Karen Werth is a perennial sight on the Anacostia River in Washington, DC.
Karen Werth is a perennial sight on the Anacostia River in Washington, DC.

There was cycling in the Werth family blood, but in 1996 Karen was looking for a new sport to claim as her own. Hours spent on the gym erg sparked an interest in learning to row, which has led to a two-decade love affair with the sport, and an equally long dedication to Capital Rowing Club, in Washington, DC.

Current rowing club affiliation & number of seasons there:

This is my 21st season with Capital Rowing Club.

The basics: Age, married, kids, jobs, pets?

I just turned 54. Not married and no human kids – just an incredibly cute Min Pin named Mr. Slim Shady (the real Slim Shady!). I work at the Library of Congress, where I oversee the production of exhibitions and special displays for the institution.

When did you get involved with rowing?

I took Capital’s sweep novice class in 1996, and was smitten from the very first session! I grew up in a cycling family – my Dad was an elite cyclist, and my brothers and I all grew up actively riding road bikes. While I loved cycling (still do!) it wasn’t my sport, and I didn’t have the same fire in my belly about the sport that my Dad and brothers did. So I explored other sports, without much success.

I kept active, went to the gym regularly, and found myself using the erg frequently. One day, I wondered out loud to my gym mates what it would be like to row on the water. On that very same day, a gentleman by the name of Jim Connolly (former sweep rower, married to Adrienne Connolly – CRC comp sweep) showed up at the University of Maryland where I was employed at the time, with a single on his car. He was there to give a presentation about the Anacostia watershed and paddlesport opportunities on the Anacostia River. I pounced on him like white on rice, asking all sorts of questions. What was that boat? Where does one learn to row? What clubs are in the area? Turns out, Jim was actively involved with a young organization called Capital Rowing Club, and his lovely wife Adrienne just happened to be the membership director. I signed up for the next novice class and fell in love instantly!

How has rowing changed you?

If you can survive erg tests, USRowing Masters Nationals, Head of the Charles, any race on the Schuykill River, blisters, track bites, broken ribs, herniated disks, unexpected swims in the Anacostia, and training in all kinds of weather before the sun rises, then you’re pretty much prepared for anything life throws your way. The rowing life gives you all the tools you need to navigate life’s challenges.

Do you prefer sprints or head races? Why?

I must confess I like them both, but I’m wired more for head racing. I love settling into a strong pace, racing against the clock, strategizing and steering the best course possible, and passing (ever the optimist) other rowers.

What is your most memorable race?

It’s hard to pick just one, there are so many. One of my favorites was winning gold at my first FISA Worlds Masters Nationals up in Montreal in 1999, in a Women’s 8. I had no idea how Capital would do, and I was completely overwhelmed and intimidated by all the international entries. It was one of first times I experienced a seriously hard fought and successful race.

Have you ever caught an ejector crab?

I have caught my share of crabs, but never the dreaded Ejector! At least not yet …

What’s your guilty pleasure after a regatta?

A big, ginormous bacon cheese burger, with fries, and an adult beverage. Or two. And if there’s room: ice cream!

Who/what inspires you?

I’m inspired by people who pursue and share their passions with unfaltering dedication and persistence.

What’s the best piece of rowing/training advice you ever received?

You can learn to row in a day, but it takes a lifetime to perfect.

When not rowing, what’s your favorite thing to do?

I have a fine arts background, and really love to create using challenging materials. Lately, I spend lots of my free time creating fused glass work (Werthwhile Studio), which I sell at some of the local craft festivals. Like rowing, you can learn how to fuse glass in a day, but it takes a lifetime to perfect. I see a pattern here …

Tell us something about you that we don’t already know.

I am a serious tool geek, and own a full compliment of hand and power tools.