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What I Have Learned About Rowing
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Not in Oklahoma anymore . . .

Trish Downing

September 1, 2011
As I sat in my boat at the launch yesterday and looked down into the turquoise water, I could see all the way down to the bottom of the lake. “I’m not in Oklahoma anymore, I thought.” Long gone is the brown Oklahoma river and replaced with this pristine body of water. In every direction you turn, all you notice is the natural beauty of Lake Bled. Surrounded by trees and mountains, there could not be a more amazing setting for this race. But, as Muff pushed me off the dock, my surroundings were little consolation for the anxiety that was building inside of me. But, strangely enough, those feelings didn’t have much to do with the actual competition, but more about would I do everything correctly and following procedure? There are traffic lane rules out on the course for warming up, pulling up to the start docks and getting there on time, getting into the best starting position and stroking off in a straight line. These are all things the newbie has to contend with and I was no different. But soon, each country and lane was announced, then the word “attention” and the red stoplight in front my eyes turned to green and we were off.

In my mind, I break my race into four 250m sections, so I don’t get overwhelmed thinking about the full 1000m. The first is for getting off the line and building power. The second is where I get into my rhythm, the third is a big test of how well I can sustain my chosen rhythm/pace and the fourth, if possible, I want to pick it up for the finish. During my first race, it went pretty well, except a few missed strokes and no pick-up in the end (because I was dead), but every race is experience and I felt good about my first effort. When I finished that race and was cooling down and heading back to the launch, I was assessing how racing in rowing was like or different than the sports I have competed in, in the past. For me, it’s nothing like triathlon, other than breaking the race down in parts and not thinking of the end while you’re some place in the middle. As in, don’t think about the run when you’re on the swim or don’t think about the 4th 250 when you’re on the second. Things like that. But in terms of how I feel when I am racing and when I am done, it reminds me of track cycling—specifically, the pursuit event. What  I remember about doing pursuit races both on my single bike and as a tandem pilot, there was such a specific and intense mixture of pain and euphoria at the end of the race, that I have not felt since and definitely don’t feel doing triathlons. Part of it is that there is no coasting in rowing. No, let-me-take-a break-for-a-second-and-recover.  It’s go, go, go once you start.  I guess it’s the sprint kind of pain where your lungs burn and you’re muscles feel this gripping soreness, like you’ve pushed all of the power out of them and they just want to wilt. It’s hard to explain in words, but I loved having that feeling because it reminded me of being back on the track bike when all I wanted to do after the race was stop pedaling but you couldn’t ( because for one, you’d get thrown over the handle bars) because your legs would just seize up if you didn’t keep them moving. It’s a satisfying, if painful feeling and it makes you realize you put it all out there. And, not only was it satisfying, but I think that was truly the first moment in my rowing  journey that I realized I could actually fall in love with this sport. 

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