Felice Mueller's Road to the USRowing U-23 World Championships
MGOBLUE Felice Mueller (L) and Ashley Kroll
MGOBLUE
Felice Mueller (L) and Ashley Kroll
MGOBLUE

July 30, 2010

Sophomore rower Felice Mueller was selected as one of 27 collegiate rowers to attend the 2010 USRowing Women's Under 23 National Team Camp. She is competing with other rowers for selection for the Open Women's 8+ and 4x that will compete at the U23 World Championships July 22-25 in Brest, Belarus. Mueller, who is currently training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., will share her summer rowing adventures with MGoBlue.com throughout the selection process.

What a Summer!

When last I blogged I was heading to Brest, Belarus, unsure of what would await me. Not only in terms of how I would perform at races, but also what the country would be like. I prepared to enter a new frontier, expecting to arrive at a country 50 years behind America where they only ate mysterious meat and potatoes and sat in the cold drinking vodka and wearing fur hats. What I found was that I LOVED Belarus. The people were friendly, the course and hotel where we stayed were outstanding, and the food… wasn’t that bad. Although pink soup was served on a couple occasions, I still ate it. In terms of the country of Belarus, I was happy. The only thing that had upset me briefly when we arrived was the knowledge that the previous U-23 Romanian pair that won the gold the previous year, was returning.

I do not have a great history with the Romanians. Their Junior Eight beat us and won Junior Worlds in 2007. Ever since then, I’ve scorned their rowing team. (Similarly to how I scorned the girls who came to U-23 selection camp, before we became friends.) I scorned them because the Romanians are fast, and to be honest, I did not think that we were going to be able to usurp the Romanian pairs’ gold throne. The girls have been rowing together for at least a year and had already raced internationally together. Thus, they know how to row together, they know how to race together, and they know how to manage the stress of international racing. Flash from stoic, collected, huge Romanians to lanky, goofy and scattered Kroll and Felice. Had I been an outsider observing the two different pairs, I would have felt bad for us, knowing we were probably going to get crushed. Especially after Romania pulled their heat time (only seven seconds slower than ours) rowing at a 28. When I heard that, I just started laughing.

The day of the final came. The wind for some god forsaken reason decided to be the strongest cross we had practiced in all week. I got there, already trying to hide my nerves, but when I saw the cross wind, I really got scared envisioning the boat being blown off the race course and into a wall. Thank goodness I was able to reel my thoughts back, relax, and focus on the present moment (Thanks Barb!).

As we got our boat and walked it down to the launching dock, we walked past the Romanian pair. My only thought was, “I hope you can see my six-pack through this uni”. I ever so slightly flexed all my muscles as we passed. I knew it would be a feat if we were able to beat these girls, and I knew that only way we could really do it is if we got in their heads and stayed calm and relaxed in our boat. Any intimidation works, right? That’s what I hoped.

Lining up at the start I started really feeling nervous. We were seated right next to Romania and I hate that I did this, but I looked over at them a few times before the race. Just to see how they were acting. I smiled at the stake-boat holder who did not say anything to me and did not acknowledge my friendly gesture. I was confident, but nervous and I needed to feel safe and collected. Suddenly, Kroll and my favorite child hood song, Magic Dance, by David Bowie written for the greatest feature film of all time, The Labyrinth, popped into my head. I started singing it to her, she joined in. Suddenly it felt like practice, like we were ready to race with ourselves and not with the other boats. We started.

Just as suddenly as we started, we hit the 500-meter to go buoy. Romania had walked back up and was right next to us after we had had an open-water lead on them in the first thousand meters. I brought it up, but they were still walking. They were right next to us. I had one brief moment of, ”This is it, this is all I can do”. My eyesight was going into tunnel vision, and then this point is the most vivid part of the whole race, I had another surge of power. I have no clue where it came from, and I have no clue how I was able to sustain it, but it was enough to have us cross the finish line just tenths of a second before Romania.

One would think that my whole life would be changed after winning U-23 Worlds and setting a world U-23 record while doing it. Now it seems I should be wiser, more experienced, more… I don’t know, impressive. The thing is; I’m still clueless, spacey, awkward, and human to a fault. I wish that this medal was a doorway into maturity and adulthood and suddenly I would have some direction in life, but I’m still just as confused as ever about success, school and what I’m going to end up doing.

The whole thing seems unreal. I have worked so long for something like this to happen. I’ve put in so many hours, thought, research and extra hours into this sport, but it still seems like something like this should not be happening to someone like me. It’s nice because I am more confident now in my rowing abilities, and this makes me that much more motivated to continue to get better because now people are looking up to me. I just am continuously surprised that it’s… ME.

Thanks for reading my blog and following Kroll and I in our U-23 World Championships journey this summer.

Until the 2011 Michigan rowing season,

Felice


 See You in a Little Bit

This isn’t goodbye, just goodbye for now. This afternoon I’m shipping my computer home to protect it from the threat of battery and theft while traveling and visiting Belarus. To be honest, the blog is the least of my worries. How am I going to survive the long days in between practice without movies, Facebook, or my new favorite game Nightclub City? I’ve only made it to level 14! My club is already way less classy than my friends who play, they are up to level 20. By the time I return to America my club will look like a tree fort compared to theirs. I’m sure in Belarus I can find an Internet café and continue building my nightclub, as well as update my loyal blog fans on what has been happening overseas.

I can’t believe that in three days we will be leaving to go to Belarus. I have no idea what to expect. I heard that the race course was just recently built. I can imagine walking into the venue and getting goose bumps. The building excitement of a race upon us is making me impatient. I want to be there, I want to feel the new boat, adjust to the weather, and get used to the different water. I want to be confident about our base pace and I want to see the girls we’re going to get to race. All this makes me want to be over there so badly, but I’m sure after a few days there, I will want to be back in America.

