Monday, October 27, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Makes Her Way Down the Charles
Ah, the Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR). The pinnacle of the fall racing season. Three miles upstream on the Charles, through seven bridges, nearly a full circle of turns, on a narrow course, and more than half the entrants get rejected in a lottery system as it is just so popular they can't hold all the space! And that was before they cut the entry numbers by 5% this year, as it was still getting too crowded. Lizzie and I raised a whole lot of money for charity to get an entry, and had been training for this since March. The problem was..... well, the problems werer numerous. For starters, there is no club event in the double at the Head of the Charles, which is a bit of a pain as there is a club event for every other category. You have to qualify for the club events, mostly by NOT being on the national squad for the last few years, not going to the Olympics for the last six years, not finishing in the top three spots at the Head of the Charles for a couple years, no recent Pan Am games, World championships, that sort of thing. As I said, there is no club double for some reason. So those 18 Olympians and national squad members were just lying there in bite sized chunks, waiting for us. And don't forget to go back and re-read those past few entries here. Lizzie's broken nose. My cracked ribs. And as if that wasnt' enough, two days before the race Lizzie got a nasty infection in her hand. She got IV antibiotics, but while waiting for them to clear her hand was so swollen that by the day before the race she could neither bend or straighten her fingers. I confess, I completely stressed about it. Would she be able to row? If God forbid she couldn't, should I find another partner or just pack it in? Ordinarily, I would say pack it in even though it was the Head of the Charles, as Lizzie is my doubles partner and there is a bond there that shouldn't be sold out at the first opportunity. The issue for me was the money raised. People had in effect paid for us to do this, and it seemed morally wrong to let them down, particularly as we weren't talking about a small amount of cash. But quite frankly, who really cared about rowing when we were talking about Liz's health? That was without question the overriding issue. Gack. Complete stress. Not enough medication!

Being down and being dockmaster on Saturday afternoon didn't help. It was much easier this year than in year's past. but what is it with people sometimes? Why some guy felt the need to give me an obscene gesture and get belligerent with my crew I'll never know. Threatened with a penalty, the crew he was "helping" (he wasn't even a coach - he was two seat's boyfriend, and by all accounts will never be allowed anywhere near a dock in a regatta again), made him apologize but for goodness sakes! The crew in question, it must be said, was a set of some of the nicest women I've come across and it was a horrid feeling to even have to threaten a penalty. They were stunned, and they seemed ready to club him into submission had he not agreed to apologize. Poor things. I think this sort of problem of association has happened to all of us at one point or another.

The good news is that Melbourne University Boat Club, who had been staying with us (well, two of them stayed, but most of them came in and out and it must be said were most excellent houseguests. We're looking forward to having htem back next year.) WON the Club 8+ on Saturday by a good thirteen second margin. Well done MUBC! There was much jumping around and screaming when I found this out and it really felt good. Huzzah! Huzzah! CRI men came in eighth, and within five percent of the winning time which gives them a guaranteed entry for next year. Wonderful.

Then came Sunday. Nerves a-blazing but with our race not until 2:55 in the afternoon, Team Milhouse went for breakfast with the great Osterman, who is the best person to have with you prior to a regatta, as we had discovered at the Head of the Connecticut. Part coach, part Mom, experienced rower but with out the emotional baggage that goes along with any of those things prior to a race, Kate organizes gear, pins numbers, double checks water bottles, the whole thing. Breakfast with Kate was great. Liz's hand was checking out - she'd be able to row although it was going to hurt like a mutha. You have to admire that kind of commitment. And again, as has previously been examined in these posts, you have to wonder where commintment ends and insanity begins. Although such examination could wait until later. The race was on!

Rowing down to the start started off well. We got into the groove, but then we got to the finish line where everyone was turning around to head back to Magazine Beach and the start. Chaos, and it throws you off your stride. But we took our time and made it down with just the right amount of time. Note to organizers, the new traffic pattern at the start either needs to be better signed or better patrolled or just plain re-thunk. It looked good on paper, but didn't work so well in practice. But we made it into our line up to sit and wait for not so long actually when we discovered that our bow number had fallen off. In fact, we picked it up out of the river as it drifted past us. No way to put it back on while on the river. Damn. Minute penalty, that. Nothing to do about it then, but we were off through the start. It was an, um, well, errrrr, interesting race. Yet again, another boat tried to run us over. But our now well developed sense of self-preservation led to Liz steering it just right. They couldn't master the turns, so our course was very much "here they come again!" and "look out, they're coming back!" and "once more for good measure!" Bleh. But we kept our cool. The second boat was a bit less predictable (it is somehow easier to predict the very worst steering boats - you know they're going to whap you, you just don't know when, so the tactic is always be waiting for it. So there was a little oar overlap there, but they thanked us for our good steering at the end so we feel good about that. The problem was more that we kept losing our focus. Hardly suprising. The good news is we kept getting it back. Our bad bits were truly awful, but the good bits and indeed there were some, were some of the best rowing we have done all season. We struck a really good 27 beats a minute comign out of Anderson (to loud Aussie cheers!) that was impressive. But then we nearly hit JFK street bridge, so that wasn't so impressive.

