Tuesday: 9 x 2′ / 1′ in the double

I needed to drop off my car for service out in Shrewsbury for service at 7am.  So, I dropped a text to my friend Joe to see if he wanted to take out a double with me before I dropped off my car.  We met at the boathouse at 5:30am, and the eastern sky was just starting to lighten up.  It reminded me of last fall when we would do a couple sessions a week like this when we were getting ready for the HOCR.

It was cool, only about 50F and there was a lot of mist on the water.  There was a bit of wind blowing from the North, maybe 6 mph of so.  Just enough to make the boat feel heavier when we were rowing up lake.

My plan called for an L1 workout today.  An 8×500 sprint session.  I decided to dial it back a little bit and change it to more of a head race type session since I didn’t think it would be good to try to rate up too much.  It takes a few good practices together before you can really get the timing down well enough to sprint together.  I figured by cutting back the rests ad bringing down the stroke rate it would be a good threshold workout and it would fit into the trip up the lake.  That would leave us the trip from the boathouse down to the south end of the lake to warmup and get used to rowing together, and the trip from the north end of the lake back to the boathouse for cool down.

So, the Plan:

  • 8 or 9 x 2′ / 1′ rest
  • Target stroke rate: 26-28
  • Heart Rate Limit: None
  • Pace Target:  Who knows.  Maybe 2:15?



       Workout Summary - media/20170829-131818-Greg Smith 20170829 0546amo.csv
Workout Details
01|03364|16:00.0|02:22.7|000.0|22.3|143.9|162.0|09.4 - warmup
02|00414|02:00.0|02:25.0|000.0|25.1|144.7|158.0|08.2 - rep 1 - waked
04|00416|02:00.0|02:24.3|000.0|28.5|163.3|168.0|07.3 - waked
11|01932|09:52.7|02:33.4|000.0|23.9|151.3|160.0|08.2 - cool down

There was a ski boat out at the same time as us.  He nailed us in the middle of our first interval, and then again with 30 seconds left in the third interval.  We were free and clear after that.  With the head wind we were a bit slower than I thought we’d be, but I was also rowing a bit lighter than I normally would, trying to be careful of my back.

My back was really touchy this morning before we set off.  If I bent wrong, I got shooting pains in my hip and lower back.  I stretched a bit before we launched and worked my way out to full length during the warmup and it felt much better by the time we finished.

It was a great workout.  I really like rowing in the double.  I like stroking and not having to worry about steering and its nice to be out rowing with someone literally in the same boat.

Tomorrow:  The workout plan calls for an 80′ L4.  I am going to continue to substitute r20 endurance sessions for L4s for the foreseeable future to minimize risk of aggrevating my back injury.

For reference, here’s the link to the google sheet with my workout plan and daily summary.


Monday: 75′ Endurance Session 1x

Weather:  Stellar!  Wonderful!  Sunny.  Almost chilly.  Around 55F at the start, mid 60s when I finished.  No wind at the beginning.  A little headwind for the last trip up the river.


  • 2 laps of the river, roughly 75′
  • One water break halfway through.  Otherwise, just turn and go.
  • stroke rate: r20 (to reduce the pressure on my lower back)
  • pace target:  I would like to say I didn’t have a target, but I really like seeing the pace be faster than 2:30.
  • Heart Rate Limit:  155 max.  Try to keep it around 150.
  • Technique:  I watch effective length and tried to keep it in the upper 70s


        Workout Summary - media/20170828-145353-Greg Smith 20170828 0641amo.csv
Workout Details
00|00913|04:42.0|02:34.4|149.0|21.0|127.4|142.0|09.3 - to start
01|02944|14:33.0|02:28.3|156.3|20.2|146.2|150.0|10.0 - to dam
02|02823|14:15.0|02:31.4|151.6|19.8|147.3|153.0|10.0 - back to cut
03|02751|13:43.8|02:29.7|149.7|19.9|146.4|153.0|10.1 - back to dam
04|03200|16:16.8|02:32.6|150.1|20.1|149.8|155.0|09.8 - back past cut

The challenge of this workout was to balance three things at the same time.  Keep my stroke long, keep my stroke rate up at r20 and keep my HR below 155.  SInce I have been doing most of my endurance work at r18, or even lower, I am very used to rowing with a lot of stroke pressure.  With a higher stroke rate, there are two things that could happen.  I could row shorter with the same stroke pressure, or stay the same length and reduce the peak force.  I wanted to do the latter.

