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Monica Dunford | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Tom and Me

Washington Irving’s story ‘The devil and Tom Walker’ keeps coming to my mind. The story goes (and having not read this story in 15 years, this retelling might be slightly skewed) that Tom Walker, walking through the forest one day, stumbles upon the devil. The devil offers Tom 20 years of complete prosperity for his soul at that the end of those 20 years. Tom agrees and for the next 20 years leads a cut-throat mortgage business. But as the twentieth year approaches, it occurs to Tom that the devil will be returning to collect his due. He begins to carry a bible with him at all times, thinking the devil can not take him with a bible. But one morning as Tom is foreclosing some poor person’s property, there are three loud knocks on the door. Exasperated from this poor person’s pleading and begging, Tom without thinking throws open the door. To the devil of course. Tom realizes too late that his bible is on the desk. And he is gone.

Right now I feel that Tom and I have a lot in common. Not that we both have ruthless real-estate businesses but rather that the time of collection has come.

I row with a small boathouse in Divonne (near Nyon on the French side of the border near Cern). In this boathouse I am the only member of Cern (that I know of) so it makes for a nice escape. Many, many months ago one of the eminent members of the club, Jacques, was telling us about an annual rowing race around the entire circumference of Lake Geneva. Jacques himself has competed in this race twice. And while at the time we all joked about the insanity of such a race, the seed had been planted. Soon we were having dinners to discuss the training. Next we had actually registered. Now we have to trailer the boat to Geneva for the race this Saturday. I promised to compete in this race and now the race has come. Ready or not.

I have included a picture of Lake Geneva just in case there are any doubts about this being a big lake.
Lac LemanIt is 160km around to be exact. And we will row around it in a coxed quad (five rowers where each rower rotates being the coxswain). In the best case, we expect to finish in 15.5 hours. In the worst, 17 hours. The race starts in Geneva saturday morning and goes through the night ending again in Geneva.

Now despite the opening story of doom and despair, I am actually really excited about the race. My boat is composed of four incredibly awesome people. Jacques, a two time competitor in this race; Vincent, a former French competitive rower; Michelle, a competitor in the NCAA national championships and former rowing coach at Columbia; and Oliver, who rowed across the Atlantic in 64 days. Having interesting people in a 15-17 hour competition is critical to one’s mental health. We talk about everything from the Higgs mechanism to the finer details of executive search.

But the excitement aside, there is a certain sense of anxiety too. It is the fear of the unknown. I have run marathons, I have raced innumerable crew races, I have trained for this race for multiple months. I know exactly how each of those things feel. I know exactly what to expect there. But what will the 10th hour of this race be like? When my hands are bleeding from open blisters and my quads are exhausted and my back is throbbing and I know that there are still 5-7 more hours to go? That is the devil at my door right now.

But unlike Tom Walker, the devil is not going to get me. Because come 9am this saturday morning, that lake is mine. All 160km of it.

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