Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Results

The results still have not been posted but I can't wait any longer to give you all the boring details.

We left at 1:30pm on Friday and after an hour-long wait at US Customs (apparently because the guards have been without a contract for some time now, we were basically held hostage until they were good and ready), we arrived in Queens, New York by 10:30pm. The ride down in our bus was uneventful, the check-in to the hotel slightly hectic but by midnight we were all tucked safely and happily into our beds.

Saturday morning a free shuttle transported all of us (Montreal Mixed and Jade/Maki Catta teams) to the site at Flushing Meadows Park. We had our first qualifying race at 11:18am, in the USDBOC Mixed division, top 2 teams would advance to the finals that afternoon. We placed 2nd thanks to a well timed 20 power halfway through and made it to the finals. Several hours later, at 6:06pm, we raced our final 250m. And here's where the story gets interesting.

In the last year I've been learning a lot about dragon boating, festivals, different locations, types of water, etc. Everything I'd heard about the New York festival had prepared me for the worst and rightly so. The water was thick green slime. It burned my eyes more than the Basin water, it tasted salty on the lips, you couldn't see through it on the shore, never mind while we were out on the lake and WE HAD TO BE HOSED OFF AFTER EACH RACE ON THE DOCKS! That's how dirty the water was. Then there was the long-standing feud between M.A.D. and the Montreal teams and this year was no exception to that rule.

As the story was told to us later, we started our final and were trailing the first boat by a little bit. We were in lane 5, MAD was in lane 4, whoever was in lane 3 and somebody else in lane 2. While we're paddling it's very difficult to see what's happening beside you until it actually happens slightly in front of you. As we were getting ready to get into our pickup, all of a sudden, the MAD boat was right beside us and veered right into our path (there was some discussion about them wash-riding our wake, not adhering to the refs calls), they crossed in front of us, we couldn't do our pick-up and we ended up finishing 3rd. Much chaos ensued. We finished in 3rd by a nose even though we didn't do our power strokes. This is good and showed that we were pretty strong. However, because our coach wanted to finish the race and not be disqualified, he didn't do the pick up that would have had us smash into the boat that cut in front of us, he was thinking safety first in these murky waters. In the end, MAD got a 5 second penalty against them and so we got 2nd place. This was a bittersweet victory because we felt that MAD should have been DQ'd because they didn't just cross one lane, but two (they finished in lane 6), they didn't listen to the refs and do what they were told (stay in their lane) and they interfered with our lane! They also got the points allotted to a third place finish in the USDBOC division. Damn them. OK, so we did get our second place points but we could've finished the race properly and earned them.

When we got off the boat, DCH (long time allies with Montreal given the feud with MAD) was right there to support our cause and joked that there seems to be a curse between Montreal and MAD.

After a quick run back to the hotel for showers and a change of clothes, we all headed into Manhattan for dinner, shopping and site seeing. With one of my friends from the team, we headed out on our own and found a great little Italian place for dinner (pasta for the athletes!) and still had time to walk around Broadway, Times Square and do a little bit of shopping in Sephora, a walk through the M&M's and Hershey's stores. Believe it or not but I was too overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people and stuff to buy any chocolate. Strange but true. Midnight had us all back on the bus and headed to the hotel.

Sunday morning was an early start. Checked out, breakfasted and into taxis by 7am. Our first race was at 8:30am. The pressure was on. The 500m is our event (we don't really train for the 250m) - we had to finish in the top 2 or we wouldn't race in the finals. Against MAD again and two other teams, we finished a clean race in 2nd position. It was a tough race, exhilarating and exciting.

We then had to wait until 4:45pm for our final race. It was a beautiful day though, and we had time to chat, relax, sleep, eat dumplings and corn on the cob. It seemed the hour would never come for our race but eventually it did. We were against ... I have no idea but MAD were in one boat. We were in the best lane (lane 2). We knew if we were focused and intense, we could win this.

As we approached the start line, I could hear a couple of the guys in the MAD boat growling and grunting and getting ready for the race. I had been purposely avoiding looking at them in the warm-up area because they kinda freak me out as a team - the men very muscly and strong and the women on the team very beautiful and strong in their bikini tops and short-shorts. I worried that somehow just seeing them was going to give me an excuse to fail. Anyway, then I started thinking to myself - we have the best lane, we've beat them before (6 out of 7 races in Boston), our life jackets match our t-shirts, a few of us have our dragon tattoos, a few others have our lucky cranes and the secret weapon - I had my Tiger Eye in my pocket.

I don't know what happened in that race. It's all a blur to me now. Our other team members who came down to watch us told us that we were trailing just slightly in the first half of the race, but after the 250m mark, we did our power and stroke by stroke started pulling away from the others. Our coach apparently shouted out all kinds of stuff during the whole race but I don't remember hearing him at all after the halfway point. I do remember all of us girls in the front pushing hard, screaming, shouting and keeping our pace controlled for the rest of the boat. It hurt - the last 100m of the race were the most powerful strokes ever. And then our drummer shouted at us to "let it run"; it was over. WE'D WON!!!

The rest is a blur, our communal shower on the docks with our soaps and shampoos. High-fiving our whole team, the 3 other teams, our friends outside waiting for us. Screaming our war cry over and over again. Finally getting on stage to accept our trophy for the win. Our coach handing out our participation medals.

The bus met us at the site, we loaded up and by 6:30pm we were back on the road. Many people slept most of the way home but I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I read for a bit, listened to music most of the way but mostly I just sat there going through the last race and smiling to myself.

Coming home was uneventful. Going through the Canadian border was no problem - it took about 5 minutes for the guards to check us all through. Back at the metro station, I jumped in a taxi and was home and in my own bed again by 2:30am.

What a great weekend.

Update (Thursday): one of the guys on our team is a photographer and posted 125 of his 500 shots here.

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