6.5 hours, 363 miles, 32 days later…

It’s been just over a month since I took the nervous drive from West Hartford, Connecticut south to Princeton, New Jersey to attend the USRowing Identification Camp held in November. That weekend was a pivotal moment in this rowing journey I’ve embarked upon.

I was the oldest out of the 40-45 attendees (many of whom were still rowing for collegiate programs such as Yale, Radcliffe, Princeton, and ironically my alma mater Virginia). Being the only one who had not rowed in college, I felt like the new kid in class all over again. Surely I would pick up the wrong oar, trip and go head first into the water or something embarrassing of that nature. My goal going into the camp was to make it out of the testing round and be seated in a boat; and even that was being a little ambitious. After a few grueling set of physical tests on the erg (“ergometer”= rowing machine), 16 women were selected to take two racing shells out on Carnegie Lake and go through various drills while being observed and coached by the National Team coaches. Waiting for the lineups seemed like an eternity but seeing “OLeary” scribbled in the seat 4 position was worth the agony of the 2K test I had pulled a couple of weeks before. In that moment, I felt that I had arrived and could actually call myself a “rower.”

That was November 14th and I’ve been busting my ass ever since. Over the last month, I’ve managed to find a phenomenal training partner who has become my Yoda of all things rowing. Smart and talented he is. Brian is a lightweight on the Men’s National Team, so brings a breadth of knowledge and expertise. Putting in 60-100 minutes of cardio every morning has become routine. Follow that up with at least another 60-80 minutes of cardio and/or a lift in the afternoon; it’s as if I’m back in college preseason with 2-a-days, ice baths, and always being hungry…my stomach has become a bottomless pit.

This morning was 100 minutes..2×50, 50 minutes on the erg, 50 minutes on the spin bike followed by another 60 minutes on the erg tonight. And that’s a “light” workout. As painful or even boring those long erg sets can be, it’s an unbelievably satisfying feeling after logging over 30,000 meters in a day and knowing you’ll wake up and do it all over again. Like I said, I’m absolutely addicted or just a self-proclaimed masochist. Perhaps a little of both.

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