This year there were six BCS teams who came to race. Rowbust has been working hard over the last 10 years to encourage other BCS teams from across Canada to come and compete at the National level so we were ecstatic to find growth in our division this year. Previous years have seen as few as one other team for us to race with and just last year in Welland we were the only BCS crew to register to compete at Nationals. So, you can just image our excitement for the opportunity for some real competition!
We arrived at race site an hour before our first 200m heat race. After warming up, loosening up tight muscles and getting our heart rates up with a cardio warm up we proceeded to marshaling where we got our first look good look at the competition.
For our first race we were in lane one. We loaded our boat and proceeded to the start line. A calm came over our crew. We were finally about to race. Finally doing what we came here to do. Finally all together and ready to have some FUN! We sat quietly in our boat, visualizing what we needed to do. Reviewing the race plan in our minds. Breathing deeply, rolling shoulders and staying loose. All six boats approached the start line together. As usual, our steersperson, Shirley, expertly maneuvered our boat to the starting bouys for a floating start. The other boats continued to jockey for position as we held ours, ready to blast off that line! With everyone in position, the starter called “ATTENTION!” – Shirley & Shantal, in unison called us to race position – “READY READY”, and at the sound of the horn we were off like a shot! Five hard, powerful strokes to get us moving, then “UP” for a gear change in to another five strokes, “UP!” in to third gear, then fourth gear and one final “UP” in to our 200m race pace with a full on “POWER NOW!” Every paddle hitting the catch at the same time, pulling water in long, fast strokes. There is no time in a 200m race to get comfortable. We go hard, we go harder and then we go our absolute hardest! No one is looking anywhere but straight ahead, cross checking in our peripheral to stay in time. We’ve got no idea where we are in line with the other boats. All we can do is go hard and see where the chips fall after the finish line. Shantal & Shirley finally called “LET IT RUN!” and a quick look over our shoulders didn’t tell us whether or not we were first over the line!! As we paddled back to the dock we passed under a bridge and saw our supporters cheering us on, holding up one finger to let us know we’d done it! Holy cow, that was too close for comfort! Our time in the first 200m race was 56.06 seconds. Hamilton was right on us with 57.06. We wanted competition – and they brought it!!
Off the boat we debriefed with coaches, they liked what they saw! We felt good about our performance, we loved the rush of being pushed. And we knew we had to do it again and again. It would not be easy.
It was not too long before we were back in marshaling for the 200m final race. This time we’d earned our place in lane 3. A new race, a new lane and the same tough competition. We knew what we had to do and we were “ready ready” to do it. The same blast out of the start, the “UP, UP, UP and UP” shifting through all the gears and then powering down the course for the same result – we didn’t know if we’d done it! Our supporters on the shore didn’t know if we’d won! Our supporters at home watching the live feeds didn’t know if we’d won it…. It was a true photo finish! The live results were posted and it was then that we knew we’d won our 200m final by less than one second! We finished with a time of 55.64, faster than the heat race. Hamilton was again right on our tail with a time of 56.28 followed by the V I Paddlers with a time of 57.20.
With the 200m races out of the way it was time to concentrate on the up coming 500m races. These races are worth more in the points ratings, so we needed to be at our very best.
Back in marshaling, in the shute for lane one. Each section of the boat (front, engine & back) grouped together talking race plan. Captain Kuska walked through giving us her words of encouragement and asked us to give her everything we had!
We loaded our boat and backed away from the dock so we could get out to the start line and practice a couple of starts on our way out. Our practice starts felt strong and once again that comforting calm came over the crew. Each of us feeling the energy of our teammates. We waited on the start line as the usual jockeying of boats took place. With everyone set on the line the starter called us to “ATTENTION” followed by the growl of “READY READY” and we are immediately in race mode. The horn blows and we take off! Within 50m of the start the starter official is blasting her horn to call us off! One of the boats in our heat caused a false start as they came out of their lane and in to the neighbouring lane. We all turned back to the start line to sit and wait for the race to start again. We were not rattled. We remained calm. And soon we were blasting out of the start again. Powering down the course, keeping our strokes long and in sync. Stroke after stroke after stroke we surged and kept our boat out in the lead! Crossing the finish line we could clearly see that we’d won it! But Hamilton remained right on our tail! It was still way too close for comfort! The live results page showed that we won the 500m heat race by a full 4 seconds. Our finishing time was 2:18.31. Followed by Hamilton with 2:22.66. We needed to improve that spread for the 500m final! We could not let them take us!
