Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't Get Burned Out by Practice

Andrew Campbell, the sailor selected to represent the USA in the Laser class at the 2008 Olympics, wrote a post on his blog a few days ago entitled Top 3 Training Tips for the Laser Worlds. Nothing illustrates better the gulf between an elite sailor like Andrew and a mid-fleet old-fart weekend-warrior hacker like me than our approaches to practice and training before a World Championship.

We both sailed in our respective World Championships last month in Australia. Andrew sailed in the real/ open/ senior Worlds against the best Laser sailors on the planet. I sailed in the Laser Masters Worlds held at the same location, using the same boats, a few days later, against... well, the best Laser sailors on the planet who just happen to be over 55.

Andrew showed up at the regatta site a week early. Tillerwoman and I flew to Oz and spent a couple of days staying at an old pub in the Rocks area of Sydney that claims to be the oldest licensed establishment in Australia, did a bit of sight-seeing, drank lots of beer and wine, had a great meal out at a Sydney restaurant with some friends, ate some fish and chips (of course) at the pub, and drove up to Terrigal, the regatta site, a couple of days before my regatta was due to start.

Andrew's recommended schedule for the week before a Worlds includes such items as a few "normal gym sessions" (whatever they are), five days of sailing, putting up the "race sail" if the wind is light or moderate, and a rest day immediately before the regatta starts.

My pre-regatta preparation before the regatta included a couple of hours on the water using my one and only sail that I had used/ abused for racing all last season, one evening at the Terrigal Mexican restaurant consuming margaritas and tequila shots, and another evening trying to score as much free alcohol as I could at the extremely long, noisy, crowded opening ceremony. Hey I paid my registration fee, and I'm going to get my money's worth.

Wait. Andrew mentioned gym sessions. What gym? There's a gym in Terrigal? I never found it. (Not that I actually looked for it.)

Andrew's three tips were "Show Up Early", "Know your threshold for good training", and "Don't Get Burned Out by Practice".

I agree (almost). My one tip which I follow religiously is "Don't Get Burned Out by Practice". But I did actually practice in Terrigal before the regatta started. More details to come...


Anonymous said...

I am definitely interested in reading this because it seems to be the exact opposite of what I think. For me, too many regattas burns me out. The travel, my competitiveness and desire to do well are mentally and physically draining. Further, sticking to grass roots weekend racing and practice, with a day or two squeezed in during the week if work allows me to remove the chain that ties me to the desk has always produced the best results (by far) for me at the target event. But I guess everyone is different. It is important to be mindful of your own tendencies and what works well for you when working towards a goal.

tillerman said...

Great point anonymous.

I think it's true that sailing major regattas by itself doesn't do a lot to improve one's performance. My own motivation for traveling all the way to Australia for an event like the Masters Worlds was more about getting away from a cold, gloomy northern hemisphere winter and having a few weeks of fun in the sun with my wife, which by the way also included some Laser sailing for me.

I hope you realize that my tongue was firmly in my cheek when I implied that I don't believe in the value of practice. I know very well that a stronger commitment to regular practice in my home waters is necessary if I am going to improve.

Having said that, there's also value in sailing in different conditions and the Pacific swells at Terrigal were certainly different from the conditions I am more familiar with on inland lakes and sheltered bays.

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