In 2001 Ben entered first grade and Floss thought, “My kids are now in school so I’m not quite as exhausted anymore. I can do this 5am Learn to Row before they are even awake, and when they get up I’ll be home, send them off to school, and it will be manageable!” She had seen flyers for Sammamish Rowing Association’s (SRA) program and had memories of seeing boats on a river near her college campus years ago.
“I thought- that looks really interesting, let’s just go for it. The timing was perfect. I was ready for something new in my life, because all I had going on was my kids. I was a stay at home mom at the time, I didn’t have a job anymore,” Floss added. She felt like her identity had been solely tied to her kids and she was looking for something new . Rowing ended up exceeding her expectations. “I think I found myself as a person again through that. It was super empowering and such a positive boost to my self esteem. It completely changed my life. It was amazing.”
At the time the number of rowers at SRA was much fewer than it is today. New rowers were labeled as a novice, but were thrown in the boats with more experienced rowers, because there weren’t enough people to justify additional coaches. “I was terrified. Everyone was so sweet, but I felt like they just hated having me in the boat,” she said.
In the summer, SRA hired a new coach to manage the novices. Floss was put into his group and immediately felt more empowered. After a full summer of rowing with this new coach, “I remember he took me one day and handed me over to the experienced head coach and said ‘I can’t do anymore with her- here.’ That made me feel like I had graduated and I was qualified to be in this group. It made me feel like I belonged there , and even though I had a lot of work to do, I had the inspiration to keep trying,” Floss explained.
Floss noted that before coaches like Tom Woodman and Lee Henderson came around, SRA’s coaches were constantly changing, particularly in the 5am time slot, and some weren’t always the best fit for the program. Floss says the more consistent coaches like Tom and Lee have been lifesavers by providing stability for their groups. She moved from 5am to the mid-morning team, and now rows independently as she tries to keep a shoulder injury at bay. Her physical therapist says she can still row, but movements like carrying a single, rolling a shell into slings, and other similar tasks can cause pain.
Rowing instilled so much confidence in Floss, but she continued the sport because of the people she met along the way. “The friends I have made are great. It is so nice to go out on the water with somebody,” she said. Not only did Floss continue rowing, but her children, Ben and Maggie, did as well. They had grown up seeing her rowing. Floss often “dragged” her kids to Masters Regionals where they would help out by carrying oars or just play on the beach.
Floss didn’t push them into the sport, but encouraged them to try it out. Maggie started in 8th grade and instantly loved it whereas Ben took a little bit more time to be fully convinced that this was the sport for him. Once he got into shape, it clicked. “It gave them self confidence and another set of friends. They weren’t into the whole social scene of high school, so it was neat that SRA had kids from many different schools. No one came in with a certain image,” Floss reflected. Junior rowers form incredible bonds because they go through incredible moments together whether it’s suffering through a workout or winning a race.
Ben and Maggie thrived on the team, and even though their mother described them as quiet kids, they both ended up being team captains. This sport is ideal for forming the best of relationships, because teammates see each other at their best and worst moments. Floss was pleasantly surprised to see their leadership skills develop as well as their physical selves as they gained muscle and learned to live active, healthy lives through rowing.
Aside from being a rower and junior rower parent, Floss served on the Board of Directors and found that her role helped keep her informed about everything that was going on at SRA . In 2006 the capital campaign for the new boathouse launched. For years progress was off and on. Pivotal people came and went. Floss and her husband Tony Andrews, didn’t want all this work to slow down . The two were pivotal in keeping the new boathouse project on track. “I was worried the project would stall. The motivating factor for Tony and I was to not let the work of historical people in this club go to waste,” Floss explained when asked what motivated her to be so involved.
Walking into our current facility is still exciting for Floss. She feels a sense of awe when she walks down the path and sees the Hod Fowler Boathouse appear around the corner. She has had such wonderful memories created during her time at SRA. Winning a pair race at Masters Nationals by 11 seconds in 2006, attending SRA Galas with friends, coming to boathouse cleanups, and watching her children race were just some of her best memories here.
When she started, Hanna was looking for an identity of her own. Almost 20 years later and she has become a special part of our community and devoted member to our mission. Floss, like many others, has spent so much time making this organization better because she believes in the values and impact of SRA. People like Hanna make impacts that last and are remembered forever- hers certainly will be.
She admits that she didn’t always look forward to going to the boathouse. Rowing is a sport that tests grit and toughness. “The mental challenges this sport puts us through is like no other. There were times where I wanted to quit or stop, or maybe just even rest but I think it was having the support of friends and teammates that kept my there. I wouldn’t want to go back and change a thing. I do feel honored to have had the opportunity to be stronger because of SRA not just physically but also emotionally,” Barry explained.
