Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
With retirement on the horizon a year ago, my wife, Carol Voyles, had a vague dream of taking up rowing, a sport that would allow her to spend idyllic mornings on the water, watching birds and getting a little exercise.
It turns out that rowing can become a sport that turns casual participants into serious competitors who train, train, train to row their boats swiftly down the lake.
After nine months of getting up at 4:30 a.m. three to four mornings a week to learn and labor at the River City Rowing Club in West Sacramento, Carol recently graduated from novice to intermediate rower. She promptly signed up for a big-time race near Eugene, Oregon, last weekend to make her debut.
The Covered Bridge Regatta attracted close to 600 entrants from 39 rowing clubs in five states. The competitors ranged from high school kids to senior citizens, divided into a variety of classes. Carol was in an eight-person boat for two intermediate 1,000-meter races. Among her fellow River City rowers, Carol, at 65, was both the oldest and the least experienced. She was eager and nervous, uncertain whether she could keep up with a demanding pace while executing precise strokes.
Carol had plenty of time to wrestle with her performance anxiety. She had volunteered to drive four fellow rowers and their gear from Sacramento to Eugene last Friday, a 400-mile trip. Her races were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
The regatta was held at Dexter Lake, about 15 miles southeast outside of Eugene. The weather was chilly and overcast, with some rain. In her first race, Carol’s team was composed of four men and four women. In the second race the team was all women. Neither team came close to winning.
But still, Carol came home delighted that her hard training had enabled her to keep up with her teammates and meet her own expectations. She seems all fired up to train and compete on the intermediate level. She hasn’t so much retired as started a new and exciting chapter in her life.
And she still talks with pleasure about seeing the birds on Lake Washington in West Sacramento in the early morning.