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
Workout Details

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.

Stuff since Sept 22

Last time I checked in, I had just spent a long Saturday cleaning my deck.

Sunday – Sept 22 – Tough 10K

On sunday, I completed the second part of the deck chore:  Sealing.  This is a lot easier than the cleaning but still involved about three hours of filling, pumping and spraying.

We headed home in the early afternoon, and around 5, I went to go do a 10K threshold workout.  On slides.

I didn’t bother to warmup, I just dove right in.  I should have aimed at a 2:00 pace, but because I am stupid and proud, I ended up aimed more at 1:57.  A pace that I have not earned the right to try for at this distance.

I managed to hold it through 30 minutes, but I didn’t have the guts to keep it up for the full piece.  Under different circumstances, I think might have been able to just back off the pace a little and finish it out, but that was not how it ended up on this day.

       Workout Summary - media/20190922-2200590o.csv
Workout Details
07|01000|04:05.3|02:02.6|193.7|25.8|170.1|176.0|09.5 - whoops

Still a pretty good time overall, but very disappointed that I can’t seem to stick it out through a tough piece these days.

Monday – 23 Sept – Drills on the 5s in a quad

I had signed up to race with some friends from Worcester in a quad in the Textile River Regatta at the beginning of October.  I have done very little rowing with other people lately, and I wanted to avoid humiliating myself.  So, it was time to change my morning routine a bit and head out to Worcester.  This means I need to get up at 4:45, and I spend a long time in the car getting to work, but I have to say, it was incredibly energizing to row with other people.  I was feeling stale, and having people to meet for a workout and being to share the experience seems to be just the thing I needed.

I met Joe, Mike and Rob at 5:30 at the boathouse.  I suggested that we do a bit of technique work so I could get reacclimatized to rowing in a big boat.  We did drills on the fives.  Actually, I kind of varied the steady state time depending on where we were on the lake and what was going on.

The drills we did were:

  • delayed feather
  • pause at body over
  • half slide
  • rowing on the square

I forgot to start recording until after the first leg down to the south end of the lake.

You can see the drills in the stroke rates.  The ones where the rate went higher was the half slide, the really noise ones were the square blades.

I had a great time and I think we were rowing a lot better at the end of the outing than at the beginning.

Tuesday – Sept 24 – Steady State 1x

Back on the charles.  I had a flight out to San Fransisco, but it didn’t leave until about 10am, so I stopped in Newton and went for a row on my way to the airport.

I don’t know what happened with the speedcoach.  The data that I have is for the first 20 minutes of the row.  Up through the turn around at the Waltham dam.  I have to assume that I hit the start stop button with my water bottle when I returned it to its normal place.

It was a very nice way to start a long travel day, even though I was disappointed that the United Club in Boston does not have a shower.  I cleaned as well as I could in the men’s room, but I feel badly for my fellow passengers.

Wednesday – Sept 25 – Fitness Center

In the hotel.  I had an early meeting meeting down in South San Jose, so I got up and headed to the fitness center.  I did 20′ inclined walk and then 30 minute piece on the stationary bike.  All pretty sedate.

Thursday – Sept 26 – No Training

I caught an early flight from San Fransisco back home.  No chance to train.

Friday – Sept 27 – thrills and drills in the Quad

Back out at Lake Quinsigamond.  Today it was me, Joe, Mike and Hayden, a young, tall, strong guy who rowed for Brown in College.  This was a fun lineup.  Hayden is an extremely strong rower and the boat felt really alive with him pushing it.We did a moderate workout of repeats of 3′ at head race rate and 1 minute of drills.

It was a blast!

Saturday – 28 Sept – No Training

We stayed in Hopkinton, and it looks like I didn’t do much of anything!

Sunday – 29 Sept – 3 x 20′

In the afternoon, I went and did a boring steady state session.

Monday – 30 Sept – 4 x 2k in the quad

With Joe, Mike and Hayden again.  Need to get some practice at head race intensity.

        Workout Summary - media/20190930-1136120o.csv
Workout Details
01|03558|14:48.0|02:04.8|000.0|17.9|130.4|139.0|13.4 -wu (tail)
02|02153|08:48.0|02:02.6|000.0|24.2|146.5|161.0|10.1 -1 (head)
03|02069|08:24.0|02:01.8|000.0|25.0|152.3|162.0|09.9 -2 (head)
04|02044|07:44.0|01:53.5|000.0|26.4|150.4|166.0|10.0 -3 (tail)
05|02031|08:13.0|02:01.4|000.0|26.7|154.2|169.0|09.3 -4 (head)
06|01080|04:48.0|02:13.3|000.0|19.9|126.8|136.0|11.3 -cd (tail)

I was has happy all day after this workout.

Tuesday – 1 October – Steady State 1x

In Newton.

Wednesday – 2 October – Hard 5K in the quad

With Joe, Mike and Rob.  We have a race coming up, it was time to see what happens when we tried to row hard for a race distance piece.

Good news: Nothing bad happened.

Bad news:  We were not very fast

        Workout Summary - media/20191002-1051100o.csv
Workout Details

There was some good rowing in there and some rough patches.  I’m still amazed how much more fun rowing is when you do it with other people.

Thursday – 3 October – Steady State in the quad

With Joe, Mike, and Swifty.

Just a nice steady state row.  A little bit of hard stuff toward the end.  Then a few drills coming back to the boathouse.

Friday – 4 October – No Training

Saturday – 5 October – Just a warm up

Sunday – 6 October – The Textile River Regatta

With Joe, Mike and Mike’s Friend Dave.  I had never had the opportunity to row with Dave before this outing, but I was looking forward to it.  He is a tall, fit, former college rower.  He and Mike had rowed together at Holy Cross.They are both in their forties and have gotten back into rowing relatively recently.  I’m 56, and Joe is in his early sixties.  Average age in the boat was 52.

