This weekend I participated in the Rochester River Challenge as a pinch-hitter for the Cayuga Outrigger Team (from Ithaca). My friend Heather Swift, the glamourous redhead next to me in the group pic, introduced me to the sport that makes her tick...and now...I think I may be hooked.
Friday night I had called to chat up Miss Heather, a two-time cancer survivor herself, the night before...and found out they needed a paddler...
Who's in? Me! Me!
However, I might have felt a bit in over my head though when I found out who we were racing against in our two 400 meter heats. None other than the RIT R.O.T.C. team! Nothing like going head-to-head with a bunch of buff 20 year old army guys to give you a good morning workout. Needless to say, they beat us...but we made them work for it!
Despite having had absolutely no experience racing an outrigger canoe they said I did really well. I just watched Felix, positioned ahead of me and tried to stay in total sync with his stroke. I think I picked it up fairly fast all things considered.
We paddled quick and strong...and when the steerer called "hut" and we all yelled "ho" and switched sides. It was an absolute blast!
I really think I believe my friend Val about this "re-athlete" thing. She an I both had to step out of our athletic lives when we were teens due to illness, and she coined the word
"re-athlete" as a way to classify a person who is pushing themselves back into the active life.
I loved the adrenaline rush I got from throwing on a "Sha-Zam" t-shirt and jumping into a boat to race a bunch of tough macho college guys. Somehow it didn't even scare me that I was learning the call words and signals and all the rules of how to paddle an outrigger and how to race as we literally slid through the water to the starting mark.
Isn't that what life's about...taking a chance and seizing an opportunity when it comes your way?
Heather has this banner that she hoists at every race she does. You can see that it says "Never Give Up".
This is a woman who has proven she never gives up... Even after cancer her resilience has been tested severely. A year ago she broke her neck and was told she would never be able to be active on the same level again. I think she's proving that prediction wrong.
Something is really magical about a life where you get to mix the blessings of extraordinary experiences with extraordinary people.