Saturday, September 16, 2006

To Race

"Hundreds of feet above us, cars whisked by, oblivious to our drama. Up there were the shortcuts, the excuses, the world of infinite possibilites separating man and his potential. We had four miles nad the best competition in the nation. We linked hands in a chain down the boat, committing ourselves to each other. I gave a final glance at Harvard, and then looked over my shoulder down the lines of stakes receding into the distance. We were set, the boats were aligned, and both coxswains' hands were down."
-Steve Kiesling, Yale '80, from The Shell Game

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Can't Sleep...Zombies Will Eat Me...Can't Sleep...

"With insomnia, nothing's real. Everything's far away. Everything's a copy of a copy of a copy."
-Fight Club

I wouldn't say I'm an insomniac, but there are a lot of nights that I find myself unable to sleep. Some days, when I can, I'll just lay in bed until I fall asleep, watching the digital numbers on my alarm clock pass five o'clock, six o'clock, seven. Then I'll sleep until three or four in the afternoon. Other days, when I have work, class, or practice, I'll stay up for another day. I've been pretty good about it this summer, but this past week I've had two nights where I just can't sleep. Unfortuately, this was my last week at home, so I had a lot of stuff I had to do. So when I got a night of no sleep, I couldn't just try again later.

What's funny about it is that while I'm still not back at school, occasionally I'll go through the same motions. So when 6 AM rolls around, I'm hopping into my car for the half-hour drive to the boathouse. I had been looking forward to morning rows since work started and I couldn't fit them in my schedule anymore. There was no way I was going to let a little lack of sleep keep me off the water. At least that was my attitude as I was sitting in my beanbag chair. Once I stood up, my head and my body started to rebel.

I wouldn't say I remember the drive, except for the first few moments when I was terrified I would eat it in some sleep-induced car accident. After a few moments, even abject terror becomes mind-numbing and boring.

Even when I got to the boathouse, there wasn't any sign of me feeling better. My head ached, my mouth felt like it had been packed full of cotton. Sounds were coming to me muffled and from a distance. Much like the drive up, I don't really remember bringing down my oars or even my boat. But somehow, I found myself tied in and pushing off of the dock with my partners, both masters in their 60's.

I can't really explain it; I'm not a neurosurgeon or any other kind of medical authority, but once I started moving, my mind cleared. The stuffiness that I felt was gone. It was just the three of us, moving across the flattest water I've ever sculled on. I was moving well, my boat was running underneath me with barely a ripple, just the faint flow of the water against the hull of the boat.

By the time I had returned to the dock, I was ready to go for another few hours, just enough time to let me get what I needed to do done.

I know a lot of teams don't do morning practices, and if it works for the program, great. But I would never want to completely lose those few hours between the end of the night and sunrise, where I can find myself before every morning.