We launched early and spent some time doing drills and getting ourselves coordinated.  We arrived in the pre-start area on time, but the regatta was running about 20 minutes behind schedule so we sat for a long time.

The race was downriver, with not a lot of flow.  It looks like the was a GPS glitch on the way up to the start, but the downstream path looks about right.

Screen Shot 2019-10-12 at 7.03.32 PM

The race itself was a blast.  Our event started after a ladies 4+ group and so we caught up to them and even though were were not so fast, we got to row in traffic and did some passing.

On raw time, we were second to last.  After applying the handicap, though, we dropped to last.  We picked up one 10 second penalty because we missed a course buoy.  Without that, we would still have been 6th on raw time, but we would have also finished 6th on handicap as well.

Looking at the splits, I think we rowed about as fast as we should have.

       Workout Summary - media/20191006-1811480o.csv
Workout Details

I think this lineup could probably be at least a minute faster over that course if we had been able to get a few good sessions in the boat together before the race.

Despite the results, I was pretty excited to be racing again, and racing a quad was a new experience for me, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I hope I can do it again next season.

Monday – 7 Oct – Technique

Square blade, slow roll up and steady state. Nice easy session after the race.

It was a bit windy, but on my sheltered little river, it wasn’t a problem.

Tuesday- 8 Oct – No Training

I was up late with a work conference call, and I decided to sleep in.

Wednesday – 9 Oct – Quick Erg Session

I had brought my shell home with me on Tuesday night and I intended to go rowing out at Lake Quinsigamond in the morning.  But when I arrived at the lake, it was very dark, and very windy.  I got back in my car and drove to work.  I did a quick erg session in my socks, since I didn’t have sneakers with me.

     Workout Summary - media/20191009-1231370o.csv
Workout Details

Thursday – 10 October – 15 x 3’/1′ static

Again, it was cold and windy, but on Thursday we added in a driving rain,  More erging. Today a short interval session.

I wasn’t feeling very ambitious, so I started at a nice easy pace and sped up each interval until they really strung.  I ran out of oomph with 2 intervals to go.

Good workout.

Friday – 11 October – 3 x 20’/2′ Static

Still stormy, so no OTW.  I intended to do an L4, but It got too hard.  I decided to back off and just row easy.

Saturday – 12 October – 10K on slides

Down on the cape.  Still too windy for rowing.  I really wanted to do a 10K without any breaks or bobbles.  I decided today would be the day.

First a 2k warmup.Looks like a lot of  missing data.

Then the main event.  Started nice and slow at 1:59 and stuck there through the whole thing.  I only sped up in the last 1K. It was a nice piece of rowing.

I love it when I can finish strongly.

Cool down.

And that brings us up to date!








HOCR 2017

The weather was perfect, my row was not.  There are very few things as tiresome as moping about a race performance, so I won’t do that.  However, there is a lot to learn from today’s race about fitness, training and other preparation and that starts with an honest review of how things went.

I’ve said it before and it’s still true.  Even if you don’t have a good race at the HOCR, you have a good time.  It is amazing to be part of something that big and to row on the same course, in the same event, with some of the finest athletes in the sport.  And it is a real privilege to participate in such a professionally run and efficiently managed event.

So, let’s start with the results.  I finished 42nd of 51 boats.  I would have finished 39th on raw time, but I got well deserved penalty time for drifting off the course and missing three buoys.  More about that later.

Let’s rewind to Friday.  I brought my boat down to the launch area around 2:00PM on Friday afternoon, and by 2:30, I was on the course for a practice run.

It was windy as heck, and there was a ton of traffic, but it was a blast!  It was warm and sunny, and despite a promise to myself to row nice and easy, I just couldn’t contain my excitement.

I was launching from the Singles and Doubles Launch area (SADL).

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 1.08.19 PM.png

This is about 1000m from the start.  On practice day, you join the traffic flow going up river.  The whole river is buoyed to separate the upstream and downstream traffic lanes.  Since the upstream lane is where the racing takes places, it is much wider and usually enables you to either use 2 of the 3 arches in most bridges.  The return lane, on the Boston side of the river is generally single file and the traffic flow requires you to generally move at a light paddle pace.

On practice day, if you are in an eight or a quad, it’s not a great idea to go blasting up the river at full race pressure, but in small boats, you are generally pushing a little hard to just stay out of the big guys way as you go along.  At least I felt that way.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 1.14.59 PM.png

In the summary plot, you can see the row up river from SADL to the finish line.  Then the long, slow trip back down to the basin, then the quick dash through the start chute back up to dock.


Workout Summary - media/20171021-200303-Greg Smith 20171020 0240pmo.csv
Workout Details
01|03684|19:16.2|02:36.9|169.4|20.8|165.3|173.0|09.2 - practice
02|07174|44:46.8|03:07.3|116.9|19.8|143.7|168.0|08.1 - return
03|00786|04:19.8|02:45.3|174.7|22.9|155.9|170.0|07.9 - start to SADL

After I recovered my boat, I got it all covered and tied down for the night and went and got my registration packet.  In the packet are four coveted items.

  • Your bow number – which you get to keep
  • Bib number – which goes on your back
  • Sticky bow number label – which goes on your stern deck
  • 2017 Head of the Charles Competitor sticker for your car window.

I am irrationally proud of the 3 competitor stickers on my car’s back window.

Then I headed home to try to relax.

Saturday – Race Day!

I slept pretty well for the night before a race, but I was up before my alarm at about 5:15am.  I packed up my gear and headed in to the city.  My event wasn’t until 9:06, but I like to get there really early to make sure I don’t have  trouble getting a parking space, and that I have plenty of time to pace around nervously, visit the porta-potty twenty times, and chat with the other nervous rowers.

