We're all in the same boat so let's pull together!

Posts tagged “endurance athletics

Marsh Labyrinth Sculling, 101

18.2 Miles — 29.3 Kilometers

The wind was up and only going to get worse. Gary at Lake Purdy kept telling me, but I had checked and I already knew. I told him I could handle it. (Yeah, I’m so tough.)

When I got out … windy it was. I pulled out an elastic band immediately to put around my hat to keep it on. I had intended to head straight down to the Bald Eagle nest but decided to make a run for the new Marsh Labyrinth in hopes that the wind would in fact get calmer instead of worse by the time I ventured back out into the main lake.

Once I got back there, it was a sheltered paradise. As I was only out to test my leg and work on my tan (the only sunblock I ever use is sun … I’m strangely not as fair as a Scottish lass should be) I lingered in the maze amid the wildlife. I saw all three Bald Eagles there, countless herrings, ducks, geese and even chased after a surprisingly relaxed and friendly Water Moccasin lazily swimming with his head above the water and sticking his tongue out a lot. It was forked.

I took lots of pictures. I was in no hurry to leave. There are a couple of the snake … look for them.

I managed to get at least four miles out of the Marsh Labyrinth and went places no scull has gone before. Skegless sculling means being able to go over logs or almost anything. And after rowing so much in the dark, my balance in the daylight is effortless! I can pick my way through narrow passes by raising my blades high above all obstacles or pulling them inboard all the way. It has become uncanny! I can go anywhere!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once I got back out into the main part of the lake … it was soooooooo windy. Oh my God was it windy. Up to 20 mph winds for the next hour. I just opened my bailer and left it open and struggled against the wind to keep up the 3 miles per hour it takes to keep the water going out as I was constantly swamped with swell after swell. There were times I was rowing as hard as I could and the Speed Coach read zero miles per hour! I tried like Jesus to talk the wind into calming down. I’m not as fast as Jesus, but it eventually worked. I kept going until dark mapping the perimeter and managed to get 18.2 miles in one lap. Now I have a GPS line to follow. When I got off the water and up to my car … this time there was a sticky note on my window with the combination to unlock the gate to get out. Thanks Gary.

He knows how I am. :)


Deluge Aftermath Pitch Dark Sculling, 101

50.5 Miles — 81.27 Kilometers

It was pure joy! It always is, no matter what I encounter. I just love to row.

It was going to be a sunny day as warm as 70º, but with winds up to 14 MPH. As far as I was concerned … that’s a rowing day. Did I get a later-than-I-wanted-start? Of course.

First, instead of getting up and getting right on the road, I did an impromptu photo shoot so I could post that picture everyone has been asking for of what I wear when I row such long distances. I think they were aiming at a picture of my Red Bikini of Power, which I will be wearing again when the temps get above 80º, but for today, it was the sleeveless cycling top and the biking shorts with suspenders I never used for cycling, but discovered is perfect for rowing. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my specific-for-rowing unisuit is spiffy, but has a seam at my waist, which defeats the purpose of having nothing binding me at my waste for long distance. It is just the thing for head races when I want to look like I am a real rower. Incidentally, I don’t use my high-tech long-distance seat-pad for real rower races as I was informed by Dave Lee, the Oklahoma boat dealer who sold me my Flyweight, that only yahoos use seat-pads. So … I know how to blend in if I need to once in a while.

The cycling bibs are perfect for colder weather rowing because as you can see in the picture, there is a panel covering the waist that anything I wear on top (additional long sleeve jerseys) can be tucked in to prevent any looseness of garments for a thumb to snag on at the finish (when the blades come out of the water at the end of the stroke). A good thumb snag could put you in the drink quick.

Then … another delay resulted from how powerful I am at manifesting my thoughts. Right before I left the house, I commented to myself: “Gee, I hope they don’t charge me today to launch. I don’t think I have enough cash.” I wish I had said: “Gee, I hope the deputy gives me a million dollars when I drive up to the lake.”

Sure as the world, for the first time, I was charged. I found out that they were just letting me in for free while the lake was closed. For both letting me in for free and just for letting me in, I am very grateful and am more than happy to pay my fee.

I proceeded with great determination and a little bit of denial to scrounge for every penny in my purse and in my car — and I came up with $4.78. I needed $5.00. I offered the deputy a check. I offered a credit card. I offered to pay the difference next time I came out. I was about to offer him a diamond ear ring … but decided to heed his suggestion and just go up the road and get some cash.

So I drove five miles further out to the closest store to buy some item with my bank card and get cash back. I bought a Double Shot with Ginseng to give to the deputy who had been so patient as I searched for way too long for that one last quarter that didn’t exist. I could not believe it wouldn’t be under a seat or SOMETHING! Anyway, everyone drinks coffee, right?

The little store charged for getting cash back, which was fine, but I commented that I only needed a quarter. So one of the girls behind the counter just gave me a quarter. Soooo sweet!

Mission accomplished, I went back and proudly counted out the three dollar bills I had and the rest in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies for the patient deputy, to make a full $5.00 with 3 cents to spare! I offered him the conciliatory coffee drink, but … he wasn’t a coffee drinker. I should have bought him a beer (for when he got off duty). But, as it turns out, I was happy I had that double shot at about mile 35.

Now, here’s the most important thing I must mention: for a couple of days earlier in the week we had a typhoon-monsoon-deluge down-pouring of rain that all at once made up for having the driest year ever. I had the flooded basement to prove it! So the water level is almost at full pool, as they call it, and still rising.

This development provided a new challenge for placing my Little Red Dock. No more nice safe smallish rocks to tread upon. There are now only unstable tipsy boulders between me and the water. It took me a long time to get the Little Red Dock situated and stable. But I still had to deal with carrying the boat over the big rocky rocks. This was not so hard putting it in as it was 50 miles later — taking it out.

I decided that now that the water level is high enough, I am going to carry my boat the half mile or so on the nice safe flat catwalk out to the nice safe flat dock and put it in there next time.

So, here are the lessons learned in this epic adventure:

After a big storm and heavy rainfall … there is FLOATING DEBRIS … stuff floating everywhere … near the bank … out in the very middle of the lake … everywhere … like a mine field. I will go into more detail in a moment. First I have some good news and some good news … and some more good news. (And later on, even MORE good news!)

