This morning we had a pre-race technical practice for more technique work and to familiarize our cox’n with the waterway and crew.
Mary C. took these awesome videos of us rowing.
Isn’t it awful rowing in Sarasota?
Tomorrow is our first race. With only two boats entered in our Women’s 8+ heat, it’s definitely a scrimmage. We’ll be attempting to close in the gap to ORC’s lead. Hopefully we’ll close some water and not let them run away with it, but they are in far superior shape for head season having trained through the summer for the Head of Charles.
What is it with racing? Why do I put myself through the mental torture? At today’s practice, our coach called for a practice 5k heading back up. As soon as we backed up and lined up, he called out, “Get your last drink of water before we race.”
Instant dry mouth. And I had just taken a gulp two seconds prior. It’s like someone screaming, “don’t look!” Of course you have to look. You didn’t want to see that fine specimen of European retired tourist in their banana hammock, but you did. You looked.
The word “race” is instant dehydration. Coach mentioned taking a few deep breaths before starting as a way of relaxing. Even for him–racing is nerve wracking. As he continued his speech and thumped his chest to indicate how sitting and waiting to be marshaled increased his heartbeat, mine jumped forward. My palms leaked water and soaked the handle. And every time–all the moisture in my mouth evaporates into a vacuum. My tongue is sandpaper glued to the top of my mouth. I can’t help it.
Logically we know adrenaline is natural. I only wished it didn’t burn out in the first 500 meters of a 5k. Imagine how fast we could fly across the water if our nerves and jitters carried us the whole way.
Adrenaline causes mistakes, too. Nerves hands grip the handle a wee bit too firmly and wham! Handle in your gut, blade stuck under the water, and the boat comes screaming down to a halt. Slides rush forward a bit too much and the cox’n ends up a twenty-minute blender. Someone pushes too hard too early and loses gas by 3k, nothing left to empty the tank.
Deep breathing can be a great help. For me, as weird as this may sound, the best way to stay calm and keep nerves at bay as best possible, is to NOT THINK about where I am. Yes, I enter this super calm zone where I’m not thinking about winning, or the race, or anything. The only thing I’m thinking about is staying calm and not getting worked up. My first year-plus of racing, I would get extremely worked up with terrible results. I’d morph into a bratty three-old, pushing around my crew and snapping off orders. I’d make loud sarcastic comments while rowing. I’d cuss. A lot. Then there were the rushed slides, 38+ stroke rates, wiping out the crew behind me (I stroked races for a long time.)
Last year was the first year I made an effort not to freak out on race day. I sat calmly with my mouth closed. I didn’t think about the race ahead and took many deep breaths on the way down. I tried not to snap at anyone. It worked. We walked away 90 seconds ahead of the next boat.
No matter how you achieve it, relaxation is truly the key to sound racing and sound rowing.
And maybe a hell of a lot of good luck.