As dawn broke, the weather just perfect.  It was warming up quickly, the sun was shining, and there was barely a hint of wind.  It stayed that way for the whole weekend.  Just amazingly good luck for late October in Boston.

I got more and more nervous as time crawled by, and by the time the first event had gone by, I decided to launch so I could take a nice long warmup to calm down and get my head clear.  It was a very long warmup.  Nearly an hour.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 1.39.08 PM.png

Most of it I paddled, but I did a few sets of SBR/sbr-feather/race pace bursts as I went along.  My nerves stayed pretty jangly.  I felt like I needed to take a leak, even though I had gone right before I launched, and my feet were feeling like I might get a cramp.  Even my shirt tag was annoying the back of my neck.  So, I have to find a way to better manage pre-race nerves.

When we were about 15 minutes before our race, they called us up to the area behind the chute, and there we stayed.  We were packed in bow to stern in two lines, one even and the other odd.  You basically had to hold water and take the odd stroke to keep from drifting into each other, but it really raised the stress level.

Finally, they started the event.  I was bow number 22, so, I was listening to the first 10 or so racers called onto the course while still packed in.  Then the pack loosened in front of us and we started paddling down the chute.  At the point in time where they started the guy two people in front of me, I noticed, to my horror, that my speedcoach had turned itself off.  I later researched why and found that when I loaded the new firmware, the default for “auto off” is enabled and i didn’t take enough strokes in the chute to keep the thing alive.  So, I’m starting in about 10 seconds and my speedcoach is off.

I had two competing thoughts.  First was to just concentrate on rowing the race and forget about the speedcoach.  This had a certain romantic attraction, but a couple of important downsides.  First, I wanted to row to a target power to avoid torching myself too early in the race.  Second, I like having my HR visible so I can tell the difference between really being on the edge, and just being a wimp about pushing myself.  So, after a 2 stroke debate, I leaned way forward and tried to turn on the speedcoach.  Of course, my first attempt failed.  My second attempt worked.  A couple more strokes while it turned on, then lean way forward to start it recording.  This also took two attempts.

By this point, I was literally two strokes away from the starting line.  I focused on putting on pressure and rowing cleanly and didn’t notice that in all that screwing around I had totally lost my point and my angle was way off going through the start line.  I noticed that I was close to the boston end of the start line, but I didn’t realize that my point was so off until the first course marker surged by on the WRONG SIDE OF MY BOAT.  That woke me up and I immediately corrected my steering, but not quickly enough.  Before I had fixed it, I missed two more buoys.  I had piled up 25 seconds of penalties in the first 10 seconds of the race.

Well, nothing to be done about that.  Time to focus on the race.

I noticed that the guy in front of me was not pulling away, and might even be getting a bit closer.  That’s a good thing.  Then I noticed that the two guys behind me were definitely gaining and that was not a good thing.

A quick glance at the speedcoach showed that I was pushing pretty damn hard.  My pace was a lot closer to 2:10 than 2:15 and my power was up around 240.  I needed to settle down and stick to my 210-220W game plan.

My steering was abominable.  By putting myself on the Boston side of the course, I was on the outside of the curve around Magazine beach.  I managed to close the distance on bow 21, even though he had the better inside line.  By the time we reached the SADL docks at about 5 minutes in, I was nearly overlapped with him and had pushed a lot closer to the right line.

Then he decided to yield the inside line to boat 23 that was coming up fast.  So he cut across my bow and I was rowing side by side with #23 for a few strokes.  We had a quick clash of oars, and he pushed ahead.  I decided to stick to the cambridge arch of the river street bridge.  I saw that #24 was coming up and I didn’t really want to be yielding the line under the bridge.

I annotated the path I took with the best straight line segments, you can see the extra length from being on the outside at first and the weaving around.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 12.24.26 AM

Between the River Street Bridge and the Western Ave bridge, boat 24 passed me.  We both passed through the center arch of the Western Ave bridge.  By this time, I was getting pretty fatigued.  My heart rate was up to 176 by this point, and it’s clear from the metrics that this fatigue was impacting the quality of my rowing.  My effective length had decreased, and I looked pretty labored.

My line to the weeks bridge was actually pretty good.  Coming out of it. I should have cut harder for Anderson, and then I turned a bit too far, but it wasn’t so bad.  I had turned down the power a bit and my HR, which had peaked at 180 came back down into the high 170s.  My pace also dropped.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 12.24.45 AM

Coming out of Anderson is a tough spot on the course.  Up to that point, you have the distraction of all the bridges to keep your mind occupied.  Now you have a long straight section to get to the apex of the big Eliot curve.  And then after that, a lot of starboard pressure to keep you on track around the curve.  By this point, I tried to pull down the stroke rate a little bit to focus on rowing more efficiently, but it doesn’t show up in the data.  I also meandered a bit around the proper course on the way to the apex, costing me more time.

As I was approaching Eliot, there was a rower overtaking me on the inside of the curve.  I allowed him to push me toward the Cambridge shore as we approached the bridge and I actually lightly scraped my starboard blade on the bridge arch because I misjudged how close I was to it by about 6 inches.  Coming out of the bridge, I was in the perfect place, right up next to the nobles docks for the last big turn.

But I didn’t hug the turn tightly enough.  I drifted a bit out and rowed more distance again.  Even on the final push to finish, it looks like I got sucked into following the cambridge shoreline.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 12.25.25 AM


Workout Summary - media/df_20171024-161339.csv
Workout Details

To look at the Flex Charts click here

Let’s start with the good stuff.

