Monday, June 8, 2009

Dragon Boat Racing - Time Trials

After a pasta dinner and going to bed at a relatively early time, Andrew and I were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Saturday morning, despite waking up early on a weekend day. Knowing that I had to be onsite by 9:45 am to meet with the rest of my team, we wanted to leave the house by 8 am to allow time to pick up Phu and find a parking space while having Andrew’s parents follow us to the MIT boathouse.

I was incredibly nervous all morning because it was competition time and I was afraid of letting my team down despite feeling pretty confident in my paddling form. So much so that it was a struggle to force down breakfast, which anyone who knows me will tell you, nothing usually gets in the way of my appetite!

After a brief struggle to find parking and a concern over having enough quarters to feed my meter (I had used up all my quarters on tolls and meters from attending previous practices), we made it on time to greet the rest of my company team. I brought along a dozen of my banana chocolate chip muffins which were surprisingly well-received by the group as I had assumed that most people would’ve eaten before arrive at the time trials.

As expected, the Boston Dragon Boat organization was very strict in checking that all team members had attended at least three practices (they had maintained a checklist in which we all had to sign in with for each practice attended) and were checking our ID’s against the photocopies on our original registration forms. Once you passed muster, you were given one of those strangely durable paper/plastic wristbands as proof that you were allowed to compete. We had our first hiccup of the morning at this point, as a few team members didn’t have their ID’s with them and had just a short amount of time to run to their cars (which could literally be a mile away) and return.

After loading on the dock (having our wristbands checked once again) with the two other teams, we had another scare when we realized we only had 14 members present for the team – a full racing team is usually 18 people and I was told that we could go as low as 15 members only with approval from the Boston Dragon Boat organization. Luckily, two team members returned with ID’s in time and two more showed up literally as we were starting to load the boat.

And as the for time trials themselves – they consisted of two heats with three boats competing in each. The premise is that you’re not really competing against the other boats but just trying to get a fast time for your own boat. You do one race, paddle back to the start line and stay on the boat and then complete another race. The average of the two times is taken and used to determine which bracket you’re placed into on Sunday, the actual day of racing.

This my team at the start of the race, paddles in water, ready to go:

And we're off!

The roughly three minutes of paddling goes by quickly:

Although at times, it feels like forever!

So I’ll admit it – my team stunk during our time trials. We were slow out of the gate, out of synchronization and not paddling correctly, which means we ended up far behind the two other teams in both heats. After a painfully honest team meeting afterwards where we all proposed theories on why weren’t doing well and what needed to be corrected, my team felt a renewed sense of optimism for Sunday since we were going to try a brand new start (combination of fast and slow strokes to get your boat launched at the start of the race).

Overall, I couldn’t complain. It was the start of a beautiful day with truly glorious New England summer weather, I had my own cheering section in the form of Andrew and his parents and I had just successfully completed two full dragon boat races on the Charles.

Needless to say, I felt pumped! The only thing I had to worry about was keeping my wristband intact for the races the next day.

Which means, in my case, I showered with it on and in Phu’s case, he simply didn’t shower:

Photos courtesy of Tom S. and Andrew S.

No comments: