Erg Based Training is so simple!

I last posted on November 11th, right after I struggled with the Pyramid workout.  Since then, I’ve had some OK workouts, some good workouts, but the main thing I’ve had is consistency.  I been able to follow my plan at just about 100% conformance for the past three weeks.

Just in time for three weeks of travel and holidays!  Let’s see how well I can maintain momentum through this.

Tuesday – November 12 – 4 x 20′ / 2′

At work, static erg.  Nothing fancy.  Just doing the meters.  Working with a HR cap of 150.

       Workout Summary - media/20191112-1401180o.csv
Workout Details

Good session.

Wednesday – 13 November – 5 x 1500/5′ L2

Always my favorite of the L2 workouts.  Pace target was 1:51.0.

Started with a 2k warmup.

Then the main session.  I chickened out about the 1:51 target and decided 1:52 would be better.

        Workout Summary - media/20191113-1341120o.csv
Workout Details

As it turned out, with a bit of a fast last, I was able to make the target after all.

Later Wednesday morning, I headed down to Washington DC to do a presentation at a conference.

Thursday – 14 November – steady state cross training in Washington

30′ inclined walk

10′ stationary bike (I was not enjoying it)

20′ on an ellipitcal

Friday – 15 November – 3 x 20′ / 1′

I was pressed for time, so I cut back from an 80 minuter session to 60′.  I pushed the power target up a bit, mainly just to see what would happen.  I was very happy with the result.  My HR was higher, but plateaued pretty well.

        Workout Summary - media/20191115-1331160o.csv
Workout Details

That was really gratifying.  I feel like my base fitness is starting to return.

Saturday – 16 November – 6K Threshold

I was nervous about this session all day.  I was originally going to do it with company at the lake with some clubmates, but we ended up locked out of the storeroom where the ergs are kept.  So I was able to procrastinate a bit longer.  I finally got up the nerve to go do it.  First, a 2K warmup.

Then there wasn’t anything else to do but to give it a try.  I had put my 10K and my 30 minute sessions into the Free Spirits pace predictor and it spit out a 1:51.4 target.  Holy hell, that felt fast.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained.  So, off I went trying to keep 1:51’s on the screen.  That worked out OK through the first 2000, but I was starting to really feel it.  My HR was well in control, but I had that vaguely drowning feeling you get when you’re on the edge.  I played with pace and rate a bit to see if anything felt better and counted out blocks of 100 strokes.  The section from 4000 to 5000 was the worst.  I managed to get some control of myself by really trying to concentrate on stroke technique.  Keeping my knees down during the first part of the recovery and limiting my layback.  Then into the last 100 strokes, and it was just a matter of getting through it.  I managed a small sprint in the last 500 meters.

Then a happy ending cool down.

I am very happy with that.  I ranked it and for it’s currently 38th for the 50-59 heavies.  Roughly the 90th percentile.  It’s a full minute off my best 6K time, so lots of room for improvement, but a good hard row.

Sunday – 17 November – 3 x 30’/2′

Long and easy.  Perfect for a sunday afternoon.

        Workout Summary - media/20191117-1926120o.csv
Workout Details

I wanted to stay below a HR cap of 150, and started with a power target of 173W.  I nudged it up in each 30′ segment by a couple of watts.  More signs of progress.

Tomorrow:  I fly out to Shanghai at 9am.




5 x 1500 / 5′

Back in Hopkinton.  Rainy day, with lots of boring stuff to do.

I had plenty of time of an erg session, but I wasn’t really into it.  My stomach was off in the morning, and it didn’t feel like it had completely recovered by mid afternoon when I went down to the basement.

I have been getting a lot of base training, but not a lot of the harder stuff.  Today, the plan was to get back into that.  A good way to get going is the 5 x 1500.  I’ve always liked this session.  Way easier to wrap my head around than the 4 x 2k. Today was no exception.

I did a 1500 rep as a warmup, starting with a pick drill, and then alternating hard 100s with easy 100s.

