The alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. As I groan and turn over to find my phone to silence it and try and find another five minutes of sleep, I don’t. I crawl out of bed, find my rowing clothes and head out the door, no second guessing why I would ever decide to do something that requires such early mornings. I don’t turn back over and go back to sleep because I know six other people are heading to the lake and if one doesn’t show up, we can’t row. We’re all accountable to each other.
First year on the pond
And there’s no other group I’d want to be accountable to than to First General. See, this is my first year rowing. I’ve covered races before. In fact, I spent 14 hours pond side last year taking it all in. I spent countless hours leading up to it hearing about every spin the guys and girls at work took. I knew about the grueling hours, all the time off the pond, the starts, the turn, the anxiety leading up to race day. I’d heard it all and I was jealous. I didn’t want to be on the sidelines. I’m too competitive. I wanted to be out there. Luckily, Eddie Sheerr passed my name along to a crew he had previously helped cox and now there’s no other crew I could imagine being at the lake to row with at 5:25 a.m. than with five of the greatest ladies … and Ron.
Some mornings it pours as we get in the boat and push off, others you catch the most beautiful sunrises as you pull another stroke looking to shave seconds off your time. After the words “Let it Run” are yelled you feel all your muscles stretching and becoming stronger. It’s those moments you realize how unique and special it is to row and just how crazy you have to be to do it.
Anniversary at the lake
Your crew becomes your second family, and mine is crazy – in the best way possible. It could be pouring, you could have had your worst spin of the year, missing strokes or losing an oar, but no matter what you leave the lake with a smile on and a laugh as you count the toggles and it’s because of them.
No one in my immediate family has ever rowed in the Royal St. John’s Regatta. We do, however, have family history at the lake. At the 1988 Regatta my parents were introduced to each other, and the lake is where a 25-year marriage began. Maybe it was fate that at the age of 25 I began rowing on the lake my parents met at, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my love for rowing stays as strong as their marriage. They met at the lake, married, started a family and moved away.
I didn’t grow up with the history of the Regatta but I’ve taken it all in. I returned to St. John’s for work a couple of years ago. I’ve covered some heartwarming stories but I’ve covered many heartbreaking stories – deaths, fires and tragedies. Rowing has become my outlet, where the world isn’t crashing down, where all you have to do is pull another stroke.
So, as the Regatta gets closer and closer and the strokes become stronger and harder to pull, all conversations in the newsroom turn to rowing, all the conversations at home eventually end up on rowing. You eat, breathe, sleep and row, and it doesn’t seem so crazy to me.
Kelly-Anne Roberts, NTV’s general assignment reporter, can be reached by emailing [email protected]