Thursday, October 29, 2009

Race Week

This week marks the final week of my sweep rowing. We have a race this coming weekend, The Head of the Occoquan, that marks the official end of our season. I will still continue to scull, weather permitting, but no more sweep rowing and no more racing. I'm scheduled to race three times this weekend - once on Saturday and twice on Sunday. My race on Saturday is in a single (1X) and it's the first time I'll be trying that. I've entered myself in the recreational category because frankly the Masters 50+ category is just crazily competitive around here. So I'll try Rec this year and see how I do before making a decision on what category to race next year. I'm a bit worried about the weather for Saturday's race and in particular, the wind. Right now they're calling for winds to be 10 to 15 mph with gusts to 25 mph. I'm not particularly fond of rowing a single in those kind of conditions. I row mostly because I enjoy it. Granted its great exercise and a great way to enjoy the water and the outdoors in general, but mostly I do it because its fun. Rowing in choppy water is not fun and if I find the water to choppy come Saturday, I plan to scratch. So right now I'm hoping the forecast will change (as it has twice already) and the winds won't be too bad. I did a practice run of the HOTO course on Wednesday and it felt pretty good. I definitely need to hug the buoy line a lot closer then I did, but now that I know where the buoys are, that should be easier. When sculling I've always looked over my left shoulder to see where I'm going, but the buoys are all located to my right. Just feels weird looking over that shoulder.

As far as the races on Sunday, I'll be stroking a 4+ in the Masters 50+ category and rowing 2 seat in an 8+ in the 40+ category. The 4+ uses the same line up we used for the Challenge and the Chase. Each time we go out we're a bit better so hopefully we're peaking at the right time. For our practice last Saturday, our first 1/3 of the race was probably the best our 4+ has felt all year. Now if we can hold that for the whole race we'll do ok. The 8+ that I'm in is a bit of a composite boat. It's made of primarily of guys who row in our recreational/fitness program or are novice rowers. Our rec/fitness program are for those that want to row, but really aren't interested in competing in most races or can't devote the time to be in the Men's Competitive boats. They'll dabble in some of the races on our home water, however. The novice rowers are our first year rowers. This gives them a taste of what racing is like and will help them decide whether they want to enter the Competitive or rec/fitness program next year. I'm in their boat because I didn't make the Competitive 8+ and they had an open seat. I look at it as a fun race and I'm happy to help out, but my real focus will be in the 4+.

Send good thoughts this way for good weather and low winds this coming weekend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Congratulations Are In Order

In the field of rowing there are a few events that are considered premier rowing regattas. Certainly the Olympics is at the top of the pyramid, but it only happens every four years. For Head racing, The Race is the Head of the Charles, which was held this past weekend on the Charles River in Boston. It's a two day event and it's the race everyone wants to go too. The race everyone trains for. So many want to participate that there are not enough spaces for everyone who would like to compete. There are two ways to get a space. The first is to do well enough in the prior year's race to get an automatic invite for the following year. For sweep rowers, that means finishing in the top 50% of your event. For scullers it means finishing within 5% of the winning time. For those who are looking to fill the remaining spaces, the race organizers hold a lottery for each event to see who gets an invite and who doesn't. I have been lucky enough to compete in the HOCR three times so far. Twice as a rower and once as a coxswain. Our Women's Senior Masters 8+ had an automatic entry, but none of our other entries got an invite via the lottery this year. So we have this three week break between our last two races.

The purpose of this post is to really congratulate Daughter#1, who did race this past weekend at the HOCR. She coxed a Senior Masters 4+ from Saugatuck Rowing Club to a second place finish. They missed 1st place by a mere 2.7 seconds. Over a 3 mile race, 2.7 seconds is almost nothing. Less then a boat length. Since Daughter#1 is all about the medals, she was happy with their finish. My Club's Women's Senior Masters 8+ pulled a 7th place finish, which I believe is their best finish ever and comes with an automatic entry for next year so congratulations to them as well.

Hopefully we'll be luckier next year and get an invite to the biggest party of the fall.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cold, Rainy and Windy

Cold, rainy and windy about describes the weekend. Starting on Friday the temperature dropped and the rains began and it continued most of the weekend. It was that damp cold rain that chills you to the bone no matter what you wwear. Due to the weather it was mostly a stay indoors kind of weekend.

