The Canals of Milan

Tough week to maintain any training momentum.

Tuesday – 4/9 – 8km run

I was staying Cernusco, a suburb of Milan.  On Monday night, I got back to my room around 10pm, and set an alarm for 5:30.  I planned to go to the gym, but discovered it opened at 7, too late for me since I had to be in the office at 8am.

I decided to go for a run, without a lot of research about a route.  I knew that there was a canal nearby to run along, but I wasn’t sure how to get to it.

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My hotel was right near the “C” of “Cernusco”.  So first, ran north and saw that that I was crossing over the canal, but I couldn’t see a path from the overpass down to canal level, so I continued over, then ran around the outside of a park.  I intended to go into the park, but that seemed to be locked up for the night as well (it was still dark).  I turned back south and ran back over the canal, and saw that there were pedestrian stairs down to a train station.  I jogged down the stairs, and along the train tracks to the station.  I had hoped to use the pedestrian bridge over the tracks to get the the canal side, but there were turnstiles going into the station.  I kept running along, and then found an overpass.  That’s the curved path going to the north.  That went right to the side of the canal, and I was home free.

I was running slowly, really slowly, like 10-11 minute mile pace.  But I was really enjoying myself.  Running along the canal was wonderful.  It was cool, the sun was starting to come up.  There were dog walkers and other runners out.  Along the canal were farms, and old houses, and across the canal a huge classic building.  I later found out it was the hospital.  A very classy looking hospital.

I managed to run slowly enough that I was having fun.  I got to a park and across the canal was a sports complex.  Then, I saw the coolest thing.  A stretch of the canal had been outfitted with Olympic white water kayak gates.  They must have the ability to increase the flow in the canal, because there was no impressive whitewater, just the gates.

A little past this, I noticed the time.  I’d been going for a bit more than 30 minutes.  I noticed my shoe was untied, so I stopped, retied it and turned around to go home.

The run home was just as nice.  I ran all the way back to the same overpass, and then continued south on the same road to the main route that would take me back to my hotel.  I was starting to get pretty tired by this point, and I didn’t like running along the morning rush hour, but when I finally got back to my hotel, I was just delighted.  I ran for nearly an hour.  The longest run I’ve done in years and it felt really good.  Almost all of it was good aerobic HR, then at the end, I picked up a bit.

I need to run more often.

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Then I had some less than happy meetings with our customer, some meetings back at our office, and then we went into Milan for dinner, along the canals.

I didn’t even know that Milan had canals!  Apparently they were covered over in the late 19th century and then uncovered in the late 20th century to beautify the city.

A little background on Milan’s canals

Wednesday – 4/10 – No Training

Up at 5:30am, cab to the airport at 6:15.  Flight from Milan to Frankfurt.  Then Frankfurt to Boston.  Arrived around 4pm.

Thursday – 4/11 – No Training

I was bone tired by the time I got to bed on Wednesday night.  I had a red eye flight on Sunday night, jet lag sleep issues on Monday night and a late bedtime and early start on Wednesday.  I figure I got 12 hours of sleep over the 3 nights.  So, I slept in instead of getting up  to train.

Friday – 4/12 – No Training

I had a doctors appt on Friday morning.  So, no time to train

Saturday – 4/13 – 3 x 20’/2′

Finally, I had a chance to train!  Back to basics.  I felt terrible.  High heart rate.  No rhythm.  But it felt great to work up a sweat.  I felt like a new person after I was done.

Compare this to the same thing a couple weeks ago.  Except that session was a more challenging stroke count!

Amazing how quickly I can lose fitness!

Sunday – 4/14 – 15km OTW 1x

The weather forecast was for partly sunny skies, no wind and temps in the high 50s.  I was very excited to get back on the water.  I headed down to Newton and launched around 8am.

Since I’ve only been on the water twice so far this season, and hadn’t been out since the 28th of March, I felt that the right thing to do today was to just do some r18 steady state rowing and maybe try to focus on technique.  The key things I wanted to work on were:

  • draw my hands in higher on my chest at the release to try to stop washing out.
  • work on getting my blades farther off the water on recovery
  • Work on hinging at my hips and maintaining body position forward during the leg drive.
  • Work on keeping my knees close to each other at the catch.  I think letting my legs splay out at the catch is the primary thing that is irritating my SI joint issues.

