Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The madness ends

Some major news guys: I've decided to give up the whole GB trialling thing.

Judge me for being a massive quitter if you must.
Well, I suppose I am.
Basically I realised that I wasn't willing to sacrifice everything chasing the Olympic dream. I honestly believe that if you're going to get to the top of your field (sporting or otherwise), you've got to be willing to risk everything to do it.

Over the summer I read a biography of the Scottish cyclist Robert Millar (only English speaker to ever win the King of the Mountains competition in the Tour de France). His philosophy was you must set yourself up so you give yourself no option of failure. In his case this meant giving up his job in the UK, selling everything and moving to France to train with the best in the world and turn pro. If he failed, he would have nothing.
Now this is going to sound really fucking pathetic, but I love Astro too much to fuck it up for rowing. Over the course of the term I realised that Astronomy is not just something that kept me in Cambridge and able to row but REALLY FUCKING AWESOME and I want to be good at it. Not just 'scrap a pass' but be bloody good. Sure, I could've fitted in trialling for the U23s this year with Part III Astro, but next year...? I'd really like a PhD and if I had to move to Reading to train full time I wouldn't have been willing to give it up.

Therefore, am I really dedicated enough to go all the way? No.

This, combined with the fact that for the past four months I've woken up hating myself for not being faster, fitter, stronger, BETTER AT ROWING. I mean, I can put up with the loneliness, the being antisocial, the never going home and seeing my family, the being fucking miserable and doubting yourself all the time. Just MTFU and erg. But when you're doubting if you're truely, deep down, dedicated enough and whether you can actually make it? Quite frankly, what's the point?

I used to love rowing, but trialling sucked the joy out of it and made me hate myself. Life is too fucking short not to be happy in your own skin if you can do something about it.

So I did something about it.

It's a shame I decided on a 3.5 hour and £60 train journey to Newcastle for an U23 weekend, but that's life I suppose.
Fuck you, train ticket. FUCK YOU and your expensive orange-outlined papery smug face.
 I've decided to keep rowing (obviously - my idea of a great day is one with 18K and weights in it, and some habits you're just not going to be able to break), but for now on to just row for the fucking JOY of it. That's the reason I took it up in the first place, because it was fun and I was good at it and I loved how alive you felt when you took the last stroke of a race and you felt like you were hanging over the abyss and staring death in the face it hurt so much. The insanity of the last 100m when the red buoys come but never seem to end. That is what living is.

So judge me if you will for lowering my ambitions, but I aimed high and wasn't good enough. I'll also never see the point of doing a half arsed job of something (or two at the same time, as I've been doing). I've got to experience some amazing stuff along the way, such as racing Katherine Grainger in my semi at final trials (she beat my by c.40s I think) and having Anna Watkins tell me I need to wear more kit. And I've meet no end of brilliant, crazy people, because rowers, after all are flipping awesome people.

I'll still write this blog (I love doing this - it's great!) and I'll still row and be angry at stuff all the time. Just without the self loathing. And you'll have to do without the "Boston Part II" post I'm afraid.

Finally, to conclude this exceptionally unfunny post, I'd like to wish Vicky Meyer-Laker, Erica Bodman and Frankie Sanjana (and countless others) the very best this season, and all the success in the world to Ben Hicks and Charlotte Drury of team Cambridge :-) Smash it in the face, guys.

And Peter Lee, sorry for being a massive quitter but I bet you'll never have another athlete who makes t-shirts celebrating your training program.
Yes I fucking did.
EDIT: There's moral to this story. If you're not happy, do something about it people. Lonely? Ask someone out for a drink. Someone pissing you off? Confront them and try and get it sorted. Massively stressed? Get someone to give you a goddam hug and HAVE A CUP OF TEA.

Take the plunge :-)

EDIT EDIT: Sorry for sounding like a self help book. Normal service (i.e. ranting) will resume later this week.


  1. Anna!!! Such a good post, very well expressed. Hope the astro goes well, Peter said it was turning out to be pretty savage! Sad we are losing you to the skies above us but I competely agree with all you say about needing to make the most of your life and actually enjoy everything you do. Hope you're ok, it is a massive decision to make, one which Gem made just recently too. You must come and visit us soon. Lots of love xx
    P.S. I finally made it into your blog. FAME!!

