‘Tis the Season to be Bored

Spring is upon us. Crews all over my Instagram feed are hitting the water or making preparations. Or they’re in Florida so they never stopped water training. Jealous.

This has been my first year with true winter training. February sucked. Every day blended into the next. Yet another erg. *Sigh.

At least I made gains.

Rowing is equally tough physically and mentally. Beating the inner wimp into submission and whole-heartedly jumping on the session is a necessary evil. I learned a lot about boxing with the inner voice in February.

The problem now, being March, is I know water days are around the corner. But most of my rowing training will still be erging, because baby. I will have to find a way to stay inspired while everyone else posts pretty sunrise photos over the water.

So, on this blog day, sitting down for another long session, a 15k piece, at the same erg, the same window…it’s mentally tiring. I understand why northern crews escape South for spring break training.


Sometimes I count how many semi-trucks go by on the Interstate during an interval.

I am looking forward to breaking the monotony with more cross-training. For the last week of March I plan to take an erg break. Workouts will be other stuff. Keeping weightlifting, but maybe some more spinning, swimming, classes.

Don’t misunderstand me. I have been doing some cross training, but it’s still inside. The walls are still orange, the same lifting nerds are dropping cleans, and the parking lot hasn’t moved.

It’s much easier to do outside work like bicycling with baby in the spring than when the high is 34F. That, and his helmet finally fits. Bonus points: resistance training!

Only six months, two weeks to go…

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I PR’d so Hard!

I knew for about three weeks I would be doing a 2k test at the end of February to establish a sprint baseline. I didn’t change my monthly training objective to prepare, but based on my 5k test and numbers during workout, I felt confident I could pull a 2:02-2:03.

But beforehand, I felt stupidly nervous. Question after question spun around. “Could I PR? What if I tank? What if I’m not as fast as I think? If I break 8, could I make a unicorn boat?” And then the answers. “It’s just a baseline. You’re just seeing how fast you are right now. You haven’t trained for rate or sprint speed. Just stick with your plan and see how it goes. Don’t worry about PRs. Anything is a PR right now.”

None of that helps when you’re in a downward dog pose, heart racing, palms sweaty, facing the unknown 8 minutes of pain.

I have more fingers than 2k testing experience. The programs I rowed valued on-water results more than erg testing.


Saturday morning. I’m nervous, but I have a plan. I suck down as much water as I can handle. Breakfast is a banana-chia-almond milk-protein smoothie. I wear my unicorn unisuit for motivation. At home, I foam roll. At the Y, a few minutes on the elliptical, then yoga stretches. I’m listening to “Champions” by Fall Out Boy, “Maneater,” by Nelly Furtado, and “Narcisstic Cannibal” by Korn/Skrillex. The self talk wavers back and forth. Staying calm and talking down is a challenge.

The erg is free. Warm up is picks, another quick stretching session, then the 2k warmup. This 20-minute sequence is from a rowing pal in Sarasota. It ends with you all nice and sweaty, ready to work. A brief rest to drink, inhale, and set my three erg test songs. I like my sprint tests to have driving, hardcore beats. I pick Rob Zombie, “Superfreak,” because you have to be to do a 2k test when no one’s asked you to; Korn, “Hold On,” because it’s the middle of the piece and you just need to; Ozzy Osborne, “I Don’t Wanna Stop,” because that’s what you need to hear at the end.

Set the screen. Music start. Brief interlude. Go.


The 2k is a strategy test. Rowers know the term, “fly and die.” Some, like New Zealand, opt for machine-like consistency. Many marry consistency with an all-out, leave-it-on-the-die, puke-your-guts out finish. We tend to break the test into 500s. An even four of these equals 2000m.

I opted to break the test into 400 meter increments. I started this earlier in the month when thinking about my high school track days. I’m usually at my best when everyone is dying. When coach entered me in the mile, each lap had a strategy. I visualized exactly where I would be strategically and physically in relation to my HS track according to my meters rowed. Since a 2k is one extra lap, I extended my second-lap strategy into the third. I completed a repeater 2k workout with this plan, and I really liked how this made the time pass.

For simplicity during the test, I summarized each “lap” into one word.

2000-1600: Relax.  (Let everyone else go. Find your pace and breathe.)