One of her favorite memories came after a particularly tough point. She and her boat were getting ready for the Portland Fall Classic and were feeling pessimistic about how they might place. Just the weekend before they had a poor performance at the Head of the Charles Regatta, and one of their main competitors, Green Lake, had placed top ten at the Charles. Barry remembers her coach, Kelley Pope, urging them to forget about the race results of the prior weekend and to focus on what laid ahead. Pope knew they had a tough challenge ahead but encouraged them to rise to the occasion.
Barry reflected on that day’s results, “I think looking back at it now she taught us all we can’t change the past so don’t worry about it, just look to what is ahead. She said along the lines ‘If you’re going to do something today, surprise me.’ We all sat with this thought in our head up to the race line and we laughed about how true those words were and decided to race with a “you only live once” mentality. We ended up beating Green Lake that day. I think we ended up surprising ourselves more than anything.
As an involved student Barry had plenty of extracurriculars to draw on for personal growth. She served as orchestra president, was a member of the DECA Executive Board at her high school, worked at a YMCA, and volunteered with the Mountain to Sound Greenway. Despite all those other areas of involvement, Barry credits rowing with the most personal growth. “Rowing has giving me strength and confidence. I think mentally it has given me a drive no other sport could offer. In academics it actually boosted my GPA senior year because it kept me on task with having such a loaded schedule and it’s given me the opportunity for higher education.”
Now at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Barry continues to row. She has been loving her experience as a D1 athlete. She said, “College is insane with rowing to put it simply. I don’t think this should scare anyone from trying it in college though. Its given me lifelong friends and I’m a D1 athlete which was kind of my childhood dream. I’ve been given a lot of opportunity with academics too through rowing. I get a lot of help with tutoring and applying for classes. Also, it’s a huge honor to represent your school with sports.”
Her offered piece of advice? “The secret to surviving rowing is... after a crazy hard practice you go buy a bag of Hostess doughnuts and eat all of them.” Great advice from a great SRA alumni. SRA wishes the best to Anna as she continues her studies and stays devoted to the sport of rowing- making a point of giving back to the community that has given her so much.
This past weekend was the 2nd Annual Sammamish Polar Bear 5K. It was so much fun having our SRA community come together for one event when we are usually separated by different days of the week and time of day. During the event we saw some impressive running times and enjoyed much better weather compared to last year.
The Sammamish Polar Bear 5K had the treat of fielding two olympic athletes in the race. Hans Struzyna, a former SRA junior rower, and his fiance, Kristin Hedstrom, each took a first place medal- Kristin won the overall women’s category while Hans was the fastest man in the 20-29 age category, but was 4th for overall men. Hans rowed in the 2016 Rio Olympics and was in town for his sister’s wedding. Kristin rowed in the 2012 olympics, and now works as a personal trainer and weight loss coach in California.
Two SRA juniors followed behind Kristin to place overall 2nd and 3rd in the women’s category. Respectively they were Brooke Caragher and Megan Williams. Chris Gossett won 1st for overall men with an incredible 5K time of 17:11, and was followed closely by Justin Jablonowsky who placed 2nd with a time of 18:08. With a 6:05 mile pace, SRA junior, Nikola Bojanic, took third place overall and first for his age group. On the day of the race 302 people had registered to run, and Woodinville Running Co estimated between 25-35 “day of” registrants.
We had some big goals for this run, and because of your support, we achieved many of them. Our overall goal was to raise money for our 2019 Scholarship Fund, which was mostly achieved through rower and coach fundraising pages as well as sponsorships. Our sponsors were incredible and did so much more than just write a check to support us. Many sponsors showed up on race day to either run, watch the race, or set up a booth to meet community members.
CrewNerd, created by one of our own members, Tony Andrews, is a tremendous supporter of this year’s race. CrewNerd is a smartphone application designed for use on the water by rowers and paddlers, providing athletes and coaches with real-time information about stroke rate, time, speed, distance, direction, heart rate, and more. CrewNerd was the first rowing app for the iPhone and has been used by rowers around the world and at all levels of competition for almost 10 years. It works like an NK SpeedCoach but at a small fraction of the cost, and on all major smartphone models.
Athletes can create custom workouts of various kinds and record workout data which can then be reviewed on the device or exported in a variety of popular formats for analysis and charting. Exported data can be sent via email or through USB to your computer. Rowing shells of all sizes are supported as well as kayaks, canoes, and dragonboats.