The first good news is: Bob’s boathouse floats! I sent him this picture and he got out there the next day to be sure it was securely anchored. Since the spark plugs on his boat are on the blink right now, he parked his car as close as he could on a near-by road and hiked three miles to the cabin to accomplish this necessary task. All is well, and I am proud of him.

The second good news is the lake is sooooo much bigger now. My too-close-to-the-bank-GPS-map-line is no longer too close to the bank. However, despite that wonderful fact, I discovered that Deluge Aftermath factors present new challenges.

The third good news is that I have become quite adept at a pretty slick “ALL-STOP-go-right-into-a-river-turn-(where you move both oars in opposite directions to turn the boat like a turn-table)-miss-the-new-obstacle-while-there-is-still-enough-light-to-see-it” maneuver. This came in really handy because along with the new challenge of Deluge Aftermath Floating Debris, there are scores of new dead trees that have fallen and extend quite far out from the bank, and in many cases, are just anywhere they please.

I got started shortly after 3 pm. However, as my leg injury took longer to heal than I had hoped (I even had it ex-rayed to be sure it wasn’t fractured), I had done nothing but sit with my leg up with an ice pack on it for three weeks. I didn’t even work out with weights after the first few days because doing anything exacerbated it — and I MEANT I was going to get it healed as fast as possible. I knew having a fractured left tibia would not change how I was treating it, but it would determine the time-frame before I could get back out in my boat as it would require 6-8 weeks to be in one piece again. I just needed to know. Thankfully, I just had a severe periosteal bruise from slamming into my rebounder (mini-trampoline) in the dark in my house. The rebounder is in my work-out room in the basement again where it belongs! (Now that the basement is dried out again.)

Oh, yeah … right … the rowing story …

Well, due to my long hiatus and from being preoccupied with some projects and forgetting to eat much for a few days prior, I spent the first 6 miles fiddling, taking pictures, reading and writing email and was a little too focused on eating my snacks. Plus, I had pretty much forgotten how to row. So I didn’t go as fast as I could have while there was daylight. And I didn’t really get into my rhythm until about 15 miles into it. Without any oomph in my stroke, I was cruising at an easy 6 MPH, but not for long because …

Then it got dark. At first, that was ok because there was a nice bright half-moon exactly overhead. There was still plenty of light from the moon for rowing on the lake I had rowed on three weeks before. But not for what I encountered that night. And since the moon was already high, it went down long before I finished rowing, leaving me in the pitch dark flying by instruments just following my GPS line.

Oh, more good news! When it got dark … the water was glass. It was pure joy, I tell you!

When I arrived at the leg of the lake where I first saw the Bald Eagle, I ran into a serious log-jam. What I mean is debris in the form of large branches, logs and even a few wood pilings (must have lost a few docks) were everywhere in huge patches and it was too dark to maneuver around or in between them. For miles … there WAS no in between. If I still rowed with a skeg, I would have lost it 40 times that night. I was in fear for my impeller (the little propeller attached to the bottom of the hull that tells the Speed Coach what it needs to know), but the impeller guard held up like a champ to the abuse. I had to keep it under 4 MPH in a lot of places just to get through. But I made it through and found another half mile or so of lake beyond the remote boat launch leading to a marsh I saw, but miscalculated how far away it was — and met it “up close and personal” as dimly shown in this picture:

I couldn’t help but hug the new bank and explore the many extensions of the fingers of the lake in my first lap out of sheer curiosity about what the mileage of the new perimeter was going to be. I had been getting 22.5 miles or less. That night, I got close to 29 miles! Wow, what a difference!

On my second lap, I made the decision to skip the log-jam section entirely. Wise choice.

I never laughed so much rowing in all my 20 years as I did that night on the second lap. Why? Because once it got REALLY dark, I was no longer able to use my suave stop and turn technique to miss new obstacles. It didn’t matter where I rowed … out from the bank or close. Since it became evident that in these conditions I could not go fast enough to stay warm, I put on long sleeves and decided to concentrate on good form. Just as I was speeding along at another effortless MPH from simply using my knowledge of correct sculling form, I would SLAM into a multi-branched bleached white dead tree extending out from the bank … or just anywhere it pleased to be. A few times I got so tangled it would take me five minutes, maybe more, to sea-saw my way out of it. I laughed big belly laughs every time in disbelief that I didn’t capsize. One time I ended up with my port blade (the tip of the oar in my right hand) stuck in a branch 4 feet above the water surface. That made for a few precarious moments as I balanced myself with the suddenly-imperative-didn’t-know-I-had expertise of a high-wire walker — until I could get my wrists back together and jimmy myself out of that awkward position. That was at least a five minute job. Keep in mind … the air temperature was in the low 50′s and the water temperature was still hypothermia-worthy and I was wearing the only long sleeved shirt I had on the boat — far far way from the dock, warmth and dry clothes.

Even if I had tried to keep count of how many times I ran into dead trees or slammed into floating debris, I would have lost count. I will estimate 20 times on the dead trees and at least 40 for the debris. Debris example here.

That evening I decided to install an abacus on my rigging and make a call to Maas Boat Works to ask if ANYONE has ever turned one of these things over. I can only surmise that Maas Flyweights DO NOT CAPSIZE. What a perfect boat for me to train in as I prepare to attain the Much Sought-After, Recognized, Publicized, Pinnacle of Rowing Glory … the Title of the World’s Longest Distance Sculling Record-Holder of all time! (Please don’t forget why I am doing this.)

Then disaster struck! I learned yet another valuable lesson: just because the battery in your iPod looks full, unless you JUST recharged it … it is not. My music quit at mile 35. I had no choice but to keep rowing as I was some distance from the dock. I kept hearing water rushing and wondered if I had punctured the hull and there was water inside. But then I realized it was just the boat going through the water. I hadn’t heard it all that much before. I spent the next 15 miles to try to think of how many times I had rowed without music … and realized I had a lot, like when I teach in a double or row along with a friend for a few miles and chat. And a couple of head races where music is not allowed and earphones would make me look like a yahoo. I got used to it and experienced a new kind of sheer joy.

After the music died (I am not referring to Elvis), I heard a lot of little water falls and even the sounds of wild life. Also … this was another new experience: the Loch Ness monster leapt out of the water a bunch of times near the boat! Or maybe it was the alligator following me around.

