CARP and the Ugly Duckling

Hi, my name is Sherman Anderson. I have been a part of CARP for almost three years now. I joined CARP when I was in a rough place in my life. My experience with CARP and with the larger Capital program has been life-changing. I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to share the blessing that CARP and the rowing has been in my life.

Because of my age, I took physical education courses, running and doing the best that I could like everyone else with no accommodation and never even thinking to ask. If I remember right, one of my lowest grades ever, in 7th grade, was my PE class because of my slow mile time. Later, in high school, I did the mile-and-a-half at our school’s track. I have a memory of walking around the track doing what I was assigned to do, finishing in something like 15–18 minutes.  

To share a little bit more about myself,  I have a genetic form a Cerebral Palsy. Because it is genetic, and no one else in my family had similar symptoms, it was hard to deal with growing up. When I was born, the idea of genetic forms of palsy was not even a possibility. The doctors gave me a diagnosis, and said to my parents anything that didn’t hurt me would be okay. With this encouragement, I tried really hard to fit in, to be like everyone else. As you can imagine, growing up it was difficult to be different. 

I spent much of the first 40 years of my life trying to fit in, trying to look like everyone else. What it reminds me of was the story of the Ugly Duckling. I felt like if only I could be like the other ducks around me I could and would be happy. In fact I was so repulsed by the idea of not fitting in, when I was invited to participate in an adaptive skiing activity in college I rejected the invitation and told myself that I wasn’t “like those people.”

Fast-forward twenty plus years, some difficult things have happened to me in my life, and I was searching for meaning for connection.  When I started coming to CARP, I was not thinking that it was the best fit for me. I was searching for maybe another non-water alternative. Coming to CARP, I learned and more importantly began to experience the joy and exhilaration that I had NEVER felt before in my life.  I was able to compete using those parts of my body that were strong, and I knew that with help I could achieve some pretty amazing things. This last week I did a 2000m during practice and I was blown away by the fact that I was able to go 2000m in about 9.52 minutes. The significance of this was not lost on me. Twenty plus years ago to go about that same distance it took me about 18 minutes. Now, with adaptive equipment, with support and encouragement from friends, I was able to finish in half that time.

I still haven’t found my wings yet, I haven’t been able to fly away yet like the ugly duckling from the story, but thanks to CARP I have been able to begin to embrace my difference, to recognize that I am not a duck, that my journey in life can go in a different and rewarding path.  

Something that I found the other day that applies to my experience with CARP is a Japanese saying:   “A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.”

Get involved by volunteering or donating to CARP today!

CARPe Diem—Celebrating 10 Years!

The Capital Adaptive Rowing Program (CARP) is celebrating 10 years! We’ll be featuring stories from athletes, coaches, and volunteers throughout the year. Learn more in last year’s 30for30 post, Capital Adaptive, from the Beginning.

For our inaugural post, a poem by CARP athlete Sarah Davies:

Row Row Row Your Boat
As our CARP Crew claims its first ten Herculean years
Exchanging wheels and canes
for blood, sweat and tears
Exchanging eyes for ears
And tortured limbs coaxed to rid fears
Oars obey charging forth, as each of us tuning our own instrument learn
To command different notes from the struggle it takes to earn
Which makes each one played well on the water or erg worth taking a turn
Each of us hears new music earning individual gains
So we can satisfy and relish just like the rest in the main
Triumphant sculling to celebrate  courage put to the test
Inspired by each new journey while trying our best
The challenges we’ll keep meeting day after day
Remain CARPe DIEM! everybody, one right after the other

It’s the very best way!

Get involved by volunteering or donating to CARP today!

Juniors Ergathon

Capital Juniors

The 2019 Juniors Ergathon will take place on Saturday, February 23, at BASIS DC Charter School, 410 8th Street NW.

Registration starts at 9:30 am, followed by relays from 10 to noon.

The annual Ergathon, where the team collectively will row 250,000 meters, helps raise money to ensure that more DC-area students have the chance to experience rowing and to make their own memories on the water.

Help support the Capital Juniors by donating, joining a relay team, or volunteering at the event!


30for30: Rowers Further Afield

In addition to the local connections with our sibling organizations at the Anacostia Community Boathouse, Capital is also part of a larger rowing world. We see each other—and compete against each other—at regattas, and the opportunity to row composite lineups with other clubs helps to reinforce these relationships and allows us to serve as ambassadors for Capital, its members, and its mission.

Two small groups recently competed at regattas in both all-Capital and composite lineups.