Andrews serves on the Board of Directors for Sammamish Rowing Association and was instrumental in securing funding for our relatively newly constructed boathouse. The boathouse is a gorgeous two story structure that was completed in 2016 after six years of building phases and fundraising.
Another supporter and sponsor of the Sammamish Polar Bear 5K was Todd Lozier of Lochwood-Lozier Custom Homes. The Lozier name and home building can be traced back as far as 1776, when the Lozier family first built a home to sell in Midland, NJ. The name of their company is Lochwood-Lozier, a name that was actually derived from a car called the Lozier Lakewood. The Lozier Lakewood finished in second place in the first Indianapolis 500.
Todd Lozier’s great-great-uncle, Eugene Drummond, was the site-superintendent for Frank Lloyd Wright. Eugene’s son, William Drummond, went on to work for Frank Lloyd Wright as his lead draftsman. More recently, the Lozier name goes back three generations to 1958 when the family moved to the Northwest from Omaha, NE.
Todd’s daughter, Lauren, is a current junior SRA coxswain and raced on Saturday as well. She was joined by her younger sister, Claire, who won first place in her age group by running the 5K in 25:06.
As President, Todd Lozier, has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and gives his time to his family church in Bellevue. He has participated for several years in the Clyde Hill Elementary School Auction. He is also a proud sponsor of Clyde Hill Days. SRA was fortunate to have him as a sponsor for our Sammamish Polar Bear 5K as well.
Dave DeWinter’s business, RowHero, was another sponsor. You can follow RowHero on Instagram and watch Dave as he shows off his work on erg data tracking. RowHouse appeared on race day with their own table to tell people about there up and coming rowing boutique studios in the community. PixelFire provided support as well. Their business helps others market through visual communication and was founded by Steve Bumstead who rows for our evening masters team. Lastly, Voyafa Financial and Crossfit PTV sponsored the run as well. Crossfit PTV has trained our juniors in the past and is located just on the other side of Marymoor Park.
Pre and post race fuel was kindly donating by KIND Snacks, Blazing Bagels, and GU Energy who all provided samples of some of their best products. Time was generously donated by our over 20 volunteers! Volunteers helped with registration, running the food table, helping with timing, cleaning up the race site, giving out awards, and monitoring the course.
Junior coaches had a busy day since they attended the 5K run and ran the Junior Captain’s Boat Race right afterwards at the SRA boathouse. Our junior coaches helped volunteer at the Sammamish Polar Bear 5K, and arrived before the beautiful bright sun had risen.
Overall, the Sammamish Polar Bear 5K was a fun event for coaches, rowers, and members of our community. We want to thank everyone for their support, and we hope you had an amazing time. Get ready for the Sammamish Polar Bear 5K 2020!
Thank you Brian Lewis for taking photos! More Photos of the event can be found on our Facebook page under the album: Sammamish Polar Bear 5K 2019
David Lund grew up in Minnesota- attending St. Olaf College there before heading to Yale for graduate school in religious studies, which led to him serve as a hospital and military Chaplain, Pastor and Professor for 20 years. His internship was in (what was then still West) Berlin in 1987-1988, where he met his future wife Elizabeth from Seattle, and the two have been married for 30 years. They are both German and Norwegian speakers, after living in those countries for 9 years. He sings in a choir, and for 6 years was the President of Columbia Choirs. For the last 14 years he has been a registered representative and Wealth Advisor. Fast-forward to 2008 and their son, Alex, began rowing at Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA).
Alex was a sophomore whose soccer team had disbanded before his mother, who had rowed at Green Lake Crew in high school, suggested he give rowing a try. It was an amazing fit from day one. Lund recalled chaperoning the SRA junior rowers at the Brentwood Regatta. As he looked out at his son and his teammates, he couldn’t help but be amazed by the discipline and teamwork these teenagers demonstrated. A few weeks before the Brentwood Regatta, Lund received some news from his doctor that had stuck with him. He said, “I had been to the doctor and he had told me, ‘if your blood pressure doesn’t go down towards normal in six months you’re going to have to take medication.’ I had always been healthy previously in my life. I played rugby in college, cycled a lot around south Germany and Switzerland, and cross-country skied in Norway. I was sitting on the hillside of the Brentwood regatta, watching these kids do what they do at regattas, and I was blown away.”
