If all of American rowing has a Homecoming weekend, it's Head of the Charles here in Boston, Mass., and it's glorious. Every year I wonder if it's just something I'm nostalgic about, but day one is done, and no, it's just as wonderful as I thought it would be.
It's impossible to duck into a coffee shop or even walk 20 feet without running into a former teammate or rowing friend. The whole weekend passes in a blur of new stories and familiar faces, although over the years the evolution has shifted from new significant others or fun summer coaching gigs to babies, jobs, houses, rings, surgeries, family, and everything else. Our worlds have gotten so much bigger, but the rowing world, even as the schedule at the Charles is full to bursting, remains so wonderfully interconnected.
Every year I've been in training, no matter how in or out of shape I am, the trip down the race course remains equally lung- and leg-burningly painful, although it never seems as excruciating after, recollecting a magnificently-made turn or boat passed with teammates. In spite of myself, I'm already looking forward to racing again the following year.
The greatest thing about the Head of the Charles Regatta: it is the epitome of the rowing family. We're packed into our extended (rowing) family's living rooms, sleeping on futons and floors. It's unthinkable to have a meal this weekend that isn't shared with a long-missed friend. Rowers span over seven decades, generations upon generations, and it's impossible to tell who's the most excited to be here. We're a family brought together by love -- the love of this crazy sport and everything that comes with it.
I'm racing Sunday in the Championship Four at 2:39 p.m. -- I'll be bow #4, sitting in stroke, and could not be more excited to tear up the course with an awesome crew, coxswain, and everything I've got.
If you're not on the banks of the Charles, watch live racing here!
Follow Esther Lofgren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/estherlofgren