From the novice boat: Coxing for the first time

If you’ve just joined the team (I just joined in June) or if you think you might want to join the team (trust me, you do!), you might be able to guess from the title what part of this deal scared me the most:

Coxing

With very few exceptions, everyone on this team takes a turn in the ninth seat, and that includes us newbies/novies. Once you’re solid enough on the basics, it’s time.

cox boxYou put on the headset, and you sit facing the teammates you’ve had your back to for months (and whose backs you’ve stared at). You switch port and starboard in your head, because your whole perspective just changed. Again. You squeeze into a “seat” built for a jockey, and off you go.

Well, off you go…when you say it’s time to go. The biggest shift is realizing that you’re the one calling the shots. You’ve just settled into the routine of, for the most part, just following instructions and doing your best, and now it’s your turn to drive.

(Were you one of those kids who couldn’t wait to get your driver’s license? I wasn’t.)

The good news is that the only surprise is when you’ll cox a boat, not if. And if you know you’re going to have to do it eventually, you have three practices a week to learn from those who go before you. Our squad benefited from the goodwill of volunteer coxes from the intermediate and advanced teams, and we’ve all had tremendous support from our own team-within-a-team; ain’t no shame in a boat full of novices. We’re all learning, and next practice, it could be be you up there.

That morning, it was me up there. Knowing that the day was going to come, here’s what I tried to do to prepare:

  1. I listened to how the coaches describe the drills and land commands. I tried to get familiar with how they were being called so I wouldn’t stumble too much and confuse everyone with weird commands.
  2. When I’ve been impressed or frustrated by a cox, I’ve tried to step back and figure out why. If they did something I thought was great, I tried to remember to steal it. I also tried to remember to avoid the stuff that didn’t feel helpful.
  3. I worked to build up some good karma by supporting my fellow novices as they took the rudder before me. For real — this is a team sport, no matter where you’re sitting.

I know what you’re thinking. You didn’t sign up to be a coxswain. You signed up to row. Think of it this way: Trust is at the foundation of EBRC. The club trusts you to handle tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Your teammates trust you to guide them safely through the water. All you have to do is trust yourself. (And don’t run into anything.)

Fellow novies and those who’ve been around the estuary a few times, what was your first coxing experience like?

~Jen Gingras


Women masters enjoy expert coaching workshops

Periodically, our Women Masters team enjoys special rowing skills workshops with some of the best coaches in the country. Last spring, two boats of mostly advanced women’s team members participated in a great two-day workshop with renowned coach Mayrene Earl. Just recently, Saturday August 17, 2014, two boats of mostly intermediate rowers spent a day with Deirdre McLoughlin, voted last year’s Fans Choice Coach of the Year at the prestigious Golden Oars awards and former Marin Rowing Masters women’s coach. Deirdre’s approach is fun and informal, with a focus on the fundamentals of stroking technique — quick bodies over, relaxed inboard arm, quick catches and ‘working with what you got’ — not overcompensating with too much reach at the catch, which causes ‘check’ and slows the forward motion of the boat. Deirdre is also an outstanding PT and she spent time teaching us basic body dynamics for lifting boats and avoiding injury. Finally, all rowers were videotaped and given specific critiques for areas to work on — head down, inboard arm relaxed, pull in high [no dumping into my lap] for me.

A fun and fantastic experience!

-Kathy Eyre


Gulliver Scott

Gulliver has more than 10 years of experience coaching at the junior, masters, and collegiate levels. His association with the Berkeley High Crew began when he was a two-sport student-athlete at BHS (class of 1992). Gulliver learned to row with the BHS Jackets, then served as the Men’s Novice Coach for the 1992-93 season. He went on to row in the Varsity 8 at Wesleyan University for four years and later served as Assistant Coach at Wesleyan for two seasons (2000-02).

Gulliver returned to Berkeley High in 2006 as the Men’s Assistant Coach and became the Women’s Head Coach in 2012. Gulliver became Berkeley High Crew’s first Team Director in 2013. He holds USRowing Level III Coaching Certification.