Seeing the guidance provided by Sammamish coaches, Lund joined the evening team with Lee Henderson as coach. In 2010, he transitioned to the 5am team with Tom Woodman, as it simplified his schedule. When asked why he has stuck with SRA ever since Lund explained, “well I needed it. I didn’t see another option. I didn’t want to hire a personal trainer for years, and I wasn’t doing it on my own. I needed the structure, the discipline, and the accountability. I just needed it or I was going to be sick and die-- or at least that's how I felt. And I have always loved boats!”
In 2009-10, his first year of rowing, he lost 20 pounds, solely due to the increased activity. “The initial weight loss and health gain just came,” he said. In 2016, Lund was informed of continued heavy snoring, so he had a sleep test. The test revealed that he had moderately severe sleep apnea. He had another “Come to Jesus” moment when he talked to his sleep doctor. With 5 to 6 workouts a week, why was this happening? His doctor told him simply that since he was now in his 50’s, his metabolism had slowed, and even if he worked out 10 times a week, he wouldn’t lose another pound. The next issue to tackle was food.
Following this visit with the sleep doctor, Lund got serious about food. He started researching and found a nutrition coach. Lund is the kind of person who likes to get deeply invested and educated about the events, interests, and issues in his life. His new mission to have better nutrition was no exception. “Just being told to do something doesn’t work for me. I have to know why. Once I understand why, I’m like, ‘I’m in’,” he said. Nutrition coaching again brought up the themes of having teaching, discipline, and accountability. He also did his own study and read several books that changed his outlook on food. Some of his favorites are The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Food Rules by Michael Pollan, Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin (watch Salatin's talks on YouTube), and Younger Next Year by Crowley and Lodge. For Lund, education is essential, and he wanted to understand more about how food works, where it comes from, and how it gets to his plate. These teachers that got Lund fired up cover topics from the physiology of aging, the disaster of modern food and farming practices, one man’s journey to make a complete dinner for guests with food locally sourced within 25 miles of his home, and simple, memorable food rules passed on down the generations from families and friends.
“From June 2016 to Thanksgiving, I shed 20% of my body weight,” Lund said. He had accomplished what he set out to do by understanding himself better and what he needed in order to be successful. For him that was a rowing coach to hold him accountable for workouts, a nutrition coach to guide him on making life-long changes, and personal study to back it all up.
David Lund has been a member of the SRA community for 11 years now. At first, structure and accountability brought him back to the boathouse, but now he finds that fun, community, and friends bring him back as well. He said, “Any voluntary organization has to have the right balance of challenge and fun. Of effort and community. Of competition and friendship. If it’s not challenging enough over time, you’ll quit. You’ll get bored. If it isn’t fun enough, it isn’t sustainable. SRA does a good job of maintaining these balances.”
His journey on and off the water helped transform his life. He added, “The world is so beautiful and amazing if you just turn off the TV and stop listening to the sensationalist media. So much cool stuff is going on in the world, but you won't find it if you don’t poke your head outside the door and get involved with your neighbors." Whether or not you are currently part of the SRA community, take Lund’s advice and poke your head out the door. You never know what beautiful and amazing things you’ll find or learn. Lastly, be sure to get a sleep test!
After living in Connecticut for five years, James Conlu moved back to Seattle in the Fall of 2004. He joined the evening team before it was referred to as the Evening Competitive Team (ECM), and then moved to the 5am team late in the spring of 2005 and has been there ever since. Conlu had learned to row back on the east coast in 2001, and instantly fell in love with the sport. Conlu said, “while rowing for Riverfront Recapture in Connecticut, one of my coaches told me about SRA when I was preparing to move back to Seattle in 2004. She had rowed with some of the SRA junior rowers on the Jr. National Team.”
Growing up, Conlu was an army brat that spent most of his time between the U.S. and Germany. During his time in Germany he grew a love for another sport, soccer, and played on a competitive junior team for a few years. When he moved back to the U.S. he kept soccer in his life by attending soccer camps. Rowing wasn’t quite on his mind yet.
Conlu said that even though he lived in Seattle from 1996-1999 he ironically did not learn about rowing until moving to Connecticut. When asked what keeps Conlu returning to the boathouse he mentioned community. “We work hard to push each other on the water, and we help each other at regattas by carrying boats and oars regardless of which team we're on. But I think it’s the off-water camaraderie that really provides that sense of community. We’ve seen it time and time again. We came together to make the new boathouse a reality.” He says so many cherished friendships have resulted from the sense of community at Sammamish from helping someone move in, find a new job, getting someone through a rough time, or just getting together to hang out.
