KYMIRA asked me an interesting question recently which was “What goes through your head at a big race?”. Obviously I can only speak to the mind of a rower but I am positive that the same thought processes are likely to go through anyone’s mind at a competition, whether it be an amateur event or professional one:
You are on the start line of a race. You have trained all year for this race; this one opportunity to show everyone that you are the best. All the miles on the rowing machine, all those times you have felt sick after a hard workout, all the times your hands have wanted to give up because of the freezing cold temperatures during the 6am rows in the dead of winter. Hopefully, they are all about to pay off.
Even before the race starts many things can go through your head depending on the type of person you are. Some people can struggle with the pressure and have dangerous thoughts like, “what am I doing here?”, “Why am I here?” and “I don’t think I can do this.” On the other hand, some people enjoy the pressure and can have thoughts like, “I can do this”, “I am stronger than my opposition” and “I am really enjoying myself.”
Then before you know it, you are under starters orders, you try to quieten all the internal thoughts, and you’re off! After all the hubbub of the start, at roughly a minute and a half into the race, thoughts start to creep back in: “I can’t keep this going.”,“I am going to have to back off so I have something to give later?” These thoughts are usually sparked by a lactate spike in your body. caused by the fact you go so hard off the start line during a race.Your body goes into oxygen debt almost right away, meaning that lactic acid will build up quite quickly. Before you’re even halfway through the race you have a pain in your chest and legs that will only get worse. It won’t stop until you get through the finish line. It’s no wonder you might have thoughts to stop, but you don’t. You will never stop because that would let yourself and your crew (or team) down!
Through the middle of the race there is not a lot of thinking going on. You may take a quick glance across to see how you are faring compared to your competition, but for the most part you are completely focused, likely on the back of the man in front of you. The one constant through the middle of the race is responding the coxswain’s calls (the person steering and motivating the rowers all the way down the course). Whether the responses be to push harder, to push away from the opponent or to push again to try and get ahead, the boat will respond, no matter how tired you are!
Going into the last five hundred meters of a race, roughly the last minute and a half, things start to get very simple: “Just a few more strokes. It does not matter how close the other boat is, you will be in a world of pain and all you want to do is stop. The sooner the finish line comes the better! The coxswain is shouting for more speed but your legs are begging you not to push harder. At this point you have to ignore what your body is telling you, stay mentally disciplined so that your technique doesn’t falter and put everything you have into getting across that finish line first.
Hopefully this gives a little insight into what goes through a rower’s mind in a race and you will have all found it interesting! If you think of anything during your races then please comment below and let us know what thoughts you have!