  • I managed to recover from a back injury and get about 3 weeks of serious prep work done before the race.
  • I knew that I was going to underperform and I went and raced anyway.  My pride almost stopped me and that would have been a huge shame.  I would have regretted not being out there.  Despite my negative comments, it was a blast.
  • I passed somebody.
  • My line from River Street to Anderson was better than last time.
  • I put everything into the row.
  • I used power and heart rate feedback to manage my pacing

Now onto the criticisms, and lessons learned.

  • Even before I was injured my training was not consistent.  I tried to train for a long open water row that I ended up having to scratch from because of business travel and my motivation suffered from that.  I think my power on the erg is probably 20 to 40 watts lower this season than in 2015.
    Lesson learned:  With my work schedule, I think I need to restrict my competing to just head races, and plan my schedule around that.  I need to maintain a strong aerobic base as the highest priority.  I need to keep my training plans simple.
  • I had equipment problems right before the start.  This was caused by a firmware update having an unexpected issue before the start.
    Lesson learned:  Change nothing in the week before the race.
  • I went off course and got 25 seconds of penalty time.  This was caused by losing situational awareness due to the equipment problem.  Another cause was not having enough time on the course to be able to “feel” where I was.  Yet another cause was rowing without a mirror.  I had planned to learn to use a mirror this season, but didn’t follow through.
    Lessons learned:  Take the time to double my course at the start.  Learn to use a mirror.  More practice runs on the course.
  • I did not follow an ideal line on magazine beach, approaching River Street, in the stretch from Anderson to the Eliot turn and right at the end.  This probably added about 100m to my row.
    Lessons learned: More practice on the course.  Use a mirror
  • My rowing technique was sloppy.  I immediately fell back into the habit of letting my knees fall open at the catch.  My finishes were slow and inconsistent.
    Lessons learned:  I did not spend enough time in my boat this season.  I did do any side video to look at my stroke.  I weigh 20 pounds too much.  I have an imbalance between left and right side that you can see as inconsistent knee heights.

As Paul Simon says in one of his songs…”So watcha gonna do about it, that’s what I wanna know”

Here’s the plan.

  1. Fix my imbalance:  I have had one appointment with a Physical Therapist and I will need to follow through on that and have him help me define a core training routine to maintain balance.
  2. Fix my weight:  This is just purely discipline.  I haven’t figured out the plan yet, but it starts with portion control, and reducing carbohydrate consumption.  The main thing is I have to start weighing myself daily and tracking it.
  3. Get a coach:  I’ve contacted Marlene Royle to start getting remote coaching.  I think this will work out best since my schedule is so irregular.  I may want to supplement it with some live coaching from someone to help make sure that my boat rigged right for me.
  4. Do multiple head races next season:  I think 3 is a good number.  It is a bit of a challenge to race because it takes a big bite out of the weekend, and limits the amount of time that my wife and I can spend down on Cape Cod.  So, more than 3 will definitely be too many.  3 is probably OK.
  5. Get back to what works in training.  That means going back to lactate testing and using it to set training intensity.  It means a simple polarized plan with guidance from Marlene.  It means regular testing to keep myself honest, motivated and to correct things as I go along.  It means 80 minute endurance sessions.
  6. I need to increase the effectiveness of the time I spend in my boat.  There were three things keeping me out of my boat.  Business travel, time on the cape, and equipment issues.  I can’t control business travel.  When I am on the cape, I can usually do open water rowing and I think that actually helps with balance.  And hopefully I won’t randomly break a rigger 28 days before a major race.  And hopefully, it won’t take until 11 days before the race to get everything fixed.  But since all of that stuff is not in my control, I think that I need to make sure that there is a specific technique section in each OTW session.  I can do it as part of warmup and cooldown, but I think I need to do more of that and also include more video feedback.

It is likely that I won’t get a HOCR bid in a single next year, but I will enter the draw for both singles and doubles.  If I don’t get in either, then I will do other races and get ready for the following year.

In some ways, this race has helped me really clarify my thinking.  I’m ready to make changes and pursue this in a much more process oriented way.  I’m looking forward to the structure and the work required.

Ugly videos coming soon.

Wed & Thurs: Taper Triples

My long / hard workout on Tuesday was my last hard session before the HOCR.  Yesterday and Today, I implements a very short taper.  Not much need to do more because my prior training load was pretty light.

My traditional taper is guided by this paper.  This is a 5 day taper, based on high intensity (115% VO2Max pace) intervals.  They are intense, but short, about 75 seconds in the study and massively long 6 minute rests.   Since I am making up for lost time, I decided to reduce the intensity of the intervals and make them a little longer, so that I would get additional technique practice at head race stroke rates and pressure.  So, if you believe 2K pace is roughly VO2Max pace (and I do), then that would mean that I should do the intervals at about 250-275 watts.  Instead, I planned to do them at closer to a 5K pace, which is maybe 40 watts lower, and extend them out to 120 seconds.

Also, I have been noticing that my rowing is pretty damn sloppy, especially my finishes.  This has been making me unstable during the recovery, and messing up the whole next stroke.  So, I thought the best way to use the rest time was to do some square blade rowing, so I did 2 minutes of square blade rowing and 2 minutes alternating square and feathered stroke by stroke.

So the plan was:

  • Wednesday: 4 x 2′
  • Thursday: 3 x 2′
  • Friday: practice row on the HOCR course.  Keep it gentle. HR limit <150bpm
  • Saturday: race day!


A beautiful morning.  Clear, about 45F when I launched, but it warmed up fast and it was about 55F by the time I finished.  There was a light breeze, but the water was silky flat almost all the time.

I was having such a good time that I did an extra interval at the end.