So it was a lot to think about and my success level was mixed at best.  But boy was it awesome to be out on the water!

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I started off and headed up river to go take a peek at the Lasalle Boathouse.  Looked the same as always.  Then I spun around and headed down river, all the way to the dam.  Then back upriver to turn in the cove.  Back down to the dam again.  By then I had been going for about 70 minutes and I was pretty tired.  I decided to alternate 40 strokes of drills and 40 strokes of steady state for the trip back to the dock.  I did the following drills

  • square blades
  • pause at arms away (This was good practice to work on the whole body position thing
  • half slide
  • slow roll up

While I was on the way back down river, my phone died.  Not sure why it tapped out the battery so quickly this morning, but once it was kaput, I had didn’t have a stroke rate.  (I used the speedcoach for pace, HR, Power and Eff Length.  I use RIM for boat acceleration curves and SPM).  I kind of enjoyed not having the SPM for a while.

       Workout Summary - media/20190414-1705430o.csv
Workout Details

Now my hands are pretty torn up, but I feel great!


Training Goals and Overall Plan

With the end of the OTW racing season, it’s time to take stock and decide where to go from here.

First, a quick assessment of how this season went.  Basically, it was a pretty up and down experience.  I did much better this year avoiding injury, but I still struggled balance work, life and training.  Here’s what that looks like from a training load perspective.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.19.49 PM

A few key markers.  Went into July of 2017 in pretty good shape, then between travel and vacation, I lost fitness.  I jumped back in and hurt my back and struggled through the rest of the season, recovering just a little bit by late October, when I had my disappointing HOCR outing.

In November I did fitness testing to get a baseline and started working with Marlene Royle.  Over the next couple of months, things went well and I redid the 20′ and 75′ tests, gaining 15W on the 20′ test and 7W on the 75′ test.

After January 1st, I was plunged into a very heavy period at work and I struggled to train consistently.  This pattern continued all the way to the beginning of OTW season and although I was hoping to do focus on some sprint training and do a 1k event in early July.  But, my work kept me so busy that my training was still a mess.  I was so frustrated with the lack of training time that I cancelled out of the races.

I was so strung out that I contemplated quitting.  But I decided that rowing was something that was keeping me sane, and the competitive part of it was the most motivation thing for me.  But what was the right way to deal with balancing it all out.  I decided that I needed to set my goals on doing one head race.  I was hoping it would be the HOCR, but I’d be OK with any head race.  And I put together a short, simple training plan to work on middle distances.

Luckily, that also coincided with a period of a bit less travel at work, and I managed to get more consistency in my training volume.  I posted these ideas on August 14th.  And from there, things started clicking.  I formalized the plan into a weekly schedule by the end of August.  And from there, I did a pretty good job following the plan.  The following table shows the number of sessions planned of each type and what I actually did.  So over 8 weeks, I missed 2 short interval sessions, 1 long interval session, 1 steady state session (if you count cross training as steady state).  I had 4 extra “rest” days, but in actuality, many of the rest days were actually travel days, which don’t have any training value nor do they have any recovery value.

Plan Actual
SI 9 7
LI 8 7
TH 7 7
SS 24 19
XT 0 4
rest 7 11

The result was a steady improvement in fitness through September and October.

I was happy with my performance in the Snake Race, and then did a round of fitness tests.  These tests showed that I was in better shape than last year by a fair margin.

Compared to a year ago.

  • Peak power:  +21W
  • 1000m: +20W
  • 20′ test: +15W
  • 75′ test: +13W

So, a strong end to a pretty spotty season.

So, what’s next?

Step 1:  Decide on goals.

Planned testing and races

  • End of Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb: 20′ test
  • End of March:  Fitness Tests (Peak Power, 1K, 20′, 75′)
  • Early June:  Provincetown Coastal Regatta (8km, Head race)
  • Mid October: Quinsigamond Snake Race (4km, Head Race)
  • Late October: HOCR (5km, Head Race)

Additional Goal:  My weight is up to 209lbs.  I would like to weigh less than 195 when I get back on the water on April.  I will start tracking weight.

