So the decision had been made and I had decided that I was going to row the Pacific Ocean for the birds. With that done what should be first on my list of things to do? Well there are a lot of things to consider here so the list was going to be long but one item in particular absolutely had to be at the top of my list.
You see when I signed up to row an ocean I had never actually rowed a boat in my life (let me repeat – no I am not crazy). I think it was this little fact that shocked most people when I told them what I was planning to do. I heard a lot of comments like “You are going to do what? Are you crazy??” Well no but the first thing on my list was to learn to row – obviously.
So on June 2, 2012 I show up at the Rio Salado Rowing Club in Tempe, Arizona for their “Fun Introduction to Rowing Event (FIRE)”. I had signed up for this event online and it was designed to provide some general information about rowing, get you on the rowing machines (ergs), and also get you out on the water for a row in a sweep boat. May as well start at the beginning. It was an interesting day to say the least.
For Rio Salado they had no idea what I was planning at this stage but their first clue that something was different was I showed up for the FIRE with Larry Arbanas from Earthwhile Films in tow. I had contacted Larry about doing a documentary about this whole process and the race itself so Larry was coming along to the event to get footage of my first day ever in a boat (please, please, please do not fall on your butt in the water on day 1). There were about 6 people in my class and I was the only one there with a video guy in tow so something was obviously different. Then during introductions all was revealed.
Our instructor for the day started out by asking everyone to introduce themselves and tell the group why they wanted to learn to row. Most people wanted to learn for extra exercise and fitness but of course I had another reason. It came to my turn and there really is no easy way to ease people into it – “My name is Mary Rose and I signed up to row the Pacific Ocean in 2014 so you need to teach me how to row”. Oh the looks of shock! How long have you been rowing for? “Never rowed a boat in my life”. Oh man we have some work to do.
I have to say that that first day down at Rio Salado Rowing Club was amazing. Despite the shocking news, the instrutors there took me under their wing and have been amazing in the support and training they are providing. Right from day 1 the offers for help and training time have been there. People I had met only hours before were giving me lists of places I could train, use of their facilities and helpful places to source information. I am so thankful for the club and their instructors. They are an amazing group of people.
So my training at the club has continued and I progressed through their basic and intermediate classes and now row as part of their fitness class. While rowing on Tempe Town Lake is nothing like rowing the Pacific Ocean my theory is that I can get the technique right on the lake and then do trips to California to get out on the rough water. Technique is going to be important when I have 3000 miles to row. I absolutely do not want bad habits which will leave me more susceptible to injury. Starting January 2013 I have trips scheduled to open water row off the coast of California.
And in February 2013 I have the opportunity to row an actual ocean rowing boat. Training on the lake is in a sculling boat and I figure if I can balance one of those without flipping it then I should be good for the larger ocean boat. That is my theory anyway. So far training is going well.