Everything I Learned About Away Regattas…
March 20, 2008
Everything I learned about away regattas I learned during the summer of 2003. At two regattas, specifically. The first, Independence Day Regatta in Philadelphia, was, “how to do a regatta the wrong way,” with predictably mediocre results. The second, US Rowing National Championships (“Club Nationals”), a few weeks later, was where I learned from my mistakes and had some experienced help. It was almost as if it were meant to be that way, as the second regatta was the one I cared about, making the first one essentially a dress rehearsal.
I had no plan for Philadelphia. I drove down on Friday after work on Fourth of July weekend, got lost on the way down, and arrived later than expected at about 11 PM. I was supposed to meet my doubles partner, Brian Morabito, somewhere on the banks of the Schuykill to watch the fireworks (yeah, that was a good plan). I had no place to stay. When I got into the city, I got lost again and ended up in a bad part of town. Must have looked like quite the sight with my boat, in its bumble bee-styled cover (black & yellow stripes with a big eye on the front), on top of my Audi A6 wagon. I wasn’t trembling, but I didn’t exactly feel safe either. Kelly Drive was closed, so the plan to meet Brian was out, so I found a highway and saw signs for Bryn Mawr. I knew that town because Katharine Hepburn went to college there. I figured if it was good enough for her, it was good enough for me. I found a nice hotel and got a room, thank God. It was about 2:30 AM.
Philadelphia was hotter than hell that weekend, as it is every Fourth of July weekend. On Saturday, we raced our heat and did well enough to qualify for the semis, but our rowing was pretty rough. After that, we spent a good part of the day walking around in the excruciating heat & humidity, looking for results to see how others did and who we’d face in the next race that afternoon. Big mistake! That tired me out big-time, but I didn’t have a clue. In the afternoon, we raced the semi and missed out on qualifying by several lengths. I had one more race the next day — a 1000-meter masters single race. I thought, hey, no problem!
I forgot to check the schedule for my race time on Sunday, which turned out to be sometime in the afternoon. So rather than basking in my awesome air-conditioned hotel room in Bryn Mawr all morning, I showed up on Boathouse Row at about 9 AM to make sure I didn’t miss my race and ended up hanging out in the heat all day. Didn’t matter that I was in the shade and sitting down. It was hotter than hell and twice as humid. By race time, I was faint and weak. I had a good start and hung with the front runners for about 750 meters, but then I totally bonked. I had nothing left and was completely dizzy and nauseous. I somehow made it to the end, getting fourth or something, but I limped over the line and felt like I was going to black out. I’ve never experienced heat stroke like that before or since.
Two weeks later at nationals, my roommates were Sean Wolf, Igor Belakovskiy and Pete Morelli. Amazing how being roommates can form the bonds of friendship. We had an awesome time and have been great friends ever since. Sean taught me everything I needed to know that week: Get a hotel NEAR the race course. Stay in your air-conditioned room – preferably in bed – most of the time when you’re not racing. Don’t worry about the results!! You have to row your own race anyway. If you can get them easily, fine, but don’t walk all over kingdom come in the heat to see how So & So from Michigan did. Finally, and most importantly, be prepared. Know the directions. Have a plan. Know the schedule and what time you have to race. Camden, NJ was just as hot as Philly had been, but Brian and I took silver in the Intermediate Light 2x, and I got a personal best for 2k in the single (despite just missing qualifying for the final).
One thing that eluded me was sleeping. I’m a very fidgety and light sleeper, especially when racing the next day. Sean gets horizontal and is out cold within five minutes – any time, day or night – and he could sleep through a hurricane. Oh well. Some things can’t be taught.