1600-1200: Technique. (Every 10 strokes, focus in on a tech point. Shoulders, swing, breath, leg drive)

1200-800: Persevere. (The middle. Find a number. Stay above the number.)

800-400: Go. (Half mile remains. Start picking them off, one by one.)

400-0: Accelerate. (The final push. Add power. At 200, go, go, go!)


The test goal: 2:02.5 average spilt. I felt confident I could do this because my repeater workout averaged 2:05 at an easy 24spm. Because I wanted a true baseline, I turned the units to watts and used the large font screen. I do have an inkling of how wattage translates to spilt time, but it’s different from staring at the spilt numbers the whole time.

The start showed faster numbers than I anticipated. I worried about blowing out in the back third of the test. I constantly reminded myself to relax. “You have a long way to go. Don’t get excited yet.”

But at halfway, when I didn’t hit a wall, and the numbers were staying up, I started thinking I could pull a PR. In this section of the test, the burn builds in. I had some strokes that dropped under the wattage number I picked. I struggled a bit with consistency, technically and in power application. The inner voice stayed positive. I could still make up the time in the final push.

Then it came. The last lap. I knew it was going to be good. The watts cranked higher than I expected at this stage in the game. I haven’t done much high rate work and it looked good. Oh, it burned, but what a sweet, sweet burn.

The 200 is a countdown. “You can do anything for 20 strokes.”  And then it’s over. You’re sucking wind. I didn’t need to fall off the machine this time. I rubbed my sweaty palms over my face and sweaty hair, wondering, hoping, as I hit the units button to see…

I whooped and thrust my hands in the air. The guy weightlifting next to me clearly thought I’d lost my mind.

As I said in a phone voicemail immediately after, still breathing like a serial killer, “girl, I just PR’d so hard you’re going to shit yourself.”

Rowing PR 2k testMaybe my time isn’t a big deal to you. 8:00.4/ 2:00.1 spilt. It’s a big deal to me. In two weeks, Caelan will be one year old. The bulk of my training has been getting in shape and building a base. I erged my best time ever, even before baby-six seconds faster!

I see I can, and I will, break that 8:00 milestone. Now my training will be shifting to include more anaerobic and rate work. I still have five months to improve. I can’t wait!

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Blowing Off the Dust

And a huff, and a puff, and a poof! New blog!

I have decided to dust off the ol’ rowing blog and begin documenting again the struggles of amateur mature athlete with a passion for an obscure sport training to row against other amateurs that are more talented, more dedicated, and plain fast. My latest goal is to compete in the World Rowing Masters Regatta in September 2018.

Since the last blog in 2015, there have been two big changes.

  1. I moved from the rowing mecca of Sarasota, its amazing facilities, waterways, and training pool, into what someone recently aptly described as a “gigantic void of rowing.” Lexington, Kentucky.  There are literally three locations for rowing clubs in the state of Kentucky, and all three are along or near the state’s Ohio River border: Louisville, Newport (aka Cincinnati), and Murray State at the Land Between the Lakes. There are more rowing clubs in West Virginia than Kentucky.
  2. I had a kid.  We landed in Lexington in January 2016, and in March 2017 Caelan joined the party. Talk about a major shift in your training schedule!
Baby Caelan

Baby Caelan, 11 months

It took a few months post-baby to get a rhythm going again. Plus there’s the whole issue of getting your basic body back before even thinking about competitive rowing. While I can’t train with the same intense schedule as I did in 2013, I intend to make the most of the time I can give. The good news is I have a “push present,” aka a single (more on that later), and some pretty sweet new oars. I’m training to race a Women’s A 2- and look forward to adding a few more boats.

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Now for something a bit different…

Two months later….

First erging session since the fracture rib. 4 x 4:00 at easiest damper, lower rate. Slightly tender from time to time but nothing unbearable or warning.

A good sign.

I couldn’t resist a few full pressure strokes. 😉 But otherwise, trying to take it easy.

Looking forward to being on water soon!

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Rowing snaps to a halt

The Head of the Giblet was one of my last days rowing. I just didn’t know it yet.

