A long time ago, I used to be into rowing. Like, a lot. Hehe. My loved ones are still a little unsettled by the amount of time I spent rowing and mostly tálking about rowing. Looking back at the past few years, I haven’t been in a boat for over 4 years but I fancied myself a little trip down memory lane, to the good ol’ days where rowing was life and life was great.
The decision to start rowing
When I decided to study in Leiden, I also set out to become part of some association or society. I wanted to make friends and I had heard the stories of making friends for life during college time. During the introductory week, I visited literally every society Leiden has to offer (and there are plenty). I had a good time, but I kept asking myself ‘do I really want to be drinking here three times a week, when I don’t drink any alcohol?’. Thus became the search for a society that did have a social aspect, but focused on other things as well.
The girlfriend of Victor’s roommate and friend had been rowing in Groningen at that time and I always listened to her stories, feeling impressed by the roughness of the sport and the dedication it required. I decided to give it a try and signed up for a trial during the water sports event of the week. I LOVED IT. I was clumsy, out of sync and for some reason my hands hurt after five minutes… but after only ten minutes, I started to get the hang of it and when I hopped out of the boat, I was sold. I signed up immediately. Best decision ever.
The first few weeks
We had an intro week right after the university week and I made some great new friends. We had the best weather and the best time. I loved being out on the water and improving in a sport that nobody was good at in the beginning! After the first week, we were put in smaller teams consisting of five or six girls (or guys, of course) that could decide together how often they wanted to train. As I also go all out on everything, I was placed in a very fanatic group and before I knew it, I was rowing almost every day (while traveling between Utrecht, Delft and Leiden. Not the best decision ever…). I discovered I loved being coxswain for other teams as well (basically the one who steers and yells at the team to help them go faster). I lived for rowing.
Selected for the women’s eight
After some weeks of trials to make the ultimate team (women’s eight at that time), the decision was announced. I got in! A dream coming true, which required a lot of dedication and team building. We got assigned our own coaches, boat and position in the boat and all of the competitive teams were given sponsored clothing as to be recognised by everyone (we weren’t a corporal society, but this was a little elitist). Pictures were taken for the sponsor, and they are still on a canvas in the society. When I came back there with my colleagues for a clinic two years ago, it was so cool to get all these memories back.
Before the first long-distance race, we were all sworn in for the year. We solemnly vowed to work hard during training, be in a bed ‘that felt like home’ by eleven, not drink any alcohol and not do any drugs. We trained six days a week for multiple hours, doing a double training in the weekends. It is the fittest I had (and have) ever been in my life, and I just loved the structure of it. I will not lie, whenever I had to step on the erg for an hour of indoor rowing, I hated it. JUST hated it. But when I look back at that time, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
We did racing, training, racing, sleeping, training and eating a lot. I moved into the apartment complex above the society and always hung around with the other competitive rowers. We all understood the horror of washing your hair when the insides of your hands were torn from the blisters and always all refused to do the dishes with bare hands. Good times…
Injuries, other activities and year 2
I got too enthusiastic and trained myself into a pretty bad back injury. Cost me a few races and I decided to give it another chance again the next year. In the end, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do lightweight rowing or regular rowing and I tried it all in the first weeks of the new year.
I stayed at the society for another two years, tried out sculling (with two oars instead of just one), a single boat, a doubles boat, steered men’s eights and women’s fours. I also taught the newbies how to row and had the best time. I was strong, fit, and enthusiastic. At some point, work became more intense and a 40-hour workweek was impossible to combine with studying fulltime and rowing actively. I said goodbye to the people I had spent so much time with and moved on to running and strength training.
I still see some of the people I once rowed with, and we always go back to the time we were close teams all working for the same goals. Whenever I see a boat passing by (and that happens about fifteen times during a run as we live next to a canal that is used by several groups), I think back to that time. Maybe I will get back to rowing someday, but for now it’s a good memory and the start of my dedication to training towards a sports-related goal. I taught me to make sacrifices, work hard and push through. In many aspects, it relates to my marathon training, only now I am doing it without 7 other girls next to me during training. It’s similar, but not the same.
Do you have sweet memories to a sport you did as a kid or student? Would you go back to it, or never again?