Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Last 500 Meters

May, 1994, Dad Vails Regatta, Philadelphia

The lane official, laying belly-down on the floating wet dock, held tightly with both hands to the stern of our racing shell. Eight heavyweight men, one coxswain. We try to stay relaxed, oar blade set in water, ready to pull with all our might. Relax. 2000 meters down the Schuylkill River. Six lanes, six boats. Final Event and biggest collegiate race of our lives. Relax.

A storm-whipped cross current can wreck a smooth start; the bows of each boat struggle to keep from pointing to port side. "Bow hit it!" The coxswain yells at Scott, our bowman. "Keep hitting it Scott - keep us straight." The belly-down deckman's forearms are burning from trying to hold still a 50-foot long shell filled with 8 heavyweights pitching into the cross current.

Loudspeakers boom and echo, "Gentlemen, welcome to the final of the Dad Vails Regatta." Then urgently, the coxswains crisply shout out commands to their crews. The spectators are all at the finish line, 1500 meters down the course. I can hear them, but only as a distant white noise hum. It makes the hairs on my forearms stand and sends a cool tingle down my back.

Our instructions from Chuck, our coach, are to pull only by the command of our coxswain, Robin, and not the gun of the race official, who is located on the side of the river. "The sound of the gun shot has to travel to your ears and your pull will be delayed - Robin will watch the trigger finger - go on her command."

I sit, oar blade buried, ready to explode into my first stroke in concert with my 7 teammates. All I see are the broad muscles of Web's back in front of me; he's drawn at the catch, fingers and shoulders relaxed - but ready to explode.

"Cha!" Robin yells, and then the gunshot.

Every stroke has to be clean and all of our blades have to enter the water together. Each of us has to row as hard as we possibly can and we all must be perfectly in tune with one another. No mental lapses. Don't follow Web, the rower in front of me. BE with Web. Move with him. Explosively.

Coming into the last 500 meters of that race has stayed with me these past 14 years, and those last 500 meters are one of three experiences for me that form the spiritual foundation from which I started Agile. The other two I've written about in the past, and they are buried within the archives of this blog, but subconsciously fresh in my mind everyday.

Something released from us coming into the grandstands amidst the roar of that crowd. Our tension disappeared and the boat went faster. I am not sure where this pixie dust came from, but I picked it up just as a dog would pick up a sudden scent. One by one, this sprinkle of magic trickled through us. We were all in great pain; our chests were heaving, our leg muscles were on fire and we were fried. But we found each other through that pain. Our strokes became rhythmic and the boat seemed to lift out of the water and move with litespeed to the finish line.

The pixie dust was the spirit of our friendship built on 4 years of rowing and racing and our realization that a great time was coming to pass - in about 500 meters.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


April 1997. Palo Alto California.

Scotty - Do you remember ascending to Skyline Ridge, high above Silicone Valley and then descending at speeds nearly 50 miles per hour all the way to the Pacific Ocean? 6 Days later we were 11,000 feet high in Lake Tahoe skiing the best powder either of us having experienced to this day.

How about when we first met back in college 1991? 4 years of intense Rowing amongst what would be the best friends of our lives; friends that we are unusually close today, 17 years later.

17 years.

Remember when you first took me out on your Catamaran? We had the Cat peaked on one pontoon; I was trapezed way out. The wind suddenly died and I plunged under water then catapulted back onto the deck. You were steering the boat, keeping it from capsizing and laughing like a little kid. We bonded over the fact that only us two would giggle over what others would perceive as an absolute Mayday moment.

Another time that same summer we got caught way out on the Sound with no wind. Stranded for hours and we could have cared less. We had a dozen Coronas, 2 limes and a knife.

1995 summer at G's. That was the best summer of my life. How many open Jeep rides did we make out there?

Surfing in Costa Rica.

What about the Mountainous ride through St. Helena in Napa Valley?

Dad Vails Regatta in 1994. We never rowed better or more in sync with one another. How about the course record we set at UVA? I think we rowed at a 50 the whole way.

Remember Melbourne, Florida? Rowing through the canals. 3 practices a day?

Remember that Golf Trip we took with your Dad in Ocean City? I had a bike race that Sunday and destroyed the field in the finishing sprint. It was special not because I won, but because you witnessed it. I was only that good because your Dad taught me how to take my training seriously.

I'm having a flush of fine memories on the eve of your wedding to the best woman you have ever known (and I've been around to witness every one). I'm reminiscent.

There was a simplicity to our lives back then that made for these fine memories. I'm wanting to find that sense of endless relaxation again. We caught each other's vibes and stayed in tune.

What I do know, is that our best days are in front if us. Lisa and Jen are more alike than I could have imagined. They both don't take any B.S. from us and they know how to put us in our place; they are strong women.

I am happy for you; I am excited at what prospects the future holds for our families. I am thrilled that you and Lisa are taking such a monumental step. I am hopeful that we can not only have more of our past experiences, but that our families can share in them.

About Me

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NY, New York, United States
I'm 34 years old, the proud father of 2 beautiful children and husband to Jennifer, a beautiful, smart, and very caring woman. I'm an athlete - someone that was blessed with the ability to move fast and fluidly past, around, up and over my opponents. But, my body now reminds me that those days are numbered. I'm the Founder of Agile Fitness, a company dedicated to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Resume: - Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist ('96). - Bachelor of Arts & Science, University of Delaware, ('95) - Masters in Business Administration, Baruch College Zicklin School of Business ('01)