Back to Basics

Well, June and June were not my best months.

I had a bad stretch at the end of May (5/27 to 6/4) where I did very little training.  This was allergies, injuries, work travel and a busy holiday weekend.

The rest of June was pretty good and my fitness improved.  Until the middle of July, when life just got too hectic for me to stick to a training plan.  I haven’t been in my fluid since July 11th.  Since then I’ve done some coastal rowing, some biking, but I also had a work induced 4 day training hiatus.  By the time last Friday rolled around, my fitness had declined to its lowest point since early June and was nearly as bad as it was when I was struggling with my SI Joint issues last fall.

I decided that it was time to simplify and the weather, in a perverse way, cooperated.  The whole week was humid, with scattered thunderstorms so I spent the whole time on the erg.

July 23 – Monday:  4 x 20′ / 2′

Back on a static erg, so I wasn’t sure what split I could hit.  Turns out it was 2:05.  It was a great, relaxing row.  I rowed with the rule that I couldn’t go past 145 in the first 20 minutes, then 150 for the next, then 155 for the last 2.

          Workout Summary - media/20180723-2345260o.csv
Workout Details

Tuesday, July 24: 4 x 20’/2′

Same as Monday.  Really enjoyable.  Right intensity to get a good HR plateau.  Looks like 180W is where I’m working from in a static erg.

          Workout Summary - media/20180724-2210270o.csv
Workout Details

Wednesday – July 25: 15×3’/1′

Time for a little intensity.  So, my favorite L3 workout in the world.  I set an arbitrary pace target of 1:55, and that turned out to be conservative.

Thursday, July 26 – Travel Day

Up at 5am to head to the airport.  I was taking a really quick trip to the San Diego.  Basically get there in time for a set of meetings and then catch the red eye home at 8:30 in the evening.  No time for training.

Friday, July 27 – Rest Day

I got home from the airport at 7am.  I went to bed and slept until 10:30.  Then straight into a quick set of meetings and then my wife and I took off to go to the cape for the weekend.  Her job was to collect our sons plus one significant other.  Mine was to do the shopping:  food, booze, and delicious seafood.  I got to the house around 6:30 and made dinner, seafood pasta and a big salad.  I enjoyed a couple of beers instead of training on a full stomach.  I’m thinking it was a good decision, but I still feel a bit guilty for not rowing.




Hard 6K – indoors

This morning was a real disaster.  I planned  to get up at 4:45 and head out to Quisigamond for a head race piece.  That was blown up by not getting to bed on time.  It was midnight by the time I was finished packing for my trip and in bed.  I decided that a very early start was not the smartest idea (actually, my wife decided that and told me I was an idiot).  It turns out this was a little clairvoyant.  I got up after 6, and I was on my way to work at 6:30 when my phone rang.  It turns out that I was supposed to be in a teleconference at 6:30.  I saw it on my calendar, but I assumed it had to be some kind of an error.  Oops, I guess not.  Anyway, I did the call from my car, most of it pulled over so I could concentrate on the meeting.  By the time I got to work, I had to rush straight in to my first meeting at 8:30 in my workout clothes.

After that meeting, I had a 1 hour hole in my schedule, so I made my way to the fitness center.  I didn’t have a lot of time, but I had time for a quick warmup and a hard 6K piece.


Then on to the 6K.  I was feeling a bit confident after the good 5×1500 workout and the strong steady state session.  My prior hard distance sessions were

  • 30′ at 1:56.2 on 9/23
  • 10K at 1:56.0 on 9/29

So, based on my rough math, if I was able to do 10K at 1:56, I thought I should be able to easily do 6K at 1:54.  It turned out that that was a bit too much of an ask.

I didn’t exactly hit the wall, but I needed to ease off the gas pedal around the 4000m mark.  There was no way I was going to put the handle down, but I couldn’t hold the pace at 1:54.  I held on and played all the tricks I could with visualization and stroke counting, but in the end it was just enduring it.  With 1000m left I tried to pop up the rate, but I went too far too soon and needed to back off.




          Workout Summary - media/20171009-1416080o.csv
Workout Details

So, it hurt.  That’s kind of the point.

Now I am at the airport heading off to Europe for a 4 day trip.  The schedule is jam packed.  Stuttgart, Munich, Grenoble, Milan.  I am going to do my best to do some maintenance sessions to avoid losing any aerobic fitness, but I think I won’t be doing any rowing until next Saturday.  I also need to focus on trying to avoid coming back from this trip with a big sleep deficit.