M LWT 1x B : The Recap

Well, I’ve had some time to digest (Both figuratively and literally. Immediately after the race I had a 5 cheese penne pasta, blackened grouper, 3 beers and ice cream. Today, I don’t have to be lightweight!) my race experience. I learned a lot and, thankfully, met all my goals and expectations of myself.

The morning started off quite pleasant. I saw Tara off the dock for her race, weighed in, checked my shell over and stayed out of the sun as much as I could. It wasn’t until 40 minutes before I was to launch that I started to get really nervous. After launching, I realized that the races were behind schedule and I ended up in the marshaling area a while longer than I intended. I still managed my nerves pretty well as I was distracted chatting with one of my competitors and a lively ladies’ 8+ from Texas. I acclimated to the heat and humidity pretty well as I kept covered up in my hat, was well hydrated, skies were slightly overcast and I was probably too nervous to notice otherwise.

Observing the other racers in my group, I knew I would have to be very aggressive in my high 20 right off the racing start. Their practice starts were clearly superior to mine (Racing starts are the weakest part of my race plan.) and could get their boats to jump. Still, I remained calm knowing that the boat I had borrowed was stiff, light and well under my control. I was low in the water, well balanced and the gunwales were directly beneath my hips. Our Wintechs feel like bathtubs compared to this lightweight shell. The five of us competitors, me being in lane five, were called onto the racecourse and we locked on efficiently, subtly maintaining our points in the crosswind. After a fairly rapid roll call, we were called to attention, which was fine by me. There’s nothing more I hate than sitting at the catch, blades squared.

Attention, ROW! I immediately went into a tunnel vision, focused on the stern of my boat as I moved away from the pontoon. 1/2, 3/4, 3/4, FULL, FULL. Jumped into my high 20 and peeked over at my stroke coach, a 46. What!? A 46! Adrenaline’s a helluva drug!!!! After my high 20, I struggled to force myself into a hard settle. Almost 300m in and I’m still at a 44. I begin to yell at myself aloud, “Settle, Gilbert! Settle! DAMMIT!” Apparently, lane 4 had been encroaching on me as the officials were warning him off, I heard him apologize. I guess he mistook my muttering as yelling at him.

Somewhere around 350m, my starboard blade took a digger. A mini-crab which, within 2 strokes, pulled me down to a manageable 34. I was actually thankful for that. However, at the 34 I was still unable to make an emphatic & decisive move on the shell to my right. I made a conscious decision, 7 more strokes at this 34 and if nothing happened, I’d force myself to a 30. Dropped to a 30-32 and almost immediately I felt the boat lift. I became efficient, creating some space between the adjacent Empacher. This is where I live! Found me some swing. I decided I was going to slug it out, all power at a lower rate, hammering out the remainder. Gone was my notion of higher rate and anything graceful! Plus, at this stroke rate, I’d have room to sprint at the end. I hit the 750m red buoys, and am instantly pulled out of my tunnel vision, keenly aware of the spectator stands and the chatter! Oh, Shit! People are watching! Sit up a little taller. Up two for 10! Up two more for 10! Okay, BLOW IT OUT! In reality, blow it out was more like a plea. PLEASE HOLD ON!?!?

I cross the bubble curtain finish line (The course is built to FISA standards. My first bubble curtain finish. I felt so chic. LOL). My head is throbbing. I’m dizzy and slightly disoriented. I turn my boat and start paddling for the dock. In a small Shawshank moment, the skies finally released rain where I promptly stopped, removed my hat and raised my face to the sky, enjoying the brief moment and relief.

From the experience I can definitely say I met my personal goals and expectations. At the onset of this I set out to:

1) Execute a training plan 100%. For 6 weeks, although I may have modified a few things, I stayed true to the plan and never missed a workout. Thank you Axel & Adrienne.

2) Make the final. After reviewing the previous years’ heats, my goal was to post a time fast enough for the finals. This was an easy one, as the race itself was a final. CHECK!

