Though Maureen Harriman's seventh-place finish at this weekend's Head of the Charles Regatta won't go down as her best outing on the iconic Massachusetts river, the Whistler resident knows deep down she rowed one of the best races of her life.
The former national rowing team member was competing in her sixth Charles Regatta, one of the sport's most prestigious races — one that attracts the world's top rowers and over 300,000 spectators to the banks of Boston's Charles River. With three previous top two finishes under her belt, the 49-year-old Harriman was one of the favourites to win the women's senior-master singles division (40-49), and led for the majority of the 4.8-kilometre course, finishing in 21 minutes and 11 seconds, just 15 seconds out of first.
"I was winning the race," Harriman said. "But unfortunately when I got to the last bridge a woman didn't move out of the way and we ended up in a collision. By the time I disentangled myself I ended up finishing seventh instead of first."
Rules dictate that a rower must make room for a passing boat, but as Harriman will tell you, on a narrow, curvy river such as the Charles, "anything can happen."
"I had a great race and I felt really good," she said. "In my heart I felt that I won it, it was just disappointing that that happened."
It was an unwelcome end to an otherwise fantastic race for the local rower, who improved upon her 12th-place finish from last summer. Harriman was also runner-up each year from 2010 to 2012.
But it wasn't all bad news for the Whistler Rowing Club member, who earned second place Sunday, Oct. 20 in the Directors' Challenge mixed-quad race with a combined time of 18:11.59.
Harriman's singles time was good enough to earn her an automatic berth in next year's regatta, where she will benefit from a favourable starting position in a new age category, the grand-master division (50-59).
Harriman wasn't the only Whistlerite competing last weekend, and was accompanied by her training partner Diane Ziff. The 73-year-old took part in her 12th Head of the Charles, coming across the line in 31:09.53, good enough for ninth place in the senior-veterans I division (60-69). Ziff was more than satisfied with her race, which she called "the best I ever rode" except for a buoy penalty that added 25 seconds to her time.
"Nothing is ever perfect when you're doing a race like that," she said.
The Charles regatta holds a special place for Ziff, who missed the 2011 race while undergoing treatment for cancer, only to return the following year. She missed last summer's regatta due to injury.
"It's very emotional for me to be back," she said.
"The three days before (the race) there's a lot of tension going on. Nerves are raw. But for me, the minute I get on the water, it all goes away. It becomes very peaceful and I know I'm going to do the best I can."