August 6, 2010

Racing with the DC First Ladies

How often do we get to truly challenge ourselves? Test our limits, push ourselves to the edge and beyond? How often do we get to be part of a team where the whole is truly much greater than the sum of the parts?

This past weekend I had that opportunity. I competed in the US National Dragon Boat Racing Competition with a group of strong, passionate women.

This year's USDBF Club Crew National Championship Competition took place in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For me this adventure began in April when Jonathan and I joined the DC Dragon Boat Club. Throughout the spring and summer we have practiced and raced with Club DC. It has been a fun experience during which I have become stronger - both physically and mentally.

The more recent part of my adventure began at Washington National Airport where I spent some quality time waiting for Delta Airlines to resolve a maintenance issue and launch my – slightly delayed – flight. This time was a personal reminder for me of a former chapter in my professional life. A time to appreciate my current career, quality of life, and opportunities.

I finally arrived in Chattanooga late. Tired and exhausted I made my way to the hotel and went to sleep. The next day I met up with my team for practice. We spent about a half an hour in the damp 100 degree Tennessee heat getting used to the water and boats at Chickamunga Lake, the race site.

The next morning we arrived at the lake early and had the first opportunity to meet our competition. This race was our team's inaugural race as a women's team and we were excited to experience the festival and get out on the water.

Then we were there, at the start line, waiting for the horn to blow. I sat there, at the edge of my seat my eyes fixed on the two women in front of me – ready to race. Then the horn and we were off. We started our first race strong and within the first few seconds our boat glided forward inching towards the lead. However, soon the greater experience and will of the other teams became apparent and our boat slide to a trailing position. We finished the race last.

Several of our team members, myself included, are very competitive. Finishing last in our first race was a humbling experience. Our nerves became unraveled and our spirits sank. We are a new team – and this reminded us we had a lot to learn.

But, over the next few days we focused, watched, and learned from the other teams. And we continued to race. During the weekend we had the opportunity to paddle in five races and we fought to stay in the game every time. Sometimes we came together as a team, other times we did not.

For me, it was a great experience – and it was also a time to learn. I was challenged both physically and mentally. My emotions ranged from excitement to frustration to joy. I paddled hard, focusing to leave every ounce of energy on the water. I fought to stay positive and confident following defeat. And then after our last race – the 1000 meter race – I felt exhilaration of just having paddled a great race!

Regardless of how we placed, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to attend and participate in a US National Dragon Boat competition. I look forward to future races with the Club DC First Ladies and Club DC mixed teams!

1 comment:

Suzhou said...

Thanks for your full account of racing in the Nationals for the first time. Wish I could have been there too!