We are very
sloppy. Oars slap the water, the boat joggles at the catch. How are you
supposed to row on a roller coaster like this? The jayvees, who are rowing next
to us, jump us a length on the first 20. Back home on the Charles in our own
boat this wouldn't happen.
up," Ned yells. "Stroke up!" He bangs against the sides of the
shell. Wilkins, the stroke, rushes down the slide too fast. We're only going to
34, not 40. I don't follow him exactly and try to compensate for his error.
Catch, drive. We tilt down to starboard crazily at the finish. It happens very
fast, but I have time to be scared. I snap the oar out, gun my hands away, but
somebody behind gets stuck. There is a grabbing, sucking sound. The boat slows
badly, skids sideways. Medium bad crab. It costs us another half length.
"Come on, dammit," Ned yells. "Row!"
I find it hard to
keep my head up because of the dizziness, and my arms are very tired. Finally
we finish out the cadence.
You do 40-stroke
cadences to smooth out the rowing at a racing beat, and then you go up two each
10 to practice finishes. On Friday, when you are lightheaded from not eating,
they can be difficult. The next one is a little better, and on the last we beat
the varsity but lose to the jayvees. Bob Russell grins at me from the jayvee
boat. I am not satisfied with the way things are going—one good cadence doesn't
eradicate a bad practice—but I am too uncomfortable to care much. Let's get
back so I can ditch this monkey suit. I am suffocating. Tomorrow is tomorrow
and will take care of itself.
Things are a bit
tense as we weigh in. The Cornell manager checks on each man. Davis Pike just
makes it, Richard is O.K., both the varsity and the jayvee averages are under
the limit. Now we begin. Wilkins on first. "Forty-eight," says our
manager. "Check," the Cornell manager says. Now my turn. Suck in the
gut, for whatever good that will do. "Try 53," I say, "for
laughs." Freddie is standing behind the scales, too. I hadn't seen him.
"Fifty-three right on the button." "Check." Freddie smiles. I
makes it, too, so no sessions in the heat room. We shower quickly. Now for
We all eat
incredible amounts. Lightweights on a Friday-night binge are awesome eaters. I
am on a Jello kick. Like a woman who's going to have a baby, I've developed an
irresistible taste for it. Six bowls. Three large glasses of orange juice, a
quart of milk, a small glass of tomato juice, four pieces of apple pie, mashed
potatoes, triple helping of meat, rolls, muffins. I'll have to gain 10 pounds
to maintain my self-respect. Richard has twice as much as I do. Fills two
trays. I am sitting with Young, Ned and Cass, the 6 man. We don't say anything,
just eat. Coolidge comes by, makes some remark about pigs. We don't have the
energy to laugh. Besides, it might be dangerous in our present condition. I'll
never be able to eat this last piece of apple pie. As a matter of fact, I may
be sick. I certainly will never move again. Young manages a weak smile.
Somehow we get
back to the boat-house, struggle into our bunks. I have a bottom bunk, Young
over me. The skin of my belly is sore from distension, but I won't be sick now.
It's wonderful to be full. I am very sleepy. Too tired to get up and get
undressed. Weymouth is asleep on my right. Coolidge is telling stories about
the last Olympics in a far corner. He was in charge of American boats in Rome,
another part of the room. Richard is organizing an expedition. He has found an
ice-cream factory and is planning a raid. I don't believe my ears. Coolidge is
very unhappy about it all. "If anybody gets sick and can't row—" he
says. "No sweat, coach, no sweat," says Richard. "I know you have a
cast-iron stomach, John, but those other guys may not be so tough." Five or
six brave souls depart. "Get me some sherbet," someone yells as they
leave. I go down to the bathroom, toothbrush in hand. I am asleep when the
ice-cream men come back.