As it turns out I will not be racing at the Head of Charles, since each competing school only sends its top 8 to the event. However, I am in the second varsity 8 for the Head of the Housatonic in Shelton CT Saturday, in which everyone will participate. Once again I will be sitting 4-seat. This means I have struck a kind of balance between not providing a ton of power, but not “setting up” the boat well enough to be sitting in the bow (whose movements, if done incorrectly, are more likely to cause a boat to tip to his side). But naturally I am improving, and as one of the coaches said today: “If you can get 2/10 good strokes, and then get 3/10 the next time, then that’s improvement.” I guess it’s the same with every sport, but unusual in the sense that it’s just one single movement (or 2 if you separate the stroke and the recovery) done over and over, while the coxswain makes all the decisions. It is complicated when you’re just learning though, since there are so many things to watch in regard to timing, but it gets simple as time passes.
I was at a coffee shop in town yesterday, not far from Bridgeport, and I talked to this guy yesterday who was explaining to me why some people are contrarians. He gave the example of his younger self, who was not exactly an athletics enthusiast. He recalled how most boys gravitated towards basketball and football while he did not, and for some reason he went one way while everyone else went another, something that he said will always impact his personality. I think that’s an example that a huge number of men can relate to.
That’s what I originally liked about running; there’s not an excessive amount of ego. You just try your best and you wish the same for your competitors, because in the end the only thing that matters is that you’ve battled yourself. Sure you want to win, and sure you’re going to go faster when you’re near the finish line and the other guy is right in front of you, but that envy of being in the lead is short-lived, at least for me. The same is true of rowing to a lesser degree. There are more guys with more ego, and the fact that there’s a huge muscular component (and therefore more testosterone needed than in long-distance running) means the rowers are more masculine, more prone to implicitly or unintentionally excluding those who are less confidant, and more prone to be sexist. But in another sense it’s even more ego-less than running, because instead of individually trying to get ahead and calculating the scores based on each runner’s time, each rower is trying to act as one with his teammates. There’s nothing worse in a boat than having different stroke timings or oar-handle heights.
Due to a bizarre lineup (each practice tends to have a different lineup with different boats) I had the opportunity to be in a double on Monday morning. It was my first time sculling. The fewer people there are in a boat, the more likely it is to flip. I’ve never seen a boat flip over, but this felt dangerously close. It was fun though, and very different from having a coxswain do the communicating. The big difference between sculling and rowing is the oars: normally you have one big oar but for this there are 2 small oars, and the left oar must pass over the right to make room. It’s easy to make mistakes, because naturally you can’t be watching both oars at once. As the coach put it: “There’s no way to learn to scull except to be thrown into it unexpectedly.”
Norwalk CT at 6:20am: