This entry is a continuation of a previous post: catch up here
Part II: DE LAND, FL TRAINING TRIP
GRP rowers took to the water this February for the first time since November during our first training camp of the year in DeLand, FL. Three women from three elite sculling programs across the US joined us for the fun: Mickey Fili, Potomac Boat Club; Maggie Fellows, SoCal Scullers; and Julia Lonchar, Vesper Boat Club. Additionally, the GRP welcomed a new and now 6th member to the squad – Frank Horpel – a 6’6″ former swimmer turned rower, a basketball fanatic, and a self-proclaimed good-guy. (We can confirm!)
Our guests, and we, got a few opportunities to line up against – and boat up with – the guys and gals from the Saratoga-based rowing club, ARION (Advanced Rowing Initiative of the Northeast).
On Valentine’s Day, we had a heart-throbbing grip & rip water session, followed by an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill: a 57-year-old griddle house nestled in the De Leon State Park among an eerie, yet etherial forest of southern live oaks and cypress trees draped elegantly with Spanish Moss.
The rectangular tables at which we sat had long electric griddles in their center – allowing each hungry athlete to pour and flip their own pancakes – right into their mouths if they wanted. The GRP are big supporters of the farm-to-table movement, but griddle-to-mouth is no less enticing a concept to us. Slamming sugary stacks of pancakes was a great opportunity to bond with each other after beating each other up on that water.
Our rows on Lake Beresford, and the connecting St. Johns River, were just as beautiful as they were productive. Co-mingled red mangroves, palm trees, and ancient cypress trees stood confidently with roots supporting stretches of the ever-changing shoreline. At water’s edge, lily pads and water hyacinths lolled and bounced in the wake from our 1000-meter race pieces; while during a water break, we could spot: Bald Eagles, Snowy egrets, Great blue herons, alligators, and Gopher tortoises perching, grazing, hunting or sunbathing on their respective domiciles. On a few rare occasions, a West Indian Manatee floated his snout to the surface, and after a few rounds of respiration, resubmerged with the quiescence of an Olympic diver.
The final act of our trip included the first annual Head of a Manatee – a 7 kilometer race requiring a combination of speed, power, strategy and finesse in order to survive – just like our Manatee brethren. Each boat class (LW 1x, W2x, LM 1x, M1x, and M2x) was given a rope with a set number of halved tennis balls, washers, and bolts in order to add a considerable amount of drag. HOAM racers deployed their drag buoys stern side just before the start of the race. The added drag and rate cap forced racers to emphasize power-per-stroke, and even power application throughout the piece. Without such control and finesse, buoys would sink, making the load much more difficult to mana-ge.
Conditions for the race were favorable. By happenstance, Steve found a stony Manatee statue positioned on a Lake Beresford homeowner’s waterfront property. We used the manatee as our starting line and the rest of the 7k race was history.
For our first practice back in Craftsbury, the team enjoyed a spring-like ski in the middle of February. With short sleeves and minimal layers, we did laps of Sam’s and Ruthie’s through valleys of fog, and patches of stark temperature variations.
For the remainder of February, and the beginning of March, we continued working on surpassing personal records on benchmark erg pieces, weight room goals, and got a few opportunities to share our rowing experiences with local high school and middle school students.
An English teacher at Craftsbury Academy assigned Daniel James Brown’s biography “Boys in the Boat” to her students; and, knowing that there were rowers within the community, asked our group if we would be okay with coming to speak with the students about the sport, and to answer any questions they might have about rowing, and the lifestyle that comes with it.
A few days later, we and a couple ergs, made a trip to the Bailey Hazen Wellness fair. We talked to the kids about opportunities available to them at the Outdoor Center as well as within their own community of Hardwick. Frank, Jen, and Lucas offered rowing technique tutorials, and before long we hand to fight the crowds away with a cedar leaf, because so many kids wanted to join in on the 100 meter relays we had going! We had a great time hanging with the kids, and hope some of them can make it out this summer for some sculling lessons.
For the next couple of weeks, we continued getting miles on the erg, bike, and snow – beefing up our lifting and had the opportunity to volunteer for the Ski Orienteering World Cup and World Master’s Championship.
One of our fearless leaders – Judy Geer – said in an October 2017 press release that, “Craftsbury has a long history of ski orienteering. In the last 9 years, Craftsbury athletes have competed in Junior, Master, and Senior World Championship, and before that the COC has held U.S. Ski Orienteering Championship Events since the 1980s. This week of competitions is one way to say thank you to all the people, organizations, and countries that have hosted ski orienteering events before us.”
It was interesting learning about the intricacies of Ski Orienteering – and most notably, the high level of strategy and skill required to not only be able to ski fast, but also be capable of navagating ones self as quickly, calmly and efficiently as possible from one control to the next. In the short period of time that the ski orienteers were at the COC, we rowers got to learn about about the sport; and, as a result, have an incredible level of respect for the athletes that take on this challenge. A few of us were intrigued by the complexities of the sport; and, will very likely give ski orienteering a try, come next winter. But first…time to get the sea legs back.
The team is currently in Gainesville, Georgia training at Lake Lanier Olympic Park – the location of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games.
Be sure to check back for updates over the next few weeks as we prepare for NSR I!!