Step 2:  Rough Training blocks

  • November – January: General Prep
  • January – March: Optimize 10km erg performance
  • April – June: OTW, develop plan for optimal 40′ perf
  • July – October: Head Racing Prep

Step 3:  Plan out each block

I’m only going to plan out block 1 right now.  In this block I would like to reduce my erg volume and add in core and strength training.  The rough outline is:

  • Monday:  rest
  • Tuesday: Core, Strength, optional 30′ SS
  • Wednesday: Alternate Long and short intervals by week
  • Thursday: Core, Strength, optional 30′ SS
  • Friday: Core, 60′ steady state
  • Saturday: Hard Distance
  • Sunday:  80’+ Steady State

Any of the steady state sessions can be replaced with cross training.

More details on the strength plan coming soon.




What are my goals? (Really?)

I’ll get the the deep thoughts.  But first, a quick rundown of the spotty training that I’ve been doing.

Saturday, July 28:  10K hard.

Well, it wasn’t supposed to be that hard.  I just wanted to do 10K at around a 2:00 pace.  2:00 turned into 1:59, and I broke around the 7500m mark.  I got it back together and finished at pace.

          Workout Summary - media/20180728-1350240o.csv
Workout Details

Sunday, July 29:  75km bike ride.  Cape cod rail trail.

I was with my friend Jon and it was a great ride.  Parts of it were reasonably fast, but overall it was low intensity.  It did take nearly 3 hours, so it was a fair amount of work.

Later in the day, I decided to go kayaking.  I was launching the kayak from the top of the seawall and i let it go a little too soon.  I slid down the rocks and launched itself.  It was heading out to sea without me in it.  I rushed after it, lost my footing and stumbled on the rocks, scraping my left ankle pretty badly.

After swimming to go get the kayak, I jumped in and looked at my ankle.  It was bleeding pretty freely, but there was no way I was going to be denied my voyage.  I paddled for a about 40 minutes or so.  Back at the house, I washed the scrape and put on a bandage.  As it turned out, I should have taken the wound a bit more seriously.

Monday, July 30: 3 x 20′ / 2′ on Slides

Down on the cape, in the basement.  A bit too windy for a real row.  Just bopping along.  My ankle was throbbing in pain after I finished from my sock rubbing on the scrape.

         Workout Summary - media/20180731-0125260o.csv
Workout Details

Tuesday, July 31:  No Training

I needed to drive from the Cape to work.  It took nearly 3 hours, from 5am to 8am.  Then I was in meetings all day and into the evening.

Wednesday, Aug 1: No Training

I had an 8am meeting, and I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, so I blew off rowing in the morning, intending to row in the afternoon.  As it turned out I was at work until 8pm, so no rowing.

Thursday, Aug 2: 8km steady state OTW

Pressed for time, because of an early meeting, but I really wanted to do something!  First time in my Fluid since July 11th.  I was very rusty.  But it was very nice to be back rowing.  I really enjoy the feeling and the concentration it requires.

Friday, Aug 3:  No Training

My wife and I headed down to New York City.  We had tickets for the Saturday performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play on Broadway.

Saturday, Aug 4: No Training


Sunday, Aug 5: No Training

Came home from NYC.  Had a bunch of work stuff to do once we got back.  Starting to get very frustrated at not having time to workout.

Monday, Aug 6: No Training

Staying up late on Sunday, resulted in getting up late on Monday, resulted in not rowing.

Tuesday, Aug 7: 14km steady state OTW

In Newton.  focused on technique, at r18.

Wednesday, Aug 8: 14km steady state OTW

In Newton.  today I was working on rowing with a lighter touch at r20.

Thursday, Aug 9: 14km steady state OTW

In Newton, same as Wednesday.  Just trying to get back some form and basic aerobic fitness.  My ankle was not healing right.  It was swelling up, and was red and hot around the area.  It also felt tingly in the area.  I decided to get it looked at by a professional.  After a very long wait, the doctor pronounced it infected, gave me a tetanus shot, had the nurse clean and debride the wound (which hurt, a lot), bandaged it up, and sent me on my way with a prescription for an oral antibiotic and instructions to change the dressing twice a day.

Friday: Aug 10: 8km technique work OTW

In Newton. After so much spotty training, having 3 days in a row was pretty cool, but I was sore and tired on Friday morning.  I decided to focus on technique, especially balance by alternating 2 minutes of square blade rowing with 2 minutes of r20 steady state.

After the workout I had a jam packed day until around 2pm.  Then I left to go home and then head to the cape.

