Best Head of the Charles ever.

Despite going on day four of some nasty bronchial infection courtesy of this weekend’s frivolity, I am delighted with how it all turned out.  I am still totally exhausted from working overtime Friday-Monday to get boats loaded, unloaded, rigged, de-rigged, launched, docked, raced and steered–times two.  I think going in to the weekend I seriously underestimated how physically and mentally exhausting it was going to be to undertake two races at the Charles since I’ve only ever really done one (and let’s be honest, racing an 8+ doesn’t take much out of you–you have to show up to carry the boat around and that’s about it).  So the time spent doing all of the other “stuff” that goes along with racing ended up chewing up most of my “free” time at the Charles and I ended up not getting to do/see everything and everyone I would have liked to.
Even so, I did get to see and do a lot of things which is the best part of HOCR.

We started out the weekend with a great row on the course in the 2X early on Friday afternoon, right before the river got crazy.  I learned from a few mistakes on the course and made some notes for Saturday, before we took it in and then had a nice jog around Cambridge to wrap things up.  We spent some time talking to a few of the CLRA rowers, who had done us the favor of bringing our 2X up on their trailer.  Oddly this was my first time getting to interact much with any of the Lakers, despite having shared a boathouse with them for over three years.  A big thanks for their friendship and hospitality over the weekend–we loved racing the double at the Charles and couldn’t have done it without them!
The actual 2X race was a lot of fun.  We raced with a toe rigged in the boat for the first time which I think contributed somewhat to our success though it wasn’t as drastic a difference as we’d expected when we tried out the boat (as it was not our trusty Empacher that we have trained and raced in over the past few years).  Ellen toed and I called it–and it worked out well with the exception of the Weeks Bridge, over which I have been accused several times of taking it too wide.  I claim that it ended up being ok because while we entered the bridge on the starboard side, we came out sharply on the port side of the bridge for a great line up the mini powerhouse–but, I digress.  We won the double by 40+ seconds, which was awesome.  It also meant that we got to pass four boats, which was a fun challenge.
We were racing this event as a late entry, having taken over the spot previously filled by our PTC teammates, Meghan Musnicki and Megan Smith.  When they were pulled up to race in the USTC 8+, they were left with an empty double, and asked us to take it from them.  Unfortunately, we made the personnel switch after the regatta had gone to press so Ellen and I didn’t make it into any of the programs for the announcers along the course and were still identified as “the two Megans”.  So as we made our way down the course we were privy to their colorful analysis of the Megans’ race performance; my favorite comments came from the announcer at the Reunion Village:  “Here comes bow #5… USRowing’s Megan Smith and Meghan Musnicki… and they are coming out of nowhere!–Laying the SMACK down on the field!”

After racing we went straight to the NRF tent to hang out with National Team friends and coaches past and present–an event that I look forward to every year.  I think the keg was tapped by about 5:45.  Nice.  We also got to preview the documentary on the 2008 US Women’s 8+ that was on Showtime on Monday night.  It was sweet!  Then I got to meet Sir Matthew Pinsent, which was pretty cool.
I was horrified, however, when later while we were out and about socializing in Cambridge, I had the following conversation with a first-time member of the 2009 USA M8+ (who shall remain nameless):
Me: “Hey, there goes Matthew Pinsent,  if you want to say hi you should grab him before he leaves.”
Rower 1: “Who’s that?”
[I slap him across the face]
[I turn to one of his teammates and ask the same question]
Rower 2: “He’s like… some good rower, right”

Really?  Who do these young whippersnappers think they are, anyway.  ‘Who is Matthew Pinsent?’.  Honestly.  ‘Who is Michael Jordan?’ ‘Who is Lance Armstrong?’ It was terrible.  No worries, though–I have since set them straight on the matter.

The next day, we decided to hide out at our host family’s house in Wellesley (The Elswits–CBC members, and amazing hosts! THANK YOU!!) as long as possible to avoid the terrible weather that had blown in overnight.  Our 4+ race wasn’t until 3:44, so we departed around noon in order to swing by the Husky tent for a few minutes before meeting up with the rest of Old Glory to rig our 4+ on loan from the University of Michigan.  While rigging in the rain, I was running a constant stream of curse words wondering what could have possibly possessed me to think that this event was going to be a good idea.  As we launched these feelings of self deprecation, along with a growing sense of impending doom, increased.  Rowing port in a boat with three other people was not as easy as it had been in the tanks.  Oh boy.
The row up to the start involved a lot of laughing.  Our first 10 stroke piece at a 26 had us all in hysterics because we couldn’t get our blades off/out of the water, couldn’t get the rate up, couldn’t move our frozen bodies in an athletic sort of way.  It was awkward, short, choppy, uncomfortable, and ugly.  And then it started to snow (my first race ever in snow).  But the higher we rowed, the better it got, and about a mile into the race at a 29 1/2, we caught on to something good and pulled away from bow #3, taking massive amounts of water on them over the second half of the course.  As we all clicked in, it was a huge relief to feel instinct and training take over and do the work.  We were all uncomfortable; we were all feeling awkward; we were all suffering.  But rowing is rowing is rowing.  Sweeping, sculling, port, starboard–it’s just rowing.  It’s our sport.  And I think we were all able to tune out and then tune in to what mattered which was just going together, letting the boat and the oars do their work, and listening to our coxswain to get us down the course.  I had a blast, and though we didn’t find out for a long time after our race, we also won the 4+ by 40+ seconds, which made Ellen and I the first and only athletes to win back to back Champ events at the Charles.

After a lot of de-rigging, organizing, loading, unloading, reloading, changing, cursing, and tromping through the mud–caught the guys from Fluidesign right as they were pulling out in
order to pick up a demo boat from them (hooray!).  We barely squeezed
it on to the trailer back to Princeton, quickly collected our medals, gave an interview with Ed, and then headed home to shower and get ready for a fun night out to celebrate.

I am sad to report that I didn’t take a single photo this year at HOCR, so you’ll just have to enjoy the work of Row2k and ScullingFool (thanks!)

I had a great time in Boston this year.  Many thanks to all who made my trip possible; who made it easier; and who made it better. My apologies to those who I missed this year. Hopefully I will miss the regatta next year, but I am looking forward to returning in years following.

Long Live the Dream,