Right after Giblet, I followed in the footsteps of many Americans and hit the road to visit my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. By Monday afternoon, my two-year-old niece was tugging me around my Mom’s jacuzzi saying “wawa.” Tuesday the skies dumped bucket after bucket on us for my Grandmother’s surprise 90th birthday party. I texted an old rowing pal who lived in the area about possibly rowing later in the week. The next day I knocked out three desserts in three hours before family photo day. On turkey day I trotted out my awesome turkey plaque to a horrified or impressed (depending on the person) audience of 20+ people between eating and stuff like that. But Thanksgiving was the day things started to go downhill. By that afternoon, a tickle in the back of my throat was the first warning I’d been targeted as the next victim of this family present.

Everything hurts, and it’s not from rowing

Before we left, I’d heard Mom coughing and complaining about how her back hurt. As soon as I hung up, I’d warned the husband Mom was sick. We started downing Emergen-C.

On that rainy Tuesday, my brother woke up with the sniffles but gamely attended the party. By the next day, he was down and out, with a monstrous headache. The rest of us played babysitter and reminded our niece, yelling, “Daddy,” that, “ssh, Daddy’s sleeping.” (“WAKE UP DADDY!”) He groggily emerged briefly Thursday to say hello before trundling back to bed and sleeping through the horde in the house. It’s that day that I felt the cough coming on and knew I was in for it.

By the next day, the flu squeezed me in an its achy tendrils. I curled up as far away from everyone as possible, tucked under a sleeping bag trying to stay warm. The husband began coughing that night, the flu’s next victim.

The rest of the weekend we ignored the piles of luggage strewn around the house, curled up on the sofa, alternating between hot flashes and chills. Rowing was out of the question, not when my knees throbbed and my back protested attempts at sitting up.

I started to emerge from the flu-induced stupor around Monday. The aches and pains were gone, my mini-menopausal state over, all that lingered was a sore throat and voice. For practice, I stayed on shore and let someone else herd the middle schoolers on water.

Starts looking up

A little peeved that my endurance would be shot, partially from lack of working out, partially from flu recovery, I forced myself to erg Tuesday. Part of my brain hoped it would help knock some of the junk from my chest. The session proceeded a little like this: Pick drill warm up to 1000k, coughing fit. 750m, Dad calls. Another 500m, cough. Row 1000k, really thirsty. Cough. Convince myself to keep going. 250m, cough. At 4500 meters, I gave up.

I thought I’d join Night Crew for a Wednesday morning row. Instead, I spent a sleepless night banished to the sofa, coughing despite taking cough medicine. At 5 a.m., I bailed. The day passed in a sleepless haze, full of coughing and moments staring into space. I forced myself to join my Wednesday group erging in the Holiday Challenge, rowing 750m with 1 minute off. That minute grew into 2…then 3…but I racked 4500m.

Wednesday night was a rerun of Tuesday, banished on the sofa, coughing endlessly.

The erging effort repeated on Thursday, with more spacious breaks. That evening, the significant other asked about my Friday plans.

“I’m going rowing.”

“You’re what? Seriously?”

“Yeah, I gotta get back into it sometime.”

The morning was one of those rare perfect rowing days. Crystal clear, flat water, no wind, little current, a rosy sunrise, and a fly-by dozens of water birds. Night Crew took off, I paddled about 3k down, turned, paddled back, with a nice, big, coughing fit at 4.5k. I focused on patient catching and accelerating through the drive, but not at full pressure. I wished I’d been well enough to even have wanted to take off rowing and make use of the morning.

Warning Signs

Saturday is the first day I remember my right side hurting. I rolled out of bed with the ache but passed it off as sore from my week of hacking up a lung.

I committed to rowing Sunday. That morning was the first day in two weeks I woke up feeling like myself again. Definitely not 100%, but the cloudiness was gone, I was perky and ready to go. The cough still lingered. Everyone was so hopeful about rowing a quad, that I said fine. I’d just bow out if I needed to.

The moment I sat down, the oars in my hands, I knew it was going to a long, painful row. I just thought I’d suck it up. But every stroke hurt. I apologized for my rough rowing–I couldn’t swing forward at all, and very little backwards. Stroke called for different powers; half-pressure was a knife stabbing in my side. I didn’t want to seem like a sissy; I was trying to tough it out. When the front of the boat asked how I was doing, I said ok, just ribs hurt. Apparently I was being rather quiet. Breathing wasn’t an issue; I couldn’t apply enough power to get my heart rate up to need to breathe hard.