I already read about the food that they eat, and can tell that I will start to miss the simple luxury of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches between meals of vegetable paste and caviar-topped pancakes. I really shouldn’t be complaining, I love all food and will eat anything. Well, that’s not entirely true. When I went to Beijing, China for Junior Worlds, I pretty much stuck to cereal and watermelon. They tried to put translations on what food they had prepared for us and there were things like “porks fries the beans” (which looked nothing like pork and beans) and “sugar beef dumplings”. Eventually, the hotel started putting out french-fries for the Americans and spaghetti for the Italians. It was all too stereotypical.

Wish us luck,

Felice


 Chickens and a Mystery Man

Are you aware that on chicken farms, chickens become irritable due to the extreme unnatural close conditions and start plucking out each others’ feathers? I am not a chicken expert, unlike Kate Strum and Mark Rothstein who happen to know everything about chickens, but I believe the chickens’ talons are clipped as well to prevent scratching and fighting leading to a higher death rate of chickens. Why is this relevant, you ask; because for the past month and a half, I have been kept in very close quarters with the same 16 girls. I don’t think I am going to start plucking hairs out of girls’ heads, but I am starting to get irritable. It’s my fault for being around the same girls all the time, I could leave the dorms in between practices and go sit in a library or something, but I’m much too lazy to walk anywhere. Perhaps all I need is a change of scenery to bring me back to my normal peaceful self. It’s perfect that we’re leaving in three days for Belarus!

With Worlds upon us, it’s time to get faster. Yesterday Kroll and I had a meeting with the coaches about what we need to do and accomplish before worlds, and where we are now in terms of speed and technique. The message was pretty much, set the boat and row better. Anne did instill a sense of urgency in us, and at yesterday afternoon’s practice something clicked and we were kind of amazing. Than this morning we had another really solid practice, which was perfect timing because Tom, the national team coach, was observing practice with his posse from his launch.

Tom is very intimidating and mysterious. It’s almost like you don’t really notice he’s there and then all of a sudden, over in the trees; there is an extra launch, driven by a man with a bucket hat to shield his face and identity. He doesn’t talk, he only observes, occasionally trailing your boat. In Chula Vista, the girls would joke that he was like Charlie from Charlie’s Angels. Anne, Hilary, and Linda would all talk to Tom on the phone and he would give them orders on practice and training plans. He is sort of like the godfather of rowing. He oversees everything. But in California, the rowers never got to see Tom, so he became some kind of all-knowing mysterious man.

Until next time,

Felice


 New York, New York

I just had a really fabulous 28 hours off. After Saturday morning practice, Kroll and I packed our bags and trudged tired and hungry though the Princeton rain to the train station, and made way to New York City to escape of the monotony of dorm life. After an hour and a half on the train and a few Subway rides later we finally arrived at Grand Central Station. We might have gotten there sooner, but I was preoccupied trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive mole people who live in the Subway tunnels and failed to notice we were going the wrong way on the Subway. When we arrived, we met up with our friend and Michigan teammate Kristen Henkels, who is the biggest sweetheart and hardest worker one will ever meet. We walked to her apartment, which is where we stayed the night. Her apartment was nice. I was honestly expecting a tiny room with a hot plate and a twin bed that folded into the wall. But Kristen’s apartment was spacious and even had its own separate kitchen. After dropping our bags, we met up with another Michigan teammate, Laura Dunn at the Museum of Modern Art and all four of us spent the weekend about New York.

I liked New York more than I had expected. I guess when I think about it, all we really did was eat, and eating is my favorite activity. After the MOMA, we went to a delicious dinner (thanks Dad!) at Pipa fallowed by a disgustingly huge and delicious dissert at Serendipity Three. The next day, Kristen had to go to work, but we made sure we could get breakfast before. After Kristen left, Kroll and I called upon Laura to entertain us for the rest of the day. With Laura, we really wouldn’t have had to do much of anything to be entertained. Her mannerisms and personality alone make her so much fun to be with, or even just observe. But, we ended up exploring Kristen and Laura’s workplace before grabbing lunch to eat in the park and watch rollerbladers. This really isn’t as weird as it sounds. The rollerblading gang apparently meets every Sunday and does tricks in a little section of the park. I absolutely loved it. There was so much weirdness in the park to observe. There was a man furiously dancing in short shorts and a belly shirt, the rollerbladers (who were all a little strange), a man performing what looked like a Shakespearian play with a stick, a very angry saxophone player, and us.

The weekend was fun, but so exhausting. We arrived back at the Princeton dorms just an hour before we had to leave for practice and row 18K. I slept so well that night, and this afternoon in between practices. No matter how tired I am, it will not bother me. We only have four more days until we leave for Belarus, so we need to get faster every day at practice!

Until next time,

Felice


 The Narration of My Life

I just recently started reading a book called Little Bee. The writing is beautiful; I can’t get enough of it. I’ve nearly finished the book in four days. The only thing is, now I have constantly been narrating my life in my head for the past four days and it’s driving me crazy. I can’t stop; it’s like a song you have stuck in your head incessantly repeating itself.

The narration isn’t simple either, it’s not, Felice walks the oars to the dock, it’s, Felice walks across the asphalt, she can already feel heat radiating up her legs, heat absorbed into the now sticky asphalt from the harsh early morning sun dripping slowly like honey through the sky. The black carbon-fiber oars burn her skin as she rolls them up onto her shoulder on her way to the docks. It’s terrible and dramatic and yet, if I’m not satisfied with a description, I keep thinking it over and over. Thank goodness I’m not an English major and cannot get wrapped up in grammatical tricks and grown-up words.

