Monday, January 29, 2007

Late-Night Drive

It was the last night before Winter Break was up. I was getting restless. All my friends were back at their schools already. I had visited one of my friends going to school near home, but other than that, I had been on my own. It was relaxing, the solitude, but I was itching for some contact other than watching Desperate Housewives on TV with my stepmother. I got in my car and headed out, unsure of where the night would take me.

I drove down the interstate, absently driving along roads I had traveled many times before. This stretch of highway led me to points north in my life: my summer rowing club. My university boat house. College.

Without even realizing it, I had driven to the town where my summer rowing club was. The highway snaked along adjacent to the river. In the moonlit darkness, the water looked crystalline. The ice that had formed over the past few days of frigid winds and below freezing temperatures had broken apart along the bridges spanning its width. Despite the cold air whipping by the outside of my car, I longed to be out on the river in a single, silently sweeping across the shimmering water. No matter, even if it was nice and sunny out, I would be stuck to the car seat with my bad back.

I eventually turned around and headed to an all-night diner that specialized in quick, greasy food. Fuck my weight. I needed comfort food that night. I ordered some fries and sat, munching and thinking. And waiting. Waiting for my back to recuperate so I could satisfy a much stronger hunger.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Welcome Home

Today marks the conclusion of another successful winter training camp for my crew. I am currently writing this at whatever cruising altitude and speed is for a Boeing 727, exhausted after almost two weeks of double sessions.

As predicted, I ended up rowing only one day due to my back. Instead, I made the most of it by taking photos and video for the coaches on the launch. It was a productive week; our 1V is going to be fast this year if we can build on the progress we made in the past four or five days. It was discouraging at first, having to sit out while my friends did some hard work and some of their best rowing to date. The guys I was a a novice with are nearing the end of their eligibility, and it only seems that they're getting exponentially better as time goes on. By the end of the camp, my disappointment was gone, replaced with a yearning to get back in a boat and on the water. The last practice we did pieces in mixed novice/varsity lineups, and by the last one I wanted to pull a Rudy: "Come on, coach, put me in!"

In a way, this injury couldn't have come at a better time, at least as far as injuries can go. My class load this coming semester is terrible, and some of my classes actually conflict with our practice time (I'm an education major, and a lot of the classes are early in the morning to simulate a working environment). Furthermore, I got the highest marks of my college career last semester, and the pressure is on to repeat that this semester. I thought that being injured would be an easy way out for me, to slack off and get fat and slow until my back healed; watching my teammates row, however, has helped light a fire under my ass that's not going out any time soon. To that end, I've set a few goals for myself once I get back to school:

-Maintain weight. I've put on a few pounds since the end of the fall season, and I'd like to be able to say that I'm around 165, even if I'm not racing this season.
-Get at least 90 minutes of work done a day. Running aggravates my back, and erging is definitely out of the question. But I was able to use an elliptical every day while I was at the training camp, and I plan on getting on that and a stationary bike as often as I can.
-Use my time away from rowing as effectively as possible. My core strength needs work, and I can finally dedicate a good chunk of time to those kinds of exercises. There's also a Bikram yoga club near my campus, and I plan on trying that out at least a few times. A few of my teammates have been singing it's praises for a while. I might even be able to get a second job and save up some money for a single.

Of course, even the best laid plans can fall through. I want to follow through with as much of this as possible, however.

I always plan my flight late from these training camps, only because our bus to the airport never arrives on time. This year, we got lucky: it was only an hour late, and as far as I know, none of the team missed their flights. Being one of the last ones to leave also gives me a little time to myself to reflect on what I learned at the camp and what I can do to make my rowing better before our first race. This year, there obviously wasn't any direct feedback that I could apply to my stroke; instead, I was struck by how empty I felt waiting by myself. For twelve days, I ate, slept, woke, relaxed, and worked alongside the same group of men. The novice that I could barely identify by face at the end of the fall are now close to me; if not as close as my varsity teammates now, then pretty damn close. Waiting in solitude, even for a small a time as four hours, threw me off my rhythm and ruined the routine that I had already been able to adapt to. We have a week off, then classes and practice starts again, and even though I won't be rowing, I'll be there in the morning, just to be a part of that team and that routine.