|Living Root representing strong at Worcester-|
Red, Blue and Purple boats
"Now this is not the End. It is not even the beginning of the End. But it is, perhaps, the End of the Beginning."
~ Winston Churchill
In the Autumn of 1942, British and American troops drove back Rommel in North Africa. At the Battle of El Alamein, the Allies secured the North African coast and Hitler was finally faced with a force between the combined American and British/Commonwealth equal to his. The Allied forces could threaten fortress Europe from Britain, the Soviet Union and - what Churchill word term the "Soft Underbelly" - the Mediterranean front of Greece and Italy.
Like the Allied forces 77 years ago, I too reached the End of the Beginning this weekend. (However, there was far less global survival on the line.)
|Urvi, Ryan, Amie and I rolling into the Semis at Lone Gull|
photo by: Erin Morin
Race: Worcester Dragon Boat Festival
Location: Lake Quinsigamond, Worcester
Distance: 200 m
Times: Heat 1 - 52.5"; Heat 2 - 49.9"
Race: Lone Gull 10k
Location: Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester
|Purple Boat heading out to the Start Line|
photo by: Mark Estrada
There's a lot of commotion to get to the start line. Everyone has to pile into the boat in an exact spot. We have to go out on unfamiliar water and the captain has to steer us around unfamiliar buoys. (Before Heat 1, Dave had to yell, "whoa, right side watch out" as a small green bobber we didn't see before slapped around against the boat.) There's turning around; there's other dragon boats with unfamiliar people milling about as they get to their start line.
But as you get to the start line and everyone is nearly lined up, there is moment of peace. The paddle is buried into the water. The starter isn't yelling; no one is joking around in the boat. It's peaceful and calm.
On Saturday at the start of race 2, we sat there in silence. In the 3 and a half months, this was really the metaphysical definition; I was ready. Since back in June was when I first picked up a dragon boat paddle again, from 11 years earlier. I talked to Fed about getting into racing. He probably knew I wasn't the slightest bit ready for it. Instead, he told me to look at Worcester at the end of the season. So I did, I imagined my training arc from that moment until that quiet moment on Quinsigamond. (Just in case non New Englanders don't have enough problem with Old English names of towns, e.g. Worcester and Gloucester, we decide for lakes to take the Nipmuck names; at least it wasn't being held at Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.)
|Then we were messing with Lester while he was trying to order BBQ|
photo by: Mark Estrada
For a moment, I'd like to hop into Mr. Peabody's WABAC Machine. January 3, 2019. It was probably the beginning of one of the worst months of my life. I got laid off and then tried to run 3 miles on the treadmill. My knee hurt for a week and then I found out my thesis topic wasn't accepted. Awful awful month.
|Early on at Lone Gull, Dennis and I merged into one person: Jennis|
I assume this picture is actually from Tim Morin since Erin was running (maybe it was Keagan?)
By June, I was done with my masters (new thesis topic and all) and itching to get out there. I also knew that running right into the knee would cause problems. So I kept my slow build of miles going (95 miles including a few attempts at fast ones).
However, this was not going to be enough. That's when I returned to dragon boating. I surprised Dave wearing an old school Living Root shirt to the Boston Dragon Boat Festival. Talking with him and Mark, I got myself invited to the next Thursday practice. Paired with Jeff on the boat I tried to remember everything I could from before (which was very little). But for the next month, I tried to get to every practice and weight workout I could.
Thus on Saturday for the second heat, our blades were buried in the water. I had Julien's back-up paddle instead of the t-ball bat sized ones that the festival had (below). The air horn went off, Dave gave a yell and On banged the drum. We paddled away.
photo by Mark Estrada
We got an amazing jump on the go. There was a confidence (which Dave & Matt had both attempted to
In July and August, I dove into training. I ran over 100 miles each month and paddled nearly 40 each time. Slowly, I watched myself move from a newbie in dragon boat and in recovery in running into a regular paddler and almost "normal" runner.
