Sculling along, singing a song

This is a long story, but it should make up for not having posted anything in almost a year. 🙂 Anyway, it started in 2010, when I headed off to Whistler Bike Park with the intention of making all the jumps on A-Line. I made it home without any life-changing injuries, but on returning to Scotland I discovered I had lost the will to ride, and all my old mountain biking buddies had bought road bikes and had children. The following year I decided to sell my collection of mountain bikes and take up rowing. After many hundreds of miles of floundering in various boats, I found myself on the Castle Semple Rowing Club’s veteran squad. I’ve mostly rowed in quads, fours and eights, but this year I’m trying to race the single scull.

Ah, the single scull. I want to write about it like a Victorian warning his readers of the evils of the penny farthing that bucketh its rider off in the street. It’s basically a long, narrow plastic tub with 2 paddles, how hard can it be? Well, it is narrower than your backside and completely unstable, and to get it up to racing speed requires at least 30 strokes per minute with a good fraction of your body weight behind each one. The oar blades have to go in at just the right depth and come out again cleanly, and you also have to keep track of where you are and steer a course backwards without looking over your shoulder too much.

If I stay calm and don’t try too hard, I have a chance. If I get nervous, the boat starts to lurch around. If I try to figure out what is going on and fix it, that just makes it worse.

All this was explained to me by Rachel our coach from a small motorboat on Castle Semple Loch, after a series of disastrous 200m and 500m pieces at what was supposed to be race pace. “I can’t fault your committment”, she said, “but you’re getting nervous and you’re overthinking it. You know what I like to do, is pick a song with the right tempo and sing it to myself. Nothing too manic though. I like the Nolans.”

Suddenly it dawned on me that sculling had become a metaphor for life itself. Hadn’t I just spent a day lurching around the office and making things worse through trying to fix them? Made an entire career out of getting nervous and overthinking things?

Well, now I’m in the mood for dancing.