Weather: mid 50s, before I launched there was a 5 to 10 mph breeze from the north. This moderated and by the time I finished it was more like 3-5mph with a few stronger gusts. Very Sunny. The water as sparking. A perfect day for a row.
I was really looking forward to this race. My first race on “my lake”. The Snake Regatta is an even that is held every fall as a Collegiate head race. It is run over 4200m from south to north on the lake. This year, our club, Lake Quinsigamond Community Rowing (LQCR), and the other masters club on the lake, Quinsigamond Rowing Club (QRC) got together to sponsor a masters division in the race.
Since it was it’s first year, and we really only started to publicize it late this summer, it was small. There were 22 boats in all and 12 singles, most from our two clubs. But it is a great place to row and beautiful day for the event.
I am not sure how they picked bow numbers, but I was given bow number 179, which was the eighth boat to start. I knew some of the guys who started in front of me, and I decided to consider it a “target rich environment”. With the width of the course, and how straight it is, overtaking boats was straightforward.
Me and Bob launched from the regatta point docks, just north of the route 9 bridge and we joined the parade of boats heading down lake to the start. I worked on getting used to being back in the boat. I had not rowed since Monday, so I just focused on balance and reach and trying to clean up my finishes. Toward the bottom of the lake I did 2 sets of 20 strokes at faster than race pace to get the blood flowing.
Then I took off my overshirt, and revealed, for the very first time, an actual LQCR uniform shirt! The coach of the high school kids gave it to me before I launched so I could war club colors at the Head of Charles next week. I was so delighted, I can’t even describe it. I haven’t worn a sports uniform since I was in high school.
We just hung out in a clump chatting until they called us to get organized into bow number order. With this few boats, it was pretty simple. They started with bow 170, a 32 year old rower from community rowing in Brighton. He looked like a rower. Then 171 and 172 were scratches. 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178 (who was missing a bow number but they worked it out), then they called me to full pressure and I was off.
On the video, I am on the course at 2:50. I could feel the head wind making the boat feel a little heavy, but it felt good to row with full pressure and I probably pushed the pace a little too hard off the line. I found my line to hug the shore of the next island and counted strokes. I overtook a boat at 4:15, it looks like he made a mistake steering to the east side of the island and then needed to correct it. You can see him rowing across my bow then falling back.
Then I was past the first island and I had my sights on two things. First, don’t run into the beach, which juts out a bit. Second, the next boat that I was going after. I pass the beach at 5:40. Prior to that, you can see that this boat made the mistake I wanted to avoid. He needed to steer radically around the beach, right while I was closing the gap on him.
After the beach, the next challenge is the narrows. This is a spot that is wide enough to fit four boats with oar tips touching. They have it marked with a buoy so that boats going down lake are separated from the boats racing so there is just enough room for two boats side by side, but it’s tight. I looked over my shoulder and I saw two boats right ahead of me. I closed on one of the quickly and passed him right in the middle of the narrows. The other guy seemed to be rowing at something very close to my pace.
From the Narrows, it is about a kilometer of relatively unprotected water. This is the widest point of the lake. There was a little bit of head wind, but not much chop, and I could really focus in on this next boat. It was the guy with no bow number. His name was Bjorn and he came from Narraganset Rowing Club. A group of women from that club borrowed one of our eights for the race and they told me that he was a good rower. At any rate, here we were. I had made up the start interval on him, and it seemed like he thought I shouldn’t make up any more. From 8 minutes to 9:30, he basically holds me off, and then from 9:30 to 10:00 I manage to crawl up and establish a bit of overlap with him. Then we are stroke for stroke for the next 2 km. Right at the end of the first video, both of us overtake a 3rd boat. We are in our own little race at this point.
The second part of the video picks up right before we go under the bridge. Over the first minute, you can see his bow disappear from view, but he’s still there. I push really hard in this chunk because a couple of my friends from the club are watching from our docks and I hear them yelling. I usually have a significant crisis at the bridge because I know how much the second half hurts and how long the 1.6km from the bridge to the finish feels. I’m still counting strokes and when I get to 400, and I haven’t yet reached the gazebo, I fear that I am going to blow up. But my friend Bjorn is still right on my tail, maybe half a boat length back and showing no sign of slowing down.
I finally pass the gazebo and I know that it’s 60 strokes to the finish. I keep my rate and pressure for another 20 strokes and then I start to push for the finish. The last 40 strokes, I bring up the rate a touch, and the splits obligingly come down, and finally in the last 300m I start putting more distance between us.
I was really hurting at the end and paddled well clear of the course before turning. Bjorn and I congratulated each other and then paddled into the QRA docks. I stopped there for a few minutes and chatted with some friends from the club up there, and then paddled home to regatta point. At this point, I had no idea what the results were.
I packed up and headed home. About an hour later, Bob texted me a picture of the results.
I got a second place behind the guy who looked like a rower. Considering the 20 year age gap, I guess I’m OK losing to him by 16 seconds. Truth be told, I’m delighted with the whole race. I feel like the benign conditions let me really push myself as hard as possible, and having someone to race side by side with forced me to keep it together when it started to hurt.
Here’s the data:
500 meter splits
Here are the videos
By the way, there is an excellent online tool to watch rowing videos called Rowvid. It let’s you use slow motion or speed things up so you can look at form an fast forward through the dull bits.
Sunday: Recovery / Endurance session…4 x 20 / 1′ rest with lactate