Was it Good For You?

Well.  Here we are.
After a few tough weeks of training and selection, we’ve made it out the other side of NSR 1 and are looking toward NSR 2 this weekend.  Selection for doubles combinations this year included what I’d consider a great deal more racing than we have done in the past, as well as a 6k erg test.  I feel a little like I’ve been beat up.  But it’s race time.

Even having survived 2010 team selection beginning with last year’s NSR 2, I still sometimes feel a little awkward when it comes time to get out of our singles and get back in to the doubles.  We haven’t rowed together for a long time now, but Ellen and I rowed together almost exclusively from April of 2008 until the end of the 2009 season.  I had my growing pains going through it last year, but once again, it’s time to get back out there.

This has proven to be no easy task.  As one of our teammates quipped in the locker room the other day: “You guys have had a tough week.  You’ve been switching partners so much…” and then Bertko chimed in:  “Yeah.  It’s like we’re dating.”
And to a certain extent, it is.  For anyone who has ever tried dating a woman–or for good measure, dating several women–you can attest that trying to keep up with all the subtleties of motivation and communication is daunting, if not impossible.  Women are sensitive, perceptive creatures.  The reality of navigating the selection social scene is that it’s a very high-stress environment in which everyone is trying to please everyone almost all of the time… because you never know who you are going to be rowing with today, tomorrow, or after the next piece.

At this point, I have rowed with just about all of the USTC athletes in a double at some point or another.  But with all the switching we’ve done over the past 10 days, it only makes it more apparent that all the miniature comforts that come along with rowing with the same person for two seasons no longer work for steering, stopping, or running drills–my once perfectly orchestrated symphony of silent communication between myself and the back of the head in front of me has been completely obliterated.  Understanding moods and habits that used to come with obvious indicators are once again mysterious and it’s anyone’s guess as to what the other seat is thinking about my rowing.  Am I matching her?  Am I setting the boat?  Is my steering up to par?  Do my coxing calls annoy her?  These questions and several others have led me to a few slightly-awkward conversations with my new partners which can only be equated to the rower’s version of: “was it good for you?”

It’s the question no one wants to ask, but everyone wants the answer to, because part of the selection game is figuring out not just who rows well, and who goes fast, but also who wants to row with you. Finding and developing chemistry with a doubles partner–just like any other relationship–can happen one of two ways:  it can be something that grows over time, or it can be love at first [stroke].  With Ellen it was the latter.  I’m still working at being any good at the former.

It may come as no surprise that even though USTC athletes are all receiving the same technical coaching, not very many of us row the same.  We all have our tics and quirks in our stroke that makes getting in to a new lineup a bit of a game of follow the leader…without much overt direction.  These quirks combined with our wide range of physiological abilities creates a group of very different athletes, all of whom have their dynamic strengths and weaknesses.  It has been a task to figure out which combinations complement each other sufficiently in lieu of any one combination that has proven to be a far and away favorite.

That having been said, I’m psyched to be rowing with Gevvie Stone (’10 and ’11 NSRI Champ).  Gevvie is holding down the bow and letting me stroke for this regatta, and we are lucky enough to have a sweet little Filippi double on loan from Cambridge Boat Club in order to get out of the WinTech.  She and I are both racers, and I already feel like I’ve learned a lot rowing with her over the past few days.  But, the learning curve is about to hit a wall since we line up for our time trial bright an early on Thursday morning to see who’s got what in the double this year.

Hope to see you there!  Racing starts at 7:00am on Thursday.

Long Live the Dream,

–MK

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