          Workout Summary - media/20171018-125059-Greg Smith 20171018 0650amo.csv
Workout Details

230W felt like it was bit too much to be sustainable for the whole race.  Maybe 220W would work though.


Today was a carbon copy of Wednesday.  Clear, 45F, even less wind.

I enjoyed every minute of the session.  I had a little bit of extra river in  the last interval, so I extended it to 3 minutes.


          Workout Summary - media/20171019-164952-Greg Smith 20171019 0634amo.csv
Workout Details

247W felt good today.  Definitely too hard to hold for the whole race, but 255W should be workable.

After my workout I had an evaluation with a Physical Therapist.  He found some imbalances in my glute strength that are causing weird stuff to happen with other muscles in an effort to compensate and this is putting strain on my SI joints. He gave me some stretches and exercises that will help me fix the imbalance.  I’m pretty happy with the outcome and delighted that the PT works on a lot of rowers, including the US national team.

Tomorrow:  Afternoon, I will be bringing my boat down to the launch site and doing a practice row on the course.



Threshold Tuesday

Weather:  Really dark.  Just the hint of a cresent moon on the eastern horizon, and lots of bright stars.  Cold as hell.  32F.  Wind 8-9mph from the NNW.  This was a nasty headwind for my long piece and kicked up a bit of chop in places.

The plan:  The original plan was a 4 x 2000m.  But once I got going, I decided to change it up.  When I setup the speedcoach, I didn’t have a field for distance.  So, I decided to replace the 2k intervals with 9 minute intervals.  Then when I was doing the first interval, I was feeling pretty good.  The wind was behind me and I was in a section of the lake where the water was nice and flat, I decided to extend it to 10 minutes.  I got to the south end of the lake and waited for the double that I had launched with.  While I waited, I looked at the stars.  Venus was very bright in the east, Orion was in the western sky, and I saw a shooting star.

My rest extended longer than the 5 minutes, and I decided that instead of continuing with the planned workout, I would just do the whole lake.  This is a little bit longer than the HOCR course, so it would be a good way to see what power I can target for the race.  Also, with the head wind, it would be a test of character!  Could I keep it up while looking at miserably slow splits?

I set off and settled into a rhythm at 26 spm.  I was annoyed to see that my HR monitor was stuck at 111bpm.  After a couple of minutes, it got unstuck and slowly climbed up to the expected number around 171bpm.  Then a couple minutes after that, the power and angle readings from the empower oarlock disappeared as well.  I took this as a further test of character.  Now, I had no power readings or heart rate readings to make me feel better about the miserably slow splits.  I had no choice but to focus on rowing clean and just count strokes.  It’s between 600 and 650 strokes to do the 5k.  I counted every one of them.

I found that I would get sloppy and tired at r26, and decide to “take 10 for length”.  My stroke rate would drop to r24/r25 and my pace would improve a bit.  Then over the next couple of minutes, my rate would creep back up again and I would do it all again.

The section from 400 strokes to 500 was probably the toughest.  The head wind was most noticeable, and the chop was at it’s worst.  I was very tired and getting sloppy.  It was a real confidence boost to persevere through it and once I got past 500 and the end was in sight, I was able to start cranking it up.

The finish point is right in front of the QRA docks.  I paddled from there up to the north end of the lake and met up with the double again.  I did the section going south with my feet out of the shoes focusing on finishes.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 5.25.34 PM

You can see the problems with the HR and power numbers in this plot.


Here is a close up plot of the pace and stroke rate, since that’s the only stuff that was accurate through that piece.


          Workout Summary - media/20171017-182015-Greg Smith 20171017 0540amo.csv
Workout Details

So, after this workout, I was delighted to see an email from saying that I had had a “breakthrough workout”.  This is a workout that is significantly better than the power profile that you have built up over time.

Here is the before/after view of the profile.

The difference is all in the long workouts.  There is a chance that the power meter malfunction is driving the long flat plateau, but based on the pace through the piece, I think that power did not fade all that much.  Using this data and the predictor functionality, rowandall thinks that I can target 211W for my race.  I think I can probably target 220W.

After the issues today, I hope that the speedcoach works in the race.

Tomorrow:  Another session of 2′ SBR/2’Alt/2′ 26spm.  This time 4 reps.

Mechanics Monday

Weather:  Blustery, about 60F.


  • repeat for roughly 60 minutes
    • 2′ square blade rowing
    • 2′ alternate square feathered
    • 2′ feathered
      • rate: 25-26
      • pace: ~2:15 or better
  • Technique focus
    • clean finishes.  Avoid touching my chest with my hands
    • blades off the water
    • knees together at the catch

The point of the workout today was to use the SBR and alternating sections to work on all the technique elements, then use the 2 minutes at head race rate to “apply” what I was working on.  I tried to focus on the technique at pressure, especially finishing early and keeping blades off the water.


The oarlock batteries ran out in the session.  Gotta replace those tonight.

The power pie chart is wrong.  The LT number is too big.

          Workout Summary - media/20171016-145520-Greg Smith 20171016 0846amo.csv
Workout Details

I really enjoyed this workout.  It was quite a challenge to row with square blades with the blustery conditions, especially when I was heading up river with it as a headwind.  It was delightful during the r26 chunks when I put together 2 or 3 clean strokes.  Of course, I’d be happier if I could routine put together 700 clean stroke, but I need to be happy with any progress.

This session will form the basis of my taper.  I will reduce the total rowing time and the number of 2 minute chunks of race pace rowing, but keep working on technique at race pace.  I think it the only thing that I can improve over a week.

Tomorrow:  My last hard session before the race.  4 x 2000 / 5′ rests at r26 and 2:15.


Sunday: 2 x 5.5K at race rate

Weather:  Cloudy, warm (mid 60s), light to moderate breeze from the SSW, 5-8 mph with gusts a bit higher.  This was a headwind going up river.

