Athlete of the Month - April 2011
Anna Watkins of Great Britain knows how to win. She went through the 2010 season unbeaten and has high hopes as she heads into the 2011 season. Currently at Great Britain’s training centre in Caversham, Anna, a full time athlete, is about to leave for another training camp in Italy. Anna talked to World Rowing about the state of her iPhone and her ‘slow and steady’ philosophy.
World Rowing: Where are you at present?
Anna Watkins: We are at home at the moment training on our lake at Caversham but we are just about to go on a training camp to Varese in Italy.
WR: What is your typical day like at present?
AW: My typical day starts with a 6:30 alarm, then I drive to Caversham, our training base. We train as a squad there most of the time and between sessions we chat and read the newspapers. After training I go home, do some shopping and cook dinner and maybe do a bit of DIY. My family live two hundred miles away, so I keep in touch with them by phone and my socialising is mainly with other rowers. In April we are going to Varese for a training camp before our main set of trials which I will be doing in the single (16 – 17 April).
WR: At present what’s the best part of your day... and the worst?
AW: The most reliably good part of my day is a sausage sandwich and a coffee after the first session. If it's sunny and calm, then the session in the single might make the number one spot. The worst is being tired and useless at about 4pm- and also the 6.30 alarm.
WR: When you are doing a long erging session, does your mind wander?
AW: My mind does wander on the erg. Most often I think about racing, whether it's the upcoming trials or the Olympics. But day to day stuff creeps in there too, how to arrange my social life, things on my to-do list, food.
WR: Do you have a favourite saying?
AW: Slow and steady wins the race! It's about remembering that it's consistent training that makes you better. Don't try and fix everything at once. Elise, my partner from Beijing, gave me that one.
WR: What annoys you most in the world at present?
AW: The war in Libya. I don't understand all the politics but I don't see how our country's involvement can possibly turn out well.
WR: If you weren’t rowing where do you think you’d be?
AW: My friends from university are geologists like me and at the moment one is working in Finland travelling by snowmobile, one is in New Zealand, and one is on the pacific island of Kiribatiso I like to think I'd be somewhere interesting and exotic. But in reality I'd probably have a 9-5 job in the South East of England.
WR: So far what is your best rowing experience?
AW: The World Rowing Championships in New Zealand. It was rough water for training and I didn't like waiting till the last day to race, but the race we had was beyond my highest expectations.
WR: Have you ever rowed the perfect race?
AW: No, not yet, but I have a picture in my head of what it would be like.
WR: If you could choose the perfect distance for a rowing race what would it be?
AW: I do like 2k, because it sits right on the fence between power dominated and endurance dominated which is why it is so painful! But 250m sprints would be a lot of fun and good for spectators.
WR: If you could choose the perfect training session what would it consist of?
AW: A sprint session where we were in the double and were racing the other British crews over 100m or so.
WR: When you were 15 years old what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
AW: I thought I'd be a pilot in the Royal Air Force, I used to be on their schemes for teenagers so I could do outdoor pursuits and flying lessons.
WR: If you could take only one piece of technology with you when you are travelling for rowing what would it be?
AW: That's too easy. I am addicted to my iPhone. I have the app for using it as a strokecoach but it's not allowed for FISA events.
WR: What’s your favourite website?
AW: I read a lot of news online, but my guilty time waster is bestofyoutube.com.
WR: If you were stuck on a desert island with one other rower who would that be?
AW: I would choose Heather Stanning from our women’s pair. She is in the army and she would know how to keep us alive, she's always cheerful too. I think if our whole team had to split into pairs and go to separate desert islands then there would be a fight over Heather.
World Rowing catches up with Anna Watkins after her win in the single at the British trials.
World Rowing: You have just completed national team trials. Did you get to taper for these races or was it like a normal training weekend?
Anna Watkins: We did some preparation out in Varese (Italy). It’s good to get the racing legs woken up a bit and remember why we train through the winter. Varese was amazing this year, more like August than June and we all got a suntan.
WR: At the trials does anyone come to support or were the grandstands quiet at the 2012 London Olympic Regatta venue?
AW: We usually have the trials in Hazewinkel (Belgium) and it’s usually quiet, but this year being local a few friends and family sneaked in and livened things up a bit.
WR: Racing on the 2012 Olympic regatta course, did your mind ever imagine what it would be like to race in a year and a half from now at the Olympics?
AW: I am always imagining that! But my thoughts stay with the racing, imagining the other crews in different situations and how we’d respond. When I picture the Olympic venue I picture the Worlds in 2006 so maybe I’m going to get a shock with the scale of it all.
WR: You beat Katherine Grainger (women’s single scull winner for the last six years at GB trials) for a second time this year at trials in the single. Were you aware of her at all during the race?
AW: Very much so. It was like a match race, one on one.
WR: As Katherine is your rowing partner, did you talk about this singles trials race at all last week, or did you stay away from the subject?
AW: We talked about it a while before, because we have crew goals as well as individual goals. It’s important to remember the bigger picture when racing against your team mate!
WR: What attitude, counter thought and/or exercise do you suggest to train for mental strength? Mid race, exhausted and in pain, doubts appear. How do you turn them off and dig deeper for your best?
AW: A thought that helps me is that if anyone is going faster than me then they are hurting more. I think you have to rehearse mentally what negative thoughts might go through your head and what positive ones you can replace them with. I actually list them and come up with answers. If you are ready for the negative thoughts with quick replacements then they don’t stay in your head for long. Also doing lots of racing helps, then the pain becomes just another form of information.
WR: Did you get any time off training after the trials?
AW: We don’t stop training but we do get some time to ourselves. I’m visiting an old friend who has had a baby and going to a museum in London with one of the other rowers and then doing afternoon tea.
WR: Do you and Katherine (and the other scullers) do much training in singles?
AW: We train in all boat types! A bit of everything is good.
WR: Where are you now, and for the rest of the month?
AW: We are now back at Caversham (UK), our squad headquarters, for the next few weeks. If we’re lucky we might go and train on the Thames at Marlow. It’s really beautiful and there’ll be baby geese and ducks to entertain us.
WR: What will be your first big race of the season?
AW: Great Britain usually race all of the World Cup regattas although nothing has been confirmed yet.