In 2008 Conlu had been coaching Learn to Row (LTR) I and II as well as novices in the evening. Conlu said, “I was lucky to have had a motivated group of folks for my 1st LTR I class. I was fortunate that there was very little turnover as we progressed to LTR II and into Novice.” Over the course of the next few years, Conlu experienced some great success from those Learn to Row programs he coached. The team saw a couple of men’s and women’s 4+'s growing to men’s and women’s 8+'s. As the team grew Conlu knew a new coach was needed so he contacted Lee Henderson who came back in 2009 to coach the evening team. “This led to the creation of the ECM team as we know it today. And many of those early rowers are still rowing today on one of our Masters teams.”
The ECM team has seen great success and growth ever since. Rowers on this team are coached by Lee Henderson, Dennis Ferrer, and Matt Lundberg who all show amazing love and dedication to the sport. Lee and Dennis handle the more experienced crews comprised of men and women while Matt coaches the novices. Novice enrollment has seen a great spike this year and that might be directly correlated to the great sense of community at Sammamish that Conlu mentions.
“Other than coaching, I served as a substitute coach, and [I] served on the board during the early years of fundraising for the new boathouse. I do what I can to help the club out. For the last 10 years, I’ve been taking photos at various regattas to hopefully capture the history and document the growth and success of SRA over the years, but more importantly to capture those precious moments and memories for my teammates and SRA,” Conlu added.
Overall, Conlu says some of his favorite moments may not even seem like moments all the time. He cherishes all the strong friendships that have sprung out of rowing on different teams, coaching, and being involved in the club overall. He has been able to celebrate friends growing their families, watching their infants grow up, or seeing their kids move on to college.
James is described by his coaches as a team player. He is ingrained in the history of Sammamish Rowing, and has played a huge role in the success of many of our rowers and teams. He has been selfless in giving his time towards an organization and sport he loves. James is one of many rowers who embody what SRA is all about- personal discovery, safety, thoughtful stewardship, and team success.
Remaining true to SRA’s original vision of a community organization open to all, SRA continues to provide rowing opportunities on a non-exclusive, first-come-first-served basis. Some 20 years after its founding, SRA honors and upholds its mission, to spark and nurture a passion for the sport of rowing. It is safe to say James Conlu has done an excellent job of honoring and upholding that mission.
Take an inside look into junior rowing at Sammamish from one of our current experienced boys team members, Adam Schadt.
"I started rowing before I started my Freshman year at Redmond High School in the summer novice program, but I think the reason I’ve kept rowing is more important. Apart from a fun and successful novice year, rowing has not been that easy. I strive to be a strong student in school and have always challenged myself academically. I’ve been interested in pursuing business-related activities throughout high school and taken on a wide range of extracurriculars and interests. Despite this making it extremely challenging to row anywhere between 15 and 20 hours a week, I never stopped. This is because rowing at Sammamish taught me to never quit when things got tough, but instead face challenges even harder. To have stopped rowing for any reason would go against the very things that rowing taught me.
I love Sammamish because of the team culture, friendships and bonds I’ve made, and its highly competitive spirit. I haven’t been at Sammamish since the days of the “old boathouse,” but I’ve witnessed the team, coaches, and current boathouse grow. Sammamish is a community that strives to be the best and set an example in the rowing community.
Above all, rowing has taught me hard work, patience, how to deal with failure, and the importance of committing to goals. It introduced me to the importance of structure, schedule, and challenging myself physically and mentally."
When Aimee joined SRA she was part way through her weight loss journey. Prior to joining she estimates she lost about 60 pounds, but knew she had a long way to go. She hasn’t reached her goal weight yet, but mentioned that her peak weight loss was 120 pounds. Woolwine has been close to her goal, but a rough year has slightly set her back. She lost her mother a year ago, and also went through her surgery this year to repair severe cartilage damage. “One of the things that rowing has taught me is that I can do hard things. I was never a person who did difficult things if they were difficult for me,” Woolwine said when reflecting on her weight loss. “I can do hard things, and it’s worth doing hard things. I know I will get to my goal weight some day.”
Woolwine, now a Wellness Coach for Weight Watchers (WW), had so much insight on health and wellness to share. She attributes most of her weight loss to a healthier diet, but acknowledged the role that physical activity and rowing played in her weight loss journey. “The benefits to being fit, never having been fit in my life before, I can tell you that having my knee surgery when I was 22 and my surgery now- being fit and strong and flexible makes recovery so much easier.”
