Sep 13 2017
In a sense, this was the day I had been preparing for for two years. At the end of the afternoon, I would row my Masters C 1x race.
But first, the eight! Through Facebook, I had linked up with some French rowers and promised them to row an eight in the C age category. Racing at 11:13, the meet up was at 9:50 in front of the place where you get bow numbers. It was interesting, as I didn’t know any of them, but in the end we found each other. They were a jolly bunch. We spent about 25 minutes counting to eight, because people were constantly disappearing and reappearing (toilet visit, greeting friends, other vague things that are apparently highly important an hour before race time) and figuring out the distribution of bow and stroke side rowers. In the end, one of the French guys called all stroke side to his side. So we had a group of five and a group of three, so I ran over to bow side.
Then we determined the order. Nobody wanted to row stroke seat, but eventually a volunteer was found, and then we just lined up behind him in random order.
Then we went to find our boat, an older Sims (?) eight. Carried it off to the dock, waited for boat and crew to be identified and checked and en launched. With three minute race intervals and eight racing lanes, you would expect the dock to be a mad, chaotic mess, but to the credit of the organizers everything went calmly and there was hardly any waiting. And that is getting 160 boats on the water per hour.
I was seated on 7 (or 2 as the French called it) behind stroke seat. Our stroke did his best but I am not sure thst we didn’t have a better stroke on one of the other seats. We did have a lovely and very good cox, and because 2 in the crew didn’t understand French and some of the French didn’t understand English, I got to listen to every command in two languages. We did a few practice starts and ten stroke pieces and discovered that setting the boat was our biggest challenge. We also decided to row a slightly lower stroke rate.
We were last out of the start and we consolidated that position. For the entire race, we were trailing about one length behind the next boat and were unable to take them back. We didn’t lose any ground either, we just rowed and rowed and that was it. The photo was taken just before the finish line. I am on the far right. Stroke seat is outside the picture. This photo made it to the World Rowing site. My first picture on World Rowing!
Spirits were high though and our cox made a fun picture:
Everybody was happy!
Then I had a few hours before my main event. I helped Romana with her ad hoc French/German/Scottish/Czech quad.
And a quick post race picture, using beauty filter 4:
With all that and some race watching it quickly became time to prepare for my own race. With the large distances between our boat rack and the water, this requires careful planning. Carry sculls to dock: 7 minutes. Drop bag. Five minutes waiting in line. Warming up run. Fifteen minutes. Waiting in line to get bow number. Five minutes. Back to boat. Seven minutes. Carry boat to dock. Ten minutes. Romana was racing the double thirty minutes before me, so she wasn’t around to help me.
I was about to take my last sip of water, some fast sugars in gel form (for their placebo effect) and carry the boat to the dock. I put the single in slings and checked the heelstrings. Damn. They were not secured. So i had to take out the entire footstretcher and readjust the heel strings. Without heel strings in order, I wouldn’t pass the boat safety inspection (and rightfully so). So that was another few minutes lost. Not a big deal, except that I forgot to take my sugar and water, so I was pretty thirsty rowing to the start.
The good thing was that I wasn’t nervous at all. I didn’t know any of the other competitors in my heat and could not predict where I would end up. I was hoping to row in front, i.e. The first three boats, but who knew?
After two loops between the 2k point and the start at 1k I was ready, waiting for my race to be called to the pre-start. I was racing in lane 1, where it is difficult to see the people in lanes 7 and 8.
“Race Uniform. Come to the start.”
I backed into the starting pontoon and aligned the single slightly diagonally because of the crosswind.
I knew that in Bled, two minutes is about 30 seconds.
“Quick start.” (That means they are not calling out the boats individually. Good for me. They should always do that.)
Then a long wait, then the starters flag went up, then a long wait.
“Go!” We were off. The start was good. I was with the others.
“Ding ding ding dimg ding!” A loud bell called a false start, and we stopped and rowed back into the starting pontoon. Lane six got a yellowcard. I don’t blame him. The long waits between attention and ready are torture, especially in a cross wind.
I had a little chat with the boy on the starting pontoon and then concentrated again,
So we repeated the “quick start”, “attention” and “go” and my second start was superb. The first one was good but this one was better.
About 150m in I was in first or second position, with lane 2 next to me and the others slightly behind. As we continued, the gap between the two of us and the rest of the field widened slightly. I took a quick glance to the far left to check lanes 7 and 8 but they were OK as well. I brought down the power on the SpeedCoach to values in the 3000-400 range, which I knew I could maintain, and battled on.
Lane 2 was not rowing away from me, but he passed the 500m line slightly ahead. That is where I opened my first attack, and I managed to pass him and lead by … perhaps 10cm.
“Don’t mess it up, I really want to win.” That is what I thought.
Unfortunately, lane 2 had a similar intention and he slowly caught me back, and 250m before the finish we were even. I rated up. I guess he did as well. Everything became very painful. I stopped checking his position and just rowed and rowed. I screamed, I think, of pain, a few strokes before the finish line, and in the end I didn’t win. A small but significant margin.
I looked at the Brazilian in lane 2. It was clear that he had had to work very hard for his medal. We were both still breathing hard when the other boats crossed the line and we were told to clear the finish area immediately.
Slightly disappointed, I rowed past the victory ceremony pontoon. Then it dawned on me that i had rowed a pretty damn good race.
In the next heat, my friend and long term opponent Kazimir was racing, and he was leading. I cheered for him and he won! In absolute tikes, he beat me by a second, which is good for him, because I beat him by a large margin at our Masters Nationals.
Carrying the boat to the rack, I nearly collapsed and two friendly Dutch guys carried the boat for me for the last 300 meters. Then I walked back to the rowing center, picked up my bag, bought a beer, had a chat with Mike, and picked up my sculls. That beer tasted good.
Romana had come fourth in her doubles race, but apart from her it felt like the entire Czech community had watched my race. Lots of congratulations, it almost felt like a win.
When I found Romana, we pushed our bikes up the hill to the car park, took some clean clothes and rode back to the hotel for a shower. We had a pretty nice dinner in Bled and then joined the festivities on the promenade.
I tried to limit the wine and get to bed early because I would race at 9am the next morning. I didn’t succeed entirely. It is also good to relax with friends.