I've always admired people who run a marathon. Running 26 miles is quite a feat not to mention the endless hours and miles put in before hand in training for the event. I've thought of running a marathon, but I know in reality it's not for me. The main reason is I hate to run. I often mock (to myself) the joggers I pass on my way to the boathouse to row or out for a bike ride. Loser, I'll think, keep running and end up damaging those knees and feet. I feel so superior to them although I have no right too. This Saturday is my marathon. Its Wye Island, a 12.5 mile row around Wye Island on Maryland's eastern shore. A normal head Race might take us 17 to 20 minutes to row the 3.5 miles. Wye Island will take us 90 minutes to complete. We'll finish with blistered hands and aching quads. We won't launch from a dock but wade in and out of waist deep water (down a boat ramp actually) to launch and recover. But through it all we'll feel a sense of accomplishment for having survived it. It kicks off our Head Race season and we'll race almost every weekend from now to the end of our season the first weekend of November. We'll rehash the race with our teammates as we hold cold beers in our hand as much to cool our burning hands as to drink. I love the sport of rowing and wish I had had the opportunity my kids of starting in high school instead of coming to the sport in my mid 40s.
Here is what John Mulligan, who rows out of Thompson's Boathouse in Washington, DC has to say about the Wye Island Regatta in an article he wrote for the Washingtonian magazine:
The 20-kilometer race around Wye Island, by the Chesapeake, is something every rower should experience. Even the coxswain’s chart is exhausting. It warns of submerged obstacles, coves to avoid, hidden islands of marsh grass, everything but “Here be dragons.”
I got my ride around the island by answering an e-mail plea for volunteers to fill a seat in a Prince William Rowing Club eight. As watermen unloaded bushels of crabs on their dock, the rowing crews marched into the river carrying their boats overhead. Ankle-deep in river muck, hip-deep in water, they rolled their boats down and launched. The race was four times longer than any other contest on the calendar. Dull aches sunk into elbows and thighs within the first 15 minutes. In the second half hour, we rested by pairs, guzzling water from squeeze bottles for a minute as the other six pulled past the duck blinds in the river, the stately white homes.
The final four miles were a struggle. But we picked up a semblance of stamina for the final 1,000 meters and finished in one hour, 29.13 seconds. Later we learned that we had placed second. The red ribbon—my first and only masters crew trophy—now hangs among the baby pictures and school calendars on our kitchen wall.
I think that pretty well sums up the race. You can read the complete article, which is an excellent piece on Masters Rowing in general here.
The only big worry about Wye Island is the weather. It's a challenging race in the best conditions. Having to fight the elements and choppy water just sucks the fun right out of it. Right now they are calling for a 40% chance of rain. Not very encouraging.
Wye island is open to all types of rowing craft, not just crew shells. The will by kayaks, canoes, outriggers, Dragon boats, etc. Here are some other articles written by these paddlers. Here. And Here And Here And Here