14 – 3′ Intervals On Lake Quinsigamond

Lovely morning.  I got to the lake at 5:35 and it was still pitch black out. There was just a hint of a breeze from no particular direction.  It was a bit chilly, around 40F and the stars were bright in the sky.

The Plan:  In the run up to HOCR, I am trying to make the most of the limited time left.  I am way behind my desired plan due to travel and then my back injury, but the progress I can make is limited by the amount of recovery that I need.  The basic of the plan is 3 hard sessions a week and 3 easy endurance session. The easy sessions are HR capped at 155 and 60 to 80 minutes.  The hard sessions are all targeted at head race paced rowing.  One is hard distance, basically a head race simulation.  Two is long intervals, basically L2 workouts.   Three is short interval/short rest.  The third type was what was on the menu today.

  • The basic workout on the erg is 15 x 3′ / 1′
  • On the water, I need more time than a minute to get the boat turned at the ends of the lake, so I planned to take an extra couple of minutes to turn the boat and get a quick drink.
  • rate target: 24-26
  • pace target:  better than 2:20, hopefully around 2:15
  • HR limit: none

I got up extra early so that I could do my dreaded core routine and go to the bathroom before I went to the lake.  My hope is that the core routine will help get me a little warmed up before I get in the boat and help me avoid aggravating my lower back.

The workout was tough, but awesome.  The water was nice and flat.  There was a bit of a head wind coming into the cove at the south end of the lake.  Then the wind died, but returned as a head wind again as after I got north of the Rt 9 bridge.

In my best intervals, I was starting to feel the boat “snap” when I got into my back swing.  My finishes were a lot cleaner today than on Saturday, mostly because the water was flatter, but I’ll take it.  I felt much calmer in the boat.  It was visually confusing to row with it so dark.  There really wasn’t much light until I was halfway back up the lake going north, about 30 minutes into the row.  I am also having a bit of trouble with this boat wanting to drift around to the port unless I am extremely vigilant about keeping a point to steer from and bear down on my port foot in each stroke.  Tough to tell if it’s the boat or me.

I ended up doing 14 intervals.  4 down lake to the south end.  The first one I started at 22spm and gradually increased to 25.  The rest were between 24 and 25.  Then I turned and did 7 intervals up lake to the north end, then 3 more coming back to the boat house.  I was tired by then and decided that 14 was enough for this morning.


        Workout Summary - media/20171002-130422-Greg Smith 20171002 0545amo.csv
Workout Details

Tomorrow:  Steady State, 80 minutes, on quinsig.  HR limit 155.  I might do the technical SBR/alternating/r20 session.  I need to work on my technique.


15 x 3′ / 1′ Static

I felt tired at 5:15 so I rolled over and slept 2 more hours.  I’m glad I did.

I headed to the gym at lunch and sat down on the new erg.  And my HR strap didn’t link up to either the PM5 or the phone.  I popped out the battery and it was wet.  Uh Oh.  I put in a new battery.  Still no life. I think the seal must have gone and sweat has gotten into it.

I pulled out my old wahoo tickr and put a new battery in this one.  I had stopped using this one because it seemed to have a problem following fast HR changes, like you see in interval sessions (like today’s workout).  This one linked up right away, and I got going with the workout using painsled.

The plan:

  • 15 x 3′ / 1′ rests
  • Pace: 1:54
  • Rate: 26
  • Technique: knees together, limit layback
  • HR limit: none


So the sensor still has issues.  Glad it wasn’t my imagination.

So, targets met.  Tired now.

Tomorrow:  80 minutes of endurance training.  20 minutes treadmill, 3 x 20′ on the erg.

30 minutes hard – static

It was foggy and windy this morning so no coastal rowing for me.  Probably a good thing.  I have a lot of issues to work on right now, but threshold fitness is probably the biggest one.  It’s probably easier to focus on fitness on the erg compared to a coastal row with a lot of wind, chop and other distractions.


