Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Challenge

This Sunday was the first of three head races that are held on the Occoquan. I'll compete in all three. This Sunday it was the Occoquan Challenge. The Challenge is unique in that unlike most head races which you start at Point A and finish at Point B, with the Challenge you start and finish at Point A. There is a 180 degree turn midway through the race course that brings you back to the start. Actually the start and finish line are offset otherwise there would be a number of collisions. Something that you want to avoid. Sunday was sunny hot and humid. Not exactly ideal rowing conditions. At our practice the day before, I found out that I had been moved up from stroking our B 8+ to the #2 seat in the A 8+. This will continue for the next few weeks including the Head of the Charles in Boston. In addition to being moved up to the A boat, I was also scheduled to double row with my second race being in the Quad. When I arrived at our boathouse, the Capital Rowing Club's trailer was there unloading our Women's boats. They had competed in the Head of the Ohio in Pittsburgh the day before. One of the boats they had taken was the Quad we were to use in our race on Sunday. The Quad's steering cable had been fraying for some time and the women decided to tape it to prevent it from breaking, but by doing so they lost the ability to steer it. The tape was located such that it prevent the foot steering from working. The rudder became fixed and all control over the boat now has to be done by varying the pressure on the left or right oars. That makes making a turn much more difficult and a 180 degree turn a struggle to say the least.

We launched for my first race in the 8+ about 15 minutes before our scheduled start. As with most regattas, they were running a bit behind, but not by much. There were quite a number of 8+s in front of us waiting for their start so we just chilled till our time to go. In Head races you start single file about 10 to 15 seconds between boats. The object being to pass as many as possible while rowing the fastest time. We rowed close to the start with just our stern six and then added in the bow pair right before crossing the start line. We passed out novice men's 8+ in the first few minutes, but that was the only boat we managed to pass. We had just an ok final time and finished second in the 50+ category and fourth overall out of six boats for all Masters 8+s. I was really beat after our race and wasn't looking forward to racing in the Quad at all. After launching in the Quad literally minutes after rowing in the 8+, we found out we had been given an incorrect starting time and had another hour or so before our start so we went back to the dock to wait and rest. Luckily the start line was only about 3/4 mile from out boathouse. After we launched a second time, we were still early so we took the extra time to practice as the four of us had never rowed together before in a Quad. It was pretty rough. Our start finally came, but we weren't together as a boat at all and it was a struggle throughout the race. I think part of it was we were all tired from having already raced once that day and the heat had just sapped us. It seemed to prevent us from focusing and getting our rhythm down in the boat. Another part was rowing in an unfamiliar boat with four people not use to rowing together. Certainly not in a sculling boat. We got passed early by the only other Men's entry in the Quad event and we also managed to hit a buoy. It did some damage to our boat and should have been a penalty, but the results don't show it so I guessed the referees missed it. It was a struggle to finish. It just wasn't a good row. I was happy just to go home and have a few cold beers.

All year I've have been toying with the idea of double rowing in our last race, which is the Head of the Occoquan, in a single and my usual 8+. Its more doable then most Head races since the single sculling events are held on Saturday and club sweep events are held on Sunday. I've never timed myself before in a single and didn't know if I would be competitive or not. So on Friday, I took a watch with me and ran the Occoquan Chase course, which runs down the Prince William side of the Occoquan. Turns out my time wasn't very good so I'm scrapping the idea until next year. I'll try timing myself a few more times before cold weather shuts down rowing and see if there is any improvement.

After practice on Saturday morning, which is when I found out I had been pumped up to the A boat, I hustled home, showered and headed up to College Park with Ann to watch the University of Maryland play GaTech. In our haste to depart so we would have a little time to tailgate, we forgot to pack sunscreen. As anyone in the eastern half of the United States can tell you, its been hot. Not fall hot, but summer hot. The temperature was in the low 90s. Our seats are on the sunny side of the stadium and we fried. Luckily the game was more exciting then it should have been and we were able to ignore, to some degree, how pink our faces and arms were becoming. Maryland manged to hold on for a 28-26 win after jumping out to a 21-3 lead. After we got home, we walked the dogs and then collapsed in bed. Busy day, but tiring

Monday we headed down to Harrisonburg to spend the day with Daughter#2 and the Black Demon. More on that later when I download the pictures.

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