Then into the main session.  I haven’t done one of these for a while, so I set an easy target,  I just wanted to keep it faster than 1:55.  When i got going, 1:54s felt OK, so I went with it.  I was pretty winded by the end, but in no jeopardy.

Rep number 2, a little faster.  Still feeling OK.

Rep 3, now I wanted to keep the negative split going. It was getting a bit harder to hold the splits at my original rate, so I let the rate creep up.  Not much.  The first 2 reps, I counted out 147 strokes for the piece.  This one, I counted 150.

Rep 4.  Things are getting real.  Rate up some more and push through a little feeling of crisis around 900m.  Tell myself that I can ease off in the next rep if I make it.

Rep 5.  The 5 minute rest is a magical thing.  By the end of it, I was ready to take on the world, and keep my streak alive.  This time, it kinda stung.  But I was never tempted to bail on it.  Success. Negative split the whole way!

First rep is the warmup.  Last is the cool down.

Tomorrow:  Technique session in my Single.  I wonder if I remember how to row?


5 x 1500 / 5′ on Quinsig

An extraordinary morning.  We launched around 5:40am.  The sun wouldn’t be up for another hour, but it was crystal clear and there was a beautiful full moon out so it was way easier to see where we were going.  There was a very light breeze from the west, which is basically a cross wind. It was light enough that the water was just barely rippled.  It was an extraordinary feeling rowing in the dark on perfectly flat water.  I felt like I was flying.

I got the replacement rigger for my fluid on Wednesday, and I spent a hour or so getting it installed yesterday.  It took a bit of work to get the rigging right and I was sure that it was right.  I always worry that I might have missed something.

The plan:

  • 5 x 1500 / 5′ rest
    • rate: 25-28
    • pace: 2:15
    • HR limit: none
    • Technique:  knees together at the catch, limit layback, crisp finishes

I started out with about 1.5K of drills.

  • arms only
  • arms abd back
  • quarter slide
  • pause at finish
  • pause at half slide on recovery

From there, I did about 500m of steady pressure at about r20.

Through this, I was annoyed to see that technology was failing me today.

  • My speedcoach battery was down to one bar
  • My HR sensor seemed to be stuck at 96 bpm
  • My EmPower oarlock wasn’t registering any power or angle readings

I didn’t want to take the time and effort to try to figure out what was wrong, I decided to just do the workout using pace and rate.

I started the first interval right after I got through the narrows.  I was pleased to see the pace drop down to about 2:15 and hang there.  The setup of the boat felt good.  I was well set, and it felt like the boat was accelerating nicely.  After about 60 strokes which was about 500m, I started to notice that it was hard work.  But, the level of effort felt very sustainable.  I continued through another 60 strokes, two thirds done, and I felt even more strongly that the effort level was pretty close to right for a head race.  I finished right as I passed into the cove at the south end of the lake.

I paddled the rest of the way into the cove and turned around.  I hung out and waited for the quad that launched behind me to get there.  I noticed that I was right on 4000m, so I took off for the next interval, heading north.  This one was a little faster.  I guess the cross wind was a bit against me in first one and behind me in this one.  This one stung a bit more, but at the end, I was counting down remaining strokes, I could have kept going.

After the second interval, I rowed a quick loop to make sure that I would have enough lake at the end.  As I looped around, I had to dodge a eight coming north.  I think I spooked the cox a bit.  But this was pretty good because it gave me something to chase for the third interval.

I started this interval about 500m south of the narrows.  I could see the white light on the stern of the 8 and it looked like I was gaining on them.  I passed through the narrows and took a line towards the eastern shore so I would give the 8 enough room.    The rest of the interval, I continued to gain on them and I was about even with them when I hit the end of the interval.

I paddled to the north side of the route 9 bridge and started the fourth interval.  My legs were a bit more tired now, and I noticed that I was rating a bit higher.  I also noticed that 28 felt good.  I didn’t feel rushed or sloppy.  That made me happy.  I was feeling some distress by the end of this interval.  I’m not sure how much further I would have liked to go beyond the end of this one.   The last 200m of this interval took me right in front of the docks of the QRA.  I ended up closer to  them that I like to go because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my line.   But I got to watch about 40 rowers watching me as I did my last 100m.  It was certainly incentive to keep my finishes clean and not look as gassed as I actually was.