“The absolute greatest gift that rowing has given me is a new vision for aging.” Woolwine began to focus on her mid-morning crewmates more. “Until this last year I’ve been the youngest mid-morning rower. I’m rowing with women who are 20-30 years older than I am. I lost all of my grandparents very young. They had been ill for a long time, so before rowing, that was my primary example of aging - ill, limited mobility. Now I have a different idea of what being older can look like.”SRA has a wide range of ages of rowers ranging from middle school children to adults in their 70s. It was inspirational for Woolwine to see the rowers from the mid-morning team living and leading healthy, strong, and competitive lifestyles.
“It makes aging exciting rather than scary,” Woolwine said about continuing rowing. She noted that if she can get in a boat and hold an oar at the age of 70 she would count that as a victory! Woolwine just wants to continue moving. She made it clear that she wants to live a life of meaning and purpose. “I want to be mobile, but not just be mobile, I want to enjoy moving.” She has seen the difficulties that can come with aging contrasted against active older lifestyles that are full of fun, vibrancy, and energy. Seeing those two sides - mobile and immobile, healthy and unhealthy, active and inactive - has motivated Woolwine to pursue a life in motion.
Support also comes from her mid-morning teammates. “They are amazing. When my husband had to go out of town on my fortieth birthday for work- I celebrated with the team. We all went out to lunch.” Woolwine didn’t expect anything, but she was showered with gifts. When her mother died, her team was there for her. After her surgery her teammates visited and offered meals. She refers to her mid-morning team as her family.
Woolwine has learned a lot of lessons from rowing and weight loss. “It took external validation. The first coach who actually said to me that I could make the Charles boat one of these days if I worked hard enough was Kara.” Kara planted the seeds of motivation in the back of Woolwine’s mind. That belief in her ability made Woolwine realize that she could achieve any goal she set her mind to. She said her goal used to be going to the Charles to cheer on teammates. Instead she went to the Charles in 2016 and 2017 as a competitor and placed top ten both times.
Being a teammate has given Woolwine a sense of responsibility. She finds it easier to stick to her goals with a team motivating her and also counting on her at practices. She said her favorite memory was her entire 2016 season. That year her boat won Tail of the Lake, placed top ten at the Head of the Charles, and they won Head of the Lake. The camaraderie and success of that team during that head-racing season was an incredible experience for Woolwine, and the first time that she accepted the label of “athlete” in reference to herself.
As a Wellness Coach, and someone who has gone through an incredible health and wellness journey, Woolwine had some advice for others. “When you are trying to improve your health and wellness, you can’t change everything at once. It comes down to two things. It comes down to changing a lot of little habits and letting that build up over time. The other thing is that it is all about what is going on above the neck.” For Woolwine, physical and mental health are equally important. She preaches the importance of mental fortitude and belief in oneself. “You will fail over and over and over and over. The only true path to success is failure. If you expect yourself to be perfect you will be disappointed on a regular basis. True success is humbling”.
“Head of the Charles 2019- I want it,” Woolwine said with that competitive tone in her voice. Aimee has gone through an incredible journey. One that has made her a different person than the one she was 10 years ago. She went from being overweight with limited athletics in her life to being a strong, healthy, decorated athlete at SRA. Her journey has given her an incredible group of friends in the rowing community, a new understanding of health, and an ability to chase down her goals. She, like many of our rowers, is truly discovering her unbounded potential.
Over the years, rowers log thousands of meters on the water. This year, Sammamish Rowing Association rower Jan Schelter logged thousands of miles on land, completing all 2,652 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Stretching from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail is a legendary wilderness path made famous in part by the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Every year “thru hikers” spend several months covering every single one of those miles. Jan Schelter was one of those thru hikers this year.
Eager to hear about Schelter’s recent journey on the PCT I jumped right into asking her about the endeavor. “I was mostly a northbound hiker,” she said. Thru hikers typically go from Mexico to Canada making them north bond hikers (NOBOs), but some choose to go from Canada to Mexico making them southbound hikers (SOBOs). “We started April 18th, and I finished October 9th.” Schelter had a partner who was with her for most of the journey, but had left the trail around Crater Lake about 2-3 weeks earlier of when Schelter finished. I was curious if hiking alone made her scared. “Culture tells me I’m supposed to be scared, but I wasn’t. I had no reason to be.”
While the end of her thru hike was quiet and free of too many hikers, Schelter said it was in stark contrast to the beginning of her trip when there were crowds of people. “Fifty people start a day. You have to get a long-distance permit, which was instituted to spread people out. There used to be hundreds of people starting every day.” Schelter agreed that the increased popularity of hiking the PCT could be partially attributed to the publishing of the book Wild that she compared to the rising popularity of rowing after the book The Boys in the Boat was published.