Mission accomplished….

A few other parametrics.

  • consistent power
  • consistent length.  A little shorter in the last 15 minutes or so
  • wash got worse as I went along.

Sunday: Same as Saturday 3 x 20′ / 1′ Dynamic

We had house guests so I couldn’t work out until later in the day.  I’m still struggling with the dynamic so I decided to just redo the saturday workout with similar targets to see what happened.


  • 3 x 20′ / 1′
  • stroke rate: r20
  • Heart Rate Limit: 155
  • Power target:  ~160W (up 3W from yesterday, but I started higher than that yesterday and bled down as I went along.  I wanted to be steadier in this session.


       Workout Summary - media/20170827-2245360o.csv
Workout Details

Comparison of Saturday to Sunday

  • Much more level power profile
  • Stroke rate wiggled around a bit in the last 20′ as I tried to max out power without blowing the HR limit.
  • HR climbed more slowly at the beginning, but was almost exactly the same for the last 2/3 of the workout.

Saturday: 3 x 20′ / 1′ dynamic

HR limit at 155.  Still struggling with this erg.  Easily 20W to 30W lower power for equivalent HR.  Rowing strictly to the HR limit.

I did concentrate on trying to keep my stroke lighter and stroke rate higher to try to reduce the stress on my lower back.


       Workout Summary - media/20170826-2215270o.csv
Workout Details

I am still perplexed about my performance on the dynamic.  Here are very similar 3×20′ sessions.  One done on the static about a month ago, and the one fro the dynamic done yesterday.  I did a bunch of comparison charts, but I can’t draw any good conclusions.

I will do another session like this on Sunday.


Friday: Easy hour on the water

This was a busy week at work, and I my lower back continued to give me trouble.  I had business dinners on Tuesday night and Thursday night, and I was preparing for an important meeting on Friday morning.  I was hoping that I could help out both situations by taking a few days off rowing.

I last rowed on Tuesday morning.  A tough interval session.  My back was killing me afterward.  Tuesday I had a full day of meetings with a group from a customer, and we had dinner Tuesday night with them.  Wednesday we had a group from a different customer visiting first thing in the morning, plus a big internal meeting that I was hosting.  I ended up working quite late.  On Thursday, more meetings and then a business dinner that kept me out until almost 11.  On Friday, I was presenting in an important meeting at 9am, so I want to get to work early to dry run my materials a couple of times before I was up.  It paid off, the meeting went well, and I felt a huge sense of relief after it was over.  I finished up what I needed to get done by about 3:30 and decided to go for a nice easy row on my way to relax a little.

The plan:

  • 60 minutes
  • Heart rate limit: 150
  • Stroke rate target: 20  (This is a significant shift for me.  I have been rowing with much higher stroke power and lower rate)
  • No pace target.


        Workout Summary - media/20170827-150206-Greg Smith 20170825 0437pmo.csv
Workout Details
00|00908|05:00.0|02:45.2|144.2|18.7|127.1|141.0|09.7 - to start
01|03047|15:58.2|02:37.2|152.2|18.2|142.8|148.0|10.5 - to dam
02|02780|14:22.8|02:35.2|140.9|17.7|139.5|147.0|10.9 - back to start
03|01122|06:31.8|02:54.6|128.8|17.6|142.6|148.0|09.8 - 7 min out 
04|01333|07:25.2|02:47.0|128.3|18.1|144.4|152.0|09.9 - 7 min back
05|01125|06:07.1|02:43.1|119.5|19.8|142.7|150.0|09.3 - back to dock

The summary looks a bit weird for the pace on intervals 3 and 4.  The eyeball average for the pace looks a bit faster than the summary.

I got distracted during the row and I completely forgot to keep my rate up, so I reverted to my normal r18 kind of rowing.  But I did row a bit slower than a similar session from Monday.  I was also rowing a lot shorter (as measured by effective length).  I dug into the metrics

You can see that everything is a bit smaller for Friday’s row.  That’s me being careful with my back.

