Throwback Thursday: College Rowing

Here I am jumping on the “Throwback Thursday” bandwagon. But instead of only putting up an old picture, I’m adding a whole post for it. A few weeks ago, I saw a picture on Facebook of the Connecticut College alumni women’s eight at the Head of the Charles. Oh, how I wish I was there! Ever since, I have been thinking a lot about my college rowing team, and how much fun I had being a part of it, so I thought – why not document some of these memories before they become too distant?
When you’re young, people tell you to enjoy your adventures, because someday you will miss them. As I am getting older, I am understanding this more and more. I wouldn’t trade where I am right now. I am soaking up every moment with my sweet baby Mitchell. But when I drive over a bridge with a perfectly flat river and a warm breeze in the air, or see a sun rise over a glassy lake, I can’t help but want to jump in a boat and row. 

Eight seasons on a college rowing team gave me a love-hate relationship with the water. Early mornings – yuck. Freezing cold – BRRR. Soaking wet clothes – ewww. But these (not-so-distant) undesirable memories are beginning to fade, and I am starting to only remember the good ones. The beautiful days on the water. The refreshing feeling of gliding into the docks after a long row. The satisfaction of completing a really hard workout on the erg. Laughing and sweating with teammates that would become lifelong friends. Going to morning classes after practice, silently knowing the two people with messy hair sitting next to you is because they just rolled out of bed – so you don’t feel so bad about your sweaty mess of a bun from morning practice. 

Why did I join the rowing team? Funny question. It was more of a fluke than anything. The day I moved into the dorms at Connecticut College, I was walking by the student center when I was approached by Eva, the coach of the crew team. Little did I know this little conversation would define much of my next four college years. The conversation went something like this: 

Eva: Hey there, I’m the coach of the rowing team. You look pretty tall, and kind of athletic. You should come to try out.
Me: I’m already playing hockey, and we have team workouts in the fall and the spring.
Eva: If you row, our season are in the fall and the spring, you won’t have to do the out of season workouts.
Me: You mean I won’t have to run around the track all fall?
Eva: Nope.
Me: Okay, see you Monday.

I will start by saying my logic was flawed. Tens of thousands of erged meters later, I began to realize that I was putting in far more effort in my two-a-days and 5 am mornings with the crew team than I ever would have with the hockey team workouts. But by this time, I had begun to catch on with the beauty of rowing.

Connecticut College was nested on the Thames River, a brackish saltwater river that branched off of Long Island Sound. We had our own boathouse, which was less than a mile from campus. It was within walking distance of campus. Walking was not an option, however, because walking up the big hill to campus was part of the workout.  Despite post-practice burning legs, we hurried our way up to campus to try to make it to the dining hall before it closed. 

Our boathouse may have been no more than four tin walls with a roof and no running water, but it kept us dry when it rained. Until we had to take the boats out and row in it.

Also on the Thames River was the United States Coast Guard Academy, and United States Naval Base – Groton. Though our annual Coast Guard race was cancelled three out of the four years I was there due to weather, I am still holding onto the memory of winning that race during our freshman year. And every once in awhile, our practice would coordinate with the Navy’s submarine schedule. How many crew teams can claim to have rowed by a nuclear submarine, with sailors standing on the top waving to you?

Lake Quinsigamond. Erg-a-thon. Head of the Charles. Dried mangos and bagels with peanut butter. ECAC’s. Unisuits. Betting shirts. COCOWOROW. Novice year. The tanks. Neon t-shirts. Harvard/Yale Rock. Rick Ricky. Bailing water out of a pair with sneakers after we almost flipped it. Remember this Jenny?

Yes, I was too cheap to buy this picture.

Rowing definitely took away from our social lives. And our academic lives. It was physically demanding and flat exhausting to be a part of this team. But for what it took away, it was even more rewarding. I see this now that I’ve taken a step back from the team. The Class of 2011 started with enough to fill two eights, and finished with barely enough to fill a four. 

I love seeing where our post-college lives have taken us. Two of us are now married to military men with new babies! And two of my classmates are now coaching rowing. 
Sorry Katy. When I saw this picture I couldn’t resist. 
Though my college rowing days may be growing more and more distant, I still hold onto these good memories. And I like to think I hold onto a little of my rowing skills, at least when I am at the gym and it pains me to see the person next to me on the erg struggling to hold that 3:30 split. Though I don’t have much room to talk… my 2k time has grown dangerously close to 8:00. Maybe I’ll go do some 500m sprints today. But probably not… 

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