With no scheduled events for me today, I took my time to cheer on my stroke seat racing in the Mixed A 2x and other rowing friends, explore the venue, rest, and prepare for the next two days.
Five seat (also known as bow-woman in our four/quad) picked me up at sunrise for our ride to the park. We admired the handiwork of someone from Alabama who made a single boat rack for his or her pick-up truck using a sawhorse. A bicycle rickshaw pedaled by, through the mud and all, followed by a woman on a Segway with a “spoiled” license plate tag.
Stroke seat launched right as the humidity began to peak. Five/bow and I carried oars, gathered shoes, and took pictures as she and her partner from Cape Coral Rowing pushed off the dock.
Back in the tent, we relaxed and waited for finals to resume. Old rowing friends and new ones came by for a chat. A cox’n we know from Miami paid me a very nice compliment about how hard I’ve been working since last year when he coxed our 8+ for the Sarasota 5000 and that it has really paid off.
When racing resumed, I joked about the smart car with the TV camera revving its engine as it zoomed back towards the wave attenuation platform. Stroke seat’s race was the third of the day. We jumped onto the beach to scream and cheer. We could tell from very early on they were near the front of the pack. Five/bow jangled her Mississppi cowbell and three teams screamed as the red shell powered closer.
At the point where she passed us, there was about three feet of open water between their shell and the first-place shell, a sleek yellow boat throwing the water up and away. They maintained their position for a solid second place finish.
We headed back to the recovery area to gather the oars and return the shoes. I was waylaid by a Charlotte rower interested in our homemade racks, but made it in time to grab oars and dash back to the tent in time to cheer on the men’s singles.
I’m an antsy person by nature and have a hard time sitting still. I walked back to the trailer to collect the Sunrise seats with bad wheel bearings, figuring I could start working on them while watching more races and waiting for the Men’s Lightweight 2x which some friends from Crew were competing. I’m glad I grabbed them and started working because it is a pain in the butt. The wheels don’t want to unscrew and won’t stay still–plus I’ve never attempted to switch a wheel before. With the help of a more experience rower, we fixed the most important seat, and I vowed to take the rest home and search for another allen wrench. I gave up and set the seats and wheels aside.
Five/bow and I explored the venue, from the vendor’s village where we admired the sleek racing shells from Hudson and Fillippi and I picked up a “I heart Sarasota” sticker to add to the back of my jersey. A stroll around the food area reminded both of us of delights to come. The first vendor we passed was selling pastries. The buttery crisp smell made my mouth water. The taco truck impressed me, as did a gourmet food truck with caprese salad and mediterranean wraps. Smelling the pretzel truck reminded me that gold medal winners earn a free pretzel.
“We have to get a gold medal tomorrow,” I said to five/bow seat.
The beer garden includes a two-story platform for viewing the course while sipping on those hoppy delights rowers have been deprived of for days, if not weeks and months. I commented they should host extended hours on Sunday for post-racing celebrations.
We continued on into the air condition tent which at that point in the day was very welcome. My shirt was sticking to my back with moisture. We browsed the trophy table seeking our, hopefully, future trophy and found it tucked into the back. It’s a small antique-looking cup that has been around since metal was first forged, and I would be proud to win it tomorrow. All the trophies are eclectic and unique. The Men’s 4+B is a massive hatchet swirling around water. Others are crystal, bowls, cups, women with olive signets. Each is engraved with the event and past winners. After watching the end of a women’s single race with two rowers we know, it was back out into the heat.
Adventures finished and with skyrocketing heat, five/bow and I packed up our gear for the day and departed back for home. I shoveled last night’s leftovers down for lunch, inhaled more water, and crawled into bed for a nap. Even after being home for an hour, I felt wet and sticky all over from being outside all morning. Just as I began to nod off, stroke seat texted me with the results from Jacksonville’s Mixed 8+ race. Shortly after my doctor called with my MRI results and I gave up on sleep.
Instead, I swept the floors and prepared treats for Saturday and Sunday. For tomorrow I made rice and banana muffins and to celebrate on Sunday, I have jello shots: peach with peach schnapps and black cherry with vanilla rum. After struggling some more with the seats, I gave up and started assembling my gear for tomorrow.
After 5:30 I picked up five/bow seat for the evening’s Master’s party. We arrived early to shift some boats around and to move the racks to better accommodate smaller racing shells. Five/bow tackled our tool box and discovered a mish-mash of 9/16 tools and broken bow balls, poppers, washers, wing nuts, and swiss army knives. As we sorted it out, the men’s 4+ arrived back from racing, just in time for the music to kick up. We made for the tent. A rowing friend came dashing towards us through the mud in heels with a cocktail in one hand. Apparently her cheering was too exuberant and she was warned by the referees at control commission to remain impartial and to not kiss the bow numbers for good luck.
Benderson really knows how to throw a party. The beer tower was full, the band swinging, and the beach vibe was turned up. Kids were playing in the sand along the shore and making castles between the bean-bag toss. Inside the tent, everyone raved about the food. Michael’s on East catered and served these delicious sticky chicken wings. They were frying crab cakes fresh on the spot and had tables laden with massive pink shrimp, a pile of cookies, and pulled pork sandwiches all for the taking. Right in the middle of the room was a boat full of grab ‘n’ go beers–not including the wet bars at two corners of the room.
I thanked our Women’s 8+ coach for all this work with us this year. Regardless of whatever happens tomorrow, he really pushed us to be better and stuck with the early morning rows through cold, rain, and humidity. On my phone I have a list of his puns and words of wisdom. He introduced us to some people and called me “cute as a button.”
After hanging around the rowers and friends for a while, we opted to head out. We saw people walking the wave attenuation berm and opted to follow in their footsteps. The view back across the island and the course was amazing. Even though the berm is new–literally, not there last weekend–the birds have already marked it as their own.
Now my gear is packed, my morning lists are made, and all the dirt from the Regatta Island has been rinsed down the drain. Tomorrow is the big race right at high noon: 12:11 p.m. I waver between good feelings and nervousness…the what if’s? What if it’s not enough? What if our start is slow? What if we can’t hang in there? Then I remember, we can do this. We just have to believe, hold on for dear life, and row our heart out on every stroke. And just when we think we’ve given it our all, give a little more. And a little more. And more, all the way to the finish line. I have golden dreams…if I can’t win the lottery, can I at least win a gold medal?