Sunday, November 19, 2006

Frustration & exhaustion

I rowed my last races of the season today.

In my rowing career up until last weekend, I'd only rowed one head race on any given day. 3 miles all out is enough for one day. The last two weekends I've gone twice.

The first race is fine and fun and hard and challenging. But it's the second that leaves me well aware that the biceps, every muscle in my back, and my quads and glutes did a lot of work. Which, I'm realizing, is a welcome sensation, because it makes me so happy just to take a shower, or to eat, or to get in bed and snuggle in. Exhaustion makes one appreciate the little things in life.

My races were both frustrating. My men's 8+ race was with a great crew. 4 of the 8 of us were in my boat that won in San Diego. One of my favorite teammates, who I describe to others as sort of the Shao-Lin monk of rowing, opted to jump in. He's intense, of few words, and, like Yoda in Episode II, capable of shifting from quiet and serene into precisely controlled violence when he's got an oar in his hand. Man can move boats.

Our start was awesome, 32, settling to a 30, hitting splits on the stroke coach in the 1:20's for a few brief moments before settling down to cruise at 1:35 splits.

The thing I like about head races is that strategy and tactics matter. Good coxswains can win you a race by steering a great course. And this was about as Formula 1 as head race courses come. Many sharp turns. And 8's are meant to go very fast in a straight line.

The problem was that our coxswain steered a rather mediocre course. He had us off the course, over the buoy line at one point without any reason. Then when we caught my team's older 8+ in front of us, who steered wide on a bad turn, we ended up steering even wider, and going from 3 seats of overlap to a length and a half down. And taking three buoys. We eventually clawed our way back to even, and then ahead by the end. But the damage was done.

Which is too bad, because my crew was very good. Very stable boat, very powerful and together, very conscientious of being sharp and delicate. And a racing crew. No one held back.

In my mixed race, we again started brilliantly. Last week we took second, and missed first by seven seconds when the same coxswain, again, had put us on the outside of this enormous turn for about 2000 meters. The crew that won last week was behind us today, and younger than my boat. We held them off for the first half of the race, rowing a 30 and holding 1:39 splits. Damn fast. But then, on a tight turn, our cox lost the inside, and the crew behind us came through.

And then someone in my boat stopped pulling. The splits came up to 1:49, and even 1:50's. I had to shift the rate down to a 28 just to get us on a 1:47 pace.

I was pissed. Yes, the women in my boat had just finished their prior race, so I know it was going to be hard on them with near zero recovery time. But you just don't give up. There are 8 other people in the boat. You owe it to them to push as hard as you can. I sure hurt, and I went for it. My heart rate was over 180 for almost the entire race. I can usually only handle being that high for 7-8 minutes. Not 17. But I did it.

After the race, the woman in 5 seat admitted she hit the wall at the half way mark. Grrr. At least she admitted it. Just sucked for the rest of us to drag her ass across the finish line.

My team didn't do well. I want us to be the dominating club on the West, and we placed well, but didn't win many of the races I wanted us to win. So tomorrow I'm going to the boat house in the morning, and beginning my erg training for next spring. Time to do the work to be fast.