  • 5 minute warmup with 10 stroke bursts at 22/24/26/28
  • 30 minutes hard
    • rate target: 24
    • pace target 1:55
    • HR limit: none


Workout Summary - media/20170923-1750570o.csv
Workout Details

I held onto to 1:55 as the target through the first 10 minutes, but I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to keep it up the whole way.  I decided to let the pace drift up to 1:57.  That got me through the next 5 minutes.  At the halfway point, I decided to try to play a little visualization game.  I tried to remember the rough spacing of bridges in the HOCR.  I was pretty sure it was about 5 minutes from the Eliot bridge to the end.  It was probably a little more than 5 minutes from the Anderson to Eliot, and another 5 minutes from Western to Anderson.  So, I tried to visualize the different parts of the course as I did them.  I was really struggling at 10 minutes to go, and I was picturing myself going around the long turn from Anderson to Eliot.  I pictured the Cambridge Boat Club coming into view with about 2 minutes left and focused to trying to stay close to the buoy line.  I let my pace slip a bit slower than 1:57 because I wanted to save a little for the last stretch beyond the eliot bridge.  With 5 minutes to go, I split it up even more.  First was about 25 strokes to get me to the BBN docks.  Then 50 strokes to get around the last turn.  Then a final 50 strokes to the finish.

It was pretty satisfying to get it done.  I was really losing hope in the middle.  I am not pleased at all about the time.  My best 30 minutes is 1:48.8 pace back in 2013, and my best hour is at a 1:52 pace late in 2015.  Hell, my best half marathon is faster at 1:53.6 (also in 2015).  So I am more than 7 seconds off my best pace for head race distances.  All I can do is work on my tolerance for pain and do my best.

Tomorrow:  Hopefully an easy coastal row.

Sunday: Failed L3 – A bit breezy on Lake Quinsigamond

Weather:  Sunny, low 70s.  Brisk wind from the NNW.  Quite gusty.  I launched at about 7:15.  So, the wind got a little gentler as I rowed down to the south end, and then picked up again as I rowed north.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 10.49.44 AM.png


I have been taking more rest days than planned recently, so I am behind on the training plan.  So, even though I had a tough L2 yesterday, I decided to do an L3 session this morning.  The lake is much better for hard distance because you can get nearly 6K in without turning around.

  • L3 – hard distance
  • 5.5km from south end of the lake to the north end
  • stroke rate: 25
  • effective length target: > 75 deg
  • WPS target: > 450

I rowed to the south end of the lake as a long warmup.  I did a couple of rate ladders.  The whole way south, I debated just doing ladders for the whole workout instead of doing the L3.  Clearly, my head was not really in the game today.  My back was acting up as well.  I was hoping it would settle down like it did yesterday, but I was getting a twinge on each stroke.

Anyway, I turned north and started up.  I got about 20 strokes into it and a big splash sent the RIM app to some setup screen and I no longer had any stroke rate information.  (I had the speedcoach set up to show pace, HR, Eff Len and work per stroke).  I stopped and quit out of RIM and started Crewnerd which has a much more effective screen lock mechanism.  Then I started up again.

I was trying to row clean against the gusty headwind and I was making very slow progress.  I would do OK when I got into the wind shadow of islands or headlands, but in the gusts, I was having some trouble getting to my target length in the chop and with the wind pushing around my oars.

I plugged along, but by the 1500m mark, I was losing hope.  I rowed through the narrows and eased up the pressure a bit.  I just tried to row clean.  I figured I could at least make it to the bridge and I was almost there when I was massively waked by a waterskiing boat towing a skier.  The wakes hit me at the same time as a big gust of wind and it was a little bit too much for me to handle.  I stopped rowing after about 2600, about 400m short of the bridge.

What to do now.  My back hurt, I was tired, and I wasn’t having much fun.  I decided to turn around and go find the double that was a ways behind me, and just row with them for a while.  I rowed back to the narrows and saw them coming through.  I turned and just rowed easy with them all the way up to the bridge.  By then I was feeling a bit better.  More importantly, I saw a double from the other club about 100m north of the bridge.  Ah ha, a target.  I brought the rate back up to 25 and tried to row a lightly and cleanly as I could with the head wind.  I slowly reeled them in, and passed them about 1000m north of the bridge.  Now, I was motivated to get to the end.  But there were more challenges to confront.  Another massive waking, and then a fishing boat trolling along very slowly right in my way.  I basically needed to stop to get through that mess.  But I spooled back up to my target rate and pushed through the last couple hundred strokes to the north end of the lake.