Tuesday: OTW Pyramid

Weather:  Perfect.


  • L1 Pyramid workout
  • 250m/500m/750m/1000m/750m/500m/250m
  • Roughly 1’30” of rest per 250m rowed
  • stroke rate target: 28-32
  • pace target:  Not really sure, maybe around 2:00
  • Technique:  Work on improving efficiency at high stroke rates.  Try to maintain length and form.  Especially keep finishes clean.

I was not feeling good about this workout.  My back hurt and I debated whether it was wise to risk to row with it hurting.  I’ve had mixed results, some days rowing doesn’t seem to cause any problems and other days, I feel much worse afterwards.  (More about that later).  I decided to give it a try and bail out if I felt too compromised.

I did a short warm up while heading through the twisty bits to the start of the good section of the river.  Since I am training for head races, I eased into each interval with a rolling start, not a racing start (also a bit easier on my back).

I did the intervals by distance.  This was a bit of a challenge because I wanted the 4 fields on the speedcoach for pace, HR, effective length and work per stroke.  I used RIM for distance and stroke rate on the boat acceleration screen.  Analyzing the data later, it looks like there is some innaccuracy in how RIM starts measuring meters because even though I rowed through the full distance by the display, the data on the speedcoach shows I cheated each interval by up to 50 meters.  I think I’ll go by time delimited intervals from now on when I’m on the water.

I pounded out the first interval and, frankly, it felt awful.  Well, it’s more complicated than that.  I really enjoyed the feeling of getting up to speed and seeing the speedcoach dip down into the 1:50s on pace.  I love the gurgling noise the boat makes when I’m going fast.  I also like the skinny smoothies at higher rates.  I felt more stable, and under control above 30 SPM with the longer oars and I felt like the softer shafts made the drive smoother.  So, that was what dominated my thinking for the first 20 strokes.  Then it hit me.  The last 10 strokes really hurt.  Whoops.  I guess I need to be a little more conservative.

So, I backed off a bit for the 500m.  That went OK.  The 750m was basically the same deal.  I was now struggling a bit with intestinal issues that hit pretty hard after I finished each piece.  The back was feeling OK though.  I was not looking forward to the 1000m.

For the first 2 intervals, I had rowed back to the start after each and rowed them downstream, but for the 1000, I rowed it in the other direction.  There wasn’t much current, but there was a light breeze blowing down river and it surprised me how much slower I was going on the 1000m in the other direction.  But I made it through it and it was pretty clear sailing for the rest of it.

I didn’t realized how tired I was getting, but I had a bad case of tunnel vision in the last 250m and nearly ran myself into the riverbank with some very poor steering.  I had to do one of those full stops where you jam both oars in and reverse feather to avoid it.

I rowed back to the dock with feet out and tried to work on perfect finishes.


When you look at it on a pie chart it looks a lot easier than it felt.

You can see how the intervals all got shaved down a bit.  Very disappointing for a completist like myself.  i probably would have been close to the 2:00 target if I hadn’t been working against the head wind in the 1000m piece.

        Workout Summary - media/20170822-151706-Greg Smith 20170822 0636amo.csv
Workout Details

I did a lot of metrics charts.

  • power and wps: pretty consistent through the workout.
  • stroke rate and pace:  I tried to hold 28 for the 750s and 1000.  I tried to push it up to 30 or higher for the 500s and 250s
  • peak force:  I think it’s interesting that I was most consistent in the last 500m interval.  I bet that’s a good thing.  The prior 750 looks much sloppier.
  • length:  Very happy that my effective length was consistent as I got more tired.

The bads news was that I could barely stand up after I got back  to the dock.  My lower back was VERY irritated.  Well to be more precise about it, the area at the top of my left glute, right around where my pelvis is.  It is not very painful once I find a reasonable position, but bending over and getting up from sitting cause me problems.

Since then, I’ve been on a diet of ibuprofen and rest.  I skipped yesterday’s L4 and today’s L2.  I’m not sure how long this will take to heal, but I think I will avoid rowing for a few days.  I’ll give the stationary bike a go to see if I can at least save a bit of aerobic fitness.