3) Run a clean race [and not finish last :-)]. From my perspective, as described above, that was accomplished.

4) Row a sub 4:00 1K. I posted a 3:56.589. DONE. My only other 1x race was at Gold Rush in 2011 and it was . . . an experience. Although water conditions, wind, course setup make every race situation different, I rowed a 4:28 there. 32 sec is a great improvement.

What did I learn?

1) Self Mental Discipline. In 2x’s, 2-‘s on up through the 8+’s, I’m highly responsive to the accountability and reliance my teammates have in me to hit the landmarks and hold the stroke rates when necessary. I need to be able to do that for myself in race situations and not fly out of those crazy starts and settle hard. If I’m able to find that efficiency earlier, how much more competitive can I be?

2) Set New Personal Elevated Expectations. What do I need to do maintain this learning curve? Although, this has been a great experience, I am still 10-15 seconds away from reaching the podium. How are my peers managing to be my height and weight yet still carry so much dense mass while I’m thin and lanky? The Argentine (the Romanesque guy to my left rowing the Cucchietti ) was crazy fit and the guy from Columbus that won was muscle packed and still a pound under me. All they have are more racing experiences under their belt, that’s all. I’ve proven I am in this peer group and know I can catch and surpass.

3) I am not as afraid of my racing peers, of the 1x and the big venues. A little apprehension keeps me on my toes, but I won’t be overwhelmed.

I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. Going out on a limb, feeling crunchy out of your comfort zone forces those evolutionary leaps in personal development. I’m left still feeling hungry. I can’t wait to do it again, soon. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, but soon.


A Humid Lesson in Patience

Hey Hey! (the other) East Bay!
Hey Hey! (the other) East Bay!

Well, my race rituals have begun. If you’ve ever observed me closely at a regatta, you may notice that I eat & drink & do things habitually the same way almost at the same time. I got my various drinks, post weigh-in foods (sans a treat I can only get at home) & even attempted to make my own chili-lime mangoes. I like things routine and regimented.

I always knew I was fussy, at times a bit of a Diva, as Axel likes to point out. But never quite aware of how much you guys collectively take care or cater to my needs. Thank you all, by the way. Up until today, my only concerns of the trip were nominal. I had forgotten my stroke coach at the boathouse (PANIC!!!!), but I had an ace in my pocket, my best friend is clutch and got one in my hands on the way to airport. I forgot my sweatband and little green towels! My friend at work told me which Target had the towels in stock and I swooped in & picked ’em up. See, I got good people.

My plan for today, course opens at 12. Get in, register, pre-weigh to see where I’m at (160.2 BTW. It’ll be gone easily.), hit the water by 1:30. Off no later than 2:15, back chillin’ at the crib or sight seeing.

Then reality sunk in. I obviously was not the boss in charge today! My poor boat (a lovely red Vespoli lightweight Matrix 1x with Van Deusen rigging. ‘Gurren Laggan Row On’; more to come on the name) was missing its seat. Another one had to be fetches from the Sarasota Crew boathouse, 30-45 minutes away (In teal time, 3-4 hours). Egads. I take a seat in their tent. Can you fill a seat in an 8+ so at least you can see the course and help us out? Hooray! Never mind, the rower showed up. Boo! Seat shows up! I kick off my shorts into my trou. Hooray! The PA announces course is closed indefinitely for incoming bad weather (which never came). Boo! Course back open. HOORAY! No wait, it’s 5:30. Time for coaches & coxswains meeting. Boo! Finally 6:30 PM, after marinating all day, I get out on the water for a quick row through and quickly make adjustments to both the rigging and the oars.

