Sit ready. Attention. Go. Don't flip. Splash. Accelerate. Splash. Please don't flip. Splash.

Last weekend, we travelled down to a local race course to do some 2000 meter racing. We faced off against each other, racing amongst boat classes and genders. Winners were calculated by comparison with world record times.

There were 10 entries total: five men's pairs, two men's singles, two women's singles and my lightweight women's single.

While I've raced at the course before, this was a completely new experience for me. In all of my previous races, I've had somebody else in my boat telling me how to execute my starting sequence, when to shift from the frantic strokes off the start into my base cadence, and when to push during the race. Not this time.

As the men's pair approached me, I heard the quietly uttered instructions from their bowman to push away, but the remainder of my racing passed in silence. No coxswain, no bowman, no set race plan. It was all up to me.

While this could have made the race stretch on forever--eight and a half minutes of full pressure silence--I found it liberating. I could develop and execute a race plan as conditions dictated. A strong tailwind off the start asked for a higher stroke rating in the first 500, and a delayed shift from high strokes to base cadence. An opponent's push at 750 meters was countered with a push back at 800 meters. The sprint began naturally at 350 to go, as we exchanged the lead in a demanding fight for the finish line.

I learned a lot from those four races: Stay in the moment. Race the race you're in. Have a basic plan, but expect it to change. And, most importantly, nine minutes is a long time, and I better get faster so I never have to race for nine minutes again.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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