Saturday, Aug 11:  No Training

My wife’s sister, her husband and two teenagers arrived in the morning for a visit.  The day was a blur of swimming, eating, drinking and talking.

Sunday, Aug 12:  3 x 20’/2′ on slides

At the cape.  We had a nice day, we kayaked around the island.  Jumped off the bridge at high tide, went out for a giant feast of fried seafood, and then went minature golfing.  We got home around 8pm, and I had to make a choice.  Have a beer, or go workout.  I chose the latter.  I did an hour of steady state on slides.

The rules of this workout are:

  • r20
  • HR limits
    • 1st rep: 145
    • 2nd rep: 150
    • 3rd rep: 155

          Workout Summary - media/20180813-0140260o.csv
Workout Details

Monday, Aug 13: 3 x 20′ / 2′

On Saturday, I felt like my ankle was getting much better.  I decided to leave off the dressing to let it get some air and scab up.  Then on Sunday, I think water immersion was a bad thing.  It hurt a little in the evening and then in middle of the night, it hurt enough to wake me up and keep from getting back to sleep.  I finally gave up and redressed the wound.  The ointment and the pressure did the trick and the pain calmed down after a little while and I got back to sleep.  I decided to stay out of the water on Monday.

Monday afternoon my sister-in-law and her family went off for a nature walk.  My wife and I stayed home and that gave me a window for an erg session.  Same rules as the Sunday session.  I needed to slow down a bit more in the 2nd and third interval to respect the HR cap.

          Workout Summary - media/20180813-2135260o.csv
Workout Details

Tuesday, August 14:  No Training – Travel

This morning at 3:45am, I got up, showered and headed out for the airport from the cape.  It’s about a 2:15 drive and I had a 7:13am departure.

I got to the airport exactly an hour before my plane took off, and by the time I got to the gate, my flight was boarding.  I didn’t even have enough time to grab a coffee at the airport.  I guess I’m lucky I didn’t run into more traffic.

I’m heading out to San Jose today for a couple of customer meetings, and then tomorrow I head to Austin for more customer meetings on Wednesday night and Thursday.  I head home on Thursday night.  I’m hoping I can get fitness center sessions in on Wed and Thursday mornings.

Whew!  I’m glad I took the time to write this out.  It pretty clear that I have to re-evaluate my goals.  One of the most important training principles is consistency, and right now I am not succeeding at being consistent.  I am trying to do too many things to be able to sustain the same training load that I was carrying a couple of years ago.  All of these things are, arguably, more important than competitive rowing.

  • My job has gotten harder.  There a big organization that is relying on me for strategic leadership and we have some serious issues to confront and solve.  I worked thirty years to get to this job and I want to be successful.
  • My relationship with my wife and family.  Some people have spouses with a common interest in sports.  I do not.  Time that I take for rowing is time that I take away from being a good partner.  That’s fine, up to a point.  But, especially since we got the cape house, there is a lot of logistics that we need to work on together.  I love being there, but the travel time and visitors have reduced the amount of free time that I have to train.
  • My health.  I have learned that I perform better in my job and I am a better person to be around if I am getting at least an hour of exercise a day.  With my families history of heart disease, I think it is also critical to make sure I don’t drop dead at an early age.  So, it’s a big deal to maintain some sort of structured training plan.  But I have also lost the habit of doing my PT exercises and I’ve noticed that my hip is starting to hurt again.  I’m making some bad choices right now.

I tried numerous times in my adult life to lose weight, and never succeeded until I took up rowing.  I think the main difference was that the purpose of exercising changed from “getting exercise” to “getting faster”, and the online community for indoor rowing provided a way to measure my progress and hold myself accountable for my training.  I need to continue to train “publically” and try to be honest about how I’m doing.  I think the primary change has to be in the ambition of my goals and structure of my training.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Keep racing, just a little bit.  Maybe one or two small races in the fall.
  • 5 sessions a week, not 6.  If I have extra time, I can add a sixth.
  • Simple workout plan, basically a variation of the Pete Plan
    • 2 “hard” sessions a week.  Aiming at <=60 minute work plus rest in each.
    • 2 endurance sessions.  As much duration as have time for
    • 1 Technique session 60-80 min.
  • Regular testing.  This is the hardest one to do because I hate to see the results.  But I think I need to at least do one 6km test per month.
  • Daily PT exercises.  Instead of doing these at the start of a session, change to do them at night after dinner.



