Yesterday was supposed to be a short row in the afternoon, primarily to focus on technique. It was also a big boat row–however, Adrienne and I were selected to be the odd pair out since we have one pair too many for the big boat lineups. We happily went on our way, since our pair is already rigged up for us, feet and heights are adjusted etc. We launched a ways ahead of the other boats and started making our way down the lake on our own.
As we went, we heard a number of quiet, abbreviated rumblings from somewhere off the lake that we assumed were the benign and very common voices of construction vehicles or truck traffic. About four different times we paused to look quizzically up at the darkening (but not alarmingly so) sky and ask each other: “was that–? no, I don’t think so– are you sure? –yeah pretty sure –trucks? –of course!” and so on. As we got about 3.5km in to the row, Adrienne asked, “Do you think THAT was thunder? And…is that a launch coming to get us?” I scoffed, “No. Absolutely not. ” so we carried on, idly pausing and rowing until a thunderous rolling BOOM directly overhead changed our minds and we spun very quickly to race to the nearest dock.
We were intercepted, however, by a speeding launch filled with grim-faced coaches, who stopped us, saying only: “WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT” and signaled for us to race in the other direction to the dock at the finish line of the course. As a rower in a boat on a lake with an impending storm, these are not quite words you expect or hope to hear on any given day. But we started rowing (the wrong way down the course in the wrong lane, very exhilarating), away from the approaching storm, and as we rowed the raindrops began to fall.
We made it to the dock just as the skies opened up, and we scuttled on shore and into a building which, before yesterday, I did not know that we could access without key–it was the sailing shed, basically a wooden box filled with an assortment of crap (and other things). But most importantly, it was a warm, dry box filled with crap, which we used to weather the storm.
Once inside, we set to exploring the inside of the sailing shack, which turned out to be sort of a musty, eccentric clubhouse, containing a mini fridge, table and chairs, various sailing odds and ends and decorated with Christmas lights and sailing plaques and awards from a bygone era (the 90s). Also in the sailing shack were a few creepy crawly residents, including one of my favorite creepy crawlies: an adult wolf spider. Adrienne was not all that interested in getting to know the wolf spider in the sailing shack, but I went ahead and chased it around the room before capturing it in a cooking pot that happened to be on the table. I then proceeded to share the joy of said spider with everyone in the room, who were mostly ok with it, but oddly not as enthralled as I. It was Laurel who pointed out that this particular spider only had seven of its legs…truly a lucky find. I then released the spider to go on doing whatever it does in the shack all day.
A few minutes later, the storm had passed and the coaches went out to investigate. They came back in smiling, as if there was some private joke we had missed. “There’s a lady out there talking to the geese,” Tom said in earnest through a smile. I thought he meant figuratively–maybe she was feeding them, or watching them and interacting with them in a non-verbal way. However, it turned out that she was, in fact, talking to the geese, making strange honking noises while we stood about ten feet away. It was quite odd.
Since it is protocol to wait for an additional twenty or so minutes after the storm has passed to get back on the water, we spent some more time observing a pair of bald eagles soaring over the lake, and then discussing all manner of interesting topics, including how to dry a wet Blackberry (Fred’s), the 2012 Power and Grace Calendar, and all of the weirdos who live in Princeton (prompted by our very own goose whisperer). Before long it was time to row home, so we hopped back in the pair and off we went. And wouldn’t you know it–we had a great row home.
Now that we have launched in to training for the Olympic Year and what may be my last year of training as an elite athlete (?), I have been feeling more nostalgic than ever about rowing and my path to today. Yesterday as I pulled up to the sailing dock with my young pair partner in a torrential thundering downpour, I wasn’t concerned about being drenched, or the boat filling with water, or being completely exposed in a lightning storm. Rather, I turned to Adrienne and looked in to her panic-stricken eyes and said calmly, “you know, this is a story you’re going to tell to new girls someday.” And it’s very strange to me, realizing that I’ve come to that point–I really and truly am an old lady on this Team. I’ve joked about it a lot over the last two years or so as joints get stiffer and creakier in a superficial sense, but until now I’ve taken it all pretty lightly and in stride because we all know that 28 isn’t old. But on this Team, actually it is. I’m the one always telling stories about the time I crashed in to the bridge, or the time Tom canceled a vO2 max 2k test the day of, or almost being late to the start line in Beijing. It seems almost all the time I have a story for everything (or at least I think I do). And yesterday is just going in to the books of one of many memorable, funny experiences that only rowing could bring me.
All of this is sobering and bittersweet in that I am looking forward to the challenges of this year, but I also realize just how much I’m going to miss this when it’s all done and I’m on to the next stage. It has been quite a ride to get to today, and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be training in Princeton with the top female rowing athletes in the world for spots on the 2012 USA Olympic Team. I still don’t always know what I’m doing, and I still don’t always know why Tom does and says what he does. I don’t always do the right thing, and I may never get rid of this big mouth of mine. But I am here. And I am ready for 2012.
See you out there.
Long Live the Dream,