  2. Makes a lot of sense really. Thing is, even if you do make it to the Olympics - there's always one or two superstars who make a fantastic living out of their sport and so many (if one can talk about "many" Olympians) who work just as hard but will not make it to the pinnacle of the top-end of sports that is an Olympic Gold. Like that Scottish cyclist dude - even if he ended up second, by however narrow a margin, he'd be standing there with effectively nothing.

    Really tough choice - hope things work out well. And glad the blog will continue :D

  3. Well done for making such a tough decision. It sounds like it's the right one for you, and you're not a quitter, you just know what you want from life! Good luck learning about stars, and keep blogging! xx

  4. You've got to do what you enjoy, you're not getting paid to row!

    I had trouble at uni trying to balance (productive) work and training, and I wasn't even trialling, so it must be extra tough for you. Are you still going to be CUWBCing?

    Hope the Astro goes well, it's great that you've found a degree subject that you really love.

  5. As a lurking reader (introduced by Amy, as it happens) all this is interesting (hmm, that isn't quite in line with the humanity of the previous comments. Well, that's me). Just one minor piece of advice (from someone who has in the past interviewed ex-astrophysicists looking for a job in climate-related work): there aren't a lot of jobs in Astro stuff (I bet you didn't realise that yourself :-). If you're thinking of dedicating your life to it, do a bit of research now.

  6. Here is Carl Sagan to back you up on just how awesome astronomy is and why it's worth dedicating yourself to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc

    I hope you get on well.

  7. Reach for the stars :-) quite literally. Great decision, Anna - enjoy it.

  8. Well done. Sounds like the right decision. If you don't love rowing more than anything else in the world then giving up everything else in the world for it would be silly...

    P.S. What Erica said. I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn how to fly...

  9. Prioritisation, decision-making and indeed enjoyment are everything. Suspect you'll do sickeningly well in whatever you apply yourself to. Good luck :)

  10. @Everyone: Thanks guys :-) I think you're all ace and excellent evidence for my belief that boaties are the best kind of people...

    You will also not believe the amount of people who have used the phrase "reach for the stars" in the past couple of days :-D

    @Tom: Not keen for the CUWing again tbh. I've done a couple of years of it now and to be honest, if I was going to row that much again, I'd do it in my single. (Your drawing has also made it into the "Homeless drawings" section above btw :->)

    @Belette: If anything's going to stop me getting a job, it's not going to be my qualifications - it'll be the fact I'm fucking weird :-D In all honesty, I'd like to try my hand at science journalism/writing (there's some really *bad* stuff out there...) - I certainly appreciate that the job market isn't exactly saturated with Astronomy positions!

    But yes, thanks guys for all your comments - it means a lot.

    *Goes and does some coding*

  11. Woo! Fame at last!

    Renegade sculling is the best kind of rowing anyway! Train when you want, maybe jump in a crew boat if you get a good offer and just generally be awesome.

    Good luck with the coding, it drove me insane when I was doing Java. They say it's logical, it clearly isn't.

  12. @Tom: I figured it would be a travesty to let that drawing slip under everyone's radar, especially as it probably took flipping ages on pain (there's a reason I switched to the drawing+camera option!).



    I'm currently trying to fit polynomials to curves that look like delta functions. It is not going well... :-)

  13. Luckily I don't know what that means :)

    The drawing did take a while, but I was at work and it's not like I had anything better to be doing ;) I think it was a valuable use of my time!

    Now you are free of trials and CUWBC you can race where you want! Cambridge winter league? You'd probably win by a week and a half :D

  14. Anna, while I admire your writing, and of course I understand that the choice is yours, I would just say that I hope you slept well on this decision.

    A Cambridge rowing blue astrophysicist cartoonist blogging psychopath is certainly a busy person. But the best in the World have done it all.

    If you don't wanna go to Worlds, cool. Fair play. If ya do, but are worried about college... Well I can't see an astro nut being denied a bank loan.

    What's my point?... I had one. I'm sure of it. I paid for it's flight and everything.

    Reading your posts shows me (and I can only comment for myself) that you see the small fun in a hard day. It's obvious you're doing Trojan work.

    I suppose trials aren't supposed to be joyous. That's why they are trials. But you believed enough to buy yourself a ticket...