The season was practically cancelled – so the postponement was actually a relief
Welcome back to another instalment of a glimpse into the life at the NTC… now usually I’d be debriefing on the glitz and glamour of the world cup regattas we usually race at this time of the year in Europe, but as we all know things didn’t quite go to plan this year, so I’ll be describing my guide of How to Entertain Yourself At Home for 3 Months ©.
When the announcement came that the 2020 Olympic games would be no longer, I was met with a sense of relief. So far both world cups, which serve as critical lead in regattas were cancelled, in addition to our own national championships. To try and prepare our Olympic boats with no competition preparation would have been a difficult task, as I’ve experienced that there’s no room for mistakes at the Olympics. With other countries’ ability to train being significantly impacted, there would have been no level playing field to compete in, so although the announcement was a shock, we knew it was for the best.
For the rest of the day, our training centre resembled a mad warehouse bargain sale, with people grabbing whatever training equipment they could get their hands on the running out the door with it, to try and beat the rush before state borders closed. It was an odd feeling arriving home, as our lives had shifted so much with one decision. Every single day of ours for the next half year was meticulously planned down to the hour, with beds and flights booked, meals planned and programs set. Our own personal experiences were insignificant in comparison to what was going on in the rest of the world, so I felt extremely lucky that I was able to keep a roof over my head and stay safe.
For the lockdown period, I decided that I would continue to live in the ‘Riff and truly make it home. With borrowed equipment from the NTC and the arrival of your other favourite Sykes representative Nick from Canberra, the Nepean road Institute of sport was created. Over the course of the next 12 weeks, us and our housemates continued to train out of our garage, much to the amusement of the hundreds of people who would walk past every day – I think we became the ‘crazy’ people as there was always someone bashing away on an erg or with the weights – we really never stopped!
The time spent in Penrith was really quite enjoyable, as it did feel like holiday with some wholesome training on the time. We got well acquainted with our neighbours as we sat by our outdoor fire many nights and talked the night away. With Penrith’s location on the outskirts of Sydney, it served as a great gateway to Sydney’s surrounds one we were allowed out of the house. The Blue Mountains is just a short drive away served as a great escape to go bushwalking and forget about time, and to also experience my first proper Aussie winter in 8 years! Also up the mountain and a great place to spend time was Bilpin, which was badly affected by this summers’ bushfires. Renound for its apple orchards, there was plenty on offer from the cider sheds to the pie houses so we never got too hungry or thirsty!
The period away from structured programming also allowed me to get back to basics of what I really like about training. After a few too many garage erg sessions for my liking, I took some time away to explore the area upon 2 wheels of a bike or with some running shoes on. With another house of NTC girls who also decided to stay in Penrith, we explored the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury river and all that lies surrounding it on our road bikes and discovered a playground of quiet country backroads to explore. Shoutout to Mark from our favourite café Tractor 8228 for always having a coffee ready for us with insider knowledge of the best places to ride! I also enjoyed getting into some more vertical activities, by discovering one of Penrith’s local hotspots known as Knapsack bridge. Like a little maze, the network of bush running tracks plonked on the side of what would be called ‘the foot’ of the blue mountains. A very vertical climb up some steps carved into the side of the hill gave way to a bird’s eye view back to Sydney, a worthy reward!
I was also very fortunate to be able to still row on the water in our isolation period, thanks to the generosity of the NSWIS rowing program. I got to enjoy rowing in a different way by going up into the far stretches of the narrows in my own time without any coaches, with the ability to soak up all the serenity that even Darryl Kerrigan would have appreciated. Being able to explore different modes of training made me realise that what I love most about rowing is to be outside amongst nature, and to watch the ever changing scenes pass by as you row, cycle or jog (stumble) your way along. To be able to do it every single day is something that I feel very privileged about as I know that real life may not always afford such opportunities! I goes without saying that I would not have been able to keep living in my house and supporting myself to continue training without our team’s sponsor, the Georgina Hope foundation, and in addition to the continued support I have through my employment at Sykes Racing! Without both parties my lockdown period would have been very different, and I can’t be thankful enough.
Australian Women’s Rowing Team