The wind kicks from the west as three sculling boats skim the lee shore followed by a motor launch and an echoing megaphone.
To the silver boat: “That’s perfect! Whhooooosh! Whhoooosh!”
To the white boat: “Use those long arms for leverage. Really hang on it.”
To the green boat: “Somebody’s rowing like they’ve been on vacation.”
That would be me, second day back in the skinny Sweet P. Like all Florida summer rows, the morning is dawning a brilliant blue heat. Sticky at 8 a.m. with a salty breeze that’s chopping the water and blowing the rotting bird crap scent across the bay. I haven’t been drinking enough water, so already I’m spent and thirsty with two gulps left in the leaking bottle. My hands are slipping around on the oar and I’m reminding myself not to be frustrated. It’s been over three weeks since I sat in a boat.
Coming back after a long break isn’t easy in any sport. In rowing, there’s so much that hurts. After three kilometers, muscles that aren’t used in normal life are aching, reminding me, “we’re here!” Like my chest. Something uncomfortable popped in my hip. My lower back is tight. And the hands–oh, the tender hands! Scabs of skin peel off as the last of the old calluses go. Blisters reform and my fingers turn red and dry from the persistent rubbing.
After three water days in a row, my hands protested. Day off please. Let us rest and toughen up.
When coming back, it’s important to remember to take it slowly. I talk to myself. No, your endurance isn’t the same. It can be built back up, but going out and knocking out a 10k is a surefire way to get pushed back on your bum. Just get out there. Take it easy. Do technique. Use the time to fix your right hand grip. Get the feel for the boat, the oars in the water, the glide…let it all come back.
Drink tons of water. I didn’t feel thirsty before day one and ended up with a massive migraine. Water, water, water. And in the summer? More water. I felt behind everyday until yesterday, after sucking down four 32-oz bottles over the course of the day.
When the early hours come, roll out of bed and just go. You’ll get used to it again eventually. No one likes it, but when it’s 90 degrees at 9 am, the early hour doesn’t feel so bad.
The rewards? Getting back in shape. Beautiful summer sunrises full of puffy clouds and occasional sun dogs. Flatter water with reduced summer boat traffic. Rowing.