Even skipping the log-jam, I only had to row a small extra loop to reach my goal of 50 miles. By then, I was glad to be near the finish as the wind decided to kick up pretty strong.

The Little Red Dock was almost submerged when I got back to it with the water level still rising fast. It really was a trick to get my boat the few feet over the perilous boulders on my well-earned wobbly legs to load it on the car. I took my time.

I have always kept my car pristinely clean in my garage before this winter when I switched lakes and decided to keep the boat on the car. Having a boat on top is a determent to taking it through car washes. So thanks to that Double Shot with Ginseng I mentioned earlier, I took a little time while still parked on the ramp to use my wet rags and the dew on the car to give it a pretty convincing wash!

This was the most eventful and adventurous row yet. It also took me all night. I felt fine so I decided to stay up all day and write stuff in Spanish (or what I imagine is Spanish … no sé, but my multi-lingual International supporters have informed me that it doesn’t suck) … and just go to bed early Sunday night. I had a wonderful day.

By the way, I checked the US Rowing Rules for doping and Double Shots with Ginseng was nowhere on the list. Whew!


Recommendation from Bob Montgomery

I just received this today. He told me not to let it go to my head:

“Jenifer is far and away the most dedicated sculler and endurance athlete I know. Her standards start in that ethereal realm after most folks have just given up and gone home. She is passionate about finding ways to help others to experience and enjoy rowing … and is proving that by taking the sport to the Web with The Global Rowing Club. Her aspirations for new hull designs realized will be transformative for a sport steeped in tradition, yet always embracing the latest technological innovations. Jenifer is just as enthusiastic about training others to attain the superhuman levels of endurance and power which she musters each week when she puts in another 50,000 to 80,000 meters. Jenifer has a competitive edge and attitude most others can only aspire to.”

Bob Montgomery Jr., Birmingham Rowing Club

Thanks Bob! I am also the most dedicated boathouse checker you know.


Recommendation from Bob Montgomery

I just received this today. He told me not to let it go to my head:

“Jenifer is far and away the most dedicated sculler and endurance athlete I know. Her standards start in that ethereal realm after most folks have just given up and gone home. She is passionate about finding ways to help others to experience and enjoy rowing … and is proving that by taking the sport to the Web with The Global Rowing Club. Her aspirations for new hull designs realized will be transformative for a sport steeped in tradition, yet always embracing the latest technological innovations. Jenifer is just as enthusiastic about training others to attain the superhuman levels of endurance and power which she musters each week when she puts in another 50,000 to 80,000 meters. Jenifer has a competitive edge and attitude most others can only aspire to.”

Bob Montgomery Jr., Birmingham Rowing Club

Thanks Bob! I am also the most dedicated boathouse checker you know.


Night Rower — An Odyssey

Forced to launch across the lake because firemen were loading boats to get their equipment to a cabin on the lake that was on fire — my early start became and extremely late start. I rowed 45 miles in the most challenging conditions I have ever faced. More later. Click on the slideshow to control how fast it goes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Windy Moonless Long-Distance Sculling In The Dark Wilderness, 101

45 Miles — 72.42 Kilometers

I had upgraded my little red dock and packed my rowing bag … even made some power snacks on Saturday to be ready for a truly early start on Sunday. It was going to be another sailing day, but in the 70′s and I need experience rowing on all conditions in my preparation to break the world long distance sculling record. As I state in Sculling For World Healing, I will have no problem with the distance. But the time will be very weather-dependent and will require a lighter me and a faster boat. But for now, I will become the best sculler I can be building my skill, strength and mileage in a variety of conditions — including the dark.

But I was excited Sunday morning to set out for an especially long row in mostly daylight. But it didn’t happen that way.

The thirty-some mile drive has become second nature to me now, and as I pulled into the long country road leading to the lake, I passed a fire truck with its lights flashing. I had texted Bob I was on the way out there so he would know he would soon receive a picture of his boathouse as the water levels raise to where at some point we will find out if it still floats. Tick-tock, tick-tock, Bob.

I had gotten used to being the only car in this parking lot, but this is what I pulled up to, except by the time I took the picture, some of the emergency vehicles had disappeared down the ramp to load up boats with firefighting equipment. Deputy Staten met me to tell me a cabin on the lake was on fire and that it would be a very long time before I could get my boat on the water. Bass fishermen were in queue too. He advised me to go on out to the other launch area and gave me directions to get there by road.

I had an impulse to skip it, but 63 miles is a lot of driving (and CO2 footprint) for nothing. I pressed on. It was another 11 miles to the remote launch on country roads. That was going to make for about an hour to drive home after the row.

When I arrived, I checked in with the deputy there and then spent way too much time walking up and down that very shore-line that had stolen 5 weeks of my life last November/December after the day Bob and I shot the Sculling For a Blue Angel Music Video. This structure is a little store where you can buy snacks and Bob was hungry.

I usually never get out of the boat, but did to be a pal that day, I immediately sunk into quicksand and overstretched my right Achilles tendon. I got back in the boat and rowed another 10-15 miles. But the next day, the pain was so piercing — like fire — that I was sure I had ruptured it but. I was not fully recovered for 5 weeks. Turns out you need your ankles for just about everything including rowing and working out. I lost a lot of my strength and the last of the warm rowing weather of the year.

So needless to say, I am not fond of this place. It was muddy and the incline at the waterline was too gradual for my little red dock to work right, so there was no place to put my boat in cleanly. I wanted to pitch it again, but over-ruled myself and MADE a way for my little red dock to work.

I saw the Bald Eagle. I’m sure that meant something like: be brave. I was very brave. You’ll see.

As I was preparing my boat, I caught some guys using my freshly rinsed little dock that is simply not meant to hold the weight of heavy guys … as their way to get in their boat without getting their feet wet. I made Eric stand there while took I this picture, then requested after they used it to please clean the mud off that they just tracked onto it. They left it in fine condition so no harm done.

Yes, I am little prissy about being able to get in and out of my boat without getting it muddy or freezing my feet, or injuring myself in bottomless mud or on loose rocks. So I come prepared to do a little extra for my launch and landing to be a little safer, cleaner, comfortable and more convenient.