Monday: 72′ of Speedplay.

Sunday:  Rest Day

By the time we got home yesterday, time was short and I decided that it would be better to take a rest day and row on Monday instead of squeezing in an erg session and letting a beautiful morning pass without rowing.

Monday:  72′ of Speedplay

After I finished my row on Friday, I spent some time making additional modifications to how I am rigged.  The changes were…

  • Footstretcher an additional 1 cm to stern.  Now it is a full 4cm astern of original position
  • Shortened inboard 1cm to 84cm.  Now it is in 5 cm from 89cm originally
  • Lowered oarlocks an additional spacer.  Now 2 spacers lower than original.

Then I left my boat for the weekend and rowed down on the cape.  I did change my oars there to 84cm inboard to match, but I didn’t mess with the footstretcher or oarlock height.

Today was my first row with the new settings.  The plan was for 80 minutes of speedplay.  I had an 8:30 meeting, so I needed to be in my car at 7:45.  That meant I needed to cut is short by just a few minutes.

The flow in the river seems to be a bit down.  The weather was perfect.  There was a bit of mist on the water when I launched, but it burnt off quickly.  The temp was around 55F when i launched, but well above 60 by the time I finished.  There was no wind when I started and just a light zephyr from the west by the time I was done.  A great day to be on the river.

I launched and within a couple of strokes, I was at a nice steady state rate and pace.  I held that through the twisty bits, and continued out into the nice straight section.  I liked the changes to the rigging.  With the oarlock height, I was able to get above the handles and I felt like my balance was better.  I was able to row a lot more strokes without touching water on the recovery.  At around 8 minutes I did my first power 20.  When I finished, I looked around and was somewhat surprised to see a naked man staring back at me from the bank of the river.  I guess he decided  that some early morning skinny dipping was his training plan for the day and I interrupted him.

The rest of the workout passed far more uneventfully.

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I need to change my OTW slack.  These power bins are depressing me!

But the pace!  A lot faster than recent sessions overall.

Workout Summary - media/20180507-1700240o.csv
Workout Details
01|00856|03:59.0|02:19.6|146.6|19.3|130.2|142.0|11.1 - little gap to maneuver
02|02990|14:00.0|02:20.5|150.9|19.9|144.3|163.0|10.7 - down
03|02892|14:34.0|02:31.1|147.1|20.4|147.6|166.0|09.7 - up
04|02887|13:37.0|02:21.5|152.3|20.8|150.9|167.0|10.2 - down
05|03947|19:57.0|02:31.6|142.7|21.8|151.4|167.0|09.1 - up

I assume that the difference is because of less wind, but I don’t that accounts for all of it.

Tomorrow:  2 x 30′ @ 22.

Fall 2017 Fitness Tests

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This is in a google sheet: here

A little explanation:

  • Power:  Is the average power for the test (or the peak power in the case of the peak power.
  • PR Power:  Is the best performance over the past 4 years for the closest thing to these tests
    • Peak Power:  Low Pull Test in 2014
    • 75 Minute Test: Half marathon in December, 2015 (79:55 minutes vs 75:00)
    • 1K test: 1K test in March of 2014
    • 20′ Test: 6K test in December of 2013 (21:32 vs 20:00)
  • % PR Std:  This is how far I am from my best ever performance for this set of tests
  • 500m: Avg or peak split
  • Meters: Distance rowed, significant for 20′ and 75′ rows
  • SPM:  Avg stroke rate for the piece
  • Ratios:
    • 75′ test: % of 1K test power
    • 1K test: % of peak power
    • 20′ test: % of 1K test power
  • Ideal:  This is the range define my RoyleRow as idealized target ranges to help focus training planning
  • PR Ratios:  This is the same ratios calculated from PR powers instead of current test results.

The purpose of this exercise is to provide insight about training.  So, what insights are there.