I tell you, I am going crazy from the heat. The only time I get a break from my third-person narration is when I’m rowing. I have never been more thankful for long practices; except, I’m still not that thankful, as I’ve been exhausted this past week. I think I will finish the book today and hopefully with the end of the book will come the end of my internal narration. It should be gone by the time we get on the plane to go to Brest, Belarus. (In 6 days!)

Until next time,

Felice


 The Strangest Thing Just Happened

The strangest thing just happened. I was sitting outside of the dorms waiting for my mom to pull her car up so that I could load her up with things I want to send home and as I was waiting two men walked out of the dorms. They were both fairly tall and muscular. One had boyishly blonde hair, bowl-cut style, and was wearing capris. The other was wearing kneepads. They walked quickly out of the building talking in Russian, and went straight into a huge silver van with no windows.

It was the kind of van that transports money to banks. They then drove off. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed and thought it was strange also. There were five people sitting on the quad outside of the dorm and none of them even made a slight gesture that anything, not even an acorn falling had happened. I hope I’m not going crazy from heat exhaustion. It was 107 degrees yesterday; today it is 100 degrees.

The only good thing about this heat is that I drip sweat. I love the feeling of sweat running down your body, pooling off of your arms, legs, nose and chin. It makes me feel like I’m really intense; like I could be one of the athletes on the Gatorade commercials, even if it’s only the 100-degree weather. Another plus of the hot weather is that the coaches have given me permission to “fuel up and rest.” Translation: eat as much as you can and then sleep in preparation for practice, or that’s what I’m going to think it means. Good thing my loving mom was just visiting so I’ve eaten so much food. After almost every meal, I had to waddle to bed so I could pass out and digest everything… the good life!

Until next time,

Felice


 It Really Wasn’t That Bad

I just recently finished a morning from hell. Seriously, it’s hard to have a morning from hell when you’re in Princeton, on a lovely clear summer morning and your mom is visiting so you have delicious home-made banana bread to eat for breakfast, but I had a morning from hell. It all started, as one might expect, when Kroll and I got ready to launch our boat. The weather this morning was stagnant, heavy and hot. As Kroll and I walked our boat to the water through the sauna air, I knew this morning would be a struggle. We did step pieces this morning. That means 18-24 spm, changing every 500 for 4x2K. It doesn’t sound that hard, but when you have to try and hit a gold medal time standard every piece, it’s hard.

We finished our last piece and paddled back to the docks. We were pretty much on-pace for the workout, which is good, but it was hard to get there and stay there. I was so relieved to be back at the dock, until we still had lifting! I forgot about that.

So now after re-reading the morning’s events, it really wasn’t that bad and I am, as usual, being completely dramatic. It could be worse. We could be on the junior national team who has to practice every day from 10-12 a.m. and again from 2-4 p.m. If I was complaining about heat at 8 a.m., they should have the right to form a mutiny and flip the boat over due to extreme heat conditions.

Until next time,

Felice


 I’ve Got a Crush On You

Today was a really sad day. The national teams left today to go race at the world cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. You might expect that I’m upset having to live the next week or so without the national team men rowing around shirtless. No, the absence of the national team men isn’t (that) upsetting. It’s the ladies that I am going to miss.

I know a lot of the national team women. Well, not know (they have no idea who I am, I just know all of their names and how fast they are). I have “girl crushes” on many of them. Names will not be revealed, in case they someday stumble upon this blog, but my heart races when I see them. The reaction I have when I see the national team women is similar to the reaction a pre-teen would have to seeing Robert Pattinson, the vampire from the Twilight movies. I just freakout about seeing them when I am alone and not in front of them. Anyway, they are leaving today to race for America. I suppose I can let them go, but they’re taking with them all the excitement I’ve had for the past few days.

We have another 24 hours off now. I just got back from the pool and now I have no clue what I’m going to do with the rest of my time. I think a lot of it is going to be spent eating and sitting in my room, as usual. I may put some more effort into trying to make my uni-tan disappear. If I’m in my bathing suit, it looks like I have a white uni on underneath. Geez…

Until next time,

Felice


 The Joys of Rowing

As Jenny Cromwell put it, as we were spinning to finish the last 4K of our morning row, “It’s really hard to live right now.” Not because we aren’t happy to be here, but because it feels like my legs have been repeatedly stabbed with screwdrivers and I am still being asked to function normally. Every time I stand up, walk, sit down and row it feels like my quads are bleeding. I am blaming this all on lifting. It’s not just me that feels this way either, I was talking to Kroll after practice and she even said that she has only felt this sore a few times in her life. It’s a good feeling. The fact that you can take so many athletes that work out two to three times a day and make them feel this sore is pretty exciting.

Although it’s been hard to live due to sore muscles, the days are passing quickly. I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces sine I’ve arrived at Princeton, which has been really fun. My dad came to visit for trials, and I saw Brett Sickler and Julia Darnton during racing there as well. (They both dominated in their singles races by the way, Julia coming in second and Brett first!). It also magically turns out that three of my good friends from the Michigan men’s rowing team are all living in Philadelphia this summer. I’ve escaped to go visit them and they came to watch trials. It’s always nice to see a familiar face. After being away from home and people you feel comfortable with you start to lose traits of yourself. It’s refreshing to see old friends.