Friday, knowing what the weather would be, I actually slept in rather then get up at the crack of dawn to go rowing or biking. I got up around 8:15, which is the latest I've slept for some time. After slacking the morning away, Ann, The Son and I headed out to lunch at Red Lobster and then some shopping at Target. After returning home, we watched the movie "Defiance", which I was looking forward to. The movie was just ok, although the story itself is compelling. Basically it's about Jewish resistance fighters in Belarus and the three brothers that led this band. One of the features of watching a movie on DVD that I reallt like is the "making of" special features. The one statement that caught my attention from that featurette, is that there are 19,000 people living today, descendants of this small group of people, who decided to hide out and occasionally fight the Germans rather then face the Death Camps.

Saturday was more rain and the temperature dipped into the low 40s. We had practice, but it was shortened as the wind chill was in the mid 30s. We also had tickets to the Maryland-Virginia football game, but neither Ann or I had a desire to sit out in the cold and the rain. Given the outcome of the game, which we did watch on TV, it was just as well. Lots of fumbles and a few field goals, but the action was pretty slow. Saturday was just a disaster for the college teams we follow. Maryland lost, Virginia Tech lost and Auburn lost. Ohio did win so there was that.

On Sunday, our coach called off our practice a we woke up to temperatures in the 30s with a building wind. I was glad for that as rowing in that type of weather is not fun at all. I did the grocery shopping in the morning so as to be able to relax and watch football in the afternoon. The Son came up from his cave and prepared breakfast for us. We then settled in and watched another dismal showing by the Redskins. They lost again to another team that had no wins. The only upside to their season so far is the entertainment it provides in the days following the game listening to the sports talk radio stations. Oh the fodder the Redskins and their inept owner have provided. As the schedule for the Redskins only gets that much harder from here on out, i expect more of the same. I also made dinner on Sunday, which was Kielbasa. It's a tasty recipe although unhealthy as all get out. The vegetables (potatoes carrots, onions and broccoli) are sauteed in bacon fat. You can hear the arteries closing up as we eat it.

I had yesterday off as I work through my "Use or Lose" vacation time. The temperature was suppose to warm up to the high 50s, but it took a while. The wind was also a little higher then I like if I want to row, which I did. Finally around 3:00 the temperature and wind got to where it was a go so I did. It was an ok row alternating between rowing really well and at other time feeling like I was rowing through quicksand. I also forgot that the high school kids were back on the water for their fall seasons. It gets pretty chaotic on the docks and out on the water with all them and their coaches. I'll try to avoid late afternoons in the future. Only 11 more days until my first 1X race.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Rowing and Football

