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.

2015-10-03 13.34.48

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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 6.17.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 6.17.02 PM

Here is the course that I took.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 6.37.32 PM

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.

8 thoughts on “Saturday: US Masters National Head Race Championships

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    Regarding Munich … remember to let your July 2016 trip to Munich coincide with Euromasters 2016: Last weekend of July.

    Regarding your race, I have become a big fan of a really simple race evaluation, both as a coach and as a rower:

    – How well did you stick to your race plan?
    – What will you change next time?

    There is no point in being unsatisfied with a third place when you know you could not realistically beat the guy who came second. Ask yourself what skills you want to be able to master a year from now to be better. You answered already in your blog.

    I saw some pictures of the race, so without watching your video (which I will go and watch now) I know how difficult the circumstances were.


    • gregsmith01748 says:

      Sticking to Race plan, I give myself a C. Forgot Hr strap and I use that feedback and missed having it. On the plus side, I feel like I flexed well with the head wind in the first half of the course. I judged by pressure and perceived exertion and I focused on technique. I think even with the conditions at the end, I should have been able to row better, I think I tightened up too much and I can work on that.
      Next time: formal pre launch checklist. Practice a couple of focus strategies. Things like take 10 for finishes. Or 10 for legs first. I think I need to do that to avoid getting sloppy when I dig deep.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sanderroosendaal says:

    Just watched the “last 9 minutes” video. Our Brno lake will welcome you – we are guaranteed one of the worst chop places to train. Plan a spring training camp with us and you’ll be a certified chop master after you complete it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bendredman says:

    The comment about seeing water swirling around rocks scares me!

    If you get some rough water practise in, you should be thinking of bad weather as an excellent opportunity to go faster than those with bigger ergs 😀 (Something I could do with improving my mental attitude about a bit too!)

    The last 9 minutes do look pretty lumpy to me, but you can see opportunities for improvement, such as getting hands lower during the recovery.

    My pre-race could do with a checklist as well. There’s a lot to think about!
    Find trailer, boat, riggers, oars, trestles.
    Trestles out
    Boat off trailer
    Boat ties in bag
    Boat & riggers out of bags
    Get tools out.
    Put riggers on boat
    Put tools away
    Put trestles away
    Oars to boating area
    Stretching (much less than I used to think necessary. More dynamic)
    Pin on number/put number on boat
    Change (don’t forget shoes)
    HR monitor & strap on
    Stroke-coach on boat. Erase any data
    Phone in waterproof case
    Tools/keys in waterproof bag
    Seat pad
    Fill water-bottle
    Glasses & old man mirror
    Headband on if it’s hot and sunny. Pogies & coat if it’s freezing
    Stuff in a plastic bag? Or just take it to the boating area
    Put kit bag somewhere ‘safe’
    Boat to marshals to check it
    Boat on water, oars in. Check oars are in properly
    Stuff in boat.
    Seat pad on seat
    Attach phone to boat
    Push off.
    Feet in
    Stroke coach on.
    Crew nerd on.
    Tools securely tied in
    Old man mirror on and adjusted
    OTW warm-up

    At start:
    Nearly empty bottle
    Extra kit off
    Reset stroke coach
    Reset crew nerd

    Blimey! No wonder I’m a bit distracted before a race! That doesn’t include weighing in, and at Dorney we’re normally a 10 minute walk between the trailer and the boating area, so the pressure is on not to forget something!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gregsmith01748 says:

      Great checklist! I think I could raise my oar locks as well. I’m thinking through my list of things to accomplish next season.
      1. Get used to using a mirror
      2. Find lumpy water to practice on
      3. Balance drills
      4. Add second erg session for more endurance meters.


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