After a terrible nights sleep in the hotel, race days arrived!
This is my first time in Ann Arbor racing at the MCI. The course is pretty. Caelan would’ve liked all the trains; there’s a track along the park and that goes over the reservoir just past the finish.
The regatta is different from others I’ve done. Only three boats at a time, and it medals are fastest times across all flights.
The course is not shut down. I was told kayakers wander around, and it is true.
For the race, I adapted one of my hats to be team appropriate. Hats are back!!!
This boat, I felt good about. Our last practice we had one of those magical “this is why we row” practices. Every stroke, off the water, perfectly balanced, gliding along.
Got my race face on, and out we went.
What I hate about sprint racing is the lack of warm up. It was true again. The course launches boats at 500 and there is a teeny tiny staging area. In an 8, that’s nothing. 20 strokes and you have to turn.
But as we did our first practice start, a BIG problem emerged. Bow seat’s rigger was loose.
And we didn’t have a wrench.
Our 6 seat knew the Cox in the Detroit 8+, and they had an adjustable wrench. Resolutes take 10mil and not the more standard 7/16.
So we spent our “warm up” and lock-on time tapping lightly into position while bow seat precariously tried tightening his rigger. Turns out the problem wasn’t the bolts (which bow seat himself was in charge of checking when we rigged it) but a crack in the actual rigger. He was still fiddling as the aligned was calling our bows forward and back.
Then it was race time. The jolt of adrenaline-crap I’m doing this. As soon as our Cox dropped his hand- “attention! Row!” No polling of crews, no time to breathe, just move the first stroke and go.
Start 5 is just about breathing and following and connecting the oar to the water. A high 15- strokes fast and furious. Already burning because I’ve gone cold between my land warm up and now. I know this is going to hurt.
The shift. We are ahead off the start. A quick peek at my puddle-yes, I’m connecting.
First red buoy marking 250. Whew, that was fast.
We are at a 35, the Cox says. I am going to die at that rate, I think.
350. Only 350? Damn it!
Buoys under my oar, buoys on the side of the boat. We are zig zagging a bit. Not good. We will lose time.
1:50 spilt. Way slower than practice. Come on guys.
500 red buoys. Okay. There is a subtle shift in the boat. It starts to feel a little less frantic. We have open water. The steering straightens out.
Stroke rate 30.
Breathe, says the Cox. A good call.
How am I going to do this in the 2x? The Cox is doing calls, helping me focus away from the leg burn and the metallic taste in my mouth.
750 red buoy. Keep pushing, we need the time.
Waiting for the up.
Cox calls it. Up we go. Digging in. Every stroke, connect. Not happy with my catches, I try to make them better every stroke.
10 to go. He’s counting down. At 9, the finish line horn.
Breathing. Everything is raw, raw, raw. There is no paddle down room. We spin and head the 500 back to the dock.
I’m hoping someone tells us how we did as we dock, but no one says anything. I’m the one who runs for my phone to check, and finds we won.
A sweet starting victory.
Three hours between the mixed 8+ and Womens open 2x. I half-slept. Ate a PBJ. Talked to people. Chilled.
Women’s Open 2x
Won’t lie, this one had me nervous. The open is rolling a dice. Will there be collegiates? AA? Juniors? If so, chances on winning go down. So we had a time goal and hoped for a clean race.
The boat we used shanks to starboard. We actually worked on it at practice and fixed some rigging issues, but it still enjoyed rowing too starboard. Today’s crosswind was pushing all the boats to starboard. I suggested making some oar changes to help compensate, and stroke was game.
We launched first, which gave us a little more warm up time. I prefer to have a longer warmup so launching first and having the slight race delay worked for me.
I was bowing, and it was a chance to practice steering a little more.The course at the top was a little wonky with the shoreline and water grasses. We fit in two little circles of drills and practice starts.
I had no expectations about what could happen. I did see one of our flight competitors was having trouble staying straight in the start area. I suspected we could probably do a little better than them.
We were in lane three, which was essentially up the middle of the reservoirs. We had to lock on last because of the way the staging area and the course were laid out. You had to proceed across in order to lock on. I steered a super close to the stake boat, and locked on easy because of it. That was a little confidence booster. Keeping the bow pointed straight down the course was a bit of a challenge thanks to the cross/head wind and the way the boat was drifting.
I was also concerned because of how our boat prefers to run. Being in lane three on that particular course, there’s one narrow point in the river where the launching boats and race boats have to share the space. A marshal was sitting below that point stopping the outgoing boats during the races to avoid collisions, but still, it’s narrow and we have to be in the lane.
Plus we if drifted too far to starboard, we’d risk being in lily pads or running into another outgoing boat.
Alignment again. No polling–just attention, ROW! And off we went. We did our start high, and actually came off a bit too far to port. I think I was too considered about the drift and overcompensated right on those first strokes.
Off the start, it seemed at first we were a little behind the other two boats in our flight, but the thing is you’re not turning and looking. It’s only peripheral impressions. A lot is happening–a lot of speed, water, rushing steering. We’re off to port, but rowing high, and I’m trying to correct our course using my mirror and watching the buoy line. While all this happening, we pulled back up neck and neck with the other two.