Back at our tent we hydrated and fueled up in preparation for our final race of the day.
More delays in the racing schedule meant more waiting at the tent, more waiting in marshaling, more waiting and more waiting!
On the start line for our 500m final we waited. We had our marching orders. Captain Kuska once again had asked us for everything we had. “We need to empty the tank on this one!” Out of the start we were powerful and strong. We geared up into our race pace and powered down the racecourse with our long, powerful stroke. But something wasn’t right. Something that we’ve never felt. We could see boats on either side of us and they were surging. Shantal and Shirley called us in to power after power and we gave them everything! It was a dogfight to the end. This time, everything was not enough. We knew in that moment that we would not be taking a gold medal home with us on this trip. Our final 500m time was 2:23.33 earning us a third place finish behind Hamilton with a time of 2:20.33 and the V I Paddlers with a time of 2:22.88. One word crossed our minds – heartbreak. We did not retain our title as National Champions. The best we could hope for in that moment was a Silver medal finish.
Coming off the boat we dreaded the debrief. We had a check list of things to accomplish this weekend - #1 bust our butts to retain our National Championship title. We did not. Couch talked with us about what we felt had happened and what we improve upon to not let this happen again. There was nothing left to do now but to congratulate the winners. With genuine smiles on our faces, and in our hearts, we ran to the Hamilton crew to offer our congratulations on their win and thanked them for the amazing racing we did together. Next we congratulated the V I Paddlers crew for their 2nd place finish in the race. Followed by Toronto Dragons Abreast, Chemo Savvy & Busting with Energy. These are the teams that now understand what it is paddle and compete at Nationals. And we sincerely hope that they continue to come to Nationals and grow the BCS division! The sport of Dragon Boating for Breast Cancer Survivors is an important part of our recovery and support in what could be a devastating time. Paddling brings us together and makes us “Warriors on the water, but friends on the shore” (Thanks for the quote Gwen – of Hamilton).
Rowbust returned to our tent to clean up and pack up our gear to prepare to graciously accept a Bronze medal award.
As the medal presentations started and the MC talked about our BCS division he reminds of how it is that we got here. The hellish paths we took to get here and the awesomeness of our accomplishments in even having the courage to take on the sport after our experiences. When you think about it in those terms it certainly puts it in a different perspective. We are ALL CHAMPIONS! We are champions of LIFE!
As Mr. MC was about to call up the Bronze medal winners Rowbust prepared to make our way to the podium – but wait! He didn’t call us! He called the V I Paddlers! That means – we’d won SILVER! We cheered for the V I Paddlers as they accepted their Bronze medals and waited to be called up next. Rowbust proudly took our place on the Silver Medal podium and cheered for Hamilton as they climbed to the top of the podium to accept their Golds!
After all the hardware was handed out and the photos taken we made our way back to the hotel, some stopped along the walk back to grab a bite and share a laugh with friends and teammates alike, others opted to hit the showers before partaking in some delicious offerings at the hotel bar.
Some members actually had to leave before the medal presentation to catch the red-eye flight home so they could work on Monday but they were quick to reply to multiple texts from those of us left at race site informing them of our Silver medal win.
Every one of us has taken time over the last 24 hours to reflect on the day. What could we have done to change the outcome and what will we work on when we get home. We are genuinely happy for Hamilton, they worked hard, they wanted it and the did it. This is not to say that they wanted it more than us. We ALL wanted it! We ALL worked for it and it took a dog-fight to decide it.
Congratulations to the Knot Abreast BCS Dragon Boat team of Hamilton Ontario for your Gold Medal win at the 2019 Canadian National Championships in Regina, SK. We’ll see you in France in 2020 at the Club Crew World Championships!
Being a member of Rowbust is truly a privilege. Never have I met a more supportive, caring, sharing/oversharing, wonderfully intrusive group of women! (Yep, you read that right! Lol) During the long stretches of down time at race site, or in the hotel or lounging at long, late dinners we have learned more about each other in this trip than any of us cared to know! It’s what happens in groups as close and connected as ours. There is way too much information shared and it just brings us closer together! This weekend is not a "loss". We have come away with many wonderful memories! And in that we are winners.
Thank you for following us across the country to Regina! We look forward to sharing our stories from France in August 2020!
Blog contributor - Suzanne Newington (aka Newton) - joined 2011
Photo contributors - random member photos!