The weekend certainly had its ups and downs. The rowing was on the upside and the football was mostly on the downside. Lets take the upside first. Saturday practice was a very light workout as we were racing the next day. Due to a lack of enough coxswains, we were limited to taking out the 8+ rather then two 4+s. I wasn't scheduled to race in the 8+ so that left me and another rower to ride along with the coach in the launch. Rather then do that our Coach suggested rowing in a double, which sounded better then just sitting and watching. The row in the double actually went better then I expected. It was a decent row although short. We only rowed about 3.5 miles. That's probably half of what we normally row in a practice. On Sunday the 4+s were scheduled to race at 1130. However, our coach wanted my 4+ to come at 830 for a short practice. I'm not exactly sure why. It's not like we haven't rowed together before. In fact this would be our second race together, but out we went. Our coach had some good tips particularly for our two starboard rowers (get your hands down during recovery so the boat isn't off to port during the recovery. I'm a port rower so, of course, anything wrong with the set of our boat is due to the starboard rowers :-) ). At 11:00 we launched and rowed up to he start, which just upstream from Jacob's Rock. The race use to start at Jacob's Rock and started with a straight shot onto to a long straight away. Now it starts just upriver and requires negotiating a big sweeping turn to starboard of at least 120 degrees. I suppose it makes the race more interesting with that big turn at the start, but given the Chase's move slightly upstream and the Head of the Occoquan moving theirs downstream from Fountainhead Park, it makes the two races too similar. That can't be good for either regatta where you're competing for the same rowers. There will be some that will come to both, but there are a lot that will chose between one or the other figuring why spend the money to come to the Occoquan to run what is essentially the same race? Anyway back to our race. We were led to understand that we had three boats in our age category (50+). One from Alexandria and the other from Oakton Masters. Oakton would start right in front of us and Alexandria behind us. For those that aren't familiar with Head Racing, boats start single file about 15 seconds apart. You win by having the fastest time, but the idea is to pass as many boats ahead of you as you can while not letting the boats behind you pass you or close the distance from the start. We had mixed results. the boat from Alexandria passed us about the halfway point while we passed Oakton with less then 1,000 meters left. They caught back up to us and we dueled for the remainder of the race including clashing oars with each other at one point. As far as the race itself, I thought our 4+ rowed much better then we had in the Head of the Potomac. Can we improve? Surely. Enough to make up the 35 seconds we need to catch up to Alexandria? Probably not, at least not this year. After I got home, I checked the results and was surprised to find that Oakton was actually in the 40+ category. So we finished second in a two boat race. Not quite as satisfying as saying that you finished second of three. Overall the club had an excellent day. Our Men's 8+ finished 2nd, the Women's 8+ finished 1st and the Women's 4+s finished 1 and 2. Lots of medals and more important respect for our club.

Most of my Saturday, after practice, was spent watching football. Both Auburn and VA Tech were on TV at noon. Auburn was playing at Arkansas and VA Tech was playing Boston College. The Auburn game turned out to be quite the disappointment given that Auburn was undefeated going in. Not anymore. On the other hand, VA Tech took apart Boston College, which made Daughter#2 and The Son In Law, but VA Tech grads, quite happy. Sunday I watched the Redskins play and lose to the previously win less Carolina Panthers. The only good thing about the loss is listening to the fan base bitch and moan and call for heads on sports talk radio the next few days. Lets face it, the 'Skins offensive line is just terrible. Without a good O line, it doesn't matter how good a Quarterback you have or how good a running back, you'll lose.

Monday I went for a row in a single. I practiced the Head of the Occoquan course and overall it was a good row. It never ceases to amaze me how my ability to make the boat run really well comes and goes over the course of a piece. I guess the idea is to be able to hold that good technique throughout a race. I need to get more zen like with the boat - become one with the boat. 19 days until my first race in a single.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ready for the Weekend

The weekend is upon us and I live for the weekends. No football games to actually attend as Maryland is down in Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest, but plenty to watch. Auburn-Arkansas is on tap for noon tomorrow on ESPN. War Eagle! Also on tap this weekend, on Sunday, is the George Mason Men's Crew sponsored Head Race - the Occoquan Chase. Along with the Head of the Occoquan, it's one of my favorite races. Its on our home water, but more then that, I love the twists and turns of the race. Makes for some exciting racing When I first joined my rowing club, the Occoquan Chase was just starting up and we would win the Masters 8+ every year - by default as we were the only boat entered in our category. Still we wore our "Champion of the Chase" t-shirts with pride. I might add that I love that they have special t-shirts made for the winners. Medals are nice, but you can't really wear medals anywhere. They just sit in your bedroom. T-shirts you can wear out. Anyway, the race has grown over the years and its not uncommon to have 4 or 5 boats in our category now. Its been a while since I've won one the t-shirts and I'd love to get another. As far as I know, I'm just in a Men's 50 4+, which, frankly is one of our weakest boats so winning a t-shirt might have to wait another year.

Speaking of Head Races, I officially signed up to race a single in the Head of the Occoquan. This will be my first time trying that. I've raced in 8s, 4s and Quads, but never in a single. I decided to do it just to see how I will do. A test of sorts. It's made possible as singles race on a Saturday and the rest of my races (a 4+ and an 8+) are scheduled for Sunday. Therefore, I won't be totally wiped. Hopefully we'll have good weather (Ha!) on Saturday, but if not I'll scratch. I'm not looking to go in the water during a windy Halloween day. Yes the race is on Halloween. I do need to step up my training though. 3 weeks to go.

