By Adam Drake
I’m awake before the sun, before the birds, before the rest of humanity. In the darkness of my apartment, I fumble to put clothes on, dazedly walk out the door, and into the cold of the night. Somehow, my car manages to weave through empty streets and into the parking lot. Alone in my car, I shake my head in an effort to wake up, and mumble something about the purpose of all this. I notice a sticker on the back window of my car that says, “Head of the Charles Competitor.” I smile.
I started rowing in high school when a small boathouse opened in my hometown. I wasn’t particularly good, and I didn’t seriously enjoy it, but I loved telling everyone that I rowed. There was a certain status that came along with it. The sport followed me into college as I got better, grew to appreciate it, and told anyone within earshot that I was a Division 1 athlete. But after four years of non-stop practice, I grew tired of the sport.
Moving to New York City, with its few boathouses and less-than-stellar water conditions, I had a good excuse to not continue. My callused hands softened, my sleep became more substantial, and my body shed muscle weight.
Despite my lovely reprieve from the sport, there was something missing. It was hard for me to peg down, because I knew it wasn’t rowing itself.
Once I moved out of the city to Connecticut, a friend goaded me into checking out his rowing club. I went to a few practices, met the coaches, and discovered what it was that I was missing: the feeling of being on a team.
I signed up for the Maritime Rowing Club three years ago, and haven’t looked back. My mornings are destroyed, my hands are rough, and there’s a good chance I have dried salt water on me at any given moment during the day. But the feeling of 8 guys working toward a goal, of depending on those guys in front and in back of you to pull their asses off — that makes it worthwhile.
This past weekend, we completed our season at one of, if not the, most prestigious rowing events in the country - Head of the Charles. Imagine rowing a boat up a 4,800 meter river that’s littered with bridges and twists, while battling it out with 30 other boats to traverse that distance the fastest. All the while, people are lined along the river banks screaming at you in accents that sound like faintly like Mark Wahlberg. This is the Head of the Charles, and it’s one of my favorite sporting events each year.
The odd part is, as exciting as the race is, my favorite part is the post-race beers with my teammates at one of the many bars in Cambridge. Celebrating with guys that have seen you spend every last drop of energy on the river, while they did the same, is a unique bond, and it’s something you don’t find everyday. So yes, I’m a rower, but more importantly, I’m part of a team.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.