Life in the Olympic Village has been incredible! My typical day starts between 7 and 8 a.m. with the big decision of what to wear. We are fortunate to have a wide variety of 2012 Olympic team gear that is both comfortable and stylish.
Once I've donned USA from head to toe it is time to fuel up for my workouts. The Village's dining hall serves food from all parts of the world nearly all hours of the day! The dining hall provides a great atmosphere for relaxing and eating healthily around training sessions. My favorites so far have been the tilapia dishes, freshly grilled veggies, and fully loaded salad and yogurt bars. The coffee from the McCafé provides an American-strength caffeine kick too! While the dining hall is large enough to accommodate masses of athletes and staff, it has been very manageable so far. Having the opportunity to dine with athletes who paddle for other countries and meeting other Team USA members has been a treat. When we are all finished it's time to train.
We board the bus from the Village and ride around 40 minutes to our venue, Lee Valley Whitewater Center. I consider the Olympic whitewater venue to be one of the best, if not the best, in the world at the moment. Lee Valley has two artificial channels: one long one for competition and a short one for warming up. We get two one-hour sessions to train on the channels each day. During this time we learn as much as we can about how the features of the channel work. Features include the waves, holes, eddies, and drops on the course. While competitors do not have a chance to practice on the channel once the course is set for the race, knowing how the water works is imperative for making a plan through the gates. Every day the orientation of the poles suspended over the channel changes, so we have many chances to practice different kinds of moves.
I'm making the most of this time by warming up exceptionally well before my workouts. For me this means being dressed and on the flat water area below the channels about an hour before my workout and paddling for about 20 minutes with resistance on my boat. How do I create resistance? I have a rope with tennis balls strung onto it that I slide around the boat so that the tennis balls drag against the water directly under my legs. Warming up with resistance helps make sure my strokes are full and efficient. I also like to get my heart rate up by doing some sprints, gradually lowering the resistance by moving the balls from under the boat to on the top deck until I am down to zero.
With my strokes and aerobic systems going, I hop out to look at the channel and make sure I know the course my coaches have set. I ask any questions about the course at this time. One great thing about the Olympic team from a training perspective is that our coach/staff-to-athlete ratio improves significantly. We have two coaches, two staff members, and only four boats. It's much easier to obtain the full benefit of coaching when there are not too many other athletes that need help, too.
Fifteen minutes until the session starts signals my return to the boat. I take the opportunity to warm up on the whitewater at the small training channel. After a loop or two on the small channel I paddle onto the conveyor belt to the competition channel. The conveyor belt makes doing high-volume workouts much easier since it's a short ride from the bottom of the channel back to the start. On average each athlete can complete around six to eight runs on the course before the hour is up. When we finish our last run, we take a few minutes to cool down on the flat water before showering, dressing, and heading back to the bus. On days when we use both of the training blocks we stay at the venue to review video and discuss objectives for the next workout.
After training comes recovery. The Village offers facilities for massage, ice, sports psychology, and cross training. So far I have taken advantage of the massage therapy and cross training facilities. Because the channel requires a lot of strength to navigate, muscles can get tight easily. Working out the knots and stretching effectively becomes exceptionally valuable. I end my day with dinner back at the dining hall and maybe head over to a game room for decompression. If not, I head back to my room to get ready to rest for the next great day of training for the Olympic Games!