The Plan:  Do two head race pieces at slightly lower than head race pressure to find the power level that I can hold reasonably for the HOCR.  Also work on technique at race rate.  Probably most importantly work on my confidence in rowing while in considerable discomfort.

  • 2 x 5.5K
    • Rate: 25-26
    • quick turn at the halfway point
  • ~ 10′ rest between pieces

I was extremely annoyed to find that I had forgotten my heart rate monitor at home.  Oh well, this session would be managed by RPE.

I did some pick drill out to the start point, and then had a drink and got going.  The pace dropped down below 2:10 and I felt pretty awesome.  Of course, I was rowing in the part of the river where the current was most favorable, and the wind was behind me.  Nevertheless, it got me off in a good way.  I just counted strokes and tried to keep my mind on all the things I had to manage.

  • steering
  • keep knees together at the catch
  • nice clean finishes.  Don’t let the handles hit my chest at the finish.
  • blades off the water on recovery
  • nice consistent blade depth during the drive.

Of course you can’t think all these thoughts at the same time, so I basically would use them to distract myself.  I would try to turn to look every ten strokes, and if I felt like I was pushing past a sustainable effort, I would take the strokes between looks to focus on one area.   It seemed to work.  The hardest part of this session is the turn in the middle.  Mentally, it is so hard to be right on the edge when you get to the halfway point, and then turn the boat quickly and get back up to speed.  I wanted to stop so badly both times.


          Workout Summary - media/20171015-173937-Greg Smith 20171015 0933amo.csv
Workout Details

So, it looks like I can target a bit above 200W for the race, maybe 210W.  You can see  the effect of the fatigue fro the first piece in how my length and power just faded in the second one.

I know that I have plenty of rationalizations for the level of preparation for this race, but it is really bugging me.  It is unlikely that I will ever win a big event like this, but I take a lot of pride in preparing well and building a plan that let’s me do my best in the event.  I don’t feel like that is the case this year.  I need to do some thinking about how to modify my training so I am better focused and end enjoy it more next year.

Tomorrow:  Technique row.  Probably 2′ segments of square blades, alternating square/feathered and race rate rowing.  The intent will be to be able to row at r26 with good technique at less than race pace.

Friday: “The Hook” – 5.9km hard

Weather:  A bit chilly, around 50F.  Brisk wind from the NNE at 11mph with gusts to 20.  Lots of chop.  The water was a mess.


  • Warmup to north end of the lake
  • Head Race Piece
    • ~6km
    • from north end of the lake, around two island near the south end and then back to the Narrows.  The radius of the turn is nearly the same as the big eliot turn in the HOCR.
    • Rate: r26
    • Pace: <2:15
  • Cool down back to boathouse

Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 9.26.14 AM.png

|Start|Dist_|Time_|_Pace__|_SPM__|avg HR|DPS_|Remarks
|00008|02439|16:49|03:26.8| 17.7 | 130 |08.2|warmup
|02447|05900|26:40|02:15.6| 26.0 | 169 |08.5|Head Race Piece
|08347|01808|12:15|03:23.3| 19.6 | 142 |07.5|Cool down

500m splits
|02447|00501|02:10|02:09.7| 26.2 | 151 |08.8|
|02948|00502|02:14|02:13.5| 25.3 | 163 |08.9|
|03450|00500|02:14|02:14.0| 25.3 | 164 |08.9|
|03950|00498|02:13|02:13.5| 25.4 | 167 |08.9|
|04448|00499|02:12|02:12.3| 25.3 | 167 |09.0|
|04947|00501|02:14|02:13.7| 25.6 | 169 |08.8|
|05448|00499|02:15|02:15.3| 25.7 | 170 |08.6|
|05947|00500|02:16|02:16.0| 25.8 | 171 |08.6|
|06447|00503|02:16|02:15.2| 26.2 | 172 |08.5|
|06950|00494|02:20|02:21.7| 26.9 | 175 |07.9|
|07444|00503|02:25|02:24.1| 26.7 | 176 |07.8|
|07947|00400|01:51|02:18.7| 27.9 | 178 |07.7|

To make sense of the splits, here is a map, with the 500m chunks shown.


So, what’s going on?

  • 0-500:  2:09.7  Nice water, tail wind, adrenaline = nice fast splits
  • 500-1000: 2:13.5 water starts to get sloppy, we struggle to get in the groove with the tail wind
  • 1000-1500: 2:14.0 water is worse, but the rowing is better
  • 1500-2000: 2:13.5 water continues to degrade, I feel good enough to push a bit harder, my HR goes up from 164 to 167 in this section
  • 2000-2500: 2:12.3 under the bridge, which kills the chop.  we pick up speed and it feels pretty good
  • 2500-3000:  2:13.7 There is enough lake between us and the bridge for the chop to pick back up.  My energy is flagging a bit by this point.  I start to dread the thought of the big turn.
  • 3000-3500:  2:15.3 Just about the worst water of the row.  Quite tough to get to full compression because the chop is screwing with the set of the boat.
  • 3500-4000: 2:16.0.  I have no idea why we are slow here.  The water was better, and I was pushing very hard.
  • 4000-4500: 2:15.2.  Same story as the above.  No idea what was slowing us down.
  • 4500-5000: 2:21.7.  The big turn.  We did great along the south side of the island, but as we emerged from the lee of the island, we got hit by a big gust and a ton of chop coming down the channel between the islands.  In an instant the boat slowed down  to a 2:30 pace or slower.  We got into the lee of the second island and actually picked up a bit of speed through the last half of the turn.
  • 5000-5500: 2:24.1.  We get out from behind the second island and turn into the teeth of the wind.  The boat feels like it weighs a thousand pounds, but with the headwind, it is also set like a rock.  The rowing feels very connected, and we pound up into the wind.  It is pretty damn slow, but satisfying in a masochistic way.
  • 5500-5900: 2:18.7.  I brought the rate up and worked on trying to row as cleanly as I could.  The pace came down and we slugged our way back to the narrows.

