Today I took a midmorning break to go down to the basement and do a live workout on the Hydrow rowing machine. I was getting close to 7 million lifetime meters, and when you’re about to reach a milestone on a live row, the instructor gives you a shout-out to recognize the accomplishment. My lifetime meters weren’t quite close enough, however, so I had to do a long warm-up first. I did a “virtual journey” with scenery going by on the screen, but even so, it still felt a bit tedious.

When I finished my warm-up and joined the live workout, the instructor, Aisyah, gave me a nice shout-out. She was rowing in a single scull on the Charles River, and she said that it was hot in Boston, but she wasn’t going to complain. She talked about the importance of getting a workout regularly, even when it starts to feel like a grind. Exercise routines and Monday mornings are good for you, she said.

The workout was 30 minutes at an easy pace, and I felt pretty good afterward. Several people who did the live row gave me nice comments in the Hydrow app, and a “7M” badge appeared on the right side of the screen. Hydrow has badges for milestones and for special-event workouts, such as holidays. Clicking on a badge starts animated confetti flying.

Screenshot from Hydrow rowing machine showing 7M badge.

Sometimes it can seem a bit silly, all the bells-and-whistles gadgets that the modern world uses to keep us interested in our daily grinds. Still, they are mostly good for us, as we need to stick with routines to make meaningful changes over time. Whatever keeps us going is helpful, even when it gets corny.

August 2, 2022 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

On Monday morning a light rain was falling, so I chose a rainy-day image for the art display that hangs on a wall of my dining room. The weather forecast on my phone was predicting more rain later.

Photo of leafy green trees on a rainy day.

As the day went on, however, the sky cleared. By late afternoon, it was sunny and warm. I went rowing with my husband, taking it easy and just relaxing.

The rainy-day picture was an obvious mismatch when we sat down to dinner. I thought about displaying a sunnier view, but by then it was already late in the day, so there didn’t seem to be much reason to look for a different image.

“I’m glad you didn’t change the picture. That’s my favorite kind of rain.” My seven-year-old younger self, Ponch, peeked out of my subconscious to comment. She was wearing her usual poncho, which covered most of a red-striped dress, and white knee socks with penny loafers.

“Hi Ponch.” I glanced back at the picture. “What do you like about it?”

“My favorite rain is when it’s just sprinkling a little, so you can walk around and feel the rain on your face, but it’s not so much that Mom says to come back inside and put on a raincoat.”

“I have a raincoat for rowing. Mostly I don’t wear it, though, because I would be too hot, so I just go out without it and get wet.”

“Well, you’re grown up and nobody makes you wear it.” Ponch sounded just a bit envious. “Your boat looks like it would be fun. Maybe I can row it sometime?”

“It’s too big for kids your age.” I smiled. “But I am a future you, so I can promise that you’ll have plenty of time to row it when you are older.”

July 7, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When I rowed in the Independence Day regatta last weekend in Philadelphia, my single scull race turned into much more of an adventure than I had anticipated. On Saturday, my husband and I were struggling with the mixed double because it was our first time rowing on the Schuylkill River. There was some wind, the waves felt unpredictable, and we kept putting our oars wrong and just couldn’t get into a good rhythm.

We still had fun on Saturday, though, walking past the Art Museum where people run up and down the steps pretending to be Rocky, and seeing the old boathouses on what is called Boathouse Row. They were built in the 1870s or thereabouts and are beautifully maintained.

Photo of Boathouse Row in Philadelphia.

On Sunday morning the river looked calmer, and we went out for our lightweight single races hoping to do better. The men raced their singles before the women, so they were already on the course when Deb (my women’s double partner) and I carried our singles down to the dock where we would launch them.

The dock belonged to Temple University, and it was high above the water, built for large crew boats. As soon as my teeny-tiny single went into the water, it became obvious that I was going to have a major problem just getting off the dock. My boat was so far below the level of the dock that there was no clearance whatsoever between my riggers (which hold the oars) and the dock, which had a strip of soft rubber along the edge.

When I got into my boat, the rigger on the dock side sank down into the rubber strip, and I was completely stuck. I tried pushing my boat out farther than usual before stepping into it, but that did not help because my riggers, although not totally flat, have less of an upward angle than on most sculling boats. I couldn’t lean away far enough to get unstuck, either.

Meanwhile, Deb’s boat, which has higher riggers and is somewhat too big for her, looked like it would be able to get off the dock without any problems. Other women already had launched. I had the smallest boat and was the only one who got stuck. Although it was early enough that there would be plenty of time to row over to the starting line, I first had to find a way to get off the dock.

