There I was. Heart beating slowly. I could hear every beat in my head as I sat on the start line, knowing that as soon as the flag dropped, it would go up to 180 beats per minute. I sat there knowing that the lactic acid in my legs would build and build, making my muscles feel like I was on fire, but I would crave that pain. Then I hear the starter turn on the megaphone and say, “Ready…Attention…Row”. My body, along with my three teammates, explodes off the start, pushing our high carbon fiber rowing shell from 0-48 strokes per minute. We were on the start line of the Stotesberry cup, the largest and most significant scholastic high school rowing race in the world, but to us, it was just another race. A race that Jake, Jack, and I had been preparing for all four years of high school. Jake, Jack and I all started rowing together freshman year and were my closet friends, and sat right behind me in the boat. All of our hard work had built up to this moment; every meter row, every minute at practice, every weight lifted lead us to this moment.
We took a full length from Fordham off the start, and we’re sitting in first with a comfortable lead. My legs were burning, and my heart rate was 195 BPM, but none of that mattered. After the start, we pulled away. We went under the first bridge, and we pulled away from the field of other boats. This was the relaxed part; the adrenaline was rushing. I was getting excited. We quickly moved ahead of Fordham and broke them easily. But then came the hard part. We now had used more energy than all the other crews and had to hold on and hope our training was enough.
Next thing I knew, we were 500 meters down. Where the adrenaline wears off and all of the boats actual pace is displayed. The rest of the field dropped back. It was just us and Fordham prep. I slowed the pace just enough to catch my breath but also maintain enough speed to keep our lead. Joe, our coxswain, was encouraging us. He screamed into the mic that we need to hold our form, and the race was ours to win. This middle 500 went by quickly. Before I knew it, we were just before the final 500-meter marker. In my head, I thought, “This is the hardest part right here. It is all mental now”. Then the time to sprint had come.
The intensity was rising as Fordham started to reel us is. We now had 200 meters left. I could feel my heart rate hitting the threshold. 200bpm, 202, 203, 205. The finish line could not come soon enough. We were maintaining the lead. Every stroke I took felt good. I could feel the finish line coming. Then Joe made the final call: “Blackout Ten,” he shouted. Our goal was to go so hard that you would blackout. Joe counted down the strokes. “3…2…1”. Then he screamed, “Yes! Yes, Boys.” At that moment nothing else mattered. The lactate and pain in my muscles immediately perished.
All our hard work paid off. We paddled over to the trophy dock. We got out of the boat, and my coach greeted me with a huge hug that felt like it lasted forever. He congratulated all of us and had us step up onto the podium. The medals from a polished silver platter came to the podium. My coach shook my hand, and I bowed my head to revive my medal. There was no better feeling than this one. My coach, who was a solemn man and rarely smiled, had the happiest expression on his face. We knew all of our hard work paid off as we lifted the Bill Beldon Cup and everyone cheered. The thought hit me. All the hours, meters and pain spent and suffered was worth it to achieve this one moment.