I was toast.  I basically square bladed the whole way back to the club.  The western edge of the lake was reasonably well sheltered from the wind and what there was of it was coming from behind, so it was nice easy rowing.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 11.59.06 AM


        Workout Summary - media/20170820-144123-Greg Smith 20170820 0715amo.csv
Workout Details
00|00700|04:00.0|02:51.5|120.6|16.7|113.2|129.0|10.5 - 4' @ 16
01|00598|03:00.0|02:30.5|145.3|17.8|132.3|139.0|11.2 - 3' @ 18
02|00402|02:00.0|02:29.2|152.3|20.1|141.7|144.0|10.0 - 2' @ 20
03|00204|01:00.0|02:26.8|172.9|22.0|146.2|148.0|09.3 - 1' @ 22
04|00770|04:00.0|02:35.8|127.1|16.8|139.1|148.0|11.5 - 4' @ 16
05|00600|03:00.0|02:29.9|145.7|18.4|142.6|145.0|10.9 - 3' @ 18
06|00203|01:00.0|02:27.9|168.6|20.0|146.5|150.0|10.1 - 1' @ 20
07|02648|13:07.8|02:28.8|191.9|25.3|160.3|171.0|08.0 - 1st hard piece
08|00701|03:58.8|02:50.3|135.9|19.1|138.0|143.0|09.2 - loop around
09|01659|08:28.2|02:33.1|176.8|24.2|156.1|169.0|08.1 - 2nd hard piece
10|01050|05:19.8|02:32.3|189.3|25.7|167.7|176.0|07.6 - bit after wake
11|02192|13:22.2|03:02.9|096.7|19.8|130.6|152.0|08.3 - SBR drills

A few stroke metrics

Tomorrow:  Recovery session on the Charles.  HR limit at 150.

Monday: 15 x 3′ / 1′ Rest (Open Water L3)

Weather:  I launched in the late afternoon.  There was a light wind from the southwest which was kicking up some chop.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 5.23.49 PM.png


  • L3: 15 x 3′ / 1′ rest
  • Stroke rate: 25 spm
  • pace:  Good question
  • Heart rate:  Maximize time in Threshold.



        Workout Summary - media/20170815-210759-Greg Smith 20170814 0356pmo.csv
Workout Details

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 5.21.22 PM

I launched from the bottom of our stairs.  This was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to get both oars in, and backed away from the steps without flipping. I warmed up rowing up toward Wellfleet.  When I turned around, I noticd just how bumpy it was.  The head wind was a bit annoying too.  I decided to row into the lee of the Island and do the intervals back and forth there.  I could do 3 intervals in a dog leg around the island, and only the end of the last interval would be exposed to the chop.

This workout is one of my very favorites.  You end up digging deeper and deeper as the intervals keep going.  By the time you get to the tenth interval, you tend to start them with very light pressure.  In that way, it’s good head race practice where you want to use a reasonably high stroke rate and light, consistent pressure.

Even in the lee of the island, it was a lot easier rowing with the wind that against it.  I noticed it most when I was rowing into Loagy Bay.

When I finished, I was totally spent.  I was trembling.  It was pretty awesome.

Today: A rest day!  Finally, I feel like I deserve a rest day instead of being forced into it by circumstances.



I sure missed this. 14km 2x

I got home at 2:15am on Saturday morning.  It was pure bliss getting back into my own bed.  I slept like a log.  I was stunned to see it was 11am when I finally woke up.

I spent the day just puttering around the house.  I did some grocery shopping and laundry.  I didn’t feel like training, so I didn’t. I got to bed around midnight.  Even though I didn’t feel that sleepy, I fell asleep quickly and slept until 5.  I woke up and I knew instantly that I was done sleeping.  I tried to sleep a bit more, but a thought crept into my head.  If I’m awake anyway, maybe I should head out to Worcester and go rowing.  This seemed like a much better thing to do than to toss and turn in bed not sleeping.

So, I did.  I got up, put my name on the sign up list, got my stuff together and headed out to Quinsigamond.  When I got there, I was delighted to see Joe and Bob.  Bob suggested we take out the Wintech.  I thought that was a great idea.  I haven’t been in a boat since July 16th.  A nice stable double sounded perfect.  I could let him steer and I could just focus on trying to remember how to row.

It came back quickly.

I didn’t have much of a plan.  I ultimately decided that I should do some kind of an approximation of the L3 workout that was scheduled for Yesterday.  But mostly, I was just really enjoying the feeling of being in the boat.  The feeling of connection.  The sound of the bubbles running along the hull.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 9.21.29 AM

We headed south and I fell into a groove at around 23 SPM.  I just went with it.  We had a bit of a tail wind and the pace was generally between 2:10 and 2:15.  I was working pretty hard, and by the sound of Bob’s breathing, he was working pretty hard too.  We got waked a couple of times by waterskiing boats, but generally it was just a nice hard row all the way down lake.

We turned to go north, and I suggested we take it down a bit and do some easy rate ladders.  This plan didn’t last all that long though.  As we were coming out of the cove at the south end of the lake, we saw the quad from our club going the other way, so we looped around the little island and followed them back into the cove.

