My wife’s gotten into juicing lately. You know, of the fresh-squeezed variety, not the needles-pills-and-powders version favored by so many top athletes. The byproduct, as anyone who’s done this knows, is a lot of soggy pulp. As I looked at macerated remains of carrots, grapefruit, oranges, apples and other fruits and vegetables left over from Sunday morning’s fresh squeeze, I felt a certain kinship. “I know how you feel,” I thought to myself. I kept this private because unless you come home in a body cast, no one’s going to feel any sympathy regarding any aches and pains you’ve accumulated courtesy of 11 days sailing in South Florida. In fact, coming home in a body cast may not do the trick.
I’m fairly certain that had my skipper called for two more tacks on Friday afternoon’s final beat of 2013 Quantum Key West Race Week that the adrenaline of the moment would’ve carried me through a few more turns of the winch handle. I’m equally as convinced that had we, for some reason, had one more race that I probably wouldn’t have made it through unscathed. I’m positive that had the regatta stretched to a sixth day, I would’ve been little more than a useless passenger along for the ride.
I wasn’t off the boat but an hour on Friday when various parts of my body started seizing up and shutting down. I limped through the final night’s festivities, somehow got myself to the airport, and limped and winced my way through the front door of my house in Newport Saturday evening a fully broken man.
“How about a hug, sweetheart,” I said to my three-year-old daughter. “Just don’t squeeze too hard.”
Gimping around in the ice and snow that had accumulated since I left was no fun. But I have to admit a sense of satisfaction knowing that I left everything I had on the racecourse. Key West Race Week has always been a grind, especially since Peter Craig and Premiere Racing went to a 10-race format (yes, it used to be one race per day, and for many years, 7 or 8 races was a full regatta). But this year was perhaps the toughest week of sailing in its history, with the majority of the races sailed in 15 knots or more, and a few sailed in 20-plus. I know it was the toughest week of sailing I’ve endured. And that is in no way a bad thing.
The older I get, the more respect I have for these opportunities to find my limits. My aches and pains will fade eventually—and in truth a little more stretching before and after racing probably would’ve solved most of my post-regatta issues—but the memories will endure.
Sailing doesn’t have to hurt. And in many cases it shouldn’t and doesn’t. But I’m glad there still are events where you can commit yourself to the cause for an extended period of time and come away feeling that, win or lose, you didn’t leave anything on the table.