Head of the Rideau: The First Race
When asked what we had on our minds before the race, the most appropriate answer was that, “it’s going to hurt. I know it’s going to hurt. The pain is going to come fast and it’s going to come hard and I’m just thinking about what I need to do to push through that wall.” Nothing could have been closer to the truth.In your first regatta, you launch your boat and wait for what feels like an eternity under the (suddenly) scorching sun while the anticipation builds. What if you lose focus? What if you miss a stroke? What if you let your team down? What if, what if, what if? Then, as you finally get the command to start your race, you accelerate towards the starting line. As your adrenaline pumps, you raise the rate – you completely forget about your race plan. Who needs it now? You feel great! But when you enter the body of the race, that feeling quickly turns to agony as you hit that wall. Your coxie starts throwing out new commands, trying to get your focus on anything other than the pain, but it lasts. It lasts for somewhere between a moment and hours, depending whether you’re asked during the race or after. Just when you feel like you can’t pull for a second longer, you turn the last corner and you pick it up. The rest of the course is behind you, you’ll be damned if this last quarter is going to stop you. You know that the rest of the boat is right there with you – and you know that failure is not an option – as you fly through the finish line.
After you take your final stroke, when you’re too tired to do anything other than breathe, you get a chance to look at your teammates. At that moment it doesn’t matter whether you won a gold medal or not. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Novice, a Varsity, or an Olympian. You know you were part of something bigger than yourself. You were part of a boat that moved by more than the sum of its parts and even though you can improve in virtually every aspect of rowing, for a few perfect strokes, the boat soared.
You gave your complete trust to the person behind you. You bled and blistered for the person in front of you. You went through hell and back for your boat, and it was worth it.
One catch. One finish. One team. It’s going to hurt.