The U23 team moved from Mercer Lake to Princeton today. The minute I stepped into the boathouse parking lot I saw three national team girls walking towards the boat trailer. My heart started racing and an infectious smile spread across all the U23 girls’ faces. I can’t believe that we get to practice with Olympians and national team rowers! I’m seriously stars truck. I am actually speechless when the girls are around for fear they’ll notice me, or worse come and talk to me. I would be so surprised I might mumble a few words before looking down at my feet and shuffling away awkwardly, ruining any chances I may ever have of being friends with Olympians. That may have already happened however, when Kroll and I nearly ran our pair into the National team woman’s eight. Oops. Like I said, the days are passing quickly. Things are getting exciting.

Until next time,

Felice


 Tapering =Over

With the end of trials comes the end of taper week. Yes, my heart breaks a little saying goodbye to 8K practices and hello to 12-18K practices, core, and lifting. Aside from pushups, lifting is the hardest thing for me to do. My body was not made to lift heavy things. I am very tall and awkwardly skinny. My arms look like those of a 13-year old boy who’s going through a growth spurt and is trying to gain muscle to get the ladies, but can only lift 20 pounds. We had lifting today. I am already sore and I’m not even putting the “big wheels” on the bar, as Lew, my weight trainer at Michigan, would say. Big wheels constitutes anything over 10 kilos with a diameter greater than a record.

Rowing practice has been way more successful than my lifting routine. Kroll and I are getting along; although sometimes when it’s really early and I’m grumpy I silently plot how I can flip her into the water so she will be quiet. She normally picks up on this because I will not say anything and respond to her questions with grunts or short one word answers. I try to not let stuff like this effect practice, so it’s important to let the frustration go and focus on getting better. It’s hard rowing such a difficult boat. If something is wrong, it’s you two. It’s not like there are eight other people in the boat who share the blame. In a pair you two have to steer, stroke, cox, row well and attempt to make technical changes all at once. Despite all the hardships that come with the pair, Kroll and I have made some really great steps towards rowing the pair more efficiently and with more control. It’s starting to feel more stable and when we are on and driving together, it’s almost easy.

Now that things are starting to get better in the pair, we’re going back into the eight. Some of the girls in the eight are leaving today to go to a teammate’s funeral (Rest in Peace, Jill), so Kroll and I are breaking from our constant one-on-one time and filling in their spots. I can’t wait to not steer. Although, I think I will miss the little pair while I’m gone. Kroll and I can literally do and say almost anything we want during practice. We can call whatever drills we want, talk, and when we cool down, we take the lightest of paddle strokes. So light we pretty much let the wind blow us down the course. It’s delightful now that I think about it.

Until next time,

Felice


What A Day

I’ve been lying in my dimly lit moonshine room for almost three hours now. I can’t sleep, and trust me, that never happens after a race. It maybe the post race excitement pulsing through my body that’s keeping me awake, or the fact that it feels like I’m re-living the hell that is growing pains in my legs and arms from fatigue. Whatever it is, it’s caused me to stare out of my window at the purple New Jersey night sky and track the fireflies across it for hours. I find my thoughts curiously slipping into the future, wondering what’s going to happen next. And then, they tumble backwards and relive the whole unreal day.

Before a race, time slows and it seems like one moment is just extended, causing you to be hyper sensitive about every movement, word and action going on around you. It’s the worst right before the start. That moment between when the announcer says “attention” and the signal to go is realized, it feels like nothing exists. Even today, after the announcer said attention, and Kroll and I were still trying to get our point, it felt like everything stopped. That is, until the light to go flashed and her hand was up and I was picking my oar to try and get straight. I heard Kroll say, “oh, sh—.“ and we were off, right into a buoy. We didn’t have a great start, but we had a really great race. We were able to come out on top. Meaning… I made the U23 team! I am representing the USA at Worlds in the priority boat, a pair!

 After our race, one of my friends asked if I felt like I was on cloud nine, I responded that it feels like I’m on cloud 100. Unfortunately, I’m still on cloud 100, and my moment of glory has come and gone and I’m back to real time and real life; sitting at a computer, drinking a glass of no- lukewarm milk at 1:30 in the morning, restless.

Until next time,

Felice


Testosterone Goggles

The other night, I had dinner with a few girl friends. As you might expect, the topic of conversation quickly turned to boys. Two of my friends were loosely throwing around the term “testosterone goggles”. I had to ask them to elaborate. They coined the term to define the phenomenon that occurs when every person of the male gender becomes attractive after prolonged separation from men.

This explains why every time I go back to school, it seems like there are so many more attractive boys than when I left, but really I’ve just lost my basis of comparison. Testosterone goggles is a very real, and very dangerous side effect to too much lady time. Good thing trials are this week/weekend and a plethora of young men have arrived to race their boats in hopes that they can go to worlds.

Yes trials are upon us, and Kroll and I race tomorrow in the pair. It’s a one and done race. We’ve been practicing together all week and things have gotten a lot better, I think. It’s hard to tell because it seems the gods of Mercer Lake have become enraged by the boat traffic on their waters. For the past few days we’ve been practicing in raging winds and whitecaps, which is especially fun to row in when you’re in a 60lb double. It seems as though that’s what we’ll be racing in too. It will definitely be an exciting race. I think if we relax, and focus on each other we’ll be able to row well though the conditions.

Until next time,

Felice


Hey Julia!

I’m just finishing a huge, delicious, 400-calorie chocolate chip cookie in my newly fixed air-conditioned room. Life is fabulous. It doesn’t take much to please a rower; all they really want is food and sleep.

I saw Julia Darnton today at the boat meeting for trials. I jumped off my picnic bench and ran to her when I saw her tiny body walking across the grass to the gathering of rowers. Julia and I are teammates back at Michigan and she is rowing a single in the Under-23 lightweight trials and she’s also writing a blog on MGoBlue.com like me.

