Columbia Rowing Club
US Rowing Masters National Championships
I think it was about two months ago, at Southeast Regional Championships. Just a small South Carolina team, committed to continuing competition, with or without the dock we lost in the Historic Flood Event of 2015. We packed up our dusty boats and found equipment we hadn't touched since the flood, along with smaller boats which we have been able to wet launch with, and we headed down the highway to Augusta, Georgia. The team had a blast, and the excitement of success at the event brought around the idea, 'Let's go to Nationals.' This is where our story begins.
A few CRC members had been thinking about this idea since the race, and unsure of the details and logistics, we started a workout and practice routine to prepare. Mornings at the gym, or waiting on the sun to rise at the river, we worked up a sweat. Lunch break workouts and evening workouts were included, getting in the water as much as we could. About a month passed and we stood there after practice one day discussing it. We had to make a decision. One was in, then two, and three. The fourth had some scheduling conflicts, but with the support of the three to work around it, the CRC 2016 Nationals team was formed.
The next Saturday after practice, we sat down at started hammering out the details. Four people, WiFi, cell phones and laptops at a kitchen table, we were born to be travel agents! Place to stay, check! Transportation, check! Airline tickets, check! Race registration, check! We had a plan for the equipment and the excitement had just begun.
For the next month, we continued the workouts, coordinating around the schedules of four busy adults. Still trying to determine the details of getting our boats to the race. Turns out the rowing world is a small world. After reaching out to other teams, we teamed up with a group from Jacksonville, FL who graciously picked up our equipment on the way. We met them at3am as they drove through, another item competed, another step closer.
Meanwhile, in our search for equipment transportation, we came across a team out of the DC area called Avalon. They often put together composite boats of smaller teams to get more racing in. Each of the CRC members had 3-4 races each, with 6 maximum allowed. After some discussion, the team decided, 'If we're going, let's go all in!' Before we made it to Boston, each member was in 6 events, and we even had a member cox one event to help out.
Wednesday, our travel day, came quickly. Packing always seems easier until you have to do it! The team headed to the airport and were Boston bound! As airlines go, we did have a little hiccup. One of the team members flights was cancelled. Quickly, we got them re-routed and into Boston just a few hours later than the original plan. We picked up the car and it was off to the race course.
Regatta Point Park in Worcester, Massachusetts is a regatta venue previously used in Olympic trials, Masters Nationals, and other large events for decades. It is on Lake Quinsigamond, about an hour from Boston. We found Jacksonville's trailer and it just happened the Avalon's was the next trailer over. Couldn't have planned it better ourselves! We rigged the boats for the morning, admired the dock, briefly checked out the site, and headed to our home away from home.
We decided to stay at a house together, giving us access to laundry and a kitchen. It was about 30 minutes away from the site and worked perfectly for us. We ran by the grocery store and cooked up some supper. Hands held and heads bowed, we had our family dinner and got some rest.
Thursday morning, it was a5amalarm. Packing up and heading out the door. The events on this day included Tom in a Men's A 1x and Hisham in a Men's C 1x, as well as Sarah and Laura in a Women's Composite A 4x with Avalon. Tom was first so we got him out on the water. Hisham was close behind so after getting him on the water, the girls watched for the races. Carefully watching what we thought was Tom's race, we couldn't find him. Unfortunately, this race was a lesson learned. It took longer than expected to get to the start following the strict traffic pattern. A few minutes later, we saw him on the other side of the race course coming back to the docks. With a great attitude, he came back in and we focused on what was next. Hisham came down in his single with a time of4:41, not quite enough to make finals but a strong race! The next race wasn't until7pm, so we had time to run to the grocery store, get to the house, rest up and come back. Being in the sun all day can drain your energy! We headed back and met up with the Avalon ladies for the composite boat. After having some steering issues heading up, we locked the skeg in place and got ready. The race finished and the 4x brought a time of4:20.
