2021 Hoover Fall Classic

The tour of Midwest regattas continues with the Hoover Fall Classic in Westerville. It’s on the Hoover Reservoir where I rowed during Covid, which means a 15-20 minute drive from home.

I also only had one race-womens masters 2x. A weird and unusual circumstance. Race time was 1:35pm.

You’d think I’d have a nice lie in, but I have a four year old. He woke up at 6:30am and turned on ALL the lights. Talk about a rude awakening. I was lying on his floor still in bedclothes reading books by 7am, yawning like crazy while trying to wake up.

It is weird to show up late for a regatta. All the good parking is gone. Tons of people walking around. The right lane of Sunbury Road was shutdown and packed with buses and cars. I used the shuttle parking to and landed at the venue around 10:30. The first person I ran into was searching for a missing rower. That’s always a fun situation.

Regatta time!

The upside was the launch dock was running behind, so everyone made it in time. Early fog had lifted, but not burned off, so all was still cool and comfortable. The announcer kept calling races to launch, even though there was significant pile-up of 8’s waiting to go. The launch dock guy was smart. He started launching in bow order, making sure everyone would make it to their event on time and in order despite the hold up. Part of the problem was the middle school 8’s waiting to go. They just don’t go fast.

So our two women’s 4x launched twenty minutes after their intended time, but because it was all in order it wasn’t a big deal. Everyone was in the same metaphorical boat.

The turnover between the quads and the doubles was tight. We only brought three pairs of slings and the way the timing worked required us to immediately derig the two quads coming off the water and put them on the trailer to have slings to rig the doubles and go.

I pre-staged the riggers in the rigging area by our slings.

The first quad comes off the water and I jump on right away. Luckily it’s a easy boat to derig with a quick release system. We had that boat done fast and the ladies walked it over to the trailer. The next boat is in slings. Run, over repeat the process.

Now both of our boats are down in the rigging area, trying to go as quick as we can. We have two entries in the Women’s Masters 2x so we are working fast.

These boats do not have a sliding rigger system and they have back stays It takes time no matter how quickly you move. You don’t want to go so fast that you drop the bolts into the grass and lose them. Our 2x finishes tightening right as the announcer calls the first and final call for our event. Unfortunately the other double was completely missing one set of bolts for its backstay. No idea what happened to that one. Luckily another rower had extra nuts and bolts with her and so she was able to take care of them.

We launch. It is pretty windy at this point in the day. Not so bad to call the regatta, but windy enough that you’re feeling the chop and are pushed about. Plus it’s a headwind, so you know that your race will be long and tough. You have to be mentally prepared for a slog.

We rowed through the one and only bridge and are moving northbound. Several different marshaling boats are kicking up wake from across the course. We had to stop at least two, maybe even three times, to let a wake roll by because it was too rolling to row.

On the way out, the boat slated to chase us in our race was following us. They were two older ladies who appeared in great shape with a minute and 16-second handicap on us, yet another race where we needed to row fast and hard. Watching them, they were moving very well. I was definitely concerned about our ability to out row the handicap. But a warm-up is warm-up; you have to see how they start moving when the starter says go.

It’s a long row up to the start. I’ve been on this lake before. I know the distance is deceptive, but it was still a haul up to the start. I kept thinking, “sheesh, we’re not at the start line yet? What is going on?”

We arrive and the marshall is too stressed out. He is at the max, increasing the stress love everyone around him and, honestly, being kind of rude . Our women’s boats were there on time. He wanted us to turn right away into the junior women’s double event. He’s yelling at us first to follow the boats down the course. Our boat and our competition are waiting to do that; we’ve partially turned but we have to let two boats row by before we can finish the turn. Then he yells at us to not stop paddling; Dayton keeps rowing but they’re about to clothesline a junior double, so I yell to watch out. They stop just in time.

He’s still yelling to not stop even though we’ve had this near-collision and there are boats in our way. We do get turned and everyone is packed together. There is no space to go anywhere. We are all in the correct order. Dayton heard the starter call 200s up to the start. Their bow turned to us and said, “I think we need to row up.” Bow-in-chief said, “No, they were just calling number 200 to the start, we’re fine.”

The marshaler gets on his megaphone yells, “Hey ladies, stop chatting over there.” What the heck? We’re not over here sharing our life stories, we’re figuring this out! Where do you want us to row? Do you want us to row into the junior women’s doubles because that’s what’s about to happen.

He was just way too much. On top of that, we get to the official Start Marshall and she’s, “Ladies, you’re early to your race. You have three minutes to chill out.” Surprise, surprise!

It’s the first regatta all year where the races are starting on time!

I completely cool down from a row up, always great to start a race not warmed up. I communicate a little bit with bow-in-chief about what I’m planning to do for this race. My personal objective is to get off the water with out my forearms cramping, but also just do row a solid piece maintaining consistency throughout. I also the conditions on the course are going to rough and that it is a full 5K distance this time.

This regatta was much better at the start. The start Marshall tells us, “208, you can proceed forward.” We go. There’s a clearly marked buoy that marks the chute entrance. The starter very loudly and clearly calls, “MARK” when we when our bow passes the start buoy. First head race where that has happened.

My plan for this race is to break it down into 50 strokes. I’m thinking with a headwind it’ll probably be around 11-12 sets of 50. Each 50 I’m going to call some kind of focus. The first 2K or so it’s more about relaxing because I want to avoid tensing up and burning out too soon.

