Recently I rowed the Open Ocean Regatta, a race most people would call crazy. The nine-mile course goes out the Golden Gate, requires three hairpin turns around buoys (not so easy in a rowing shell), and calls for considerable chutzpah.
I've done this race for years. And I love it about as much as I hate it.
Truth told, I race to train. The early mornings spent running up against my physical and mental limits, redefining them or simply just respecting them – to me that's what's it's all about.
The butterflies, the race prep, the thought that I have to be on a starting line at a certain time on a certain day when – dammit – I'm an adult and have enough deadlines in my life, well, that stuff doesn't thrill me.
So why do it? Because I can. I've finished first and dead last. Not going to lie – dead last stung. But as I get older, there's something about just being at the start that's a victory in and of itself.
Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner, was recently interviewed by Terry Gross on "Fresh Air." Burfoot was on his way to finishing his 45th Boston Marathon when the bombing cut his run short.
At first he was angry, but Burfoot, being a seasoned (meaning older) athlete had this to say: "I run it with the full knowledge that every mile out there is a gift and every finish line is a gift and knowing that I don't know when it's going to end and be taken away from me ... So it does teach you some lessons … Marathoning teaches you great humility … you are often defeated along the path."
Open ocean racing is no different. Tides play games, boat wakes wreak havoc, and flat water is a gift. Anything can happen and will. But I guarantee you, 99.9% of the people who rowed and finished the 2013 Open Ocean Regatta were ecstatic. They stepped out of the ordinary and did something that they can take with them their whole lives.
Is racing a risk? I guess. Depends on what you're in it for. Is it fun? Not always. But whether it's a race, a creative pursuit, or travel, just make it to the starting line and give it a go. You can worry about the blisters later.