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One day on training camp

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Annabel Vernon | 16:54 UK time, Monday, 7 March 2011

Much like the rule that the president and the vice-president of the United States aren't allowed to travel together, the British Olympic Association should perhaps be concerned that representatives from its three top performing sports - rowing, track cycling, and sailing - were all visiting the island of Majorca last month.

Our cycling training camp in Majorca could be summed up in two words: "seriously" and "hard".

We were out there for two weeks training on bikes which, as well as giving us a break from the boats, also gives us a different kind of benefit. Rowing is an all-body exercise so you are limited to how long you can train for by how your back and core muscles hold up; cycling only uses your legs so you can go for much longer.

Our standard endurance rowing session is two hours maximum, whereas on the bicycles we can put in three, four or five hours at a time.

To give you an insight into a day in the life of a 2012 aspirant, here's a look at the highs and the lows of just one day of the 500-odd to go before the Olympic flame is lit in Stratford on 27 July 2012.

GB rowers tackle a mountain decent in Majorca

0700: Alarm goes off. Stretch, and move each limb in turn, exploring the extent of pain and aching in every muscle. Wait for room-mate to say the inevitable "how can it be morning already", "everything aches" or "I can't move" before reaching for watch and taking waking heart rate. Assess the level of previous day's damage to body and physiology while counting the beats. Numbers are irrelevant: as long as it's still beating, you're good to train.

Attempt to stand. Legs might not quite straighten after previous day's exertions so hobble around your room pulling on an all-in-one and a t-shirt before providing a morning urine sample, trotting out into the corridor and joining the march of the living dead of fellow rowers along to where the physiologist is waiting to test hydration, take a blood sample from the ear and, most importantly, start the morning banter.

Annabel leads the pack, keeping an eye over her shoulder for Jess Eddie

0730: Food time. Load up plate with bowls of cereal and stacks of bread and jam to make sandwiches for second breakfast and afternoon tea - two fairly spurious meals invented purely for people who want to eat more, such as your average international rower. You're generally pretty cheerful and chatty first thing and you discuss the morning's training ahead. Don't look forward to what the afternoon has in store: it's too far away. One step at a time.

0830: Fill water bottles with electrolyte drink, stuff pockets full of sweets, bananas and carbo gels and pedal out of the hotel on yet another shift on the Majorcan roads. Expect to put away 1,000 calories in the course of a three-hour ride, and you'll be surprised how good a warm, tropical flavoured carbo gel can taste at the bottom of a mountain after two hours in the saddle.

The stiffness and soreness in the legs soon fade away as you get into the rhythm of the ride, and you begin to enjoy the familiar burn in the quads as the miles roll on. Get used to the sight of Sophie Hosking's back tyre skipping up the hills away from you and Jess Eddie streaking past on the descents.

Experience a few "I love my job" moments with the views from the tops of the hills; and possibly a few "I hate my job" moments getting up there.

After three or four hours on the bike, the day isn't done yet

1300: Eat bodyweight in food, and review the morning's antics, with special praise for anyone who managed any comedy crashes. Boast about how you pushed yourself so hard that your head, like, pretty much ACTUALLY fell off, yeah; while everyone else listens in amazement. The first rule of international rowing: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

1400: Pile into the gym for a weights session. You may have begun your international rowing career thinking you would never succumb to the temptation of cheesy music to train to; but in for a penny, in for a pound, you think to yourself as you bop along with everyone else to the Eighties disco mix coming out of the speakers. Who'd have thought that Kylie Minogue could make the dumbbells feel so light? The legs are tired but the spirits are high!

1700: It's time for a date with the love trolley, or the "ergometer" as most people call it.

This grey machine is both best friend and worst enemy: over 75 minutes, experience feelings of pain (surely my legs shouldn't hurt this much after only 10 strokes), rejection (Why won't it give me the scores I want? What have I ever done to it?), excitement (Yes! Check out these scores! I am the Queen of Rowing!!!), inspiration (these splits will terrify my competitors; roll on the World Championships), boredom (I've been here forever; I can't believe I'm only halfway through), jubilation (last 1000m! Hurrah! Only a few more minutes, and I'm outta here!), and convoluted mathematical calculations (2000m left, at this split that's 7 minutes 54.3 seconds, or 138 strokes, or about 6 and a half 300m blocks, or...), but eventually it's all over and it's time for a quick shower before a return to the canteen for another mountain of calories.

The afternoon brings a session in the gym, before an evening in front of the telly

1930: After dinner, you may head to the welcoming hands of the physios who will attempt to breathe life into weary legs and straighten out twisted backs, in preparation for battle to re-commence in the morning.

Gather with the rest of the squad in someone's room for a quick episode of 24 or Grey's Anatomy before bed beckons. As this is the only taste of the outside world that you see, after a while you begin to believe that it's real, and everyone is as beautiful as they are in Grey's, or the world's constantly on the edge of collapse as it is in 24; so it's always a minor relief to get back to Heathrow after a trip away and realise that good old Blighty is reassuringly uneventful, grey and grubby.

So that's a day in the life - or should it be a life in a day? - of anyone courageous and deranged enough to set aside normal life in order to try to go to the Olympics. Every day brings us massive peaks and troughs but we love it for the good times and the bad alike, and this is the life that we've chosen.



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