Thursday, 13 January 2011

Banyoles Blog

So last year the DCBC training camp was spent in Soustons, France. The accommodation was OK, the lake was absolutely fricking huge, the food was apparently shite (though I didn't think it was that bad, though unless it's got poison/disease/mushrooms in it, I'm generally not fussy when it comes to food), the nightlife of the town was pretty dead (and expensive), and we managed to go in the first week in January, when most of Europe was hit by blisteringly cold weather.

I'm currently sitting in our hostel in Banyoles, and I have to say that yeah, so far this year it's been significantly better than Banyoles was.

First off, the weather. It's been really nice, generally pretty sunny every day, and the temperatures in the afternoon are hitting 15-20C each day, which is pretty damn awesome for January. It's certainly a shitload warmer than the UK has been for the last month. It gets cold pretty quickly in the evening once the sun goes behind the mountains, and it can be a bit nippy in the morning, but it's still probably a good ten degrees above the temperatures in Cambridge. I'm really not looking forward to the freezing early mornings for the rest of term once we get back.

Secondly, the fucking scenery. The lake is absolutely awesome. It's astonishingly clear, and you can see right to the bottom of the lake if you're in the shallower bits. It's a fantastic blue colour once you get out into the middle, and it's apparently five-star quality for swimming, which makes a pretty big change to the disease-infested murky waters of the Cam. It's surrounded by forested hills with the Pyrenées in the distance, and is postcard beautiful. If I had a bike with me I'd definitely have taken it up a few of the hills nearby because there'd be some awesome views to be had.

You'd probably need to go to the Scottish lochs for this sort of rowing scenery in the UK, and it wouldn't be 15C either
(click for full res)
The lake is nowhere near as big as Soustons, and it only just fits the 2k course inside it, so it's a bit of a pain in that respect because you can't just have continuous paddling forever (Soustons is like 20km or something for a full lap of the lake) and do actually have to turn round every ten minutes or so and go back the other way. On the other hand, the course is actually clearly marked out with buoys, unlike Soustons, so from a coxing perspective it's possible to actually keep a decent course and know where the fuck I'm meant to be going in the lake.

It's always a really weird transition going from the Cam, where it's tight and congested, and where I'm never more than a couple of metres from the bank, to a huge lake where I feel like I'm in the middle of fucking nowhere on the water sometimes and I've really not got much reference as to where I'm steering.

The real benefit of this sort of thing over the Cam is that there's the space and the freedom for us to actually have a bit of fun on the water. Usually the Cam is congested, and there's really not much scope to play about with things. On a lake with hardly any other boats on the water we do have a bit of a free reign, and the last few days have been filled with some pretty awesome side-by-side racing, which you practically never get on the Cam because there just isn't room.

The reach is wide, but it's not this wide
(again, click for full res)
It's been good fun so far, and I've enjoyed it a ton. I'm surprised how quickly the novices have improved, and I think the club has really good reason to be confident going into Lent now, because the first boats should be reinforced well, and the second boats are looking like they could be really strong too, bar maybe a couple of stragglers in the senior squad. I feel like I've improved quite a bit this weekend, and it's been nice to integrate myself through the club a bit more after a term spent almost entirely with the WII IV+. I'll probably be shooting for MII, and maybe MI next term, though I reckon Sarah probably has the first boat covered just through the extra experience she has.

Except for May bumps, I'd say this is probably the highlight of the year as far as rowing goes, and it's a shame that we don't have a training camp in the summer just for the fun of it and to maybe send off the seniors, because it's definitely a great way to spend a week. Even if I am absolutely shattered and my back is aching from spending up to six hours in a boat every day - and I'm not even doing any rowing.

We're off to Barcelona tomorrow afternoon for a break, which I had no idea about until Ian mentioned it at the start of the week. Barcelona is probably my favourite European city, and I'm epicly looking forward to it. I'll do my best to get round the Sagrada Familia and the Parc Guell, because they were the highlights the last time I was there (also the Camp Nou, but that's not really worth visiting again), and then I'll see how things are going for time from there.

I'm in the boat on the far side, in the lead obviously...
So not looking forward to being back in the UK, but I'm still looking forward to the rowing next term, even if the outings are going to be cold and mostly spent fucking about in traffic on the river. The sudden transition back into rowing in Cambridge is at least being sweetened by a surprise appearance in Fairbairns (Downing have scratched because we might not have our boats back and crews prepared in time) coxing a CUWBC alumni IV+ courtesy of an offer from Anna Railton, whose blog is far better than mine, and who is an ex-CUWBC-rower-and-GB-trialist (I got it right this time!). Because clearly the best way to get myself back used to coxing the Cam is to get in a boat with four women I've never met before, and who haven't trained together (at least not recently and in preparation for Fairbairns), and to hurtle down the river in the strongest womens' IV+ I'll have ever been in, most likely by a good margin. Oh yeah, and they'll apparently be wearing the worst kit possible which, as representatives of a boat club currently led by Lizzy Polgreen, is probably going to be pretty damn shocking.
A little nervous about it, but it should be a good laugh and I'm looking forward to it. There are definitely far less interesting ways to spend a Wednesday afternoon.

And one final bragging "where I am right now is almost certainly better than where you are" picture to those in the UK...

... and also to those on the CULRC camp in Soustons ;)

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