On September 9, 12 members of the afternoon sweep program made their way to Chicago for the Chicago River Half-Marathon, hosted by Lincoln Park Boat Club. The course meandered from Lincoln Park’s new Eleanor Street boathouse in Bridgeport through industrial areas and the beautiful downtown, turning at the Chicago Harbor Locks.

Members of Capital’s afternoon sweep program at the 2018 Chicago River Marathon

Temporarily trading out the Washington swamp for fairer climes, Capital fielded a mixed 8+ and a composite Mixed 8+ with rowers from Ann Arbor Rowing Club and Chicago Rowing Foundation. Also participating in the Mixed 8+ category was a crew from Great Miami Rowing Center, while several lineups from New Trier High School and entries from co-hosts Lincoln Park and the University of Chicago rounded out the men’s and women’s categories. With perfect early fall weather, stunning sights, and fantastic hospitality, a great time was had by all. (The Mixed 8+ victory didn’t hurt either!)

Members of Capital’s competitive women’s team at the 2018 Head of the Cuyahoga

On September 15, a few members of Capital’s competitive team traveled to Cleveland to row in the Head of the Cuyahoga, recently named one of the 10 largest regattas in the country. Rowing in one women’s 4+ steered by a local coxswain, and two more composite boats joined by various members of the Western Reserve Rowing Association, Capital finished within the top 5 of each event they participated in. The Capital Women’s Masters 4+ finished 4th out of 16, the Capital women/Western Reserve men Mixed Open 8+ composite boat was able to take gold in their event, and the Men’s Masters 4+ composite boat finished in 5th place.

Gold medalists at the 2018 Head of the Cuyahoga

The members of Capital Rowing Club who were able to make the trip to both Chicago and Cleveland this year welcome the interest and participation of fellow Capital members in 2019 and thank Lincoln Park and Western Reserve for hosting us at enjoyable and successful regattas!

Help support Capital Rowing Club by donating today!

30for30: The Spencer Cup Reclaimed

By Craig McKay

“Now I can die in peace!”  Those were the words gasped by then 73-year-old Duncan Spencer from the bow seat as we beat Palm Beach Rowing Club in the Men’s E4 Open Final at the Masters Nationals Regatta in Sarasota, Florida, in 2013.  It was a photo finish and we didn’t know we won by a bow ball until our teammates shouted the glorious news from the shoreline.  Palm Beach is a rolodex club, meaning they bring in talent of rowing pedigree to major regattas.  Duncan knew them all as they, like Duncan, were former elite rowers . . . which made the victory sweeter for all of us but especially for Duncan. The line up was Ralph Stedman, myself, Mark Comtois, Duncan, and my wife Susan McKay.  This race was the most memorable of all my medals at Masters National competitions since 2006.

Why?  Three years earlier, the same four rowers, but with my daughter Steffanie coxing, won the event at the 2010 Masters Nationals Regatta in a come-from-behind victory over the Occoquan Boat Club.  In that race, Duncan was stroking the boat and I was again 3 seat.  I remember Steffanie encouraging us as we clawed our way back from a half boat length deficit at the 500 meter mark.  Inch by inch we came back.  Then with 150 meters to go, she yelled, “We can do this . . . but you have to pull harder than you have ever pulled before!”  “Bring up the rating!” she yelled.  I hear her scream, “I got 37, we got 39, 41!” I’m gasping and thinking, “I can’t do this.”  Then I realize the stroke sitting in front of me bringing up that rating is 70 years old, 19 years older than me. “To hell with it, let’s do this!” I tell myself.  Again, it was a photo-finish victory.  It was similar to the Sarasota race, but at Sarasota we were ahead and Palm Beach was inching up on us!

The Spencer Cup comes home!!

We were so proud of that first win, we commissioned a trophy for the event and named the trophy the Spencer Cup.  The inscription reads, “In honor of Duncan Spencer, A good oar, good man, and good friend.” It took us three years to win the trophy back, and we did it at Sarasota in the only way Duncan would have wanted it.  Duncan has been rowing more years than I have been alive and he is a role model for every rower at Capital and across the nation.  Last year at the Masters Nationals in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I again had the honor of rowing a four to victory with Duncan, but it was up one age group to the Men’s F4.  It was a great win but a much easier win as we had open water at the finish.

This is what I love about Capital.  Training hard throughout the year, building camaraderie and lasting friendships with teammates with mutual goals, then peaking at the National Championships to race—and beat!— top clubs from across the country. I rowed four years in college, took 25 years off, then resuscitated my rowing skills and conditioning with Club AM for a year, finally moving to the Comp Program where I have been enjoying my passion for rowing ever since!  Go Capital!

Help support Capital Rowing Club by donating today!