So, it’s been a while since I’ve rowed in a team boat, and this morning made me wonder why I don’t do it more often (lack of a team, lack of motivation to drive to Boston to row with one are the obvious reasons). I rowed with my fellow teammates from the class of 1980 in the Bulldog Rowing Club eight in the Senior Master’s Men’s event — the 25th year the crew has rowed together (I’ve subbed on a couple occasions) and their first year in this event as this is the year we all turned 50.
As one person said as we paddled to the dock after the race: “This is the best I’ve felt about being 50 all year.”
Hear, hear to that. With only a single brief practice on Friday afternoon, we were not exactly a precision machine, but we did make the boat move, taking tenth out of 41. “Head” races are run against the clock, meaning each boat starts 15 seconds apart and the final ranking is calculated on time, with penalties levied if a boat obstructs another boat attempting to pass or cuts outside of the lanes and tries to take a shortcut. We started 39th out of 41 because this is the first year the BulldogRC has raced in the senior masters, having spent the last decade in the master’s event for crews in their 40s. Boats are generally seeded according to their previous year’s finish time, but since this was the boat’s first, we had a low number.
Right from the start at the Boston University docks we started passing boats, catching our first, number 38 before Magazine Beach, and then getting two more before the Powerhouse Stretch in front of the old Polaroid building. By the time we were in the middle mile (the race is three miles long, versus a typical “sprint” race of 2,000 meters) we had four boats passed and were gaining on the next group.
The boat rowed at 29 strokes a minute, a good pace for a race this long, and smoothed out as we tired ourselves and lost the pre-race adrenaline. I started having personal doubts around the Harvard Business School, the familiar discussion with myself where my heart and lungs start to argue for stopping the insanity. In a single, while sculling, that argument usually leads to a slight, imperceptible easing of the effort, but not in an eight, which is what it must feel like to be handcuffed to an out-of-control treadmill with a person threatening you with a shotgun if you stop.
Our coxswain, Andy Fisher, steered a masterful race; the Head of the Charles is the greatest test of a coxswain there is in all of rowing, with curves and bridges that make for some interesting clashes and crashes.
We finished, gathered our wits, congratulated ourselves, then pulled the boat out of the water, checked the times and were pleasantly surprised to see a 10th place, guaranteeing an entry next year. Final time was 17’23”, 16 seconds slower than the year before. Results are here.