Monday: Exactly one hour

Well, vacation is over.  This morning at 5:15, my alarm went off.  The alarm was loud enough to wake up my wife, but not me, so she nudged me awake.  I was so tired that I felt nauseous, so I just shut it off and rolled over to go back to sleep.

But my brain had other ideas.  There were so many different voices in my head.  “Get up, do the session”  “You need more sleep” “When’s my first meeting”  “Do I have any free time blocks to go catch a quick workout on the erg?”  “Should I even be rowing with my sore back?”  After 9 minutes of this jabbering, I gave up, got up, and stumbled through my morning routine.  The bathroom phase of the routine took a bit longer than normal.  There is nothing worse than trying to row when you need to poop (sorry, but it’s true)

By the time I got on the road, I knew that my workout would be time limited.  Luckily, traffic wasn’t too bad and i was on the water by 7:03am.  I knew I needed to be on the road by 8:15 to my 9:00am meeting on time (allowing a generous 12 minutes to shower and change).  So, that provided a window exactly one hour long for my row.

The plan:

  • 60 minute recovery / endurance session
  • stroke rate target: 18 spm
  • target effective length: 80deg
  • target WPS: >450
  • HR limit: 150

My plan was to row until the elapsed time was 29:30, then turn around and retrace my path.  This ended up being about 1/3 of the way back to the start from the dam in Waltham, right before the s-turn.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 4.11.40 PM.png

My heart rate was stubbornly low today.  I’m coming to think that this is related to very hard efforts the day before.  After about 15 minutes, I got up into the UT2 range, and I was able to hold my heart rate right at the top of the ut2 range with very small changes in stroke pressure.  It was only in the last quarter when I felt a bit of time pressure did I push hard enough to get into the meat of the ut1 range.

Of course, I wish the splits were faster, but this was a good workout.  It was nice to be on glassy flat water, and I felt like I could take long, smooth strokes.  I am not enjoying the back issues though.  Most strokes felt fine, but some strokes, especially when I was  turning, or not well balanced at the catch provided not very subtle form feedback through my frayed nerve endings.  I’m worried that this could get worse before it gets better.


        Workout Summary - media/20170821-193402-Greg Smith 20170821 0703amo.csv
Workout Details
00|01095|06:00.0|02:44.3|128.9|16.9|112.7|124.0|10.8 - slow turny bit
01|02932|14:47.2|02:31.3|149.7|17.7|136.1|144.0|11.2 - down to dam
02|01393|07:12.0|02:35.0|151.1|17.7|141.8|146.0|10.9 - back to 29:30
03|01395|06:52.8|02:28.0|157.6|17.5|141.2|146.0|11.6 - back to dam
04|03078|16:04.8|02:36.7|146.6|17.8|145.4|151.0|10.7 - back to start
05|00946|05:05.5|02:41.5|128.5|18.6|149.0|152.0|10.0 - slow turny bit

So, how much difference does nice flat water make?  Here is a comparison of the stroke profile for work strokes yesterday and today.

So, with slick flat water I get higher peak and average force, an extra degree on the catch, a degree on slip, 3 degrees on the finish.  Together it ends up increasing my effective length by about 7 or 8 degrees.  That’s about 10% more length!  The peak force angle also moved about 4 degrees to the bow.  I guess more work in choppy water would be a good idea!

Here are some more stroke metrics.  Nothing really weird in the data.  The averages here do not exactly match the stroke profile because I pruned all strokes with WPS below 350J to get the turning strokes out.

Tomorrow:  The plan calls for an L1 session.  The Pyramid!  OTW in my fluid.  Stroke rate target is 30 SPM.



Sunday: Failed L3 – A bit breezy on Lake Quinsigamond

Weather:  Sunny, low 70s.  Brisk wind from the NNW.  Quite gusty.  I launched at about 7:15.  So, the wind got a little gentler as I rowed down to the south end, and then picked up again as I rowed north.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 10.49.44 AM.png


I have been taking more rest days than planned recently, so I am behind on the training plan.  So, even though I had a tough L2 yesterday, I decided to do an L3 session this morning.  The lake is much better for hard distance because you can get nearly 6K in without turning around.