Thru hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail often give trail names to fellow hikers, based on defining characteristics or trail moments. Schelter’s trail name was Neon- given to her because of the high viz neon rowing hat she wore every day to honor her rowing friends. Her now sun-bleached rowing hat also resulted in a chance meeting of another rower who knows a member of the 5am team - alas - the small world of rowing.
Support came from not only friends and family, but strangers as well. Along her PCT journey, Jan met many “trail angels”- people who help thru-hiker’s with food, supplies, encouragement, shelter, transportation, and other bits of “trail magic”. Trail magic can be as simple as leaving behind water bottles or as elaborate as hosting an entire barbeque meal just off the trail or hosting hikers in personal homes. Jan experienced many of these trail magic moments and was blown away by the kindness and goodness of people. She couldn’t help but reflect on the intangible trail magic her friends from home had given her. “Learning about the amazing people here [SRA], and the support that they gave me- that was nothing short of amazing.
Knowing she wouldn’t quit came partly from her drive to achieve goals. She said she has always had a strong drive, but through rowing she found a new dimension to it. With rowing, she experienced her drive as more than commitment and determination – there was a depth to it. She said she was “pulled” to Canada, like a fish on a fishing line being pulled in. There was no choice.
Reaching the end, which for her was Mt. Shasta, was a bittersweet moment. “I was incredibly grateful for the experience,” Schelter commented, “I suppose I was a little teary-eyed to have actually finished. I was also thankful for the support that all my SRA friends gave me along the way. I didn’t expect that- I didn’t know it was coming. I was also relieved to be finished!” Schelter is glad to be back in her own bed and to have indoor plumbing, but she occasionally misses life on the trail. To help prevent the sense of loss one can feel after finishing this big of adventure Jan is throwing herself back into rowing to help with her transition back to “normal” life.
As Jan prepared to start a post-PCT workout at the SRA boathouse, I asked Jan if she had any advice or final thoughts about this incredible adventure. “The PCT is such an amazing journey, so many experiences. So, I would say, live the National Geographic’s Nature Magazine motto- Dream it, Plan it, Do it.”
Elizabeth W. Wilson
In August, Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) announced a 3 year partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). The PCA works to develop better athletes and people through resources for youth and high school sport coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes. Through its resources such as printable tools, videos, workshops, and audio tools, PCA strives to create a positive, character-building youth sports culture.
SRA’s partnership with PCA aims to help our coaches become and remain Double-Goal Coaches. A Double-Goal Coach strives to win while also pursuing the more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports. Our coaches continuously think about balancing the drive and ambition to win while also building a lifelong passion for rowing.
Just this fall our coaches have participated in a PCA workshop, and have been taking part in the ACCEL Sports Management Certificate at the University of Washington. In these courses our coaches have worked alongside other sports coaches to discuss team culture, leadership, and athlete development. They’ve learned creatively through engaging lectures, group work, role-playing coaching scenarios, and completing worksheets and assignments meant to explore all areas of their coaching.
PCA training has seen higher retention rates of both coaches and athletes which they attribute to the Double-Goal Coach Model Training that influences coaches to change their coaching behavior, enabling them to more positively influence the experiences of the athletes on their teams. We believe that our athletes deserve the best, and when we invest in our coaches we invest in our athletes.
The PCA also works with student-athletes and parents. Many SRA parents attended the Second-Goal Parent workshop in September to learn how they can best support their student-athlete. This Saturday, our rowers will attend their own workshop focusing on social media usage. All rowers are required to attend the PCA training this Saturday, November 17th, from 8:30 am-10:30 am.
In a world where social media is becoming increasingly used in our daily lives this training will be an opportunity for our athletes to examine their use of social media and its impact on the team, themselves, and the community as a whole. A certified PCA trainer will use a series of personal reflections and several real-life scenarios to help athletes think deeply about their use of the various social platforms. Rowers will consider their personal brand and how social media plays into other people’s perceptions of them, including collegiate coaches and recruiters.
Upon conclusion of this workshop, our student-athletes will leave equipped with social media guidelines that they can enact in their school community, personal life, or team. We hope this training helps carry on the goal of PCA to create better athletes and better people. By being deliberate in how our athletes present themselves at school, around the boathouse, and within their own communities they can work towards becoming a positive influence on others and leading by example.
We look forward to seeing all rowers present at this training, and we hope this workshop creates an open dialogue within friend groups and families on the importance of smart social media use. If you would like to learn more about the PCA and explore some of their 1,500+ free resources, check out their home webpage linked in the article. To read about our 3-year partnership visit our blog post linked below.
