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.


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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)