3/29 – 4/8 : Oh my back!

Friday – 3/29 – 4 x 1500/random rests:

I had a great row on Thursday 3/28.  I was planning on heading out to Lake Quinsigamond to demonstrate Quiske, and hopefully go for a row.

As it turned out, I didn’t get out on the water.  But, I was working at home, so I could try the experiment that I wanted to do on the erg.

I have been corresponding with the developer of PainSled.  I really like the painSled app.  It is simple and generally pretty reliable, but recently, it seems to be dropping strokes.  The app eventually catches up, but the missing strokes mean that summaries and plots look ugly.

The developer thought that the setup that I was using might be causing the problems.


So, I designed an experiment to test the theory.  The experiment had 6 parts.  I would row 1500 meter pieces.

  1. Playing music (spotify streaming using wireless earbuds), stroke scope enabled
  2. Playing music (spotify streaming using wireless earbuds), stroke scope disabled
  3. No music, earbuds disconnected, stroke scope enabled
  4. No music, earbuds disconnected, stroke scope disabled
  5. ergdata, no music, no earbuds
  6. playing music, BT earbuds

The experiment design was better than the execution.  I had a number of interruptions, but despite that, I got some pretty compelling data.

I reviewed the raw exports from painsled.  Painsled provides a column with stroke count data, so simply by looking for data records where the stroke count increments by more than 1.  Here is a snippet from the spreadsheet which calculates the missing strokes.  Notice the line 3 from the bottom where it missed 14 strokes!


The ergdata log file was a bit more challenging to analyze.  It does not log the stroke count.  So, for this one, I used the distance column.  For this workout, my distance per stroke should be between 10 and 15 meters.


You can see all the strokes are in the right range, except for one.  I had an interruption in the middle of this piece.  Notice the time jumps from 89.6 sec to 338 sec.  I needed to go deal with a tradesman who was fixing our garage door.  The fan spun down clicking up some additional meters.  Otherwise, there were no missing strokes.

So, here is the summary of the results.


So, I got a good workout, and I think I showed with reasonable certainty that the problems are not related to other stuff connected to the phone.

Before I worked out I noticed that my back was a little stiff.  In the hours after my workout, my back got progressively tighter and sorer.  The symptoms were exactly the same as the late summer of 2017.  I had bilateral pain, very low on my back, and it hurt most when changing positions.  For example, standing up hurt like hell.  It also was impossible to bend over and lift my leg to, say, put on my pants without bracing with one hand.

At that time, I was diagnosed with some minor osteo-arthritis in my SI joints which were exacerbated by some nasty adhesions and imbalances in the muscles of my hips and thighs.

By Friday night, I was hobbling around like 90 year old man.  My amateur treatment plan was.

  • Rest and ibuprofen for a few days
  • Stretching and foam rolling, with light non-rowing aerobic training
  • When I was reasonably pain free, start back rowing, avoiding intense pieces for a week or so.

Saturday – 3/30 – No training

My wife and I went down to the cape and had a nice day just hanging out.  The highlight of the day was making some tasty Fajitas.  Back still mighty sore!

Sunday – 3/31 – No Training

We headed home late in the afternoon.  Back getting a little looser, but it still hurt a lot.

Monday – 4/1 – No Training

One more day of rest.  Improving daily.

Tuesday – 4/2 – 20 minute treadmill, 10 minute bike

stretches, foam rolling, ab lifts

20 minutes treadmill: 15% incline, 2.9 mph

10 minutes stationary bike, level 14, rolling hills

Wednesday – 4/3 – 20 minutes treadmill, 20 minutes bike

stretches, foam rolling, ab lifts

20 minutes treadmill: 15% incline, 2.9 mph

20 minutes stationary bike, level 14, rolling hills

Thursday – 4/4 – No Training

I had to drop my car off at the shop and didn’t have a window to train.

Friday – 4/5 – 20 minutes treadmill, 20 minute row

stretches, foam rollings, ab lifts

20 minutes treadmill: 15% incline, 2.9 mph

20 minutes on the rower.  Heart rate quite high as one might expect.  Back felt fine before and after.

Saturday – 3 x 20’/2′ on slides

More experimentation with painsled.  I was wondering if the problem was being caused by the painsled app trying to find a BLE HR monitor and not succeeding.  So I decided to try disabling that.  It didn’t make a difference.  But on the plus side, my back held up great!

