Sunday, July 13, 2008

Capital Sprints 2008 and Becoming A Federal Marshall

This weekend was our first race of the season. We loaded up our boat trailer and traveled a short distance up I-95/I-395 to the Anacostia waterfront in the shadow of the new National's ballpark to compete in the Capital Sprints hosted by the Capital Rowing Club. We used this race as a tune up for the Diamond State Master's Regatta in two weeks. Given that Masters Nationals are being held in Long Beach, CA this year, Diamond State becomes all the more important as THE Masters Regatta for those of us in the east. The one thing about racing and attending regattas is that it's a long day. We left at 7:45 in the morning and didn't finish up until 6:00PM and by the time we arrived back at our boathouse, unloaded the trailer and rerigged the boats it was 8:00PM. Another thing about regattas is there is a lot of down time between your races. For example, I rowed in two races - an 8+ and a Quad. The 8+ race was at 10:40AM and the Quad raced at 1:00PM. I didn't leave the course until 6:00PM waiting while others that I carpooled with raced. That's a lot of time to kill. In the picture below, the men relax in the shade waiting their time to race. We were located close to the finish line good for viewing purposes and cheering on teammates. It was also right by where boats launched so we could give encouragement to our teammates as they headed off to the start line. You'll notice that none of our female teammates (save one) are visible in the picture. Most were either on the water racing or back at the boat trailer getting their boats ready.
My first race was in the 8+. The experiment to switch me from a port to starboard rower continues. The most important thing is I didn't catch a crab and I did feel that I contributed during the race. Our start is our weakest element and it showed in the 8+. We were in last place after our start sequence (not that I looked out of the boat). We eventually passed one boat pulled even with a second boat only to fall back 3 seats in the last 100 meters to finish 3rd on raw time/placement. Where you finish on the water, however, is not always where you finish once adjusted times are posted. In Masters rowing, time handicaps are assigned based on the average age of your boat. Our average age was 52, I believe. The boat that finished first, from Alexandria, after adjustments stayed first. They were much younger than the other three boats in our heat, but won by enough to hold first. The second place boat from Thompson's finished second on the water, but dropped to last (4th) after the handicap was applied. The last place boat on the water, also from Alexandria, moved from last on the water to second and we stayed at 3rd - by 0.6 seconds. That hurt. We really need to fix our start. My Quad race was sort of anticlimatic. The four of us had not rowed together as a boat before even though we all have sculled at some point. There was only one other boat in our race, from Capital. They gave us a time handicap of 10 seconds given their average age was much younger than my boat. I drew the straw for rowing bow in the Quad, which means I was also responsible for steering as Quads don't carry coxswains. Sculling and steering at Capital is a challenge as the course isn't buoyed and there are two bridges to be negotiated right at the finish line. Our race didn't go all that well. Our two seat caught a crab during our start sequence, which more or less ended the race for us. Masters only race over 1,000 meters and if you catch a crab there just isn't enough time and distance to really catch back up. After recovering from the crab, we more or less used the rest of the race as a practice for upcoming sprints. Experimenting with different stroke rates to see what moved the boat best for us. The good news is I didn't hit the bridges or pilings. Always a plus.
Our club did well overall. Our Women's 8+ finished first as did one of our Men's 4+. I don't have the complete results yes so I'm not sure how some of our doubles and mixed 8+s did. I do have some photos to share. Here one of our Men's 4+ bringing their boat down to the launch area.

Here is another of our Men's 4+ (not the ones that won) pulling away from the launch dock. See one of the bridges and pilings behind them. That why steering the bow in the Quad makes me nervous.

Here are our novice Women returning to the recovery dock. We were all proud of them even though they came in last (in a two boat race). These women have only been rowing for about six weeks. For them to step up and ask to be able to race was a testament to them. Most of our novices won't race until September. So well done to them.

The best part of Capital Sprints is they feed you afterward! Capital provides hamburgers and hot dogs and the visiting clubs bring side dishes and deserts. One nice thing about Masters Rowing is after you're done rowing, you can kick back and enjoy a beer with your teammates. Overall it was a good time and great effort.

A funny thing happened after we packed up and were ready to head home. Capital's boathouse is located next to the Washington Navy Yard. The Navy is nice enough to let the rowers use their parking garage as there is really only street parking available otherwise and frankly the neighborhood leaves something to be desired. Now to park in their garage the police at the gate did require a parking pass (provided by Capital) and an ID (i.e., driver's license). Getting in was no problem. I was driving and had the required paperwork. Because we were in a car (minivan), I was the only one required to produce and ID so we proceeded in and parked. On the way back though, we were walking in through the gate and everyone had to have an ID. Something we didn't know in advance. Since most of us were wearing spandex rowing shorts under athletic shorts with no pockets, wallets, for the most part had been left in the car. I was the only one that had brought an ID. We tried to talk the guard into letting everyone in (there was me and four others traveling in my car), but no go. It was decided that my passengers would just wait outside the gate until I brought the car around. The Guard suggested an alternative and had me raise my right hand and swear to uphold the Constitution and take the responsibility for the conduct of my passengers and was made a Deputy Federal Marshall for a fifteen minute period. Long enough to get to the van and leave the Navy Yard. We all thought that was extremely funny, but also kind of cool. It was a fitting end of our trip.


Kim said...

that is cool!

Fannie Mae said...

GAH! If you throw around terms like "catch a crab", link to a definition. Because people like me? Start thinking VD's ;)

Frank said...

Hi Fannie. Thanks for dropping by. Here's a definition of a crab:

A rowing error where the rower is unable to timely remove or release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat until it is removed from the water. This results in slowing the boat down. A severe crab can even eject a rower out of the shell or make the boat capsize (unlikely except in small boats). Occasionally, in a severe crab, the oar handle will knock the rower flat and end up behind him/her, in which case it is referred to as an 'over-the-head crab.'

You can see one here: