Princeton Training Center Heads South

“The plane touched down last Wednesday in good old Orlando, Florida, an airport renowned as a hub for youths searching for their first whiff of the magical kingdom and adult children alike. But last Wednesday, 18 rowers from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Princeton, N.J. headed straight for the MCO food court to refuel and recover from what was a 2:30am wake up call for most. We awaited 3 industrial vans that would cart us off to Captain Hiram’s beach-side hotel (adventure tours optional) 80 minutes away in Sebastian, Florida. We were welcomed warmly by hotel staff and possibly the friendliest restaurant staff known to man.

Across the street from the hotel, right on the water we have a room reserved at the restaurant, which happens to resemble the inside of a pirate ship and features three large plasma TVs where we’ve taken to watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy at dinner. Last week, the cherry on top of a rower’s food-centric existence was a small fold out table outside of the restaurant where some Girl Scout troopers were selling, among other lesser varieties, my weakness—thin mints. Can I get an, Amen? Amen.

Simply being around vacationers, inhaling the ocean breeze, listening to the live music across the way at the Sand Bar can convince us, if only for a moment that this is our life… but then we complete our first high intensity erg at the local CrossFit gym down the street and we are quickly reminded that this is full-time training. The CrossFit gym is close to our hotel and well equipped, intriguing toys hang from the rafters and every wall. I’ve never seen a rope that wasn’t screaming to be climbed, but those will have to wait for post-Olympic training life. Our rowing location, half an hour inland, is called Canal 54—isolated, mostly flat and unhindered by any kind of shore side distraction (what lies beneath the water is another story). We can row in a (nearly) straight line for miles and miles, as one teammate put it, “it’s like erging, but in a boat.” We get to beach launch into the canal and for those who’ve never known life without the luxury of a connect-a-dock, this means you just walk yourself right out into that water and haul yourself up into the boat.

We spend a shockingly small amount of time in water as rowers—sometimes we just need to dip our toes in the canal and appreciate what we get to do every day. I think the whole team can agree that being in a boat, going anywhere under the great Florida sun, is a great relief after 4 weeks of indoor training. The drive to and from the Canal has given us a great opportunity to relax, snack and pull out our AUX cords. Florida may have been experiencing a cold front when we arrived last week, but it was nothing compared to where we’ve been. On Sunday, we checked out the local flavor while watching the “Big Game” at a local spot. We let our toes sink into the sand as we watched JT rip up the stage in a mountain-scape button down and then we burned the 10pm oil to watch Philly upset the Pats. And just like that we’ve started our training trip circuit, our immune systems are searching desperately for diversity and we finally get to catch some water (and maybe some alligator, if we’re lucky).”

This article was written and provided by USTC – Princeton athlete, Erin Boxberger

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