Of course it hurt the remainder of the day. I opted to skip Monday rowing and give my sore ribs a day of rest. That day, they didn’t feel any better, which concerned me, but I remained hopeful they’d chill out by Wednesday and I could pick back up rowing.

The Hammer Cracks

Tuesday morning, I prepared to take my dog for a walk. In one hand, I was talking to Alan on the phone, complaining my ribs still ached, in the other hand the leash. The tickle in my throat forced me to cough–and I froze mid-sentence, squeezing my eyes shut, gasping for air. “Hey–you there–hey!” Tears welled up in my eyes. “Use your words!”

I couldn’t; I was trying to take deep breaths. My entire core was seized up in a pain-wracking spasms as I leaned against the doorway.

No more. I called the doctor, who had an opening in half an hour. By 10, the good ol’ doc was pressing on my side ribs, causing more sharp gasps and groans.

“I’m so sorry,” She said. “It’s at very least sprained. We’ll get x-rays, too. I’ll write you a prescription for pain medication. You’re out at least three weeks. But don’t worry–you’re the second person I’ve seen in the last month having sprained ribs from the flu. The other girl was an avid runner.”

Three weeks of nothing. I texted my crew, sad face and all, in the waiting room for the x-ray. On the way home, I picked up my pain meds, and tried to resign myself to three weeks. Early January. Still time to recover for sprint season.

Wednesday, 10 a.m. The medicated stupor was making editing a challenge. Phone rings with a Sarasota number. It’s the doctor’s office with my x-ray results.

“I’m sorry. You do have a fracture. It’s rib #9.”

She rattles on more information while I sit numb, processing. Something finally clicks and I grab a pen, take notes and repeating what she’s said about the injury. Heat and ice as needed. No heavy lifting, no rowing, at least 6-8 weeks.

First I’m stunned. I fractured a rib *coughing* from the flu. All the crazy stuff I’ve done in the last 365 days–the 24000 meter row, all the racing, the pulled muscles, the hit markers, the duathlon–and I fracture a rib from the flu.

The second thought–no running, no rowing, any weight training must be zero-core, I don’t have a bike–now what do I do?

Third–there goes my sprint season.

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Gobble, Gobble: A Bunch of Turkeys at the Head of the Giblet

The Fluidesign 4x is ping-ponging down the course: left, right, left, right. The starboard oars have whacked two buoys, jarring the rhythm, and there’s a turn approaching. The glasses are fogging; it’s hard to judge the distance. And still we ping-pong, losing time, not setting up for the turn…

“Get your act together, Casey!” I snap aloud through gritted teeth, jamming the toe steering straight.

The Head of the Giblet Regatta

Over in the land of mouse, there’s a notorious regatta called the Head of the Giblet. Rowers know it primarily for one reason: the 5k course is one giant circle. “Hard on port!” “Hard on port!” “Hard on port” “Hard on port again!” “Okay, hard on starboard!” “Port!”

The other thing the Head of the Giblet is known for is really turkeying up their theme. It’s always the weekend before Thanksgiving. It’s rowed on Turkey Lake. They sell “gobbler sandwiches,” a delicious smashing of turkey, cranberry, and stuffing in a roll. The first place in the men and women’s master 1x wins a frozen turkey. All-points is a turkey fan. And each winner in every event, in addition to a turkey-themed medal, takes home a plaque showing a preserved turkey foot.

Some people find themed events childish and this detail especially grotesque. Memories of The Monkey’s Paw resurface from middle school. Who wants a taxidermed turkey claw in their living room? How many turkeys died in the creation of the turkey trophy? They cringe at the display of plaques. But me?

I love it.

Curse of the Giblet

My first introduction to the glories of the Turkey Regatta was back in 2009 when I stroked a Womens master’s 4+. The most distinct memory I have of this race is of coming into the last 1k towards the finish. I’m hurting like crazy trying to move the boat home when I glance right and see this guy in bumblebee stripes rowing outside the course towards the start line. He’s passing us. We’re a racing 4+ and this one guy is faster than us on our warm-up! It was demoralizing. We were 2nd of 2 entries and a time of 27:28.

