Athlete of the Month - October 2011
As a university student Lindsay Jennerich of Canada talked her way into training with the Canadian national team during their morning sessions. This tenacity, and by taking what Lindsay calls ‘small steps’, has led Lindsay to become a World Champion at both the under-23 and senior level.
Lindsay recently returned home from the 2011 World Rowing Championships with a well-deserved silver medal in the lightweight women’s double sculls following a last-minute partner change. She has just had a month off training but is itching to get back into it as she works her way towards the 2012 London Olympic Games. Lindsay’s tenacity and terrific results have made her the perfect pick for World Rowing’s Athlete of the Month for October.
World Rowing: Tell us how you came to be a rower
Lindsay Jennerich: I played almost every sport that you can think of through middle school. Then I got to high school and rowing was offered. I tried out for the team in grade nine and didn’t make the team (because I was playing volleyball and rowing wanted a full commitment). So I joined the city rowing club.
Rowing was next on my list. In volleyball I was ok at but not really good. I doubt that I could’ve gone to the Olympics in any other sport.
No one else is a rower in my family. My first interest came when I went to a regatta because my friend’s older sister was a rower and we went to watch her race.
WR: How did you transition from being a club to elite rower?
LJ: I took really small steps along the way. I had small success that made the next step possible. I got into the varsity boat at university and then my [university] coach got me training with the national team at Elk Lake [national training centre in Victoria] in the mornings. I saw what was needed to make the next level. It was one massive group of men and women training and it was fun because there were so many of us. I would train in a double with another university rower. It taught us to go fast.
I made the under-23 team after one year of training in the mornings.
WR: What did you do after the 2011 World Rowing Championships?
LJ: I had September off and we started training again on October 3rd – back on Elk Lake. So I’ve been doing a lot of road biking. I have tried to do a good solid session once a day. I have gone out for about two hours. Any more than that and I get a sore bum! And I’ve also been spending time with family and friends.
This is going to sound funny but I’m really not enjoying my life unless I’m training. I did go to the Okanagan region [British Columbia] with my boyfriend Gabe [Bergen, who is in the Canadian men’s eight]. His family has a place there and we helped pick apples.
WR: Just before the World Championships you had to change partners from Tracy Cameron (who got injured) to Patricia Obee. How did that go?
LJ: It was hard to describe. It was so nerve-racking because it wasn’t the plan. But at the same time I had trained with Obee over the winter. I knew Obee’s mentality and I knew that she was really focused. It was at least a good feeling knowing that I had the best possible back-up plan. Even with the switch it still felt comfortable in the boat. Cameron had trained in Ontario through the winter while Obee and I trained in Victoria all winter.
WR: Does this mean that there are three of you going for the two spots in the lightweight double for the Olympics?
LJ: Yes, and there could be others like Melanie Kok (2008 Beijing Olympic medallist).
WR: What do you like to do with any time off you get from rowing?
LJ: [Long pause.] I do a lot of reading. It sounds simple but we train so much that I just want to hang out with friends. It’s nice just to relax and get to know the people you’re working with, the other rowers.
WR: What do you think about the shape of rowing in Canada at present?
LJ: I think it’s extremely promising for the coming Olympics and even more so for 2016. This can be credited to very good coaching staff and the ‘Own the Podium’ programme (government funded). Rowing is Canada’s number one amateur sport in terms of government funding and it’s showing in the results.
WR: Who is your coach?
LJ: Al Morrow, the lightweight women’s coach, looked after us this season. When we are in Victoria it will be Mike Spracklen.
WR: Do you have a favourite race?
LJ: I am going to have to say last year’s World Championships final. It was not just the result (gold) but that every stroke felt like we were doing exactly what we’d planned to do. To get the result from knowing that you did your best and it was the best result.
World Rowing: You are now back into training after a post-World Rowing Championship break. How does it feel to be all go again?
Lindsay Jennerich: I really enjoyed having some time away from rowing, but with one week left in my break, I was becoming very eager to get back to training. It's nice to have a routine to your day and feel that you've started working towards the Olympics. It's week three and I'm extremely tired but when I stop and think about it, I know I would not trade this for anything.
WR: Did the first sessions back feel difficult or doable?
LJ: I definitely struggled a bit in the first few sessions back on the water and on the erg, but by the beginning of week two, I started to feel like my old fit self and now I'm trying to build on that. What feels difficult now is the fatigue that is building, but that's normal and expected and is a far better feeling than lost fitness.
WR: What is your typical day like now?
LJ: I have to laugh at that. How much room is there to answer this question? Hahaha. I wake up 6:20am and do roughly a 16km row in the double, head-to-head with men's singles. Then we go back to the lake at 11am and do another hard 14km workout. Usually it is power ladders which are 20 strokes on as hard as possible with 10 off in between. Then at 3pm we head to the gym, lift weights until 4pm and then do an erg which is usually a 4km warm up with 8-10km piece as fast as possible. That's just a Monday. Tuesday is even scarier!
WR: How do you describe to non-rowers what you do?
LJ: It's actually really hard to have people understand, not the rowing part, but how tired we get doing it. It's hard for people to understand how I might have two hours off in the afternoon but meeting someone for coffee in that time is just something I don't want to do. It's not energy consuming to sit and drink coffee with someone for the average person, but that's an activity I just can't muster mid week. To answer the question then, I don't really bother trying to explain it to non-rowers.
WR: What has been the hardest workout so far?
LJ: After an extremely high intensity workout in the morning, we came back to the lake to do 6x3min pieces, knowing at 3pm we had another practice with 8x3min at reasonably high rates. That cracked me. I let myself feel every ounce of pain in my body during that second workout knowing it was going to be even worse later. Not one of my proudest moments. But we survived the day and that builds extreme confidence that you can do almost anything.
WR: Where are you now?
LJ: I am in Victoria, BC, right now and for the rest of the month. We have our National Championships in Welland, Ontario in November and I'll be travelling there for that.
WR: When you look ahead to next year’s season do you see a long road of hard training or that there is not much time to go?
LJ: I think about this daily actually. I feel that I cannot believe that I am in the last 10 months of my rowing career. I'm a nostalgic person and it actually saddens me quite a bit, maybe even enough that I can't see myself stopping in 2012. We'll let the result take care of that choice. ;-)
WR: Is the Olympics constantly on your mind when training?
LJ: The Olympics have not really been much on my mind while training until this year. Now I feel like I think of that Olympic final every piece of every practice. In those moments where it would be easy to let off, I think how there will never be a second chance at winning an Olympic gold and it keeps me going. It's once in a lifetime for few, and never for many, that one has the opportunity to train for the Olympic Games, so I try to make the absolute most of it.
WR: As a lightweight rower out of racing season do you have to be careful about what you eat?
LJ: Honestly, not at all. When you are training on Mike Spracklen's programme you can eat almost anything you want. The other day I burned 2700 calories in workouts alone. I would have to be a real pig to go over 130lbs (59kg) on Mike's programme. I try to get myself to 130lbs just so that I reduce the risk of getting injured. Getting much over that is hard though. I love it!
WR: Who do you draw strength from when the training gets really tough?
LJ: Everyone around me. There are so many days that it's hard to put the spandex on and get out there again. However, Patricia (Obee) and I are motivated by each other and we train with the men's eight and the lightweight men's double and they don't quit, they don't stop and they definitely don't back off, so how can we? When you surround yourself by those that are working hard, it's motivating to work hard yourself and so the group acts as pillars and pillars of strength to each other. This is what I will miss the most about rowing.