Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Head of the Charles 2012

This was my return to the Charles after my 2009 win. I was excited to come with the focus of less-race-result pressure (aka party), but still go a little faster than party speed! I really enjoyed being in a venue with so many people all doing the same thing. Walking with oars and riggers seemed as standard on Soldier's Field Rd as people walking with Trader Joe's shopping bags.

Thanks to Lake Union Crew (Lee, Martha...) who drove the trailer out early meant that on Thursday I got to have a great row from CRI, to Hudson's private dock (which was super cool) and then up and down the course. The buoys weren't up yet so when they finally were in place on Friday early afternoon, I had put a different course idea in mind that needed tweaking.

Weather was barely holding. Pictures were coming in of rain covered window-shields on Saturday morning. For my race that afternoon, 4:10pm, it was actually quite warm and the rain cleared. At about 1pm, the nerves set in. "Why nervous Ursh?" I said. "Supposed to be relaxed." But winning is really fun. So the anxiety was building.

We drove down to FALS, winding through the street of Needham to avoid the mass pike  (Boston traffic) with my special hosts, Mary Jane and George. Mary Jane helped get my number on and get me launched. Thank you! I was honoured to see Kim Crow and Mirka Knapková getting ready to race.

As I row down to the start, and got warmed up, I decide to take my long-sleeve tech shirt off. I got to wear super cool JLRacing gear that Ray from JL and I designed for the WAC. As I pull the shirt over my head, off comes my alice band*. Plop into the water it sinks. "Okay, now my hair is in my face. Can I row like this?" A few strokes, and I decide my sunglasses can be propped up as an alice band. A few more strokes like this, turning around to face the direction I will be looking while, and I know the sun is too bright. Not being able to clearly see the course would be worse. Looking out over my oars, I see the Hammer Nutrition stickers I stuck on my oars. Maybe those can be used to stick my hair bits in place. And that I did. So I was the crazy person, down the course with stickers in my hair.

The start seemed to take forever. Something to do with being seeded bow 14. I was disappointed with being so far down. Still not sure the seeding is as clear as the organization writes about. Politics. Say no more. A little bumpy from the basin wind but once I got pressure on, it was super fun. I cut the first turn a little too close to the shore. Didn't go over the buoys but didn't quite set up my rhythm. That's from training on Thursday without the buoys set up yet. Got used to being too close to the shore. Then through the powerhouse and stretch and I started to encounter my first passing who was not yielding as graciously as my 2009 competitors. I think that's why it is better to be way down the line, or in the very top seedings, if you are 'mis'seeded. Then you get to pass people quickly, or have the course open. In the middle, you have some guys with some speed and also guys who want to hold their position and line all too well. We started to come to the Weeks turn, and my competitor held her course through the bridge. I was passing, but pushed out. A classic- bad Weeks course! Cut back hard to get the diagonal for the next arch. "Okay"- good going from there onwards. Perfect course around the big bend. Then another unyielding competitor. She came at me also wanting to cut the course fine, heading towards the Belmont/Windsor docks. She almost sent me crashing into the dock. I have never yelled out in racing. Ever. But this was my first, as I firmly voiced : YIELD! Mary Jane and George were at that dock. They saw the spectical. Can't wait for them to send me their photos to see it from a spectator point of view. That's what the Charles is about right - bumper boats with carbon-fiber! There's and oxymoron. Anyway, so now you have just the last part of the race, close to the bushes and push to the end. A little gust of head wind was a little unwelcomed, but it makes for a gutsy finish. 4 Row2k Pics here >

Had to head back to the dock quickly to make my flight back to Seattle. Had two early back-to-back Netball matches the next day!

Wanted to add, a big thank you to Hudson Boat Works, Glen, Craig, Ruud and the team for being so cool! #shakeandbake is right! I wanted to thank Dick and Pat from Concept 2 for my oars. They were stationed right next to Hudson. Must be a good sign of a good combination! Thank you to all the people who cheered my name as I came through the course. I heard you, and smiled! Thank you Kim Kelley for helping me and being my friend!

I also got to chat to the people/businesses who have contributed to my path in the past. To Brendan Cotty from Wintech, and Maas from Shimano, Ed with Bat Logics. Thank you very much for all your support!

So that's a wrap. Hope to be there next year. Further up the seeing? One more highlight: On Friday afternoon as rain poured down and we sheltered ourselves under the Hudson tent, the US Women's Charles eight-team was getting ready to out. It seemed a member was delayed. Taylor Ritzel asked me to row with them. I looked down, in disbelief and loss of words. I had no business being their boat. Suddenly a flashback to the last time I was in an eight, which was the second time I had ever been in an eight. In 2009 racing for Club Natació Banyoles. I had no idea which way my legs had to go with this one oar coming through. And both hands participated in squaring and feathering, even though I have since read only one hand is suppose to do that. As a complete novice, I declined Taylor's request. (Who says no the the US Women's eight?!) Right time, right place is right! Anyway, being asked will go down as a highlight for me! Interesting though, the Romanian woman who holds the LW1x record went on to the next olympics to win gold in the Romanian W8-... 

*It's an SA colloquial term: Horseshoe-shaped headbands are sometimes called Alice bands after the headbands that Alice is often depicted wearing in Through the Looking-Glass.

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