Nowhere else I’d rather be

No where else I’d rather be.

I first heard this phrase when doing race prep with a coach in Wales. He suggested that this was the thought that I held in my head during those precious moments of silence when sat on the startline just before a race. It was good advice, and a helpful way of rationally counteracting the barrage of anxiety filled statements that usually fly through my brain at that point. ‘This is a stupid sport’, ‘I am never getting in a boat again’, ‘I don’t even like racing’ are quietened by taking a moment to reflect that I do love the sport, I train to race, I am grateful for my health because I know the pain of sitting on the bank watching and wishing I was racing, and therefore despite the nerves, there is nowhere else I would rather be.

However the real truth of this statement hit me not on a start line, but on a bitterly cold February morning a few years later, as I was battling the wind in a single on Caversham lake. For any rower there are moments that you experience real joy in the privilege of what you do. And when asked, we will tell you of those magical mornings where we got up before dark and were paddling along witnessing the incredible sunrise unfold around us, with only the soothing sound of bubbles tickling the side of the boat for company. Or about the time when we adventured with a group of great friends abroad to row and found ourselves floating in the middle of a stunning lake, basking in the sunshine. Those are the times where its easy to know there is nowhere else you would rather be.

That cold February morning, we were five days away from racing GB trials and the girl that I was due to be racing in a boat with was injured. Our competitors were paddling in their pairs around me, some having already sped past me and escaped into second breakfast. I am not a great single sculler, and was battling the irrational fear that occasionally comes over me when I feel out of control tackling the choppy water. But in those moments I realised that there was nowhere else I would rather be. I didn’t want to be on some warm, flat and sunny lake when the rest of the team where right here at Caversham. I didn’t want to be training indoors when I had the opportunity to better my skills outdoors. I didn’t want to force my pairs partner into the boat with me when she wasn’t physically in the best place to do that. I didn’t want to cut the session short because I knew that the training programme was right for me in that moment. And the realisation that despite being cold, wet and struggling alone there was nowhere else I would rather be was so freeing.

This phrase has continued to stick with me over the last few years. It is still one of my thoughts on a start line, and something I try and remind myself of in the highs and lows of being away on camp, or training on the ever changing waters of Caversham. And now, in the current context of Covid-19, I have found myself analysing it all over again. On my good days, as much as I want to be visiting struggling friends and family or meeting my new niece, I can reassure myself with the truth that there is ‘nowhere else I would rather be’. That training alone in my backyard is the best thing because I have the privilege of keeping fit whilst social distancing, and doing my part to help control the virus and save lives. It is on the hard days, when my motivation to do yet another erg alone is so low, that I continue to battle with this statement. I find it easier to allow myself to continue to wallow in my struggles rather than actively engaging with the truth that I am in the right place doing the best I can.

I am learning to be curious about the mental battle, rather than self-judging. To allow myself time to process all that has and is happening, and ride the waves of emotion as they surface. To be gentle, and remind myself that it is okay to know that I am right where I want to be, whilst still finding the situation challenging. To look forward to the day that I can safely see the people I love, whilst staying content with zoom conversations. To recognise my bodies craving to be back on the water, yet continue making the most of my backyard gym. To remember that social distancing is a western privilege. To keep engaging with the truth that there is nowhere else I would rather be.

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