Two years later I convinced three other women from Sarasota to try Turkey Lake in pursuit of the claw. It was a horrible experience. Our cox box died, we had a novice coxswain so green she’d never coxed before, and I had to call steering from the stroke seat. A bunch of high school 4+’s passed us, and at the very end of the race, we ended up smushed between two 4+’s that were racing hard against each other. I remember an oar blade flashing before my eyes; I ducked back and avoided a broken nose. At the end we were slapped with a 30 second penalty that wiped out our 33-second handicap. We debated protesting, but let it go. It bit us in the butt, because we were second with a time of 26:00 (Raw 26:03). Without the penalty, we would’ve won. That was 2011.

I have considered Giblet, with its crazy curves, cursed ever since.

Shall we go turkey hunting?

Ready for the turkey hunt...war paint and feathers.

Ready for the turkey hunt…war paint and feathers.

For three years, the Giblet regatta has been pushed aside. No one in Sarasota likes to go to the Giblet because of the course. We’re straight line kind of people: A-to-B rowing, forget the scenic route.

This year, Masters has pretty much been following the Scullers around to their regattas. The one regatta they chose to participate in separately was canceled. Scullers, for various reasons, opted out of two regattas this year. But, having promised the varsity four head races, they needed a number four. That left the Giblet, the last head race of the season in Florida.

When the decision was first made, I hemmed and hawed about it. I’d written off winning a turkey plaque. I thought after the Duathlon, I’d be finished for the season. But…we were so fast at Hooch…and there was only one other entry…and I really wanted the claw…but no one liked the course…but still…?


And the next day, it was a go!

Rowing in circles


All of our turkey gear for the Head of the Giblet.

The quad carpooled over to Orlando early in the morning for our 8:30 a.m. race. Forecast: cloudy, winds out of the east at 9-10 mph. The closer we drove, the more it rained. I smeared eye black on my baby cheeks and tucked red feathers in my hair. We rigged the Fluidesign 4x in rain jackets and peeled them off at first call. The rain stopped as we joined the queue of men’s doubles waiting to launch.

The announcer jumped the gun on calling events, making us extremely early. The little bit of warming up on land I had attempted was for nil as the ref asked us to stand aside and let the late doubles launch ahead.

I missed the coaches and coxes meeting and had little time to study the course, so I used our row to the start to eyeball the buoys I could see. The course had more buoys than I remembered from previous experience, but I had not been responsible for steering back then. Our warm-up was negligent: picks, steady by 3’s, then 4’s, a power 10, and one “up 2” before I had to stop us and join the men’s 2x curling around the lake’s shoreline. The east wind pushed the boat towards the lily pads and weeds.  As I was chopping the boat forward, I noticed stroke chipping in.

“Why are you backing?” I called.

“Because we’re getting blown in the weeds and I don’t want us to get stuck!”

“Yes, I get that–but why are you backing?”

“Oh! Never mind!”

We curled around the corner into the cove used for the start. The marshal had us wait to allow the doubles race a solid head start. The pause gave me time to assess the starting chute and the first two turns of the course.

“Guys–I think we should reassess our start plan. The chute is really short. We’re going to be on our high 10 when we hit the first turn.”

The girls turned and looked.

El Capitan made the call. “We’ll row into it. So let’s just get going, and we’ll keep taking the beat progressively up and when you have a good point, say, ‘clear,’ and we’ll take a high 20.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“When we have clear water, shout, ‘clear,’ and we’ll go. If Casey calls ‘move,’ then we’re going to do power on so we pass a boat.”

The marshal ordered us to turn and point towards the start. And hold water some more. The quads chasing us lined up behind the stern.

The boat started trembling, which kicked off my nerves. I stared up at the cypress trees and took a deep breath. I knew the fate of our turkey claws rested solely in the decisions I was about to make. The morning had gone by too fast for me to fret about steering.

I told 2-seat, “You’re going to have to be the power for me. My first priority is our course.”

“Got it. It was the same when I was bowing–I completely understand.”

The boat kept shaking, accelerating my adrenaline. All the moisture left in my dry mouth vanished.

“Whoever’s shaking the boat, please stop. You’re making me more nervous!”

“Oh, sorry! That was me just slapping my legs!”

