Saturday 19 October 2019

Ian Gaughran: 'My final countdown is on for Dublin Sculling Ladder after three months of training'

Ian Gaughran trains at Neptune Rowing Club in Islandbridge.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Ian Gaughran trains at Neptune Rowing Club in Islandbridge. Photo: Tony Gavin

Ian Gaughran

For most Dubliners late last week, Storm Lorenzo proved to be nothing more than a damp squib - I’m sure a good chunk of you were hoping for a day off as he came closer.

As it turned out, Lorenzo was all a bit of bluster, with the severe weather warnings of our impending doom never materialising.

When you’re a rookie sculler needing to utilise every spare moment in your boat however, watching the weather becomes less habitual and more of an obsession — particularly when Eoghan Murphy and Evelyn Cusack are telling us in every news bulletin that the country will be battered by this Lorenzo chap.

Needless to say, as the intensity levels have ramped up while in the boat, so have the anxiety levels outside the boat.

Because, simply put, rowing in a single scull is hard. It’s very hard. Maybe not after years of practice, but with the big day closing in rapidly, I have found myself engulfed by a deep and horrible fear.

Lorenzo certainly didn’t help.

Thankfully, there was a 'calm before the storm' and last week was relatively uninterrupted.

Until Thursday, with the help of Gareth Herbert in the Dublin Municipal Rowing Centre, I had been plotting my course up the river from the starting pole, around the bends into the bay and on to the finish.

Ian Gaughran trains at Neptune Rowing Club in Islandbridge.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Ian Gaughran trains at Neptune Rowing Club in Islandbridge. Photo: Tony Gavin

It’s not a straight run you see and, as I’ve explained before, steering wouldn’t be my strongest attribute.

So although Lorenzo ended up being more of a windy day than a category whatever hurricane, he still caused for me to miss out on a crucial session or two with those gusts just proving strong enough to keep me on dry land.

Having Westpark Fitness at my disposal obviously helped, and using their Concept 2 rowing machines, I looked to mimic race conditions on the indoor rower.

It can’t compare from a technique perspective as there is a lot more going on (and a lot more potential to end up in a river) when in the boat, but what it did was allow me to put in that maximum effort over 2,000m bursts and get to experience that lung-busting pain that comes hand-in-hand with the muscle fatigue associated with all-out single sculling.

The race is on Saturday morning and the clock is ticking, but the forecast over the next few days leading up to the race seems favourable, so it really is all a case of one last hellacious push to the end.

With a bit of luck, some kind conditions and a whole heap of adrenaline, I will end up clocking a time in the top 100 competitors.

A time somewhere between nine and 10 minutes is the goal at the time of writing as, once again, a wave of trepidation sweeps over me.

If I sound like I’m allowing negativity to enter my headspace, I’m genuinely not — when those kind of thoughts arrive, they are quickly dispelled and I refuse to let them have any impact on my performance.

It is easier said than done, as the mind can be a fragile and unforgiving place, but there is still plenty of time to sharpen the tools and improve on the splits and times.

Because my fitness levels are high, every day I’m getting better at navigating the shortest route up the river, and even my technique continues to improve.

All I can do is keep going, keep extending those arms, pushing through those quads and flicking those oars through my fingers — with the odd bit of ‘pulling like a dog’ thrown in for good measure.

Next time you hear from me, it will all be done and dusted and my rowing challenge will have come to an end — but not my rowing journey.

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