Training for the Blackburn Challenge

There is a 20+ mile open water race in Massachusetts called  the Blackburn Challenge.  I would like to enter it and do reasonably well.

The time to complete the race is between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 hours, and so it is roughly similar  to 50k on the erg.  I thought that the best way to prep for that was to use an existing Marathon training plan.

There are two that I know of.

I analyzed both of the plans and they both seemed reasonable.  There were some cool things in the indoor sports services plan, but the Eddie Fletcher plan came with some impressive personal endorsements, and it was considerably simpler.

It is basically a 12 week plan, but I will run through it twice in a row, hopefully resetting my targets between sets.

I did a detailed day by day spreadsheet to track progress.  I figure the easiest way to let people look at it is to make it public on Google Sheets.

Blackburn Training Plan

So far, so good.  But I’m about to lose a week, so who knows how much damage that will do.



Thursday: 3 x 25′ / 3′ rest (8′ @ 5kp, 17′ @ mp) – Breakthrough workout

I was a bit intimidated by this workout.  It wasn’t that I thought I would fail, I was pretty certain that I would complete it successfully.  Rather, I was dreading the 17 minutes at marathon pace.  In previous attempts at these step down workouts, I dug so deep in the 5kp section that the marathon pace sections were very taxing.  My HR stayed high and it was miserably hard work.

I was surprised and delighted today.  This workout didn’t feel easy, but I felt really good throughout.  My HR was way lower than any workout like this that I’ve done over the past few weeks.  I felt so good that I did the last 5 minutes at half marathon pace.


Workout Summary - media/20170202-1405210o.csv
Workout Details
01|02096|08:00.0|01:54.5|233.0|24.3|151.1|158.0|10.8 -target 225-240
02|04137|17:00.0|02:03.3|186.9|21.0|147.3|156.0|11.6 -target 180-195
03|02096|08:00.0|01:54.5|233.4|24.4|155.5|164.0|10.7 -target 225-240
04|04135|17:00.0|02:03.3|186.6|21.4|153.1|163.0|11.4 -target 180-195
05|02099|08:00.0|01:54.3|234.6|24.7|156.7|166.0|10.6 -target 225-240
06|04222|17:00.0|02:00.8|198.8|23.0|161.0|166.0|10.8 -target 180-195

I looked through the metrics.

  • A little bit of drive length variation in the last interval
  • peak force varying with power
  • you can see the same thing in the work per stroke.  I was effectively underrating the fast stuff and over rating the slow stuff
  • I see more variation in rhythm today.  Not sure why

Comparison to the 4 x 15′ (9′ @5kp, 6′ @ mp) workout form earlier this week.

  • Same powers, just different durations so it gets a bit confusing after the first rep.
  • Nearly identical stroke rates for the faster bits.  A bit lower for the slow today (because I felt fantastic)
  • The difference in HR is astounding.  My HR didn’t go nearly as high in the 5kp sections, and it recovered better in  the mp sections.

So, why was it better?

  • time of day: nope…same for both
  • nutrition state:  nope…fasted for both
  • amount of sleep: nope…~6.5 hours before both
  • temp/humity: nope…same for both
  • accumulated fatigue:  If anything I should have been worse today.  This is the 7th day in a row that I have rowed.  This session and the prior one were rowed the day after a low intensity 60 minute endurance session.

So, I am left with random variation and improved fitness.  I think there is lot of the former, and a little of the latter.

Tomorrow:  Probably nothing.  I have an early meeting, and then I head off to the airport for a trip to Korea.  I’ll be off the erg for a week.  I’m pretty bummed about that, I was just starting to see progress.