Senior rower Alexandria Voss will be providing behind-the-scenes insight into the 2013 Big Ten Rowing Championships in her daily travel blog. Check back each day to see what Voss and the Gophers are up to and the excitement they experience at the Big Ten Championships.
Sunday, May 19, 2013 - Race Day
HAPPY BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS!!! When we woke up this morning, it was finally Race Day and we were all so energized. Honestly I had trouble sleeping last night because I kept waking up and thinking, "Wow, we race tomorrow." Needless to say, there was a lot to look forward to in just a few hours.
Once again, we started our day out at LePeep and ate our traditional scrambled eggs and oatmeal. It's just not a Race Day if we don't eat eggs and oatmeal beforehand.
The morning was beautiful and held the promise of perfect racing weather. For once we weren't layered up for warmth or bogged down by maroon rain gear. With unis up and hats on, we launched to our M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A cheer.
Warm up flew by and we were sweating from the humidity long before we finished. With a few Power 20s, practice starts and a practice sprint under our oars, we crossed onto the course and entered our designated lanes. High energy, nerves, tension, that awful drop in the pit of your stomach; we felt it all.
Alignment. All seven boats were in their lanes. Coxswains made quiet calls to their rowers to adjust their courses before the start. The stake boat holders clung to our stern decks seriously. A slight breeze. The sun peeking out from behind hazy clouds.
Silence. The flag went up. "Attention... go." The flag went down.
And the race had begun! In a flurry of water and shouting, all seven boats took off at full speed. Tens were called, moves were made. Exactly what happened and where everyone else was in the race are still unknown to me because once you kick off the foot stretchers on the first stroke of the race; you enter tunnel vision in order to survive. You just go. At the end of the race course were our loyal fans screaming with everything they had.
The horn sounded. We all gasped for air that came thickly to our lungs and our legs burned fiercely. It was finally over. The hardest part of the race was definitely the row back to the deck just because it's so hard to function after expending every ounce of energy you possibly have to spare. But the boats won't float themselves back to the dock.
During our race debrief with our coach, we were asked about what we remembered from the race. Each of us took a moment to stare silently into the air and attempt to recall possibly the most difficult seven minutes of our lives. In the end, each girl was able to repeat a different part of the race, but really the overlying theme was that there was just pain, and a lot of it.
When I think about races, my memories come back in a blinding, flattened version that's blurred around the edges and all sound is combined into one long roar. It's different for everyone, but we all admit that it's a memory you will always have that you can never quite remember.
Even though our team didn't exactly place where we wanted to at the end of the day, we all put in everything we had. I'm proud of my team. I'm proud of our fans. And I'm proud to be Minnesota Rowing.
Saturday, May 18, 2013 - Practice Day
Well, rowing fans, happy practice day! T-1 day to Big Tens. Today was one of our team's infamous grey-on-grey days: the sky was grey, the water was grey, our matching team practice shirts were grey and even some of our sweatpants were grey. Please excuse the pun, but overall the day was greeeeeeyt.
After getting in late last night on two coach buses, our resilient Novice and Varsity squads both rose with the sun and set out for LePeep, a nearby restaurant. Bless the patient souls of all the waiters and waitresses who see our massive team coming through their doors in such a short amount of time and still manage to serve our food with a smile.
When we finished breakfast, we drove out to the race course at Eagle Creek reservoir to unload the trailer, re-rig the boats and then launch for our first practice of the day. The first practice back on the water after a travel day is always rough, because we have to work out a lot of muscle kinks and stiffness, but it was really worth it to run down the course with all the other teams. Thinking about the Big Ten Championship race for nine months straight is one thing, but actually rowing out on the course is a very different experience. If you aren't nervous before the row, you sure are afterward because tomorrow just became real.
Following the first practice, we stopped by the hotel for a short break and then we were off to Panera for lunch. After that, it was back to the race course for our second practice. Surprisingly, the weather held out and didn't down pour on us like the weatherman had promised.
When we returned to the hotel again, we had our boat meetings. For those unfamiliar with the term, the night before every race we get together with our coaches and the other girls in our boats and go over the race plan for the following day one last time.
It was bitter sweet for me as I realized that this could be my last boat meeting ever. However, my coxswain did an excellent job of making the meeting memorable. We all closed our eyes and visualized the race while she literally went over the exact calls she is going to make tomorrow. I had goose bumps.
Once all of the boats finished their meetings, the team once again departed the hotel to (you guessed it) eat again. If you haven't picked up on a pattern yet, our lives basically consist of eating, practicing, eating, practicing and finally eating again. There may or may not be other activities disbursed in between, such as sleeping on the bus and during every available second, but what can you do when you exercise so much?
As we settle into our hotel rooms for the night, I can feel the tension growing in my stomach. What will tomorrow bring? Will the weather hold up? What waits for us at the finish line?
My teammates and I just have to remember this: we can only do what we can do and nothing more. As long as we throw our hearts into the races tomorrow and have a much deserved confidence in ourselves, we can never truly be defeated.
Friday, May 17, 2013 - Travel Day
Hey! I'm Alexandria Voss, better known as Voss to all my teammates. I'm a senior in the First Varsity Four on the women's rowing team and couldn't be more excited to share my last Big Ten Championship race weekend with you.
The week leading up to today has been hectic with finals, papers, and group projects, but we all have somehow managed to finish it off. Now with all the school stress over we can completely focus on Sunday, our Race Day. The excitement is building and I actually feel like I have energy for the first time in awhile. Taper is definitely the best part of the year.
We left campus today and headed out to the airport. All that's on our minds is this weekend. On the bus, off the bus, on the plane, off the plane. We're all so used to traveling by now that we can simply go through the motions and enjoy our last guaranteed trip together. As a team we will race on Sunday, and as a team we will set our sights high. If we can do what we do in practice every day, then we can take the next step to NCAAs.
We are all especially looking forward to the next couple of days because some of our families are coming out to cheer us on in Windy Indy. The best cheer squad around, our parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends have come from far and wide to cheer us across that finish line.
For all the fans out there reading this, just know that we can never express how very special it is to know that you all care so much about us. It would be impossible to ever thank you enough.
And speaking of loving fans, that's definitely been a big part of my visualization today. As a rower, you live to hear the roar of the wind, feel the splash of the oars around you, and pull even harder than you were before just because your coxswain is calling on you to do so. But one of the best parts of the race to visualize for is the very end. We know that our fans will be there screaming and ringing their cowbells furiously. It's a magical and empowering sound that is only loved second to hearing the horn sound as you cross the finish line and collapse from exhaustion.
Seven minutes. That's all we get.
Seven minutes to prove that all the hours and work and sweat and sacrifices have been worth it. Seven minutes to kill ourselves for glory. Seven minutes of pain so excruciating it has been described as being as bad as child birth. But it doesn't matter. All that we have are those seven minutes to prove that we are in a boat and we are pulling our brains out for our team.
As we arrive at the hotel tonight, I'm nervous. But that's a good sign. As Leo Lewis told me earlier today, if you're nervous about something, it must mean a lot to you.
Get ready: it's Race Weekend.
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