2/27/2004 (from an email to friends)- Thought I’d share a neat experience I had with my crews yesterday. Here in Virginia, like much of the east coast, it is still pretty chilly. We row on the Occoquan Reservoir and it has little current so up until last weekend, it was frozen solid with a layer of ice about 3-4 inches thick in most places! Over two days the sun showed enough that the water thawed and the beautiful still water was revealed to us once again. Right on!
So yesterday we set out onto the water for the first time this year. . . just me and my two varsity crews. We carved a gentle arc off the dock and headed downstream towards the race course that fronts the end of the reservoir. For a moment we stop on the finish line, not another soul around, surrounded by trees and water held still by gentle waiting tension. Perfect. We sit quietly thinking about where we want to be, at this finish line in May. This is our season. . . then we row on. Skills and drills, shaking off the dust.
We are moving along, the quiet gurgle and swoosh of water going by the hulls and launch, when the gentle gurgle becomes intermixed with the subtle tinkle of breaking ice. What we thought to be reflections in the water is the thinnest layer of ice. You can just make out the crystals like a woven mat on the waters surface. The bows of the shells cut a path and make a faint sound against the ice like the ripping of metallic cardboard. The dull tinkle is amplified as the launch fractures it under its weight. We row through it and on everyones face this smile has appeared: “WOW!” The excitment of being on the water is amplified by the magic of the moment. This is a snap shot, a memory.
Scanning farther ahead I can see nothing else, so on we go with practice. 500m, 1000m, 1250m’s up the course and the sound appears again. As a coach I have the edge of concern, but I relax and scan ahead as the boats glide along seperating water, frozen and not, aside. One boat is a little ahead and they row with no hint of disturbance. The silver skin of our Quantum 8+ next to me seems to be part of the water around it. All smile and we keep going. . . until one of the oars skips on the ice.
Oops. Then another stroke – clack- an oar skips. Eyes are a little wider, smiles are drifting to looks of disbelief. I’m chuckling, urging them to move on. With a shrug, two seat just gives it a shot, winds up, and brings her hatchet down into this thicker skin of ice and levers it past- her puddle frozen in place. One by one the bow four gives it a try . -clack- -crack- (punch), lock… SEND! And the crew is through and on its way. Heads shake, smiles get wider. Another snapshot frozen in time.
The crews surge on picking up speed. The quiet of the river and closing dusk surround us like a blanket bringing a first practice to a close. We move on our way to bigger and better things. . . lost puddles frozen in time.