Thursday: 4 x 20′ / 3′ at West Plano Crossfit

Wednesday:  Travel day to Texas.  Flew down in the late morning, had a big prep meeting and a customer dinner.  On the plus side, I got back to the hotel by 10pm and I was asleep by 11.

Thursday:  I headed over to West Plano Crossfit at 5:30 in the morning.  I was scheduled for a nice easy endurance session.


  • 3 x 20 / 3′
  • Cat VI (pace: 2:06, rate: 18)

Today was the day when I was going to try out my new iphone USB cable connection.  I had some doubts, because the way you make the connection is to buy a cable from LiveRowing and then use it with other apps.

I plugged in the cable to my phone and then into the PM3.  Then I discovered that the cable is too short to allow the phone to rest anywhere, so I need to have a phone cradle.  For today, I grabbed a velcro wrist brace and strapped the phone to the monitor arm.  I arranged so that I could just see the HR value, since that was the only thing that wasn’t on the PM3 screen.

I ran into a couple of other funny things.  First, if the cable was connected, then my bluetooth headphones would connect but not play.  But if I connected the headphones and then plugged in the cable, all was good.  Finally, when I went to take a monitor picture when I finished, I noticed that the camera would not work with the cable plugged in.

OK, with the head phones fixed, music on, cable plugged in, HR monitor turned on, I went to try to use painsled.  No luck.  It did not see the PM3 connected through the cable.  So then I tried ergdata.  Success!  It connected right away and even let me connect my HR monitor via my phone.  This is the way to get HR on a PM3 as far as I’m concerned.  You can’t see it on the screen, but at least you get all the pace, rate, power and HR data together.

So, off I go.  And I’m feeling great.  I go through 20 minutes and my HR is only up to about 142, and it feels easy.  So, I do another 20 minutes.  again, it’s pure delight.  I’m rowing easy, enjoying the music. hitting my numbers.  then the next rest and another 20 minutes, finishing up with a HR about 147.  One of the things that helped pass the time was the WOD (workout of the day) that the crossfitters were doing.  It was a AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) of some running, some dumbell snatches, then a 500m row, then somethings else.  But basically, every few minutes there would be this big rush to the rowers and they would flail wildly for a couple minutes and then run away.  It was very entertaining as I plodded along at my r18 and 2:06 pace.

Anyway, I finished the 3rd 20 minute piece and I felt fresh.  My HR was nice and stable around 147.  And since I got there so early, I had some time.  I decided to do a bonus 20 minutes and it was also pure bliss.  My HR stayed right at the plateau around 147-148 and I felt like I could have just kept going and going.  I guess that means that this is my “all day pace”.  I kind of spooked the Crossfit coach though, about 15 minutes into it, he wandered over and asked me if I was ever going to finish.  I told him I would be done in 4 minutes and 16 seconds and he seemed OK with that answer.  He was worried that I would want to go past the end of the second class that was going on now.

When I finished, I discovered a data disaster.  While I had overcome significant challenges to get my setup working, I had neglected to check the date on the PM3.  When I tried to sync my workout to the concept2 site, it told me grumpily that it was unwilling to upload my workout because the date was off by too much.  A quick check now revealed that I had unwittingly done my workout 3 months in the future.  The date was set to February 2018 on  the PM3.  So, now I have the most beautiful aerobic workout I have done in recent memory trapped on my phone and there is no way to extract the data.

I’m sorry, but this really pissed me off.  I see that there are incredible benefits to using data to improve the effectiveness of training, but it seems like there are so many traps along the way, that only data lunatics are willing to subject themselves to the constant bullshit that these half assed implementations put us through.  I mean, how hard would it have been for the person coding the sync function to offer an option to fix the date in the error handling code for the mismatch instead of just puking on the user?  It’s the same deal with using the PM5.  There are constant questions on the forum about hangups, drop outs, lost workouts and weird behavior.  Everyone who wants to use data routinely farts around trying different stuff until they stumble upon something that works and then they protect the method like an ancient druid protecting the philosopher’s stone.  Don’t even get me started on RowPro.  If your neighbor downloads pornography while you row, you get tossed out of your happy group row into some isolated world of loneliness like you have stumbled into the “Upside Down” on Stranger Things.  On the water, it’s even worse.  There are a multitude of fragile, incomplete solutions that distract us from rowing.  Not all the time, no, just enough so you never quite trust it.

