First Regatta of the Season
It’s 1:30 AM on the day of the first Regatta of the season. I’ve finally finished reviewing my lab results, written all my notes, returned all my phone calls, answered (almost) all of my secure messages, and I’m still finding it difficult to sleep. It’s been nearly ten (less than kind) years since my last dragon boat race. I find myself running though the elements that Ross, Josephine, Brennan, Dan, Josh, and Dave have been teaching me for the past 8 weeks - eyes on the strokes, ears on the coach, reach, rotate, top shoulder back, clean entry, dig, find the good water, keep that bottom arm straight, downward pressure on the paddle, weight on the front leg, tighten the quadriceps, engage the core, push with the heel, de-rotate and pull, feel for the resistance, no swirls, slight twist of the top hand, exit and do it again. It’s not exactly counting sheep, but it works.
Morning always arrives too soon, but caffeine and a hot shower usually help. The Great Highway is deserted at this hour, the sand blowing across the road foreboding another blustery day on the water. I arrive just after 6 AM, and parking attendants are already out in full force as I unload my gear in the lot at Harding Park. Even though the sun is just starting to peek over the horizon, the village is a buzz of activity with paddlers setting up camp for the day. As our team members arrive and the coffee starts to flow, the excitement builds. Everyone gets a job. We put up tents and banners, set up tables and chairs, and prepare food and drink. Josephine updates us with the lineup for the first race and gives us the first of many pep talks. We warm up, stretch, and head down to marshaling. It’s cold, but we are used to that by now.
Once we are on the water, everyone quiets down and we run through the start in our heads. Tony handles the wind and current with ease as we line up for the start. “We have alignment," <BURY IT!> "Attention please," GO! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, UP! UP! UP! 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 9, 10… The first race goes by in a flash- one moment we’re poised with paddles dug into the water, and the next moment we are sweating and catching our breath at the finish line.
Back on shore, we huddle together to keep warm as Ross, Josephine, and Tony debrief. We review our performance in minute detail from start to finish. They give us another pep talk and the plan for moving the boat even faster in the next race. Then we get a break to eat, rest, catch up with our friends, or even take a quick nap before the next race. We perform a little better in each heat and by the end of the day, we are rewarded with a trophy, some great memories, and the sore muscles that remind us that we did good work today. I’m grateful for the coaching, training, practices, and everyone’s dedication to the team. See you at practice!