Golden skies, bronze necks and tables turned in Munich
I've just returned from Munich where we raced at the final World Cup regatta, picking up a bronze in the eight.
It was nice to stand on the podium again but, at this stage, the processes are probably more important than the final result. So there was much to be pleased with, but also much to improve.
We turned the tables on two of the countries that beat us three weeks ago – Netherlands and Australia – and it was great to put together a gutsy race where we stormed back through the field in the final sprint to the line.
One of the things I love about sport is that it gives you the opportunity to really put your heart and soul on the line for a cause you believe in, in a team of inspirational people similarly committed to that cause. When our cox (who is essentially the eyes and voice of the crew) asked us how much we wanted it, the response was pretty impressive.
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It's those kind of moments that make all the long, grinding training sessions worthwhile. We still have a huge amount of work to do if we are to challenge for the middle step of the podium, but it was good to see us heading in the right direction.
We'll now analyse the racing from every angle. We have tiny GPS units on the boats which give us a good breakdown of our speed, acceleration and stroke rate (cadence) at every point over the 2,000m. We have video analysis software, but we also use the subjective information from what we, the athletes, were thinking and feeling down the course. We can then analyse both the big picture and the small details, all of which will contribute to our boat speed on August 2.
It was rather disconcerting in Munich to have to cope with a large heat-emitting orange thing in the sky, when I'd become so used to grey drizzle in Britain, and I ended up getting rather burnt on Sunday when our race was scheduled for midday. I don't like to wear sun cream when I race because there is a chance it might run into my hands and make them greasy, and the greatest fear of any rower is to 'catch a crab' – to lose control of your oar so it drags down under the boat.
This would stop the boat dead, so I try to minimise the risk of it happening by scrubbing my hands until they're dry and wrinkled before I go out to race. When my rowing career is over, I'll invest in a range of expensive moisturisers like my friends have, but for now the functionality of my hands is more important than how they look.
The big occasion of this week coming is 'Team GB Kitting Out', to which I give capital letters because it's one of the most enjoyable experiences connected with the Olympics. It's when we all trek to Loughborough University, where Adidas have set up a Team GB warehouse, to pick up all our Olympic kit – something in the region of 50kg of bags, clothes, trainers, toiletries, formal wear and opening ceremony outfit, along with our rowing-specific kit.
When I attended 'Kitting Out' in 2008 (held then in the NEC in Birmingham), it was like Christmas and a birthday rolled into one. I'll report back next week how I get on.
I now have five days in the country before heading off to Europe for our pre-Olympic preparation camps, so I've set some time aside to catch up with friends before leaving.
It's quite emotional to say goodbye to them all, knowing that the next time I'll see them all will be at the Olympic regatta on August 2, after I've raced my Olympic final and it will all be over, one way or another.
There will be no second chance, so in the rowing team we'll continue to push ourselves to the limit and leave no stone unturned in our preparation. I've learnt from bitter experience that, even compared with the hardest training session, nothing hurts as much as losing.