The shoreline at Toscolana Maderna, Lake Garda
Ciao tutti! I know, I've been absent for quite some time, and I'd like to thank all of you for the many emails inquiring "What the heck is going on?" The answer- lots of stuff going on. I've been studying my rear end off, ramping up both my Italian lessons and writing courses. We've been traveling, AND I've been rowing. My most recent row was this past Sunday, which is the topic of this post.
I've been to Lake Garda before for several days of relaxation and exploration. I can highly recommend a day trip, or an overnight from Venice. It's a glorious location. Sunday's trip to the lake was hardly relaxation, though. My rowing group, the Pink Lionesses in Venice, were scheduled to compete in a Dragonboat race. A gara (war, in Italian). Normally, my group rows in Venice- up and down the Grand Canal, in the smaller canals, and in the lagoon surrounding Venice. Usually at a nice leisurely pace. This dragonboat competition was a distance of 200 meters, at a pace as fast as you can row.
At 7am we were gathering at Piazzale Roma, which meant I had to be on a 6:13 am vaporetto from Sant'Elena in order to get there in time. Dragging my paddle, life vest and change of clothes I left home with my eyes barely open, wondering why I get myself into these things in the first place! With everyone present and accounted for at the appointed hour, we loaded all our gear into the cars, divided ourselves up, and set off for Toscolana Maderna, on the west coast of Lake Garda about 40 km from Brescia.
Living in Venice, I don't own an automobile. I rarely even ride in one anymore. We use the train and public buses for getting around if we are going out of Venice for any reason. So the 2- plus hour ride in the car was a treat, especially the pit stop at the Auto grill along side of the Autostrada.
With a bit of persistence on the part of our drivers, we found the location of the event just in time. We had about 5 minutes to change clothes and get into the boat. Rowing on a lake is quite different from what we are used to. Even getting into the boat on the shoreline was a bit of challenge for us canal rowers.
When you are in a competition, there isn't even time to look around. You must be completely focused on the race the entire 200 meters, and focusing on every command your helmsman shouts. Too bad, because the area is stunningly beautiful. Sunday was cloudy, I can only imagine how gorgeous this would be on a sunny afternoon.
Here's my team, Pink Lionesses in Venice, on Lake Garda getting ready for the first match.
We didn't place well, but we did finish, and that was a grand accomplishment in our opinion. It was tough rowing. I was wishing (praying) that we would not have to do a second match. My prayers were not answered. The video below is our second match. We're in the middle boat. Actually, we improved our performance the second match, despite much worse conditions. The wind had picked up, the waves were fierce, the boat was rocking and we took on quite a bit of water at the back end, where I happened to be sitting. Before we were two seconds into the boat, just getting into position, we took on a good 5 inches of water into the boat. My partner and I were drenched from head to toe. I was trying to keep my feet out of the water, it was impossible. I remember thinking, "Oh what the hell!". I put my feet into the swimming pool I was sitting in and rowed like a bat out of hell.
After our second match, the rest of the event was cancelled due to weather conditions on the lake. We changed clothes, packed up, and headed out to find a restaurant for some food. Lunch was a two hour operation, par for the course for Italians. Lots of pizzas, beer and wine, dolce, the coffee and there was even a grappa or two down at the end of the table. Eventually we piled back into the cars for the journey back to Venice. Exhausted, still with soaking wet shoes, (did I already mention exhausted?), I arrived back home at 7pm. What an adventure!
Sunday was a grand challenge for me, for two reasons. First, I completed a race I never would have imagined I would do at my age. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd be rowing, let alone competing. This just goes to show you that you can do anything you set your mind to. Trust me, if I can do this, anyone can. You just have to get up and do it, whatever it is you dream. Just do it.
The second reason Sunday was a challenge is this: I spoke no English the entire time. 12 hours of non-stop Italian! Incredible! (Well, aside from one little mini English lesson at lunch when someone asked me about the f-word and when to use it.)
I can tell you right now, I am not ever going to be a professional dragonboat racer, or racer of any type for that matter. I wasn't built to be an athlete! But I wouldn't trade the experiences for anything.
And that was my Sunday. How was yours?
*Special thanks to Pink Lioness Monica Nardini for the group photo and video.
As always, I am so grateful for every one of you who takes the time to read my blogs. Leave a comment and let me know where you are, what you are doing. I love hearing from you. Ciao!