As ex rowers, the SLRacing team has been through just about every New Zealand trial there is. From hungover seat racing after Uni Games, to the ruthless torture of an elite trial, we know what you are all about to go through. With U-23 and Junior trials coming up, below are some little tips we picked up along the way to make sure you put your best foot forward – no matter what the trial.
Your trial starts a weeks before you get in front of selectors. Obviously you need to get good results during the season to have a chance of selection, but it's that last week before the trial that can be crucial. Gear up like you would for Nationals – taper into the trial, start getting your sleeping patterns the same as the trial week, and eat well. You need to enter day 1 like it's a Nationals final.
The erg. It's the first, lethal, part of trials week. It will pretty much set the tone for how you will be looked at for the rest of the week – and while you don't need to PB, you definitely need to perform well. So our advice – erg smart. Know your realistic target number, head out in the first 1500 slightly slower than that target and if you've got gas in the tank absolutely slam it home. In fact, slam it home no matter what – the selectors like to see you leave it all out there. But most of all...do not fly and die. There is no point going out for a crazy good time and blowing up, that is the cardinal sin of an erg trial.
So you've made it through the erg pain and get to seat race? Perfect. Now it's time to get your diet right. Eat a few hours before you seat race (good food!), and make sure you take plenty of water, electrolytes and food/gels down to the trial with you to have between seat races. This is a big one and something we learned the hard way. Winning race after race at the start of day one will mean nothing if you run out of energy and steam throughout the trial.
Seat race smart. Remember, even if you have the best technique in the world, if you aren't trialing for a single you'll have someone else in the boat with you. The fastest boats sometimes aren't the prettiest, but are the crews that row together the best. So if you're in stroke seat – feel out what's happening behind you and be dead consistent. If you are following, analyze the rhythm on your way to the start line. Are the rest of the crew finishing earlier than you? Move your feet forward, or get through the water quicker. Are their hands moving slower? Encourage theirs faster, but think about slowing yours down. Sometimes it's not the best rower that gets picked, it's the rower that adapts the best.
Encourage your crew. This may make you cringe, but you are only one person of two or four in a seat race. That means that if you can extract more out of the rowers around you than your competitors, you'll do better. We aren't saying do a big rev up speech if that's not your style, but do what you can. That might mean calling a clear race plan, getting the crew to move together or to focus on individual technique aspects. In other words, think about what a cox might do. Never underestimate the power of a 'yep' in response to another crew mates call. If the rest of the crew hears you respond – they do to.
Lastly, and this one might be a bit cycnical – record your results as best you can at the end of the day. Try to take note of how you do each seat race and in the erg, as on very rare occasions you might want to fight back. Generally speaking you want to say 'yes sir, very good sir' all trials. Be compliant, smile and do exactly what you are told (if they put you on the wrong side, point it out, but say happy to try!). At the end of the day, if something highly unfair happens you need a record of that to take to appeals. A certain Olympic medallist wouldn't have made his Junior crew if he hadn't used the appeals process, so while it is a last resort and should be avoided, a little note taking never hurt anyone.
Those are our quick tips – if you've got any, drop them in the comments below so other rowers can benefit from our collective opinions and wisdom! Good luck to anyone at trials, and let us know if any of these little hints helped.