Saturday: US Masters National Head Race Championships

Well that was an experience.

The weather was really bad.  It was raw and cold, 46F and overcast.  The wind was from the NE which is basically a perfect head wind for the last 2K of the course and blowing 15mph with gusts to 25mph.  The last 2K of the course were impossible to row at rate and pressure.

In terms of results, it’s the usual story.  I did as well as I could expect but not as well as I would have hoped.  I finished 6th or 13 among all master men starters, and 3rd of 4 “D” Class boats.  Looking at the other D entrants, this is exactly where I I should have been in the finish order.  I would have liked to be closer to the guy in front of me, but his 2K erg is about 8 seconds faster than mine.  This earned me a Bronze medal.  It’s hard to not think of it as a “second to last” medal.

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Honestly, I’m more proud of just getting out on the course and finishing under the conditions than anything.

I was pretty tense about the conditions, and I managed to forget to put on my HR strap, so I don’t have an objective idea about how hard I was working.  It felt like I was pushing just about right through the first 3K of the course, but after that, I needed to back off a bit to just keep the boat under control.  I managed to pass about 4 or 5 boats and I was passed by one guy.  So, I think everyone was struggling under the conditions.

Here are the pace and rate charts.

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Here is the course that I took.

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I was extremely slow.  A 2:21 pace.  The fast current shaved about 400m off the course.  It’s 5800 meters by GPS and 5400 meters by impeller.  So, the river moved 400m in 25 minutes.  I figured it out.  That is roughly 0.944 km/h.  The current in the first half was probably twice that, and much less where the river widens out.  It was interesting to see the water swirling around submerged rocks and stuff as I was rowing up to the start.


More details about the race itself.  The first 800m or so was with a cross wind and the river was narrow so it was nice flat water.  I wanted to hug the bouy line on the north side of the river, but they set the buoys very close to the center of the river and I was forced further to the south bank than I wanted.

In the turn to the east, I went a bit too wide and probably added some distance.  This stretch was with a cross/head wind so things slowed down.  I steered this part right.  Moving over to the south bank ad hugging that turn. As we approached the next turn to the east, the water started to get lumpier, and by the time we made the turn, I thought it was pretty bad.

I stuck to my plan to hug the buoy line on the north side of the course.  This was complicated by the fact that some of the markers had dragged a bit onto the course due to a very strong current (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the really fast current!).  So, I would have to adjust to stay on the right side of the markers a bit more abruptly than I would have liked.

I had no idea just how good we had it at the beginning of this stretch.  The water just got worse and worse, and the wind got more and more crazy as I approached and passed under the bridge.  I was whacking the wavetops and crabbing every 6th stroke or so, but I was pounding it out to the end.

Here is the video of the ordeal.

Thinking it over.  Here are my take aways from experience.

  1. I let the conditions phase me.  I was so preoccupied that I managed to boat without my HR strap.  I need to work on focus during the pre-race.
  2. I need to work on rough water rowing.  And probably try out some rough water adjustments to my rigging.  Moving my oarlocks up to the top limits for conditions like these.
  3. I need to find and do balance drills regularly to improve blade clearance over the water.
  4. Conditioning needs improvement.  Next year, I need to be much more diligent about endurance intensity and probably substitute one OTW steady state with a erg steady state session so I can track lactates better.

So, now I have 3 more races.  Next weekend is a tune up race on Lake Quinsigamond.  The weekend following is HOCR. Then a couple weeks after that is the Merrimac chase.  I think the best thing to do now is train enough to maintain where I am and reduce volume to be as fresh as possible for next weekend.  This is complicated a bit by a business trip to Munich this week.  Oh well.