Anyone who has ever participated in a sport knows the feeling…the pre-competition nerves that take over on the eve of competition. The knots in your stomach, knots that tighten each time you think about your competitors. You try to distract yourself with television, a movie, or a book. Nevertheless, your mind wanders back to the battle you have before you.
If you are a rower, you definitely know this feeling. You lay in bed on Thursday night, after the days practice with a gallon of water by your side in an endless attempt to hydrate. You think about past races and what you could have done better then. The memory of every race is vivid. You recount every stroke you took and how it could have been better. You rethink the day’s practice. Was it your best? Would your best stroke be good enough? Tomorrow is Friday, only one outing left before race-day.
Friday afternoon the waiting continues. You have finished your last practice as a boat and the waiting continues. This is what the last year boils down to, this is what all the erg sessions and early mornings are aimed at. The thousands of kilometers, the thousands of reps in the weight room all boil down to these two days of races. The knots tighten…again. You sit with your boat and discuss your race plan. You think about your competition and how you stack up. All of you are pumped and ready to put your best race forward and leave everything on the water.
You get back to bed and try to sleep. The knots tighten and the thoughts flash: “What if my best is not good enough?” “What if my cleanest strokes are not clean enough?” “What if my longest strokes are not long enough?” Then again, what if they are. What if your best race is untouchable by the rest of the field? What if the other boats in your heat? Thoughts of gold medals bring you peace of mind as you drift off to sleep.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Race day.
You’re up before the sun yet again. This time you rise before the rest of your boat-mates. As you wander over to the sink in hotel room you look yourself in the mirror and you know you are ready. You dawn your team colors and pack your book sack. The rest of your boat-mates stagger out of their rooms and you all pile into the van. Off you go to the racecourse.
The van executes the last turn and you find yourself face to face with the finish line. Your heart skips a beat. The finish line either releases you of the pain of the race or catapults you into the euphoria of victory. You looking down the eight-lane course and realize how long 1.25 miles really is. Then you think of how many races you have done before this and you are overcome with a wave of confidence.
Once at your trailer, your boat splits up to perform the last of your pre-race preparations alone. Ear-buds beat and leg muscles are stretched. An hour until the race, and we all gather for one last meeting. We check our boat for the tenth time until the call breaks the silence: “hands-on”. We carry the boat past other crews and officials, down onto the dock. With the hull in the water and our oars in the locks, all doubt and fear you had been experiencing fleet. We are all anxious to get out on the water. We know we are ready. Off we go, to conclude all the hard work we put in. Off we go to leave everything on the water. Off we go to race our best race.