Ready Rower

Waiting for me

Waiting for me

5:15AM seemed a little extra early this morning when the twittering of my iPhone interrupted my dream.  I awoke confused, unsure of whether it was really time to get up, having just fallen into a dream state a few minutes before the alarm went off.

I got up, turned off my annoying phone and then looked back over my shoulder at the warm bed I had just left behind.  My dog remained curled on his bed on the floor, snoring softly through slightly curled lips.  My husband seemed oblivious to the alarm, his own snores harmonizing with my dog’s–my husband forever the musician.

The rowing center bay glows like a fireplace

The rowing center bay glows like a fireplace

I slipped back under the covers for just a few minutes.  I thought about rolling over and falling back into whatever dream I had been pulled from.  But then, I remembered why I’d set the alarm for 5:15AM.  It was because I was going to row for the first time since last fall!

The thought of entering the river all by myself in the dark after not having rowed for months set off a new alarm, awakening the rabble of butterflies in my stomach.  With so much fluttering going on, there was no possibility of going back to sleep.  I decided coffee was in order.

I managed to get myself caffeinated, dressed, and assembled enough to take Tisen (who had managed to get out of bed) for a quick walk around the park.  Then, I was off.

A pedestrian bridge on the river walk reflected on the water

A pedestrian bridge on the river walk reflected on the water

I stuffed my rowing equipment into my saddle bags and rolled my bike out of the garage.  I carried it up the flight of steps to ground level, mounted, and rolled off into the dark feeling somewhat stoic, like I was about to face an enemy.

The quick 2 mile ride to the rowing center warmed up my legs and helped me relax.  The rabble in my belly died as I pumped my way up the slope of the Walnut Street Bridge looking over the stillness of the river below.  I reminded myself that it wasn’t that cold.  The worst thing that could happen is I could get wet.  I would make it back home slightly chilled, but no worse for wear.

Looking across the rests used for sculling boats to McClellan Island

Looking across the rests used for sculling boats to McClellan Island

I was the first rower of the morning.  I turned on the lights and tried to find my favorite boat to no avail.  I found another one and quickly learned I’d forgotten the art of carrying a rowing scull, but I managed to get it out safely.

I did everything out of order, but once I was seated in the scull and rowing, it was like I hadn’t missed a week.  The rhythm of legs pushing while arms pull oars through water, bending arms, straightening arms, sliding slowing back up to the catch, listening to the oars in the oarlocks and watching the Great Blue Heron soar a foot above the water all to a slow count of 4–it’s hard to imagine a better way to start a day.

One thing I forgot after a 5-month hiatus--what these things are called

One thing I forgot after a 5-month hiatus–what these things are called

Learning to Row

I took the Learn to Row class offered by the Lookout Rowing Club here in Chattanooga back in July, but rowing a sculling shell and cameras don’t mix well.

At long last, I got my husband out to the rowing center to help do some shooting.  In these shots, I am demonstrating some of the basic skills we learned in the class:  carrying the boat by yourself, getting into the boat without falling in, getting off the dock without falling in, and rowing without falling in.

Note the “without falling in.”  That is an important qualifier.  A sculling shell is a long and narrow boat; the fact that it doesn’t roll all the time is a denial of physics (and the result of long oars that float on the water’s surface).

In fact, during the first class in which we got into boats and pushed off the dock, I was the only person in my class who didn’t end up in the water, including the instructor.  This is such a remarkable fact that I have to think that perhaps I was born to be a rower.  After all, I once scraped my face eating a breakfast bar; the odds that I would be the only one to make it through the class without falling in at some point are pretty astronomical.

I did not fare so well on learning how to carry the boat.  In fact, I found that to be the most challenging part of the class.  It was also something I was determined to master because I knew I was going to be coming out to row by myself early in the morning and there was no way I was going to ask anyone for help.

First, I tried carrying the boat on my shoulder instead of my head.  I thought this would be more stable and give me better control over the boat.  It did.  However, I couldn’t see one entire side and I kept running into things like railings, buildings, other boats, and occasionally other people.

I eventually found carrying the boat on my head gave me much better visibility and the only time I ran into things was trying to put the boat back onto the racks.  I eventually learned to carry the boat in and out of the boathouse on my hip, place it on the slings out front, and then put it on my head to walk to the dock.  So far, I haven’t broken anything.

On this day, as I was rowing, my port oar popped out of the oarlock.  I was pretty proud that I managed to get the oar back into the oarlock without tipping the boat.  This is no easy feat–the oars are like training wheels and keeping both of them on the water evenly keeps the boat from rolling over.  For some reason, my husband didn’t shoot my amazing dexterity.  Maybe he was waiting for the moment when I would fall in?