Yesterday was the British Indoor Rowing Championships, the day that the past 8 months of training has been focussed towards. My race was right at the end of the day, 1645, and with the clocks changing on Saturday night too this is very late in the day for me. I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night, but woke feeling pretty good. We watched some of the live results and webcast coming in during the morning, then set off towards Birmingham around 11am. The journey was around 130miles in the end I think, but no bad traffic to contend with. A few hours of socialising, then it was time to get changed and begin warming up.
The air is always very dry in the NIA, people comment on it every year. There is really nothing you can do about it, and everyone is in the same conditions. I felt good in the warm up, and so the plan was to try to keep the average split around 1:33.0 (my pb pace) and see how I felt towards the later stages as to whether I could push under for a pb. The seedings for the race had me in 3rd position behind Gareth Archer (a recent England rugby player) and my team mate Stuart Williams. The 4th seed was the Russian Suvorov who I had beaten by about 5 seconds last year.
The announcements were not good in the arena, and the start sequence began on the monitor before I’d picked the handle up, but I picked up and we were off. Usual drills of 5 hard strokes, 5 settling strokes, then into race pace of 1:33′s. I expected some people would go off harder than they could sustain, so no surprise to see myself in 8th position during the first 500m. The big race screen was behind the competitors so the only information I knew of the others in the race was the monitor information that gave me the leader, and the guys immediately in front and behind me. At the 500m point I was somewhere around 1:33 average, and still around 7th or 8th position. I expected to see people start to drop back in pace soon, but was surprised to see Stu in the position ahead of me, lots of people going for a fly and die strategy I thought. The splits aren’t up on the site yet so I can’t be sure, but I think I reached half way at around 1:33.4 average, still in 7th or 8th place, and still with Stu one place ahead. I was surprised not to be in a higher position, the pace was ok, I could still bring it back from there, but it was starting to feel a lot harder than it needed to at this point.
This is the stage of the race where seeing the big screen could have helped. Coming into the second half in 7th with Stu just in front, I had no idea how far ahead the 5 ahead of Stu were. I think it was a combination of the mental blow of expecting to be in 3rd / 4th at this stage of the race but being in 7th, and it just not quite being there physically, but my pace started to suffer during the second half. We all have days in training where it feel great, days were it feels awful, and days where it’s just somewhere between. This was one of those somewhere between days. Unfortunately I couldn’t help but start to watch the positions rather than race my own race. I was up to 5th coming to the later stages, and 6th wasn’t far behind - I wasn’t going to lose another position. I pulled a bit harder during the final 250m to make sure I stayed in 5th, and did just that getting 5th by 1second. It felt hard, much harder than the 1:33.0 paced mile 3 weeks ago in Newark. My throat and lungs were sore from the dry air, and my legs were tired. I felt pretty flat, not the time I wanted, and not the position I expected. I could see on my monitor that Stu had not 4th just ahead of me with 6:10.8, so I knew the medals would have been beyond me, even if I had stayed a bit stronger in the final 500m to go a couple of seconds quicker. I didn’t realise at that point quite how close Stu had come to the medals though, both bronze and silver. The final positions and times were:
1. Gareth Archer 5:54.3
2. Craig Morgan 6:10.4
3. Ben Sullivan 6:10.6
4. Stuart Williams 6:10.8
5. Pete Marston 6:17.4
6. Howard Dawson 6:18.4
I could go through the what ifs. Physically on the right day I could have gone fast enough to get in the medals, but yesterday wasn’t that day. A combination of the conditions, nerves, and it just not being one of the “zone” days. I think the preparation was good though, with one thing lacking – this was my first sub 6:20 2k for quite some time, perhaps even since BIRC last year. I should have done a fast 2k in the gym perhaps. However, it is one place higher than last year, and 2.3seconds faster time. 6seconds quicker and I’d have been very happy with the time, and still in 5th position. 6 seconds. It doesn’t sound a lot does it?
And what of the other Pete Plan Coaching athletes competing at BIRC?
David Crawford = 6:25.2 / 9th in 35-39hwt – less than a second from his recent pb
Emma O’Hara = 7:15.4 / 3rd in 30-34hwt – a pb by 5 seconds
Mike Wrenn = 7:19.8 / 3rd in 65-69hwt
Iain Greenwood = 7:14.9 / 12th in 40-44lwt
Jef Hutchby = 6:48.0 / 5th in 45-49lwt, a pb by 4seconds from his very recent 2k pb, first sub7 at BIRC
Andy Osborn = 6:52.6 / 11th in mens 50-54hwt
Those that I haven’t put down how far from a pb, or how much of a pb it was, it is because I don’t have the information to hand. Some great achievements all around though. Of few of the others who couldn’t make it to BIRC have, and are, doing 2k tests as well. Darin Dodd set a new 2k pb at home on Sunday, other results still to come in.
All in all, not overly happy with my race yesterday. It wasn’t the day to set a new pb unfortunately, though I know I am physically ready to do that. Tomorrow I fly out to New York for a week. Who knows, perhaps I might have a go at a 2k while I’m there, otherwise there are plenty more races coming up, and plenty of other opportunities. Well done to all the other competitors at BIRC, so truely brilliant and inspiring performances.