Two thousand metres in less than seven minutes. A 1:45 split. That’s my goal. Seven minutes.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ROW.

Half, half, three-quarters, full. Start with ten strokes strong. It feels like I could keep it at 1:33 for six or seven minutes, no problem, but I know I won’t feel that way 20 strokes from now. Take ten strokes to settle into my rate.

A few hundred metres in, holding 1:44 to 1:45 nicely at 30 strokes per minute. It feels easy but I know that’s temporary.

Coming up on 1200m remaining. The middle of the piece, from 1200 to 700, is the worst. Push through the pain. I can hear my coach behind me telling me to keep it strong, keep pulling.

Focus. Up to the catch. Breathe. Head up, eyes open. Don’t break the back too early. Strong finish. Breathe. Hands away and do it again.

By 1000m I’m pulling around 1:46, which is slower than I want, but only by a second. My average is still 1:43. Halfway through. Just don’t let it come down any more. I’m grunting and groaning in pain but it doesn’t matter.

I can hear my name being shouted, encouraging me, telling me to push, keep the legs strong. Coming up on 700m left. Soon it’s 500 and the end is near.

I know it’s time to start sprinting. My split has slipped to 1:50. Don’t let it get any lower. Push it, hard with the legs. I know it’s time to start sprinting. Push with the legs. The split stays at about 1:50. Shit. My legs are done pushing but I keep putting them through the motions. Keep the rate, wind it up even. Keep the length. Full length can give you two seconds on the split.

Somewhere in my head I know some of the others have stopped, crossed the virtual finish line. I don’t care—I’m not rowing for them, I’m rowing for myself. 200 metres left. Then one hundred. Ten strokes left. My “inner crazy” comes in a few hundred metres late and not as crazy as I needed, but I bring the split down a few seconds in the final push.

Zero meters. Finish. Breathe. Breathe. People are applauding our effort. Breathe. Coaches congratulate. Breathe. Drink. Breathe. It occurs to me to check the result—my average slipped above 1:45 in the last few hundred. Breathe. Two thousand metres in seven minutes and 1.6 seconds. Breathe. Today is not the day I beat seven minutes. Breathe. There are varsity men who will beat that time by twenty seconds, but for me it’s a personal best. My goal is in sight for the next time. Breathe.

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