Julia really is the definition of a badass. Coming up from novice to race in the varsity eight, especially being her size, is amazing. Her intensity actually scared me at times. I have no doubt that she can not only get though this summer being a lightweight, but also kick-butt doing it. I can’t wait to see how she does in her singles race at trials, but I am proud of her regardless.

Until next time,

Felice


Home Sweet Princeton

I’ve finally started to settle into my new home for the next three weeks. I did not unpack when I first arrived in Princeton because the air conditioning in my room doesn’t work. I just expected I would move out and squat in another room long enough until I could claim it as my own. Unfortunately, the only other room that’s open happens to smell a lot like jet fuel, so I’m just going to stay put.

Aside from being on the other side of the country, nothing has really changed. I am rowing and doing nothing on the other side of the country. I bought a bunch of “previously enjoyed” movies I could watch in between practices. The movies should have said “previously destroyed” because so far, two out of the four movies stopped playing halfway through. I guess I can just imagine the endings. Depending on my mood the characters may live happily ever after, or fall into a fiery pit of dragons. They’re lucky I’ve been in a good mood lately.

I am mostly excited because I get to race soon in the pair. Ashley Kroll is my lovely bow lady and we will be racing at trials to see if we can go as the U-23 pair to the World Championships. We have only practiced once in the pair since we’ve been here, but it felt like we really started to click. Plus, I kind of think steering is almost fun now that we have a clearly marked lane. (At the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, I was steering off of one buoy line.) There still is a lot of work to be done between now and Friday, when we race, but I think we can handle it!

Until next time,

Felice


Sweet Summertime

Today was the first real day of summer. I don’t know how it happened, it’s always so sudden and unexpected, but today summer and I clicked. Maybe it’s the sweet, sticky Princeton air, or the thick smell of cut grass and full trees that was absent in Chula Vista’s dry desert air that made the shift. It hit me when I was sitting in the back seat of Nash’s car driving to practice. All the windows were open, and my hair kept dancing in the wind, running into my eyes and cheeks, and I got that really excited feeling when you feel completely free. Like when you go out with your best friends for the first time on your own. I was in a great mood for the rest of the day.

I’m still riding on my summer high, and I can’t stop feeling so thankful about what has happened so far this summer. I love being a part of a team where everyone is constantly trying to improve by pushing themselves to their limits, yet having fun doing it. Like today, after lifting in this horrible, dark, sweaty room, I went over to a pull-up bar and started doing pull-ups, just to see if I could still do them. Suddenly, it became almost a competition. Jenny Cromwell ended up doing one-armed chin-ups which pretty much ended things, but I was so happy seeing these girls unafraid to show their strength, compete and have fun working towards something bigger than themselves.

We erged in the same hot, miserable room after our lift and still, no one complained, and no one slacked off even a little. Puddles of sweat pooled on the floor around the ergs at the catch and the finish. After the first 20-minute piece there was sweat dripping from girls’ ponytails, and we re-set our monitors, and we did it again. I have so much respect for the girls on this team, just like I have for the girls on my Michigan team. We all work so hard together for one common goal. It makes me happy to train and practice on one of the last summer vacations I’ll ever have because of my team, the girls who are training for me here and at school.

Until next time,

Felice


Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I am currently sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight to Newark, NJ. I do not like airports very much for following reasons:

1. I always feel kind of nauseous at airports

2. It’s hard to find good food

3. I always deplane with at least +1 zit

4. I hate the smell of recycled air

5. My legs and butt start to hurt in the seats

6. Screaming babies

7. Everything is expensive. I just paid 5$ for oatmeal

Despite the overall unpleasantness of airports, I’m happy to have a change of scenery, and an excuse to read mindless fashion magazines.

On a much different note, I was finally able to talk with my mom last night. With the time change, and conflicts due to practice and afternoon naps, we hadn’t had time to catch up. The first thing she asked was if I knew how I was doing in relation to others at selection camp. I’m happy to report that I have, at this point, been doing very well at camp. Steering problems and slower erg scores aside, I’ve managed to be successful in the race pieces on the water. As boats and lineups become more finalized, I can reveal more about who is going where, but until after trials and the official selection date of July 9th, nothing is set in stone. I can say that I’m really honored to be a part of this team. There is so much talent here, and it’s really fun to compete and work with such amazing athletes. When I see how much love and hard work these girls put into this sport it makes me really proud that I get to be a part of this. Whatever happens, if I make the team, if I don’t, this experience has already become so valuable to me.

Until next time,

Felice


 I Should Have Seen This Coming

There comes a time, usually once a month, when my life falls apart and everything is in shambles. That time is now. I should have seen it coming. It started two days ago when my body felt somewhat numb. Instead of taking that as a sign of warning, I thought I was a sign of good fortune and ended up spending my afternoon off on Wednesday lying on the beach and binge eating ice cream. That is probably one of the worst ways to recover. Especially when you’re racing in pairs the morning after to see who makes the fastest pair combination. Anyway, I came home exhausted from practice and the sun and somewhat sick from the ice cream and French fries I inhaled. I woke up this morning somehow feeling great.

My downfall happened after morning racing pieces. I should have gone to ice bath afterwards, but I was so hungry I went to eat and then I had to meet with the coaches and eat again and soon after that it was time for afternoon practice. By the time second practice was over, I honestly thought I was dying. My great theory of my body disregarding pain was false. Everything hit me this afternoon. My whole body felt like an 18-wheeler ran me over, reversed, and then stopped on top of me.

