“Let’s do a regatta,” they said.
“It’ll be fun,” they said.
“Just one race,” I said.
“How about two,” they said.
“Just the two,” I said.
“Well, actually three,” they said.
“OMG!” I said.
“But you can do four,” they said.
“What planet are you living on?” I asked.
So, somehow I went from rowing one race to three in my first regatta. I’m still not entirely sure how it happened.
With a just over two months training under my belt, I suddenly realised the sheer magnitude of what I’d agreed to.
In perspective, while some people are athletes from primary school to the old age home, I am not. The last race I competed in was the egg and spoon race in preschool. And they gave me a potato instead of an egg.
I felt sick to my stomach.
My doubles partner and I hit the water with a vengeance, while our long suffering coach, Talbot (Mr T), did his level best to get us to row in a straight line, go up to the starting line (way harder than you think), and row the entire course in one go.
We were on the water at 06:30 and running to work at 09:00. I could start a new fashion label called ‘From Row 2 Go’. I figured out to to match my rowing leggings with a black miniskirt and a cute jacket and change my boat shoes for heels while in traffic. Necessity, invention and all that.
Regattas are a lot of work. The training, the derigging, the packing, the towing, the unpacking, the rerigging, the rowing, the derigging, the packing, the towing, the unpacking, the rerigging… it’s process.
I woke up on Saturday morning feeling nauseous. It was so cold, I piled layer on layer until resembling a rotund toddler in a ski suit. By the time I arrived at Wemmerpan for the Bucks Regatta, I was chilled to the bone, desperate for coffee and wishing for a fast forward button.
My rowing partner is a far better mother than me. Not only would I never have got this far without her, but she brought along a cordon bleu spread of breakfast, lunch and snacks. Most importantly, she brought coffee. Flasks and flasks of coffee.
Our quad had three learn-to-rowers and one experienced rower. Thanks heavens for him. The rest of us had no clue how to line up for the start and none of us have quite mastered the art of steering. For a race that only lasted a few minutes, it seemed to go on for hours. We may have looked a little like a caterpillar having an epileptic fit, but we came second!
Our doubles race did not end quite so well. We struggled with the line up, we missed our handicap and we were blown so far off the course, we rowed 2 kms rather than 700 m. I also had a massive panic attack in the middle of the race. With tears pouring down my face in the most unattractive manner, I begged and pleaded to throw myself in the water and just drown. Thanks to my calm and collected rowing partner, I didn’t. She got me to row and we finished the race in our lane.
I thought I would crawl out the boat, lie on the jetty and curl up in the foetal position.
No such luck.
We pulled up at the jetty, got out the boat and were unceremoniously ushered to the octuple. Talk about a new experience. I’d never been in an oct before. Our coxswain, Sebastian, is in the same rowing school as my son, and I have to give credit where it is due – I would not have made it without him. Despite most of us never having been in an oct or rowed with each other, Sebastian got us in time and drew on our last reserves of energy to get us down the lane and past the finish.
I have never felt so physically broken in my life. Neither have I ever felt quite so proud of myself. I never imagined I could do this. I have so much respect for my son and his crew putting themselves through this every single day without complaining.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the people who got me across the finish.
- My son who encourages me.
- My rowing partner who inspires me, motivates me and feeds me.
- My coaches, Dylan, Talbot and Craig who yell at me, push my limits and never doubt me.
- The Victoria Lake Rowing Club and all the great men and women who give me much needed support and guidance.
My body hurts, I’ve never been so tired, but for some strange reason, I’d do it all again tomorrow.