With another Fall's-worth of learning to row in the books at teams across the sport, row2k decided to catch up with a handful of newly-minted collegiate rowers who found themselves 'In the Novice Seat' this past semester, joining our weird and wonderful sport.
We asked about the whole experience, but maybe our favorite question: what is the strangest thing in crew that rowers find totally normal?
First up is Ryan Millham, a sophomore at the University of Michigan who took his first strokes with the Wolverine Men this fall.
We hope you enjoy reading about Ryan's recent experiences-—and maybe get to remember a few of your own—-of hopping In the Novice Seat
row2k - How did you find out you could walk-on to rowing at your school?
Ryan Millham- Last year I was approached by the team as a freshmen, when they were recruiting around the campus. At the time, college was new to me so I didn’t think much of it and instead spent my time adjusting to my new environment. This year, however, I was looking for something out of my comfort zone and to push me, so when the team once again approached me on the central Diag on campus, I decided to give it a shot.
row2k - What is the best part of the sport—-or your team—-so far?
Ryan Millham - The best part of the team, and the sport, is how competitive it can be. Everything we do is a competition, and it drives me to do whatever I can to improve. Whether we are racing on the water or side by side on our ergs, there is always someone beside me, holding me up to a greater standard than I could otherwise achieve.
row2k - What has been the hardest thing to learn or 'get right' so far?
Ryan Millham - So far, the hardest thing to learn has been managing expectations. I expect the very best out of myself, and whenever I have an off day, I can take it as an indication that I have not worked hard enough or am not mentally tough enough. It can be discouraging to fly and die on an erg test because I expect myself to go faster than my body is ready for on that particular day. It’s been a challenge to learn that not every day can be a personal best.
row2k - What has been your favorite workout in rowing, and what has been the hardest rowing workout you’ve done?
Ryan Millham - The most brutal workout I have done so far might be a 12k. It was my first exposure to the erg as I pulled it in preparation for the team tryout, and when I was 8K deep, I was seriously questioning my life choices. After I finished, I’d love to tell you I felt incredible, but honestly, everything hurt as my body was not accustomed to the training yet.
My favorite single workout in rowing might be the 2x6k. Because it is an interval, the break/finish doesn’t feel that far away, but it still allows you to push past the pain barrier and settle into a strong rhythm and pull stronger than what I thought I could do.
row2k - Can you tell us a bit about your previous sport(s)? What is the biggest difference about rowing?
Ryan Millham - I played goalie in lacrosse throughout high school, which was about as far away from rowing as possible. I trained for explosive agility and quick reaction times; you might notice that neither of those attributes helps when I am deep into a race.
Rowing is much more about endurance, mental toughness, and trust in your teammates that they are working as hard as you. When I was in goal, it was up to me, and just me, to save the ball.
row2k - What is the weirdest thing you’ve encountered in the sport that rowers find “normal”?
Ryan Millham - How rowers treat stress fractures and bloodied hands as a foregone conclusion of the sport. I swear some people are sociopaths trying to recover as soon as possible just to sit on an erg and fight through more and more pain. I guess that speaks to the sport's draw and the addictive effect it has on many people.
Thank you to Ryan--and the Michigan coaching staff--for taking the time to share what it's like to be In the Novice Seat, and we wish Ryan the best through the winter and into his novice racing season next spring.