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Caution: Florida Trip May Lead to Blisters

By Erik S. Balsley
sports editor

I've just recently returned from the annual crew winter training trip to Florida. It would be nice to say we just went down to Florida to enjoy the unseasonably warm, then rainy, then cold weather, but it was primarily a training trip.

Each day was filled with two intense practices between which most of us just slept or relaxed. Of course, there were the usual blisters, callouses, and other associated injuries. During the trip, I kept a diary of each day's events and what follows are a few selected entries.

Sunday, Jan. 5

Left Boston. Arrived at Logan at 7 a.m. It was 40 degrees when I left. The line at the counter was huge. I guess everyone was returning after the holidays.

Landed in Fort Lauderdale at about 1:30 p.m. It was 85 degrees and sunny. That black waffle knit long sleeved tee was really becoming useful. I had to wait 30 minutes for my coach to pick me up. Hit drive-thru on way to the hotel. Those peanuts just weren't filling me up.

Checked in at the Vagabond Inn, which is as attractive as the name implies. Went to launch site. Unloaded and rigged boats. Went for a short row. Returned to the hotel. Went to Pizza Hut with some heavyweights. Ate some "pungent" pizza.

Monday, Jan. 6

I had an epiphany at 5:45 a.m. when the alarm went off. Got dressed, ran about two miles to the launch site. It was dark when we arrived. Did some 20-minute pieces with the heavyweights.

3 p.m. afternoon practice and team meeting. Stu welcomed us all and told us how the week would work. Ididn't have to change the alarm clock setting. Every day we would be waking up at 5:45 a.m. and running to the site. We would then go for a long morning row.

Afternoon practice would consist of drills and be lighter than morning practice. We would meet as a team at the hotel before each afternoon practice then van it to the launch site.

Blister count:1

Tuesday, Jan. 7

In a.m. practice we did drills up to Fort Lauderdale/Port Everglades. Then turned around and did a 35- minute piece at low rating back to the dock.

We went to Hollywood Beach between practices. I didn't get burned. Pale skin is bad. SPF 15 is good. I would have otherwise burned red in five minutes.

In afternoon practice, we attempted to fix the dock. It had a big bump in the middle from styrofoam stuck underneath it. We used the boat and tried to pull the styrofoam free by putting the launch in reverse while it was attached to the board. Amazing what 10 MIT Engineers can do when they're put together. We gave up. I suggested that we pry up the boards over the dock and pull out the foam that way.

Blister count:2.

Wednesday, Jan. 8

Fog from hell. We were supposed to do four 10-minute pieces. Had a long warmup to see if fog would lift. I knew it was an aquatic fog and wouldn't lift completely until at least noon, but it let up enough to enable us to do five-minute pieces in the intracoastal. Traffic was heavy and unseen so we did only six instead of eight.

After a.m. practice went to breakfast. Returned to the hotel. Drove an hour and a half to Key Largo to snorkel. This state is way too flat. Someone needs to build a hill. Saw part of the Everglades; it was pretty swell.

Paid our rental fees and took a hour boat ride to the reef. There was a statue of Jesus underneath the water which was interesting. The barracuda swimming in front of it when I eventually returned to the boat scared me. I saw lots of cool fish and didn't swim into any coral. OUCH. Only could stay in the water for an hour. I need body fat.

Stopped in Miami on the way back. Cool city.

Thursday, Jan. 9

I hate 5:45. In the a.m. did two long pieces, 20 minutes and 35 minutes, after drills. Napped between practices. Screwed up my knee somehow so it hurts to bend it. In the p.m. I went out in a pair. I steered.

Friday, Jan. 10

Did three 12-minute pieces in the morning. I think I rowed well and pulled hard. I felt that good tried feeling after practice. Practiced starts in the afternoon.

Blister count: 6, and 2 callouses.

Saturday, Jan. 11

Did 20-minute pieces in the morning. Had the afternoon off. The lightweights, heavyweights, and freshmen lights went to an alums house for dinner. It was really great of them to do this for us. They do it every year, I hear.

Sunday, Jan. 12

In the morning did two 40- minute pieces in fours. My boat lost both, but I think we rowed well. In the afternoon did starts and power 10s. The rains began. It sounded like a typhoon when I went to bed.

Blister count: 4, and 2 callouses.

Monday, Jan. 13

In the morning did three 15- minute pieces. It just sucked. In the afternoon did four one-minute 30- second pieces with the heavies in eights.

Tuesday, Jan. 14

Rowed to Port Everglades. Did a long piece back. It was cloudy and windy. Did four one-minute 30-second pieces with the heavies in the afternoon.

Blister count: 6, and 2 callouses.

Wednesday, Jan. 15

Because of the rains, the morning run was wet with many puddles. Did drills and two sets of three four- minute pieces in fours.

We had the afternoon off. We went to the the Everglades for a tram tour. Ranger Rick, literally, was our guide. The Everglades is really interesting. It is not a swamp but a "river of grass." Saw lots of birds and gators.

Thursday, Jan. 16

The weird day. In the morning, had a mixed practice with the freshmen. My oarlock broke loose during a piece. I had to hold my oar in my lap until we landed. How embarrassing. What a great example to be setting for the frosh.

In the afternoon practice we had to wait 15 minutes for a high school to launch its boats before docking. Ithink next year two docks might come in handy.

After my boat began to sing kum-ba-yah to pass time, and I curled over in pain and embarrassment at the situation. I felt a dull thud on my leg. Thought it was a spitball, turned out to be bird poop. I don't care if they're endangered; I'm going to kill a great blue heron.

We went straight to dinner from practice. Someone at my table went to grab some pizza at our table and managed to lose all muscle control to spill a nice cup of Hawaiian Punch on my lap. But it was my fault according to him. Anyway, juice and spandex don't mix, trust me on this.

During skits I volunteered to participate in the sophomore lightweight skit. I had to lay down on the ground. They stepped over me and then poured water on a heavyweight.

Friday, Jan. 17

Went out in fours in the morning for a light practice. Did drills and one one-minute 30-second piece. Tapering for race tomorrow. In the afternoon had another light practice, and derigged boats.

Saturday, Jan. 18

The last day. Time flies. Got an extra 15 minutes of sleep today. Left for Miami at 6:30. It was cold. Conditions were bad. There was a stiff tailwind down the short course, making for wet rowing conditions. MIT did well. Ican't wait to write the article.

Blister count: 8 callouses.