Atlanta Erg Sprints
I give out the medals. I tape up the results.  I’m in my volunteering happy place.


This past Wednesday while wasting time on Instagram when I came across a call for volunteers for the Atlanta Indoor Erg Sprint. During my brief stint in 2016 as a member of my gym’s indoor rowing team, I became familiar with this annual event. (I placed 7th in my age group. Let’s just leave it at that.)  I eagerly completed the volunteer form, hit “send,” and awaited my appointment.  Seven minutes later, I was asking myself, “Why the hell did I just volunteer to give up a precious Saturday for a sport in which I am no longer involved and for an event in which I am not connected to a single person?” I thought about immediately sending a “disregard my sign-up” message, but for some reason I didn’t.

The next day, I still had the same thoughts. Am I losing my mind? Do I have nothing else to do? To make matters worse, the work week turned out to be a busy one, and I was behind on my paperwork. Since I don’t like to face “old work in a new week,” that would mean working on a Saturday. I went to the volunteer sheet to cancel but saw that I could do just a half-day. Perfect. I could work in the morning (and remain a person true to her word) and have time to accomplish my home and work tasks. By this point, I was starting to feel like I was supposed to be there. I didn’t know why, but I was suddenly interested in finding out.

Friday- I didn’t give the race much thought until my drive home from work. Determined to figure out my “why,”  I turned off the radio and turned into my thoughts. That’s when it hit me:

Two years ago, high from the excitement of the race day, I decided that I would compete again in 2018. My birthday is a couple of weeks before the event, and with my slow rowing, being an almost 50-year old in the 40-49 category didn’t sound like a good time. Given two years to get better at rowing, I’d do much better in 2018 at the age of almost 51 in the 50-59 category. Great plan. Except, I made no effort to train. At all.  I’m supposed to be there because I said I would.

Saturday- What a morning. I had a blast! I was the score runner which meant I posted the scores for all to see. Although with technology the participants could see their information on line just as quickly, I think there’s something about seeing the results on a piece of paper taped to the wall that really made it official. The other part of my job- an unexpected duty- was giving out the medals. It worked out that way simply because the medals happened to have been in front of me on the table. I loved giving a woot woot to those who placed.  I’m supposed to be here because I need I feed off the joy of others.

I had the chance to briefly chat with my neighbor from the 2016 race, Jeanne Deprano, the 81-year old woman who won a World Record at last year’s race. I told her that I was just volunteering this year, and she peppered me with questions.  Wanna feel guilty about being a slacker? Just talk to an octogenarian who gets it done with no excuses. I’m supposed to be here because I needed a reminder to be consistent and to do what I’ve set my mind to do.

Because of the placement of the table, I was at the end of the row of ergs. The pecking order of indoor racing is that the fastest athletes are placed in the center of the row, and as the ergs are placed further from the center, the athletes’ expected times are slower. The center section is where you’ll hear the loudest cheers as the fastest athletes are all vying for first place. On the ends, however, is where you will see a beautiful display grit and determination. It’s one thing to keep going when you might win a medal or break a record. It’s another thing to keep going when the others are finished, and you are the last one to cross the finish line. At the end of the row is where you see people wanting to give up. You see the rowing come to a crawl or even pause momentarily. Then you hear the voices, “Keep going.” “You’ve got this.” “You’re almost there.” “Don’t you quit.” And with that encouragement, you see that rower on the end push through and complete the race. I’m supposed to be here because I need to see that no matter what I’m struggling with, the universe is behind me, cheering me on, and making sure that I don’t quit.

I have a few shots and videos on my IG page. I won’t make any lofty promises about competing next year, but I can say with certainty that I will apply these lessons to the unfinished goals on my list.