Sunday was the day that all the training and work was going to be put to the test. There were 5 crews in our category to race over the 4.8km up the Charles River which goes through Boston. It is an absolutely amazing experience with the CRI Rowing Club transporting our boat to the MIT Rowing Shed, where volunteers took the boat and oars off the trailer and set it on trestles for us. A lady from USA Rowing – Adaptive Program Deb Arenberg introduced herself to us and welcomed the crew to Boston.
The volunteers involved in this weekend are amazing and helpful in any way that they can be. So with not having to worry about our boat we headed into the shed to do a bit of stretching and warm up. Saturday the weather was fantastic for a race up this river but Sunday morning the weather had turned and it was very cold and extremely windy. The “Basin” where the boats warm up definitely lived up to its nick name of the washing machine. It was pretty rough! But we had a pretty good warm up and headed to the starting shute. We were supposed to go off 4th but for some reason boat #5 went off 2nd with the 2 CRI crews after them and us last. We had a pretty good start but the full on head wind was fierce and it was very cold!
Our cox Mia did an amazing job and as one local told us while he was watching from one of the bridges , “She had the best line up the river than any of the other boats!” and he had done this race more than 30 times. As we went through each bridge I counted them off in my head. Knowing that once we were under the 6th bridge it was only about 1 kilometer from the finish. Mia called for a push out of every bridge and the crew responded really well each time. The last push was extremely hard and with about 300 metres to go we tried to pull the rating up. This was extremely hard pushing into the head wind.
Mia’s notes about the race written on her legs. Definitely a coxswain’s race!
Everyone gave it their all on every call that Mia made and by the end when she told us to row lighty, all I could do was try and get past 1/2 slide and suck in air! Every fiber of my body hurt and at that point I realised that yes I this was definitely going to be my last rowing race! We continued up the 2.8km to the CRI boat shed and were once again met by volunteers who took our oars and helped us out of the boat. It certainly was hard getting my body to walk up the ramp from the dock!
We had no idea where we had finished and as we hadn’t passed any boats, I knew we hadn’t won the race. But we had made ground on others as Mia had kept us informed through the race. Eventually Adrian, our coach, yelled to us from the river bank to tell us that CRI crew #2 had won the race by 4 seconds over Balmain and that we had come 4th. The best part was that our reserve rower Alistair had been in the CRI crew. So at least Australia was bringing home a gold medal!
We all headed to the presentation tent later in the afternoon to watch our rower Alistair Chong be awarded his gold medal with the rest of the CRI crew and it was great to see him up there.
Alistair in the middle of the CRI crew
We all caught up with our supporters on Sunday night to have a great meal and a few drinks at a local restaurant called 224. It may not have been the outcome that we wanted, we all wanted to win, but we all knew that we had done our best! Not one of our rowers could have given any more in that race so everyone should be proud of the way they rowed! To me we were successful because we had given it our all. I know that Australian Para Rowing is coming into a good place and I have no doubt that we will be seeing an LTA4+ crew in Rio. We were able to put two 4’s together for Boston with ours and the Balmain Crew so that is exciting. On that note congratulations to the Balmain crew in placing 2nd, they also had an awesome race!
Thank you to all those who supported this crew; The St. George Rowing Club and Stephen Irons, without your support we would not have been there! Adrian Henning who took the time out of his busy life to coach us, Andrea Knott for being our organisor and biggest support on the ground – she looked after everything. Judy Knott, Jackie and Bill MacMahon who were our biggest supporters on the day, all those people in not only Australia and New Zealand but also Canada who made donations to the cause (you all rowed with us on the day, even if it was only your pictures!), Croker Oars for giving us some awesome oars to use and all our family and friends. To my crew of Mia MacMahon, Pete Siri, Steve Knott and Sara Waitzer, you are all amazing and awesome people. Keep up the good work and training and I hope to see some of you on the team for Rio!
I am very lucky to be able to say that I have now rowed not only in the 50th anniversary of the Head of the Yarra, but now also the 50th anniversary of The Head of the Charles, both the best head races in the world! And I am now happy to walk away from rowing and just concentrate on cycling. It has been an amazing part of my life for the last 8 years and I have made some life long friends from the sport, but my body will love me now that I’m not putting it through the stresses of rowing.
I will leave you with some words of wisdom from Ralph Marston ” Let yourself be curious about whatever crosses your path. Let yourself be fascinated by what you see and what you learn. There is never any reason to be bored. Embrace a vision of life that is endlessly fascinating and truly amazing.”
Rowing has done exactly that for me, thanks to everyone for the memories!
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