When I was in first grade, my father's job moved us to central Ohio--right downtown, Columbus. If you've ever been to Columbus, you know that Ohio State University dominates the city. Also, two rivers, the Scioto and the Olentangy, meander through campus and the surrounding suburbs. When I saw a crew team for the first time, it was like seeing a giant, graceful, 8-legged animal. I wanted to do that. I loved watching the Ohio State crew practice. Sometimes my parents even let me get close enough to the river to see exactly what the rowers were doing. The slide, the oars, the blades, the riggers. Lucky for me, my father's job gave us a house in one of the wealthier areas of the city; meaning, I got to go to the rich school. I counted the days until I was in high school, and could sign up for the crew team. It was everything I wanted it to be. Physically, one of the most demanding sports imaginable. Mentally, so many things to think about. Most people don't realize this. We met for practice on the Olentangy River, at the end of a dirt road, where a camp had been turned into our boathouse. We ran a few miles, did calisthenics (the first time I learned what a burpie was), and prepared our boats for the water. There was a lot to learn, about the equipment, about balance, about the lingo. I was tall and skinny, but more determined than anyone. I sat port, and eventually sat stroke. I set the pace. We traveled all over the midwest, and competed against colleges and private high schools at some of the most impressive regattas in the region. I rowed crew both spring and fall seasons, for my entire high school career. And at the end, I had no idea what I would do without the water.
I ran a lot. I rode my bike. But every time I'd see a truck hauling sculls, or a crew on the water, I'd get an ache. In graduate school, I joined a private club. It really is like riding a bike. I got up before dawn and drove 12 miles to a little lake. Lake Lemon. We saw eagles, and deer, and no one else was awake. I learned how to scull, and how to maneuver a single. Sometimes on my way home, I'd stop at a friend's house for blueberry pancakes. Post-row is an incredible combination of pain and resilience.
After more than 7 years out of the boat, I'm finally relishing new blisters again. Northern Colorado has lakes: lots of them. This week I woke at 4:30am to meet other rowers at the water by 5:15. We watched the sun rise over the mountains to the sound of oars feathering and water rushing under the hull. It was nothing less than perfect.