It WAS fricken windy, and that made me think again about how good of an idea it was to get on the water, but I told myself it would calm down and I had all night, if need be, to enjoy another moonlight row since it was just two days past the full moon.

I got on the water at my record latest time of 5:30 — two minutes past the official sunset time of 5:28.

It was still windy when I put in, but soon it let up and I had a twilight of glass to enjoy at the beginning of my row. My boat wanted to do 6 miles an hour effortlessly, which meant I could easily do 7 with a little oomph in my drive. But it was not to be.

First of all, the calm part of my row was spent returning texts from Bob wondering where the cabin that was on fire was on the lake (I made sure with the deputy it wasn’t Bob’s house). I told him I didn’t know, The fire had been long put out I am sure. He was also texting me that I needed to get running lights, a strobe and a Jen Cam installed on my bow. It’s true, I am cheating now with just having a flashlight on my splashguard. My grace-period will be over when the Summer People get back. There will be night-time traffic then.

Then …. IT GOT DARK. Way out in the country, there are stars in the sky … plenty of stars. But they don’t light up the water and the shore like even a sliver of the moon will.

I remembered a couple of things and learned a few more things. That’s what I’m out there to do.

I remembered that rowing shells are REALLY tipsy. That fact seems to diminish as skill and confidence increases. I was reminded acutely of it that night when I learned that vision has a LOT to do with keeping balance.

So even before the wind whipped up again, I had to settle into a slower pace than I wanted as I tried to get used to keeping some kind of stable stroke with no visual frame-of-reference to help.

I also learned that as much as I needed the lit-up instrument panel to keep my bearings, it was a two-edged sword as it kept me from being able to acquire night vision. Toward the end of the row their batteries dimmed to where they were just right, I will keep that pair to use in the darkest conditions for as long as they last. Perhaps I will design little dimming covers to put over fresh lights for such occasions. This is a picture of the dimmer lights at the end of the row.

Then a couple of things happened to make this row hands-down the most challenging one yet (not counting the typhoon I got caught in last summer).

The wind whipped up again and I found myself in open water conditions including gusts and swells just below whitecap level. Thankfully it wasn’t so bad that my boat swamped, but with diminished balancing senses, it was a test of skill to say the least.

And the thing I didn’t understand the most was: WHERE WAS THE MOON? The sky was clear. I could see the stars. The moon started rising only 3 nights before right at twilight (proof in the pictures on Sculling By Moonlight). But there was no moon to be found anywhere in the sky. What up Universe?!

Even though it was supposed to be a warm night (in the 50′s), I guess I couldn’t row hard enough to keep myself warm so at one point I put on two long sleeve jerseys and for the first time EVER, I put on tights! I even put on wool footies under my neoprene footies.

But then, just as I turned around at the main boat launch ten miles into the row, there was the moon rising. Better late than never!.

Before long I was rowing fast enough again that I had stripped back down to sleeveless, but didn’t want to stop long enough to pull off the tights. I felt a bit warm, but not enough to take the time to remove them.

I also learned that when dew falls, things get wet, so don’t leave anything you want to keep dry uncovered when it is getting dark. Funny how things you know in regular life have to present themselves in new situations like this … at least for me. I’m out there to learn not only to row better and faster in all conditions, but to learn how to stay in the boat, have everything I need without being over-loaded and just keep rowing! Most especially in REALLY long distance rowing in a single, it’s not so much how fast you go: it’s How Little You Fiddle.

When I got back to where I launched, I could have stopped there at 22.5 miles, but the moon was up, the wind had calmed a bit (back in there anyway) and I figured the next lap was my pay-off, so I went around again. After all, the farther the drive, the longer the row should be to justify the trip. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Halfway through my second lap, The clouds started to cover the sky until the cover was complete. But even a cloudy sky obscuring the moon is brighter than a clear starlit sky with no moon.

I have decided to zero out my GPS line next time I go out early in the day and make a new line. In an effort to squeeze the most mileage from the perimeter of the lake, my line is soooo close to the bank, even with the water levels rising again. And as Spring approaches, the bass boats will all be square on my line, so I need to shorten my lap by a half a mile to a mile. Since I’m gong to be doing multiple laps, I can afford to pull out from the shore a lot more to be safer.

I must take a moment to sing the praises of my beloved Hummingbird and thank the Maas brothers for making such a great boat. I could tell many stories of times I should have just gone right over … like in my first head race the day after I bought the Flyweight. I talked them into letting me enter The Head Of The Oklahoma at the last minute. Luckily my race was early enough the next morning that it wasn’t cancelled. Every single and double race after mine was cancelled due to the high winds. 15 MPH is a light wind day in Oklahoma City.

But that day, my first day rowing my new boat, two years away from having it rigged anywhere near right for me … I gave it all I had. Just as I was passing a grandstand full of people, the wind yanked my port scull (the one in my right hand) right out of my hand and swung too far away for me to catch it. Somehow I stayed upright until I could coax it back to within reach, and was on my way again. My time in the race wasn’t good, but that I finished dry in a new boat made me proud all the same.

Similarly, Maas boys, your Flyweight has saved my butt more times than I can count when dead trees, stumps and docks jump out from nowhere and catch me going full-tilt — and a wide variety of other crashes and sudden ALL STOPS I have encountered in my rowing too-close-to-the-bank approach. The other night I really should have capsized several times and had that fleeting thought each time: “This is it. I’m going over and there goes my perfect record!” But then, my Hummingbird steadies and I am a little shaken but still dry and very thankful.

I will mention one more thing that contributed to making this an especially challenging row. It’s one of the other things I remembered while I was out there. I started to notice something going on with my left shin with every stroke. It hurt a little and even cracked. Shins don’t crack like joints, right? I had no idea what was going on. And then I remembered slamming into my rebounder in the dark the other night when I had not put it way after using it and didn’t expect it to be where it was. It hit me on the lower part of my shin and I recall saying to myself, I need to go put ice on that. But then promptly forgot.

Truly, a stitch in time saves nine! 20 minutes of an ice pack on my shin that evening would have saved two days of icing it since I rowed 45 miles with a bruised shin. I don’t injured myself doing my sports. Just doing life. I’m sure that’s a metaphor for something. I am on the mend, but I think the Wednesday row I was planning (tomorrow) will have to wait for the weekend.