Right now, I only feel good recommending data driven training approaches to people with a strong engineering background.  I feel like pointing someone who isn’t used to being a beta victim toward using these crappy products is just going to make me look like an idiot.

It reminds of the single best quote about software engineering I’ve ever seen.  If builders built buildings the way programmers write programmers, the first woodpecker would have destroyed civilization.

So, I feel great about the workout, but I am really pissed off at the way concept2 does the sync function on ergdata.  I guess if their intent was to make sure that I always will waste some time before each row to check the bloody date, then they sure taught me the lesson.  But if they wanted to look like the fine post-modern, connected fitness company I think they aspire to be, they sure missed the mark.

Sorry for the rant, I needed to get that off my chest.


And with that workout, I wrap up November.  Total rowing time 28 hours and 5 minutes.  Best in almost 2 years.


Tomorrow is a new month.  I have a redo of my 20′ and 75′ tests coming up in a couple of weeks and some international travel to work around, and then there’s Christmas.  Let’s see how I do for training hours with those challenges.


  • 45′ continuous with bumps
  • Cat VI (rate: 18, pace 2:06)
  • Every 5 minutes 20 stroke burst at r32



Friday: 10K L4

I wrote some stuff about my Dad, but moved it over to a different post.  I decided it doesn’t have much to do with training.


I had a tough day at work on Friday.  There are multiple projects going on and one of them in particular is in that critical stage, that it seems all projects go through, where it looks like the world is ending.  I was supposed to review progress at 3, but they waved me off because they were in the middle of a test run, so I had a hole in my schedule.

I thought a quick workout would help me keep my head clear and thinking straight, so I headed to the gym.  I decided to do a 10K L4.  Since I am training so little right now, overtraining is NOT going to be a factor, so I dialed up the intensity.  Instead of trying to keep my HR below a cap, I just rowed to power, and I included a fair amount of work at 22spm and 24 spm.

Of course, since I was on a tight schedule, today had to be the day that Painsled decided to not work.  I am not sure whether it was because of changes in PainSled, or because my phone was in a funny state, but it would not stay linked to the PM.  It would get the first HR and then not update after that.  I tried a couple of things and couldn’t get it working, so I bailed on painsled and went to ergdata.  Say what you want about ergdata, it seems very reliable.  It always links, the syncing to the logbook is fast and easy.  The support in the logbook is getting better all the time.

Heres what the workout detail page looks like now, if you row with ergdata.


Pretty good huh?  It has all the basics including heart rate.  If it recorded the stroke metric esoteric that painsled does, I’d be really happy.

Of course you can’t do the stuff you can do on rowsandall.  Let’s use this workout for a quick comparison.

Workout summary:

  • rowsandall provides the ability to do summaries using distance or time.  concept2 is time only.
  • rowsandall provides a plot of power in addition to pace.  Since I row to power, that’s handy.
  • Splits:  concept2 provides the same splits that were defined in the PM.  rowsandall does the same as default, but provides a way to redefine splits, which I used to look at each segment.
  • Drag Factor:  concept2 has this on the summary page, for rowsandall, it is on the summary plot.
  • Accuracy:  Because rowsandall is reconstructing the row from stroke data, there is some error in the distances recorded, generally much less than the distance in a stroke.  This can cause significant changes in avg pace for very short intervals.
  • Concept2 log integration:  ergdata to concept2 log is incredibly easy.  so is export from rowsandall to concept2.  However, watch out for rankable pieces.  Because of the interpolation on rowsandall, if you export a HM you might end up with a 21094m which you can’t rank.  In general, for ranking pieces, I log them manually to make sure they match the PM exactly.  On ergdata/concept2 syncing, they seem to match exactly every time.  (I wonder if they are using features that they are not publishing in the API?)