I paddled to the north end of the lake and turned around.  I ended up paddling an extra 100m to get lined up right and started the interval heading south.  It was the fifth interval, so my legs were pretty empty, but I was still able to get down to the target pace.  When I got to the last 500m, I started to bring the rate up and counted through the last 60 strokes. I was glad it was over, but it wasn’t a near death experience.

After this, I looped back to go find the quad.  When I found them, I turned again, and we did a quick 500 piece back toward the dock.

This was a really fantastic workout.



        Workout Summary - media/20171006-131833-96782o.csv
Workout Details
01|01547|06:58.0|02:15.1|000.0|24.6|000.0|0.0|09.0 - down lake
02|01543|06:54.9|02:14.5|000.0|26.0|000.0|0.0|08.6 - up lake
03|01541|06:50.0|02:13.0|000.0|27.1|000.0|0.0|08.3 - chasing the 8
04|01540|06:52.2|02:13.8|000.0|27.1|000.0|0.0|08.3 - past QRA
05|01547|06:45.9|02:11.2|000.0|27.9|000.0|0.0|08.2 - heading south
06|00575|02:36.0|02:15.7|000.0|25.5|000.0|0.0|08.7 - bonus piece!

Tomorrow:  Steady State coastal row.


Walking around Macau & 5 x 1500 / 5′ rest

Sunday, 30 July:

Most of the morning, I had work to do.  Getting ready for a big presentation that is coming up later in August.  Around 1 in the afternoon, I got bored and decided to go explore Macau.

There are two main parts of Macau.  My hotel is in Cotai, which is on the southern island and has been developed quite recently.  Cotai is basically Las Vegas, all hotels, casinos, and glitzy shopping malls.  The other part, across a wide a shallow waterway is Macau proper.  Today, I took a cab to the Ma Temple and walked through a lot of the old city.


The streets were pretty confusing, but my path was something like this.


There were some really old churches, and Temples.  It was also incredibly crowded.  It was also very hot.  I was embarrassingly sweaty.  Here are a few pictures from my walk.


By the time I had made it through the Camoes Garden, I was done.  I wander down to the main road and flagged down a cab back to the hotel.  I peeled off my sweaty clothes and took a shower.

A couple hours later, I was ready to hit the gym.

The plan was a 5 x 1500 / 5′ rest.  Target pace 1:55, with a faster last.

I warmed up with a 1500.  I rowed at about a 2:05 pace, with 10 stroke bursts at 1:55 to 1:50 every 250 meters.  That felt pretty good.

Then a 5 minute paddle to contemplate what I was doing, then into the first interval.  I started a bit fast and then bled off speed to try to hit exactly 5:45 seconds, which would be a perfect 1:55 pace.  I missed by a tenth.  I also felt great.  I decided to see if I could negative split each rep.

Rep 2 – target 1:54 pace.  Again, I started hot, and around 500m, I backed off and used the predicted finish to try to nail 5:42, again, I missed by a tenth.  Still feeling pretty good, but wondering if I can keep it up through all 5 reps.

Rep 3 – target 1:53 pace.  This one I started even faster.  I backed off at 500m, but I was still having trouble holding on to the 5:39 predicted finish.  This one was a full 0.4 seconds off.  Now, things were seeming a bit more doubtful.  My HR was getting pretty high and I was starting to feel some cramping in my calves.

Rep 4 – Target 1:52 pace.  I figured the strategy of getting a bit of cushion at the beginning was working so far, so I tried to hold 1:50/1:51 through the first 500m.  Then I eased up and aimed for 5:36.  This one was within 0.2.  And I was very gassed at the end.  But only one more rep left.

Rep 5 – Target 1:51 pace.  Time to empty the tanks.  I tried to keep the avg pace below 1:50 through the first 500m and it was hovering around 1:49, but I was starting to get a bit shakey.  At this point my predicted finish was around 5:28.  I tried to ease off to 5:33, and that gave me a new lease on life.  By the time I passed 1000m, my avg pace was just a little bit above 1:50, maybe a 1:50.5.  I decided to see if I could nail a 5:30.  I did, right on the nose.  Peak HR was 183, my maxHR is about 186.