Final result was 2:15.6.  I was hoping for better because of the tail wind, but I bet we would have been <2:15 in flat water and no wind.

One side note:  Changed my pitch today.  Was rigged with 4deg pitch inserts.  Changed to 6 degree inserts.  It might be placebo effect, but I felt like my oar depth was better and my finishes were crispier.  I liked it!  We checked the span, and it was 159 at stroke and 158 in bow.  Joe is planning to move them both to 160.

So, I am off the water for a while.  I am taking off to Asia for 11 days on Sunday.  Bummer that it’s happening so close to the HOCR, but duty calls.

Saturday: CRI Fall Challenge

Weather:  Bright sunshine, temperature started in the low sixties, but warmed up.  A Southernly breeze kicked up right when we were starting our race.  This was mostly a cross headwind.


I was rowing stroke, Joe was in the bow.  This is a 5km head race that shares about half of it’s course with the Head of the Charles.  It starts upriver from the Weeks Bridge, and finishes at the CRI boathouse.

It’s not a big race.  There was one event with 2 boats in it before us, the Men’s Open 2x, then us, the Men’s Masters 2x.  There were 5 boats in our event.  And we were starting 5th.  Behind us were the Men’s Junior 2x and then the Men’s Masters 1x.

Screen Shot 2016-09-17 at 6.47.04 PM.png

The race starts at the right and proceeds to the left.  The race plan was broken into 4 parts.

1.  Anderson to Eliot: 1.2km
– Straight shot from  the bridge to the turn for about 600m, then a broad sweeping turn for another 600m
– The hard part is that the turn gets much tighter right at the end so you have to be ready to lean hard on starboard to make the middle arch.
– The race plan is to hit the first 500 pretty hard at about a r28, and then focus on trying to row clean at r26 through the turn.
2.  Eliot to Arsenal: 1.8km
– This is the guts of the race.  It’s pretty straight and there not much you need to do but stay reasonably close to the Cambridge side.
– In this section, we should stick around a r26 and work on keeping it together.
– It is probably a good idea to call some 10s in this section to focus on whatever parts of the stroke are getting wobbly.
3.  Arsenal to N Beacon: 1.2km
-Digging deep at this point.
– I am hoping that we will have managed our pace well enough over the prior section that I can lift the rate to 28 in this section.
4.  N. Beacon to the Finish: 400m (more or less depending on where they set the line.
– I plan to crank the rate up to 30 or higher while we are under  the bridge.
– Coming out of the bridge, with the rate still at 30, you need to call for tons of port pressure to hold  the line.
It didn’t play exactly to plan, but it was pretty close.  We were slower than either of us were hoping we would be.  And we finished last in our event.
Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 12.28.39 PM.png
So, we finished 53 seconds behind the guys who finished fourth.  So, over a 5k course, that means that we need to improve our average pace by just over 5 seconds.  We did this race at a 2:23 pace.  Here are the splits

|06700|00500|02:15|02:15.0| 27.8  | 161  |08.0| tail wind

|07200|00500|02:14|02:14.0| 26.2  | 169  |08.5| tail wind

|07700|00498|02:27|02:27.6| 26.6  | 173  |07.6|head wind

|08198|00500|02:24|02:24.0| 27.6  | 174  |07.6|cross head for the rest of the way

|08698|00500|02:25|02:25.0| 27.0  | 176  |07.7|

|09198|00500|02:26|02:26.0| 27.3  | 176  |07.5|

|09698|00502|02:28|02:27.4| 27.1  | 177  |07.5|

|10200|00497|02:23|02:23.9| 28.3  | 177  |07.4|

|10697|00503|02:28|02:27.1| 27.8  | 179  |07.3|

|11200|00499|02:21|02:21.3| 29.5  | 181  |07.2|

Reviewing it, it is worthwhile to break it down into parts to try to improve.

1.  Rate:  The overall rate average for the race was a 27.5.  This is higher than it should have been, and that’s entirely on me.  I was over excited and I didn’t do a good job holding 26 through the guts of the course.  The higher rate made it tougher for Joe to stay in sync, especially with all the steering he had to do.  This is just a matter of having better discipline.

2.  Steering:  I am frankly quite impressed with the line that Joe steered.  He has never rowed this river before, and in comparison with the two boats behind us, it was clear that he was steering better and putting distance between us and them at a couple crucial spots in the race.  There were a few spots in the race where we needed to turn sharply enough to hammer our boat speed.  The first of these was right out of the Anderson Bridge, where the river turns toward Cambridge and the buoy line snuck up on us.  The second was the turn into the long straight section by Soldier field.  The river bends toward Cambridge and we swung out into the buoy line.  The final time was coming out of the N. Beacon Street Bridge, right before the finish line.  The turn is quite sharp and we needed really hammer the port strokes to stay on the course.  As I watched some races after ours, it seems like that last turn is a tough on, no matter how perfect your line is.

I think it will be critical for us to get some runs on the HOCR course so that Joe has a chance to learn the land marks and rehearse the turns.

