The Power of Ten

A power ten is a set of ten strokes in a crew race where you push yourself as hard as you can. I may not have a real strong belief in the sport of rowing, but I do believe in the power ten.

I sat at the ready, back straight, legs bent, chin up, hands down and away. Our coxsin, the person who sits in the back of the boat keeping everything coordinated, was lost in concentration examining our point. I half heard the starting whistle but it was immediately drown out by the ten different coxsins each screaming at their boat to move. Instantly, our coxsin mustered an expression of ferocity. He called for a power ten. I sprang back on the slide heaving my arms in. I reached out ready for another stroke but I was thrown backwards by the force of the boat. I finished too early. Zooming forward, I tried to catch up but with an unpleasant jerk found myself late this time. Desperately I dragged my oar through the water, but it was an empty stroke. The coxsin steadily counted on as I frantically rolled up and down the slide searching for the proper tempo. I was caught in the disarray of my own stroke and all I could hear was the coxsins count clashing horribly with my jagged efforts. I fumbled, trying to juggle the million different commands I screamed simultaneously at myself: Reach! Straighten your back! Push! Pull! Hurry! Slow down! Breathe! Balance! Time began to race. The moment slipped through my fingers like sand.

There came a time in the middle of the race when I died, just wanted to give up, throw my oar into the water and end that misery I was in. My concentration was shot, gross water flicked into my mouth, slightly suffocating me, and my hair was glued to my eyes in a thick coat of sweat. It is somewhere around this time that the coxsin called for another power ten. There is a slight adrenaline rush, but it’s more of an energy that engulfed the boat. For me, it started as a resigned determination. I had no choice but to pull this out for ten strokes. I took a deep breath, and began. Eight oars slap the water in unison and the boat glides. There were no glitches, no mystery forces in play. I could feel the balance of seven other hands laying flat on the same plane. Time began to elongate. I heard a resounding two. I threw myself into the moment, acting on instinct, instead of fighting against it. It was as if we were all linked by the connecting rods on the wheels of a train. Even if I wanted to, I could not break the progression of the boat. With each pulse, the certainty conglomerated, slowly transforming us into a juggernaut. After those ten strokes however, something snapped and I lost it, tumbling back down into a frantic state doing my all to not lose us that race. For that short moment though I gained insight into something that at all other times baffles me.

I believe in the power ten. I believe that big things are composed of small things. By understanding a part, I can, at the very least, appreciate the complexity of the whole. I believe that whatever puzzle I ensnare myself into, no matter how complicated my quagmire might seem, there is always a power ten. Sometimes a power ten tortures me and sometimes I swagger out feeling like a champ, but regardless, it is always there, jeering, challenging me on. Instead blindly fighting tooth and nail through the chaos, I embrace the power ten.

Katherine H

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