Saturday was the UBBC Head, a head race on the Avon river sponsored and organized by the Bristol U boat club.
It was also my first competition since Fours Head last november when I ruptured a disk in my spine. Almost a year to the day, and I was finally competing again.
Neither my coach nor captain wanted me to do the race. They didn't feel I was ready. I felt that ready or not, if I didn't at least give it a go I would explode with frustration. I finally went over my coach's head to Head Coach Big G, who told my own coach that I could do as I bloody pleased and if I wanted to race it was his job to make sure I was entered. Big G is mostly a giant prick, but when push comes to shove he does get your back.
The compromise was that I would compete in a single scull. I much prefer crew boats, but we all know that if I'm in a crew boat and my back starts to crumble i will actually kill myself before I stop rowing. The First Commandment of Rowing is: Thou shalt not let they team mates down. In a single, though, if it all went tits up I would allow myself to stop and be rescued without the worry of ruining someone else's race. So a single it was.
There were only two of us in the W Champ 1x division: myslef and my team mate, C. Pirate was there to lend support (translation: abuse hurled at me from the last bridge) and rescue me if need be. The weather wasn't great, but far better than it could have been. It stopped drizzling just before we arrived and didn't start up again until after everything was over. The temperature was barely above freezing, but there was no wind at all, so I didn't get too cold up at the start marshalling.
I was the very last boat of the day, which sucked. I didn't have anyone baring down on my stern to push off of, which is too bad. It's a big psychological boost when you are out-running someone. Being last also meant that by the time I came heaving by nearly all the spectators were gone, so there was no one left cheering except the Pirate and my coach. Otherwise the banks were silent. It reminded me vaguely of a description I once wrote about the last woman in the Athens Olympic marathon, but only when I thought about it later. At the time, I coudn't hear the silence over the sound of my own breathing and my blades popping in and out of the water.
I did finish, and finished strongly, but not quickly. I was under-rating. I didn't have a stroke-coach on board, and I was shooting for a rate of about 25-26. (Not ambitious, I know, espeically for a 3.5k head, but remember I haven't done this for a year, I'd done hardly any training in the last 3 weeks owing to my cold/flu things, and before that, I had been unable to do any difficult training pieces without suffering serious consequences. Hence the reason my coach didn't want me out there at all.) Basically, my goals were to scull a strong, steady rhythm, keep the power on but not kill myself, take good line down the windy bits of the course, and cross the finish line withoug a career-ending injury.
Actually that's complete and total bullshit. Who are we kidding here? My goal was to fucking WIN. End of. All that crap I just said was what my goal should have been, and if it had been, I might be a lot happier today, having achieved all of the above. But no. My goal was a very unrealistic gold medal. But who gives a shit about realism? goals aren't meant to be realistic, they're meant to be hard. And there's no fucking point in racing if you're not in it to win.
Hence the reason I was so crushed to have had the slowest time of the day. Bah. Sheer stubbornness should be able to overcome circumstance; that's what it's for. Next time, damnit, next time. And tonight I have a 5k erg test to murder.