A Rower's Diary
Day by Day with a Harvard Heavyweight Oarsman
Rowed over the Rochester course today to prepare for tomorrow's race with a last minute lineup change. Weather is warm and humid with a little breeze. The river is narrow and winding and our coxswain is constantly telling us when a buoy is coming up under our riggers, which is annoying as hell, but I guess it beats unexpectedly hitting a buoy that throws off your stroke. After launching off their wobbly plastic docks, we went upstream to the starting line doing some 20s at 3/4 pressure, 22 and 28 strokes per minute. Then we turned around and headed back down doing some 20s at 3/4 slide to get the rate up: 34, then 38. Finally a couple starting sequence pieces: five, ten, and ten strokes at full pressure before taking the boat out and heading back to the hotel. I love the taper; my back feels good, my legs aren't tired, we're all full of energy.
We rowed much better today than in our practices this last week. The Empacher (E1) sets up better than the Vespoli boat (although from 2-seat I can still feel it leaning to port a little), and my seat doesn't stick like it did in the other boat. Tonight as I'm going to sleep I'll be telling myself, "Sit up, arms away quick, jump on the catch, race it."
October 10, 1999
Our humiliating loss in this morning's three-mile race was not followed by the kind of comeback we hoped for in this afternoon's 1500m piece. Admittedly we didn't have much preparation at higher ratings, and we've only been on the water three week. The rating was low, the ratio was elusive and the set was sloppy.
Each of our reactions to the day is different but we are all shocked. Sure the row was bad, but was it that bad? Over and over in my head I keep asking: "What did I do wrong? What could I have done?" I think Harry Parker put it best when he said it was a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. I guess that happens sometimes. But this race is over, and the Head's in two weeks.
October 12, 1999
First day back after Sunday's disgusting defeat. I was back in stroke, although I guessed from the boat's lineup that it was going to be a technique row--skill and drill--without much pressure. Cool evening; the sun was setting as we docked and the coxswain was worried about being out on the Charles without a light on the boat. We did a lot of 6s work, some pause drills, slap drills. Then some 2 to 3 minute pieces at 2/3 to full pressure. The shoes in the boat were placed too high and we were rushing into the stern--both of which made it really hard to get full compression. It was also pretty heavy by 6sw, and my back was already sore at the end of the warmup. Set was good though--clearly the advantage of rowing in a Pocock.
We're doing 6K erg tests this week and next week. The results will be used to make the boating lineups for the Head of the Charles. I think I'll do my test tomorrow before practice.
October 13, 1999
Today I pulled my first of the two 6K tests that will determine the Head boatings. It went all right, but not great. I wasn't feeling good beforehand and burned up after going out a little too hard; I was close to quitting after 3K. I want to go faster next week.
Went out on the water after the test. Gusty day. I was in 6-seat, which was a big change from my usual seats--stroke or 2. I felt pretty small, especially after lending my butt-pad to the 5-seat who said he had a painful welt. Still, I think my catch was on time and my stroke pretty long.
We went upstream and did some 2/3, 3/4, full pieces, 22 to 24 strokes per minute. Beat the other crew pretty solidly on the first and third, and only marginally on the second piece, although we were helped by the other boat's inexperienced coxswain, whose creative steering maneuvers included running the boat up on the sandbank between Arsenal and North Beacon on the first piece. After practice they said they heard the skeg drag along the bottom, but it stayed attached.
October 14, 1999
Windy day. The forecast said 15-25 mph with gusts up to 50. We stayed indoors for practice. The workout: CII ergometer6K for those who hadn't done it yet, and 50 minutes steady-state for everyone else. I was planning to do an hour but my back started to hurt and I stopped after 53 minutes and did the weight circuit. I wanted to go down this morning but my back was sore after yesterday's work and a poor night's sleep so I stayed in bed; that first step out of bed is the hardest. I'll try to go down tomorrow or Saturday.
October 15, 1999
Friday Race Day! Today I rowed 4-seat for the first time since I can't remember. Before heading out, we gathered around for the customary Friday sacrifices to the River gods, a boathouse tradition.
We raced two single-file pieces at 26 to 28 s.p.m.; the first from just above the B.U. bridge to North Beacon and the second from North Beacon back to Anderson bridge. Due to the inexperience of the other crew's coxswain, we started first both times so she could steer off our stern. On the first piece the other crew was clearly faster and we could see them catch up on the straight-aways and then fall back on the turns as our coxswain steered tighter. The boats were timed separately, and over the 26 minutes we lost by 12 seconds. However, on the 15-minute race back downstream we won by 19 seconds, making us the overall winners of the practice. The rhythm felt a little rushed at times and I wasn't always getting full compression. Also, although the catch and finish timing looked good, we weren't accelerating through the stroke and the boat felt pretty heavy.
The other news today was Harry's posting of "tentative" Head boatings. As I expected, I'm in the second championship eight despite having been beaten by a few sophomore ports on the 6k erg test. It'll be the first time I've rowed on Sunday. We'll practice together for the first time tomorrow morning.
October 16, 1999
Woke up at 7 a.m. for practice in our Head boat. We took out the Vespoli (the one with the sticky seats) and did some 2/3, 3/4, full pressure work down to the bottom of the Basin and back up to the Northeastern boathouse.
From our first stroke with all eight it was a much better row than when we took the V3 out with the Rochester lineup. The one frustrating thing was that my back and shoulders got sore and tired before my legs did, probably because it was early morning and I hadn't stretched and warmed up enough. I need to loosen up more at the beginning of practice. We'll be going out in the lineups for the Head all this week so things will get better. We have another 6K test on Monday; I doubt the lineups will change a lot, but you never know.
Jesse c. Nussbaum is a senior in Mather House at Harvard University. He has been rowing since his freshman year.