I paddled a bit to cool down and staggered to room.  Mission accomplished.



Tomorrow:  80 minute L4.

Tuesday: 5 x 1500

On the Upper Charles in Newton in my single

Weather:  Cold and stunningly beautiful.  There was frost on the dock, and the air temp was around 36F.  There was no wind at all at first.  Over the course of the session, a little bit of wind from the east started, but it was barely noticeable.

The river level was high because of all the rain we got over the weekend.  From the GPS data, it looks like the flow was a bit higher than usual (my calculation about 0.02 m/s)  This is about a second plus or minus on pace depending on whether you are heading up of down river.


  • Short warmup
  • 5 x 1500m / 5′ rest
    • rate: 26-28
    • pace: faster than 2:15
    • No HR cap.  Threshold intensity
  • Square blade rowing for cool down

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.15.22 AM.png

TCX data from RIM

Workout Summary - media/20161025-133204-77854o.csv
Workout Details

Speedcoach Data.  I sure do like the lower noise you get from the impeller.  I think the cal factor is still a little stingy.  The avg pace from GPS was 2:11.4.  From the Speedcoach it’s 2:12.3.

01235_|_1490_|_06:36_|_2:13.0_|_170___|_25.7_|_08.8_|_155___|_rep #1
03271_|_1491_|_06:32_|_2:11.3_|_180___|_27.6_|_08.3_|_162___|_rep #2
05366_|_1495_|_06:39_|_2:13.3_|_175___|_26.3_|_08.5_|_164___|_rep #3
07282_|_1487_|_06:33_|_2:12.1_|_180___|_27.5_|_08.3_|_166___|_rep #4
09242_|_1491_|_06:33_|_2:11.9_|_180___|_27.5_|_08.3_|_165___|_rep #5
10742_|_2876_|_17:04_|_2:58.0_|_310___|_18.2_|_09.3_|_132___|_sbr, cool down

07454_|_32:53_|_2:12.3_|_885___|_26.9_|_08.4_|_162___|_Main set
02044_|_14:16_|_3:29.3_|_242___|_17.0_|_08.4_|_131___|_rest meters
02876_|_17:04_|_2:58.0_|_310___|_18.2_|_09.3_|_132___|_cool down

I was delighted with this workout.  I was working hard, but I was never on the edge of failure.  I sifted through my journal and found that I did this workout on November 3rd of last year.  (Link)

That session last year was a bit of a miracle.  Everything went perfectly and I pushed it to the limit.  I managed an average split of 2:09.7.  Avg heart rate was 168.  Today, my avg pace was 2:11.4 (1.5 sec slower), but my avg heart rate was 162.  Taking into account the lack of threshold work that I have done in my single this year, I find it very encouraging that I am that close on pace, and in a better place in terms of aerobic fitness.

Tomorrow:  75′ steady state.  It’s gonna be cold again.  Predicted low around 32F.

Wednesday: 3 x1500 / 3′ rest

Original plan was 5×1500 / 5′ rest, but I needed to squeeze the workout into lunchtime, so I only had time 3 reps and I needed to cut the rest down and skip the cool down.

Despite that, it was pretty taxing.  I was feeling some DOMS from my adventures with weights the day before.  I used the first 1500 rep as a warm up and then focused on staying under a 1:50 split for the next three.  I used the final rest as a cool down, pushing the pace a little bit more than normal, mainly to get the total meters above 8000 for the session.

I was working harder than I would have hoped for the achieved pace.   Probably because of the lingering effects of the weight session, but also because I haven’t done much middle distance work for the past month.

Sunday: 5 x 1500 / 5′ rest

Pace target: 1:48.  Actual: 1:47.2 (thanks to a faster last at 1:44.7)

2K warm up with a three 10 stroke bursts.

Rowed on a static erg.  The last rep stung.  Other than that, it was just good hard training.  Glad to see that I can get the rate up.

