Jan. 30, 2011
MIAMI, Fla. - University of Connecticut senior rower Lizzie Littlewood (Mystic, Conn.) writes her final installment form Florida where the Huskies were taking part in winter training in preparation for the upcoming spring season.
On Tuesday (Jan. 11) our training in Miami continued with more seat racing, steady state rowing and drillwork. Our seat racing fours got up close and personal with a couple of large dolphins on their row back into the boathouse. This was especially sweet because Coach Gruber is fond of saying "This is not a whale watching expedition!" when he wants us to keep our "heads in the boat" - rower speak for "look straight ahead". Well, guess what Coach...this was a whale watching expedition! Other wildlife sightings included a pelican, assorted fish (dead and alive) and a manatee. From our novice coxswain: "We saw a manatee today! I thought it was a carpet."
Our morning routine continued throughout the week, but we began mixing our inexperienced novice, who were previously rowing in the four, with the varsity rowers in eights. This is a really good opportunity for the novice to focus on their technique in the bigger, more "set" (not wobbly) boat with the older rowers serving as guides. Learning to row can be a bit of an overwhelming task: flat wrist, flat back, body angle, legs down, shoulder up, hands up at the catch, make a circle at the finish, lay back, sit up...so much to think about!
We were given Wednesday afternoon off to let our bodies recover, but we were back at it the next morning. We added "build-the-boat" to our repertoire of drills. In build-the-boat, two rowers take some strokes, then two more add in and two more add in until eventually all eight are rowing. At first the boat feels heavy and slow, but as more rowers add in, the boat picks up speed and feels fast and light, which is a really sweet feeling. Friday afternoon, a pair of eights "played leapfrog," another perennial favorite workout. Two boats start bow to stern, with the boat in the lead rowing at a light to medium pressure while the boat behind rows at full pressure until they "walk through" (pass) the opposing boat, at which point the passing boat backs off the pressure and the boat that got walked through ups the pressure until they are have made the pass. The goal is to walk through the opposing boat in as few strokes as possible. Saturday morning we set off on our last row on the water until March, and all of us - even the exhausted seat-racers - savored every second of it!
After our practice, it was time for the biannual Miami boat cleaning. Unlike Coventry Lake at home, the canals in Miami Beach are salt water and the salt really does a job on all the little metal pieces holding our boats together. To prevent corrosion and rusting, we take all the pieces off the boat - every single nut, bolt and screw - and rinse, wash, and polish everything. Then all the gazillion different pieces have to go back together like a jigsaw puzzle. To complete this task, we must call upon the expertise of Assistant Coach Ally Zoppa, rigging extraordinaire. (After seven Miami trips, I still can't reconstruct a rigger, but I am pretty sure Ally could rig an entire boat with her eyes closed.) All our other equipment, our oars, launch boats, slings, motors, etc. must also be cleaned and loaded. I'm getting worn out just writing about it!
But in the end, if you take care of your gear, it will take care of you. All in all, it was a solid trip. We were able to watch a lot of video to help us improve our technique and take some competitive strokes in seat racing pieces.
Now we're home, and Holy Cow is it cold in Storrs! Hopefully we can carry the momentum from Miami into our winter training workouts, which begin on Tuesday. Stay tuned for seven weeks of gruesome, sweaty details as we set off in pursuit of erg score excellence!