“Deb, help!” I called, while she was still getting ready to launch. This didn’t look like something I could manage by myself. Deb’s race was before mine, but we had allowed enough time that she wasn’t in a hurry. I finally managed to get off the dock by pushing my boat just past the end, halfway off the dock, with both riggers out over the water. Deb held the boat in this precarious position while I carefully climbed into it.

Then I rowed around to the middle of the river and into my lane, along with Deb, heading toward the starting line. This would be a floating start, meaning that there was no platform for everyone to line up. Instead, the competitors would sit next to each other in the lanes, floating there while waiting for the starting official to say “Go!” and drop the flag.

We had to go through a bridge before starting the race. Because I was early, I waited before the bridge for a few minutes. The water was calm, and there was little wind. I thought I’d be okay rowing through the bridge and waiting on the other side until it was time to line up for my race. As soon as I did, however, it proved to be a mistake when a strong tailwind started blowing fiercely.

I stopped rowing, but my little boat was still getting blown down toward the starting line. People were yelling at me to back up, which was quite a struggle in that wind. Thankfully, by the time my race was called, the wind had died down for the moment. The referee in charge of getting the boats properly aligned in the lanes did a good job, and we got started quickly.

I managed to row more evenly than in the previous day’s mixed double, but I still had trouble judging the waves and couldn’t get going fast enough to stay near the frontrunners. Afterward, when I was rowing back to the shore after an unimpressive finish, a gust blew my hat off. The hat fell in the water next to the boat, and I had to back up and retrieve it before it sank too far. When I arrived at the recovery dock where my husband was waiting to help me take my boat out, I threw the soaked hat on the dock, grumbling about how that was the sort of race it had been.

My husband was cheerful, although he hadn’t rowed a fast race either. He told me that I should count it as a victory to have rescued the hat. Also, he said, now that I’d had a floating start in my single race, I would feel more comfortable doing it again in the future.

“This was my first floating start in the single?” Until he mentioned it, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. “It didn’t bother me at all. Actually, it felt like the only thing that went right.”

After we got all the singles ready for transport and strapped them back on the boat trailer, I had one more race—the women’s double with Deb. We rowed pretty well against strong competition and finished third, mainly due to her efforts rather than mine. She had a better sense of how to deal with those funky waves. Still, it was a fun vacation over a long weekend, and I am feeling pretty good about it.

My rowing club’s annual training camp, on the first weekend in May, left me feeling stressed. That was mainly because I hadn’t left myself enough time to rest and recover after traveling with my husband on a road trip to Chattanooga the previous weekend. We had fun, but it was a long way home, and then we were back to work as usual.

I hadn’t quite gotten back my energy when the rowing camp started, and the weather conditions left much to be desired—heavy rain on Friday, then high water, and a chilly wind. Walking between the boathouse and the dock, I noticed violets blooming in the grass, but I didn’t pay much attention to them because I was more focused on avoiding the goose poop.

Afterward, I was lying awake in bed on Sunday night sometime around midnight, still feeling unsettled. My bed felt like it was not firmly attached to the floor but, instead, was bobbing around like a boat on the river. Then it occurred to me that my archetypal imaginary protector, Dame Shadow, featured in several posts, hadn’t been around for quite some time. Admittedly, she could be troublesome: her past antics included giving me a backache to get my attention (twice) and shrieking at me to trust no one.

Still, I felt that Dame Shadow’s protection would be helpful at that moment. I did a bit of searching in odd corners of my psyche, trying to determine what had become of her. Although I didn’t see or hear the Dame anywhere, my bed started to feel like it was solidly anchored again. Behind my closed eyelids, tiny violet dots appeared all over the comforter, which floated peacefully above me; and I drifted off to sleep.

By morning I still didn’t feel entirely refreshed, but the image of violets floating on calm water had helped to settle my mind. I had a quiet workweek, followed by a mostly unhurried weekend in which I spent time in the yard, weeding and mulching. Meanwhile, my husband traveled to Michigan for a junior rowing regatta where he was a referee. He sent me a photo of the course, which was beautiful.

Photo of starting line at rowing regatta.

After he returned, we went for a short row in our double; he wanted to spend some time outdoors with me, even though he was tired from driving and from waking up early. We also rowed on Monday and Tuesday.

