Ctrl Alt Delete. It’s time to calm – stop, reset and rebuild.

Wow, it’s been a negative year.

I look back on the posts I’ve had on here since my crash and burn at the @CrashBSprints – and it’s not happy reading. A rot set in during that race. Something happened between the PB success of the English Champs the week before and the CrashB race. I don’t know what that rot was, but it hung around – and it’s still here.

All year I’ve been writing about how I’ve not quite been there with my performance. I’ve posted any successful sessions more with an element of surprise than one of confidence, and I’ve approached everything that was about to test me with a feeling of trepidation instead of anticipation. 

After CrashB I was so annoyed. Coming 5th was bad. Losing to Luis (who I love as a friend) killed me – and I thought that anger would help me, drive me, make me faster – stronger, more resilient. It did. For a while. If I concentrate on that anger, I can artificially, momentarily produce something fast. Look at the 100Km team WR I did in June – when the red rag of “We’re all going slower” was waved – it pissed me off and I doubled my efforts, dropping my splits to 1:22 instead of 1:26 – a great effect.

But that is neither manageable – nor as the photo shows, attractive!

Sure, performance can come from anger – but it’s hard to turn up to training every day in an angry mood. If I have to turn to a dark place in order to be jazzed up to row all the time, I think I’d rather give up and pick another sport. It worked in Coetq for the 100Km – I’m sure it’ll come to play again one day. But there’s no way I’m going to turn up to the Village Gym in Glasgow and hit the erg with that look on my face each session!!

I suppose I could channel that only for TT’s and races – but again, I don’t want to be anger fuelled. I’d rather be inspired, energised, positive, power filled and excited to race than sit down at the erg and hate the thing! Why? Well, part of the reason I used to love this so much is because it WAS my happy place. I enjoyed rowing, I was able to flow, move, grow, love and enjoy it – and although some of those words are now missing from my sessions, hate hasn’t entered into it yet.

Sam pointed out though that part of the reason I DID love it was because I was progressing. Each session left me feeling stronger and faster than the last one. And I WAS getting faster and stronger. I was setting PB’s for all distances, I was discovering new challenges like the 6K, 30 mins, 60 Mins, HM etc – doing them once, then doing them over and over and getting better results each time. As the huge leaps stopped, less of a kick was produced from the sessions, as it became more about either smaller gains, or just holding on to what I already have.

And without that feeling of progressing, it’s easy to slip into a void – one where the only thing that seems available is to get slower.

Each time I’ve hit a crisis realisation this year, I’ve basically tried to draw a line. “This must stop” “I’ll do this now” “Remember Boston!” “Nothing Beats Me” “Stop Whining”  – whatever. I’ve tried to do a handbrake turn in my rowing. Click a magic button that would make me work harder, stay mentally stronger, and generally be better.

But it seems this is trying to blow up the moon, just to turn the tide. Great in theory – but ultimately, it’s not the right approach.

If I were to write down where I think I am, what happens to me, what I think I need to fix, it would be this.

  1. I keep looking functional reasons I’m not as fast as I think I am. This needs to change at the root. It’s not about why I’m not as fast as I think I am – it’s about re-setting how fast I think I am. I know I HAVE been capable of a 6:38 2K, but that doesn’t mean I can do it right now. I know I HAVE done a 3:04 1K – but as today proved (at the Scottish Indoor Champs) my 1K time is currently a disappointing 3:11. So rather than training around my false times, I need to accept that for whatever reason, I’m not as fast as I think I am. And need to build to where I should be, rather than blindly hope I’m there, and be crushed when I’m not. If nothing else, when I get back to where I should be, I’ll have that dopamine hit of success again!
  2. There ARE functional reasons. Technique could be better – but stressing too much about that is getting in the way of any natural performance I may have.
  3. Rather than blowing up the moon, I need to slowly turn the tide in my head. The one that has come to dread anything that involves full-press intensity over a period of time. Whether this means looking for a mind-coach, whether this means doing longer sessions that grind in the hard work, or something else, I don’t know yet – but we all know that 2K’s especially involve as much mental strength as they do physical strength.

If I do a “legs only” row – I can hit 2:00 splits pretty easily. If I do an “arms only” row – I’m not much slower. But it takes the combination of both to do that for a long period of time.

It’s the same with the body and the head. Physically, all the training and interval sessions can, on paper, put me in a place where a certain 2K time should be the result. But although 4 x 500m with 2 min rests @ 1:37 might predict a 6:36 2K from a numbers point of view, what it doesn’t address is the psychology of a 2K. It doesn’t address that after 500m the burn sets in, and you realise there’s still another 1500m / 4:20s of rowing to get through, and it ain’t gonna get any easier!

It doesn’t address the 1200 – 1000 point where you’re lost, waiting for the numbers to get under 1000. It doesn’t appreciate the 1000-500 section, when all your body alarms are firing – and you’re looking at only 1000 gone, and still the same to go. And it certainly doesn’t address that last 500, when you are reduced to a machine like state. It’s not about power, plans, keywords or training anymore. It’s just about not stopping. Whatever electrical signals that are strongest in your body will be the ones that are controlling your muscles, your breathing and your technique. The elites have the right default signals. Sometimes, like today, those signals just don’t have the energy to fire properly. Other times, they take over, slow down my rate, go for longer strokes and drive me home. But it’s not a conscious thought anymore. The only thing your brain is good for is not stopping.

But that’s it. The ONLY thing your brain needs to do – it not ask you to stop.

Or, to put it another way, your brain needs to say “hey, we both know this ain’t exactly fun – but we’ve got this”. And that’s what takes the paper version of the calculated 2K from a calculation to a realisation.

And that’s what I need to get back. Brain and I need to start talking again. We’ll need some counselling sessions for sure. Reduce the pressure and the expectations – reintroduce the fun part again, rather than the pressure part.

It’ll take a lot of re-programming. I seem to talk the “oh my, this will be tough” part – rather than the “this’ll be fun” part. But hopefully, realisation of all of this will lead to change. Drawing lines hasn’t worked. It’s time to bend the lines back to where they once were.


Next week is the Welsh champs. Maybe a bit too soon to fix myself, but I can at least go to it with no pressure on myself. I may be racing against others on the monitor, but to me, next week will just be a TT for which I reset my training to.

And as a sign of my intention to deal with this, I’ve also entered BRIC. I have no chance of a medal there – so it will all be about brain-training rather than thinking I could get a podium place.

It just shows the power of having someone on your side. Post 1k yesterday, I could have jacked it all in. But talking this over with Sam and Sarah, and then writing this all down has at least straightened things out in my head – I just hope it stays straight!

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2 Thoughts to “Ctrl Alt Delete. It’s time to calm – stop, reset and rebuild.”

  1. Steve Roedde

    This is a very good piece. Thank you for writing it

    1. johntherower

      Thanks Steve. I write this stuff to try to sort my head out, I never really expect people to read it, let alone think it’s any good!!

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