My rowing club, the Union Boat Club in Boston, has a rule for cold-weather rowing called the “Four-Oar Rule.” It’s simple, makes sense, and is safe. When the water is under 50 degrees fahrenheit no one can go out on the Charles alone in a single scull, or together in a two-oared pair. The only safe combination is two people in two singles, or four people in a four, or two people in a double (two oars each). It’s all about the capsize effect and hypothermia. While thankfully rare, capsizes do happen (I average one or two a year, usually because I hit something because I’m not looking over my shoulder every twenty strokes or so) and are real inconveniences to recover from. First is the shock effect of rolling into the water after working away and building up a good sweat in the sunshine; the next thing you know you’re blowing bubbles under water trying to get your feet out of the sneakers screwed into the foot stretchers.
Having that happen in cold water is not something I ever want to experience, so I tend to be wimpy and stay off of Cotuit Bay until some point in the spring when conditions feel just right — warm temperatures, calm water — to make my annual shakedown cruise.
That day came late this year, only this past Saturday, April 9. And this morning the email came in from the Union Boat Club that the Four-Oar Rule has been lifted.
I had an exceptional row — considering it was the first of 2011 and my hands lack the required calluses – – and right from the first full stroke a few yards off of the Lowell’s beach I could tell the past two months of CrossFit and the million of erg meters before that are going to pay off in a big way in terms of control and power.
I’ll start following the CrossFit Endurance program which blends the six weekly workouts of the day with three rowing workouts that take place at least three hours after the Xfit WOD. I’ll shoot for one 2,000 meter time trial per month and start training for next year’s CRASH-B’s in earnest.
I find myself thinking of the current world champion, Michele Marullo, during the worst parts of the Crossfit workouts, and just when I am about to toss the towel and bag that one extra burpee, I think: “What would Marullo do?” Competitive impulses are a bitch.