Every day was an adventure at this race and Friday was no different! Friday was a CRC day. We started the day with Hisham and Laura in a Mixed C 2x, and Tom and Sarah in a Mixed A 2x. The Mixed C 2x finished with a time of4:07. It was last in the heat, but could have beat three other boats in other heats. The Mixed A 2x finished with a time of3:49, less than 3 seconds from 3rd place which would have sent them to finals. Both entries gave respectable and promising finishes. Next was the Woman's A 2x with Sarah and Laura. They finished with a time of4:15, which was not quite enough to make the finals cut. After de-rigging the boats which were done racing, we decided to wait for a4pm race of the US Paralympic Team. Meanwhile, we watched races and rested and got to meet two friends of John Worrell. He has certainly made an impact in the rowing world! One of the guys who had bought his single boat won a gold in it the previous day! We also had the opportunity to learn more about oars with Concept2 being available. They checked out our oars, reviewed and adjusted the pitch, and even gave us new handles to try and some extras to take home. We also discussed proper inside length. Certainly learned a lot!
Saturday was our busiest day, with 4 events occurring and 2 requiring a hotseat. We started with the Men's C 2x with Hisham and Tom. They did well, with a strong showing. The overall time of3:53 gave them a place in the semifinal heat. Meanwhile on shore, the girls were running around trying to prepare the Mixed 8+ for the water. With only 44 minutes between start times, the guys had to hotseat. What we didn't know was where were the other four Avalon members. Thankfully, Avalon was well organized with a board directing which boat and oars were to be used. Working off of that, with the help of several other members, we got the boat and oars to the hotseat dock. The ones we thought would be last (the CRC guys) got to us first, so we had 4 CRC members with no Avalon members. Quickly running back to the trailer, we found the two women who were to join us. Still 2 guys down, and a clock counting down, we did what any passionate rower would do. We asked two random rowers, male, who happened to be standing at the dock to jump in the boat and row for a chance at finals with us. The rowing community is so amazing, because with little hesitation, they said yes, we re-organized the line up, and headed to the start. It was a tough race, first place was a few seconds ahead and it was a four across the finish line end for 2nd-5th. Unfortunately, our3:30 overall time didn't make the finals cut, but it was one heck of a race. Rest time! Coming up next was a Mixed Composite C 4x with Laura, Sarah, Hisham and Simon from Avalon. Composite boats aren't always easy, but it came together nicely. We finished with a time of4:10, which frustratingly was not in the top three of the heat to go to finals, but would have been 2nd in heat 2. That's just the way the cookie crumbles! Finally, it was on to semi-finals for Tom and Hisham. With little time between events, Hisham had to hotseat out if the 4x and into the 2x. It was and tough day for him for certain! The guys finished with a time of4:24. That ended the day for CRC, but there was still more racing to come!
Sunday was a little more laid back with a few less races, and some more time between them. First up, one of the CRC members was coxing a Women's F 8+ for Avalon. Another fun adventure getting that on the water as we were missing a woman who was going to hot seat. Another woman quickly jumped in and just like the 8 the previous day, they were off. They finished with a time of4:39in very choppy water. Next was the 'grand finale' of the CRC boats with a Mixed B 4x of all 4 CRC members that traveled to the event. With a strong sprint to the end, we finished 5th on the heat with a4:07time. Finally, Tom represented CRC for one last time with a Mixed Composite A 4x. It was a close call across the finish line as the 6th place finish time of4:13was only 0.004 seconds from the 5th place finish and about 1.2 seconds in front of the 7th place finish. That was it, Nationals racing was done. After a few minutes to breath, we started the trailer packing as the journey home began. With the flight being the next morning, the trailer had an ETA earlier than our flights. Thankfully with the support of CRC at home, John W. and new member Eric R. met Jacksonville to unload our equipment.
Sunday evening, the team got to the house, showered up, and headed out for one last night together. We had a nice Italian supper, and came home to enjoy some wine and relaxation, and a little more fun. The team bonding that occurred in the house during the trip was amazing. Nationals were so much more than a race, it was an experience.
Monday came early! The flights were at 6am, so we decided a 3:30am wake up would get us there in time. However, a 3am tornado warning alarm actually woke us up. Thankfully we were far enough away that we were not affected, but did have some rainy weather to the airport. Everyone had safe flights back and we are already thinking about next year!
I think that was about everything, that's the story of CRC at Nationals in 2016. Thanks for all the support from CRC during our journey, to Jacksonville for taking our equipment, Avalon for allowing us to race more, our new friends Bob and Scott for racing with us, the vendors and suppliers who taught us more about our equipment and to all of our fans, families and friends who helped get us there. Love y'all! CRC on 2! 1... 2...