Another Saturday, another race

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Today we’re rowing the second race of the season—the 20th annual Coast Guard Challenge in Alameda.We’ll be getting up at o’ dark hundred (Yuck. Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person?) to drive the forty five minutes out to Alameda, hop in a 2,000-pound boat and row, row, row the sucker around Coast Guard island as fast as we can—hoping to pummel all the other teams with our tsunami-like wake.

Crrrraaazzy, I know! But we’re gonna try anyway.

For those who couldn’t attend last weekend’s race, the Skipper Whipper in Vallejo, here’s a peek at the day.

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At 7am we’ve got a sweet little marine layer—otherwise known as fog—blanketing the waterfront and boy was it cold. Brrr. It was chilly, chilly. See those two dudes walking towards us? They’re two of our best rowers and coxswains. When they get in the boat they’re all business and snarling competitors. Out of the boat, they’re teddy bears. But don’t tell them I said that cause it’ll crush their mean-fighting-machine self images.

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Here’s part of my team, the Rowverines. Do we look awake yet?

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Terry, our starboard stroke. The stroke sits all the way in the front and sets the pace of the boat. Everyone else follows the stroke position trying to perfectly mimic their movements and timing. When Terry goes slow, we go slow, when Terry speeds up, we speed up. We never take our eyes off the stroke. Ever. Well, until we cross the finish line. Then we look at our feet because we’re slumped over in exhaustion.

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This is Michael, our mascot. We strap him to the bow of the boat like one of those mermaid things on pirate ships. Every once in awhile we use him as a bumper.

No. I’m kidding. Sorta.

His mom and grandma row on our team. His grandma, Connie, rows in the seat in front of me and holy mother of God, she’s in the most incredible shape. We all want to be Connie. She’s a former body builder and still teaches spinning classes at 5am, goes to Crossfit six days a week AND rows four days a week. She’s a freak. And I’m so glad that she rows on our team.

Connie’s one of nine kids and all of her siblings are amazing athletes. Last year Connie’s baby brother, Joey, died after a long battle with cancer. Like Connie, his spirit was indomitable and fierce—he was a fighter and a competitor. He had that something special about him. We loved him. We were so inspired by him. We miss him terribly. We named our new boat, which will be arriving at the end of May, after him. And before we begin every race, we say a little prayer and remember Joey and all that times he rowed in the boat with us and cheered us on from the sidelines.

Little Michael, our mascot, is a chip off the family block.

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In the early morning fog, we all rowed in to the starting dock and it was just like in the movies … eerie and quiet, chilly and damp … boats appearing out of nowhere. Here are the Coast Guard guys coming in. I was on hand to greet them and catch their line. Lucky me.

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Dockmaster Mike, checking to make sure everyone’s in order.

Let the races begin.

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As the morning goes on the fog disappears and the sun begins to blaze. By the time my team raced the sun was beating down. Several hundred people lined up to watch the races and cheer us on.

skipper whipper 09

skipper whipper 09

skipper whipper 09

skipper whipper 09

skipper whipper 09

skipper whipper 09

It was a beautiful day. For those wondering, we came in fifth. We were pissed. We screwed ourselves by going too long on the turn. But it didn’t matter … we partied afterward like we came in first 🙂

Today’s another day and another race. Wish us luck.

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