  1. It is cool to see how consistent the ratios are from my best performance to my current performance.  I think that a big part of this is physiology.  My VO2Max to peak power is higher than target range, and my anaerobic and aerobic thresholds are below the ideal ranges by similar amounts.  It will be interesting if Marlene will want to focus on trying to raise my threshold results relative to my VO2Max, or if she will want to just push the whole profile to the right
  2. My peak power is closer to my PR levels than my distance stuff.  I think that this makes a ton of sense.  My total training load, and especially my load of aerobic training was much lower over this past summer than in past seasons due to travel, boat problems and injury.
  3. I was disappointed with the anaerobic threshold results, but it sure explains why I didn’t do as well as I hoped in the HOCR.  It appears that this furthers from my best performance and furthest from the ideal ranges.  This is also related to problems with training this summer and fall.  I essentially had 21 total days from when I restarted “real” training after my back injury before until the HOCR.  That was not enough time to move my anaerobic threshold much.

I will find out soon what Marlene wants to do, but my thought is to work on aerobic fitness using lactate guided training power, and complement that with a few short sessions a week at higher intensity.  I would also like to devote more training time to fixing some core strength and imbalance issues.

Training Principles

It’s a rest day, I’m on a plane heading out to San Diego, and I am bored.  I’m also still trying to workout the best way to train with my work and travel schedule as crazy as it has been.

Any training plan that I devise will need to be quite flexible and simple in order to succeed.  To do that well requires a return to the principles that I have learned about successful training approaches.

Principle #1:  Decide why you are exercising or training.

It is possible to have multiple answers to this question.  In fact, the more reasons you have, the more likely you are incorporate exercise into your life on a permanent basis.  I started exercising as part of an effort to lose weight, and it worked.  I took off 50 pounds.  I also was diagnosed with high blood pressure and my family has a history of cardiac and circulatory disease, and I don’t want to die.  These are the underlying, bedrock reasons why I want to regularly exercise.  But these have been true for my entire adult life, and they were not sufficient to motivate regular exercise until I found a way to connect in to my competitive drive.  Basically, as soon I found the Concept2 online rankings, I wasn’t exercising anymore, I was training.  Specifically, I was training to row faster.  Even more specifically, I was training to row faster than other people.

Rowing on the erg led me to rowing on the water, and that opened up new challenges, both in trying to master the technique and also new ways to compete.  Not only did physical fitness matter, but so did technique, steering, strategy and experience.

Now in addition to objectives to stay healthy, I work to be a better, faster rower than I was the year before and to try to catch up with people that are faster than I am.

Principle #2: Decide how much time you have to train.

Once you do, try to stick to it.  Be brutally honest with yourself up front.  I’ve experienced how demotivating it is to plan more training than I can do and then miss sessions and lose momentum on a training plan.  It would have been much better to set my sights lower.

Principle #3: Set specific a objective and use it to guide your training.

I choose a specific race in the future.  Right now, it is the Cromwell Cup, a 1000m sprint in a few weeks.  After that it will be the Head of the Charles, which is a 5K head race.  You need to know what you are training for to plan out how to train.

Principle #4:  Plan your training before you go to train.

This can be at different levels of specificity.  It might be much easier to decide ahead of time the exact sessions that you will be doing for the next three months, but that only works if you have very good control of your schedule.  If you schedule is erratic, a specific day by day plan won’t work.  In that case, planning a certain mix of training for the week and shuffle it around to make sure that the highest priority sessions get done.  Right now, I am in final prep for a sprint race on July 10th, so my weekly guide is:

  • 2 or 3 sessions that include racing starts
  • 1 session a week with 500m to 1000m intervals at close to race pace
  • 1 session a week with 100m to 500m intervals at faster than race pace
  • as much volume below 2.0mmol/l lactate as I have time for

Principle #5:  Hold yourself accountable.

I find this easiest to do by training publicly.  I try to define my next day’s workout the day before and put it in my blog.  I know that very few people read it, but the fact that I’ve done that makes me feel accountable to either do what I planned or explain why I didn’t.  It is important to make the distinction between accountability and rigidness.  If I don’t follow through with the planned workout, or if I don’t hit my targets, that isn’t a failure.  I just want to be honest with myself about why I changed the plan or wasn’t able to execute it.  That way I can adjust and improve.

Principle #6:  Evaluate performance objectively.

Set quantitative goals and use performance tracking to determine if they are met.  Use past performance to set goals for future workouts.  Try to do the same thing if you are working on technique.  Either use video, or acceleration data to see if changes in technique actually occur.  My ability to remember past performance and discern if I have corrected technique problems is limited at best.

Principle #7: Seek advice, carefully evaluate it and decide if you will use it

There are many people with opinions.  Not all of them are well informed.  It is up to you to figure out what advice is credible and useful and what is not.  Try to establish the quality of the source of advice.  Try to understand the principles on which the advice is based.

