2021 Masters Nationals-Day 2

After getting to bed late, struggling to fall asleep still pumped on the post race high, I woke at 3:50 am for no reason. Back to sleep for a little and back awake at 6am. Thank you rowing.

Today’s only race was the Women’s Open A 2x. I actually felt nervous about this one. Not sure why. Each time we row it gets better, but I think knowing many of these women are super fast and that only two advance to final added some pressure.

Another fog delay. This one was extended “indefinitely” so we did not leave the hotel at 8 as planned. Instead, we watched the news, did a 20-minute yoga on Fitness+, ate a little extra.

We bicycled to the venue this morning. My poor 2x partners bike doesn’t shift gears so she’s cranking her legs and getting nowhere. 😋 Still, it’s a pretty ride, nice way to loosen up.

To the venue!

Our boat’s name is Bianca. The one that tracks to starboard no matter what. It’s a rigger problem we can’t fix. We get her down, throw her in slings. She sounds like a rainmaker every time we roll her.

We do the full check after rigging. Seats, heel toes, shoes, riggers, tracks. Stroke’s track is loose. I pop open the hatch and yes, she’s missing a wing nut. I feel around in the well, and next thing you know, I pull out four wing nuts. I explore around some more and find even more wing nuts. All other tracks are secure—so where did all these wing nuts come from? How is this possible!?

The hatch on bow seat is stuck, but it pops off easy with a screwdriver. My tracks are also slightly loose, but all wing nuts are accounted for.

Baby wing nuts

Back to the tent to wait. We watch the heat races. Watch some super fast ladies from SRQ and Seattle just cruise past way ahead of the field in their double. They are also in our A 2x, just not our flight. They will be in the final of both.

It’s time. To the trailer. I’m three minutes into erging when I reaize my water bladder is not in my race bag. I rush back to the tent. It’s not in the lunchbox. Then I remember: I put in the freezer last night to chill for the hot day and forgot to take it out.

Slight panic. I need water out there. It’s a feels like of 98F and with the adrenaline, my mouth always feels dry. I need sips of water during the warm up and after. I have a big water bottle, but it’s heavy and will knock around.

Our club president has a smaller bottle I can use as a loaner. Whew. Back to warm up.

Hands on. Away we go. Butterflies this time.

I’m bow seat. I’m a little worried we launched late, but we arrive at the staging area in time to swing around into our lane with three other E boats.

Our goal is to make the final. We agree it will be a fight. I am ready for it.

Lane 2. Not as much current today. Headwind.

I make a decision to add the port clam on the oar.

Locked on.

Two minutes. Lane 7 is not locked on.

Breathing. Relax. It’s important to stay loose at the start or you will dig, crab, or flip.

We have alignment.

“Greater Columbus.”

Eyes to the starter.

Attention. Go.

Five sequence. “High.” We are tracking to port. I row harder. Counting.

“Shift”

Our start seems slow. We are on the outside. I can only see lane 3. We are ahead of them.

Still tracking port. “Port!” Not enough. Crap! “Buoy!” I yell. Stroke smacks her oar right on one. It jars through the boat. Hard strokes to get us off the line. We’re clear.

I finally look left. We are in 3rd and bow is overlapping stern. “We have contact,” I call, knowing she can’t see, letting her know we are still in this.

Currently in 3rd on the right

Counting, breathing, looking right for the 500. We have to wait it out, and move. We are keeping contact with the boat in second.

Big yellow buoy. 500.

“Power 10 in 2!”

One!

Two!

We dig in. Bianca is wobbling to starboard. I’m course correcting. Not as bad as last two races. Power is on.

“That’s it, good move!” We’ve walked on lane 4. Not sure who they are, but their boat and unis are dark.

Fighting the boat on the left for second.

We keep it up. Now I’m looking for the red buoys. We are neck and neck, so timing the move is crucial. We are inching away.

Red buoy. “Up two!” I count 10. At some point, call for starboard pressure. Call to dig in! Don’t let up!

We are ahead. We just have to stay ahead of lane 4. I keep my eye on them and never stop the pressure, not till I hear the second horn.

Second in our heat, we move on to final.

Relief. We made the final. Goal achieved.

The time between

Now we wait until 5:55. We discuss our race, look at the results of the other flights, analyze our stroke coach. I propose a plan. Set the expectation we will be fighting for a bronze.

And then, we rest. Hydrate. Eat.

I tried to sleep on the picnic blanket, but I couldn’t. I felt tired enough to sleep but couldn’t zone out enough to have a decent regatta nap.

Time ticked by. Watched races. Saw some awesome sprints to the finish. Saw a Chinook boat way off course, almost hitting the “Caution-Shallow Cable” close to the finish line. The referees were yelling, “Stop rowing!”

Started the getting ready process at 4:40. Bow number G6, attached. A teammate had returned to the hotel and picked up my frozen water bottle, so I had that. Oars out from under the trailer, staged under the boat. Music on. Erged to start warming up, but thanks to heat index, pretty hot already. Last-minute bathroom runs and then we’re hands on and walking down.

The row up is standard. Lots of boats, navigating, trying to hit in some at-rate work and pieces. We row way up and into Julio, who-surprise!-is late for his race because he’s not paying attention. We are bow G6, he is F5. Hmm…

There’s a current now, where there wasn’t for the heats. The wind has whipped around to become more of a tailwind. It’s setting up for faster conditions. 

The Final

Lock on time. Like a boss. All the boats are to the right. All the boats look fierce and fast. There’s a little rumble in our boat; might have been bow seat.

Lane 6 means we’re last to be called in the polling of crews. The red flag is up. Attention.

Starting 5. The plan is to be quicker this time. Blink, we’re already on the 10. I can see from my periphery we’re behind.

Shift 5. 

Power 5.

Now I look right. We’re ahead of Lane 2 and have contact with three other boats. It’s not over yet.

Breathe, I say.

Every stroke is a push to the 500. That’s the goal. Get to the 500, and then call the move. I look. I see the fat 500 numbers on the shore.

“Power in 2!” I want the move to go early. We have to go early, the third-place field is inching away up on us.

“1-2”

Now it’s a power 10. I’m focused inside the boat, hoping this move helps us catch up.  

Ten is over, I look right. We didn’t move up at all. If anything, those other boats are now stern to bow. There’s around 400 left in the course.

I make a quick, snap decision.

“We’re rowing for time!” I shout.

We don’t slow down, we don’t change the plan. Each stroke is still hard. I look right one more time, the third-place fight now has open water on us. At the red buoys, I call the up 2. I call the “dig in.” We’re pushing hard, but all I can see is lane 2. I can hear the other boats, and see their wake, but I know they’re too far up on us to catch.

The beep of the horn. Still we go. More beeps. Counting, 1-2-3-4. And 5 is for us.

We finish 5th. It was a hard, fast race, with some very fast women in it. We beat our time from this morning and last week, though, and we did make the final. 

Of course, later, I start second-guessing. I’m hoping stroke isn’t mad about my call to go for time versus trying to up the power even more and catch the field. We were running at 33spm. I have to trust in my judgment in the moment, based on what I could see, and how we were running.

Alan and Caelan sent the cutest post-race video. It made my day. Because it doesn’t matter if you lose, a BJ’s pazookie will make it all better. Words from a four year old.

After, it was pizza at the Steady State Network, a bicycle home, jump in the pool and some delicious uber-sugary ice cream.

Ice cream treats!

New day, new race tomorrow. Hopeful for another good result.

About camckenna

I write; I row.
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