I now have to pack because tomorrow we’re leaving for Princeton at 5:30am. I have been lying in my bed since dinner gaining the strength to shove everything I have here in to one bag so that the airlines don’t charge me because (heaven forbid!) I have two bags. I know I’m being extremely dramatic, but sometimes I just want some sympathy, even though my life is amazing and I should be happy even when I hurt.

Until next time,

Felice


 Pain and Laundry

Day 15: I don't think my body is registering what pain is anymore. I woke up from a nap this afternoon and just lay there feeling the stiffness in my legs, back and arms. I tried not to move for as long as possible. I could sense that when I did move, it might feel similar to what an 80-year-old ex-gymnast and war veteran would feel like after running a marathon the day before. Eventually, I had to move because my laundry was done and I did not want other people to touch it and move it out of the driers onto the counter. That's the worst. First, strangers touch your clean laundry. Second, all your underwear is just hanging out in public. When I moved my feet to the floor and stood up to rescue my laundry from humiliation, I felt stiff, but it was a numb-stiff. Good job body. It's only taken you 20 years to realize pain is not fun.

After yesterday morning's failed attempt at steering, I received a call from my coach, Brett Sickler. She had read my blog (as it is the hottest new thing on the world wide web), and asked me about my struggles with steering. She talked some sense into me. She essentially told me I can't be bad at steering and I just need to stop spazzing with the toe when I get a little bit off course. I pulled myself together and went to afternoon practice with a clean slate. My pair partner and I dramatically improved!

This morning my partner and I were racing together for 1,500-meter pieces at open rate. Although we had improved a lot the previous afternoon, I still struggled with steering during our race piece. I managed to steer us from lane two, to lane three, to lane one, then to lane four, where we finished. Oops. It was so frustrating. I would try and ease pressure and steer over to port only making little adjustments, but then nothing would change. We would keep heading straight for another boat to throw off course. So then I would make more drastic adjustments to one side and we would eventually zoom over, but then be off course on the other side, and the cycle would repeat. Well, after that piece, my partner and I were split up. I was put back into a pair with Ashley Kroll. We actually managed to go really straight, probably because she would yell directions to me about where to go (Thanks Kroll!). In the end, I was finally steering like a pro and feeling much better about my skills.

Until next time,

Felice


Another One of Those Mornings

I remember the days of high school when I thought I was untouchable on the erg. I was pretty much pure speed transformed into a human body. It was a huge deal that I could break 7:10 for my 2K. Then, I went to junior national team selection camp and met the likes of Caroline Nash and Elise Wilson. Suddenly, my throne of speed crumbled beneath me and I was average. Fast forward a few years to college. At Michigan, I can typically hang with the faster group of girls on the erg. Now, I am at the U-23 National team selection camp and I am slow.

I am happy to say that yesterday I set a new PR on my 6K, by a lot! I finished with a 1:51.8 average and a time of 22:22.0. However, that doesn't stop other girls I'm training with to break 1:50 on their 6Ks. Two girls, one being my rowing prodigy roommate Kara, pulled 6K averages only a few splits slower than my 2K average. Although I'm happy with how I've personally been performing on my erg tests, I have consistently been in the slower half of the group.

I like to think that I can make up for my shortcomings on the erg during pieces on the water, but then I have a practice like today or last Thursday. Just to remind you, I described Thursday's practice as a "fail." I'm really trying not to beat myself up over what happened this morning, but it's hard, especially when the biggest reason my pair did not succeed was due to my steering.

I really should be an expert at steering by now. I've been rowing in a pair for the past two summers. Actually, the first summer I had to start steering, Roger, my then-coach, told me steering would become second nature to me by the end of the summer. Lies! Even now, I'm worried about my stroke rate for half the piece, and the other half I'm worried about how my bow is pointed toward the middle of the lake. I can imagine it looks like I'm constantly trying to row away from the race pieces as fast as I can. I often end up one to three lanes off of where I should be at any given time during a piece. I guess I'll just go back this afternoon and try to improve.

Until next time,

Felice


Sunday Funday

I awoke this morning to the perfect summer day. I mean perfect. I saw a baby bunny and a little bird playing together on my porch in the warm morning sunshine. That is perfection straight out of a Disney movie. I felt like Snow White. I wanted to go outside to play and sing with my forest friends; however, I've chosen to spend most of the day indoors -- the reason being that we have a 6K erg test today! Sunday funday!

I'm not particularly nervous about the 6K, I'm just not happy that I will consciously be inflicting such unbearable pain to myself in exactly three hours. I know what to expect, and I have a good race plan (Thanks Brett!), I just want to get the test over with at this point.

Felice Mueller (L) and Ashley Kroll Felice Mueller (below) and Ashley Kroll

On a much more exciting note, I got to row this morning with the USA water polo team! I guess they've just named the national team and there are a lot of new girls on it, so they came to the Olympic Training Center on their day off to do team building activities. Obviously, they had to try rowing because it is the ultimate team sport. I hadn't rowed with novices since high school, and I completely forgot how difficult rowing can be for someone who's never done it. There was a girl in my boat who kept forgetting to use her legs! Seriously! You are on a seat that slides, how could you forget? It was so funny. There was always a blade in the water because the timing was so off. A couple of the water polo girls caught crabs, and at least one got an oar in the back. They seemed to have a good time though. Anne, our head coach, was like, "When you're watching the next Olympics you can tell everyone you rowed with those water polo girls!" That is pretty cool, but so is rowing and practicing every day with future rowing Olympians.

Until next time,

Felice


Do I know You?

Earlier this year, I went to a Muse concert with my brother. We got amazing spots standing right in front of the stage. Passing by the stage on the way out, someone who worked at the concert venue ran up to me and gave me two Muse stickers. I was kind of confused, but said thanks, gave one to my brother and thought, "that's nice, they gave us souvenir stickers." The stickers were weird though, they had handwriting on them and they were made out of some cloth material. The "stickers", it turned out, were backstage passes. I found that out a few days later.

