| || ||Monday, April 27, 2009|
Where do I start?? It has been a week since I’ve posted anything. The reason being: I had been so apprehensive of the race my rowing club was to participate in. To a seasoned athlete this would not be any big deal, but in the case of my crew, it had tremendous implications.
As a club, we got off to a somewhat floundering start not even a year ago. Most of us had NEVER set foot into a sweep before. Speaking for myself: I had NO idea what bow, stern, port, and starboard meant in the boating sense. Our “racing crew” would meet for practice on Tuesday mornings at 5:30 a.m. and then try to squeeze in rows on Friday afternoons and Sunday afternoons. This is a far cry from the training the collegiate rowers go through.
Last Tuesday we did intensive practice in anticipation of the race. We were rowing all eights. I have the bow seat in the front of the boat rowing on the starboard side. Chris was ahead of me in the #2 seat. I was “at the catch” (I was slid up in the seat about to drop my oar into the water) when Chris “caught a crab”. This is when the blade of the oar does not enter or exit the water straight: it will dig in causing all kinds of problems. Chris flew back into me, pushing me back and out of my shoe stretchers and off my seat. I nearly ended up taking a bath in the
We crammed in another practice Friday. I was very apprehensive after what happened Tuesday. The shoes that were installed in the bow seat were way too small for me. We put the sweep onto stretchers and fine tuned things down for the final real practice before the race.
I knew practice was going to be rough when I started to sweat and the sunscreen I had applied ran into my eyes. Talk about burn and tearing. We were rowing on the sixes. Finally I got called out and was able to maneuver my shirt sleeve around to wipe out my eyes.
We then did the mock 1000 meter race with the fast start and all eight rowing. I am so nervous I’m gripping too tight with my inside hand. This is bad as you can’t tell when the oar blade is square when you “catch” and “release”. I can feel the “mini crabs” I’m catching. Nothing really major, but definitely NOT good!
I was a wreck after the practice. This is such a team effort and the last thing I want to do is to jinx our first race Sunday. Michael said off handedly that we should have some kind of theme to tie the crew together. Looking at me he said, “How about do-rags?” That set me to thinking…..
Saturday afternoon on the way to the boat house I did a detour to Hell-mart and got 10 matching blue bandanas.
Our race on Sunday, the Mixed Masters was the last race of the day. Originally scheduled around 3:00 p.m. it was moved up to 12:30. The Oak Ridge Rowing Club agreed to loan our team a sweep and set of oars. This was a Godsend as it would have been impractical to trailer up our equipment for only one race.
In the boathouse I gave demonstrations on how to properly tie a do-rag. I have to admit as a crew we looked pretty awesome in our regalia. We got a lot of compliments from other rowers.
We were in the warm up area practicing our starts. Horrors, Chris caught a “crab”, but we were able to recover on the fly so it was no big deal. I was able to stay in my seat!
All too soon we were rounded up by the officials for the line up. This is like herding cats. We were doing a “floating start” where-by the referees have to visually line the boats into an alignment. They get testy barking out orders to the boats in the lanes. We were in lane 0, the far outside lane competing against six other teams.
All of a sudden out of nowhere I hear the referees announce, “We have alignment, GO!” Following Allison in the stroke seat it was ½, ½, ¾, reach and then full slide. Ten strokes at full power and then supposedly down a bit.
This is where I went on auto pilot following Allison and concentrating on not catching a crab. The adrenaline was pumping as I was pushing back against the stretchers as hard as I could. I was able to actually feel the oar flex a bit as I was pulling back.
At the 500 meter mark my hamstrings were burning… but… I glanced out to the left and we had boats BEHIND us! At the 200 meter mark I was in agony. It took everything I could do to keep rowing. We were so close to the finish line we could not freeze now….
Finally I heard the air horn for us completing the race. WE DID IT!!! We actually completed our first race in one piece. That was all I needed to do.
We cooled off in the holding area. I was bent over my oar gasping, trying to get air back into my lungs. Poor Chris in seat 2 was afraid they were going to have to get medical for me!! “Are you all right????” she kept asking!!!
The race lasted less than four minutes. Those four minutes was the most intense work-out I’d given this old body in MANY years. By this time the endomorphines had kicked in and I was flying.
It was a bone tired crew that carried the sweep back to the boat house.
Cooling off at the boathouse I heard a yell…. We took SECOND PLACE!!!!!!
Ever so slowly the details of those 3 minutes and however odd seconds we were in the race came to light. After the start, we got the boat up to 33 strokes per minute. Originally Alison had planned on dropping down to a “cruising rate” of 26-28 strokes. She felt how strong we were rowing so she kept that 33 rate the entire race. No wonder my legs died on me!!
I’m still flying from the rush of that race typing this out. This was the first time for me to really compete in a team sport. It is so amazing how this crew came together in the first place from all ages and walks of life. This camaraderie and friendship gained has enriched my life so. With all the turmoil going on in the world that we have no control over, happiness of this order really makes life worth living.
The “Racing Crew” of the Black Warrior Rowing Club.