I wasn’t expecting to go out yesterday because of rain, but it started tapering off later in the day. My husband said we’d be fine with our raincoats. I wasn’t as confident because we’d gotten soaked through our raincoats during the rowing camp, but it turned out he was right. The water was calm, the rain moved off, and we saw a rainbow. It was getting dark by the time we took the boat out of the water, and the grass was still wet, as were my feet; but then I thought about walking through violets, and all was well.

April 5, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Saturday’s rowing regatta went well. My husband and I both had four races because our friendly mixed double rivals from the Great Miami club came to the regatta (we finished just ahead of them by 0.7 seconds in the 1K sprint, for third place) and each of us also rowed a single-sex double with them as our partners. My women’s double advanced to the finals in a large field of competitors, but did not medal. My husband also coxed for Great Miami once.

There wasn’t much time to rest between the 1K mixed double and the 2K because they were scheduled fairly close together. That was all right, though, because we still had a good amount of energy. Unfortunately, we didn’t go straight in our lane because of shifting winds (we need to work on that) and whacked a few buoys with our oars, which slowed us down. We finished three seconds behind the second-place boat and 20 seconds behind the crew that took first place.

Rowing medals from Clemson Sprints 2022.

We would at least have gotten third place regardless, as there were only three entries in the mixed double 2K race. Still, we’re happy with our medals because we were middle-aged lightweights racing against much larger college athletes, and we stayed close to them all the way down the course. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…

When I went on vacation with my husband the last week of February, we brought along a rowing machine—a Concept2 RowErg, which has the advantage of being easy to take apart and move. It fit reasonably well in the back of my husband’s SUV with one of the back seats folded down and our daughter in the other seat, with her little dog on her lap. Arranging the suitcases around the RowErg was manageable, and the boats and bicycles went on a trailer.

Our plan was to row our double scull on the Florida Intracoastal Waterway for a week, so as to get back in practice after being off the water during the cold northern winter, and then race in a regatta on Sunday, February 27th in Sarasota. The regatta was smaller than usual because a circus had taken up much of the space in the county park where it was held, but we still had good competition. Bringing the erg to Florida allowed us to keep up with the winter fitness schedule our online coach had given us.

We set up the erg on a screened back porch of the house where we stayed. The view of the bay was gorgeous. Before rowing on the water in the early afternoon, we did our workouts on the erg in the morning, while the temperature was still reasonably cool.

I still felt like I was wilting in the Florida humidity, though. After being indoors all winter, I wasn’t at all used to it. A demanding workout on Wednesday morning, which focused on more strength at a slower rate, left me totally dripping with sweat and grumbling to myself about how I could’ve been so crazy as to be a fitness freak while on vacation.

The afternoon rows on the water were easier. We just paddled around with the dolphins and enjoyed the sunshine and the lovely scenery. Then we rode our bicycles in the late afternoon, on a path that ran beside the Gulf Coast for part of the way. It felt like a great, relaxing vacation—but for self-inflicted erg misery.

When race day finally came, though, I gained more appreciation for the daily workout schedule. Sprinting for the 1K distance that is standard for Masters races didn’t seem nearly as long, or as hard, as in past years. I was able to keep the pace more even, and each stroke felt more powerful. When I looked to see how far I had gone on the course, thinking that I was about halfway, I was surprised to see that my boat was already two-thirds of the way to the finish line. In the single, I was far ahead of my competitor in the next lane; and in the double, we nosed in front of a team that always used to beat us handily at regattas.

Now I feel as if I am recalibrating—that is to say, tossing out old assumptions about my limits and getting used to having a healthier and more capable body. My husband just signed us up to row our double next month in an open 2K sprint with a younger field of competitors, which we haven’t done before. We may not win, or even place, but it will be a good experience no matter what happens; and I’m not going to make any limiting assumptions before we even try.

After we got back home, I had a weird dream in which I lived in a messy apartment. A circus started setting up on the grounds of the apartment complex, like what happened with the regatta at the park. I left the apartment and came back to find that the building where it had been, just a few hours earlier, was no longer there. I saw a construction worker walking by and asked him what had happened. He told me that the apartment building had been temporarily disassembled to make space for the circus and would be put back together afterward.

There’s plenty of fodder for dream interpretation in that one!

In addition to my regular work, I’ve been putting together a PowerPoint presentation entitled Resilience, Stress Tolerance, and Flexibility as part of a group that presents online sessions for employees about digital transformation and related issues. I haven’t used PowerPoint much before, and it’s interesting to see what can be done with design and images. I like this Lego juggler image to illustrate the flexibility needed in a work environment where the pace of automation keeps increasing.

