DWR: Be About It

A couple of days ago, Katelyn commented on my triceps in my new blog header. I hadn't noticed them, but once brought to my attention, I couldn't help but wonder where they came from. I mean, I've always been athletic. But I'm also fairly small.

And then it hit me: I definitely took that picture in the peak of last year's crew season.

Oh, you weren't aware of my NCAA Division I Varsity Athlete status?

Trust me, it's not that glamorous. I never had any intentions of joining the crew team. It became a running joke among me and my friends---one of those "we should all totally do that" things since we saw them recruiting all the time. The summer between freshman and sophomore year, Casey tried her hardest to persuade me and Megan to try out with her.

By the beginning of sophomore year, it wasn't funny anymore; it was downright annoying. Megan and I agreed to go to an info session with Casey as long as she promised to never bring it up again. It was all just a big joke to begin with, right? Needless to say, once we left the info session, Casey never mentioned it again. She really never had any intentions of trying out; she just thought it was funny.

But I was interested.

I went to the try-out and the next thing I knew, I was spending 20 hours a week on the lake. The first time I got in the boat, I don't think I paddled once---I was too busy clenching the sides because I was convinced we were going to tip over (those things are NOT as steady as they look!) But as the months crept by, I improved drastically, and while I definitely don't claim to be an all-star rower, I did pretty well for the tiniest girl on the team (the US National Team won't even let anyone try out if they're not above 5'11'').

Honestly, the whole experience was a blur. I remember rowing in 90 degrees and rowing in 40 degrees, neither of which are overly pleasant experiences. I remember rowing in the rain. I remember days where I was honestly so sore from workouts that I slept on my couch because I could not physically crawl up into my bed. I remember dreading those stupid erg tests and feeling like I was going to die after each one.

And I remember absolutely loving it.

I raced in the fall regattas at the Head of the Occoquan (Washington, DC) and the Head of the Hooch (Chattanooga, TN). I sat stroke seat in practices, and typically raced in 6th or 4th in the 8+ (not like that means anything to anyone... basically, I always sat port & rowed on my right side.) However, in the final race of the Occoquan, one of the upper level varsity girls got injured and was unable to row, so guess who got called up from the novice varsity to take her spot?

That'd be me.

I had all of three minutes to learn how to row starboard (left side) since I took over the bow position in the boat, and then the fastest twenty minutes of my life began. I was so nervous the entire time, just praying that I wouldn't "catch a crab" (get my oar stuck underwater).

We actually passed not one, not two, but THREE boats during the race, which is super intense, especially since none of the boats start at the same time (it's all staggered). I don't think I've ever felt adrenaline like that before in my life. The next thing I knew, we were passing West Virginia and crossing the finish line...

...and we placed! We came in 2nd out of about 30 teams---two of which were the US Naval Academy. I've always thought that was really funny---we beat the NAVY at ROWING.

While racing was exciting, my favorite part about crew was the friendships I made with other girls on the team. There's something about bus rides together (goodness, just getting to & from the lake took over an hour every day), training together, traveling to other cities and rooming in hotels together... in just the span of a few months, we went from complete strangers to best friends.

Obviously, I decided to not do crew this year. It's definitely one of my favorite college memories, but I wasn't about to completely change my major or adjust my class schedule to fit the 8932 hours of practice every week. I still hang out with Helen (who also decided to not do crew this year) and Laura (who went to the US National Training Camp this summer) all the time---they're truly some of my closest friends at Duke. I also now judge people on the ergs (rowing machines) at the Y; NOBODY knows how to use them correctly :)

Trying out for the rowing team was, by far, one of the most "out of the box" things I've probably ever done, but it resulted in some of the closest friendships and unique experiences I've ever had. I'm so grateful for my (former) life as an NCAA Varsity Athlete.