As promised in my last post, this weeks blog instalment will be about Head of the Hooch, racing for the University of Florida.
Thursday, 5th November
To say that it was a long car ride is an understatement. I always thought that driving to university or to go on holiday was a long way, even though the trips were only a couple of hours each. More often than not the car was filled with repetitive choruses of “are we nearly there yet?” from myself and my brother (especially when we were small) making the journey feel even longer. Gainesville to Chattanooga was over double that time, and younger-me would have hated it.
Friday, 6th November
For those of you who don’t know, to travel with rowing boats you have to take the riggers (aka the metal part on the side of boat that keep the oars in place) off, otherwise they will not fit on the trailer. Consequently when you get to the event, you have to put them back on (or “rig”) in order to be able to race. This is what Friday mainly consisted of, including teaching the novices how to do it (as this was their first race and therefore the first opportunity to do so). We also had a practice row of the course to get used to conditions and make sure we knew what we would be doing the following day.
Saturday, 7th November
Our first race was the 8+ at 8:05am, and in order to be at the start line in time, my alarm went of at 5:30am. Once we had gotten there, set up the boats, gone on a warm up run and had a team talk, it was time to get on the water. Head races are like time trials, in the fact that you don’t all start at the same time and see who finishes first. Boats in the same division are started at regular time intervals, so you have a crew to chase and another to hold off. The first race was a good solid row and we passed the crew ahead, which is always a morale booster. I won’t bore you with the technical jargon but we wound up finishing 9th of 30 crews, which we were happy with as we knew we couldn’t have given the race any more.
The second and third races felt the same: strong, determined and long. Each time we went down the course we were a little bit more tired, and facing crews who were likely to be only racing once. Despite this, we still got fairly good times, placing us 22nd and 28th of 64 in the 8+ and the 4+ respectively.
Rounding the whole day off, the team ate at a classic American diner that night. We went there mainly because it was close to the hotel, but after rowing 36 km, the obscene portion sizes normally associated with the States were exactly what we needed to refuel.
Sunday, 8th November
As it was Remembrance Sunday, I made sure to wear my poppy. Obviously it is not a custom in the US, and I got many questions from people on my team (and total strangers!) asking what it was. I was glad to explain its significance to anyone who asked (and there were a lot of people). I believe it is important to remember and honour those who serve for our country. Lest we forget.
Before we drove home we visited a tourist attraction called “lookout mountain”, which is exactly what it sounds like it is. The views of Chattanooga were stunning, and you could even see some of Sundays races happening! Being more northern than Florida, it was more autumnal weather (colder, and red/orange falling leaves everywhere) which is definitely closer to the weather I would associate with November and made me even more excited to come home at Christmas!
Until next time, readers!