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Sun, Jun. 26th, 2011, 01:10 am
Regatta Recap

I had a seriously awesome time at the regatta today. We rowed great!!!
It was a major rush. I'm still high from it which explains why I'm
writing instead of sleeping at the moment. If you enjoy my overly
detailed rowing stories, read on. Otherwise, this isn't the blog entry
for you so you might want to move on.

We have a shortage of blind rowers this season, so we had 4 blind /
low vision rowers and 4 sighted volunteers in the boat for this race.
3 of our volunteers had quite a bit of experience and as a result, we
ended up having to row in the intermediate open category. Open is for
any combination of men and women. You can only go co-ed with 4 and 4
so since we just had 2 chicks in the boat, we ended up in open. This
is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. There were
only 2 boats, so worst we could do is silver. But, I like competition
and prefer having to fight a little harder to earn my hardware. It
depends on perspective I guess.

Since there were only 2 intermediate open boats and 2 advance open
boats, they combined the two categories into 1 heat. So, there were 4
boats in our heat but only 1 of them really mattered for medal
purposes. In addition to racing against better rowers than last year,
we had tough weather conditions. There was a strong crosswind that was
giving everyone fits and the water was choppy with some white caps.
Between the competition and the rowing conditions, we had a big
challenge to face and weren't expecting to be competitive. We wanted
to give it our best and at least try to look good, but it was
impossible to ignore the fact that the odds were against us and we
were the underdog in this one. We didn't know until after the race
that we were really up against only 1 boat, so we all figured we'd
come in 4th by a wide margin given that we were racing against
advanced boats. I even told my parents to expect an ass whipping. The
actual outcome was a huge shock for all of us. Perhaps the low
expectations helped us relax for a change or maybe we learned from
our experiences last year. Whatever the case, this was definitely no
ass whipping.

I was in stroke seat for this race. I haven't done stroke very much
and this was my first time to do it in a race. My strategy going in
was to keep the boat at a slower stroke rate and make everyone take
longer strokes. We stay more controlled that way and stay together
better. It's also better for windy conditions because the longer the
oars are in the water, the less we're being pushed around by the wind.
I told the crew before hand what I was going to do and reminded them
to take long strokes. It went great and they stayed right with me the
whole way. I think we got a little off for a few strokes at the
beginning of the race, but it was the most synchronized we've ever
been.

We got a nice controlled, clean start and were right there with the
pack. We usually lose ground on the starts because we've never quite
gotten the hang of doing a good one. My personal opinion was that we
were always rushing our starts, so I set a slower rate on this one
hoping for control. We nailed it today. . I think we all new it was a
good start and it really helped the confidence of the boat. After the
first 10-15 strokes, we were still right there in the pack. Our cox
told us we were in contention and hanging with these guys and we all
started to feel it. Speaking of our cox, she's awesome and had a huge
impact on our performance today. She called a great race and kept us
motivated and fighting from start to finish. She really gets into the
races and her excitement and energy just radiates through her voice. I
think she could probably motivate me to walk through fire. I don't
think I've ever enjoyed being yelled at more. She's really that good.
Anyway, when she told us we were at the 250 meter mark, I couldn't
believe it. I knew then that we were killing it because it felt like
we got there in about 20 strokes. It was probably more, but it just
felt like the race started and then, boom, we were half way done. And
still, I could hear the other 2 lead boats right beside us. Our cox
did a great job of keeping us focused and not letting us get excited.
I know in the past, when we've been doing well part way into a race,
we've gotten too juiced, lost focus and fallen apart. Not today. My
mind was on nothing but my stroke and cox'n. I didn't even notice
crowd noise this year. I think we were all more focused than we've
ever been before. We were in a zone and it was sweet.

One of the boats pulled out to a comfortable, but not huge lead. My
team and another boat were side by side the whole race. . I think at
about half way, Our bow was at their stern, but they were dying and we
made a huge push on them. Our cox was counting off seats every time
we gained on them. It was excellent motivation. We reeled them in and
were still gaining as we crossed the finish line. If the race had been
5 meters longer, we would have caught them. As it was, we finished 3rd
in the heat. The boat that edged us out for second was the other
intermediate boat, so we ended up with silver. The boat we beat was
one of the advanced boats who should have smoked us. I think our cox
was a little bummed that we didn't catch those guys, but I was
thrilled knowing we had rowed well and earned a medal without having
the benefit of a disqualification. Like I mentioned, at this time, we
had no idea that we were only racing one other boat. We all believed
we had earned a bronze and were very satisfied with the outcome. None
of us knew about the combined heat until they called us on the stage
for the medal presentation and awarded us silver medals. We thought
there had been some kind of screw up and had to go ask what the deal
was.

Unfortunately, there was a technical malfunction and we didn't get an
official time. I heard a rumor that first place finished in 1:36. I
heard the horn sound when they finished and I think they were about 10
seconds ahead of us. That means that if that first place time is
right, we did somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:45. I suppose it's
possible. It did feel really fast and I was surprised it was over so
soon, but I'm having a hard time believing we did 1:45 in that wind
when we've never broken 2 minutes before. Our previous best time was
around a 2:05. In any event, our time was definitely under 2 minutes
and it's by far the best piece we've ever done.

So, yeah, there were only 2 boats in our group and so perhaps that
doesn't make our silver medal seem like a big deal. But screw that. It
is a big deal. We just hung in a race with good competition and were
competitive. If there had been more boats and we rowed like that, we
would've gotten a medal. Plus, we beat an advance boat by a
comfortable margin and raced completely out of our minds. Yes, we had
help from experienced sighted rowers, but we've practiced with that
lineup before and never rowed that well. It really was rather amazing
what we accomplished today. It was really exciting for us to do so
well when historically, we've struggled under racing conditions. We
kicked ass and looked like a real crew today. It was exciting for all
of us.

When we got to the dock, I was greeted first by our coach who grabbed
me for a big hug. It was awesome to see how excited he was for us. He
gave us great advice on coping with the wind and it really helped us
be successful. On the way off the dock, Most of the rowers from the
other crews in the race were lined up on the ramp to congratulate us
and shook all of our hands. It was cool to get so much respect from
the competition not to mention all the love we got from other rowers
and spectators. It was a fantastic day and I had a kick ass time. I
can't wait for the next one.

I talked to a reporter from the Oklahoman several times today, so I
suppose I'll end up in the paper again. She was asking a lot of
questions about how I row by feel and sound. She was really interested
and seemed like she was taking a good angle on the story. I'm hoping
it turns out better than the other stories that go for the amazing,
inspirational blindy stuff. We'll see. I'll post a link when I find
the story. For now, I really must sleep. Later.

Oh yeah... GO VIPERS!!! Hisssssss.