One could describe myself as a little spacey. I don't always put one and one together, or it just takes me a little while. The Muse concert is a good example of this. Another good example happened right here at the Olympic Training Center.

I noticed a girl in the dining hall who looked familiar. Every time I saw her at lunch I would kind of stare at her and wonder whom she looked like. Thinking back, she probably thinks I'm a total creep. Anyway, one afternoon a girl at my table asked if I thought she was Lindsey Vonn. "No," I responded, "What would Lindsey be doing here? She would probably be training at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center." Well, today I walked into the weight room and saw the mystery girl running on a treadmill. I went to go sign my name in and the last name on the list was Vonn-Ski. I felt like an idiot. I tried not to stare at her anymore than I already had, but I did even worse than before. I think I even flashed her a really awkward smile. I really do have a way with people.

Until next time,

Felice


My Future in Rowing

Last night I met a future track Olympian named Norris Fredrick. He told me he did not like to run. Imagine a track star that hates to run. I later realized he was a long and high jumper, so I suppose he doesn't have to love running, he just has to love jumping. What a weird sport to invest so much time into, jumping. However, I suppose it's not as strange as putting nine people together and having them sit down and race going backwards. Why do I love this sport again?

This is a good question to ask since I'm approaching a meeting with the coaches to talk about my interest in continuing to row at the next level, the national team. Do I want to invest an extra indefinable number of years of my life into rowing? What exactly would that entail?

To row is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as:

Row: Verb - To propel a vessel by the leverage of an oar or the like.

Basically, you sit and repeatedly put an oar in the water and pry the oar with your legs. As simple as that sounds, I still sometimes push with my legs first before I put my blade in. I've been rowing for six years and I have yet to master the art of putting an oar in the water. So do I really want to spend another six years of 5 a.m. wake-up calls, bloody hands, and painful workouts just to become one of the most effective oar placers and pushers in the world? As of now, the answer is yes. It's not that I love the act of rowing, but I love the competition, camaraderie and working towards being the best physically and mentally that I can be. The bar is constantly being set higher.

So, while my friends will have all graduated, established career paths and started life in the real world, I will probably still be rowing. It's scary to know that I'll be chasing a dream after graduation. Postponing job experience, schoo and life outside of rowing for something I may not even succeed in.

Until next time,

Felice


One of Those Days

"Today was a difficult day, tomorrow will be better."

A direct quote from a wise book called, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. It's about a mouse that gets in trouble for bringing her purple plastic purse to school. I believe I read it back in first grade, and it's clearly stuck with me for a long time. Today, coming into the dock after practice, that quote popped into my head.

To sum up my performance this morning I would use the word "fail." I wasn't steering well, I don't think my partner and I were catching together, and I caught a mini crab. For a long time after practice I was dwelling on what had happened. How it would affect my selection? How could I have done things differently? After a long nap I awoke still angry with myself. Tired of this emotional turmoil I had locked myself in I finally sat and examined the whole situation.

I have been chosen as one of 16 of the best U23 rowers in the country. No one at this camp is going to shine like a super star; it's just not possible. Each of us is going to have days of success and days of failure. This emotional, physical and mental rollercoaster is going to make each one of us stronger and help us accept things as they come. I can't change what happened this morning, but I can go back to practice and try my best again. I don't know if it will be good enough to get me into the boat or the seat I want, but if I stay relaxed and focused on the task at hand I will not get bogged down by the anxiety of what could I have done and what do I have to do.

I feel happier now after unknotting my thoughts and I know tomorrow will be better.

Until next time,

Felice


A Day in My Life at the Olympic Training Center

When I arrived at the Olympic Training Center on the June 1, just being here was one of the coolest things I had ever done in my life. I was picked up in an Olympic van from the airport. After a 30-minute drive with the Olympic van driver, Mike, we arrived at the Olympic Training Center located at 2800 Olympic Parkway. I gathered my things from the van and observed my new surroundings in sunny Chula Vista, Calif. Purple flowering trees surround four different dorm buildings where the athletes stay. Orange lilies line the paths between the dorms, dining hall and other sports facilities. Most importantly, there are Olympic rings and Olympic memorabilia everywhere.

It is incredible being here and living amongst the best athletes in the world. There are Olympic track runners and throwers, field hockey players, archers, BMX bikers and kayakers. There's a fellow rower training here who was in the Olympic Men's Eight. And then there's me; I sometimes struggle to finish a yoga workout only to look over and see some overweight 50-year-old man doing a handstand next to me. Needless to say, I'm honored to be here.

That being said, after the first two days at the Olympic Training Center also known as the OTC, things got real boring. There are about five things you can do during your down time at the OTC. They are the following:

1. Sit
2. Sit and read
3. Sit and watch T.V.
4. Sleep
5. Paint your nails

(Obviously, it's a bummer if you're a boy because then there are only four things you can do at the OTC.)

This afternoon we have off. I've already gone through activities one through four and it is only 3 p.m. I am currently sitting on my porch hoping to catch a glimpse of the newest arrival of athletes to the OTC, male volleyball players. At least that's what I think they are because they were wearing volleyball shirts. However, doesn't make much sense because this Olympic Training Center doesn't have a volleyball facility. Anyway, I haven't seen any of the attractive, mysterious athletes yet today, so it looks like the highlight of my day will end up being the 7 p.m. Target run. As you can see, I'm truly living life in the fast lane here at the OTC. On a day-to-day basis, the most exciting thing that can happen aside from winning race pieces is when there are chocolate chip cookies in the dining hall.