The bullhorn clicked on. “145, you may proceed.”

“Granny start!” Stroke called.

“Sit half-slide.” I ordered. We slid up on our seats, the red “S” of our blades flashing as we rolled onto the square and buried. “Attention. Row.”

We started the row, slowly building up our rate to a steady, controlled pace. Halifax, our chasing boat, started after us. My heart rate spiked. We needed serious distance on them to stand a chance of winning. Do not look at them, I thought. Focus on the course; let the other three worry about the distance on Halifax.

“Three strokes to start!”

“Three to start!” echoed 2-seat. The power behind the oars ticked up and we surged forward. The horn sounded. We were on.

Three buoys later, I turned the toe hard to the left, making our first starboard turn. “Turn approaching!”

The turn was good. I saw Halifax just past the start; we were five-six boat lengths ahead. I refused to look again, glancing left then right to assess distance to the weeds and lily pads skirting the lakeshore.

“Turn approaching!” The toe turned to port. Again, a solid turn. “Clear!” I yelled.

“Alright, let’s move!” shouted stroke. “Up 2!” I locked in for 10, checked course, another 10.

We were closing in on our first high school 2x. As our next turn, a port, approached, the double weaved back and forth in our path. “Yield!” I shouted. And again, as they hooked back to the right, and then the left. I committed to their outside, and they finally gave way around our third turn.

Head of the Giblet race course. It's curvier than you think.

Head of the Giblet race course. It’s curvier than you think.

We had a long straightaway, maybe 750 meters of open water. In my quick glances over my left and right shoulders, I could not spy another double. “Clear!” I shouted. The quad surged down the buoy line. I felt great and solid down the stretch.

I peeked back again. A boat was on the course. Fishing? Marshaling? Couldn’t tell. I opted to steer back closer to the buoy line to go between them and yellow balls. I looked again–now they were blocking my line of sight! I couldn’t see the next buoy and I cursed under my breath. Finally they moved and I could see the next buoys and our turn. We were on the inside now, with weeds pushing the course narrow.

“Turn approaching!” I yelled. I tried to eyeball it; I didn’t realize until we were strokes away how sharp I’d have to turn. “Turn hard on port now!” I yanked the toe to the left. “Hard on port!”

The boat started turning, but the moment we cut around the buoy, barely missing whacking with our oars, I knew it was off. We were heading straight for a patch of weeds and lily pads jutting out from the shore line. “Port! More port!” I screamed, trying to keep us out of the patch. Our water trail continued to curve, but I’d just cut the inside too much, no matter how much I begged for more port pressure. We sliced through two patches of weeds as I tried to angle us back towards the buoy line. Finally–“Equal!” I used the toe to bring us back on a straight line along the buoys.

“Sorry!” I yelled to the boat. “It was sharper than I thought!”

We continued on. The sharp angle gave us a great view of the chasing boats. The double we passed was easily 12-14 boat lengths behind us and Halifax…out of sight.

“Come on, let’s get the next double!” growled stroke. “Let’s go ladies!”

I couldn’t see the next double. The next turn was toe only, a not as sharp hook to starboard. Now I spied the next double, nearing the next turn. “Double’s 500 meters away,” I told 2-seat.

I can see the buoy line, but the glasses are now spotted with water, obscuring my vision a little. The next turn is approaching. I angle the boat where I think it’s good–check left–good, buoy in sight–check right–crap! buoy right behind us!

“Starboard!” The toe yanks to the right. I check again–“We’re going to hit! Keep rowing!” I can see it, so I know to drop my hands into my lap. My oar misses the buoy, but 2-seat skims the top with 3 and 4 solidly whacking on the square. The quad wobbles as we try to continue our pace. “Get it back!” I yell, and we do.

The hard turn to port has messed up our course. Without looking, I had turned the toe slightly to starboard to try and compensate while we picked back up our rhythm. A mistake. On the next look, the buoy is right there.

The four letter word flies out. “Starboard again!” Now I’m pissed at myself. “You’re going to hit again! I’m sorry!” It’s a complete repeat of the last buoy. We’re yelling at each other, about time, tempo, catching back together, mixed with my cursed apologies. But we do it. I don’t have time to apply power–the next turn is here. Despite our whacks, we’re closing in on the next double. “Closing! Turn approaching!”

