row2k Features
Offseason Training -- Bondage Runs, Merciless Videos, and Trading Coxswains by the Pound
February 13, 2002
Rob Colburn

"It's 5:45 am, there's ice on the water, so we're going for a bondage run."

Your rowers may have been barely awake before, but eyes begin to open on that one, as the lengths of rope on the boathouse floor begin to convince them that maybe -- just maybe -- they heard you right the first time. Running five miles tied together around the waist is excellent reinforcement in cooperation and the idea that in rowing everyone crosses the finish line together. It's also an opportunity for team leaders to emerge...especially when you make them tie the knots (apparently a lost art) themselves. The two groups of rowers have five minutes to arrange whatever formation they think will make them faster - time enough for some joker in Group B to tie one end of Group A's rope to a fire extinguisher bracket while Group A's attention is distracted wrangling over the size of the loops.

"My private life is my own, thank you; you are NOT tying me to [name withheld on request]."

"Hey! That's a slipknot. You trying to cut me in half?"

"No it isn't; it's a bowline with two half hitches and a sheepshank."

"Riighht. What's a sheepshank?"

"Make sure BOTH of Curt's shoes are tied. No, to HIM."

"Stuff the rest of the rope in your pants and let's GO!"

"D'you think we can draft off them?"

The two groups finally get their knitting sorted out and lope off along the path beside some cornfields. Group A has put its faster runners at the wings of an inverted V, pulling the slower runners like drayhorses on a beer wagon, with their coxswain (a fairly fast runner) at the tail of the V shouting encouragement and doing whatever coxswains do when they're not steering. The formation works fine until they come to a dip in the path filled with water about 8 feet wide and almost twenty feet long. The two parallel arms of the V divide neatly to pass on either side, and the coxswain -- his view suddenly unobscured by the runners in front of him -- comes to two significant and horrifying realizations. One: there is not enough slack in the rope for him to pull to either side; two: it's much too far for him to leap.

"Guys? Hey guys? No, wait!...WAAGHHH!"



Video session that afternoon recorded at previous practices. Rewinding and forwarding from rower to rower, critiquing (mercilessly -- the camera sees all). Fast forward to the bow seat, rewind to Stroke for comparison, and forward to the bow seat again. Voice from the back of the room: "Hey! Coach, you're spoiling the ending!"



Two days later, when the ice has melted enough to go on the water, you appoint two boat captains and let them choose their own lineups (almost as good as seat racing for finding out which rowers are perceived to move the boats fastest). The captain of Group A deviously chooses both coxswains in a bid to force captain B to trade away his first round pick later.

"Yeah, so? You'll look pretty foolish trying to move a boat with a 120 pound coxswain in the bow."

"'Least it'll move. How you going to move a boat with no coxswain at all?"

"I'll cox!" the 190 lb 5 seat chirps, trying to be helpful.

"The hell you will. Go over to them."

"I'm the weakest link?"

"No, you're coxswain bait."

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