  • L3 – hard distance
  • 5.5km from south end of the lake to the north end
  • stroke rate: 25
  • effective length target: > 75 deg
  • WPS target: > 450

I rowed to the south end of the lake as a long warmup.  I did a couple of rate ladders.  The whole way south, I debated just doing ladders for the whole workout instead of doing the L3.  Clearly, my head was not really in the game today.  My back was acting up as well.  I was hoping it would settle down like it did yesterday, but I was getting a twinge on each stroke.

Anyway, I turned north and started up.  I got about 20 strokes into it and a big splash sent the RIM app to some setup screen and I no longer had any stroke rate information.  (I had the speedcoach set up to show pace, HR, Eff Len and work per stroke).  I stopped and quit out of RIM and started Crewnerd which has a much more effective screen lock mechanism.  Then I started up again.

I was trying to row clean against the gusty headwind and I was making very slow progress.  I would do OK when I got into the wind shadow of islands or headlands, but in the gusts, I was having some trouble getting to my target length in the chop and with the wind pushing around my oars.

I plugged along, but by the 1500m mark, I was losing hope.  I rowed through the narrows and eased up the pressure a bit.  I just tried to row clean.  I figured I could at least make it to the bridge and I was almost there when I was massively waked by a waterskiing boat towing a skier.  The wakes hit me at the same time as a big gust of wind and it was a little bit too much for me to handle.  I stopped rowing after about 2600, about 400m short of the bridge.

What to do now.  My back hurt, I was tired, and I wasn’t having much fun.  I decided to turn around and go find the double that was a ways behind me, and just row with them for a while.  I rowed back to the narrows and saw them coming through.  I turned and just rowed easy with them all the way up to the bridge.  By then I was feeling a bit better.  More importantly, I saw a double from the other club about 100m north of the bridge.  Ah ha, a target.  I brought the rate back up to 25 and tried to row a lightly and cleanly as I could with the head wind.  I slowly reeled them in, and passed them about 1000m north of the bridge.  Now, I was motivated to get to the end.  But there were more challenges to confront.  Another massive waking, and then a fishing boat trolling along very slowly right in my way.  I basically needed to stop to get through that mess.  But I spooled back up to my target rate and pushed through the last couple hundred strokes to the north end of the lake.

I was toast.  I basically square bladed the whole way back to the club.  The western edge of the lake was reasonably well sheltered from the wind and what there was of it was coming from behind, so it was nice easy rowing.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 11.59.06 AM


        Workout Summary - media/20170820-144123-Greg Smith 20170820 0715amo.csv
Workout Details
00|00700|04:00.0|02:51.5|120.6|16.7|113.2|129.0|10.5 - 4' @ 16
01|00598|03:00.0|02:30.5|145.3|17.8|132.3|139.0|11.2 - 3' @ 18
02|00402|02:00.0|02:29.2|152.3|20.1|141.7|144.0|10.0 - 2' @ 20
03|00204|01:00.0|02:26.8|172.9|22.0|146.2|148.0|09.3 - 1' @ 22
04|00770|04:00.0|02:35.8|127.1|16.8|139.1|148.0|11.5 - 4' @ 16
05|00600|03:00.0|02:29.9|145.7|18.4|142.6|145.0|10.9 - 3' @ 18
06|00203|01:00.0|02:27.9|168.6|20.0|146.5|150.0|10.1 - 1' @ 20
07|02648|13:07.8|02:28.8|191.9|25.3|160.3|171.0|08.0 - 1st hard piece
08|00701|03:58.8|02:50.3|135.9|19.1|138.0|143.0|09.2 - loop around
09|01659|08:28.2|02:33.1|176.8|24.2|156.1|169.0|08.1 - 2nd hard piece
10|01050|05:19.8|02:32.3|189.3|25.7|167.7|176.0|07.6 - bit after wake
11|02192|13:22.2|03:02.9|096.7|19.8|130.6|152.0|08.3 - SBR drills

A few stroke metrics

Tomorrow:  Recovery session on the Charles.  HR limit at 150.

Saturday: L2 Waterfall 1x

Friday:  We came back from the Cape Thursday evening.  Friday, I had an appointment with the eye doctor, and I had a lot of running around to do to take care of some car maintenance.  I never got around to working out.  Part of it was dreading a session on the dynamic erg.  I need to get rid of that thing.

