Rowing on Lake Quinsigamond

This summer I decided to get back into rowing. I registered for a learn to scull (2 oars instead of 1) program through Quinsigamond Rowing Club and it just ended today. There were six sessions- we did the first 3 in a quad because those are the most stable with just one person rowing. Then the fourth session we did in doubles, and I rowed the last two in a single. Monday I went out in a wintech explorer which was a little wider, and then today in a peinart which was more narrow. It was a really fun experience, I am so glad I did it.

Growing up, I played tennis and did Irish step dancing. My junior year of high school, I was having knee problems, was diagnosed with patella femoral syndrome, and was faced with finding a new activity. My orthopedic doctor had rowed for St. John’s in Worcester so he suggest rowing as a way to strengthen my inner quads to support my knee better. That summer I did the learn to row camp at Northeastern University, then rowed at CRI my senior year, and then rowed for four amazing years at WPI. While at WPI, I did a little sculling- most of it was good, but there were definitely some disasters. I remember walking off the dock holding a single with my coach my freshman year, then I flipped a double with my best friend Jen in the summer after my junior year of college, and then flipped a single senior year during spring training down in Cocoa Beach. This morning…I flipped and fell in the water reaching out to my oar lock hahaha- oh well, I had a change of clothes.

Sculling is awesome because you have two oars and use both sides of your body more evenly I think. I really liked rowing a single. The reward for good strokes is big, and crappy strokes are on you and only you, so you become really aware of what you are doing well, and what you need to work on. I had our coach video me on Monday and today so I could see my body and blade position. It’s really helpful to actually see whats happening with your rowing.

A shot from Monday’s row in the wintech explorer!
A shot from today’s row in the peinert! Had shorts on, pants were my extra clothes in my bag after I took a little swim! oops!
The boat named for one of my best friends, teammates, my co-captain, and even my sorority sister Jen. She passed away in 2008 and I miss her all the time.

It was so good to get back into rowing. After my friend passed away, going to the boathouse was hard- it felt like a place of mourning, like I was visiting her grave instead of the happy place it had been. Reconnecting with Jon, one of my teammates from college that knew Jen started to bring back the happiness in rowing, and I started to feel that healing and instead of just hiding and shutting away that void from when I left crew behind, I am starting to fill it again.

New England LOVES crew. There are so many colleges and clubs on the Charles River,  Lake Quinsigamond, the Mystic River, and the Merrimack River in Massachusetts. Many private and boarding schools have crew programs as well. Groton School rows on the Nashua River which is near where we run with Mizpah. The Head of the Charles is a huge event here in the fall, and in the spring there are many prestigious sprint races on Quinsig.

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Alumni Crew Race!

I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester MA and was a member of the women’s crew team for all 4 years. We had a fall and a spring season, and it was the best thing I did in college. I started rowing the summer after my junior year of high school during a week long camp. Up until then, I had been playing tennis and competitively Irish Step Dancing annnnnnd my knees had just had it. I have patella femoral syndrome. Its really common in women who sorta grew really fast causing their hip/knee angle to be off. Basically my kneecap tracks diagonally, outside to inside, so there can be swelling & pain. My orthopedic dr did crew and actually suggested I do it in order to strengthen my quads. That summer, I fell in love with rowing at a camp at Northeastern University. Senior year I drove myself to CRI on the Charles 3 days a week after school to row with a program. College crew wasn’t something I randomly found at the activities fair during orientation, it was something that I looked forward to my entire senior year.

My senior year, I was captain of the crew team with my best friend. She was in my sorority, we studied abroad in Thailand our junior year together, and spent soooo many hours together for crew, we practically shared a brain. She passed away in 2008 from a heart problem. She just died in her sleep, very peacefully. My world was rocked, I was devastated. Those first two years out of college, we went to races together, supporting our team as alumni. We raced in the alumni race, hung out after for the cookout and then headed to campus for the rest of the homecoming activities.

After she died though, I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore. The loss of her was so pronounced at crew activities. When we fundraised enough money to buy a boat and name it after her, I went to the homecoming race as a spectator and went in to the dark boathouse to visit her boat like a grave. This year though, I got dragged into the alumni race. I didn’t even have clothes, but people had spandex and a tshirt for me to borrow. It was so fun. I still cried when my former coach along with my best friend’s family announced the amazing endowment in her name that states there will always be a boat named after her for WPI crew. Grief is a strange thing. It sharpens and fades, like changing the focus of a photo from the foreground to the background. I am going to watch some of my fellow alums race at the Head of the Charles this year. It has taken me a long time, but my feelings of loss and sadness are starting to fall to the background and I am able to love crew again.

Here are some pictures from the race. It was an awesome morning 🙂

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