The Cascadilla Experience
The following was contributed by Cascadilla Varsity athlete Elle Decatur:
To those outside the club, waking up at 5:00 am five days a week seems unnecessarily insane, but to rowers it makes perfect sense. At the beginning of every morning we launch our boats in complete darkness, and with every stroke the sun rises a bit more. It's a beautiful and calming sight. After practice, we wipe down our boats with a feeling of accomplishment, do hands-in and all jam ourselves into a couple of cars and head to school before most have even arisen. It's an amazing way to start a day. Rowing is a sport that not only brings people together but creates an unbreakable bond between them.
All of the pre-dawn hours and meters boil down to a single purpose: competition. Our races, called regattas, are what we train for. Racing and watching your team race makes all of the sacrifice and dedication worth it. At the start of a race we line up perfectly with the other crews we’re racing and wait until the official shouts “quick start, sit ready, row!” The nervous silence is instantly broken as the coxswains begin to growl their race plans. Soon the adrenaline wears off, and exhaustion settles, but nothing stops us but the finish line. The desire to win breaks any limit our minds create, and with the encouragement from our teammates on the sidelines, we resist the urge to give up and finish with nothing left. One of the most important parts of regattas is cheering for your teammates. On most race courses there's a trail alongside the water. We stand at the halfway mark of the course and wait for our crew. Once they hit the mark, we run on the trail alongside them screaming as loud as we can until we can no longer keep up. Then we walk back to the mark and wait for the next race. When all of our races are over and our throats are sore, we pile into our busses bearing our medals. Bus rides home are filled with sorrow, joy and exhaustion. The whole team almost immediately falls dead asleep until we're a block away from the high school, where our parents pick us up. At this point someone grabs their speaker and plays “Sweet Caroline,” and everyone starts singing and dancing no matter if they lost or won. It's an unspoken tradition.
In addition to the physical challenges of racing, the bond we develop with our teammates helps to create a deeply meaningful experience. On the girls varsity team, at the beginning of each year the captains randomly assign each rower a sister. Before each race, you give your sister a note of encouragement or something that reminds her that you have her back. At the two overnight races we compete in, all the girls crowd into one hotel room after team dinner and exchange shoe boxes with our sisters. These shoe boxes hold small gifts and inside jokes. Soon laughter and hugs fill the hotel room. This is one of my favorite times to be part of CBC.
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams are committed to supporting each other. One hot day in the summer we were doing 500 meter sprints on the ergs (rowing machines), which is an incredibly difficult workout. We were on our fifteenth piece, and Miles, one of our captains, finished first. I could see the pain in his squinted eyes and his struggle to catch his breath. When you finish a sprint, it feels like your body is being taken over by pulsing lactic acid. Miles resisted the urge to collapse on the ground and instead screamed “GO COLE!” Cole is a teammate who was still struggling with his piece, and Miles cared enough to somehow pull energy out of an empty tank just to inspire his teammate to push through. It was a moment that I will never forget.
Rowing at CBC is more than what meets the eye. It's an experience that not only brings joy into my life and helped shape who I am today but taught me so much. It gave me physical toughness and mental determination that I use on and off the water daily. The community has brought amazing people into my life that I am very grateful for, and I would love to see the program expand and impact even more lives. So, come row with us!