A pair of rowers have turned the Intracoastal into a training site

As any mariner familiar with local waters would surely attest, the Intracoastal Waterway provides vast options, commercial and recreational.

We present the case for national rowing team training site.

A straight, calm and lengthy waterway, the Intracoastal was training home weekday mornings last week to Luke Wilhelm and Adam Randall.

The two have huge dreams: to qualify for the national team and world championships next year with an eye on 2020 and the looming Tokyo Olympics.

“We’re trying to be professionals, to be among the best,” Wilhelm said. “We’re two people who found the sport late and were successful.

“We have been comparing ourselves to people who have been training for 10 years or more. You are never satisfied.”

Yes, many a reader might be wondering, all that is fine, but the Intracoastal?

And how do two 26-year-olds, who met at the University of California in Santa Barbara and train full-time in Boston (Randall) and Indiana (Wilhelm) even locate the Intracoastal?

In Gulf County? In Port St. Joe?

Providentially, it turned out.

Wilhelm’s girlfriend is the niece of Drs. Tom and Betty Curry. He has visited during the holidays before and has scoped out the landscape, particularly area waters.

So, this year, visits to the Intracoastal to train were on the agenda, with Randall hauling down a trailer of one-, two-, four- and eight-man boats en route to a national training site in California.

“I am always looking for a place to train,” Wilhelm said. “This was perfect. It is a straight line and you can concentrate on your technique and stroke.

“On most training days we do (anywhere from 11 to 20 kilometers).”

That is anywhere from about seven to more than 12 miles.

Each morning. Before breakfast.

“Doing it alone is so hard,” Wilhelm said of the beauty in having a training partner. “Every day you look at the schedule … it’s brutal.”

The payoff, or least the opportunity for a payoff, arrives in spring and early summer 2018 as the national trials and U.S. team championships unfold.

The world championships in Bulgaria follow at the end of the summer.

Wilhelm was close the last time around, reaching the national championships in four-man.

“It was eye-opening,” he said. “But even getting your (rear)-end kicked is an learning experience.

“It fueled the fire.”

Both also competed for spots on the 2016 Olympic team that went to Rio.

There is also a more personal fuel that emerges in talking with the two, a sense of achievement via commitment to a sport, a sport which may not be marquee, but nonetheless demands much, including the sacrifice of the roughly 3,000 calories per day the two consume.

Including, Wilhelm added, just about every nutrient an elite athlete requires.

“It was a sport that required a lot of commitment,” Randall said of his decisiono on an athletic path. “I really wanted to be in a sport that makes you feel you have really accomplished something.”

Training includes a rowing regimen that alternates controlled rides focusing on the technical aspects of a good row, with more intense days of racing, competitive, if good-natured as possible, days when speeds will reach 12-15 miles per hour.

Intermixed is weight lifting; both men, long, lean and toned, acknowledged they are the lighter side in the sport, just shy of 200 pounds.

Lean in weight, maybe, lean in desire, not so much, spotlighted as they put their boats on shoulders for the walk from Captain’s Cove, where Danny Raffield has been allowing them space to store their boats, to the head of the Intracoastal, as it spills out into St. Joseph Bay.

Boats in the water, oars adjusted and lined up, it was off for another day of training.