Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Not so Long Ago

After my first rowing season in 2004, my coach Hugh Lade asked me to make some comments at Lake Washington Rowing Club's Annual Meeting. Various rowers commented about their program experiences. So here, from the bottom of the food chain, are the comments I made in 1/2005:

"Hugh asked me to talk about the Technical Sculling Program. I'm fairly sure he asked me because I have the best attendance.

By way of my background, I'm a family doctor - not an athlete. I've done a lot of spin biking and strength training over the past few years. But I never rowed til August when a friend and I took Amy's Beginning Sculling Class. We were terrible, but I really liked it. So I decided to make the commitment to the Technical Sculling Program, which met on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. The way it works is this: you show up, in a wherry or skinny boat, and Hugh rows alongside and provides "feedback."

On my first day with Hugh's group, I rowed across Lake Union - directly into a a moored sailboat. I was pretty sure that was wrong. But Hugh's assistant rowed up to me and informed me that my whole approach to rowing was all wrong. It was a humbling morning, and I imagine nobody figured I'd be back.

But I did come back. Session after session, Hugh would work with our little group - which numbered from one (me) to about eight people. We represented a variety of skill levels, with me at the foundation of the hierarchy, i.e., the worst of the lot.

If you've never worked with Hugh, know that he takes his rowing very seriously . He really wants you to get it - and he wants you to get it right. But with rowing, there are so many things you can do wrong - and so many factors which are beyond your control!

I remember this fall there were several policewomen in the group. We were sharing our experiences over coffee - all of us feeling reasonably sturdy in our own worlds (these women are armed!). But at Sculling, we'd gather around Hugh like a bunch of disobedient baby ducks - begging him to limit his comments to one fault at a time!

One of my September highlights was taking my flip test (deliberately falling out of a skinny boat and climbing back in). This, of course, is required to graduate from a wherry to a skinnier boat. My flip test wasn't pretty, and I established for all the world that I could swear like a longshoreman, but I passed it! Jen and Mike Rucier gave me a medal, and it might as well have been Olympic gold - it was that much of an accomplishment for me!

I took my second flip test - unintentionally - in November while getting into the Alden training boat. I'm here to testify that Lake Union is brisk in November. But I climbed back in the boat and kept on rowing. Hugh said later that he found that surprising - but I just figured that's what rowers do. After all, you folks put lights on your boats and row in the dark!

In case it hasn't come through, I absolutely love this sport. I love the water in the morning, although I'd rather be on it than in it. I love the way the sky looks, and that meditative feeling you get now and again. I love the amazement when a stroke - or even a part of a stroke - goes right.

I recognize the Technical Sculling Program as the best personal training bargain I've ever seen. And Hugh Lade as the most committed and careful teacher I have ever found in any educational arena I've encountered.

Hugh asked for my rowing goals. For now, I plan to keep showing up. You'll recognize me by my perpetually improper blade depth: the one struggling with that balance metaphor, and loving every minute of it."

Linda Gromko, MD  


  1. Hi Linda!

    Hubby Rick and I aren't quite ready for sculling, but we did walk the Marsh Trail over to the Arboretum yesterday and saw lots of people canoeing, kayaking and having an overall great time in the lovely sunny weather. It looks like such fun!
    Kathy Swoyer

  2. Hi Kathy,
    You have to try this to believe it. I can't believe I try it! Wonderful exercise, and enormous relaxation - plus, each time I make it back to the dock, I feel triumphant. Hope all is well. Linda

  3. A dumb question: when Rick and I were walking around Green Lake once when the scullers (?)were competing, we wondered whether they would go faster if half the team rowed every other time, rather then everyone rowing at the same time?! That way, the boat would always be pushing, rather than pushing and coasting. Has anyone ever done a physics (or whatever) analysis of that? Yours in Puzzlement, Kathy S.

  4. Kathy, I think you'd get your oars tangled. Also, you do propel the boat forward by moving your body up the slide (seat track) of the boat. If you really want to get into the physics of rowing, look for Frank Cunningham's book on or the Lake Washington Rowing Club website. Linda