Don’t be afraid

Tomorrow is my first regatta of the season and I went out on a limb. Way, way, way far out.

As I sat at my computer Wednesday night, the final entry deadline, I wavered between nothing and something. Then Alan said, “You’re just nervous about it because you’re afraid. You shouldn’t let fear stop you from doing something.”

I realized he was right. What is the worst that could happen? I flip over, I come in DFL, I embarrass myself? I do that all the time!

Plus, who knows where I’ll be next year, or the year after that, or the year after? How long will it be put off? Until I’m too old and decrepit to row any more?

It resonated with me because I’ve mentally had a tough week since Sunday. On Saturday I erged 3 x 1k pieces. I was really pleased with my time on the 1k pieces. The total time was 3:59.8/4:02.3/4:06.3. Average splits: 1:59.9/2:01.2/2:03.0. After the results, I convinced myself to attempt another 2k on Sunday. The attempt made Britney Spears look amazing. My early splits were solid and hanging in at a 2:01, but at 1200 meters in my time started bouncing uncontrollably. The harder I jumped off the stretcher, the higher my time soared. I couldn’t snag it to bring it back down–and it wasn’t from a lack of effort or poor technique. I knew that 800 meters left was a rough spot and a breaking point, and required mental toughness, but when the spilt time hit 2:14 and my average started creeping into the 2:05 range, I gave up.

Dripping sweat all over the floor I’d just cleaned earlier in the day, I wondered what went wrong. The warm up? Muscle fatigue from the combination of erg and weights yesterday? Mental weakness? I pride myself in consistent rowing–my numbers usually stay right on keel. Never before have they trampolined so terribly.

A day or later I read some articles on anaerobic training–and then Wednesday’s team erg practice happened and someone asked about training through the burn. I remembered what Erin Cafaro, bow seat of the gold-medalling Women’s 8+, said about the first 250 meters of a race being her least favorite because of hitting that anaerobic threshold.

The long and short of it is, the anaerobic threshold is the pain and burn in the muscles, the fatigue that makes it so easy to give in. But the only way to succeed is to keeping pushing and pushing and breaking through that barrier. In doing so, you retrain your body to switch from anaerobic faster and more efficiently. You build the mental toughness to resist the pain. It’s the warriors that win.

If I don’t go out on a limb in practice and struggle with the pain of pulling the numbers, I’ll never improve my spilt time. I must wage battle against the fear of not being “good enough” in order to become “good enough.” It’s the same in all aspects of my life, but especially true, right now, in rowing.

So I sucked in a deep breath and made the entry.

Women's Novice 1x

Women’s Novice 1x

I’m more nervous than a mouse staring down a cat. What if I flip over? What if I finish DFL? What’s the team going to think of me then? What if I careen off into another lane? Our team has poor history of keeping a straight course when racing in Orlando.

My nerves are even worse because I really haven’t practiced for it. The others entries surely have been preparing for this race, and my entry is on a complete whim. My sole preparation occurred Friday morning when I took the Peinert for a spin and “raced” a 1k.

All I can do now is stay calm. I can only control my actions. I will do my best to be relaxed, to remember Marlene Royle’s lessons on my hand position and connecting with the water, to row the straightest possible course, to apply solid, even pressure through the drive, and let the race be what it will be. I can only achieve what I can achieve, for better or for worse. I know that I had the courage to attempt it, even if I cross the line DFL, I crossed this long time goal off my rowing bucket list. How many other rowers can say that?

Next: Tackling the pair.

P.S. I will also be appearing in the Men’s 8+ and a Mixed 2x.

About camckenna

I write; I row.
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