Countdown to Agony

In 48 hours, at 9:40 a.m., I’ll be sitting on ergometer #19 on the floor of Boston University’s Agganis Arena, staring at a small square LCD screen flashing the words: “Sit Ready” “Attention” “ROW.”  While I dread it, I have to ask: how awesome is it to participate in the world championships of anything? Even if it is the world championships of indoor rowing? Sunday is the 30th anniversary of the event, which started in Harvard’s Newell Boathouse in the grim winter following the cancellation of the 1980 Olympics (thanks to Jimmy Carter’s Cold War displeasure with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan).  What was a humorous way to kill the tedium of winter training among a few elite Cambridge rowers has now turned into a major affair involving a couple thousand competitors and 10,000 spectators.

Then I’ll be off and puffing for the next six and a half minutes until I pull the handle about 200 times and manage to spin the flywheel at a rate faster than the other 80 or so heavyweight men in their early 50s sitting on identical machines next to me. The results won’t be pretty. The experience will definitely be ugly, and those six-and-a-half interminable minutes will likely be the worst six-and-a-half minutes I experience in 2011.

Or they may be the  best. In the end ergometer racing proves the cliche of the man who hits his head against a wall because it feels so good when he stops.

I’m tapering now with one light,  last row today on the deck in the springlike sunshine, a pyramid of ten, twenty, and thirty strokes at my race pace, then a rare day off tomorrow before Sunday’s moment of truth.  Hydrating, carbohydrate loading, stretching, fretting over my warm-up and race plan, always anxious about whether to set a pace and goal that is within or hopelessly out of reach. Whatever happens, the event provides the venue and the inspiration to dig a little deeper and try a little harder than I would alone, in the shadows of my garage, racing myself against the clock.

Here’s a virtual replay of the finals in my event last year (I didn’t participate).


Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

6 thoughts on “Countdown to Agony”

  1. While some might argue that the 1980 Olympics weren’t cancelled just because the USA didn’t show up, don’t listen to them. We have a word for those people: Pinkos!

    My fondest Olympics memory is the glorious 1984 games, in which the USA won the hotly contested medal count over Botswana and Laos.

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  2. Be interested to know your race plan… let us know when you report on the race next week. Plan vs actual, etc. Stay relaxed, get in the zone and good luck!

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  3. The Charge of the Light Brigade
    Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    1.

    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
    “Forward, the Light Brigade!
    “Charge for the guns!” he said:
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    2.

    “Forward, the Light Brigade!”
    Was there a man dismay’d?
    Not tho’ the soldier knew
    Someone had blunder’d:
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die:
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    3.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
    Rode the six hundred.

    4.

    Flash’d all their sabres bare,
    Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
    Sabring the gunners there,
    Charging an army, while
    All the world wonder’d:
    Plunged in the battery-smoke
    Right thro’ the line they broke;
    Cossack and Russian
    Reel’d from the sabre stroke
    Shatter’d and sunder’d.
    Then they rode back, but not
    Not the six hundred.

    5.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon behind them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    While horse and hero fell,
    They that had fought so well
    Came thro’ the jaws of Death
    Back from the mouth of Hell,
    All that was left of them,
    Left of six hundred.

    6.

    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
    Honor the charge they made,
    Honor the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred.

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