Now usually I would be fuming, a wreck and on an emotional roller coaster. But what was I gonna do?!? Really? So instead, I started rigging boats, chatting’ up the team, lifting, carrying, whatever. Typical regatta stuff. Sarasota kinda adopted me. Before long we were yucking it up in the tent, sipping water, taking me along for food runs. Really kind, sharing people. I think it was a mixture of me looking helpless waiting alone and pitiful, all the white still willing to do their work. Once they discovered I was lightweight, their coach asked if I would row a 4x with his lightweight D’s. How generous & fun but I also explained as long as it didn’t interfere with my primary race. We shall see . . .

G

PS – Gurren Lagann is an anime cartoon. I thought it was a dead person de to the “Row On”. That is until I later learned, the shows theme song is some kind Japanese operatic rap song that repeats Gurren Lagann Row Row Power On repeatedly. ?????


Tom Horton

Vice President


Jolie Krakauer

President


Sara Nevin

Vice President


Master’s Nationals : Life in the FLA

A sunny place for shady people.
A sunny place for shady people.

I arrived in Tampa & drove down to Sarasota after a stunning red-eye ride from SFO. Decent travels (sleep on a plane is never deep and always uncomfy). Landed at my crash pad for the week, a shrunk down condo version of the Golden Girls house complete with a Patrick Nagel hanging on the wall on a palm tree & sea shell wallpapered backdrop and a spacious lanai! (I paint a silly picture but the place is actually well decorated, comfy with beautiful Floridian landscaping in an affluent planned community on a country club golf course. It’s no more than 1/2 mile from the race course for convenience as well.)

After getting my bearings & doing some light shopping, I thought I had accidentally landed on the set of of “The Sixth Sense” remake because everywhere I went I SAW DEAD PEOPLE! Then I realized, the walking dead were actually the retired local yokel community. Chatting folks up, I learned that some retired folks do live here but the 1/3 to 2/3 of the properties are owned by out-of-towners & Canadians who flood here in the winter as tourists. Run into the occasional rower out & about. Fully fleshed, well hydrated, muscular, tan people really stick out in this community.

To kill some down time, I went to the Mariners Rays game. $5 parking and $13 ticket. Cheaper than the movies. It was pleasant but I’m definitely spoiled to the expectations we have in the Bay Area regarding our sports. Even the food served ain’t the same. Well . . . Except for the pricing!

Took a peek at the race course & walked around. They are feverishly landscaping & putting on the finishing touches to the tents & spectator areas for the regatta. It kind of reminds me of the Gold Rush setup. Still a ton of construction & infrastructure to be built but the buoys are in he water and ready to go. I’ll attach a rendering of what they hope to have complete for the 2017 World Champs versus what we have here today.

Alright, off to clean the kitchen (This place is a Sur La Table graveyard of kitchen appliances. I’ve made my own yogurt & various attempts at the perfect kale, chia/flax & fruit smoothies. Gotta hold onto that lightweight status just a few more days!). Oh and to my lightweight, naturopath, herbal remedy shaman priestess EBRC sisters, DO NOT, under any circumstances drink the tea you recommended while consuming coffee, kale smoothies, okra, fruits, & oatmeal! Are you kidding me!?!? Does this thing have an off button? You know what I mean. 😉

Alright, off for a row over, equipment adjustments, wait out some possible rain & eat some food. May make a run to the beach afterwards or try to find the aquarium (I LOVE aquariums. Such a sucker.) or a Salvador Dali museum I saw somewheres along the way.


EBRC Learn to Row Day : July 20th

IMG_7593

Come one, come all down to the boat house on Saturday, the 20th of July for our second Learn to Row (LTR) of the Summer. We’re going to be going over standard rowing terminology, proper use of a land rower aka ergometer, take some strokes on the Oakland Estuary and learn all about the sport.

The EBRC Learn To Row Class will be held on Saturday, July 20th, from 10am to 1pm.
Jack London Aquatic Center
115 Embarcadero
Oakland, CA 94607
 
For more information or to reserve your spot, please contact info@eastbayrowingclub.org

Our two-week LTR program will begin that following Monday the 22nd for all novice men, and the 23rd for all novice women. The two week learn to row class extends until August 3rd.

See you down at the boathouse!