The Unseen Days
It is a foggy morning; on the shores of Shawnigan Lake the visibility is almost zero. Because of the prohibitive weather, the officials have decided that the race will be delayed by two hours.
From a spectator’s point of view, a two hour delay is a huge waste of time that has to be spent waiting for the race to start, but from the athlete’s point of view a race delay means a lot more. A delay changes all the cards on the table: you have to change the timing of the race preparation: the warming up, the time of the motivational preparation and, more than everything else, you need to stay focused; you need to keep your body awake but at the same time not lose too much energy, because you will need it during the race.
Fortunately, the focus part is helped by the tension that racing brings.
This preamble has introduced my first point: acknowledge the effort the rowing team has put forth, not only in the race, but also before, in the training environment. In order to reach all the goals I had described, the athletes needed to maintain an adult behaviour, not expected from all high school crews.
For sure, this experience will help them in the future; it can happen at almost every race, and at any level, from a Brentwood Cake Race to the World Championships.
Fortunately, the time to race arrives earlier than expected and a warm up allows the crew to feel their muscles again, ready to compete, and a quick run throws away that numbness resulting from an early wake up time.
The Head of Shawnigan Lake is 7km long, an endurance race: a race in which every crew’s goal is to have a very good piece during the entire race avoiding any changes in the crew’s rhythm.
Once again, the inevitable happens and nothing in the race goes as expected, as planned by the coach and the athletes: the plan was to catch the first two crews in the first half of the race.
Unfortunately for our crew a delay at the second crew’s start caused an increased distance between the first crew and the red and black Varsity 8+. That meant an alteration to the race plan: let’s catch the second crew as quickly as possible and then, meter after meter, overtake the first crew.
Meter after meter, stroke after stroke, the Brentwood Crew manages to bridge the gap with the first crew ending up with a bow to bow finish: a pulse-pounding end of the race.
Until the last 1km none of the boys are able to see any of the opponents, they were only a spot out front moving a bit slower.
In the last kilometre we are now able to see the enemies with our eyes. And here comes my second point: the effort the Brentwood Crew put in the last meters to overtake the other crew and finish the race in first.
Not seeing the opponents for 20 minutes but knowing that they are in front of you is trying, but when finally you are able to see them, to feel them close by, a waterfall of energy washes over your agonized body. Thanks to a perfect and courageous stroke seat, our crew just takes off, and we overtake our opponents.
The final efforts produced by the crew in the last meters reflects not only better preparation, but it reverals also a desire to win, a hunger to be the best that is not easily found in all crews. This hunger will drive the crew to more victories and will push every member of the boat to give everything in every practice: because they know how important training is. They understood that in the exact moment in which their bow ball surges ahead of the opponent’s.
Because what everyone sees, on the television or live, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Sport and winning is not only about the day everyone sees, it is not only about the race everyone awaits. It is about all the days nobody sees: it is all about the days spent on the gym, and on the water, hammering yourself.
Francesco M, Ellis ‘16