Of course there is stuff that you can’t do on the concept2 log page.  Here are a few examples:

Time in Zone HR chart and Time in Zone Power chart

And of course flex charts:  Here is pace versus SPM.  Which I’ve defined as one of my favorites in the tool.

bokeh_plot (89).png

You can also easily generate a power histogram for the workout.

bokeh_plot (90).png

Or generate it for a range of dates, so you can see how well you are managing intensity for a polarized workout plan.  Here are all the erg strokes I’ve taken since November 8th.

bokeh_plot (91).png

You can see that I am in a low intensity, endurance maintenance mode right now, with very little work being done above 200W.

With regard to the workout, it was a useful diversion.  I enjoyed it so much that in the last 2500m, I decided to push it harder.  I did 500m each at 18/20/22/24 and 26.  I was rowing strapless so the 24 and 26 was a bit of a challenge.  I was in a much better place when I finished than when I started.

Here’s the summary

Workout Summary - media/20161217-143940-concept2-result-28153486o.csv
Workout Details

Not sure if I will row today.  It might be a good idea to keep myself busy until the snow clears.



Wednesday: 3 x 20′ / 1′ rest L4

Decided to stick with an easier stroke sequence today, but I still ended up working a bit too hard (judging by HR and RPE).

Today I did 6 repeats of 2′ @ 18, 2′ @ 19, 2′ @ 20, 2′ @ 19, 2′ @ 18.  At 10W per stroke, this should yield about a 188W (2:03.0 pace).   As I usually do, I ended up about 4W above that.

Tomorrow:  Another go at the CTC, target pace 1:41.



Tuesday: 3 x 20′ / 1′ rest L4 (slog)

Felt tired today.  Scaled back stroke counts in the last 40 minutes, but HR was still high.  I guess I dug pretty deep yesterday or I’m accumulating some fatigue.

Ergdata worked perfectly again!

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 11.09.00 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-08 at 11.08.46 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-08 at 5.38.21 PM.png

Tomorrow:  Same as today.

I received an updated painsled beta today and tried it for a quick 100m test piece.  The fatal error has been fixed and two critical features for me have been added (csv format stroke file, and seamless dropbox export).  If folks are looking for a PM5 to TCX solution, I think it’s worth a try.  I’ll give a proper tryout and write something up after this week is over.

Sunday: 3 x 20′ / 1′ rest L4

I thought about doing 80 minutes, but decided to stop after 60.  It was a lovely workout. Today, I did 3 – 20 minute segments. Each segment was

  • 3’@18, 3’@19, 3’@20, 2’@21, 3’@20, 3’@19, 3’@18
  • Every thing at 10W x spm (18 spm = 180 watts, etc)

This seems a bit harder than other arrangements of the same stroke rates because you have 8′ at 200W or above in  the middle of each section.  Makes the time go by a bit faster too.

I used ergdata today with the PM5.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.43.03 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.41.26 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.39.50 PM


Tomorrow:  I might give the CTC a try 9 x 300 / 30″ rest.  I’ll start at a 1:40 and see where that takes me.

Comparison of ErgStick and ErgData

This is not meant to be a comprehensive product review.  Instead it is an evaluation of two products to figure out which one is the best for my specific needs.

Those needs are:

  • Record stroke by stroke data from the erg
  • Support PM5 (required), PM4 and PM3 (bonus)
  • Works with iphone
  • No physical connection required to phone (because I use headphones and wear the phone on my bet when I row * )
  • Works with other apps running including wahoo fitness, stitcher, spotify, etc
  • Works with wahoo tikr HR strap
  • provides CSV output for post processing (required)

* Note:  Before you ask, I have tried wireless ear buds and none of them stay in my ears, and all of them are incredibly fiddly.  Maybe someday cheap, reliable BT earbuds will be available that I can screw securely into my ears.  Until then, the phone stays on the hip.