No matter how dark, windy and moonless it was … I was happy the whole time. There is no way I know of to feel more dramatically alive. I count myself among the most fortunate people in the world that I can do something so wonderful and enlivening as rowing as long as I want, whenever I want, and in conditions that most people would not brave even in a motor boat.

Super powers, I tell you!


How To Be a FRIENDLY Long-Distance Sculler

I have stumbled upon a way to be completely relaxed, self-forgiving, charming and sociable!

I have learned how to row in the dark.

Many is the time I have shouted over my shoulder to a rowing club friend as I was carrying my boat to the launch dock … “as much as I love you, I love daylight MORE!”

Back when I rowed where the club is located, well-meaning club members would want to hang-out and chat. They are in the club for social and recreational reasons. I did attend the parties to be social and even went to the business meetings. But when I went to row, I went to ROW. I established a rule: never speak to Jenifer after noon. If you want to socialize with me, then be here at dark.

I feel like Rocky training to be the World Champion … but in a sport that doesn’t even exist! Well, it’s about to exist if I have anything to do with it. Keep your eye on me. Read the GRC Mission page … when I put it up. The new sport of Sanctioned Non-Recreational Long-Distance Sculling/Rowing is ON if I have to sanction it MYSELF!

So back to how it is I am suddenly about to become warm and personable again.

I came to the realization a couple of weeks ago that this Water Works lake is not like the other. At Lake Purdy, you have to be off the lake and off the premises before they lock the gate. Too many times I have come in late and kept the guys, Ken and Steve, past closing time. They have been nothing but sweet about it, but I felt a lot of pressure to be a good girl there.

It’s really more “me” to be an out-law … without ever breaking the law. That’s a difficult balance to maintain.

So my new realization has SET ME FREE! At Inland Lake, since there are a handful of old cabins on the lake whose owners can only get to by boat, there is no closing time at the boat launch. They never turn off the lights and the restroom is always heated. I can stay out and row all night (just did) and if I want to … If it came to it I could camp-out in Bob’s high and dry boathouse. Eureka!

This empowering realization came to me because as almost a second thought last week, I grabbed a couple of lights just in case I found myself too far out on the lake to make it in by sundown on a day I knew the conditions were going to be perilous. I tell about it in Fricken High Wind Open Fricken Water Fricken Cold Weather In the Fricken Dark Sculling, 301. It worked so well, I discovered I can now row after dark and find my way back by following my line on my GPS map screen or use the marker feature to get me there the most direct route. Before I couldn’t see the screens after dark. The GPS and the Speed Coach have internal lights I can stop and press the buttons to turn on, but they only stay on for so long and they really burn the battery-life. As it was, I had to stop and change the batteries in my GPS Thursday night mid-row.

Elated by my new super-power, Monday after the Sunday Fricken High Wind row, I went to the Dollar Store and bought more LED book-reading lights and then on to the thrift store to find zip cases that were waterproof enough to not have to put things in time-consuming to open and close ziplock bags, as I have learned that you don’t have to turn your boat over for everything on it to get wet. I mention that fact in the Fricken High Wind row post too.

The thing about long-distance sculling in the wilderness in the winter alone is that you have to have “stuff” with you in case there is a mishap. That makes for a heavier boat and slower rowing, but safety first. I’m at the ready to change into dry clothes and start a fire if need be. In addition to water and snacks, I have extra pairs of gloves, extra batteries, extra socks, water shoes, towels, extra contacts, a bottle of saline solution and a magnification mirror in case I get something in my eye, some tools just in case I decide to adjust my rigging, tape in case my hands start to hurt (they never do anymore), line to tie my boat if need be, extra little bungee cords, and my GPS and Speed Coach manuals in case I push the wrong button and mess everything up, which I have been known to do! And don’t forget my extremely high-tech ergonomic long-distance rowing padded seat I tell about having developed in Jen’s Rowing Story. I am compensating for the added weight of gear by dropping some of my it’s-too-cold-to-row-I-got-injured-AGAIN-feel-sorry-for-myself-only-want-to-hibernate-by-the-fireplace-and-eat-popcorn-and-chocolate-winter-weight-gain. At least I don’t row with a lapdog in the boat anymore. Sorry Hannah, but there’s just no extra room in this one.

My winter hibernation weight gain is not shocking. I weigh exactly what I weighed when I shot the sofa movies video. It’s just that on a Flyweight (not a lightweight, midweight or heavyweight) scull, you go faster the lighter you are when you’re not sinking the beam to it’s max, therefore, there is a top weight you really don’t want to exceed. I am just under that top weight, but now that it is warming up, I’ll be in the pink again in no time!!!

I can’t wait to see what I can do when I’m IN SHAPE!

I have decided (another epiphany) to set up my cock-pit and leave it set up (covered) to save the time-consuming ritual of put it together before every row and breaking it down afterwards. Now that my mileage is climbing again and it’s about to warm up, I’m going to have to make more room for water and snacks and a way to get to them fast — as well as my ever expanding instrument panel. The other “stuff” I bungee behind me just inside the splash guard, and I will need far less “just-in-case” gear when the weather gets really nice.

This first night-time row was a fact-finding mission. I set up the cock-pit that afternoon and spent the entire row making adjustments like how to angle the lights to prevent distracting glare on the screens. I tested different gloves, an elastic band specifically for keeping my hat on in wind and various other ideas I have for minimizing the Fiddling Factor.

Once I got past most of the adjusting and could just row, my first moonlight row was magical. It is a story worth telling as are all of my rowing adventures in my opinion — for my own delight if for no other reason. See the next post to be with me vicariously on an uninhabited lake alone in the moonlight during the winter. Fortunately, you won’t be as cold as I was … but unfortunately, you won’t be as thrilled. I hope you will be entertained.

P.S. Just as I was leaving my neighborhood coffee shop where I wrote this post, I had a couple of nice conversations. The first one was with Dale the long-distance cyclist who I had met and chatted with before. We talked about how dangerous cycling has become (a couple of cyclists have been killed in our town in the last few years) which is one of the reasons I have cut back on cycling to maybe one Century a year in favor of the much safer, more scenic, far more elegant and full-body exercise sport of sculling. And I mentioned to Dale that the last Century I road last October, I was thinking the whole time how boring it was compared to sculling. Every stroke in sculling requires attention and skill. Dale said he was interested. It is part of my quest to recruit my old endurance athlete peers to consider giving sculling a try. I will write more about that part of my plan soon.

