Monday, March 9, 2015

The Average Practice, by Tessa Mackey and Hildy Maxwell

“Up over-heads, out and in”
Two at a time, the rowers slide into their seat, most of the time in the least graceful way possible. Oars are extended strategically, so as not to upset the fragile set. Once past the dock, the boat flows smoothly across the water. The start of the release begins. The world disappears. The excruciating wait for this moment is over.

“Arms Only!”
Trying to keep the rest of their bodies perfectly still, the rowers start to power the boat with their long, strong arms alone. This is secretly a vile ab work out as well. The pain is welcomed by these athletes though, as they know that pain is what leads to being one second faster, the one second that will win the race. As the pick drill continues, the speed of the boat gradually increases. Finally all four are rowing together at full slide. Now the fun begins.

“Build for a ten!”
The first time all day full power is allowed to be used. The oars bend from excitement. The outcome of this is either pure bliss or a disaster. If it is good, the mood for practice is already great. On the other hand, if it is awful, all five people in the boat have to put everything into ensuring every stroke taken that practice is better.

“Ok everyone this is the plan for today…”
That is all the rowers usually remember from the coaches talking, because it is the coxswain's job to remind them of it as they are rowing. All they know is that the bulk of practice is about to begin. Most are mentally preparing themselves to go through hell during these pieces. Before they start, butterflies begin to accumulate, both from the nerves that come with rowing and the anxiety to begin.

“Half way!”
At this point most sane people would wonder why in the world they are doing this to themselves. Rowers are not sane people though. They thrive in adversity and have the willpower to push themselves past their limits. They are tired and are not quite sure how they are going to get through the second half of practice. As a rower looks around, she realizes all of her teammates are going through the same thing. All of them feel the same crying out from their muscles, but they must finish the workout for every other person there. They draw the strength they need to finish from each other.

“Last Minute!!!”
Instinct has taken over as your body begins to break. Your heart is pounding, almost numb from continuous strain. This minute, a tiny fraction of time, seems to last years….interminable, unbearable, yet vital to your success. Finally, as the coxswain calls last 10, you feel the release of pressure as all you have put into the season is exposed, feeling nothing but the sheer spatial awareness of your body. Nothing else in the world matters, only that minute, the final minute. The water. Your oar. All become one in the last minute.

“Way Enough”
The hardest part is over. All that is left is a light paddle back to the welcoming boathouse. Often times there is an unsaid competition between boats on the way back. No one wants to have to wait behind the other boats for dock space. Once back, the boats and oars are placed in their own places, their resting place until the next day.

 “One Two Three…Gunn!”
The team cheer officially ends practice. The rowers leave the boathouse sweaty, exhausted, sore, and hungry. As they walk away though, there is a feeling of being cleansed. They must still face the problems of their everyday life, but they are now refocused and ready to face anything.

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