greatly surpassed target splits. Apparently the team’s physiology has continued to improve over the last month.

Packing for Sunday’s departure is the next step. It will be a challenge to foresee everything we’ll need for two and half weeks, but Frank has provided us with a handy packing list. It’s great to have a coach with so much international travel (and coaching) experience.

Saturday was my last day as a Charlottesville resident. I am excited to be headed to Henley and entering a new stage of my life, but I leave Charlottesville with mixed emotions. I’ve built my closest friendships in thousands of hours at that boathouse. My last row on the Rivanna Reservoir felt normal until I walked the boat up the hill, realizing it would be the last time. Despite painful practices and early mornings, I have nothing but fond memories of Virginia and rowing. -MM

More from Matt when the Cavs begin their training across the pond, making final preparations for Henley at the regatta venue.

-RR

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