Principle #8: Miles make champions

Endurance is critical to all rowing competitions longer than 500m. Building a strong aerobic base is necessary to perform well. The most important factor to building endurance is the volume of training done at low intensities.

Low Intensity Training (LIT) is defined by a blood lactate level below 2.0 mmol/l at the completion of the workout. In order to maximize the effectiveness of endurance training, blood lactate level should be greater than 1.4-1.6mmol/l at the end of the session. Lactate levels should be periodically checked and as fitness improves, LIT intensity should increase to ensure that the end work criteria of 1.4-2.0mmol/l is met.

Endurance training can be continuous or interval based, constant rate or variable rate, as long as it meets the intensity criteria. Up to 1/2 of all endurance training can done as cross training.

Lactate testing is a pain in the ass, does not provide realtime feedback and is pretty much impossible to do in a boat, so an alternative method of gauging intensity is needed. The best alternative for is to use heart monitoring and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) together. By using HR in sessions where lactate is checked, a rough correlation between ending HR and lactate level can be drawn. This can be used as a limit in future workouts until another lactate test is done. The important thing to remember is that this is not a very exact thing. A little too hard or a little too easy will not have much impact on the effectiveness of the workout. The key thing is that easy workouts should be easy.

Principle #9:  If all you do is row slow, you will get good at rowing slow

High Intensity training is necessary to maximize performance at any distance from 100m to a full marathon.  There are different energy systems that are used in maximal efforts.  If these are not specifically trained, performance will suffer.  At least 2 sessions of high intensity training per week.  High Intensity Training (HIT) includes very short intervals, short intervals, long intervals, and hard distance workouts.  The key criteria of these workouts is that lactate levels well above 4.0mmol/l are achieved.  The most convenient way to measure this is to track HR and measure time above lactate threshold.

Principle #10:  You need to be able to pull hard to win races

The ability to generate high peak force on the handle is critical to achieving good speed off the line and to be able to sprint at the finish.  The more force you can exert also means that you can work at lower stroke rates with higher efficiency.  Including some kind of peak power training is useful, especially for sprint racing (1Ks, 2Ks). This can be done on the erg or in the boat with very short intervals with generous rests, or through weight training.  During sprint season, at least one session per week should include peak power training.

Principle #11:  Strength Training is useful, but not critical

This is disputable.  If you have specific strength deficits, then strength training can help with them.  Otherwise, it is mainly useful for muscle group balance and injury prevention.  Right now, I have deprioritized strength training in favor of additional endurance training within the time budget that I have set.  I know that other folks believe this should be a higher training priority.

Principle #12:  Mesocycles work, change it up.

Performance improvements will plateau after 4 to 8 weeks of training with a specific focus.  To combat this plateau, mesocycles can be used to vary the focus of training in blocks.  This can be programmed in a way to build toward a specific event and yield better results than a plan that has the same types of sessions over time.  The final mesocycle before a key event should be focus on maximize performance for the event type.

Principle #13:  The overload principle

Improvement in performance comes from the overload principle. For high intensity workouts, setting targets for pace to be slightly faster than previous results.  For low intensity workouts, increasing duration, and nudging up pace to stay in the desired lactate range over time.  Gradual overload is important.  Big steps in pace are an invitation to disaster.  Big increases in volume can lead to injury as form suffers when you are fatigued.

Principle #14:  Resting is part of training

Rest and recovery are critical to progress.  It is OK to have weeks that over load and under recovery, but these must be followed by weeks where the recovery takes place.  As a general rule taking one day of complete rest per week is vital.  By complete rest, I mean no rowing at all.  The logic behind no rowing is to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury.  Some kind of other gentle exercise is OK as long as it isn’t long duration and isn’t intense.

Principle #15:  Get a coach

A principle I haven’t been able to follow, but is holding me back.  Real time feedback on performance, especially on technique is critical to improvement.   One Caveat, you and coach need to agree on principles.

Principle #16: Training is easier and more fun if you have training partners.

Thats the thing that I miss most by developing my own training plans.

Principle #17: Lighten up.

