Perspective From a High Seas Drama

To experience life at it’s fullest, it is important to experience new things.  Yesterday was one of them. I participated in the Barrie Dragon Boat Festival. The team was the “Busch Buccaneers” raising money awareness for “Dekpor School Development Organization”. I was never officially on the team, but there was a drop out, and was asked on Thursday if I would row. So on the boat there was a “drummer”, a “steer person”, 19 well trained/practiced precision rowers, and an myself who LITERALLY hasn’t participated any sports competition in 26 years. The last time was 1987 when I played goalie for my college hockey team. Life just gets SO busy with work and family that some things get shoved on the backburner. It was never intentional, it just happened.

Being a charity event, I didn’t think it would be too competitive, but boy was I WRONG. There were 55 teams participating, and the time trials would determine which division we would be in….Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze. It is incredible after 26 years how that feeling of competition all came back to me….the jittery nerves beforehand, keeping yourself very focused, and that POWERFUL surge of adrenaline that courses through the body when the starting horn went off. Pouring out every ounce of energy, 20 rowers, rowing like precision pistons going up and down giving everything they have, and when you don’t think you have anything left in the tank, you somehow reach down and find it.

We placed 8th in the time trials, put us in the Platinum Division and a guaranteed top 10 finish, but also now we were in the “Big Boys League”, some who are travelling teams who practice year round.

Four hours later we rowed the Platinum Semi-Final. We knocked 4 seconds off our time, and got into 7th place and our final race….the platinum consolation. This is when the “drama” begins. By this time it was very breezy and the water was quite choppy. It would be difficult to hear the starting horn, much harder to get a proper start because the waves were pushing the 5 dragon boats around. Finally we all got a clean start, and what a fight it was. Well over half way into race the boat on our right side took us out and then we were taken out by the boat on our left. Boats in lane 1 and 2 pushed on to the finish line. There was no intention whatsoever, these boats were just too hard to steer in the rough water. In the “heat of the moment” there was frustration and angry words expressed by many…..and then there was this “minister” sitting in the middle of the boat whose mind was spinning thinking, “should I say something”. Someone finally chirped up, “It’s okay everyone, no one was hurt, and the boat didn’t capsize”.  Which is a VERY good thing, because I can’t swim!! After a long meeting with team captions and the marshal, a rematch was called for the 3 teams caught in the melee to race together for best time against the best time of the 2 boats that finished unscathed. The shoreline was full of spectators abuzz to see how this race unfolded. It was such a close neck and neck race that after the finish and as we waited for instructions to come to shore, no one knew for sure who won. Then out of nowhere the tears started to fall.  Others were calling out, “Carl, are you okay, is your knee hurting”? Twenty six years is a long, long time to be out of the game. I didn’t realize how much it meant to me till I got back into it. Please make sure “life doesn’t suck the life out of you”, that you put aside the things you love to do.  And hey, look out people there is this half marathon I am getting ready for.

There is nothing like the sweet taste of victory. I have felt it many times before, and it is wonderful. But there is also nothing wrong with the bitterness of losing. I have also felt this, including being defeated on some gruelling mountain climbs in bygone years. It builds character and makes us a better person. As long as we had fun and did our best, that’s all that matters.

With the dragon boat races every team was a winner, as every team raises money for charity. Since 2003, $1.4 million has been raised to support 60 charities. The charity that the Busch team were raising money for, is the same charity I am running for in the Toronto Half Marathon. Please check out their website at Dekpor School.

Oh yeah, we did win that final race by fractions of a second, and in time came in 2nd out of 5 teams in the Platinum Consolation round, and 7th for the day out of 55 teams.

Thank you for reading, and thanks Brooke (one of my teammates) for the picture!!

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