3.  Technique:  Here’s the area where we can do  the most to improve.  All of our practice together has been on Quinsigamond and so, we have just gotten to the point where we can get synchronized and clean on the gloriously long straight sections of the lake.  On a twisty turny river, where we are always pulling harder on Port or Starboard, and Joe has to have his head on a swivel to find the line, we were no where near clean.  I know that my finishes were sloppy, and I was typically dragging at least one blade on recovery.  Joe said essentially the same thing, that trying to steer and maintain the rate really made it hard for him to “get in a groove”.  So what do we do?  A couple of things.  First, I keep the rate at 26, don’t get all fancy with higher rate for now.  Focus on getting good at that rate.  Second, practice full pressure turns.  I took a look at the Eliot turn, and superimposed it on a same scale map of Quinsigamond.   If we turn at full pressure around the big island, and then loop around the small island to the east to go back up lake, we get something that is very much like 2 or 3 Eliot turns.  I think a couple of reps of that during each workout will give us enough time turning under pressure that we can hold our technique better.


4.  Fitness:  Joe is still rehabbing from a surgical repair for a torn biceps tendon, and I haven’t had as much time or focus as I did last year.  So, I think we have to be realistic.  We have 34 days from now to the HOCR.  Maintaining as full of a training plan as possible will be helpful, but is unlikely to yield massive improvements.  I’m going to stick with my predefined plan.

5.  Effort:  As near as I can tell, we both put everything we had into the race.  Here’s the Pace and Rate plots, with my HR.  So, the last 5 minutes of the race was anaerobic.  I felt spent at the end, but pretty much OK.  But at the dock, I experienced something new.  I had a massive coughing jag, and nearly threw up.  It didn’t feel exactly like an erg cough, but it was a bit disconcerting.  But, I certainly felt like I put everything I had into the race.

|00020|06684|53:33|04:00.4| 18.8 | 127 |06.6|warmup
|06700|04999|23:51|02:23.1| 27.5 | 174 |07.6|race
|11699|00493|07:13|07:19.1| 20.5 | 133 |03.3|back to dock

The race was a massively useful learning experience.  The good news is that there is a lot of stuff to work on that will make us significantly faster.  The bad news is that we have a lot of ground to make up.

Later today, I will do a normal endurance session.  Tomorrow morning, back to the lake for a session with Joe.


Monday: Head Race Piece on Quinsig in a 2x

Weather:  A bit chilly, around 50F.  Clear skies, but a low mist was rising from the lake.  This effected Joe a lot more than me because he had to make sure we didn’t hit anything or any body.  There was a very light breeze which seemed to mostly come out of the north, which was a slight tail wind.  Looking at weather stations near the lake, they show no wind at all.


  • Warmup to the north end of the lake
  • Hard 5.5km from the north end of the lake to the south end.
    • rate: 26
    • pace: better than 2:15
  • Cool down and a few power pieces back to the dock.

We launched around 5:40 and the sky was just starting to lighten up in the east.  We headed north at an easy 18 spm and got warmed up.  We were in the club’s Vespoli 2x, which I think is a better boat for us.  My foot position was also a bit better.  I had more room at the finish and I like my catch position.  I was still coming down hard on the track ends, so I need to remember by bite guards.

We spun up at the north end and then started the piece.  The intent was to simulate a head race at our target rate and race pressure.  I wanted to make sure that we had some time trying to row hard while carrying a lot of fatigue before we raced next weekend.

I liked this boat a lot more.  I felt like I was getting good strokes in, and there were sections where the boat really felt like it was moving very well.  Probably the best section was during the last third of the piece.  When we passed the first island past the narrows, the boat just seemed to get a lot lighter and we were in very good synchronization.

Here is a comparison of our strokes in the first 1000, when we were fresh, but the boat felt a bit heavier and the “magic” section.

I specifically tried to pick out single strokes to avoid any averaging.  The thing that jumps out at me is that we had better finishes in the magic section.  The hump between 0.8 and 1.0 sec is lower.  The acceleration is still sloping up to a peak right before the finish, and I’ve changed my mind to say that it’s probably OK.  In the boat, when we are running well, I can feel the surge late in the leg drive and through the body swing.  It makes sense that it takes more of the stroke to accelerate a heavier boat and two rowers than a single.  The thing that we have to work on is consistency.  Hopefully a couple of rows per week between now and the HOCR, we can lock it in.

This was a much better piece that the one we did on Friday.   The avg pace was 2:14.4, and a fair amount of the time, we were hovering around 2:10.  We would have done even better, if we hadn’t been waked about 500m from the end.  That slowed us down a bit and we struggled to get back up to speed for the last bit of the piece.

On the way back up lake, we took it easy all the way up through the narrows and then did 4 sets of 20 on/10 off.  Then to cap it off we did a 30 stroke piece after we got past the rt9 bridge.

|Start|Dist_|Time_|_Pace__|_SPM__|avg HR|DPS_|Remarks
|00020|02330|13:16|02:50.8| 18.2 | 129 |09.6|warmup
|02350|05502|24:39|02:14.4| 26.2 | 164 |08.5|hard 5.5k
|07852|02046|12:52|03:08.7| 24.1 | 136 |06.6|rowing light
|09898|01349|06:27|02:23.4| 25.7 | 154 |08.1|20 on 10 off
|11247|00239|00:57|01:59.2| 28.9 | 160 |08.7|last 30
|11486|00251|03:08|06:14.5| 24.4 | 122 |03.3|back to dock

|Start|Dist_|Time_|_Pace__|_SPM__|avg HR|DPS_|Remarks
|00000|02330|13:16|02:50.8| 18.2 | 129 |09.6|warmup
|00000|06851|31:06|02:16.2| 26.1 | 162 |08.4|main set
|00000|02046|12:52|03:08.7| 24.1 | 136 |06.6|rests
|00000|00490|04:05|04:10.0| 25.5 | 131 |04.7|cool down

It was so pretty this morning when we landed I could resist taking a few pictures.

Tomorrow:  Back in my single on the Charles for a long and slow endurance session.  r20 and HR cap at 155.