I manage to miss this buoy on this turn; it’s another hard on port with the toe stuck left. I am determined not to hit any more buoys. The glasses are fogging up more. I check left and right–there’s a green buoy floating about 10 yards off shore. I decide it’s best to keep it on port and stay closer to the yellow buoys.  My course is ping-ponging to try and fit between the yellow and green while not getting too close to either. I see our stern trail writing “SSSSS” down the straightaway. The buoys messed up my confidence and calm; I’m jittery and panicking, which is worst possible thing to happen right now with the race halfway done.

I grit my teeth. “Get it together Casey!”

I put the toe straight and deal with it.

The 1500 meter sign is neon orange, black, and bobbing crazily in the wind. “1500!” I yell.

“What?” someone asks. “15?”

I let the sign slide by on starboard as the answer. We have 1500 meters to go and now the next 2x is three boat lengths away navigating the next turn.

We swing to starboard and end up right on their tail. I move to the inside; they mirror me. I growl and move to the outside; they mirror me. “Yield!” I scream at them, tacking back inside. They stay right in my trail. “Yield now!” I scream. The whites of stroke’s eyes are big; I’m using my oar pressure to jab left and right. We’re running right in their boat trail because they won’t move. Finally they tack slightly towards the orange buoys on port side. I stay left, but they haven’t given us enough space to go. My quad mates are screaming for me, “Yield! Yield now!”

I’m fed up. “If you do not YIELD, I WILL protest and slap with you with a penalty!”

The boys move over. They whack some buoys in the process, but I don’t care. They’ve pissed me off and screwed up what should have been a killer straightaway into our next turn.

“Hard on starboard!”

We turn. The next 2x is right there. After a few peeks to assess their course, I take the orange buoy line. After one shout, this boat does what it is supposed to and gives way.

We know this is the end. I expect it to be straight. We’re hammering it along, cruising by the docks we’re familiar with. The glasses are royally fogged now making it difficult to check our course and to judge our depth. I can’t see the finish line flag at all. When the course shanks slightly to the left, it catches me off guard. “Port!” The girls instantly respond; all we need is two strokes to get the angle.

The finish line dock appears off my port. A horn sounds.

“That’s not us!”

“Not us, keep going!” 2-seat echoes.

Seconds later, it is for us.

Gobble Gobble

We slow down.

“Quad, keep going around the flag,” The marshal orders. We obey, tucking around the double that barely finished ahead of us.

I apologized for whacking the buoys and the bad turn as we turn towards the shoreline and cut across the course ahead of two 8+’s. The next quad, the Halifax quad, cruises towards the finish as we’re rowing by pairs through the grass channels on the way to recovery.

“They’re about three minutes behind us!” Stroke called back. “We were around 20:10 and it’s 24 minutes now.”

A little bubble of hope arises…but you never know, not with handicaps.

IMG_0605We de-rig the quad, retrieve oars, snap photos, and parade about the venue in our awesome turkey hats. Random strangers stop and ask us to pose for pictures. Our quad strolls down to the registration area to ask if there any results yet…we’re told to look online. Nothing.

Time passes slowly. We change clothes. Eat gluten-free pretzels and pumpkin seeds. Drink water. Hunt for one of my fellow coaches. Hit refresh on RegattaCentral repeatedly. Nothing.

Eventually I have to switch gears from competitor to coach and depart. The girls are leaving soon, tired of waiting almost two hours for our results, so I don’t expect to see them again. I head to the team tent to await my middle school rowers, turkey hat and all. I chow on a delicious gobbler sandwich.

Head of the GibletThe kids are sitting on the tarp, eating muffins and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, as I hold up my clipboard and explain the middle school course map, when someone walks up on my right. I look up and see three turkey-headed smiling faces and El Capitan holding the grotesque turkey plaque.

I pump my fist. “Yes!”

The curse is broken.



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The Rowing Duathlon


Duathlon. Taking two different athletic events and pairing them together into one challenge, usually in a run-bike-run format.

Except this is rowing. This unique event, the Duathlon at the Bend, is a 5k row followed by a 5k run.

The initial reaction of most people: “What?”

