When Everett Rowing Association junior rowers resumed training this year, Juliet Kirk, a 17-year old senior attending Snohomish High School, joined her teammates in getting used to rowing the single exclusively.
Kirk noted that transitioning into the single had been a challenge, although she admitted she had the benefit of having rowed in the Varsity Quad in her sophomore year.
The team had been in singles since late summer, however, and Everett coaches Brian Wagner and Pat Secor had prepared the rowers for a good go at the 4702 distance, Kirk said.
"Our coaches Brian Wagner (Head Coach) and Pat Secor (Assistant coach) thoroughly prepared us for HOCR. They had us doing 4072 meter erg tests when we thought we were going to compete in the erg category, and once we learned we could participate on water, they had the team racing our home regatta course of 5k meters every Saturday."
The squad had done the 4702m distance on Thursday Oct 15 in "awful conditions," Kirk noted. On Saturday morning, Kirk's group was heading out to do 1-minute pieces when a team member noticed the water moving pretty quickly.
"A teammate, Lucy Nault, pointed out the rivers speed, and my coach quickly erased the workout plan and replaced our 1-minute pieces with another go at HOCR," Kirk recalls.
"We are on a tidal river and had some variable currents the week of the event," Wagner recalled. "Some of the pieces didn't work out so well, but that day we had an outgoing tide and a little extra water in the river from a recent rain."
Kirk said she was concentrating on preparing for the piece, so did not really notice the conditions as she rowed to the start. The team assigns the start order in order of increasing speed, which Kirk enjoys.
"I like this method because it gives a tangible target for me to keep my eye on, in this case, a male teammate who I tried to keep up with," she said. The piece started, and Kirk got to work.
The course on the Snohomomish from rowingtracker.com
"I could tell the boat was moving way faster than normal but to my surprise the current didn’t take any weight off the oar," she recalls. "Contrary to my belief that the current would ease some of the pain, it felt as if it was a normal race, with the normal pain and the normal feel of time never seeming to end. Looking back, the race was short, but it is in my experience that if you’re pulling your hardest any distance race feels the same."
Once the boats were put away, the coaches checked in with Kirk.
"Looks like you won," Wagner said.
Kirk assumed she won among the girls group, but Wagner filled her in.
"No, you won the whole thing," she recalls Wagner saying.
"I immediately chuckled because I thought there was no way that that was true, but when the assistant coach (Secor) came over and started saying inspirational quotes, which is what he does in times of success, I knew there was some possibility for this unlikely win."
And when the bytes settled in the HOCR4702 a couple days later, Kirk's had won the "whole" HOCR4702 event as well, as her time of 16:29.4 was the fastest time in all categories of women's single in the entire HOCR4702.
Kirk wasn't the only one who showed speed in that session; Makayla Tuley took third 3rd in the Women's U17 event, and the program overall took five of the top 13 in the Women's U17 water event, and six of the top 10 in the Women's youth water event. Wagner did note that not all of the ERA rowers had the benefit of rowing in those conditions.
"Being able to compete, even just for fun, and seeing our names on the leader board of such a great regatta has been a morale booster for the kids, as It has been difficult with all the restrictions," Wagner said.
Kirk expressed thanks for the chance to give the HOCR4072 a go.
"I have taken from this experience gratitude of my coaches and teammates for pushing everyone to seize every opportunity to get faster and their supportive push for me to succeed."
Meanwhile, some distance northwest even of Kirk and her crewmates in the Pacific Northwest - as in 1500 miles northwest - Janet Curran and her teammates Jessica Willis, Shelly Andresen, and Julie Truskowski at the Anchorage Rowing Association struck out on Sand Lake in Anchorage to stake out their own 4702 meter piece.
Sand Lake is a few strokes longer than 1000 meters measured, well, sand to sand, and a straightaway on a following current was not on the docket. Of course, no enterprising Anchorage rower would be stopped by such details.
The loops on Sand Lake from rowingtracker.com
And it wouldn't be the trickiest detail they would face that day.
Sand Lake is the club's home water, and they store shells from singles to eights in an outdoor shell pen consisting of a chain-link fence around racks in a small public park, Curran relates. The club holds regular, coached masters, novice, and junior practices, and while the lake is too small for formal races, they host sprint races at the annual Moose Nugget Regatta in Wasilla. Curran adds that the other active rowing organization in Alaska, the Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club in Seward, hosts a head race.
"For this row, we couldn't trailer boats anywhere because the team boats were already stored on the trailers for the winter, and traveling for a row was also not wise in our pandemic status," Curran said. "That made laps on Sand Lake our best option!"
Jessica Willis, Janet Curran, Shelly Andresen, and Julie Truskowski (photo by Jessica Willis)
They picked a day with air temps in the 40s, water temps getting down toward the 40s - "nothing remarkably cold that day" - that was ' sunny and windless - the water was dead flat, glassy calm,"
Curran said that club members are used to the turns, and offered her strategy for the 4702 meter row.
"The turns were designed to just fit into the available space, and the ease of the turn depends on the boat design and whether it has a rudder," she said. "The best strategy is to wait as long as possible to minimize the number of turns, avoid docks, and use the widest spots on the lake. Most of us who have rowed with the team for years are well-acquainted with these turns, but they are always a bit nerve-wracking."
And with good reason; in addition to close call with bushes on one of the turns, a close call with a sea plane was of greater concern.
"We all heard a plane start up and worried we'd have to stop," Curran relates. "The floatplanes belong to homeowners around the lake, so there's no regular schedule, and they are under control of the airport traffic control, so they have to depart when given clearance. They have a hard time seeing what's right in front of them when they are on the water, so we definitely yield to them."
Circles, cool temps, and air traffic are all just part of the fun for Curran.
"We were happy to have a reason to extend our season a little and get some racing in, even if it was just laps around our small home lake."
Julie Truskowski, Shelly Andreson (in the single), and Janet Curran (photo by Jessica Willis)
Jessica Willis (photo by Janet Curran)