2K happy ending cool down.

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 10.06.49 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-27 at 10.06.33 PM

Workout Summary – Dec 27, 2015
–_|_15500_|_62:51.5_|_02:01.7_|_194.4_|_23.0_|_150.3_|_ 75.4% _|_10.7_|_08.4
Workout Details

01_|_02000_|_08:01.6_|_02:00.4_|_200.5_|_19.9_|_133.3_|_ 63.4% _|_12.5_|_10.1
02_|_01500_|_05:23.7_|_01:47.9_|_278.6_|_25.9_|_156.4_|_ 79.7% _|_10.7_|_10.7
03_|_01000_|_04:49.2_|_02:24.6_|_115.8_|_19.9_|_129.0_|_ 60.3% _|_10.4_|_05.8
04_|_01500_|_05:23.7_|_01:47.9_|_278.6_|_26.3_|_161.0_|_ 83.0% _|_10.6_|_10.6
05_|_01000_|_04:52.2_|_02:26.1_|_112.2_|_19.7_|_134.3_|_ 64.0% _|_10.4_|_05.7
06_|_01500_|_05:23.5_|_01:47.8_|_279.1_|_26.3_|_163.7_|_ 84.9% _|_10.6_|_10.6
07_|_01000_|_04:54.8_|_02:27.4_|_109.3_|_19.9_|_137.5_|_ 66.3% _|_10.2_|_05.5
08_|_01500_|_05:23.0_|_01:47.7_|_280.4_|_27.5_|_165.5_|_ 86.2% _|_10.1_|_10.2
09_|_01000_|_04:55.5_|_02:27.8_|_108.5_|_19.9_|_138.5_|_ 67.0% _|_10.2_|_05.5
10_|_01500_|_05:14.0_|_01:44.7_|_305.1_|_29.8_|_170.2_|_ 89.5% _|_09.6_|_10.2
11_|_02000_|_08:30.2_|_02:07.6_|_168.6_|_20.1_|_144.9_|_ 71.6% _|_11.7_|_08.4


Other Meters_|_08000_|_36:03.6_|_2:15.2__|_116.4_|_19.9_|_136.9_|_11.1

Tomorrow: 4 x 20′

Tuesday: 5×1500 / 5′ rest

Many cultures have named winds that have an important impact on daily life.  In Southern California, the Santa Ana winds blow hard in afternoons as hot air rises above the mountains and draws air from the Pacific Ocean.  In the Rocky Mountains, the Chinook is a warming wind which in Native American Legend is the “snow eater”.  In Europe the Mistral blows from the Mediterranean to the Alps.  Today, I experienced a wind that I think needs a name.

The “Finale”…a wind, always a head wind, that occurs only during the final 1000 meters of a head race, or during the last rep of a workout.  It comes quietly, barely rippling the surface of the water, but you feel it on the back of your neck as you watch your splits slow down, despite your best efforts.  Then as you enter the last 5 strokes, the “Finale” disappears as mysteriously as it came, leaving the river glassy smooth. In ancient time, it was believed the that “Finale” was caused by playful rowing god who took great joy in tormenting scullers.  But with the introduction of modern metrology, the mystery has only deepened because this wind is not detectable by normal anemometers.

Sorry for the digression.  The weather this morning was perfect.  I mean really perfect.  High 40s, into the low 50s by the time I finished.  Bright sunshine, now that the clocks have changed.  And except for the mysterious Finale, no wind at all.


  1. 5 x 1500 / 5′ rest
  2. rate: r28
  3. pace: 2:10
  4. Technique: Experiment with trying to hold my hands higher going into the finish to avoid washing out and stop “rowing over a barrel”

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.41.28 AM

The spikes in the rate are from when I go around the s-turn.  There is a peak to come into the turn, then about 10 strokes straight, then a peak to come out of the turn.  Going upriver, the turn starts about 700m in.  Going down river, around 1000m.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.41.16 AM