So, it was a rest day.

Saturday:  We were up late, so I decided to sleep in a little instead of rowing out in Worcester.  I got up around 8:30 and decided to go row in Newton in my neglected Fluid.

It was a hot, humid morning.  Overcast with very little wind.


  • L2 – Waterfall (3000, 2500, 2000)
  • ~5′ rest
  • Stroke rate target: 25 spm
  • Pace target: 2:15

I was bummed out that I couldn’t find my speedcoach in my rowing bag.  I’m wondering if I forgot it down the cape.

So, I just had RIM in the boat.  So, basically, just a way to see the start and end of each interval, the stroke rate, and a very rough idea of pace.



        Workout Summary - media/20170819-160532-93720o.csv
Workout Details
01|03000|13:23.7|02:13.9|000.0|25.1|165.6|178.0|08.9 - down
02|02500|10:54.8|02:11.0|000.0|24.9|170.9|181.0|09.2 - upstream
03|02000|08:38.0|02:09.5|000.0|26.6|171.8|182.0|08.7 - down

I was very surprised by the paces.  The display on RIM was showing between 2:15 and 2:20 most of the time.  But, I’ve always felt the live display was a bit on the slow side.  But looking closely at the GPS data, there is a lot of location jitter.  I am wondering if that is causing the distance logged to be further than actual distance, and thus showing a faster pace.

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 2.41.57 PM.png

This was a tough, tough workout.  I felt like I emptied the tanks on each interval and I needed a bit more than 5 minutes rest after each.  It ended up being closer to 7 minutes, I think.

I steered a reasonable line.  In the 2500m interval, I saw a kayaker over my starboard shoulder and it looked like I would clear her easily.  Then, while my back was literally turned, she decided to cross in front of me and misjudged the distance.  I clipped her stern with my oar.  That’s the pace and rate glitch right around 7000m.  She’s lucky I didn’t smack her in the head.  I try to keep a good watch, but when I’m 20 strokes from the end of a 2500m interval and my heart rate is around 180, I get tunnel vision.  I need to be more careful.

Tomorrow:  Hopefully head out to Quinsigamond.


Thursday: 4 x 1000 / 5′ Open Water

Weather:  Sparkling sunshine, perfect temperature, around 70F.  Light wind from WNW which built from nearly calm when I launched about 9:15 to about 10mph by the time I finished.  This was a cross wind.

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 10.13.23 AM.png

The tide was ebbing.  This was against me on the odd intervals and with me on the even intervals.


  • 4 x 1000
  • 5 minutes rest (roughly.  I paddled 500m and took a drink.  I didn’t actually measure how long the rests were.
  • Stroke Rate Target: 28spm
  • Pace target:  I wanted to be faster than the 15×3′ session (2:34)

I rowed out to Buoy 10.  This seems to be a good starting point for these kinds of workouts.  I did some 10s and 20s to get used to rowing at 28.  My hip/back felt a bit tight and sore through the warmup, but seemed to be loosing up by the end.

I got lined up and started the first interval with 2500m on the speedcoach.  Doing these intervals in a Maas Aero is a different experience from doing them on an erg.  On an erg, they are over in a about 3:30-3:40.  In an Aero, it’s a lot closer to 5 minutes.  So, I found that I had to pace myself a bit more.  There is also a lot to think about.  Steer a good course, react to the waves, look for boats, row with good form (especially, clean finishes and getting good clearance o recovery).

I felt like I was pushing hard, but my HR was lower Thursday than it was on Tuesday.  Not that it mattered much, this was a good workout.

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 10.24.22 AM

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 3.52.14 PM.png



        Workout Summary - media/20170817-194615-Greg Smith 20170817 0919amo.csv
Workout Details
03|01000|04:59.4|02:29.7|000.0|28.0|164.6|175.0|07.1 - not sure what happened here

I was pretty tired when I finished, and I took it easy rowing back to the beach.  I took a couple pictures of the beach where I launch.

Later Thursday, we headed back home.  We might head back to the cape this weekend.  On Friday, I think I will do an L4 maybe 60 minutes or so.