While there were constant reminders of how far I had come, there were equally constant remiders of how far I had to go. On the roads and tracks, I would see the effort required to put in what previously wasn't a real fast pace. On the water, the reminders were largely from the mouth of Mark Yuen to correct my form that could be described as "atrocious" at best.
|Purple Boat racing the second heat|
photo by Mark Estrada
I reached the first goal right at the 5k. "I'm going to settle in behind you for a second," I said. "Ok," she said, "I'll block the wind." (A little tall guy and short girl joking here.)
|Urvi, early on in the race|
photo by once again Tim or Keagen
I actually didn't settle in too long. Within a minute or so, I pushed ahead. I worried that I might be going too fast here. I didn't want to crush myself early and get to the 5th mile and just have to reset with an 8 something mile. So I just kept telling myself "no snowmen; no 8s." If I have to run a 7:59 that's fine. But, I'm going to keep this up.
At the beginning of August, the dragon boat calendar started to get real. I wasn't the new guy just trying it out anymore. And we had two erg time trials at the beginning of the month. Each of these were to be 2:15 and as far as you can go. (One assumes there is some sort of 500m bench mark for men - but I could be wrong). Needless to say I was still new to this. First one was 432m and the second one was 438m. I guess, on the plus side one can only go up from here.
|Worcester also so the Living Root Dragon Boat's Dip Off!|
Renen's Mexican refried bean** dip with delayed jalapeno won
Purple Boat's Second Race
video by Dave Parker
Saturday, our first heat didn't go as well as any of us wanted. We didn't get off the line as well. And the three other boats slowly pulled away from us. We might have held the line for a while through the finish area. But in the end, we finished 2.5 - 3 seconds behind.
But in the second race, after our massive start, we were hanging with the other boats in our heat. We started the power and I saw through the periphery that we were pulling up on the team on the right.
First there wasn't a settle and then Dave didn't even wait for us to complete the power. He just shifted from "Get Some!" to yelling FINISH!
Sunday was much the same for me. While I ran along the estuaries of the last mile trying to retain the last bit of cold water Tinger had flung upon me, I just pushed at slightly faster than I think I could have before the Finish sprint.
|Andy and Ruth got shots of us on the finishing stretch on Saturday|
Erin, Deb, Liz, me, C-A, Dennis, Mark, Gonzalez Victor and Urvi
Sunday, I passed the 6 mile mark in the parking lot and then Paulo and Patrick who were sitting up against the dunes. I realized there was less time in the 10k left than the entire 200m on Saturday. So I let everything out. I just heard Dave, still from Saturday, in my head yelling "FINISH! GET SOME! FINISH!"
|Between the heats, many of us look for skipping rocks|
Across the finish, I was totally spent. On Saturday it was after breaking 50 seconds: 2.5 seconds faster than the morning heat. On Sunday it was just over 46 minutes: 1 and a half minutes faster than Salem.
Both times I couldn't just stop. On Saturday we needed to go into Hold Water - hard - unless we crashed into the other boat that angled into our lane after the finish. On Sunday I needed to avoid vomiting and find shade.
The End of the Beginning.
And, thus, the Summer ends. Purple Boat didn't make the final race. But Saturday, Living Root Blue WON the Finals for the Worcester Championship! And on Sunday I scored for the SRR men's master team.
But for dragon boating or for running, it isn't the end or even the beginning of the end of my comeback. Instead, it's only the End of the Beginning.
|Living Root Blue Boat - Champs|
Watch out for me at:
- Fenway Spartan in November
- Martha's Vineyard 20 miler in February
- Boston Dragon Boat Festival in June
|Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke....|
We finished Sunday with some festbier and some of the worst wurst (true, not just a pun) at Notch
** - Renen claims there are no beans in this dip. While I'll take him at his word intellectually, my tongue doesn't have the same brain cells.