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A Rowing We Will Go: A Kip Family Outing

A Rowing We Will Go: A Kip Family Outing

This is Chapter 13 in the on-going story of Pelotonia rider Alex Kip, 23, and his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Type B) cancer.

His eyes closed in concentration, and his lungs heaving and heart pounding, Nick Kip was oblivious to the encouraging shouts of his family, as he rowed with everything he had.

While Nick (R) warms up for his race, the family gathers around - and Kate tries out an ERG

“Go Nick,” shouted Alex and Liz, as they cheered on their father and snapped photos Saturday at the Midwest Championship ERG Sprints at Ohio State. A couple hundred male and female rowers were gathered for the competition, strapped into indoor rowing machines (or ERGs) for a series of 2,000-meter sprints.

“It’s almost like we’re getting back to normal,” Cindy Kip said of the day out for the family.

Normal is difficult for the family of a cancer patient – and the new normal becomes lots of stress and worry, trips to the hospital for tests and frequent stays in the hospital for treatment. On Saturday, the Kips, plus Kate Harlow, Alex’s girlfriend, enjoyed their day out, watching Nick do what he loves to do: row and compete.

While Nick is as obsessed with rowing as some of us are with cycling, and is the crew coach at Dennison University, his two kids aren’t so much into the demanding sport.

This is not a sport for the weak of arms - or stomach, according to Nick's T-shirt

“I hate it,” Alex said. “It’s too boring, being strapped into a machine for 30 minutes. I have to be outside. That’s why I like biking.”

“He did try to push both of us into it,” said Liz, home for the weekend from the University of Kentucky. “It’s too manly for me, and I’m too little for it.”

About a dozen rowers competed in the master’s category, which is for rowers 40-and-up, and within this there are age-group competitions: 40-44, 45-49, 50-54 and 55-59. Each rower’s progress can be seen on a video screen, as the electronic facsimile of their scull races across the screen as they row furiously.

“I’m nervous,” Alex said, as Nick clung to a slim lead with 500 meters to go, barely ahead of a 40-year-old rower.

In the end, Nick finished second overall to the younger rower, but won his age group (50-54) and finished in 6:59.7, just below the magic 7-minute mark, the indoor rowing equivalent of running the mile is less than 4 minutes.

He's No. 1: Liz, Alex and Cindy help Nick celebrate his age-group win

“Not bad for a 53-year-old,” Nick said as his family gathered around for a photo of Nick and his medal. Rowing, he added, is about 70 percent legs – and his were still wobbly several minutes after his race.

Several of the other master racers were in the vicinity, and here’s a word of warning: after 2,000 meters of all-out rowing, these guys really work up a stink!

After the meet, it was on to the Northstar café, where the Kips met up with Cindy’s friend Cheryl Smith, and her daughter Emily, who is Liz’s high school friend. As always, the Northstar was a mob scene, with the line stretching out the door. As always, as you get to the front of the line and order, there’s never a table available and you start to worry and wonder what the heck you’re gonna do when someone brings out your food and there’s nowhere to sit. And, finally, as always, a table magically opened up minutes before the food arrived.

Kate and Alex worked up quite an appetite watching Nick row, so off they went to the Northstar cafe

All of this normalcy is great for Alex, who is feeling much better a few weeks after his stem cell transplant, but is still a bit housebound and bored. On Thursday, it’s back to The James, where he will undergo CAT and PET scans to determine how much, if any, of the tumor in his chest remains.

“I’m a little bit all over the place right now,” Alex said. “I’m really excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, scared, just a mix of everything.  But ultimately I know that whatever happens I can’t change it, it’s out of my control, and there is a certain peace and comfort in that no matter the outcome.”

Click here to read chapter 12 of Alex’s story.

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