One hundred and ninety eight years after Wellington’s forces began to gather in Northern Europe for their last campaign against Napoleon, the Lea Senior squads arrived in Seneffe, Belgium, armed with 16 boats, 15 sets of riggers, 2 rigger jiggers between 40 athletes and Amazon’s entire stock of physio-tape. It was time for training camp. Women’s head coach, Paul “no mercy” Carter, instructed us to punish ourselves. And that we did.
For a small contingent of the Men’s senior squad the punishment had started the day before with a ‘cultural sightseeing’ trip in Brussels, which allegedly took in the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum and the remains of the Berlin Wall (as yet no photographic evidence provided) and involved several unsuccessful attempts to spend a 500 euro note. Apparently it was a slightly suspect amuse bouche consumed during the tour of the cathedral of Notre Dame that left more than one participant incapacitated.
The days were run to a strict timetable with 2-3 outings interspersed with eating and sleeping. As a club in serious contention of a medal at Henley Women’s regatta this year and with a vast number of women, the coaches needed to see who was moving boats. This meant that the women’s program was pretty much seat racing in fours with a side helping of seat racing and two portions of seat racing for desert. The bliss of a long straight canal in which you didn’t need to look round to steer (honestly, I did occasionally look) wore off as quickly as the skin on our hands. Whilst most of the women were in eights and fours the sculling squad also came out to play. Having given up on trying to keep up with the fours in all of their pieces the scullers decided to start racing each other over 100m distances, with points being awarded for the highest rate achieved as well as speed over distance. Average race rate increased from 25 to 41 strokes per minute over the course of the week. The author of this article is feeling pretty chuffed with herself now looking for races over a 100m distance.
The men were also worked exceptionally hard by men’s head coach Richard “more is more” Ellis and Gill “do these boys really have proper jobs?” Parker after the weigh-in on day one revealed that men’s squad had been very coy about their weight. Most sessions involved a trip to Mordor, so-named because it is the furthest from the base that you can row (approx. 10k) and is populated by sociopathic men with long white beards and wooden staffs (…so rather like the Lea then). The sessions also involved copious amounts of beasting each other in pairs – which can be extremely exhausting if your partner decides to do all pieces at rate 35 regardless of the rate cap (no names mentioned).
Squads were largely left to amuse themselves in the evenings, although some people were treated to video analysis of them rowing. Luckily we escaped the dreaded ‘data evening’ – new recruit Felicity took the hit for us as Head Coach Nigel Weare spent two hours demonstrating the full extent of his spread sheet skills…and she even asked questions. The women’s squad spent most of their evenings in bed together watching Kung-Fu Panda, How to Train your Dragon and other high-brow films. Quiz night was the pinnacle of the evening entertainment, eventually won by team 5 after a career ending blunder by Phil B who couldn’t remember which team won the world cup in 1998. On the last night there was, of course, the traditional cocktail party where the whole squad samples the local produce. Much fun was had by all, although some didn’t have quite so much fun the next day.
This was probably the toughest camp some squad members had been on, but we are all now harder for it, or at least the skin on our hands is.
A big thanks to all those who made the camp happen including the coaches not already mentioned, Sally and Richard P; to Anna for doing all the translating and bookings and to the squad members who organised transport and rooms. We all came back in one piece, if a little tired, with all the equipment in one piece…although minus a 500 euro note.