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Rowing My 1st Regatta -or- Going from Dead Last to 1st Place, Rocky Style

'woo-hoo moment'
just after we crossed the finish line

I started rowing lessons last August, and have been something of an addict ever since. I love being on the water, and though I may freeze my derriere now and again - I've never loved exercising this much in my life. Regular workouts are always a chore, and dead boring - rowing is anything but.

Speaking of butts, since the new year our coach(es) have been thoroughly kicking ours to prep us for the Green Lake Spring Regatta on March 20th. It's a 1,000 meter race; a short 4 minutes rowed at a fairly high intensity. By the end of it, your legs are jello and you want to die. 

(photo courtesy of Amanda Korte, fellow Lake Union Crew member) 

I've had several friends (who haven't seen me since I moved to Seattle) ask, in an alarmed voices, if I was getting 'all butch'. They're surprised to find out that this type of rowing is almost all in the legs. You sit in the boat backwards on a sliding seat, once you slide up towards your feet, you drop the oar in the water and shove with your legs, your arms act as levers while the blade drives through the water, until the end of the stroke when momentum does most of the work pulling the oar to your body. So no... I'm not turning into a female Schwarzenegger; you guys can relax.

(photo courtesy of Amanda Korte) 

But back to the Regatta...we'd all been up since the wee hours of the morning, since we had to be at the lake to unload boats, oars and other equipment at 5:30 that morning (um, ahck!) I, along with three others, raced a quad at 7:20 - we were frozen, nervous and we came in dead last. We followed a more winding course than our (seemingly) narrow lane really allowed, and probably rowed something more like 1400 meters in all; but at least it amused the driver of the motor boat that was assigned to follow our lane, as he was reportedly laughing hysterically all the while. I'm not sure any of us figured out what went so wrong, as we'd had a couple of great practices previously. Personally, I blame the nerves. That and the 5 or so 'crabs' we caught ('catching a crab' is jargon for when your oar gets stuck in the water, slowing you down & veering you off course.) Anywho, we're just going to shove that one under the rug and move on after pausing for a moment to reflect that humility is good for the soul. 

(another photo from Amanda Korte. thanks!)
from the left: me, Rebecca Ballough, Amanda Korte and Atya H.

I think some people went back home and took naps - I tried, but they were holding an auction at the house across the street from me. Outside. With a microphone. "GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE... SOLD!" Seriously. Whatever. I just laid there and concentrated on weaving a substantial mental rug...

That afternoon, we couldn't have been luckier with the weather - sunny and in the 60's with low winds, which is important when you're in a narrow low profile boat where choppy water is thine enemy. I was teamed up with 7 fantastic rowers  and 1 amazing coxswain (pronounced "coxin"; they're the captain - sitting at the back of the boat, steering and calling out orders to the rowers) for a Women's Masters 8.

from the front: Lexie (the coxswain), Lauren Simon, Natasha D., Heather Milt, Sara Lounsberry, me, Atya H., Deborah Bosket and Tara D. 

Standing around waiting can wreak havoc on one's nerves. Once in the boat, though, with oar in hand and a purpose, I relaxed; I'd learned my lesson regarding nerves, from that previous experience which is now suffocating under a very heavy rug, and which we shall never mention again. We launched a half hour before our scheduled race time so we could warm up and be ready at the other end of the lake with ten minutes to spare at the starting line.

There were two referees standing on floating platforms by the starting line. They called out orders to the three boats in our race to get us lined up evenly, "Lake Union Crew one light stroke" "Lake Washington Crew hold," etc... not an easy thing to do when you have to deal with wind, currents and whatnot. Once we were even, the ref in the middle didn't waste any time and called out 'Quickstart. Ready,' raised a red flag, and dropped it 'Row!' ... the next three and a half minutes are a blurry memory for me. I can vaguely recall one boat crossing out of their lane and I think they even narrowly missed hitting the other boat, odd. Our boat, however, was flying.

that's us on the right, the specks on the left are the next closest boat to us
crossing the finish line

It was just one of those rows, where everything worked out... one long Zen moment... not a crab in sight and the other boat kept receding from view. Once we crossed the finish line, we had only a few strokes before we had to stop - or risk running into the docks. At that point, we're all panting for breath, half of us are attempting high fives, there's a few "woo hoo's" and a couple of people are laying over their oars in a semi-stupor while the crowd on the shore cheered.

Turns out that I wasn't hallucinating about that wayward boat - the ref called an interference, and awarded both our boat and the boat that got interfered with, 1st place. It's all good. I think this is probably the first medal I've ever gotten (I tend to avoid competition); funny how it can totally make your day ;) 

(photo courtesy of Amanda Korte)
Clockwise from the left: Atya H., Heather Milt, Sara Lounsberry, Lauren Simon, Me, Perry Estevenin (coach), Lexie, Natasha D., Tara D. 
{note: unfortunately missing from this photo is our 2 seat rower, Deborah Bosket, where'd ya go?}

Pardon me while I go nail down that rug...


  1. Great story - I love your writing style, girl!

  2. Lexie! She's from Holy Names. Love her. Great pics, great post. Thank you!

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