Friday, February 22, 2008

My Life Story (Part 2)

My sophmore year of school found me with alot of spare time on my hands, which I decided to fill up with rowing (or crew). I don't think I've ever worked as hard in my life as I did those 3 years (excepting natural childbirth, of course!) There were 5am practices, weight workouts, 5-mile runs, erg races and lots and lots of circuit training. While there were many times that I thought that all of this was for the birds, another part of me absolutely thrived on the physical challenge.

While I would hate to make you think that all of my rowing success stemed from me being a large or "corn-fed" girl, it did have a little something to do with it. And when I was working out all of the time, I was even larger (but sculpted; not like I am now... Jell-O anyone?) The mechanics of rowing simply makes it impossible for a girl of 4'5" to compete with my impressive 5'9". It's all about the leg drive, and when your legs just aren't that long, then there's not much drive.

So I had found my new passion. Never had I been involved physically in something so entirely dependent on the performance of others. There are no words to describe what its like to push off and glide through the water before the sun has even come up. The rythmic sounds as the oars catch and the smooth release before you do it all over again. The feeling of dread that comes over you when you realize that you're only 500 meters into the 2000 meter race and, already, you feel like you're going to die. The complete and utter exhaustion that envelopes your body when you reach the finish line. And, can I just say... LACTIC ACID! One of my coaches favorite sayings was "Push through the burn!" Easy for him to say while he was gliding along in his little motor boat while we were rowing our guts out with everything we had.

Very quickly, it became apparant to me that this was something that I was good at. All I had to do was breathe and push... I could do that. My coach placed me in the battery of the boat (comprising of the 4 middle seats of an 8-boat and the 2 middle seats of a 4-boat.) The job of the battery was to push as hard as possible, since it was hardest to move the middle of the boat than any other part. The battery is where you put your "thugs"... that's what I was; a thug. Two of the other members of the battery and I were always competing for the top erg (short for ergometer, an indoor rowing machine) scores, and often the top score was juggled around between the three of us.

I can still remember one erg race that we, the novice team, had with the varsity team. There was a girl on the varsity team that was a real iron woman, Rachel, and I was always trying to at least match her erg scores, if not beat her. But she was awesome! I had to settle for the novice victory. My next year of crew (Junior year of college), I was made the varsity team captain and remained so until I stopped rowing and left NSU.

I included these videos because not many people know what rowing is or what it looks like. I chose this first video in particular because its to the music of a drum corp, which if you've read "My Life Story (Part 1)", you know is perfect for me. The second one is a little slower and gives you a better idea of what rowing looks like. They're both really short, so check them out!

My sophmore year also brought another major change, only this time it was with my degree. I can't remember what class I was sitting in, but I remember thinking that everything that I was learning in my degree was basically training me to be a high school band teacher, which was NOT what I wanted to do with my life. I had a passion for teaching music to young children, which was why I had signed up for Music Ed, but my degree wasn't taking me in that direction. Having looked at all of my options, I decided to switch my major to Early Childhood Ed, which focused on Pre-K through 3rd grade.

As many of you can guess, my homework assignments were now filled with teaching observations, coloring, big projects, coloring, gluing, coloring, and pasting. Oh, did I mention coloring. Fortunately, I had some really great friends and one awesome roommate who would often help me with my projects when I was falling behind. It was so much more fun to design a classroom for a group of toddlers than to write a 10-page paper on organum (Sophmore music history.) Although I did change my major, I continued to play bass in the orchestra, which will always remain one of my great loves. I was happy with my major, I was happy with crew, I was happy in orchestra... life was good. But it still wasn't enough. (I know, I know... over-achiever!)

One of my best friends, Tammy, whom I met through rowing also happened to be a 2nd degree blackbelt in Tang Soo Do (a martial art very similar to Tae Kwon Do.) I found out that she was giving her boyfriend one-on-one karate lessons and asked her if I could come and watch. After only a few lessons, I decided that I had to be a part of this. I begged her to start teaching me as well, which she thought was a great idea. Now Justin could spar someone else besides herself. Yes, I signed up to be a punching bag but I loved every minute of it!

Here was a sport that was everything the opposite to rowing! My successes and failures depended solely on me and my performance. It was about mastering myself and my body to do things that I would never (nor will ever) require of it otherwise. It was hard, it was "stretching" but it was wonderful. I'll be honest and say that it felt really good to kick the crap out of that target. Sure, I didn't kick it very well in the beginning, but I got much better with time.

After a short while of Tammy teaching Justin and I, a few other of our friends expressed interest in taking karate, too. So Tammy decided to start a Natchitoches (the city where NSU is located, pronounced NAK-O-DISH) branch of Pak's Karate (her karate school in Slidell, LA.) We set up practice to meet in the lobby of our dorm, which was a huge, carpeted room, and went to work. I began learning the different forms and kicks required for my yellow-belt testing (which I think was a back kick.) Over time, I continued to progress and test until I now hold a brown belt in Tang Soo Do and have a large storage bin full of all of the boards that I ever broke. Every once in awhile, I pretend to do a roundhouse kick or an ax kick on John and, inevitably, I end up pulling something or being in pain for many days. It's definitely much easier to do that stuff when my body is used to stretching (very thoroughly) and working out multiple times a day. But, alas, this is the plight of a mom with two kids under 3, who works from home and has challenges just trying to use the restroom in peace, much less work out for 30 minutes. Just so you know, however, I think that I could probably pull off a little karate if I were really in danger and I needed it. :)

Stay tuned for Part 3 of my life story when I meet John and decide to transfer to the University of North Texas.


Kristi said...

Very well written. Now get to work on Part 3! I need something to do while I'm waiting for this baby to come out, haha! Just kidding...I do look forward to Part 3 though, whenever that may be. Thanks for your comment yesterday, I appreciate your sympathy. I don't get much sympathy being pregnant for the 3rd time, only from other moms. I completely identify with what you said.:)