Last Saturday, May 10th, I found myself pedaling down Kelley Drive searching for the Three Angels (which had mysteriously moved from where I last remembered them.) After avoiding numerous buses and clueless drivers, Perez and I found the angels and gathered around the officials for the Coaches & Coxswains meeting.
During the meeting we were reminded that this was an official event and we must obey the rules of the river while also having fun. We were also reminded that we were not allowed to interfere with the collegiate races, and as such would not be allowed on the water until the last Men’s event came down the course. This was tentatively scheduled for 11:21am. I found the owner of Team Concepts and received our bow number, 172.
Back on the bike we start pedaling up river towards the finish line and corporate event tents. On the way we pass the University of Delaware Alumni Associate tent and wave hello. A few tents down we find our corporate tent and notice that the only ones there are the caterers. I pick up the phone and find out our captain (Mike) and the rest of the team are already getting ready by Strawberry Mansion bridge. However, the boat does not currently have a coxswain or “cox-box” (the device that lets every rower hear the voice of the tiny person facing everyone.)
Once again, we turn around on the bike and head back to the angels looking for the Team Concepts owner. Riding around the area for a few minutes we don’t see him and think it best to call another member of our team who had his number. As we are dialing, he walks by and we ask him what we should do about getting a coxswain and cox-box. His reply is that he already spoke to our captain and we are all set. Gee, would have been nice for Mike to call us back and let us know he already had what we needed.
Back on the bikes we pedal up river past the Alumni and Corporate tent and run into our old college coaches. They were a bit busy getting ready for the next event (which they would win.) Up by Strawberry Mansion Bridge we find our novice boat and meet our illustrious high-school coxswain. We find out that the shirts we are receiving for the race are both sleeveless and size XL. Fantastic. I felt more bad for our cox, as she was about half my size and had the same size shirt in which I was swimming.
We figured that now that we had found everyone we could watch a few of the college races go by and get onto the water within the next 15 minutes. As we start watching the races we realize that they are very far behind and there was no way we would be able to make it onto the river by 11:21. Forty minutes later, at 12:00 we find ourselves getting “hands-on” the boat and heading down the dock. We were informed that our warm up would consist of just paddling down the river until we were at the 1000 meter mark. Not a very long warm up when you consider that most people are hands-on and in the water at least 45 minutes before their scheduled start time.
As we paddle down to the start line we take a few practice “starts.” Everyone is a little nervous and jump, but overall it was not a bad warm up. I was feeling very confident in our race and ability, however I was becoming more and more nervous. It felt like I was back in college getting ready for a race. I knew I should have been out there to just have fun, but I was really starting to feel like I needed to win the race.
At the 1000m mark, they stopped all the boats and lined everyone up, we started to paddle slowly with only stern pair and no pressure down the river attempting to keep even as we approached the official 500m startling line in lane three. We found that even though we were not putting on any pressure we were ahead of all the other boats. This gave me even more confidence that we could really do well in the race.
At 500m, they stopped everyone, staggered the start due to the shape of the river and lined everyone up “even.” I could tell from the beginning that our high-school cox was pretty nervous, and that we were most certainly not pointed at the finish line. As the official says “ready….row!” we do our start “1/2, 1/2, 3/4, lengthen, full, crash!.” Our port side oars were clashing with the oars of the boat in lane two. At first I couldn’t tell what was happening, but then I saw that we were way over the lane markers and completely out of our territory. We were also in a really bad spot, no one on port side could row due to hitting the other boat, however if anyone on starboard attempted to row, it would push us more to port. So, everyone just stopped rowing. At this point all the other boats are pulling away and we are in dead last.
We very quickly get reset, and we start rowing again. This time I’m really mad, but I most certainly do not want to come in dead last. The next thing I know, is that we are gaining on the fifth place boat and making moves on the fourth and third place boat. With about twenty strokes to go, we are even with the boat in lane one and we are in fourth place. With ten strokes to go, we are one or two seats up on the boat in lane one and we are in third place. We cross the finish line about 3/4 of a length up on the fourth place boat and take third.
I was amazed. We were in last place (out of six) and we managed to come back with a third place finish. There is no doubt in my mind that had we stared properly and had no mishaps along the way, we would have been in first place. We quickly spun our boat and headed for the awards dock where we received bronze medals and the applause of the spectators, drunk college kids and our co-workers.
Not too shaby for a “half-time show.” I will definitely be back next year.