#HoosGoingToHenley, Part One: Forrest Brown of Virginia on Henley Training at Home in Charlottesville

RR series: #HoosGoingToHenley, Part One

As longtime readers of RowingRelated will remember, we have twice connected with athletes and crews heading over to Henley Royal Regatta in the past. This year, we're doing it again.

The first 'On The Water' series was with current U.S. national teamer (then a member of the Virginia men's varsity eight) Matt Miller, who took us along as he and the Cavs trained for and raced in the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley in 2011. Then, in 2012, John Forrest of Potomac Boat Club brought us along for the journey as he and his crew raced in the Thames Challenge Cup. And, this year, a new generation of Virginia rowers is heading over to Merrie England—varsity eight athlete Forrest Brown will be penning a series as the crew trains in Virginia and Switzerland before competing at Henley Royal later this month.

What follows is the first installment of our #HoosGoingToHenley series, from Brown—follow the series here on RR by using the post label, and keep up on social media by using the hashtag above.

From Forrest:

"The training itself has been the best kind of brutal."Greetings from Charlottesville! We are three weeks into Henley training and are tired, sore, beaten down, and having a great time. The Rivanna Reservoir—the water we train on—is beautiful this time of year, and we are enjoying every moment as the trees and flowers (and algae) begin to bloom. Virginia is an amazing place to live and train in June despite the sometimes overwhelming heat and humidity, and, as we prepare for a global adventure, it's nice to appreciate some time at home.

UVa training on Rivanna Reservoir

The training itself has been the best kind of brutal. Having six weeks to prepare for a regatta allows for every rower to push themselves to full pressure on every piece without fear of hurting performance, and Frank (Biller, our head coach) has given us some long and fun rows blasting away 2ks at ratings in the high 20s or low 30s, as well as many steady state technique rows that are even longer! As these rows have progressed the occasional switch has also let our final lineups start to come into focus, and many younger rowers have found themselves in more competitive boats, which is always exciting. We’ve also been concluding every practice with a 500 meter start piece, which, while not always pretty, has been a fun way to test our quickness when we are at our most exhausted. Rounding out many of our workouts have been creatively fun (read: evil) circuits, designed by our assistant coach/medieval torture expert Ben Carr, to improve our strength and mobility.

"The beauty of the workout is in learning to succeed through failure, embracing the gift of suffering given to you by your teammates and giving it back to them in return."There have been a few special highlights among the workouts. Our first Friday featured the second Henley Gauntlet Tournament, a team-favorite event started in 2013. Every rower was assigned a target split that if pulled for 2,000 meters would result in a 2k PR, and a bracket in the style of March Madness was created with Starboards on one side and Ports on the other. We all took turns lining up next to one of our teammates and pulling our split for as long as possible. Every stroke above split was a point, and the first to ten points lost and their opponent advanced in the bracket. The beauty of the workout is in learning to succeed through failure, embracing the gift of suffering given to you by your teammates and giving it back to them in return. Many rowers who technically “lost” a contest found that they had pushed themselves further and fought through more pain than they thought they were capable of sustaining. Through four rounds there was no shortage of yelling, laughing, crying, post-race embraces, and pre-race encouragement. There were even a few Mad Max quotes screamed at particularly intense moments. In short, it was awesome.

Blue Hole, Shenandoah Mountains

"An early Sunday featured a team hike to Blue Hole, a swimming hole in the Shenandoah mountains, and the thunderstorm that day only lasted for the entirety of our swim and most of our walk down the mountain."While the team-internal competition has been fun, another highlight came as a result of some guests. For the last week we have been sharing our water with the USA U23 training camp (being coached by the UVa Women’s coach and former Virginia Men’s Rowing coach/legend Kevin Sauer as well as former UVa rower and Olympic men's eight champion Wyatt Allen), and we had the privilege of competing with them for a practice. The workout was particularly tough, known as the LacTab, prescribing four 2ks with 500m at 22, 500m at 26, 500m at 30, 250m at 34, and 250m at 38… all at absolute max pressure. Lining up against some of our nation’s elite athletes was slightly intimidating, but I’m happy to say our bowball finished ahead on at least one piece (I vigorously deny all reports suggesting the U23s were a full 10 beats lower than us at the end of each piece). Later in the week we had a barbecue with both teams at the boathouse where we got to know each other in a slightly less intense and humid environment, and it was fun to meet some incredibly fit and talented guys. UVa would like to wish the U.S. team the best of luck in Bulgaria later this summer!

We haven’t had much time off the water, but we’ve taken advantage of what little we’ve had to enjoy all that central Virginia has to offer. An early Sunday featured a team hike to Blue Hole, a swimming hole in the Shenandoah mountains, and the thunderstorm that day only lasted for the entirety of our swim and most of our walk down the mountain. Some rowers have also been hard at work in our Rent-a-rower program, where rowers are hired by locals for various jobs (such as moving or yardwork) to pay off their dues, as well as staffing a rowing-based class for the Darden School of Business at UVa. A few of us may have even caught a showing of Jurassic World.

As fun as it’s been in Charlottesville, we are now wrapping up and preparing for the first leg of our international journey: Frank’s homeland of Zurich, Switzerland. The team flies out on Wednesday, and we will have a fun few days rowing on Lake Greifensee, just over a mountain from the city, before competing in a large Swiss regatta on Saturday and Sunday. My next post will let you know how that goes, so until then, Wahoowa! -FB

All photos © Forrest Brown. Stay tuned for more from Forrest as UVa gears up for a trip to Switzerland, where they'll be training and racing until they head across the Channel to take on the world at Henley Royal Regatta. In the meantime, catch up on Matt Miller and John Forrest's Henley journeys on our Travelogues page


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