Charles River GPS Speed order

The coolest thing I have been a part of are GPS Speed Orders. This is a case of taking a couple of great ideas and putting them together.

The first great idea was from Greg Benning, who reached out to find out if there was a way to setup on the water competitions to take the place of all those cancelled regattas. The second great idea came from Sander Roosendaal, who has been working on a capability called Virtual Racing as part of the rowsandall platform.

We batted the idea back and forth via email and came up with the idea of “GPS Speed Orders”. These would be free challenges open to all single scullers. You just row the course with some kind of GPS devices, like a smartphone, fitness watch or Speedcoach, and then upload your data. The software one rowsandall measures your time to do the course, and that you went through all the required “gates” through the course. Then it ranks all the competitors, just like a head race. You can learn all about it here.

Sander did a ton of coding and enhancements to make it easier and more fun. Seven folks did a dry run during the last week of May and it worked out great! Check out the results here.

Now we have open up two new events, which will run the whole month of June. The first is over the same course on the Charles River. The other challenge is out in Worcester on Lake Quinsigamond. Even more exciting, I’ve started to get inquiries about setting up challenges in other venues in Pennsylvania, Seekonk Massachusetts. Let me know if you want to run a challenge over the course of your favorite race.

Thursday – May 28 – Charles River GPS Speed Order

I was so excited (and nervous) about doing this, that I had trouble sleeping the night before, just like a race. Knowing that I was going to post my result, made me work really hard. I knew that I was not in the same league as the other people that were rowing, but I wanted to do as well as I could.

As it turned out, I was satisfied with my boat speed, but not so happy with my steering. I made a lot of mistakes in my line, and the race software is incredibly helpful at showing that.

I launched at CRI, which is nearly 8km upstream from the start line, so I tried to row nice and easy down to basin. It was still a pretty good distance for this early in the season and I was feeling fatigued by the time I got to the Dewolfe boathouse.

I lined up and got going. I decided to try to keep it to around a r24 and concentrate on not running into anything.

Here is the whole race, with my track compared to Greg Benning, the winning of the Challenge (also winner of the MGM1x at the HOCR).

So, let’s zoom in and look at the things that I did wrong, shall we? I am Red, Mr Benning is Green.

Mistake #1: Started too far out from the Dewolfe dock, and not hugging the cambridge side of the arch in the BU bridge. This allow GB to be setup right on the bank coming out of from under the bridge and following the tightest line. I eventually clued in and jogged to the bank. I managed to do the right thing for maybe 200 meters.

Mistake #2: The curve tightens halfway around Magazine Beach, and I didn’t sense it right away. I continued out wide and did a big loop away from the docks at the Riverside Boat Club. I should have been right up on it.

Mistake #3: Having swung too wide away fro the RBC docks, I over corrected and ended up heading for the cambridge side arch on the Cambridge St Bridge. That arch is fine, but onkly if you’ve taken a really tight line out from riverside. This was just a waste.

The rest of the power house stretch was not very offensive, but not really arrow straight either

The approach to the Week’s footbridge was also pretty good. Not as tight as GB’s, OK.

Mistake #4: Compound error. The first mistake was not turning quickly enough coming out of Week’s so that I ended up with a big s-turn on the way to Anderson. The other was playing it safe on the Anderson bridge. The normal river traffic pattern allows rowers to use the cambridge arch of this bridge and you can see that GB used it effectively to cut the corner. I on the other hand swung way out in the central arch and made a tough corner even worse.

The eliot turn was just a shambles.

Mistake #5: Instead of getting a good point to the apex of the turn coming out of the Anderson Bridge, I followed the cambridge bank and realized it quite late, so I was going wide into the turn. Which led into

Mistake #6: I over corrected to get the right line, but panicked that I was too far into the downstream lane and faded back to the outside. All the steering slowed me down and the outside arc added a lot of distance.

The Eliot bridge was OK. I like my line there.

Mistake #7: The correct line for the end of the course is to get as close as you can to the Belmont Hill School docks, and then hug the Cambridge bank. In the fog of oxygen deprivation I was experiencing, I totally missed to turn and swung way wide. Again, I added a huge amount of distance.

How much distance you ask? GB rowed 4670 meters. I rowed 4773 meters. That’s a cool thirty seconds of extra rowing. Of course he beat me by three full minutes, so steering is only part of the difference. The bigger factor is that he is a MUCH better rower than I am.

       Workout Summary - media/dbc08d619a-20200528-141554o.csv
--|Total|-Total----|--Avg--|-Avg-|Avg-|-Avg-|-Max-|-Avg
--|Dist-|-Time-----|-Pace--|-Pwr-|SPM-|-HR--|-HR--|-DPS
--|15724|01:28:36.3|02:49.1|128.4|20.6|146.8|180.0|08.6
W-|04781|00:22:40.4|02:22.3|171.1|24.7|168.9|180.0|08.5
R-|10944|01:05:56.1|03:00.7|113.7|19.2|139.2|180.0|07.5
Workout Details
#-|SDist|-Split-|-SPace-|-Pwr-|SPM-|AvgHR|MaxHR|DPS-
01|04781|22:40.4|02:22.3|171.1|24.7|168.9|180.0|08.5
/static/plots/dbc08d619a-20200528-141554.png

Another thing you can do is compare your results with other rowers. Here is a boat speed comparison of me, Greg Benning and Jeff Nelson. Jeff beat me by almost a minute.

You can see that GB has a huge boat speed differential, but Jeff and I were quite well matched. He 3.54m/s and me at 3.51m/s. The difference was that he managed to row the course in 4601 meters, versus my 4773 meters.

I was pretty tired by the time I finished. Rowing the 3 k back to CRI was a slog. But I was exhilarated. This was a blast. And I can’t wait to row it again, hopefully a few times to work on my steering.

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