I was going to originally include PainSled in the evaluation, but I am still working through some Beta issues with the developer.  As soon as I have something useful to say, I’ll write that one up too.

First up.  Ergstick.  Check out their website.  It is a USB dongle that is sold for $120.  This is what it looks like.

2016-03-05 21.46.22.jpg

You jam the green thingy into the back of your PM5, or the bottom of your PM3.  I haven’t  tried it with the PM3, but I plan to tomorrow.

Then you fire up the app and I made a horrifying discovery.  To get the single most important feature that I wanted from the software (CSV exports), I needed to pony up for “ErgStick Pro” to the tune of $39.99.  And this did not buy the pro version, it gives a one year subscription to the pro version.  So the cost of ergstick is $120+$40 initially, plus $40 per year.  Wow! Ouch!  On top of that, I can find nothing about this on their website.  The only place where it is defined is in the description of the app in the apple app store.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 9.55.12 PM.png

OK, well I’ve come this far.  Next step is to try it out.  I paid my money (in for a penny, in for a pound) and upgraded.  The app synched right away with the dongle and provided a live screen with nifty data that I don’t look at.

I programmed the PM5 for a time interval session (10′ with 0:00 rest), and off I went.  When I finished, I pushed menu to terminate the workout and checked out my phone.  Here are the cool screen you get.

Pretty nice displays.  On the Heart Rate, Pace and Stroke Rate screen, the cursor should have been showing the values.  For some reason it didn’t in the interval session.  It did for this simple 100m test session that I did without a HR sensor.

2016-03-05 17.37.23

Getting CSV was not as convenient as some other apps, which allow you to ship to dropbox or sync multiple files automatically.  In this app you need to email each file individually.  A pain, but workable.  From there it was simple to modify my ergdata spreadsheet to deal with the ergstick format data.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 5.47.57 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.03 PM

ergstick provides 4 to 6 records per stroke, and a huge number of data fields in the CSV.

Total elapsed time (s)

Total distance (m)

Stroke rate (/min)

Speed (m/s)

Current heart rate (bpm)

Stroke count

Stroke power (W)

Stroke calories (cal/hr)

Projected work time (s)

Projected work distance (m)

Split/interval time (s)

Split/interval distance (m)

Split/interval rest time (s)

Split/interval rest distance (s)

Split/interval type

Split/interval number

Split/interval ave. stroke rate (/min)

Split/interval ave. pace (/500m)

Split/interval total calories (cals)

Split/interval average calories (cal/hr)

Split/interval speed (m/s)

Split/interval power (W)

Split/interval ave. drag factor

OK, so on to ergdata.  With the PM5, it’s just the same except it doesn’t cost anything. I started ergdata on my phone, and it immediately synched up with the PM5.  I programmed the same 10’/0 rest interval session on the PM5 and did another L4 steady state session.

After I finished, I pressed menu on the PM5 to terminate the session and checked my phone.  Here are the key screens.

On the logBook screen you can push the sync button and like magic, the session appears in your concept2 online logbook.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.11.38 PM.png

Then you can push the little magnifying glass to dive into the workout.  And then this is what you see.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that HR data will be added to the graphs and summaries soon.  The graphs show the selected interval.  There is no choice of units or ability to show the whole workout.  There are apparently some glitches in the way that it calculates pace for interval workouts with rest meters in them.  I assume for ranking distances that they have tested the crap out of it, but if you should check the numbers if you care a lot.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.12.28 PM.png

You can see over on the right side, at the bottom there is an option to export stroke data.  This is a much less sophisticated data set than ergstick, but it has all the basics with a single record per stroke.

Stroke Number

Time (seconds)

Distance (meters)

Pace (seconds per 500m)

Stroke Rate

Heart Rate

This was easy to massage into excel.  So easy in fact, that I decided to add a watts graph to the collection.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.03 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.22 PM

So, from my perspective, there is a clear winner.  Ergdata is much, much cheaper, and it provides automatic synching with the concept2 log book.  If you have a PM3 or PM4 and you are thinking of buying an ergstick, I suggest a PM5 upgrade instead because the cost will less after the second year.

