A series of diary entries from RNSW Sports Journalism Scholarship Holder Saskia Hunt, as she experiences the trials, tribulations, triumphs and blisters of MLC rowing camp in Berry.
A group of 30 MLC School girls stepped out of the comfort zone for seven days to go on a two-hour bus trip away from Sydney to a country town named Berry. These journal entries talk about the sweat, blisters and laughter of the 2012 Berry Rowing Camp. This is where the adventures begin.
Monday January 9
Listening to music on the bus was an all-time camp favourite as Scottie told us we had our selections as soon as we arrive at the Sport and Rec Centre. So when we stopped for a pit stop we made sure we didn’t buy any food that would make us sick, taking into consideration that we were having trials soon. No chocolate milk for me. First up was the 3km single scull selection along the 10km river. During time trials I always sing songs to keep me motivated. As I passed the half way mark I remembered coach Andrew saying before I got on “There is no slack strokes, every stroke you take is the hardest you can pull”. That got me through the rest of the race. After lunch was the 2km erg selection, the one part of the selection process I disliked the most. As I was waiting for others to finish, seeing them in pain at the end made me even more nervous. During the last kilometre I thought to myself to put all those training sessions into this one erg piece as I heard my coach, Stu Halsall, shout in my ear “No regrets”. So I pushed to avoid those regrets and recorded a two-second PB.
Tuesday January 10
Our first water training in Berry was quite an experience. My quad were excited for the 6am session as we finally had the chance to use a pontoon, though we quickly realised it was smaller, even smaller than our Abbotsford ramp. As we lowered the boat I felt a scrap along my leg only to find a deepish cut on my left thigh. Shocked by the wound, I could barely look at it as Scottie bandaged it up. I braved the pain and throbbing and continued rowing. About 10 strokes in we realised our riggers were put on the wrong side. Going back in and changing the riggers took up most of our session. While some were cheering with joy we didn’t have to row, I was devastated as I woke up at an ungodly hour to row, not to rig a boat and injure myself. Straight after our second row I scored a PB in the beep test and the majority of the squad improved by quite a lot as well. Every evening a player of the day was announced and today it was me. As MLC’s head of sport, Mr Mitchell announced, “A fool for cutting herself on a boat but scored the highest in the beep test”. As a reward I got to take my roommates into town to buy ‘illegal camp food’.
Wednesday January 11
This morning Stu gave the senior squad and I his hardest training session ever, and it was definitely our toughest as well. We were getting towards the end of an intense running session, reaching our limits, when our lifeguard and trainer, Luke, after having told us we were only doing a set of three, enthusiastically called on us to do “one more”. So we just did it really quickly to get it over and done with to have the lunch we deserved. After our delicious beef burgers Mr Mitchell drove my roommates and I into town. This was the time when we were starting to get blisters. We stocked up on bandages as well and snacks to eat after dinner as we were not used to having dinner so early. As soon as we got back from town it was time to go to 7 mile beach in Gerroa, a 15 minute bus ride. We were dropped off at one end of the beach with the sea breeze as we ran 11.3km to meet some of our coaches at the other end. I pushed myself to run alongside Coach Juliette – an extra motivation.
Thursday January 12
After three intense days of training, consisting of two-three rows a day, some runs or strength sessions in between, I could barely walk up the stairs anymore, as my muscles were so tight. The stretching session with Luke definitely was a good idea. It really helped as afterwards I felt I like I had just had a massage, all relaxed and a bit sleepy. This camp wasn’t all rowing –an expedition to the flying fox really tested who was the bravest - and who had the loudest scream! Even though the 370m cable glide had the most uncomfortable harness I wouldn’t have minded a second turn. Straight after our relaxation time it was back to the training grind - until we found out it was a fun training session, the coaches getting on board to row in a quad with us. The boat felt very different as my coaches, Nick and Juliette, were rowing in stern pair with Chloe, my other coach, coxing. As we pushed through those two two-minute pieces it felt like I was flying in the boat as Nick stroked and Juliette, Steph and I followed.
Friday January 13
Today was half a day of tough training then some more fun activities for the rest of the day. The fun consisted of beach games: flags with thongs, sandcastle competition, treasure hunt and finishing with a splash in the giant waves. We all suited up for our army-themed party night. First thing for the agenda was to assign two team members from each team for each of the 10 activities including egg throw, balloon walk, basketball throw, footy pass, soccer kick, longest plank, push-up competition, round the world table tennis and the Weet-Bix whistle. Next up was the 3km erg challenge, this was probably the highest I have ever rated, 50 for a 250m piece then quite literally jumping off for the rest of the team to row their distance. After tacos for dinner we discussed our skit we had to perform at the end of the night. But before that was trivia, the four topics included Olympics, rowing maths and English, camp Berry and sport.
Saturday January 14
I liked how the training gets slightly easier towards the end of the camp. After an hour sleep-in it was time to tape my horrendous blisters again ready for another row. The breakfast at the camp is always my favourite especially the hash browns and pickets: it was my favourite meal that I always looked forward to after a long strenuous morning row. Another treat was indoor rock climbing and the fact that our team, Black Hawk Down, was recognised as the winners, with three team members also scoring the highest individual totals.
Sunday January 15
It was a cold and rainy last day of camp, a day we would normally be rugged up in bed. As our alarms went off at 5:15am for the last time, we sat in our beds waiting patiently for a coach to call it off. No such message was announced, so we slowly got dressed, thinking of those lucky juniors who got to sleep in. We were driven down to the boats to start our training session. All the seniors miserably started rowing as the rain bucketed down. We were determined to keep going through the cold pouring rain, thinking to ourselves “we can’t get anymore soaked and the faster we get these pieces done the faster we can get warm”. As it was the last day I brought jelly snakes into the boat as a reward for all the hard work in the past week. We all raced to the bus to take us to breakfast and to be dry. When Scottie told us we had just15 minutes, a crucial question had to be answered: to shower or have a hot breakfast? It was a no-brainer - definitely food.
Overall, I found this to have been one of the most enjoyable rowing camps. Whether it was the delicious food, the countless complaints about blisters, making fun of coaches, or laughing so hard you can feel a six-pack growing (perhaps the training had something to do with that). As a team, we have pushed our limits and shared funny moments together. This camp has definitely brought us closer together and ready for a competitive season of rowing.