The race always hurts. Expect it to hurt. You don’t train so it doesn’t hurt. You train so you can handle it.
-Unknown (from a shared Facebook post)
The voice in my head that says ‘I can’t’ is learning how to shut up.
In April last year, my daughter and I went to a come-and-try dragon boating session. We were instantly hooked. Two more free sessions, then we joined the club.
Dragon boating is the most exhilarating, physically taxing, fun and mentally torturous sport I have ever done.
You cannot beat paddling during a sunrise. Watching the city wake up from your bench on the dragon boat is amazing. You spend the rest of the day on a high.
Training, particularly during regatta season, is … really, really hard. Yours leg burn, your arms ache, your abs scream ‘no more!’ The short-lived breaks between sets are gold.
It’s hard work but so much fun at the same time. The camaraderie of the team is what keeps you going. We laugh together … a lot. Regattas are amazing when you get a whole host of like-minded people, outside, doing what they love. Yes, there is competition between teams, but in the end we all want each other to make it to the end. There is nothing better than giving three cheers for the other teams then high-fiving your teammates at the end of a hard-fought race.
Dragon boating requires strength, speed and endurance. But, above all, it demands mental resilience. Often, during training sets, my mind screams at me to stop, ‘It’s too hard, you can’t breathe, your arms hurt … stop!’
I have learnt how to bring forth my other voice; this voice yells louder, ‘Just shut up and keep paddling.’
My head is a raging battle between these two voices. More and more, though, the second voice is winning.
Today, we competed in 500 metre races with 10 paddlers in a boat designed for 20.
Don’t knock it until you’ve actually done it — it is seriously hard work. The finish line looms in the distance; we never seem to get closer to it until, suddenly we are upon it.
And, it hurts! Oh boy, does it hurt!
The give up and go home voice tells me I am going to die. Seriously.
My inner suck it up sunshine voice has to go into overdrive. There is no dying on its watch. It is hoarse by the time the race is over, but victorious … because I don’t give up.
Our sweep yells, ‘Steady,’ and I double over trying to catch my breath, wondering why I do this to myself. We have about 30 seconds reprieve before we have to paddle back in to shore. Our sweep calls, ‘Attention!’ and my arms wobble as I lift the paddle again.
But I’m not dead.
In fact, I am ecstatic, exhilarated and ready to go again … in a little while.