January 24, 2002

Avoiding the Ithaca Winters

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Cornell heavyweight crew re-emerges to the great wintry north a little fitter, faster, and tanner. Those big tall kids walking around campus with the sunburned rosy cheeks went through a solid week of two-a-days and ingesting as many calories as those lanky arms could get around to harvesting.

As for myself, I got a chance to drive around the fastest boats on the water for a week. This is worth mentioning because we won’t touch the boats until Cayuga flows once again, which won’t be for at least another five weeks.

This being my fourth time — it really is unbelievable that I’ve been there four times, it seems like only yesterday — I have seen fog, rain, and wind. For some reason, the fourth time around featured the best weather I have ever seen. One couldn’t ask for better water conditions — flat and consistent.

On any given Cocoa Beach, Fla., morning we would wake up at the break of a new day and hit the water. Coach Roock eased us into the week with some low intensity, high duration sessions, just to allow for the muscles to remember the motion. We haven’t been on the water since mid-November.

We would then proceed to lounge by the pool or the beach and bake for a couple of hours and then it would be back to the sun-glistened water in the late afternoon. Lather, rinse, and repeat because you have to.

Toward the end of the week the intensity picked up and we put on our game faces as we competed side-by-side in eights.

“So what,” you say.

So what? Are you kidding me? Hear me out, guy. Imagine running full speed on a track for three to four minutes. Full speed, bro. Then imagine running full speed for three minutes ang, st a bunch of other equally fit cats who are trying to knock you off the top of the mountain. Then imagine doing this 12 to 15 times. Heartbreak City.

Keep in mind when running a race, a runner can independently dictate their outcome, but in rowing there are seven other guys who must be on the same page. If one guy feels like going buck wild and attempts to win the race single-handedly, then the boat rhythm falls apart and thus his efforts fall in vain. Law of diminishing returns at its best.

It seemed that some of the guys really enjoyed Florida and others may have become disenchanted. Good or bad, the whole team should be fairly happy with the knowledge that we are a faster team. Last year, some may have doubted us and classified our strong finish as a fluke. This year, with increased boat skill and experience, I see a good fortune cookie coming.

You know how a movie sometimes becomes a cultural motif for weeks at a time amongst a group of friends? Where you recite lines to movies time and time again? Our flick of the week was The Big Lebowski. I had to find a way to stick this in the column. The Dude’s mannerisms became our mannerisms all week long.

So with deference toward one of the best sports columnists, Bill Simmons of the Boston Globe, I would like to drop a couple of my favorite lines from the movie and use them to further illustrate two things about our winter training trip.

“Little Lebowski urban achievers, yes, and proud we are of all of them.”

Towards the end of the week we rowed with the freshman guys on the team. This is their first taste of the varsity level as they are an entirely separate team for the first part of the year. The varsity guys were pleasantly surprised with how well the row went. The future looks dandy. We are proud of them.

“Forget it Donny, you’re out of your element.”

Do I really need to explain this one? Should I even attempt to write comedy? I am the perfect example of the kid who is getting laughed at and not with. Unintentional comedy.

Archived article by Donald Lee