If ever there was a magnificent day, this was it. When I arrived at the boathouse around 5:30 am, a brilliant near-full moon stood against the blackness of the receding night and hung silently over the Virginia side of the Potomac. The water was equally silent, but it was nonetheless moving very fast.
The air was cool and as we passed under the Memorial Bridge heading downstream, the morning light was beginning to break behind the Washington Monument with the moon holding steady in the western sky.
We had two 8's this morning, but one 8 (ours) had only seven rowers. I rowed 2-seat with 3-seat empty. This means the every rower must work harder and focus more to keep the boat steady. It wasn't pretty, but we did it.
We started rowing upstream with an abbreviated pic drill before crossing over the river to head downstream. On the way down, we did several sets of building from a lower rating of 16 moving up 2 beats every ten strokes: 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28--seventy strokes in all. The focus was on form, quick hands away and controlled move up the slide--especially at the lower ratings where things tend to fall apart. At 16 and 18, it's very challenging to to get all eight rowers to get hands away quickly and set the body for the ride up to the catch.
We also tried to work on form by keeping head and chest up along with shoulders square at the catch rather than pitching too far forward so that the shoulders collapse. Our bladework is a bit sloppy as well, so instead of trying to roll up off the feather all together, the coach has told us to square the blades up early with a "click" all together as hands come across the knees. So far, I don't think we are doing to well here. Personally, I really need to work on controlling the slide, but I think I'm more or less on track with the rest.
At the edge of the airport, we stopped for coaches comments and a sip of water around 6:40 am. We then crossed back over to the DC side of the river and stopped again just long enough to take in God's canvas: The gentle morning light on the the silky water; a flock of birds in formation headed upstream; and the Cherry Blossoms alongside the Willows in a stately procession along the river's edge.
On the way back upstream, we did several more pieces of low to high ratings--seventy strokes with twenty strokes at light pressure in between. Just above the Memorial Bridge, we stopped to practice a few race starts: 3/4 slow pry stroke to get the boat "up". Then 1/2...1/2...3/4...3/4...and finally full slide, full pressure. With only seven rowers in the boat, these were kind of sloppy, but we got the idea. After two practice starts, we then went onto more practice starts but this time followed by 20 strokes at a 28 rating. Both times, we beat the other boat that had eight rowers. Not bad. Tomorrow and Monday off for Easter weekend.