I don’t call anything for the first 50, just call “One” after the “MARK” and go right into my head, “breathe, relax”. The first 50 comes and goes. Second 50, “breathe!” Third 50, “relax hands!”

Throughout most of this race I did not look up. I also wasn’t necessarily looking down. I purposefully raced without a stroke coach. After our last regatta, the quad went so much better than the double, I thought maybe the stroke coach added a level of stress. If I’m going to try to do row without one, this would be the time.

What I mostly remember is watching the water rooster tail off the tip of our stern and the water trail. Something about was mesmerizing and kept my focus. It kept my head up and level. Every 50 strokes whenever I would call the new focus I would glance up to see where the other boats were in our race. I could tell we were opening up on the others and half way through it was clear to we were going to out row the handicap.

The wind was definitely pushing around. Bow-in-chief was doing a lot of steering work trying to course correct. Two times she called to go hard on starboard and I knew that was because we’ve been pushed over into the buoys. We missed each right on the correct side of the boat at the right time.

The boat following us actually went way off course at the beginning; I did see that in the first 50 strokes.

We followed the junior women’s doubles. We passed one of them quick off of the start, I would say in the first 50-70 strokes or so. We passed another one probably around 1K into the race. There was a bit of a gap before we passed another one getting close to the bridge.

Oar hang

As the strokes slowly passed, one by one, I was happy with how was able to keep my hands relaxed. It’s so important to always stay loose, but even more important when you’re dealing with a lot of chop and headwind. One point I called a focus on releases to try and pop the blades down and away so it was clean and we could get as much run as possible. Around the halfway mark I called for perseverance, just staying strong, pushing through the rough, and knowing you can do it.

That’s not to say the race wasn’t tiring because it was definitely tiring. You know it’s going to be a slog. I’m happy that my forearms did not cramp up, that I maintained a loose grip despite the humidity and the conditions.

We row under the bridge. The bridge is when know you’re getting near the end, and you can do this. I actually have no idea what the distances are to the finish line. Bow-in-chief did call 2K in, and 1k to go. You start side-eyeballing for things, such as the recovery area. We pass that.

I know every stroke we’re getting closer. At this point I’ve counted through 11 50-stroke segments, I’m on the 12th. I thinking I’m probably going to count 13 and that’s okay. The headwind is just really pushing us down.

We were definitely starting to tire. I know that Alan and Caelan are there. I’m listening behind, trying to hear them because I figured they will probably be close to the finish line. I know if I can hear them calling for us that we’re close.

I hear lots of voices and people shouting, but nothing distinct when bow-in-chief yells, “Starboard! Buoy!” but she’s too late! We smack blades into the the big buoy; it knocked me off guard because I was so focused, and I let out a loud “UNH” sound.

But it wasn’t a hard stop kind of hit, thanks to a little bit of warning. One that knocked off our rhythm and focus. The 50 counts are out the window; I call 10 to get it back together, 10 for legs because at this point we’re not that far from the finish.

Nearing the finish. Note the yellow buoy; we hit it later.

It’s just a matter of getting a rhythm reestablished in windy and choppy conditions when you’re already tired but we did it.

That’s about when I hear Alan cheering for us and we were getting close. Bow-in-chief can see the dragons, because that was what the finish line buoys were—a set of tiger-striped floating dinosaurs or dragons.

At some point I said, “let’s go up!” and I try taking it up a little more, just pushing through with the legs. Now I’m counting tens, 10 more, 10 more. I’m looking a little to the side, more of a glance looking for the tent, and then I remind myself, “no, do not look for the timer, listen for the sound.” Bow- in-chief says three more strokes. I’m counting 1-2-3-4 and the finish line official yells loudly “MARK” and we know we’re done.

We sail past the dragon buoys and take it down to a paddle. Looking down the race course, we have so much open water on all of the boats we passed that I know there’s no way we didn’t win this race.

Spin the boat around and start paddling back northbound; I figure we have about 750-ish meters to the recovery dock. I hear, “Go, Mommy!” I look over my shoulder. Alan is holding Caelan standing on a little point out into the lake. That’s about the time bow-in-chief calls “hard on port!” but we still hit the buoy. Yea, big buoy hit in front of Caelan and Alan, and all the others standing on the shore. I saw a guy laughing.

On the way back up, going nice and slow, and all this sweat starts pouring down my face. Everything was fine the whole race, but on the paddle I can’t see. but then we see you know we’re really nice and slow and all this and all the sweat it’s just pouring down my face. I rowed most of the recovery with my eyes closed.

So we get back on shore, check the results, and yes, we won. Both of us agreed on a race rating of seven or eight out of 10. Given the conditions, I think it went about as well as it could. We persevered. I did not quite hit my target rating that I wanted. It kind of bounced around a bit, but I think some of that was dealing with some of the rough water and steering conditions.

So it was a little inconsistent in that regard, but we still have time to work on that get it better.

While derigging the double, a junior cox next to us was arguing with her crew. Line: “because it makes the boat aesthetically pleasing!”

Caelan ran up to me and said, “Mommy, you got GOLD!” And then, attention hog, he wanted to be in all the pictures.

Coxed 2x
Team photo plus one

Now we have three weeks to focus on preparing for the Head of the Hooch.

About camckenna

I write; I row.
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