Sunday – 4/7 – 3 x 20’/2′ on slides

Same workout as Saturday.  I was a little more tired and that caused a higher heart rate.  The back is still feeling good.

I headed to the airport around 6pm to catch a 8pm flight to Europe.

Monday – 4/8 – No Training

I arrived around noon and was at my hotel at 1pm.  I needed to be in the office by 2:30, no time for a workout.



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.



Tuesday: 4 x 20′ / 1′ rest L4 (and stroke metrics)

Standard session.

10W * stroke rate as the target power

10 minute blocks



Results:  About 0.7 sec fast on pace, and just about right on strokes (+4 for the whole workout)

Workout Summary - media/20161101-131736-sled_2016-11-01T06-47-09ZEDT.strokes.csv
Workout Details

In terms of effort, it felt great through the first 40 minutes, but when I added in the little 2 minute chunks at 200W, it seemed to really bury me.  My HR climbed pretty hard in the last 30 minutes of the workout.  This is a bit harder than I want to be working in these sessions.  Next time, I will go back to just alternating 18s and 19s.

Since I have the enormous power of rowsandall.com at my finger tips, I decidedto do a bit deeper analysis of the row.  This was an L4 workout so the power and stroke rate is closely prescribed.  Here’s a view of the power versus strokes rate.


You can see that even though my averages were about right, that there is considerable variation in the power from stroke to stroke.  I wonder if greater consistency in applied power at each stroke rate would be a sign of better efficiency?

Here’s a view of Drive Length versus stroke rate. bokeh_plot-11

I would have thought that drive length would increase at lower stroke rates, but that is NOT what happened.  You can see that my stroke actually gets shorter as the stroke rate decreases.  I am also surprised at the variation from stroke to stroke, nearly 10 cm difference.  Maybe a more repeatable stroke would be more efficient?

Now a look at peak and average force


I haven’t really sorted this one out.  There is definitely a negative correlation between peak force and stroke rate, and a less pronounce relationship with average force.  The spread is the thing that has me fascinated.

Finally, work per stroke.  Basically “SPI”.  This by the design of the workout should be pretty flat.


And it is.  The interesting thing to me on this plot is that my consistency gets better as the rate increases.

I posted these for three reasons.

  1.  It’s the beginning of erg season and I need a new way to keep myself entertained.
  2. I would like to find ways to get faster that I have not yet explored
  3. I would like to capture a baseline for the beginning of the season.  Then in March, I can do this same workout and compare the graphs at the end of the season.

This afternoon, I am flying off to San Diego.  Tomorrow will be a fitness center session, then another endurance session on Thursday morning after I get off the red eye.

Hopefully during the flight today I can figure out what my next objectives are and begin to lay down a training plan.

Tues: 60′ fitness center, Thurs: 3×20, Fri: 3×20

Monday morning:  My flight was cancelled, and I rebooked on a later flight to San Diego, arriving there right around dinner time.  No training.

Tuesday:  hit the tiny gym in the Courtyard Marriott.  30 minutes on the elliptical, and then 30 minutes on the treadmill set to max incline and a fast walk.


Wednesday:  I was originally going to fly straight from California to Germany, but I changed plans and took the red eye home, then a full day on the phone in meetings.  No Training

Thursday: Working from home and shuffling my wife to a doctor’s appt.  I finally found some time for a workout in the evening.

I was lacking in creativity, so I just stole Sander’s session from earlier in the week, an L4 with alternating r18 and r20 segments.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 9.52.13 PM


Friday:  Back to routine.  Up at 5:15, into the gym at 7.  Still getting used to rowing on slides.  Started with a alternating 18/20, then let that slide up to 19/21.  This was pushing my HR a bit too much, so I backed off in  the second 20 minutes to 180W at r20.  Even this was a bit to much for me.  So I backed off to r18 and about 170W for the last 30 minutes.  I guess you could say that this session was just “shoveling it”.

One interesting thing (at least to me) is to look at the drive length.  In my session last night on a static erg, my drive length was around 1.46m.  Today on slides, it settle in around 1.42m.  As far as I can tell, I am getting just about the same amount of compression at the catch, but I row with less layback on slides than I do on a static erg.  Not sure what to make of that, it’s just an interesting data point. Another interesting data point, peak force was higher on slides, even though the average was about the same.  Some of this might be due to the difference in drag factor (126 yesterday, 117  today).    I really like painsled.  Having this data to mull over is great.

