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Old Glory [San Diego Crew Classic 2018]

Photo upload is wedging at the moment, so I'll have to post pictures later.

What a weekend! I think I've gone to the Crew classic 4 or 5 times by now, but for the most part, it hasn't been my favorite regatta experience of all time. My memories from high school are all of extremely fierce competition, where we'd wind up not even managing to make the Petite Final, which is really disappointing, given all the stress of traveling. Also, sunburns aplenty, and obnoxious Southern Californianess. I think we came over from Tempe twice, and I had a slightly better time with those experiences, although pre-race training in Arizona was never quite right, and it was challenging to get everyone on the same page in terms of both training and attitudes. This was just a product of the interpersonal dynamics among coaches and rowers in Arizona, and was always fine, just not amazing.

Thankfully, this year was pretty darned great. For Saturday's race, we wound up coming in fourth in our heat, which meant that we qualified for the Grand Final, hurrah! That said - fourth place means you've barely squeaked in, and will be rowing in an outside lane, where the wind and chop are the most intense. Still. We were all pretty pleased with things. Then I learned that we'd be racing against a crew by the name of Old Glory Boat Club. I'd seen them taking their boat down to the water, but had figured they'd be racing in an Open event, not our silly little Masters Club Cup race. Silly me.

But isn't that just the amazing part about rowing? Us run-of-the-mill rowers still get to rub elbows with our country's Olympic champions. Just imagine "Rowing Goddesses," and you'll have the right mental image: tall, lithe, strong. They're all at least a foot taller than me, if not more, and pure grace and muscle.

Our row in the Grand Final on Sunday morning wasn't fantastic. Somehow we'd lost some of the crispness that we'd had on Friday and Saturday. I was sitting in 7 seat, and the boat kept rocking down to starboard in a way where it just didn't feel like there was much I could do to fix things. The instability throws off the precise timing, which makes it harder to apply power, and things get into an annoying feedback loop where the poor timing causes even more instability. The wind was also stronger on Sunday morning, and so in the outside lane, we had to fight a lot of chop, and the boat felt extra heavy. And during our sprint, the novice rower in the boat caught a mini-crab. Ah well. At least there were a few brief moments where we could feel that we were capable of getting the boat to move well and without undue effort.

But there wasn't too much time to dwell on our struggles, because we had another race coming up: the Women's Masters B event, where we'd be racing only crews in our same age category. (In the Masters Club Cup, we raced crews of all ages, which meant having to try and beat a crew that had a 51-second handicap on us.) Due to some scheduling conflicts, we had to make changes to our lineup and swap in one new rower. That meant that I got moved from 7 seat all the way back to bow seat. Quite a change!

All things told, it was a great change. From bow seat, I was able to actually make a difference in terms of the boat's set (balance). As I said to my friend S after our race, "In bow seat, I've...SEEN Things." That is to say, I came to understand at least some of the reasons why I was struggling from 7 seat: starboard timing was all over the place. BUT - this of course gets back to an important point: I wasn't there to coach in the boat, nor would coaching in the boat fix things right before a race. I was there to race. After observing what was going on in front of me, I could figure out how to facilitate better and more consistent set on the starboard side so that everyone could row more cleanly. This is much more easily accomplished from bow seat than 7 seat, thank goodness, just due to the physics/mechanics of how 8's work. Never overlook the importance of your bow pair (or of ANY seat, for that matter!).

So we had a great second race. We wound up coming in second out of 5 boats, a good distance behind the team from whom we'd borrowed the boat, but nicely ahead of the remaining competition. Given that this was a scratch crew and none of the other rowers had been on the water much ahead of the race*, hey, it was a good row.

More than anything, it was fun to be back in a big boat for a spell. While I'm not in the best shape of my life, I was able to successfully power through the 2ks, and it was nice to have someone else do the steering and thinking. I feel as though my efforts over the last two months have been moving me in a positive direction in terms of overall fitness and well-being. I have a good aerobic base to work with, and I know I can get even faster if I keep at it. I still want to get a bit more organized about my training, but a good regatta like this one keeps me motivated to get up at o-dark-thirty.

*The team is from Chicago, so they're still frozen off the water this time of year. Meanwhile, all the California crews can row year-round. It's no wonder the national team has a big training center in California.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1216230.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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