I am not super athletic - I mean I am no John
- but I am also not a super jock. In high school I made state qualifiers in swimming. I also went undefeated in tennis senior year (eat it bitches). But I also got cut from the soccer team and was worhtless in football. So somehow sophomore year of college my suite-mate convinced me to join the crew team. "Nah, if you're tall you pretty much are a lock." So I agreed. Okay - it seemed cool. I could be on a college team and just have to paddle.
Yeah we had to get up at 5am (or earlier) for practices, in Buffalo. 5am in Buffalo, even in the dead of summer, is still like 34 degrees. So my totally inflexible ass would strap into the boat and we'd row around during the wee hours of the morning. I would destroy my back *every* time.
I am currently in PT for my back. My physical therapist says that my back is shitty and my hamstrings are really tight. They always have been. These are places that you need to be limber in order to row on a crew team.
So here is my boat diagram. We raced in an 8 man boat. I am the big "X". I sat in the 8 position at the back of the boat. All of the big "O"s and I face bacwards and the little "x" cockswain (I am pretty sure that's how it is spelled) faces forward. Well that means I am face to face with this guy. His job is to be light and yell a lot. My job as the "8" man is to set the rowing pace for the boat.
Well as a bunch of rookies we were pretty impressive. There were about 10 of us - so guys would have to rotate in and out and when you were out you sat in the little motor boat with our coach. At some point someone said, "hey what do we do if we flip this thing?" (The danger is that your feet are in shoes - the shoes are bolted to the boat - so you can use them to push back and forth in the rowing motion. So you are strapped in (and life jackets really aren't part of the leaner meaner racing team). The coach said not only had he not flipped a boat but he'd never heard of a team doing it. My team did it - twice. Fortunately I was the only guy out of the 10 to never be in the flipped boat (based on rotation). Unfortunately, the first time it flipped we learned one guy couldn't swim - awesome!
So we train and I have to say we got to be all the way up to "below average" - but we came a long way to get there. We were entered into a race. The race was in Rochester (about an hour down the road) and it included 108 teams (you'll see how I know this in a minute). The way this race works is all 108 teams go down the river and get a time. Then team 1 goes head-to-head with team 2. So it is a pretty cool setup. Our coach tells us - "I've raced here before and it is hard to hear the finish pistol - so just look for the church." Okay - I'll keep an eye out for it.
So we go down the river to the start. We take off and we are racing!!! Things are going well. Greg, the little "x", is shouting shit to me like, "up 2 beats!!" "port 3 strokes hard!" We are in a groove and moving down river - I have the right pace set and we are feeling good about our performance thus far. Then both of my hamstrings simply fucking snap. Movement is excruciating. The well oiled machine keeps going - but I am fucking paralyzed. Oh, well no one tells 7 about this - so on his next stroke he drives his oar directly into my back which hasn't moved out of his way. Also, the lack of a port oar is forcing the boat to move left. At this point 7 has to shut down too. So we are basically dead weight - until I figure out I can stroke if I use only my back (I hear snapping and popping but tough through it).
At some point it is clear we are "done". There is no finish line. There is the pistol (we can't hear) and the "church". Well no one sees a fucking church. So we keep rowing. The water starts to get choppy - like it does pre-waterfall. A couple of the guys up front start yelling that we are done. The little "x" starts screaming, "keep rowing until we see a church you assholes - we're not done!!" This plays out a few more times until 1,2,3,4 all stop rowing. Little "x" is losing his fucking mind (picture a tiny Bill Cowher who just had a call not go his way). 5 and 6 stop and so do 7 and I. We are adrift. "x" is still going hypersonic when 1 and 3 start turning the boat around. 1-6 row us home and I just sit there in unbelievable pain.
We get back and our coach asks, "where the fuck did you guys go? You passed the finish about 15 minutes ago." 1 and 2 make a mental note to wedgie "x" later. "...and what was up with your stroke count - you looked awful." I explain that I am basically a parapeligic and want to be euthanised. He says, "well you have to suck it up - we are DFL." One of the guys goes, "dammit why are we disqualified??" "Not DQ'd you douche - DFL - dead fucking last. We are 108 out of 108. The only way to not end DFL is to go head-to-head against 107 and win. Oh, and Scott, since we only brought 8 guys, you have to row or we quit."
He proceeds to do some Miagi shit to my legs.
So we get our shit together and head down river. We are at the start lined up against #107. This is potentially the only bigger set of losers in the 108 x 8 rowers present. This race is shorter, we know where the finish is, and it is head-to-head, so there is a set of bouys that seperates your lane from theirs.
The starter pistol fires and we execute a flawless "race start" This is when you take really short strokes to get the boat up on the water and moving. We are neck and neck for the first 1/4 of the race. Then it happened. Both teams drift towards the bouys. Our port oars hit their starboard oars. This has the effect of minimizing the push from those sides of the boat and the outside of each boat is pushing harder - driving the boats closer together. (see diagram 2)
The awful sound of smashing oars can be heard over and over until the coxswains get involved. Now #107 has a fancy sound system so their little "x" starts screaming for his team to speed up. Our little "x" starts doing the same (without a mic and speakers). Then their little "x" turns to our coxswain and yells, "back down and let us through!!" "You fucking back down!!!" "Fuck off - back the fuck down!!" "Fuck you! Team up 4 beats." The inside oarmen are all but useless and the outside oarmen continue to drive the boats forward but also more together. We start reaching out and trying to fuck with their oars (awesome). More screaming occurs (realize at this point we are in a desolate portion of the river and no spectators can see us). Little "x" yells, "Race start!!!!" And we perform a race start, while at full go and 1/2 our oars almost totally ineffective. But the burst moves us slightly ahead and our 2 man can suddenly row. Well 2 is ex-marine and is a fucking machine. Our boat surges to life and suddenly 4 is in play. We are pulling slightly forward - but more importantly we are move laterally away. Little "x" is still MFing the shit out of their little "x" but is starting to smile and the entire team is starting to row. Just and we break free - I "miss the water" with a stoke. This is when you don't drop the oar all the way into the water. I just barely caught the edge of the oar on the surface of the water. Well this threw a fantastically huge wave of water over the other boat. It was great. Their little "x" (who was hooked to their sound system) was easily heard making various comments about my mother. Well, my mother doesn't put out for guys who are DFL - and that's what you chumps are about to be D mother F'in L!!! Go UB Crew!!!!