There is a specific group of people that I think will prefer the ergstick.  If you are on a team or have a common practice facility with a large number of ergs that have PM4 or PM3 and you want to get workout data in a consistent format, then ergstick will be a very good solution.   It will let you use any erg and get the data you need.  But it is pretty darn expensive.




Saturday: 3 x 20′ L4 (Bliss)

Yesterday was a blur.  I got off the red eye at 6AM and I was bleary eyed and strung out.  I went home and tumbled in bed and slept until nearly noon.

After that, it was a bunch of work phone calls, mainly trying to figure out a bunch of travel coming up in the next few weeks.  There just wasn’t enough time to workout before my wife and I needed to pack up and head in to the city to celebrate my twin sons birthday (#23!).  A very frustrating day and a workout would have definitely helped my mental outlook.

Today, nothing would stop me, and I had new toys to try out.  I’ll put up a separate post, but today, I compares ergdata, ergstick, and painsled today, along with giving my new PM5 a maiden voyage.  I was in data heaven.  But we’ll get to that.  First the workout.


  • 3 x 20′ L4 format
  • 10W per stroke
  • 2′ rests to let me change which toy I was trying.
  • Try to keep peak HR in UT1 range.  Try to keep average in UT2

First 20 minutes, I used painsled.  No luck.  This was all I got from painsled.

2016-03-05 16.26.10

I’ve emailed back and forth with the developer and apparently, this is not an error that any other users are seeing.  Oh well.

Here’s the results using the old fashioned method.  The stroke sequence was

  • 2′ @ 18, 2′ @ 19, 2′ @ 20, 2′ @ 19, 2′ @ 18
  • 1′ @ 21, 3′ @ 20, 3′ @ 19, 3′ @ 18


2016-03-05 17.11.07

Nice low HR.

Then over to ergstick for another 2×10′.  This time, I did 2 of the 1×21, 3×20, 3×19, 3×18 sequences.

Ergstick provides a CSV output that I quickly adapted my ergdata worksheet to use.  Here’s the result of that.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 5.48.14 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-05 at 5.47.57 PM

2016-03-05 17.11.15

So, pretty easy stuff.

Finally, over to ergdata.  And a carbon copy of the prior 20 minutes

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.03 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.05.22 PM

And of course with ergdata, you can seamlessly sync to the logbook, so boom, here’s the summary.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 9.33.43 PM

What an enjoyable workout.  Just about the perfect intensity.

Tomorrow:  4 x20′ – All on erg data.



Race Taper Day 1 : 4 x 500

Using my usual taper plan, based on the paper that I reference in this post, is to start the taper 5 days ahead and do:

  • Day 5: 4 x 500 / 3:30 rest , a bit faster than race pace and a bit higher rate.
  • Day 4: 3 x 500 / 3:30 rest
  • Day 3: 2 x 500 / 3:30 rest
  • Day 2: 1 x 500
  • Day 1: complete rest or warmup only
  • Race day!

Since I am a bit off kilter, I did a full on interval session yesterday, mainly to help decide if I would race at all, and so I am starting to taper 4 days before, instead of 5.  So I will just follow the normal progress 4,3,2, then just do a warmup on Saturday.  Each day’s session also includes a standard 20 minute Fletcher warmup, and a 2K cool down.  The intent is that the warmup should be totally automatic on race day so there is no temptation to overdo it in the arena.

Here’s the HR perspective of the whole session…

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.33.46 PM

The other thing that I’ve gotten sorted is the ability to play around with ergdata exports from the concept2 online log book.  I modified a spreadsheet that I use with speedcoach data for OTW stuff and here is the view of the interval session.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 10.07.00 AM

I think I will end up using ergdata for erg sessions and RIM to log OTW sessions.  If ergstick ends up providing a common way to log both OTE an OTW, I might go that way.