Tomorrow:  On the water in the morning, and flying off to Germany in the evening.

Sunday: 4 x 20′ / 1′ easy

I am concerned about the elevated heart rates that I’ve been seeing and I decided that I am pushing my endurance sessions too hard.  I need to accept that with the lower training volume and with my training gap from having the head cold, that my training power needs to be lower.

Today was an exercise in patience.  80 minutes at 18 SPM and 180W.  Keep it nice and simple, and make sure that my HR stayed low throughout the session.

Mission accomplished.

Now I am at the airport on my way out to San Diego.  Rest day today.  Tomorrow, a session at a Crossfit box near my hotel.


Friday: 8 x 500 / 3′ rest

Training plan called for short intervals, so I defaulted to the classic…8×500/3′ rest.  I decided that it was OK to work against a pace target of 1:45.  This is a pretty tame since I was able to post a 1:40.8 for a 6×750/4’rest session at the end of January.

I haven’t done much sprint work and my training volume in February and March has been way down.  For November, December and January, I was averaging almost 100km a week.  Since the beginning of February, my weekly average is 43km.  Now, I have done my best to supplement that with cross training, but there is not way to make up for that kind of a “time on erg” deficit.  Anyway, so much for my excuse codes for a slow target.

Warm up was a standard fletcher.  It felt hard.

Then in to the main event.  I focused on trying to hit 30 SPM and get my heels down fast.  I’ve noticed that I have been rowing on my tip toes when I rate up and that will be bad news in the boat.  This pace was hard, but doable, and I managed a fair bit better than target.  I did the first one at 1:44, and knew I could go harder.  Same thing in the second where I did 1:43.  The rest were in the 1:42.x range, with a nice faster last.  There were some annoying drop outs in the HR data.  Looking at the Strava data, I see exactly the same thing, so it’s the strap, not the PM5.  I only seem to see it on these short interval sessions.  I wonder if the fast HR increases are confusing the algorithm in the strap.

2016-03-25 08.22.54

I was pretty much toast after that.  I did a 2K cool down.

I decided to pass on doing a weight session tonight.  Not enough time and I’m still suffering DOMS from the last session.

Tomorrow:  OTW!

Thursday: Insomnia and 3 x 20′ L4

Last night I went to bed a bit before 11, and then woke up for good around 1:45.  I tossed and turned for 2 hours and then gave up. got up and did some reading until it was time to go to work.  I felt worn down and tired, but not at all sleepy.  I’m working through a fair amount of stress right now, so it’s not surprising.  It is, however, annoying.

So, I had plenty of time for a long session this morning, but, as it turns out, I didn’t have the energy.  I plugged through the first 20 minutes, but I just sort of gave up the will to row in the middle of the second 20 minute piece.  I sat around for a minute or so, trying to decide what to do,  and then restarted at a light paddle and just sort of coasted through the last 12 minutes of that chunk.

I wasn’t sure if I should quick or continue after that, but I decided to give it a go.  I elected to invent a new L4 stroke sequence, which I shall hence forth call the “Dash of Spice”.  It is 1 minute at 21 SPM (and 210W), and then 4 minutes at 18 spm (180W).  I did 4 sets of that and it was the right choice for this morning.  I could hold the 180W sections with a nice stable HR, and the 1 minute sections at 210W were a good way to break up the piece.

I consider it a session well rescued.

Tomorrow:  I think another 3 x 20′.  Saturday will likely be my first OTW outing of the season.  Probably in a quad.  I’ll try to convince my boat mates that a session that is half technical and half 30″ on / 60″ off is a good way to open up the season.


Wednesday: 3 x1500 / 3′ rest

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

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

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

Monday: 10K reasonably hard

I was short on time this morning so I did a 10K.  I was in the mood for a bit of intensity, so I started off targeting 1:57.  Then pushed the pace down to around 1:54 as I went along.  It was about a 80-90% effort.

Doing it strapless was a bit of challenge.

I won’t have time for the strength session tonight.  I will push that to tomorrow night instead.  Tomorrow morning, 3 x 20’/1’rest.