I lack the words to adequately describe the roller coaster I rode this morning.
After sleeping decently, I woke up at 4:15. Or, at least, that’s when I looked at the time. No way I could return to dream land. I tossed. I turned. A million thoughts about the single ran through my head. How I wasn’t good enough. What it would feel like to win. What it would feel like to DFL. What if I sucked. The race plan. I’d imagine sitting at the start. My heart rate would spike. A sick feeling bubbled in my stomach. I’d talk myself off a ledge. Roll over. Repeat.
Around 5:15 I gave up. My tossing and turning woke up Alan. He wrapped me in a big hug and whispered encouragement. The alarm rang. A quick kiss, more words about how I’d be great, and into the darkness I slipped. Nauseous, but I forced myself to eat oatmeal. Half an hour later Coach Laura picked me up and to the venue we went. Darkness. The first arrivals all prepping their race gear. More roller coaster. Coach Laura is very positive and encouraging, and I’m very grateful.
But it was hard. This was the most nervous I’ve ever been about any race. Ever. Ever. Countless times I neared bursting into tears before managing to hold it together. I thought I’d throw up. I almost had to run to the bathroom to empty the tank, so to speak.
Erging warmup, a disaster. Focusing on a count of 20 was near impossible.
I believe I told Karen or Holly as I prepped to launch, “this is the stupidest idea I’ve ever had.”
And then it was water time. So many fast women gliding along down the yellow buoyed alley ways. And me. Quaking in the crimson shoes.
I waited with my group. Figarower popped up. It was a nice distraction to see someone I knew on the water. To deal with the stupid bundles of nerves.
Final 2 left. The refs called my turn.
The Women’s A1x
As soon as the stake boat holder locked me on, choked up. Real, fat tears. Bubble in throat. I had to wave my face, speaking out loud:
“You are fine.
You will not cry.
You can do this.
You can do it for Caelan.
You can do it for you.
I didn’t care if the boat holder looked at me funny.
The refs called for a quick start. My heart plummeted. Instant physical jitters. I sat ready, literally quaking. Trying to breathe. Trying to calm down. The red light turned on. F***. I’m not relaxing!
ERRRH. Green. Go.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
From this point forward, I can’t really tell you much. I have snippets of emotion and memory.
I’m counting. 5. Go high.
I’m shanking port. No. Boat there. Stop high start swing.
Lane 7 is gone. 5 is right there. White boat.
I’m still shaking. Literally, shaking. Pushing, and scared, and still way to nervous. I can’t settle down.
I want this to be over.
This was the dumbest idea.
I should just give up. Slow down to a 24. Let them all go.
White boat, lane 5. Vague impressions of other boats.
Flashes of the stroke coach. 31, 33. 2:03, 2:05, 1:58.
Count 20. Middle buoy. 500. Stay persistent. Don’t give up.
I’m still shaking.
I can’t even think about technique, but I know it’s horrible.
A vague impression of early morning sun to my left over the attenuator.
I’m aware of more boats downwind to my right. Lots of space. I’m probably in 3rd.
Island. 250 is coming.
“Go Casey! Head up!” That sounds like Coach Joe Dobson. I lift my chin. Try to row better.
I feel like I’m spinning wheels.
Red buoy. Go! Go!
I hear Alan yelling. He’s loud and screaming my name.
Wham! Whack a buoy. No!
I make my first glance right. Lane 0. Vesper. Right with me.
Another buoy. Heart drops.
Flailing. Horrible rowing. Horrible, horrible.
Beep. Look right. It’s for Vesper. Keep going, idiot. Stroke, stroke, beep.
Third, I think. Breathing. Relief, it’s over. I’m pretty positive I PR’d. Thinking it will be close to 4:10. I count to 10, then I have to go.
The Women’s B 4+
Coming into dock, it was like the world lifted from my shoulders. All the crushing apprehension was gone. I downed water, applesauce, a pretzel, change unis and flipped back onto the water.
I was cracking jokes and singing “Michael, row your boat ashore…” all the way around to the staging area. You know, normal race Casey.
We had an amazing coxswain who called our race very well. We were dead last for a long time but thanks to her calls, managed to pass a boat near the end.
Back to that Women’s A 1x
So I went out with no idea about my results. I thought I’d placed third, which I was fine with. I never expected to keep up with Ridley Graduate and knew Vesper was fast.
People were telling me nicely done, and all, being kind. When I finally made it back to my stuff, I asked if anyone had my race time.
Laura said it had just come up, and said the words, “second.”
“What? No, Vesper was second. I was third.”
Laura shook her head. “No. You were second. 4:09.”
Second? Under 4:10? I beat her? All the emotion, the stress, the months of work on the erg. I started to cry, but with happiness this time. Even now, I’m still tearing up about it. I can’t believe it. I rowed like crap, had a horrible race, and still pulled off a second-place finish and broke 4:10. Maybe I didn’t win it, or even come close, or row under 4 minutes, but it felt like it.
Women’s B 4x
I knew this would be a competitive race from the get go and it was. The start was solid. A huge field stuck together for a little while before starting to spread out. Our boat had a slight shank to port, but we overcame it.
What a dogfight. Look left, look right, boats everywhere. Around 500 it became apparent we were not the fastest crew, but not from lack of effort. I tried to get us to move up on Asheville composite as we closed in on the finish, but couldn’t do it.
Overall, this was a solid row. Just beaten by fast boats.
The Women’s A 2-
As the regatta neared the end of the day, the start times fell back. We took the pass rather than row the island. The wind that had kicked up around our 4x had died down. This was good for steering, bad for roasting on the water.
The race delay meant there was a clog in the queue. There was this hilarious men’s 4x from Rocky Mountain cracking jokes. First about their mental state, then about being surrounded by pretty young women, (whoa, what a pair!), then alcoholic drinks. That was because one of the pairs in our race needed a screwdriver. Bow yelled, “does anyone have a screwdriver?” The Rocky Mountain guys: “I’ll take one too, with an umbrella, please!”
Unfortunately Holly and I had a bad start in that we shanked hard to starboard. The last thing we want is to run into the buoys so we had to slow it down to straighten the course and avoid disaster. Instantly, we were behind. Then we kept riding the port buoy line. Our finish ended with whacking the big orange buoy on port. In short, we made it down the course without flipping.
Other notes of the day
- FISA, your rules state you do not have to match! You can wear your team unis! Learn your own rule book.
- Why isn’t the bow number tent in the launch area? Why is it hidden on the far side of the boat area?
- A single sculler ran into bird island.
- I had four costume changes today.