03000_|_1500_|_06:23_|_2:07.6_|_178___|_27.9_|_08.4_|_164___|_Int #1
05000_|_1500_|_06:27_|_2:08.9_|_180___|_27.9_|_08.3_|_168___|_Int #2
07000_|_1500_|_06:29_|_2:09.5_|_181___|_28.0_|_08.3_|_170___|_Int #3
09000_|_1500_|_06:30_|_2:10.0_|_182___|_28.0_|_08.2_|_168___|_Int #4
11000_|_1500_|_06:38_|_2:12.6_|_189___|_28.5_|_07.9_|_169___|_Int #5
12500_|_1680_|_09:49_|_2:55.2_|_194___|_19.8_|_08.7_|_128___|_cool down

07500_|_32:26_|_2:09.7_|_910___|_28.1_|_08.2_|_168___|_Main set
02000_|_13:01_|_3:15.2_|_249___|_19.1_|_08.0_|_137___|_rest meters
01680_|_09:49_|_2:55.2_|_194___|_19.8_|_08.7_|_128___|_cool down

That was awesome.  Hard, but awesome.  Seriously, a bit of wind picked up while I was resting before my last interval and I think that slowed me down a bit.  But I was also really tired by that point.  The big win was just hanging in with that rep when I felt like I was going to blow up.

Tomorrow:  3 x 500 / 500m rest (start of taper for Saturday’s race)

Tuesday AM: 4 x 1500 / 5′ rest

Foggy and calm.  A light 2-5 mph wind from the SSW, which was a bit of a head wind heading up river.  It’s getting darker and darker every morning.  I’ve started using my lights to try to reduce the odds that the Brandeis crew will run me over.


  1. 5×1500/5′ rest
  2. pace target: <2:10
  3. rate target: 28

The purpose of this workout is to push hard.  As hard or harder than I would push in the race.  Try to work on stroke efficiency at race rate and get used to the feeling of rowing above my LT for extended periods.  It worked.

This weekend, I was originally going to row in Textile River Regatta on Sunday, but they cancelled the masters events in favor of running them as part of the US Rowing Master National Head Race at the same venue on Saturday.  So, I have one less day than I thought in the plan.  I used this as an excuse to cut out one of the 5 intervals.  Actually, 4 was plenty enough this morning and I was toast by the time I started the fourth.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.01.42 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.01.14 AM


06000_|_25:55_|_2:09.6_|_714___|_27.6_|_08.4_|_170___|_Main set
01500_|_09:38_|_3:12.7_|_174___|_18.1_|_08.6_|_133___|_rest meters
01600_|_09:53_|_3:05.2_|_193___|_19.5_|_08.3_|_130___|_cool down

I hit my pace target in all the intervals except the last one.  In that one, I was pushing and pushing, but I had a lot of trouble getting the splits below 2:11.  I was even wondering if the speedcoach had fouled, but a check of the GPS data dispelled that notion.  The only other thing that might have slowed me down was that the SSW breeze was getting a little stronger, but I suspect that my legs were just toasted.

Looking at the rate chart you can see how the rate goes up in the turn.  It’s about 1000m into the rep for #1 and #3 and 500m into the rep in #2 and #4.  There were some real life disruptions in the reps.

In rep #1, when I went through the S-turn I came upon 2 pairs, a 4+ and a laucnh coming the other way.  I had to do some steering to avoid them.  This impacted rate and effort more that speed.

In rep #2, right near the end, I managed to cut too close to an area of weeds that protrudes into the travel channel and that screwed up a few strokes.

Rep #3 and #4 were pretty clean, but I was getting really tired.  In rep #3, I decided that 4 was enough.  Based on how my legs feel now, I think it was a good decision.

I haven’t done that many minutes in the AN zone for a while.  Ouch.

This afternoon, I think I will do a nice slow recovery 30r18 to try to get loose.

Tomorrow:  The taper starts and plan calls for 4×500 at race pace.  I may end up doing that as 4 x 2′ on the erg because the weather is going to be terrible.

Speaking of the weather.  This weekend the forecast is for the fringes of Tropical Storm Joaquin to be over New England with rain and 20mph winds from the Northeast.  That’s basically a pure headwind for the head races in Lowell.  Great.