Ninety percent of my water time is spent with my long-time rowing partner Stefan Benton in Maas Open Water double, an ocean-worthy, 31-foot-long craft that has gotten us through breaking waves, tanker wakes, and Goliath-strong tides.
Days when I'm not in my trusty Maas, I tip toward the other end of rowing scale, balancing precariously in a Filippi racing single, a sleek little Italian number that's as svelte as a runway model and fast as a Greyhound.
If I'm lucky, I row my Filippi (AKA Principessa) about three times a month. It's definitely not enough and the boat lets me know by threatening to flip every time I get in it. Still I carry on, whispering to the water gods to be nice and reminding myself of coach Gordon Hamilton's words of wisdom: "If you're stable, the boat is stable. "
Core strong and constant notes to self to stay smooth, I venture my way away from the dock. A few deep breaths and several strokes later, my shoulders relax and the rhythm takes hold.
I may not be the best rower (far from it), but I've put time on and off the water studying the stroke and the sport—and that's what keeps me afloat.
Rowing is a craft, just like any other. Time spent practicing is time rewarded—and I remind myself of this constantly. It's not unlike when I start to write and the doubt monkeys start swinging limb to limb in the jungle gym of my mind, sneering at my efforts and cackling their weird monkey laugh.
It's moments like these (and we all have them) that you need to breathe deeply and trust your craft, whatever it may be.
Rowing, running, writing, yoga, painting, poetry, baking the best damn pies on this planet—you name it. If it's your passion, chances are you've put considerable time into it. I heard an excerpt today from an upcoming interview with the poet Mary Oliver who said that her first poems were horrible but she kept at it. As she put it, "I've been to the moon and back many times with my pencil and pad." Her effort has paid off, yours will too.
Let your shoulders relax and tell those mind monkeys to go play somewhere else. Simply trust your craft and it will see you through.