It's July, and it's been nine months since I was last in a boat. It's been approximately 38 weeks since Head Of The Charles 2019, and there's 14 weeks until Head Of The Charles 2020 (supposedly, mind COVID-19).
And yet, this morning, I woke up in a familiar sweat due to what I call the "Head Of The Charles stress dream."
Fellow coxswains may know it well. It typically occurs in the week or so leading up to Head Of The Charles, prompted by hours spent pouring over maps, notes, videos, recordings, and even one time Google Street View, trying to memorize every bridge, turn, boathouse, and important tree along the course in order to hopefully avoid disaster on race day.
Similar to the classic nightmare of arriving at school or work and realizing you've forgotten to put on pants, my Head Of The Charles stress dream often takes the form of arriving in Boston and realizing I've completely forgotten to study the course. Sometimes, it's combined with a missing skeg. Most recently, I was trying to navigate my way down the course sitting backwards in a bow-coxed eight, destroying all other boats in my path.
One or two of these make sense the night before the race. But why does Head Of The Charles continue to haunt me into the summer? Psychoanalysis welcome.
Maybe it's because, deep down, I'm still working through the trauma of racing full speed towards the Weeks turn almost touching blades with the crew next to me one year or getting hit from behind under Anderson Bridge another. Maybe it's because I just can't erase the many days I spent sitting in class, drawing maps of the course from scratch instead of taking lecture notes.
Or, maybe the return of the Head Of The Charles stress dream is my subconscious' way of expressing the anxiety we all feel about the uncertainty of this moment. From the apocalyptic weather in the Basin to the 90-degree turns, much of 2020 has felt like a typical row on the Charles – you never know when the next collision will be.
Ironically, because of this, whether or not Head Of The Charles will happen this year is now up in the air amidst the pandemic [editor's note: the Charles has since decided to stage a 'global remote event']. Regatta organizers plan to announce a decision by the end of this month, meanwhile my school, Williams College, and the NESCAC as a whole has cancelled all fall sports.
I'm realizing, despite my recurring stress dreams, the only thing worse than showing up at Head Of The Charles with no skeg, no maps, and no rain pants, is no season at all.
Rebecca Tauber is a coxswain at Williams College. She likes the Schuylkill more than the Charles.