For most sports, when the weather conditions aren’t suitable outside, some similar version of the sport can be played inside. Track and field, tennis and soccer can be played year-round thanks to widely available indoor facilities, for example.
For a few sports like golf, baseball and rowing, though, the opportunities when the weather gets cold are limited.
“The lake is frozen every winter, so we can’t row,” sophomore heavyweight Tim Bauman explained. “We went down to Austin, Texas for a week over Intersession, but we haven’t been on the water since then.”
Like most teams on campus, Princeton’s crews have a number of yearly traditions, highlighted by Crash-P’s, an annual 2,000m race on stationary rowing machines, which was held last Saturday.
Rowers train on the rowing machines, or “ergs,” for hours almost every day during the winter, but the tradition of staging an annual race complete with spectators is relatively unique.
“You would never have a running race on a treadmill,” sophomore lightweight DJ Shuster said. “But we come out here and just see what the numbers are.”
The tradition was actually inspired by a similar, but arguably equally peculiar, event with the same premise. Sophomore heavyweight Alex Taaffe said that Crash-P’s is based on a similar indoor rowing race in Boston called C.R.A.S.H.-B.
Of course, there are major differences between rowing on a machine and rowing on the water.
“It’s different because although it’s head-to-head, it’s very much a mental game with yourself,” senior heavyweight Carl Thunman said. Sophomore lightweight Alex Morss pointed out another major practical limitation: “You can’t really see who’s ahead unless you can see their screen.”
Rowers often have a love-hate relationship with the ergs, but they all acknowledge its importance as a training tool.
“Sometimes it’s hard to judge personal speed when you’re on the water because there are eight different people in the boat,” Taaffe said. “With the erg, you get to see the strength of each individual person.”
“Some people like to erg, and some people don’t, but [Saturday was] an individual day — you against the clock,” sophomore lightweight Olivia Panaccio Tresham added.
The rowers will eagerly return to recently thawed Lake Carnegie this week, though races do not begin until the end of March.
“The lake’s unfrozen, and we’re ready to get out there and start racing,” sophomore lightweight Jacques Singer-Emory said.
The results of Crash-P’s will be one tool of many that the coaches use to sort rowers into boats for the beginning of the season. Senior heavyweights Blake Parsons and Phil Thalheim recorded the fastest times of the day, as both finished the event in under six minutes.
The tradition has a number of other annual rituals including a ceremony in which outstanding finishers are awarded hammers as trophies and a novel 500m coxswain’s race, which is often surprisingly heated.
“It’s a great day to be part of the boathouse,” sophomore openweight Liz Hartwig said. “It’s our only indoor spectator event of the year, and it’s probably the only way we can make erging fun.”