Adam does BIRC

It was back in August that Dave Newman (Big Dave) suggested to me that we both enter the BIRC. With Bumps being done and dusted, and the regatta season pretty much finished, I thought that it sounded like a good idea. So I did some erging and lifted a few weights. About three weeks before the competition I remembered that, like last the last time I competed in the BIRC back in 2007, I had forgotten to enter. Oops.



Fortunately I hadn’t left it too late and was able to submit my entry online. Result! Being the ripe old age of 31 I elected to enter the 30-34 heavyweight category rather than the open heavyweight (any age) category. Upon studying the results from previous years I realised that I wasn’t going to be winning any medals, but thought that I would aim to finish around 7th or 8th, which would be a satisfying achievement and hopefully represent a significant improvement in my erging “ability”. Upon discovering that my race was at the disappointingly early time of 10.40am (who’s up by that time on a weekend??) I decided that it would be a good idea to stay the night in Birmingham so that I would be well rested for the race. A brief search on the interweb enabled me to locate a lovely hotel a short walk from the National Indoor Arena.

Race weekend arrived surprisingly quickly. I set off for Birmingham on Saturday afternoon and found my hotel with ease (the 91 mile trip had mysteriously become 131 miles, but the less said about my navigational skills the better. Never rely completely on your mate’s satnav). The hotel was very nice (no it wasn’t) and there was ample on-site parking (actually, no). I enjoyed a delicious, hearty dinner of Sainsbury’s chicken and pasta salad (a couple of those) and some chips (and some oatcakes and a protein bar) – lots of fuel for Sunday’s race! I went to bed early and enjoyed a refreshing night of sleep, disturbed only briefly by a hen party (midnight), the copulating couple in the adjacent room (1am to about 1.02am), some blokes arguing in the corridor (various times), and finally by the ubiquitous early morning fire alarm (~6.45am) and subsequent evacuation (of the hotel). Having already planned to get up at 7am for a delicious breakfast of muesli and fruit, I quickly realised that the fire brigade would take some time to search the entire hotel, so ended up standing outside in the rain drinking a protein shake and eating malt loaf (all that would fit into my pocket in a hurry). Yum. The other guests were variously enjoying vodka, lager and cigarettes. Some time later we were allowed back into the hotel, leaving me just enough time to see Match Of The Day before setting off for the NIA.

Upon my arrival at the NIA I collected my race entry card and was then greeted by the friendly sight of that tall bloke from 99s (Sergej), who, it transpired, would be in the same race. Joy. Having deposited my belongings in one of the lockers and changed into my City kit, I went over to the warm-up area, where about 50 ergs were available for competitors to use. Sergej sat on an erg, pulled one stroke, and the erg promptly broke in half. I may have laughed quite a lot. Sergej didn’t. Following a brief warm-up I enjoyed a friendly chat with Sergej and the 99s coach, who enquired as to the whereabouts of the other City men (hint). Then the competitors were herded into the pre-race area, talked at by a marshal, and led out into the arena. I was fortunate enough to be sat on the front row of ergs, right in the middle. I set the drag factor on my machine, wished my neighbour luck and then prepared to race. The competitors were instructed to put down their erg handles and await the instructions, which came only too soon. On the erg display screen appeared: “Sit ready”, “Attention” and then “Row” and we were off!! Having decided not to sprint off the start (I remembered that in 2007 this left me exhausted for the last 1800m of the race) I went straight into 20th place as I hit my target split on the 4th stroke. I gradually crept up through the field and settled in 8th place after the first 750m. Feeling surprisingly tired after my refreshing night of sleep and nutritious pre-race breakfast I rated 32, a bit below my target of 34, but seemed to be going OK despite this. After 1500m it dawned on me that the competitor 5m ahead (according to the display on the erg screen) was the chap sitting to my left. A brief glance at his monitor revealed that his split was the same as mine. With 200m to go I decided to try to catch him! I upped the rating to a staggering 33 and took 3m out of the gap in a couple of strokes, but he then sprinted too and managed to maintain his 2m (0.5s) lead to the finish. Whereupon he threw up. I didn’t hurl but did feel like my arms and legs were on fire; not a pleasant sensation but it abated after a few minutes. I was very pleased with my time – 6:23.4 – which was even better than the 6:24 for which I was aiming. Not quite quick enough for a medal, but maybe next time…


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