Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Off to Camp Again

My first week back at Oxford, I got to take a little trip back to childhood, because... I got to go to camp!

Well, rowing camp, that is, which was definitely a lot more sweating and a lot less campfire songs than I remember about camp growing up. Oh well; I still had a blast.

I had been pretty proud of myself for sticking pretty faithfully to the holiday workout plan our coaches sent us for break (though I must admit that I was exceedingly spoiled, as I had free access to my high school's gym, 5 minutes away from my house, which had a beautiful ergo all ready and waiting for me, so I really had no excuses!). Though my midsection definitely entered 2014 a bit expanded due to a surplus of holiday sweets and delicious home-cooked meals, I definitely felt physically fitter than I usually do at the start of the season. Wahoo!

Unfortunately, most of our ambitious plans for camp quickly got thwarted by the flooding in Oxfordshire, which was reaching epic and historic proportions by the time I got back. The river was a whopping 45 INCHES higher than normal, meaning that there was absolutely no way we were getting out on the water anywhere near Oxford. Worse still, even our boathouse was completely cut off due to the flooding around us, meaning that we couldn't even do land training like weights and erging (oh no... I say with a distinct simultaneous sigh of relief... :| ).

(My building is usually on the river, but not.... IN the river! We got flooded all the way up our steps and the towpath that connects us to the rest of Oxford was under a solid 12-14" of water. Gross.)

Of course Pembroke, being the super snappy rowing college that it is, managed to find a way to get two of our boats safely out of our boathouse before it got completely swamped, and shipped them up to a lake about an hour north of Oxford so we could still train. And not just any lake, either, but Eton Dorney - aka the private rowing facility of Eton College, the poshest preppiest prep school of them all that makes even a ridiculous place like Oxford seem like a raffish populist establishment, and also the site of the rowing events at the 2012 Olympic games. Not too shabby!!

 (Dorney all gigged up for the 2012 Olympics - fancaayyyy!)

Needless to say that, after a month off the water, I didn't feel much like an olympian my first day at Dorney. In fact, I spent most of our first session lamenting my pretty awful natural timing, and trying desperately to get back in sync with the rest of the crew. It was a lot like this, only just a little less psychedelic (but just as frantic):

After years of individual sports (riding, squash, even cross country running back in high school), I find the amount of synergy and cohesion between everyone in the boat that is required for good rowing almost mind boggling. I'm getting better, but it's not something that comes super naturally to me, especially when I've been out of the boat for a while.


Thankfully, by the end of camp I was feeling much more back in the groove. On the last day we were treated with absolutely gawjus weather and the pieces started coming into place. For the first time, I was finally able to trust in my timing and start to expand my senses a little bit to really feeling boat moving through the water. 

 (Me and my friend looking PRETTY PUMPED to row!)

It was like when you're trying to master something new in riding, and at first it's just all an awkward jumble of trying to keep your body parts in generally the right area and it feels tense and unsustainable. But then eventually you wrap your head around how all the moving parts are supposed to correspond and you settle into yourself, and you can start to feel the way your body fits into your horse's back, and you can start to feel the articulation of his joints and the flow of his body in relation to yours. That was always my favorite sensation in dressage, and it was really exciting to start to glimpse at the same sort of unity in the boat. It only came in snatches and moments, but it made me really hungry to keep working so we can get there more often.

So all in all, nyah nyah rain, nice try! But you can't keep a Pembroke rower down. 

The river is still 28" above normal, meaning that we probably won't be out on the water closer to home for another week if all goes smoothly, and since term has started the three to four hour jaunts up to Dorney aren't a realistic midweek possibility. But we've got access to our boathouse again, and are off to the lake again on the weekend. I'm getting excited for the season ahead, where I'll (hopefully) finally get to do a little racing!

(Dorney looking a little blustery but very pretty, and very inspiring)


SprinklerBandit said...

I'm probably showing my total ignorance of boating here, but when you talked about all the water, I was like "now they can row to their classes!"


Katherine Erickson said...

Haha I thought the same thing at first. Apparently this is a no no with expensive racing boats, though, so we have to slog...

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