Next I ran into and met Leslie as I was getting into my car. As you may have read in my post The Boat Stays On The Car! … the boat was on the car. He surprised me by asking me if it were a shell. Usually people think it is a kayak. I was impressed that he knew that. We talked a little about the boat’s history of winning the North American Open Water Championships two years in a row (See Jen’s Rowing Story again) along with Diane Davis, a very accomplished racer. She was the reason I wanted a carbon fiber Maas Flyweight … and I just happened to get THAT VERY FLYWEIGHT. My life is magical that way.

Leslie asked if they made boats for Clydesdales. I thought that was cute. I told him I had one for sale the would be perfect for a Clydesdale — a Little River Marine Cambridge.

Interestingly enough, both Dale and Leslie asked me specific questions about sculling that I actually had just answered in this post. I told them my URL because someone was waiting for me at my house (around the corner) and I had to run.

Hi Dale and Leslie. Come on over to the wonderful world of sculling. :)

See, I am friendlier already!


Sculling By Moonlight

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

30.5 miles. It was an awesome row. Story to follow after I get some sleep. :)


Long-Distance Moonlight Sculling, 101

30.5 Miles — 49.08 Kilometers

This is the story my first long-distance moonlight row on beautiful wild uninhabited Inland Lake, Thursday February 17th.

Excited about my new ability to row after dark on a beautiful Sunday in the high 60′s … possibly touching 70º a some point, I got all ready to go Thursday determine to get an extra early start and do a REALLY long row.

Of course, my extra early start turned into a medium early start, but I knew it was going to be an almost a full moon on a clear warm(ish) night and I was relaxed for a change.

Instrument Panel on Long-distance sculler Jenifer Humming's Maas Flyweight Hummingbird

When I got out there, my first project after cleaning my boat, was to put my new instrument panel together in a way that everything would be well-placed, easy to get to, efficient and attached securely enough to leave it set up. That took a while. But I wasn’t in my usual big hurry. It was fricken windy and I knew it would let up a little in the afternoon and for the first time ever, I didn’t feel rushed by the impending sunset. (You can’t know how happy I am about this!)

I met Robert the Bass fisherman and chatted a bit. He offered to help me carry the boat. I thanked him all the same.

I then met Archie when he came in from fishing. He only caught one bass. He said the fish at Inland Lake were the best because the water is so clean. But since it is so clear (it’s a deep lake but where it is shallow enough, you can see clear to the bottom 4-6 feet), it’s hard to sneak up on the bass. And bass are smarter than people anyway, to start with. Archie and I had a nice visit while I fiddled with all my doohickies.

Archie The Bass Fisherman

Then I tried my latest little red dock improvements. It is good, but not perfect. It doesn’t help that the water level is different every week. But I think I know one more small change I need to make for it to be the most versatile to place quickly where it will be steady.

I got on the water at a new record later-than-I-wanted time: 5 pm! Sunset was at 5:28.

It didn’t matter. I had new super powers.

It bears mentioning though … among my many lessons in this row, that I decided to try lowering my oarlocks to see if getting my blades deeper in the water would make me go faster. I remembered one thing and learned two things.

The one thing I remembered was why I raised them in the first place. A late finish is my biggest problem in being rigged right into this boat that gives me about 1 mm of leeway to be in the sweet spot — and it took me two years of minute to significant rigging adjustments to find it! I need the extra leverage to get the blades out of the water on time, high and clean.

The first of the two things I learned was not to make dramatic rigging changes before a 30 mile row in the dark. Best to test a change for a mile or two. The stroke was so awkward for me it was extra hard on my back. I had the screwdriver to fix it, but without getting my feet wet, there was no way to change it back. Plus … over water is not the place to let the spacers loose!

The second thing I learned was the time to test how fast you can go is not in the dark! I love how smart I am becoming. Between pushing the max weight with my own body weight, then add to that the weight of all of the aforementioned gear … and then add to that a rigging change that was straining my lower back on the finish … plus darkness, I just settled in to cruise at around 5 mph and decided to be happy with it. Faster days are ahead.

By the time I got started, it was cool enough that for the first time in 20 years I rowed the entire time wearing a long-sleeved jersey. It finally got cold enough (because I had to row easy instead of full-throttle) that I pulled out my “just-in-case” shirt. This left me without a backup long-sleeved shirt if I capsized the boat, which I will remind you (ego steps in for a moment) that I have never capsized a single and don’t want to start. That was another reason not to tempt fate by trying to set a speed record.

The rest of the story is just an amazing feeling I have never had before that I can’t adequately describe, of being all alone on a wilderness lake on perfect glass for most of the time with all the time in the world to row as long and as far as I wanted, under a moon that was so bright that it was almost blinding. And I didn’t feel one bit alone. I suspect Angels love to scull in the moonlight too. We had a wonderful time!

I told myself only one lap (22 miles). I promised myself that when I spotted the brightly lit launch area, I would pull in and be fine with whatever my distance turned out to be. I knew I was straining my back and shouldn’t push myself.

But when I saw the lights … my flesh was willing, but my Spirit was weak … or strong? I didn’t want it to end. Last summer I set my minimum distance at a marathon once a week … at least 26.2 miles. Now I want my minimum to be 30 miles twice a week for the next few weeks, then 35 or 40. So I gave in and rowed another 8 miles. Even then, I didn’t want to stop.

It was during that extra loop that one of the best moments of the evening occurred. Beegie Adair’s beautiful jazz piano rendition of Moon River came on while I was out in the open where the lake is wide. How can you not just love life in such a moment as that?

When I got home in the wee hours, I couldn’t wait to see the pictures so I uploaded them and posted a small slideshow of the few that weren’t too dark to see some detail.

Tomorrow is a sailing day at Inland. Partly cloudy with winds up to 14 mph … but getting up to 72º and staying in the 50′s after dark. I guess ya’ll know where I’m gonna be.