Until next time,

Felice


Rowers Like to RACE

Rowers, by obvious nature of the sport, love to race. Whether it's racing to get first place on the "warm-up run" or racing to eat as much food as physically possible, we're always competing with one another. Today, the eighth day of selection camp, we raced for real on the water. I mean it wasn't full out racing, we did not really have a start and the rate was capped at a 30, but it was as close to racing as we've gotten so far.

I'm happy to say that my pair did well today, but it's still impossible to tell how well because most of us still haven't gotten used to rowing in pairs. One of the pairs today steered so off course they nearly hit one of the coaches' launches. In their defense, the steering had come loose and gotten messed up. Still, most of us probably pulled an extra couple 100 meters because of our "special" courses we took to go 1,500 meters. Despite our struggles, this group of U23 selection campers is apparently further along in pair rowing skills than last year's group at this time, and all our finish times are relatively close, which means good depth of team.

We now have a few practices of lower intensity to recover for our next full out racing pieces. But before we get to those practices, we have to go through weight lifting. I'm not as terrible at weightlifting as I once was. Picture me three years ago practicing for junior national team. I was five pounds lighter, about 10 times more awkward and uncoordinated, and I had to squat a broomstick, which was still a struggle for me. I can now squat up to 205 pounds; however, the other day after weightlifting I was really sore and I was only squatting the bar. If only Lew, my strength trainer from Michigan, could see me now. He would be ashamed. But never fear Lew! I'll become strong again and make you proud. It's just going to really hurt.

Until next time,

Felice


From Foe to Friend

I'm reading a little book right now called The Holy Man by Susan Trott. A reoccurring theme in the book is that you should treat everyone you meet like a holy man. I'd like to think that I genuinely give everyone I meet a good period of time to get to know them and not pass judgments. I also try and treat everyone with respect. However, it's been really weird coming to this selection camp and getting to know girls that I have literally had a burning passion to destroy on the race course.

I've come to realize that these girls, who I've kept in the back of my mind every day, individually stalked on their respective athletic websites and smack-talked aren't super human evil crew robots, in fact, they're just like me. Yeah, they're really fast and strong, but they're also funny, nice and caring. It's been uncomfortable witnessing my deepest enemies transform into acquaintances, maybe even friends. And now I feel bad for instinctively hating them just because they row on another team.

So now I am going to try and see girls on other teams as peers and teachers. How does racing one crew expose my weaknesses and strengths? It might be hard especially since I can be competitive to an almost unhealthy degree, but what athlete isn't? I feel like adopting this new mentality will be helpful especially since we're going to be changing pair partners and racing in new lineups almost every day. I don't want to go at this alone, I want the support of teammates and I want to support others to do their best, because that will help me reach my peak.

Until next time,

Felice


Day of Rest

Sunday -- God's day of rest, apparently God doesn't row because today is our first day of erg tests! We're going to be tested on max power. This consists of 10 stroke pieces as hard as you can go on the erg followed by a one-minute test. The only reason why I'm not freaking out pre-erg test right now is because you really can't prepare for a test like this. This kind of test is basically based on what kind of genetics your parents passed down to you. At least that's what I hear.

Even though we still have practice, we still technically had a day off. We had yesterday afternoon and this morning to rest. The coaches were telling us that 24-hour rest periods are hard to come by, so appreciate this one. With my free 24 hours I was able to see a fellow Wolverine and old teammate, Dana. She was actually interning at this Olympic training center and left right before I came. Now she's working in San Diego and she came to spend the afternoon with Ashley Kroll and myself. Even though we haven't been at the Olympic Training Center that long it was still nice to get out for a little bit.

The erg tests went overall really well. Kroll broke into the 600s on her max watts and I got to 570. Both of which I think are personal bests for us. We then went out for a swing row with our pair partners for the next few days. Timing and racing starts tomorrow in the pairs! Obviously, I want to do well, but it really doesn't do much good to dwell on what happened at practice or what will happen. I can only execute at that moment, so wish me luck for these next few weeks!

Until next time,

Felice


Four Days at the Olympic Training Center

Four days. It's been four days since I've arrived at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. I can tell you, it's felt like at least a month. And the "selection process" meaning, seat racing for your life, hasn't even started yet. So far, the workouts have actually been relatively easy, just long steady state pieces to rebuild our athletic base, which we apparently lost during racing season. The hard part now is waiting to see where I stand amongst the other girls trying out for the team.

I knew coming to camp that I would be training with the fastest collegiate girls in the country, but quite honestly, I wasn't prepared for this. My roommate, Kara, who's from Cal Berkley, is a perfect specimen of athleticism. She's 6' 2'', and her body is perfectly proportioned, toned muscle. Oh, and by the way, she pulls a 6:43 for her 2k and her 6k average I hear is a 1:47 split. That's almost my average for my 2k. And Kara was a freshman last year. You may be thinking, well she's just a freak of nature. But in actuality, all the girls here are just like Kara. Tall, jacked, and fast. I can tell you now before seat racing starts that it's going to be cut throat to make this U23 eight.

I'm excited to start race pieces. So far the only "racing" we've had here is lining up three pairs across the 3k course and rowing steady state pieces against each other. The pair I rowed with this morning seemed to be moving well at times, but at this point I don't think there can be any decided winners. Most of the girls are still just getting used to rowing in pairs. I'm lucky for the past two summers I've been racing and practicing in a pair with my good friend Lauren, so I have some experience with stroking and steering. That being said, I still managed to run my bow into another pair this morning.

I just need to relax and do my best.

Until next time,

Felice