Monday, May 4, 2009

Ecclesiastes 3:12

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to hang tight. Not to give up on your ability to move forward, but to acknowledge that you are not doing anything wrong, that you are in fact doing many things right, and to breathe and let go and stop fighting.

In the boat, that doesn't always mean that things feel better or move better, not right away. But deciding that you're not going to do whatever it takes to hold the boat up, or try to fix with your own recovery what the person in front of you or behind you is doing--the boat flops, it lurches, and maybe a stroke for a seat or two is rendered ineffective--and then, it relaxes. Unfortunately, if you and your boatmates don't take that as an opportunity to maintain the change, it becomes a cycle: maybe lasting a piece, maybe a practice, maybe a week.

It's incredibly frustrating to feel like you know what you're doing, to see in other boats that you actually do know what you're doing, but in the boat where it matters, to feel lost. This same feeling of powerlessness can be anywhere--not just in practice, but maybe in a class where a teacher doesn't seem to like your work, or a relationship that you care very much about but cannot steer, or trying to maneuver future plans while facing several unknowns and the plans of others. The ability to mindfully let go of the fear, the unknown, the shitty stuff you can't control, and to keep putting your blade in as best you can and working hard on the drive (so to speak) perhaps one of the most important things in getting things to turn out all right in the end.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Etes vous prets?

Spring racing commences in just four days. We'll be lining up for our season-opener against Brown--always a solid competitor, and the way I've started off every spring season with Radcliffe. I feel that our boat's more prepared for 2Ks than in years past, which is exciting. It will be a good challenge to go out and see what we can do, discover this race and this season's strengths and weaknesses when we are actually barrelling down the racecourse, the outcome uncertain and every inch something you're willing to bleed for.

I am loving the Resolute so much more than the Vespoli hull (although nothing I've rowed in yet, 8-wise, compares to an Empacher), and that we switched back to Crokers. I love the wider-feeling platform of the Resolute, although it's much tippier, and gives very accurate feedback when someone decides to be lazy with handle height or to rush to the catch...perhaps a little too accurate for low backs' liking! And my feet can go as low as I like. Sit up at the catch, get great compression, more rotation, and all those good things. The Crokers I enjoy because you can feel, much better than the C2s we were using, what your blade is doing in the water. I am still working on getting out of the "digging" habit I picked up with the heavy C2s--I don't know the exact model we were using, only that I couldn't tell how much of the shaft was buried because it was always very, very heavy, even mid-race...and they are designed to effectively wash out at the finish, so I am also re-learning how to stay buried. Anyway. Enough hating and sounding like an infomercial. Mostly, I'm happy to be back in comfortable equipment and to feel like I know how to row again.

I also took out a single yesterday for the first time since Christmas break. Beautiful water that stayed beautiful even with my painful square-blade rowing attempts--better than two falls ago, when the crappy B Hudson was my home, but definitely not as good as I got during our last weeks in San Diego. I suppose I could have taken my feet out if I'd wanted to, but since the river isn't exactly Otay Lake-temperature yet, it seemed an unfavorable gamble. At least I have something (else) to work at getting better at.

Sometimes I wonder if I woke up tomorrow with retrograde amnesia, and someone told me I should take up rowing, what "habits" my body and technique would have. Of the technical things I do well and poorly, how many are ones I am consciously telling myself to do and executing these orders correctly (although what I'm telling myself might be the wrong things), and how many are ones that I don't think about at all, but which have simply become mechanically ingrained via good or bad habit? I read somewhere that it takes 800 strokes that execute an element properly to ingrain it as something you can claim to have mastered. It seems difficult to assess what is trying to be captured in that maxim, although I would say that if you could hop in a single and go do a steady state 8K with a perfect catch or finish or leg drive or handle height on the recovery or weight transfer on the seat or connection through the footboard on every stroke, you would probably be able to do pretty darn well with that element during a 2K race. I like rows where I can focus on just one thing the whole time: spending 4x5K on Lake Carnegie or a couple BU to Arsenal laps just thinking about where my weight is on the seat and footplate at the catch, just as I lift my hands up and feel the pressure of the water against the blade before driving the legs, is a very satisfying row when even a little headway can be made technique-wise.

It's been a while since I wrote on here. I started a couple of posts at various times between last June and now, and never felt like I could quite get my thoughts out right. But starting to race 2Ks again has gotten me past those "writer's blocks" and happy to log my thoughts about the new season.