Crew Comeback: Four Months In

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June 20, 2018 by 8junebugs

It’s good to be back.

I mean, it’s true that “you can’t go home again.” Things change. Coaches come and go. New members shift any community’s dynamics; legacy dynamics get magnified or minimized with membership ebb and flow.

I went back to the boathouse with some goals. Results are encouraging:

  1. Just fucking ROW. Get my legs back under me and regain my boat feel. My form is coming back. There’s a lifetime of improvement ahead of me, but so far, so good. My appreciation of good coaching knows no bounds.
    Also? Although I can’t help trying to piece together some stuff that happened while I was out, it’s nice to just be a rower in charge of nothing but my own oar.
  2. Work off the baby weight that is nearly as stubborn as the baby who caused it. (Also, see how well I can row on a keto diet.) I’ve dropped about 20+ pounds since January…virtually none of which I can credit to rowing, which builds muscle too fast. My weight loss stalled a bit but continues (which I credit to cross-training and being too busy to snack) slowly. My fitness is increasing and clothes are getting looser one curve at a time.
    I’m still on a fat-first diet and I add in carbs strategically around practices. I give myself a free pass on event days…but I still go mostly keto.
    I haven’t really bonked yet. Is keto good for rowers (or anyone)? Hell if I know. But my nutrition hasn’t gotten in the way of my performance yet. I’ll do a separate post on how I fueled for my first regatta.
  3. See if this is still really My Thing (among all the other Things in my life right now). This is still My Thing. If I had any doubt, grinning stupidly over the erg monitor as the sun comes up erased it. Who grins on an erg? Someone who just dropped her split for the last minute, that’s who.
  4. Sync back up with my badass/cuckoo-bananas crew family. Families are complicated, but I’m enjoying new friendships and leaning into some old ones.
  5. Race my ass off…and, perhaps, if everything else checks out, earn a seat on the competitive squad. Racing is a work in progress. Gold Rush was last month and I stroked two women’s boats and raced in a mixed 8+ at the end of the day. I’ve got work to do, but it felt…
    It felt right. I’m not crazy about seeing the remaining baby weight in my old uni. Grayson busted the floofy headband I always used to wear to regattas. It was WEIRD being there without Graham. But I was right where I was supposed to be. I felt strong and confident and ready. And “as many times as possible” is exactly how I like to race.

Progress continues. I’ve PRed my 1K and 2K (all-time, not just post-Alex) a few times and I’ve been seeing the kind of splits I wanted but did not expect to happen this soon. I’m usually boated in seats I find most…I don’t know, immediately gratifying? I’m most effective in 6 or stroke. Put me in 2 or 4 and I’ll pull hard but still miss a bow-4 call because humans are creatures of habit. (See also: My boundless appreciation for good coaching.)

I don’t have the 2K I want yet, but I can see it from here.

There have been some adjustments.

All of the coaches were new to me, save the amazing head novice coach and our quotable coach emeritus, who will probably rip me to shreds when she turns back up this summer (which I will deserve, enjoy, and learn from). The assurances I had when I stepped off the water were carried away by the person who made them.

And maybe that’s for the best, seen from that angle. Would I have jumped back in on the competitive squad under my old coach? Maybe. That was his expectation when I left, childbirth and newborns were somewhat beyond his ken. I wouldn’t have been ready, but I’d have trusted his confidence in me…and I might’ve pushed myself to the point of injury, given my fitness level upon my return.

I really miss that easy trust, but earning your seat is part of the sport. In the boat, nothing I did before matters anyway, nor should it. And before I could prove it to a coach, I needed to prove it to myself. So I started with lower volume and a little less (external) pressure, and the gains have come as quickly as I could have hoped.

I mean, it’s also possible that getting rid of the mass pressing on my windpipe helped, and we don’t really know how long I had cancer hanging out in there, and there’s Graham’s point about my legs being strong from carrying the baby/baby weight around and therefore able to get stronger faster. (My previous 2K PR was at the beginning of my second trimester.) But I can also point to specific drills and pieces that started to reset my perception and expectations.

So.

After a couple of months with our club squad, I’m now rowing with the competitive women, which is roughly 67% women I used to row with and 33% women who joined or moved to competitive in the last year; many were novices when I left and are now super fast badasses giving us a whole new race category to conquer. (I seriously love these women, although I still barely know them. They get it. I wish I’d been smart enough to start rowing before I turned 35.)

I’m adapting to the increased training volume and reveling in the divine exhaustion of 12k on a light day. I’m adjusting to coaches’ styles and catching up on drill sequences that are called differently from what I remember. I’m working in two-a-days where I can — generally, I can’t row on Saturdays, but I can hit the treadmill during a webcast and erg or lift before the kids get up. My core is still weaker than I would like, but I’m working on it.

And last week, with me on the competitive schedule, we were able to get Graham back on the water as well. It’s taken 18 months, but we’re finally back to a two-athlete household.

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