“Slide, catch, push.”
You blink once, twice. Groggy eyes opening up to the darkness that invades your vision. Something that is ever-present in the early hours before dawn. Trying to ignore the blaring alarm that deafens your eardrums, sending chills up your arms. Thinking as you do every morning, why? Why do you do this? Why do you wake at this ungodly hour? You finally succumb to the alarm, crawling out of the warmth into the chill that lingers long through to summer mornings. The familiar routine is mundane, dress, eat, brush teeth then sprint out the door running late as usual. Not quite ready to face reality, but forcing it upon yourself nevertheless.
The drive is short. Speedometer inching up and up, the deserted roads forgiving of the simple mistake. You arrive, the familiar scene is less dreaded now you’re here, it has always been as such. The love for your sport takes over and you forget the tiredness settled in your bones almost instantaneously.
The boat. Whether you’re secluded in a single. Every ounce of movement created solely from the strength of your own body, or if you’re in a four. Four bodies and souls working together as one each act completed all striving for perfect coordination of four moving as one. You love it either way.
The walk isn’t far however it’s long enough to feel your stiff muscles begging for a rest. A request that they already know is doomed they have after all been trying for years now to no avail. Finally you reach the water, morning minutes lasting an eternity. Toes creeping into the ice-cold water sends chills through your whole body instantly. The water stays arctic year round never once providing you with an escape from the cold.
Sliding the oars into the gates the rough callouses of your fingers scrape along the jagged closure as you twist it closed tightly. Sure to prevent any loss. Pushing off the beach the water gracefully accepts the boat. The narrow boat stills surprises you every time, being able to stay afloat when the weight of you was far greater than the small vessel beneath you, the only barrier between the water and yourself.
The seat glides up the slide at the demand of your muscles, ready and waiting. The oars pushing into your already calloused hands creating a welcome aching sensation. Safe with the knowledge it will no longer blister the skin so thick from years of rowing.
The water is so flat it’s memorizing. Capturing your unyielding gaze. The endless times you’ve come out here yet you are still never used to such serene beauty, nor will you ever be. You settle into the routine slide, catch, push, slide, catch, push. The sounds of the oarlock clicking with every stroke, a steady rhythm that guides your pace. The only sounds present are the ones made by you. The roller wheels sliding up the slide, groaning and creaking at the effort to support your weight as if their barking in protest. The ragged breaths you inhale sharply ensuring the grueling training can be endured. Slide, catch, push, slide, catch, push.
The minutes drag by each second seemingly lasting longer than before. The relationship is a love-hate one. You yearn for the adrenalin when all your training comes down to one race, savoring that moment. However the endless training’s can smother your motivation, causing lack of determination at time another mental battle taking place in your mind unknown to anyone else. Deep down in your soul you know though that quitting would never be a reasonable option. You’ve sacrificed too much to stop now, the only way through is to keep going, pushing. Slide, catch, push, slide, catch, push.
These thoughts float through your mind every training, a swirl of boundless doubts, whether any of this is worth it. You know it is and always will be though. So lost in thought and the monotonous nature of rowing. You’ve not noticed the thin sheen of sweat forming on your upper lip and brow. The salty tang of the proof of your hard work greets your tongue a taste not enjoyable yet welcomed, knowing the work done to create it.
Finishing your set kilometers you inhale a deep breath of crisp fresh air that is abundant in the area. A type of air that none other will ever rival. Your sore muscles tired from exertion, delight in the progress you can tell is happening. This right here, this ethereal water only a small few will ever experience. The sun peaking slightly through the clouds hinting at a beautiful day to come. The joyous experience of rowing that fills your soul with contentment will always be worth it and you will always suffer through the early mornings, the doubt, and aching body solely because of the love for your sport.