A Lego person juggling Lego pieces.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Meanwhile, after a short break when the sprint season ended, my husband and I are training for the rowing regattas again. During the fall season the races are 5K, which is about the same length as one lap on our usual course on the river. Usually we row two laps, but we are now rowing three laps most days to build up our endurance. With the shorter days this time of year, we’re in a bit of a hurry to row that much before it gets dark, and sometimes we still have work to do when we get home. We’re also doing some online yoga and mobility exercises in the evenings.

Finding time to write blog posts has seemed like a bit of a challenge, but as I’ve built up more mental and physical flexibility, I’m finding that creative ideas come a bit quicker. The self-improvement advice that I’m putting into the presentation seems to be doing me some good in real life!

September 8, 2021 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

One good thing about the shorter days at the end of summer, when it gets close to sunset while I am out rowing with my husband, is that we see more wildlife on the river. Sometimes that can be kind of freaky, though, as in “the freaks come out at night.”

We were rowing along in our double at a nice steady pace on Monday when, all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise right next to us. It sounded halfway between a snarl and a splutter, or maybe a dog sneezing. But we hadn’t expected to hear anything like that in the middle of the river! Because we were so startled, we stopped rowing by instinct, and then we saw a furry little head right next to the boat. We had bumped into a raccoon swimming across the river, and it looked more startled than we were.

Because we hadn’t brought a phone in the boat, we could not take a photo—so, instead, I’m illustrating this post with me standing next to the boat after we rowed it.

Meg standing next to a double scull on slings.

Today was much quieter, without much to be seen other than the usual ducks and geese. It’s always good to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine, though, whether we have unexpected adventures or not.

June 26, 2021 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The killdeer nest by the boathouse, which I wrote about earlier this month, has unfortunately gotten its eggs eaten again. The birds only try twice per year, so they have moved on to wherever they go when it’s not nesting season. I’m hoping that their destination is somewhere peaceful, like the landscape shown in this image that I put on my art display this morning:

Michigan river landscape with flowers and trees

(Image credit: Andy Thomas)

When I went rowing with my husband on Wednesday, we planned to do two 1K sprints in our double and then just paddle around and enjoy the river afterward. Boat traffic is supposed to keep to the right, so when we turned around after our first sprint, we crossed the river to stay on our proper side. We’d almost reached the end of our second sprint, getting up pretty good speed, when a quad (4-person sculling boat) wandered very far left of center and collided with us.

The quad wasn’t going very fast, thankfully; but we were, and one of the aluminum riggers on the quad struck my husband with enough force to snap the rigger clean off. He wasn’t seriously injured, just bruised—which was very fortunate, considering how hard the impact was. We also were lucky that our double was not damaged. Of course, the quad will be out of commission until a new rigger can be delivered.

Although my husband was still sore on Friday, we went rowing after work anyway, planning to just go slowly. When we took our boat down to the river, we heard a loud commotion going on with some mallards near the shore. A male duck was on his back in the water, moving his legs feebly. (With mallards, gender is obvious because the males have green heads.)

Another duck, very agitated, was quacking loudly and flapping all around. At first glance, I thought perhaps two male ducks had been fighting and the one on his back had gotten the worst of it. After we had rowed a lap, however, I looked more closely and saw that the quacking duck had a brown head and was therefore female. The duck lying on his back was no longer moving, but just floated there like—well, a dead duck.

By the time we rowed another lap, the carcass had floated into the weeds by the shore, and the female duck was no longer quacking or flapping. Instead, the poor thing was perched motionless on a nearby rock, silently grieving for her mate.

I found myself thinking that any day when our family members are still in the world with us, it’s a good day.

June 17, 2021 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I mentioned in the comments to my post last Thursday that at the rowing club, a pair of killdeer make their nest every year on the gravel path between the boathouse and the dock. Whoever is first to notice the nest puts a traffic cone beside it, to make sure nobody steps on the eggs. The boathouse is located on parkland that is full of wildlife, however, and some small predator always eats the eggs before they can hatch.

The eggs got eaten again in early June, but the birds are valiantly trying once more. Their new nest is much closer to the boathouse. Probably because the gravel is thicker there, I’m guessing, and not because the predators are fewer. I took a photo that shows how the eggs match the gravel and are almost invisible.

Killdeer nest in gravel with two eggs.

It looks like an uncomfortable place to sit—but to each their own, I suppose. Everyone is hoping the birds will have better luck with the eggs this time!