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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Battle of the Sexes

Hello readers. We are at an exciting time of the year for sports. The World Series just ended, the NBA season just started and the NFL is getting hot and heavy around its season's halfway poinxt. And on top of all that, Dartmouth sports teams combined to go 7-3 over the weekend. Is there really anything else you could ask for? Yes, there is! Because you are about to discover what happens when a Regular Ronald goes toe-to-toe against a women's rower in an erg-off.

The Setup: This week I challenged Sarah Rutter '13 from the Dartmouth women's crew team. Sarah has been rowing for five years and is the fiercest of competitors. I myself am not foreign to a rowboat, as I participated in a crew camp for one week in the summer after sixth grade. Hopefully, just like riding a bike, one never forgets the form to pull an oar. Because of my recent history of shipwrecking ("Battle of the Sexes," Oct. 29), I was allowed nowhere near any of the racing shells, so we took our competition to the ergometers. For those who don't know, an erg is rowing machine that simulates being on an actual boat. A typical crew race is 2,000 meters, but for our competition, we erged a 1,000-meter sprint.

Given my inquisitive nature, I did a little bit of research to prepare for my race by typing the word "erg" into Urban Dictionary. The definitions read as follows: "1. An awful torture machine that should be illegal under the Eighth Amendment, but gets out under a loophole that it is fun.' Commonly used in the regime of an evil dictator by the name of coach' and his/her faithful servant, coxswain.' Originally derived from the Greek word meaning to work,' which is what one does; very, very hard for a long, long time, causing the buildup of extreme amounts of lactic acid in the body, and thus great pain."

The next five entries provided similar definitions. I was very confused as to why the erg was viewed with such passionate hatred, but nonetheless I tried to prepare myself for the worst.

The Showdown: Before commencing, I decided to take on a quality over quantity approach meaning I would go for slow, powerful strokes rather than mindlessly thrashing around. I strapped my feet into the erg's footholds and grabbed the handle. Sarah shouted "One, two, three, go!" and the race began. Unfortunately, muscle memory from my sixth-grade summer did not come flooding back to me like I was counting on I had no choice but to revert to some unconventional freestyle form, revolving mainly around brute strength.

Sarah completed the first 200 meters in 41.9 seconds, while it took me 43.1 seconds. I was still very much in the hunt, but fatigue was already setting in. At this point, I announced to Sarah, "Uh-oh, I am already starting to get pretty tired!" While this may appear to be a simple, innocent remark, I was actually using psychological tactics to get her to subconsciously slow down. But I don't think it worked, based on her lack of response and her lack of slowing down.

By the 300-meter mark, I started to get into a groove, refining my uncustomary form a bit. It took both of us 41.3 seconds to complete the second 200 meters of the race, meaning we were almost halfway done and I was only 1.2 seconds behind.

However, this is when things started to go downhill. I began sweating in places I don't usually sweat; my grip started slipping, causing my forearms to strain; it felt like my lower lumbar was about to snap like a dry twig. I was not in good shape. At this point, I had a moment of clarity, and I fully understood the Urban Dictionary definition that I had read earlier. This machine was nothing short of a torture device there was a very distinct possibility that I might throw up, pass out and pull a muscle all at the same time, and I was only halfway done! Needless to say, each of my last 200-meter chunks got slower and slower. I ended up finishing the race in 3:34, while it took Sarah 3:27.

The Breakdown: I have a newfound respect for rowers, as that short race was some of the most extreme discomfort I have ever subjected myself to. That said, I am still very disappointed in my performance, as my physical endurance simply couldn't keep up with my mental endurance. The 1,000 meters ended up taking me 151 strokes to complete, while it took Sarah 169. So while I did stay true to my initial "quality over quantity" strategy, there just wasn't enough quality to send me a W.

I would rather not end this term without a win, so I am going to have to start producing some pretty desperate strategies for my final event next week. Until then, it is Mike 0, women's varsity 7.