More on Rowing

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The first rower I ever met was my proctor in my dorm. At the end of her senior year, her first year on varsity, I asked her how she felt about closing her career with a championship. “I would have rather been on third boat,” she said, “Less stress.” Though this and all other signs indicated that high-level rowing would lead to hypertension late in life. I wanted a varsity letter more than most anything. When my second season rolled around, I was given a chance to get the letter, but at first, varsity was living up to all I had heard it would be. Day after day I would diagram seat line ups, seat races, nagging my brain trying to anticipate the next day’s practice instead of doing homework. Before our first race, what was then second boat, with me at two seat, met to discuss our race plan. We divided our race into three 500-meter sections. The first was the dubbed the ‘attack’ 500, where we were supposed to get out in front as early in the race as possible; the second was dubbed the ‘mack truck’ 500, for its true test of ability to barrel through the hardest part of the race; the last was the ‘blast off’ 500 for the all out, no-guts-no-glory sprint, ideally to victory. From that race, our boat became known as the Mack Truck, for our post race cheer. The Mack Truck was more the spirit of our boat than the people, though we were rather attached to each other. My pair once confided in me if she was seat raced into first boat, she would throw it to stay with the Mack Truck. No one could guess that we were a varsity boat, we didn’t live up to the varsity equals extra stress standard. Only on the Mack Truck would someone shout ‘Look its foxes!’ and then pause in the middle of a piece, or the bow four learn new uses for the reeds that float in our river. Our coaches used us as a model for other boats with the theory that we row better if happier. And next year, when all the boat lineups change, I hope the Truck will live again, only in the team as a whole. Surely the attitude we cultivated in our boat will ward off the hypertension that I once assumed was an inevitable component of the rowing life!

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