On a health note, I picked up a skin infection just below my eyebrow. My left eye is almost swollen shut, which looks as lovely as it sounds. I'm on antibiotics for it and if past history holds, it should start draining over the weekend. I hope you weren't eating while reading this. I did go to the Doctor's today on a another matter, my blood pressure. It hasn't been too bad lately, but the Doctor has been tweaking my meds for a while now trying to get it down where he wants it. Based on today's visit, he's happy. Now I just need to do my part by taking the medications and keeping up with my exercising.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quite the Weekend

This past weekend was quite the satisfying and fun time. Between the football and the rowing, I was in heaven, especially the way everything worked out. First the football. Maryland was playing Clemson at Bryd Stadium. It was a noon start. Getting up to College Park for a noon game when I have rowing practice from 730 to 930 requires a lot of hustling as the trip to College Park takes an hour. Given how badly Maryland has struggled this year, I had no illusions that Maryland would win. I was just hoping it wouldn't be a blow out. It was a perfect day for college football. Bright blue fall skies, plenty of sun and warm without being hot. Because we got there only a little before game time, there wasn't really time for tailgating. I enjoyed a beer before we headed for the stadium. Ann and I grabbed sausage subs with the works from the concession stand for lunch and ate at our seats. I also picked up a Maryland hat since I seem to have lost the one I had. The game started auspiciously with Clemson jumping out to a 10-0 lead and gaining 140 yard in the first quarter alone. After that Maryland turned the game around and ended up winning 24-21 despite some strange calls by Maryland in the 4th Quarter. When you are up by 3, how do you go for it on 4th down on your OWN 29? Especially when you've gotten stuffed all day on short yardage situations. Luckily the Maryland defense was up to the task or Clemson was inept enough. Having their field goal kicker miss 2 field goals in a row helped too. Everyone left the game quite happy - well at least Maryland fans did.

After driving home with a stop to buy some KFC grilled chicken since neither Ann or I was in the mood to cook, I settled in to watch more football because you know one game just isn't enough. I watched the tail end of the Navy-Air Force game. An OT victory for Navy so good there. Really I was just biding my time until The Auburn-Tennessee game came on. When I was attending Auburn back in the old days, we played Tennessee every year and early in the year. Usually the winner of that game went on to have a good year. It was a fierce rivalry with no lost between fans. Not quite on the level on Auburn-Alabama, of course, but what is? But close. Anyway, it was very satisfying watching Tennessee get dominated, even if the final score wouldn't indicate so. Next up - Arkansas. An interesting by line of that game is that the Arkansas coach, Bobby Petrino, is a former Offensive Coordinator at Auburn and later when Head Coach at Louisville, was involved in a somewhat clandestine interview to become the Head Coach at Auburn to replace Tommy Tuberville. The meeting involved influential boosters, the Auburn Athletic Director and midnight jet rides. The scandal led to the resignation of the Auburn Athletic Director and banishment of the Booster involved. I'm sure it will come up during the week. Ann and I are considering going to watch the game with a bunch of Metro Washington Auburn supporters up in Crystal City. We'll have to see what our plans are for the weekend.

Now for the rowing. This past Sunday was the Occoquan Challenge. I was only scheduled to row in the Men's 8+. The interesting part of this particular race from almost all other head races is that halfway through there is a 180 degree turn that has to be navigated, which poses quite the challenge for coxswains and rowers alike (hence the race name). It's quite possible to shave or add significant time to your race depending on how you navigate the turn. The conditions on Sunday were sunny, cool and windy. The water was quite choppy, particularly at the turn. Our race was ok, but not great. Our ratio could have been better. Despite that we ended up winning. We beat our rivals from across the water, something we haven't ever done before and by 30 seconds to boot. So another Gold medal, which now makes three races in a row that I've been lucky enough to be a part of. Sort of unheard of for the men's side of our club. Overall it was a good day for our club. The Women's 8+ also won as did one of the Women's 4+ and a Men's 4+ (by default as there was no other boat in their age category) and our mixed double. I might have missed some others, but everyone went home happy. I need more weekends like this. How was your weekend?