If you are reading this, then it is more than likely that you aren’t a professional athlete. We all have jobs, friends and family that are more important than achieving perfection in the execution of our training plans. I am all for having the grit to pound out that last 500 when your legs feel like jelly. I am all for dragging my ass out of bed at 5:15 to get in a training session before work, but if life gets in the way, that’s OK. There are more important things in life than rowing a long skinny boat faster.

Principle #18: Be resilient.

This one goes along with the one before. If sports are not your number one priority, then it is likely that your life will sometime conspire to make you miss your training objectives. When it happens, and it will, just pick yourself up, honestly assess where you fitness is and make a new plan. One of the best things about keeping good training records is that you can look to see how much training you’ve missed and spot trends like regularly missing training volume plans. You can use this to make your plans more realistic or change your priorities or schedule.

Principle #19: Be skeptical.

The world is full of people that are full of crap. They use the internet to spread the fertilizer. There is a lot of good advice out there too. It’s hard to know what is real and what isn’t. Here are my thoughts.
– Research is limited and flawed, but at least multiple people with lots of training in the field have looked at and critiqued it. Its up to you to figure out if it actually applies to your situation.
– Beware of plans for Olympians: I think the most important factor in race performance is total training volume. Elite athletes spend 40 hours a week training. I spend less than 10. That difference is huge and limits the applicability of anything done at an elite level.
– Beware of the “It worked for me” folks. That means you should beware of me too. The critical test is whether or not the advocate can answer the question, “Why does this work?” If it is not based on testable principles or there are not good answers to reasonable questions, then proceed with some caution.
– Beware of facts not in evidence. If someone says that they improved their 2k score by 20 seconds by doing two high intensity erg sessions a week, try to find out what else they are doing. For all you know, they might be running 10 miles every morning. If you just do the erg part, you will probably not see the same results.


Today while I rowed, I listened to a podcast called “Hidden Brain” on the topic of “Grit”.  Here’s a link if you are interested.  

There is a fair amount of research that links success in many fields not to innate talent, but rather to the tenacity, passion and drive needed to put in the work.  The key appears to be a willingness to engage in the most unpleasant type of practice, the deeply mindful concentrated work on the things you find most difficult.  I think another aspect to “grit” is the ability to take setbacks and then just go back to work on improving.  To quote a slightly different source, there is a lyric in the musical “Hamilton” that is stuck in my head.  There is a character in the play named Hercules Mulligan, a spy in the revolutionary war.  I have no idea what he was like actually, but in the play he is a brash talking, tough guy.  Here’s the quote…

To my brother’s revolutionary covenant
I’m runnin’ with the Sons of Liberty and I am lovin’ it!
See, that’s what happens when you up against the ruffians
We in the s**t now, somebody gotta shovel it!
Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction
When you knock me down I get the f**k back up again!

I like the attitude embodied in “somebodies gotta shovel it” and “When you knock me down I get the F back up again”.  I think success has a lot more to do with getting back up again, than anything else.

Sorry to get all philosophical, but the past month and half have been difficult for me.  My new role at work is demanding a lot more travel, and frankly a much deeper commitment, and I have been dealing a bunch of minor disruptions at home as well.  The result is a dramatic reduction in training volume.

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Week 41 is the beginning of February, and I went from averaging over 100km per week to around 50km per week.  This is just rowing meters, so, there was training volume in week 42 (while on vacation), and other weeks while on travel, but it is inevitable that I will have a decline in rowing fitness with this reduction.

So, the plan is to just keep on plugging.  I will train as much as I can, and make maintaining my aerobic base the priority until  things are a little more under control.  So, as much endurance training as I have time for and then 1 or 2 spicier sessions a week.



2015 Objectives

My training objectives for the OTW season are simple.  Do better than I did this year.  I measure this in terms of my percentage behind the winner in my class in events.  Since conditions are always varying, it is tough to set specific time based goals.  But here they are:

1K Sprints (50-59 age group):

  •  last year…1.7% behind winner on raw time, 7.6% behind on handicap.
  • this year…. I want to win on raw time and be only 5% behind on handicap (2.0 second faster pace per 500)

2K sprints (open class)

  • last year…9.5% behind winner
  • this year…7% behind winner (2.6 sec faster pace per 500)

Head races

  • last year…7.7% behind winner on raw time, 12.8% behind on handicap
  • this year…6% behind winner on raw time, 10% behind on handicap (6 seconds faster pace per 500).
    This one is a bit of a stretch goal