I’ve had a lot of questions of the past couple of days, mostly about food and living arrangements. I’ll do my best to answer these and others to your satisfaction!
Living: Our event is being held at the Shunyi basin. It’s about a forty-five minute drive outside of Beijing. Our team is fortunate enough to be located about a ten minute bus ride from the course. We are staying at a hotel, which is very nice and has an incredibly accommodating staff. For instance, last night at around eight the Internet wasn’t working, obviously a major crisis, I called the front desk and within a minute their “engineer” and a translator (Jimmy Jay) were in my room trying to figure it out. We spent about thirty minutes together until I suggested they just reset the router… It was funny, but obviously they care a great deal about our well-being. Our location does make it hard to see other events. We have free access to the white-water course, which is directly adjacent to our basin, and spectacular. To see any other event we have to request tickets. This includes rowing, which is a real feat of over-organization. We are on the water during their races and can watch from our boats, but we can’t go sit in the athlete stands and watch. Silly.
Food: Every time we travel as a team, whether to World-Cup events or the World Championship we stay in hotels. I probably spend close to two months a year in a hotel, more than that this year. Because our team is successful they are generally nice hotels with good eats. In Europe the food is similar, though generally better, than what you’d find in an equivalent hotel at home. Here the food is OK. Like any hotel the food is served buffet style. At home for breakfast I’m an oatmeal man, all the way. Here the oatmeal is more of a soup, so I stick to toast and quite a bit of coffee, which thank god, is good. For lunch and dinner the food is generally the type of Chinese food you would get at a buffet at home. Lots of pan fried: veggies, pork, chicken and beef. Some curries that are quite tasty and the hit is usually some variation of general Tao, lemon chicken or sweat and sour pork. Dinner and lunch follow the same pattern. The only problem is that anymore than two weeks in one hotel gets trying; especially when the food variation is low. The Bok Choy is already wearing very thin.
In the past I was much more concerned with what I eat before I race. Now I’m more concerned with when. If I have three hours I eat a full meal. If I have less time I eat less. I don’t like feeling full on the line, but I also don’t like feeling hungry. What I eat, like I said above, isn’t really a concern. I try to eat something filling, but not too heavy, and try to stick to things that are easily digestible. It’s no fun feeling like I’ve got a big block of something sitting in my stomach before a race.
Competitors: We are training on the course as are everyone else. Almost all the big teams are here now, minus the Germans. It’s a relatively small international group of paddlers so we all know each other reasonably well. Yesterday, the Hungarian C-1 paddler and favorite in my event, Attila Vajda arrived. It was nice to see him. He’s a total extrovert and very friendly. We had a quick chat as I was leaving and the usual questions were asked. Where have you been training? Are you feeling good (which is redundant, I know, but polite I guess)? Who have you been training with? …etc. It’s all very friendly and there is mutual respect all around.
Nerves: To be honest I don’t really have any right now. I stay distracted and call home a lot, which is really helpful, do crosswords and read. I’ll begin to get more nervous as the week progresses. By Sunday I’ll be a sight I’m sure. It’s a week of racing for me next week, which is really different from our usual schedules. Generally a world cup event is three days, fri, sat, sun. The Worlds are four starting on the Thursday. Next week I race mon-wed-fri. Very different from what I’m used to, and the big race is on the Friday. I don’t want to get too worked up prior to Monday. I know I’m going to have to race my little heart out on Monday, but I want to save some of my nervous energy for later in the week.
Mike adjusted my training while we were at home to simulate the schedule as best as possible. Ensuring that the hardest workouts we Monday-Wednesday and Friday afternoons; which is a little different from how things normally go. I feel that the prep was good and I’m confident that I’m sharp. I’m paddling well now, I feel strong and though I have doubts I just remind myself that all I can do is my best, and that I’m ready to do that.