Training Tonight

It always starts the same: you’re stressed out at work, or run ragged at home, or nose down
in the books or just tired of your own company all day long. You pack your gear bag, or your
backpack, or your rucksack, or you just throw everything into the boot. You get yourself
ready in the office toilets or the comfort of your own bedroom or, as covertly as possible, in
the front seat of your car. You travel by road or rail or bus or bike (by hook or by crook!) to
get yourself to the water’s edge at Rush.
And you take it all in while you wait for your rowing crew to arrive. It might be warm and
sunny with a very un-Irish blue sky turning the estuary into an oasis. Or it’s grey and chilly,
with a wind coming off the water that feels more January than June. Or the rain is
relentless, pouring down, and you sit under cover and wonder if it’s worth it/why you ever
joined a rowing club/if you put that spare hoody in the bag…
Some nights, it’s so gorgeous it’s hard to believe your eyes, hard to believe you’re in North
County Dublin. The water is still and sparkling. Glittering. Twinkling. Shimmering. All the
clichés you can think of. You and your crew have the waterway all to yourselves (except for
the curious wildlife!). Small yachts and ribs bob in the narrow channel until the mouth of the
bay opens up to wide blue horizon. Blue above and blue below. Lambay Island beckoning in
the distance. Close enough to make it in this weather, you wonder; though the breakers at
the high-water mark suggest otherwise.
Other nights, the sky is a sheet of iron, so low it feels like a passenger in the boat, weighing
you down. Heavy, slow droplets creep under your collar and soak the tops of your thighs.
The tide heaves, the boat rocks, the wind whips your voice away; and sometimes those
nights are even better. Those nights, the water demands that you give it your all, that you
leave everything in the boat, so you do.
Every evening, without fail, regardless of weather, worries, overtime or bad traffic, you’re all there on the slipway, wearing your Fingal Rowing Club blue. And every time it’s a different place, an unexpected view, a changed waterway, a rolling sky, a new perspective.
So, you say your hellos and have the craic, and compare today’s aches, and fetch the boat. Tarp off, cushions on, bail her out, find your oar (because even though you should train with them all, everyone has their favourite), haul out the trailer, ease her down the slip, accept the inevitability of getting your good runners wet (you should have known better anyway), slide her off the trailer and into the current, and then finally you’re in.
Already you’re wet – only to the knees if you’re lucky – and already the water feels like one of the crew as the boat starts to pull with the tide. The blisters you got last night start to throb at thought of the work to come, but you don’t really feel it. It’s anticipation now; the roll of the boat in the shallows, the irregular strokes to get her out into deep water, the tightening of kickboards, to glove or not to glove (how else to toughen up those palms?!).
And your cox gives the call. And then the first pull. And then you’re off.