Enough rowers whine over knocking out 5k races. The thought of tackling a 5k run after that pales the average person. Sure–go compete in one of the toughest sports known to mankind, and then to top it off, go run some more.

But for some of us, our stomaches didn’t turn at the thought. Our ears perked up and said, “A rowing duathlon? That’s different! Sounds fun! Let’s go do it, even if our run will suck miserably!”

My night crew had hoped to suffer together as a quad, but thanks to work schedules and fear of the run, that turned into two doubles. Then two doubles became one double, myself and one of my fellow coaches at Scullers, who I’ll refer to as “Diva Hair” because she wakes up with perfect curls. Lucky girl.

It didn’t matter that only 5 non-Sarasota Crew (event sponsor) rowers signed up, or that we were the only double competing, or that I really shouldn’t be pushing my knee further than the few 2k runs recently attempted. The Rowing Duathlon is a challenge to be accomplished, and so we set forth to conquer.

We lacked the transportation for a double, and our cars couldn’t handle a roof rack anyway, so Diva Hair and I secured a boat from Crew. We agreed to used Sarasota County Rowing oars, and thought it we should wear Sarasota Scullers t-shirts while we were at it, to show rowing community unity.

Dua.2The day dawned cool and gorgeous, with the sun quickly warming up across the flat waters. The event organizers and coaches went out of their way to accommodate us by loaning the boat, putting it near our oars, and making sure we were taken care of. El Capitan came to support us in our row, as did Diva Hair’s family.

The organizers stressed warming up ahead of time, which I’d definitely do more of should I attempt next year. The clock starts right from the dock, so it’s launch and go! The head race course at Benderson is hard on starboard, and with this regatta we were hard for the first 800m through the recovery canal and under the bridges. We had to get used to the boat as we went, meaning our initial start was at an 18-19. Plus we average 140 lbs, and sat in a boat rated for a minimum of 160 lbs. Each push through the water was like rowing in wet sand.

Once we turned southbound down the 2k straightaway, I aimed to keep our stern pointed at the arch on the new Dillard’s at UTC. The boat wanted to run to starboard. To compensate, I tried short port strokes and long starboard. My left forearm began throbbing from the constant pressure.

We started warming up on the southbound 2k, inching the rate up by taking 10’s, until we reached a steady 22 in time for the next hard on starboard around the buoy and through the wave attenuator berm. Now heading east bound, I called another 10 before reaching our next buoy and turn.

Now I inched the rating up towards 26, knowing we were past halfway. I called, “we’ve been on the water 22 minutes now,” longer than we anticipated. The next turn was 300 meters up and not as angled as I remembered from the previous year’s head race. On this one, we held water on port to make the turn. I hate holding water–it jars the rhythm of the row. Across the lake, we became confused–at the race meeting we were told to put the last buoy on starboard, but there was a line of yellow buoys running up the course that make it appear to keep the pink navigation buoy on port. The ref boat confirmed that we had to cross the buoy line and row on the inside.

We rowed up at a 24, until I called us down–but too early. We picked it back up to finish into the dock. It sounded like someone called weigh enough, so we stopped momentarily before continuing. The crew rowers appeared to take the shell, so all we had to do was pop out and go.


You caught me! Our ankle bracelets.

As the final race, we started our run last. If you can call it a run. I opted to walk the first minute of each song and jog on for the rest. The running course began near the SANCA trailer, up over the west bridge, and around the bicycle path on the lake’s west side. Diva Hair and I stuck together, with me plodding along. When I was a runner, I usually skipped the water table, but on this day it was heaven. The H20 revived my pep. Unfortunately, it did not cure my knee which began throbbing as we turned towards home. I moved to running in the grass. I walked over the last two bridges, letting my fellow crazy person run ahead, and finished as the last person of the whole dua-thing, fist bump and all.

Even as my knee continues to protest my effort, I’m glad I did the duathlon. We celebrated our completion with a pretzel and ice-cream, relishing in the odd looks given to our sweaty Sarasota Sculler t-shirts. I can see that if the event manages to draw more rowers next year, it could be fun. It’s hard when you know you’re the last rowers on the course, both rowing and running, and that everyone is waiting for your slow butt to plod under the “FINISH” arch.

Next up is a more serious regatta: the Head of the Giblet.

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