On straight time, we were amazed to find out we didn't finish last even though it was our worst time over the course by minutes. Sadly, that bow marker penalty dropped us to last. Ah well, it iwill never happen again. Now we know better.

Next episode: recoup, recover, and relax.

Friday, October 24, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Frets Her Way Through Recoverystrong>
This morning when I bicycled to work, it was snowing. That's even earlier this year than usual. But I guess it is officially a harbinger of winter, and with winter starts (but only starts) to spell the end of on water rowing practice. We've really ended it due to the fact that racing season is over and we need a bit of time to heal. Heal from broken noses, two cracked ribs, and an infected hand. But I progress too quickly. You know about the broken nose already, let me go on to the ribs.

Our first race of the season was the Head of the Textile, which we were looking forward to with great enthusiasm. Then we found out that we had registered for the Open Double rather than the Club Double. This was because we hadn't realized there was a club double, and as such we didn't bother to sign up for it. There were four boats in the Open - ours and three others. The first one ran us over 20 strokes from the start. When I say ran us over, I mean what I say - their bow overlapped our stern by at least 8 inches. This is despite us being on the bouy line with no where to move but in their way. Not that it mattered - they never looked over. We filed a protest at the end of the race, and were vindicated, but I have to say it threw us off our stride rather. But we picked it up and moved on, with the offending boat ahead of us. Then we went to pass the boat that had started ahead of us. This proved to be tricky. Not because they were fast - they were slower than molasses in January, but rather because they couldn't steer to save their lives. Or, as it turned out, my ribs. Their course was roughly that of the Super G slalom. And they took a stem Christie turn just as we were passing them, and rammed us from the starboard side. Miraculously, they didn't break our oar, but they did catch my oar and move it with their boat, slamming it into my chest with enough force that the handle edge cracked two of my ribs. We kept going. I mean, we had to row back to the finish line anyway to land, and I didn't realize that the pain was just going to get worse. But it did. The pain, that is. The water conditions also got progressively worse as well. And the only other boat in our race was eventually going to pass us as they were fast, but they couldn't steer well enough to stay on the course OR decide which side to pass us on either. It was exceptionally nerve wracking - neither of us wanted to get hit again. First they were on port side, then starboard side, the port side again (outside the bouys), then back on the course on starboard side. Finally, they pushed us over to the bouys and kept on trying to push us, so I told them to move over. They told us to move over. I lost my temper as I just wasn't going to be rammed again. "YOU HAVE TO MOVE TO THE CENTER LINE!" I screamed. But I have to say that I also put three (possibly more) strong explitives into that rather short sentence. It worked to get them to move over, but I have to say I was ashamed of myself. Panic is never pretty. The ribs, it turns out, were cracked. They hurt, but I'll heal.

Somehow, we had to regroup for the next race, which was the next Sunday in Connecticut. Aptly, it was named Head of the Connecticut. I don't think either Lizzie or I had the confidence we could pull it together after such a disasterous Textile. And Head Conn is not my favorite race in the world - it is an extra half mile on the other races and the course is a bit tricky. But I have come to Jesus and seen the light that is the joy of the Head of the Connecticut regatta. Lizzie steered a great race, and we rowed pretty well for us. It was truly a fun experience. A bit amazing in that in my view from the stern, I watched six boats after us go off the course severely and in fact they had to be rallied back on the course by a marshall and YET no bouy penalties were awarded. Shocking, and it would have moved us up in the standings. But never mind. We still had fun, and seeing as it rained so hard we collected an inch of water in our boat during the race, that is an amazing feat in and of itself.

Which brings us up to the Head of the Charles. But I have other work to do right now, chickadees, so I will leave that til later.
Anna the Slowly Returning

Friday, October 17, 2003

In Which Our Heroine Forgets to Slow the Heck DownHello there sports fans. A bigger recap will be forthcoming. Highlights to include:

* Racing! With blood, gore, two crashes, swearing and two cracked ribs!
* Houseguests! Two mothers, two Australian strangers, a long lost but re-found a friend and the gift of a food processsor.
* Work! And lots of it! And a near-sacking! (But I somehow pulled it out of the fire.)
* School! And my apparent incarnation there as some sort of religious zealot! (Who knew? News to me.)
* Construction! Missing walls, rebuilt walls, ceilings, painting, trim and the quest for where on earth to put all these plants and tress in the meantime!
* And last but not least, baseball, baseball, baseball! Although now that the Red Sox lost the ALCS, that's over for the season. I won't watch much of the World Series, but I"m rooting for the Marlins due to my long held beliefs that I cheer for the Red Sox and whoever is playing the dreaded Yankees.

More Monday peeps.
Your long lost Anna