Like I said, we initially went to port, but then I overcompensated. We slowly moved off to starboard. Even though I was bringing the pressure, we made this slow arc to starboard. I could see the buoys marking the edge of the lane 3. The starboard side didn’t have buoys every ten meters like port side. There was a line at that narrow point I mentioned, but after that they were more random. A red buoy at every 250, an occasional yellow one. I was trying to use the port line more as a guide than the starboard. I wanted to be close to that line.
The first 350 meters is always hard for me mentally. I’m trying to push negative thoughts away and focus on the boat, not letting my partner down.
We were much farther to starboard than we needed to be, and all my starboard pressure wasn’t cutting it. I had to call for starboard pressure. Slowly, but surely, we started arcing back. We probably ended up growing an extra 30, 40 yards.
Meanwhile, while I’m doing my earnest to get us back on the port side buoy line and on a straight course, we were slowly but surely inching away from the other two boats.
Right about the 600 meter mark, we finally came back up to the buoy line, and I got us on a straight course. We were rowing well. I was making sure to call things like “strong,” “relax,” and “breathe.”
When you can you see that 750 red buoy, it’s always a good feeling. You it’s know the end of the race and you can really drive it and push. I feel like what we did together was really drive and push it up a little bit. We had open water on the other two boats in our flight.
I’m just trying to keep it straight. It’s the finish. They didn’t want to steer off because the lane finishes very close to shore. I remember calling two more buoys. I didn’t want to call a number of strokes or meters because when you’re racing hard in a double, looking backwards to steer it’s hard to tell how many strokes you’re taking and the run you’re getting.
We won our flight, and winning always feels good. On our way up, stroke shared we beat our spilt goal by 5-6 seconds, and that was good, too. I felt satisfied that no matter where we actually placed once the other two flights raced.
We just got back up to shore and I only had to go straight away. Just a 48-minute change over between the 2x and my next race. I expected the others to be gathering by the cox four, but I went over to it and couldn’t find them.
Back at our table, they’re just sitting around. Apparently they had not yet called our event yet and were running a bit behind again. A little more rest between races is always nice.
But then someone said we won the Open 2x. He had to show me the phone with the time results before I could believe it.
The open doubles are usually very competitive and full of collegiate fast women. Knowing we won, and I beat ladies two decades younger, was great!
Mixed Masters 4+
The last race was supposed to be mixed 4x, but the race organizers changed the schedule to make it coxed four.
Our original lineup decided to go ahead and do it when they need to change, but it presented a challenge. We had a guy who is over 6 foot and strong as an ox. In quad, it doesn’t matter, we all can pull over weight evenly. In the 4+, we all row a side. Our preferred sides would end up stacking the men on one side and the ladies on the other.
To maintain and better distribute power two of us, me and the tall guy, had to switch sides, because our other two rowers were locked into their respective side. So I had to stroke the boat while rowing on my non-dominant side.
I was thinking the last time I stroked a boat was at Tampa’s Halloween Regatta in 2011. I felt a little pressure, but my goal was just to do my best to set up a nice, even stroke and row as clean as possible.
To add to the challenge, our chosen shell was extremely finicky. We had three practices in total to figure it all out, and we knew it could work but that we had to be careful with the steering and three seat being extraordinarily powerful.
We didn’t do much on the way up this time in terms of warmup, we just practiced some starts. We were in lane three.
Again, we had a quick start. As soon as alignment was called, the referees called the start.
I would say the start of this race was just a lot more frantic across all the boats. Our race start was not as clean as the one in practice before. We shanked initially right into the other lane, lane 2. We were so close to linked you into that boat and we were right on the buoy line.
Our oars nearly clashed.
The referees were on us right away, calling “Greater Columbus, Greater Columbus,” and jabbing their flag to starboard. The coxswains are yelling. We’re yelling at our cox to move over. The oars are splashing and rushing through the water. We didn’t make contact. I yelled at James to lighten up because every time the boat would try to correct, it came right back over to right on buoy line. The bleach bottles were scraping right along the hull.
It took about 400 meters to finally settle into a much straighter course. Once we settled in and straightened up, we did start to pull away. It became about banging it out and we pulling away stroke after stroke.
We were really opening up water on the other two boats. Stroke rate was initially a little higher than I wanted, but I lengthened and everyone responded. I started mentally focusing in on good, solid catches, feeling the resistance in my left hand, really applying that pressure and pushing it all the way into my lap. The boat just really moved well.
We hit the last 250 and just like we talked about the cox called it up two beats. We went for good 10 strokes and then hammered it in sprinting. We knew we had to overcome handicaps in other flights. Even though we finished with good open water on the other two boats, we had to have a fast time.
Running in the first flight was great. We got to see our other team boat in the second flight. They also had open water on their flight, so that was fun.
We were the second to last event of the regatta. Everyone was starting to derig and load. When we put our boat down in slings, I grabbed my phone to see final results. We won, and by a very wide margin! Our other boat was 3rd.
Wrapping up on Michigan Club Invitational
Overall, I had a great start to racing again. Three gold medals in all three events. Our team performed really well. I think everyone was having fun off the race course, just hanging out, eating pounds of peanut butter, and socializing.
We swept the Mixed 2xs, taking 1-4. It’s been so long to see that many boats on the water, just performing. I’m probably most proud of the Women’s Open 2x. Our time also would have won the Women’s Masters 2x, raw and with our tiny ahandicap.
Next regatta is a week away, and anything can happen.