Fricken High Wind Open Fricken Water Fricken Cold Weather In the Fricken Dark Sculling, 301

39.2 Miles — 63.08 Kilometers

I got out yesterday for nearly a 40 mile row (39.2 without getting out of the boat) in MAJOR wind and open water conditions. It was a warmer sunny day, which meant I was going to go even though I knew the wind would be over 12 miles an hour for most of the day. It was the kind of day that if I were sitting on my porch overlooking the Chesapeake in Annapolis, I’d laugh if anyone suggested I go rowing. More like I would put on a wetsuit and fly a hull six feet in the air hanging from a trapeze!

The lake is open now so it’s not a gamble anymore to get in. Mr. Retired Deputy Tom Foster checked me in and we had a nice chat. He said he’d heard about the Bald Eagle but had never seen him. I gave him the link to see the Eagle Dance Video I edited last week so he could finally see him after all these years. There’s suppose to be an alligator that lives in this lake. We’ll see if I ever get a glimpse at that guy.

My usual early start (in the winter an early start means arriving when it’s getting close to 40 degrees no matter what time that is), once again turned into my usual later-than-I -wanted start. I discovered that when you think your shell might be a little slow from being a little wet inside and decide to dry it out the night before a row with a hairdryer blowing into the hatch … it might slightly melt the part of the hull it was aimed at directly. When I pulled the boat off the rack at the lake … it took some unsticking from the textured padding on the foam rollers. I then discovered the cost of my cleverness was the pattern was melted into the hull. But I’m just the kind of girl who carries around Lysol Toilet Bowel Cleaner (cleans ANYTHING off of a hull) and wet/dry sand paper. So latex gloves, some water and LTBC on some 400 removed most of the scarring and some 1500 brought it most of the way back to a sheen. It goes without saying I need to start traveling with my compounding paste. While I was at it, I had a go at the 6 foot long scratch — a souvenir from the treacherous shallow obstacle-ridden lake I had to abandon where the rowing club now resides.

I also had to bide my time to get my turn to carry my boat down the ramp as a parade of bass fishermen launched their boats. Those sweet guys always offer to help me with my boat. Non-rowers don’t intuitively know that we can carry such big long boats alone. I never accept help for good reason. It comes from experiences like letting a member of our club help me carry my boat and him dropping his end (and wrecking my other boat on a trailer). So … even letting people help who you would think know what they are doing can end badly. I rather have only myself to blame if I damage my boat, which as I mentioned above, I am perfectly capable of doing without any help.

Bob's Boathouse 2-13-11

It was 12:50 when I started out. By 1:00, about a mile into the row, I kept up my tradition and snapped this to show the water level is rising. The moment I took this picture, the wind tried to blow my hat off my head. But the water is up about ten feet from when I wrote Cold Weather Sculling 101. Before you know it, that thing may or may not be floating. Bob has some work to do on it. He’s an absolute genius, by-the-way … which means he STAYS side-tracked. I might have to get an underwater camera.

So I wrote about sculling in high wind a couple of weeks ago. That was nothing. This was serious open water stuff that makes calling that row high wind sound whiney. Every stroke yesterday was a survival moment except for a few delightful glass-water reprieves way back in the fingers of the lake.

I didn’t fiddle per say, but I spent most of my time doing things like taking my long-fingered gloves off to open my automatic bailer when the swells washed over my gunwales and swamped me, blinking funny because the wind blew my right contact up into the corner of my eye and I didn’t realize it until the drive home, removing my hat to tie back my hair again and slick it down with lake water  because the wisps of hair the wind unleashed were driving me crazy. And at one point I even had to stop and tie two little bungees together to wrap around my hat to keep my it from blowing off because there was no way to keep it on otherwise! I have never had to do that before in almost 20 years of rowing!

You might as well know about me that I am a Boy Scout and am always prepared. But don’t jump to the conclusion I carry a big purse. A true Boy Scout can fit all remedies for any eventuality in a clutch. The Quantum Field fits into a clutch too.

To say I felt great would be about as far away from expressing how wonderful I felt as it would be to say playing Heart and Soul with one finger on a piano sounded like a choir of Angels.

This is why the water levels are rising. We just had our third snowfall in a part of the country that sees a few snow flakes about every ten years.

Melting ice on Inland Lake

I’ve gotten really good at ALL STOP too. You wouldn’t believe the close calls I had. Did I mention how good I am at steering? That’s on the days you can afford to turn your head.

It was so windy (how wind was it?) that I was building my triceps pushing on the recovery. Still, having lightened my boat considerably by shaving off a few pound of my injury/hibernation winter weight gain by being disciplined in a diet of popcorn, sherbet  and chocolate, I kept up a pace of between 6 and 7 miles an hour and even stayed above 5 miles an hour on my hairpin turns through the magic of skegless sculling. My top speed was 7.9, but I think that happened one of the times I had to stop and the wind was blowing me backwards to the West while the satellite was orbiting East. Hard to say.

I borrowed some dark and a three-quarter moon for my row last night. I brought along a small Dollar Store aim-able LED book-reading light to illuminate my GPS screen without running down the GPS batteries and put a flashlight on the bow just to be seeable, but the bass boats were long gone so it was just a formality.

I anticipate that rowing 105 miles anywhere (the long-distance sculling record is, so far as I know, 104 miles), even if I can do it in less than 14 hours … is going to involve some rowing in the dark, so I best get used to it.

I came in at 39.2 miles iPod going strong … and felt like I had that much left in me, but it was starting to get too cold even for me. I actually put some sleeves on for the last 5 miles. It was 46º when I left — practically tropical.

The Moon will be full by the end of the week and the wind doesn’t look like it will exceed 15 miles an hour!

I’ll try to drop 5 pounds by eating only at IHOP for the rest of the week, get an early start and see if I can get some exercise on Thursday.


Eagle Dance — Sculling on a Wild Lake

31.8 Miles — 51.2 Kilometers

The boat stayed on the car. The little red dock got another upgrade. Sunday was going to be in upper 40′s with wind 9 mph or less. I even got an earlier start than usual for the 30 minute drive to the lake. We had been having some rain and snow so chances were the water levels might be up.

I have a confession. Since the Achilles heel injury … I have gotten out of my routine of getting to the gym at 5:30 every morning. I’ve really only been back since Halloween a handful of times. I’ve only rowed a few times too. So I have gained my usual winter hibernation weight … which slows a girl down on a Flyweight. No better reason to get out for a good long row.