When I walked up the stairs after sending off my junior rowers, Susan Cameron was already outside my office and greeted me with a huge smile. Instantly I could feel her warmth, sincerity, and kind spirit as we sat down to talk. I would have never known that just a year ago she was diagnosed with Acoustic Neuroma, a tumor in her brain. Together we sat upstairs in the boathouse and she shared her inspiring story with me- her beginnings at SRA, her journey through the brain tumor, and everything that came after.
Susan has been a rower with Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) for five years now. Starting at the age of 12, Cameron had been an avid runner. She focused largely on long distance running and often ran with a running group. At one point she was training for the Paris Marathon, but ended up injuring her Achilles that resulted in surgery. Always looking on the bright side, Cameron happily added that while it was unfortunate that she suffered from this injury it eventually led her to the sport of rowing.
Being a member of SRA for five years means that something has brought Susan back time and time again. When asked what keeps her coming back to the boathouse she cited off several reasons immediately. “Love for the sport, teamwork unlike any other sport, a strong community, the individuals, always something more to learn, supporting one another,” she said instantly. Cameron added, “The other thing that keeps me coming back is having a place to push myself to the maximum- my maximum physically, my maximum mentally, emotionally- just pushing myself and discovering what my limits are. I don’t think I’ve discovered what my limits are. I’ve touched them physically, but I want to keep pushing that and see how far I can go.”
Flash back to 2017 just before the Head of the Charles Regatta. Cameron was training for and competing intensely for this event. “It was 100% my focus and nothing was going to stand in my way,” she said. “The six months leading up to that I had felt some dizziness, experienced some hearing loss. After the Head of the Charles I just noticed more symptoms and the symptoms were more pronounced. So I decided to get checked out.” Her MRI was November 21st. Cameron had actually gone to the Internet for her own research and correctly self diagnosed herself before the MRI- one of the few times where looking up symptoms online has been accurate! Her radiologists confirmed that she had Acoustic Neuroma.
To recover, Cameron needed 24/7 care the first week home. Cameron had an inner circle of care that was comprised of her sons, former husband, and her sweet golden retriever Hobbes who recently passed away. Her outer circle was a small army of friends, a large amount who are rowers at Sammamish. “I felt that people were just there to catch me and carry me through. I had meals; I had people coming to take me for walks, because I had to re-learn how to walk. People signed up and would come take me for a walk.”
She then went on to describe all the people who helped her and the various ways they supported her during her recovery. There was Celine who made her a French meal and took her on a walk, Deborah gave her a courage necklace, Dennis, Lee, and Raina visited her before the ECM holiday party to bring a little holiday joy to her. There was also Marilyn and Jennie Proby who gave her fuzzy socks, a mug with the word “fierce” on it, and they provided delicious fudge. Jocelyn gave a coloring book and doughnuts, Lana provided dinners and a handicap parking pass, Mari was there to provide treats, dinners, and walks, and Sarah came by to visit and brought some meals as well. Yvonne, Niels, Chong, and Bronyn provided even more walks and meals. Finally, Debbie had someone pressure wash Susan’s driveway and also created the acronym FAN that stood for “F*#! Acoustic Neuroma”, a phrase that their boat rallied around. Cameron was amazed by the support she received from friends and the SRA community.
“My balance isn’t 100%, and the right side of my face is still numb. There are things I continue to feel and I do have a residual tumor, and I am going back to have an MRI and have it checked on November 26th. It will have either died, stopped growing, or continued to grow,” Cameron said when asked about how she is currently doing. “I think back to what we can control and what we can’t. There are so many things in life we can’t control, but what we can control is how we deal with it.”
“Pay attention to yourself. In retrospect there were things six months ago that I should have paid more attention to.” Cameron felt it was very important to add that we should take time to listen to our bodies and seek proper attention when things seem “off”. Some other advice she provided was to be open to receiving help. “For me it didn’t come naturally, but people want to help.” We circled back around to Sammamish right before Susan left for an ECM meeting. “The community is so incredible. I was just overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support. People were there. People were on it. I am incredibly grateful for this amazing community. We’re people first, rowers second – and I love how we honor each other as individuals.”
That is what it comes down to at SRA. People first, rowing second. Our community is made up of incredibly strong people like Susan, and incredibly devoted friends like some of the people mentioned in this story. We are a community, a family, a team. We are Sammamish.
Written By: Elizabeth W. Wilson