The water's fine for rowing


Exercise: Marc Daemen was a 27-year-old triathlete when he discovered another form of locomotion. He's won many medals in it since.


Marc Daemen delights in Baltimore's climate, but perhaps being from Montreal explains such insanity.

"There's 12 feet less of snow to shovel," he says.

But what really drew the 42-year-old architect to Baltimore was the water -- specifically the open waters of the middle branch of the Patapsco River.

There Daemen coaches and rows for the Baltimore Rowing Club.

In Canada, Daemen, who has collected his share of gold medals in international competition, trained in the Olympic basin in Montreal, which is essentially "like a giant, well-controlled swimming pool."

But most races are held in water he describes as "lively" -- meaning with waves and wind and boat wakes. "If you don't train on water like that, you're preoccupied with balance and worrying about tipping," he says. "I think I made the best move of my life."

Daemen was 27 -- old for someone with international aspirations -- when he started rowing. Then a marathon runner and triathlete, he went to inspect a site where he would be swimming in a coming triathlon. Crews were skimming across the water, and he was captivated.

Four years later, in 1987, he and a partner finished second in the Canadian national championships two-man event. But in 1988, after a disappointing elimination when he was forced to use a boat he wasn't familiar with, he suffered yet another setback.

He had sprained an ankle running in a marathon in Montreal, and the strain from that injury caused him to injure the Achilles tendon in his other foot. With an entry spot in the New York Marathon, he was desperate to heal, and doctors recommended a volcanic mud preparation. He was hesitant, he recalls, because, "I thought it was voodoo or something."

His premonition proved true -- the mud was improperly heated and he suffered third-degree burns on both ankles. "Through all of that, I was hardheaded," he recalls. "I was determined I was going to come back."

And he did, earning eight international gold medals, including gold in the 1996 world master's event in Budapest, and in the 1998 Nike games for master's in Portland, Ore.

He has been competing in the 36-to-42 age group, but since he turns 43 this month, he'll be eligible to compete in the 43-to-50 class when he goes to Seville for the world championships in September.

Daemen rows both sculls and crew -- in sculls the oarsmen have one oar in each hand; in crew, they use both hands on one oar.

To keep in shape, he gets up at 4 a.m. so that he can squeeze in an hour of rowing and then a quick shower and breakfast before heading to his job with Gaudreau Inc. He also hits the river after work, fitting in another hour and a half, and he'll row two to three hours on the weekends.

In the winter he uses -- what else? -- a rowing machine, supplemented with free weights. "A rowing machine is excellent for either an aerobic or anaerobic workout," he explains. "It works every part of your body."

Daemen taught skiing in Canada for 20 years, and enjoyed speed skating, too, but here in Maryland he hopes to unpack his racing bike soon.

He eats "a tremendous amount of fruits and vegetables," and advocates carbohydrates. He consults regularly with a nutritionist to fine-tune his diet, and he avoids dairy products because they tend to cause mucus, which can be a problem when competing. He avoids red meats, but "every once in a while I will have a good steak on the barbecue -- I'm human."

What keeps him motivated to leave a warm bed early in the morning for the rigors of the river?

"I like to stay active," he says. "Plus I love the sport. I look at it like this: One day you could have a car accident and not be able to do anything. You realize how valuable your time is."

He also reaps the physical benefits of exercise -- it improves his resistance to illness and his mood -- and likens its effect on the body to maintaining his car. "It's like changing the oil more frequently. ... It will last longer."

Pub Date: 07/04/99

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