Rowing Together.. . Apart!

For the NDames, being apart brought them closer together.

For the NDames, being distant, unable to train together while trusting and relying on each other goes hand in hand with who they are. The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected many routines, but it hasn’t slowed the competitive spirit or cohesiveness of this group of women.

After a late start in the Concept2 World Erg challenge, 13 NDames erged over 1.6 million meters in less than 4 weeks and ranked 17 out of 61 virtual teams worldwide in the 6-20 person category. Then the gauntlet was thrown down in the form of joining the challenge of the C2 “Marathon and Century Challenge” and the off-handed comment, “I double-dog dare you!”

The email log tells it all – from early email asking: “we are not trying to win …. Just get it done, right?” and a response of “Yup, just be sure you have a pulse at the end of it.” To “haha – I knew you’d be the first out of the gate!”, “This group thing has me working harder than I had been”, “Oh rats! Now I really have to do this!”, “we have a new winner!! She left all of us in the dust!” and “I’m going for #1 in my age range next time I row it so set your mark accordingly!” The competition ramped up as the days went on.

Then there was the running commentary from one NDame: “Had they been on the water together, I can just imagine LA keeping her eye on VH the whole way, never able to get her out of view, and VH looking over her shoulder thinking “I’m gaining on her! She doesn’t know what she’s up against!” (after pointing out that these two rowers are 34 years apart in age!)

Sharing strategies to complete the marathon brought out some interesting techniques. “My plan is simple: find the time and crank it out!”, My plan was to try to keep my HR under 140 basically as long as possible. That became impossible obviously, but while watching it, just trying not to fly and die.”, I know I’ll never catch you, but it was fun to think for a moment that I might.” and “I listened to an audio book until the last 5000 meters when I chucked the head set across the room!”

The NDames have always been supportive of each other and now it was time for those who did not have access to an erg or for other reasons couldn’t actively participate in the marathon during this time to step up. Outspoken fans cheered along with the participants. “Congratulations! It’s a bear of a piece to do and you rocked it!”,”Youza! Youza! Youza!” “you make us PROUD”, “WHOO-HOO!!”, “That was an awesome job. You are a stud!”,”You inspire me – I am practicing!”, “I toast you all”, and then from one participant: “You inspire me …. But I’m not doing another half!”
Despite the sweat though, comments like “I’m glad I did it”, “I think I could have pushed a little harder”, “Thanks for challenging me” and “This group has me working harder than I have been”.

Erging such a long distance would have seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier. But, with a mix of friendly competition, humor, encouragement, and light-hearted trash-talking, twelve NDames completed a half or full marathon – for a few, it was a first! Some even did a second marathon in order to pull ahead a few notches.

Once again, we learned that we are capable of achieving more together than apart. According to C2’s official global rankings for women doing the half marathon challenge, all weights, all types of rowers, verified and not, the NDames did amazingly well. For ages 60-69, NDames held 7 of 43 spots, with one in 5th place. For ages 50-59, 3 NDames competed (of 99), with the one placing 26th. For ages 40-49, one NDames (of 89 ranked) placed 5th place. For ages 19-29, one NDames (of 40 ranked) placed 11th. In addition, for the full marathon, one NDames came in 3rd (of 5 ranked) in the 60 – 69 age group.

While the rankings were impressive, knowing that it’ll be awhile until we’re all back on the water together, may be a long while, the NDames, as a team, are looking to challenge other master women rowers. They currently have their sights on USRowing’s virtual Masters National Championship in August.

The NDames are ‘leading the way’ (their tagline) once again.  The first time was in the 1970’s, when they were among the first women athletes at Notre Dame.  Then as masters who, in their 40-60’s, are still going strong.  And now again during the Pandemic, as a team that successfully stays connected and trains for whatever the next competition is, whenever it is.

Written by Mary Bustin and Vreni Hommes

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Author: Vreni Hommes

Why We Row celebrates the unique lives and incredible stories of Women Masters Rowers.

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