On the way in, I stopped at the cabin to find the Deputy on duty, who turned out to be Deputy Staten who was very chipper and sweet on that sunny morning. The lake is open now since the water has come up a few feet. So now I can relax about getting on the lake, but will have to factor in bass boats in my steering.

The first thing I did was place my little red dock … and in the process, managed to stumble on the very rocks I am trying to cover so I won’t fall while carrying my boat. Better to fall putting the dock in place. Luckily, I didn’t get wet, but I did give my left knee a sharp knock that I would have put an ice pack on right away if I weren’t anxious to get on the water.

For some reason, my early start turned into my more usual later-than-I-wanted start. I manage to get going by 12:15. Sunset was going to be at 5:24.

It was in the low 40′s so I wore my neoprene socks trimmed down to my ankles, shorts and two jerseys. One mile into the row … right at Bob’s boathouse, in fact, the long sleeves came off and I rowed sleeveless as is my preference the rest of the day, wind chill factor, or not.

I went ahead and snapped a picture of the boathouse as it is the best indicator of the lake level out there. It has come up several feet, so staying on my GPS line is safer now, but I did make an effort to row inside the line anyway while thinking out-of-the-box, as promised.

Then I started back out and within a few minutes, there was my friend the Bald Eagle flying low and slow 50 feet from my bow. I stopped to watch until he landed on a tree on the opposite bank. I tried to keep my eye on him, but soon rowed out of sight. I saw quite few hawks the rest of the day, but no more close encounters. Watch Eagle Dance below. It is some of slow-motion footage of the Bald Eagle that Bob shot on the day we filmed the Sculling for a Blue Angel Music Video.

It was a beautiful day to be grateful for in early February only a day or two after a snow fall. Despite my later-than-I-wanted start, I fiddled not at all, made no stops longer than it took to take a bite of an apple that I didn’t even finish until I landed and I downed a Doubleshot at about mile 10. I didn’t row very fast, but like the tortoise and the Energizer Bunny, I just kept going and going and going.

My goal for the day was 30 miles. I came in at 31.8.

I’m looking forward to getting back in shape. It’ll take me two or three weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

It was 41 degrees when I got off the water. The little red dock is working like a charm. I decided to pull the car all the way down the ramp to load the boat, which worked out nicely, saving me the long steep climb. But my fingers were just about frostbitten by the time I finished securing the boat. I’ve gotten the hang of cold weather sculling, but Spring is just around the corner and will be so welcomed — even though it means I will have to share the lake with humans again and steer around bass boats.

This time I brought ice packs so I put ice on my knee for the 30 minute drive home, put ice on my knee again when I went to bed and iced it quite a bit today. Other than that, I feel great and my knee is on the mend.

Saturday looks like another rowing day, so the boat stays on the car!! I’ll try to get started earlier and do some real mileage. :)


Eagle Dance — Sculling on a Wild Lake

31.8 Miles — 51.2 Kilometers

The boat stayed on the car. The little red dock got another upgrade. Sunday was going to be in upper 40′s with wind 9 mph or less. I even got an earlier start than usual for the 30 minute drive to the lake. We had been having some rain and snow so chances were the water levels might be up.

I have a confession. Since the Achilles heel injury … I have gotten out of my routine of getting to the gym at 5:30 every morning. I’ve really only been back since Halloween a handful of times. I’ve only rowed a few times too. So I have gained my usual winter hibernation weight … which slows a girl down on a Flyweight. No better reason to get out for a good long row.

On the way in, I stopped at the cabin to find the Deputy on duty, who turned out to be Deputy Staten who was very chipper and sweet on that sunny morning. The lake is open now since the water has come up a few feet. So now I can relax about getting on the lake, but will have to factor in bass boats in my steering.

The first thing I did was place my little red dock … and in the process, managed to stumble on the very rocks I am trying to cover so I won’t fall while carrying my boat. Better to fall putting the dock in place. Luckily, I didn’t get wet, but I did give my left knee a sharp knock that I would have put an ice pack on right away if I weren’t anxious to get on the water.

For some reason, my early start turned into my more usual later-than-I-wanted start. I manage to get going by 12:15. Sunset was going to be at 5:24.

It was in the low 40′s so I wore my neoprene socks trimmed down to my ankles, shorts and two jerseys. One mile into the row … right at Bob’s boathouse, in fact, the long sleeves came off and I rowed sleeveless as is my preference the rest of the day, wind chill factor, or not.

I went ahead and snapped a picture of the boathouse as it is the best indicator of the lake level out there. It has come up several feet, so staying on my GPS line is safer now, but I did make an effort to row inside the line anyway while thinking out-of-the-box, as promised.

Then I started back out and within a few minutes, there was my friend the Bald Eagle flying low and slow 50 feet from my bow. I stopped to watch until he landed on a tree on the opposite bank. I tried to keep my eye on him, but soon rowed out of sight. I saw quite few hawks the rest of the day, but no more close encounters. Watch Eagle Dance below. It is some of slow-motion footage of the Bald Eagle that Bob shot on the day we filmed the Sculling for a Blue Angel Music Video.

It was a beautiful day to be grateful for in early February only a day or two after a snow fall. Despite my later-than-I-wanted start, I fiddled not at all, made no stops longer than it took to take a bite of an apple that I didn’t even finish until I landed and I downed a Doubleshot at about mile 10. I didn’t row very fast, but like the tortoise and the Energizer Bunny, I just kept going and going and going.

My goal for the day was 30 miles. I came in at 31.8.

I’m looking forward to getting back in shape. It’ll take me two or three weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

It was 41 degrees when I got off the water. The little red dock is working like a charm. I decided to pull the car all the way down the ramp to load the boat, which worked out nicely, saving me the long steep climb. But my fingers were just about frostbitten by the time I finished securing the boat. I’ve gotten the hang of cold weather sculling, but Spring is just around the corner and will be so welcomed — even though it means I will have to share the lake with humans again and steer around bass boats.

This time I brought ice packs so I put ice on my knee for the 30 minute drive home, put ice on my knee again when I went to bed and iced it quite a bit today. Other than that, I feel great and my knee is on the mend.

Saturday looks like another rowing day, so the boat stays on the car!! I’ll try to get started earlier and do some real mileage. :)