We stopped and chatted for a few minutes and then we both started up again.  Bob said he would feel ore comfortable ahead of them than behind them, and the rest, as they say, is history.  I brought the rate back up to about a 24 and decided that we would “do the lake”.  This is a nice 5+km piece.  Basically a perfect head race distance.

Now I didn’t push it as hard as a full on head race simulation, but I wanted it to be a good threshold L3 training piece.  Now the wind was ahead of us and it was building.  We launched at about 7:10 and we would have started up lake around 7:40.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 9.31.20 AM

The row was close to uneventful.  One or two wakings, but generally we just clicked along.  The wind got a bit gusty once we were north of the Rt 9 bridge, but the water was flat.  Bob asked for a hard twenty at the end, and then tacked on another 10 for fun.  We were both puffing hard by the time we finished.

Then we turned around and took it easy almost all the way back.  Bob asked for 50 hard strokes at the end.  It was a good way to finish.

Today made it easy to remember why I really like this sport.  Pushing hard is easy on a crisp, sunny morning like today.

myimage (99)

myimage (98)

Tomorrow:  Schedule calls for a rest day, but I did that yesterday.  I think I will try to do an L4 OTW in Newton.


L3 – 10K

Restarting on the WP has certainly been a humbling experience.  I did my best 10K ever in 2014.  It was a 36:33, which is a 1:49.7 pace.

Now today was not intended to be a time trial, but still, it is a little daunting how much work it will take to get back to that level of fitness.

I was pressed for time, so I skipped the warmup.

I set my target pace for this session at 1:57.  But I could tell by the time I got to 3000m that I wasn’t going to be able to hold it.  My legs and lungs were both complaining and I found myself playing with stroke rate to futilely try to find a groove.  I told myself that if I could stick it out to 5K, then it would be OK to slow down to a 2:00 pace.

This took off enough pressure that I could get through the piece, but even at a 2:00 pace, my HR plateaued and then started rising again.  It was a struggle, counting strokes all the way to the end.  It was 460 strokes by the way.

I skipped the cool down too.

But the session got done, and now I have a marker for next time.  That’s the magic of the WP.  There is no mystery about your goals for the next work.  Just try to do a little better than how you did today.  I need that simplicity right now.



So, I finished with a 1:57.9 average pace.  I guess I try for 1:57 again next time.

Tomorrow:  60′ L4 before I take off for Tokyo.

My favorite L3 and a morning run

Saturday:  I briefly debated going rowing on Saturday morning, but between a forecast for rain, and the need for sleep, I decided against it.  It was a good decision.  I slept 10 hours and woke up feeling good!  My wife and I had some errands to do, and we had a late lunch.  By the time I had digested lunch and finished some grocery shopping, it was around 7pm before I got around to working out.

I wanted to do a workout with a bit more intensity, so I opted for my favorite wolverine plan L3 workout.

  • 15 x 3′ / 1′ rest
  • Target pace: 1:55

I have managed to do this workout sub-1:50 when I am in really good shape.  I am not in really good shape.  I am also not sure how well I do on faster workouts on the dynamic rower.  Anyway, it was a target.

It started off OK, but by the time I got deep into the workout, I realized that I had started too fast.  The wheels started to come off after the 10th interval and I just did the best I could the rest of the way.  No handle downs, or form breaks, just slower and slower splits.


PM version of power

PM version of pace, considerably more generous than the interval summary below.

Workout Summary - media/20170423-0010230o.csv
Workout Details

That was really hard!  Glad I did it though.

Sunday: Up around 8 after a good nights sleep.  Felt a bit stiff and sore from the workout the evening before, but I wanted to get a quick workout in before I hopped a plane to go to Seoul.  I wasn’t really in the mood for an erg workout, and it was a nice day out, so I decided to go for a run.  Nothing fast or fancy.

I did a loop that was about 7km.  It took about 37 minutes.  It’s been a long time since I’ve run outside.  It felt very awkward at first, but I settled in after a few minutes.  My knees started to complain a bit after about 4km, and the irresistible lure of home home made me speed up a bit at the end.  My legs are nice and sore now.

I don’t think my knees could hold up to running on a regular basis, but I think I should try to do it a couple times a month.  I really enjoy it and it’s great cross training.



Now I’m over northern Canada somewhere, with 8 hours or so until I get to Tokyo.  I change planes and continue to Seoul.

I get in at 10:30PM local time.  I will try to grab a short workout before I leave the hotel at 8am on Tuesday morning.