The Wilson Beacon

A day in the life of a rower

Claire Wigglesworth

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4:30 a.m: Alarms go off. Our eyelids feel remarkably heavy, and legs sore, but we know soon enough we’ll be rowing along the beautiful Potomac River.

“I feel like it’s the middle of the night, and how could I possibly be doing this?” said sophomore rower Amelia Lederer.

Once we muster the strength to get ourselves out of bed, the morning gets progressively better. At 5:30 a.m., practice begins at Thompson’s Boat Center in Georgetown.

Warm-up time! All 40 girls form a circle and start 50 seconds of jumpees (a squat and jump to get your legs burning). We do abs, burpees, high knees, and more jumpees until our whole body’s warm.

5:45 a.m: The team forms a huddle around coaches Andrew Kenealy and Chris Rickard to hear the practice plan. Today’s workout is race pieces, 8 short 2 minute sprints to prepare us for upcoming races. Preparing mentally and physically for the immense pain in sprints is important in practice because spring races are only 2000 meters (about 6 minutes long).

Shoving off from the docks, all our tiredness is left on land and it’s time to get serious. Coxswains, the people who sit in the stern of the boat steering and issuing commands, lead a couple of drills before we race. T-pause (or ‘tiger’ pause) keeps us in perfect unison by stopping shortly at different parts of the stroke. T-press isolates the leg drive, pushing off from the foot stretcher with powerful legs.

6:15 a.m: All four 8-person boats are lined up across the Potomac, awaiting the start of the first piece. There’s an anxious excitement in the crisp morning air, all eyes gaze at the beautiful streaks of sunrise above the monuments.

“Sit ready, attention, row!” Kenealy says through a megaphone from his motorboat. Immediately we blast off from the start, feeling free and wild like soldiers riding into battle.

The first few seconds of the race are always glorious. Everyone’s pushing as hard as they can to get out ahead of the other crews, but then the lactic acid sets in.

Suddenly everything hurts and we’re not even halfway there. We feel our hearts racing to catch up with our heavy breathing, fatigue is becoming unbearable, but the Coxswain reminds us every girl is going through this and we have to keep pushing.

“Stay loose, flow with your teammates,” yell the coaches. Focusing and trying to relax through gritted teeth is one of the hardest parts of the sport. But when we finish our last 10 strokes and our boat has come out ahead, everyone’s relieved and overjoyed.

“The harder you work, the better your results are,” said coach Rickard, who rowed for eight years in high school and college. “That’s a really gratifying feeling.” This aspect makes the sport unlike any other, and motivates the team to work so hard in practice.

7:30 a.m: Finally, the team reaches the docks feeling exhausted yet fulfilled. The boats and oars are put away, and we form a huddle to reflect on the morning. A great part of the sport off the water is the incredibly supportive community it surrounds you with.

“I love spending a lot of time with my friends,” said. sophomore rower Clare Brandes. “We just get really close and giggle all the time.”

Rickard agreed, saying “what keeps you coming back is your friendships and your teammates.”

We spend the rest of the day resting up, bandaging blisters, and preparing mentally for tomorrow’s practice. It’s grueling work, but it’s all worth it for the great community and results we earn.

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A day in the life of a rower