TIDBRF 2016

This post is a long time coming and I know it’s very late but hey, maybe it’ll be good to rekindle some of the fire from this competition in anticipation of upcoming Nationals.

TIDBRF was a weekend of huge ups and downs and the way things panned out was almost as if it were the plotline of a movie. So many emotions, it was definitely a dramatic weekend to remember.

*Spoiler alert* It was a successful weekend. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Joe

^Photo credit: Joe

Desmond

^Photo credit: Desmond

So many things happened and I hope I don’t leave out anything important. It’s very much a weekend I’d like to remember for a long time. I know this post is very late in coming out, but I started it long ago and just never finished it. I also had to post Milton and Pickering before TIDBRF, since, you know, things go in chronological order.

A little bit of history…NDRC Premier was established in I believe 2011 (at least that’s what it says on my jersey), built by a few alumni from the New College university team. This year is in fact, Iron Dragons’ 20th season, which is actually older than some of the current members on the team (such babies). Since these teams’ conception, several things had never happened that happened at this year’s TIDBRF. (That was a bit of a confusing sentence; forgive me).

First off! Iron Dragons had their most successful TIDBRF yet. Iron Dragons Gold and Purple each medalled in their respective university finals (with Gold winning theirs) and Gold also won bronze in their community final. Iron Dragons Blue made the grand A final for the third year straight, which, to my knowledge, has never been done before by a university team (it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that New College was the first university team to make the grand A final ever). Unfortunately, we did not manage to improve over our placement from last year (5th) and got 5th again this year in the 500 m final, which is nonetheless an impressive feat for a university team in a deep field. Teams 3-5, however, were extremely close, being within less than a second of each other, so it was very tight. Hammerheads got 3rd (seems to be a good year for them) and PDBC got 4th.

Iron Dragons Open, I am pleased to say, reached the podium in both distances: 3rd in both the 200 m and the 500 m. They were in fact actually second in the heat on Saturday, so they did quite well that weekend. They improved over last year’s performance, where they got 4th in the 500 m by a narrow margin to Hammerheads. For a group of testosterone-fueled teenagers and 20-somethings, not bad!

Finally…for the first time in 20 years, Iron Dragons won the TIDBRF University Cup!!! I can’t emphasize enough how big of a thing that is. New College has been quite the dominant force in modern history, with their name plastered all over the trophy (with a small corner occupied by Waterloo from the one year they took it). Even last year, when Iron Dragons did quite well when racing off against New College, they still didn’t manage to take the Cup. First time! I was a little nervous ahead of time because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be on their boat (due to scheduling conflicts with NDRC’s 200 m community final) and because New College had beaten Iron Dragons in the 200 m university final at Pickering a few weeks prior. I was also a little glad that I wasn’t on the boat, though, because then I could convince myself it was out of my hands after they left the dock and “relax” a little. I couldn’t even watch their race because it was right before ours. Several NDRC members watched the beginning of their race from the water since we were warming up at the time, but I didn’t want to because I wanted to focus on our race and because I knew watching would make me anxious. I knew they could do it, though, and I think they all really wanted it, and it showed. I was so excited for them! As soon as I could get to an Iron Dragons paddler after my race was over (it was Lily whom I first saw, I believe), I frantically asked how they did in their race because I didn’t know. And when she told me they did it, I think I just melted. Definitely one of the biggest accomplishments of the season and one of my proudest moments as a coach.

On NDRC’s end, there was a whirlwind of emotions. We entered two mixed teams (Green and Yellow), a women’s team, and an open team. NDRC Women were coming into this competition as the 2015 champions so we had a title to defend. There were unfortunately only two teams entered, us and PDBC, but both teams raced hard nonetheless. NDRC Women dominated each race and reclaimed their title while PDBC put up a good fight. Very proud of these strong ladies.

Unlike at Pickering, NDRC put in two uneven mixed boats. Both teams were looking to do well and they both made it to the community A final. NDRC Yellow got 5th in the 200 m final, while NDRC Green was less than a tenth of a second slower than Warriors, getting 2nd. Close. So close. Tensions were building up. There was so much anticipation for the 500 m final.

For NDRC Open…we had special races. Saturday did not start out strong, with us actually coming in last place in the heat. It was not a good race. Because of it, we were seeded into lane 2 for the finals, which was the shallowest and slowest of the lanes. On Sunday, we cleaned it up, though, and had a much better 200 m final despite the slow lane, though we still came in 2nd to the Warriors (at least it was better than 4th!). For the 500 m final, it was a great race. Felt good, fast start, strong throughout…and then I messed up. I didn’t see the last buoy and called the finish too early and then called “let it ride” one buoy too soon. The paddlers got confused and a few people stopped paddling but to their credit, they realized the situation very quickly and immediately got back into it to finish the race. 0.35 s. That was the margin between us and the Hounds. I couldn’t believe what a stupid mistake that was. We were so, so close. I was just supremely thankful that we were far enough ahead of the rest of the field that at least we still got second and I didn’t cost us the silver too. Nobody yelled at me. Nobody got angry with me. People were only angry with themselves. Nobody said a harsh word to me at all. And that is where the spirit of the team shone best. I so very much appreciated the support that this team has shown me and each other. The ability of NDRC to persevere through the adversity and to help one another back up is beautiful. After the race and the initial disappointment, everybody just picked it right back up and was even more determined to kill the next race. And that is why I love this team.

And then the 500 m grand A premier mixed final. Oh my God. What a ride.

WE WON.

NDRC Premier has never won the TIDBRF grand final. We’ve come in second so many times. In fact, we’ve come in second so many times the announcer even commented on it. As the race went on, he made sure to note the fact that the Warriors have been the TIDBRF champions for the last two years. BUT NOT THIS YEAR.

I didn’t look up during the race, so I didn’t really know how we were doing, but Miriam, our drummer, was telling us “keep it here” and “you got this,” which I took as a good sign. Both Marcella and I thought “don’t change a thing if we got this!” Usually when we’re behind we get told “gotta go” and so when we weren’t told that, I had hope. I almost never hear cheering from the sidelines, probably because I tune it out (or there isn’t cheering, who knows), but this race I remember very vividly hearing the cheers from the grand stands. In my head I was thinking that most people have a soft spot for the underdogs and genuinely hoped for NDRC’s success, so I actually felt very encouraged by the cheering. When we crossed that finish line and Chris called us down, we all looked over and exploded.

Tears, smiles, hugs, relief. There’s a video of the race somewhere on YouTube. I’ve watched it over at least ten times. It never gets old.

That was a good race.

NDRC Yellow (finishing in 6th) was cheering right there with us. Some of them even before finishing their own race (ahem, Gavin). That’s team spirit. As Gavin says, we need each other to succeed. Anybody’s success is everybody’s success and we push each other to push ourselves. None of it would have been possible without each and every team member. NDRC Yellow and Green won that race together.

Writing this post has let me relive the experience of that weekend. I started this post as soon as the competition ended because I didn’t want to forget the feeling. But finishing it just now has let me relive and remember it even better. I want to remember the feeling of accomplishment after we have worked so hard and I hope we channel that feeling and drive, turning them to fuel for this weekend. Both NDRC and Iron Dragons have grown so much and with so much potential, I can’t wait to see what we can do at Nationals.

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