Oxford Lightweights

30 Jan, 06 – 20:39

Q from Caroline Haines: Before this, what would you regard as your greatest achievement?

A: Strangely, for someone who doesn’t think of herself as sporty (just ask anyone who knew me in my schooldays!) the contenders for Greatest Achievement are all sports-related. Maybe that’s precisely why – I have to exert mind over matter to make myself do these things.

The winner would have to be being selected for the stroke seat of the Oxford Lightweights for the race against Cambridge in 1989.

The previous year I’d rowed in the reserve boat for the heavyweights, Osiris, so I’d had some good coaching. But to be selected I would have to lose about 15 pounds and maintain if not improve my fitness, so over the summer vacation I dieted and trained diligently.

The autumn trials went well for me, and I managed to keep the weight off despite a few lapses of self-control (a few of us made the calorific discovery that toasted Mars Bar sandwiches are heaven on a plate) and I was over the moon to be selected for the stroke seat, which some would say is the most important seat in the boat.

I remember looking in the bathroom mirror and thinking, ‘Hey, you’re Ok. You’re stroke of the Oxford Lightweights. Wow.’ Big-headed? Maybe. But I felt I’d thoroughly earned my place. It was a good feeling – to set a goal, work hard for it, and achieve it.

The other contenders for Greatest Achievement would be the New York Marathon 1998 and London Marathon 2001. What attracted me to the event was people saying, ‘You will learn things about yourself during a marathon’. I never really did, except that marathons are deeply unpleasant and make your toenails drop off.

3000 miles across the Atlantic, on the other hand, while also being deeply unpleasant, really does let you get to know yourself. Does it ever!

Calling all ocean rowers: speaking of nails dropping off, my fingernails seem to be slowly parting company with my fingers. Is this normal? Help!

Other stuff:

I was rowing along this hot afternoon when there was a strange sensation on my skin – familiar but almost forgotten. It took me a moment or two to remember what it was… Could it be… No, surely not… A breeze! Picking up nicely now. Long may it last.

Texts: thanks to Barbara McNulty from Andark, Paul Nicholson, Margaret and Bob (would be v nice if Chris’s dad is right, but the weather seems to be so unpredictable this year!), Snowy (well, I did use a broken oar to make splints, but it was my idea first!), HHS (v happy to hear about massage place in Antigua!), Fran (really good to hear from you), Bill Rowlands in Libya, DB.

Rita Savage PS: Roz’ father believed that a man’s legs were made just long enough to reach from the car seat to the accelerator. He could hardly believe that he had fathered a marathon runner, but was very proud of her achievement.

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see http://www.atlanticrowingrace.co.uk

Wind: E, 3-15 knots (estimate)
Weather: sunshine
Sea state: calm ealy, moderate later
Hours rowing: 12

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