Wormtown Chase

Wormtown is apparently the nickname for Worcester Massachusetts.

I got curious and googled to try to figure out why.  Here you go.

I was delighted to find out that it was bestowed in the late 70s by a punk rock DJ because the punk rock music scene in Worcester was so dead, that it was decomposing.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the DJ’s name was L.B. Worm.

Anyway, this was the inaugural running of the Wormtown Chase.  For the past two years, the QRA has been generous enough to include masters events in the running of the Snale Race, a collegiate head race on Lake Quinsigamond.  This year, they wanted to do something new and different.  So instead of tagging on to the Snake Race, there would be another Regatta for schools and masters, and a new course!

The course was the draw.  Instead of straight boring shot up the lake, This race was going to feature a giant 180 degree turn around a couple of small islands.

Here’s the course map.

I looked to see who my competition would be,

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 6.28.13 PM.png

OK, so I know Dave Baker.  He’s a great guy, the inventor of the Shox Box and someone who was really nice to me when I first started rowing.  I remember seeing him on the lake when I was out maybe my second or third time in a single and he asked how it was going.  I said, “Well, I haven’t flipped yet”.  His reply made me feel so much better.  It was basically to the effect “flipping happens”.  I was really kind of hung up on the idea that flipping would mark me as a noob, and be incredibly embarassing.  Dave saying that it was just kinda a normal part of rowing was really an awesome thing for me in that moment.  I’ve been in a bunch of races and I’m normally faster than he is.  But he had been rumored to have been training up in Lowell, so I’d better not get cocky.

The other guy.  He’s a mystery to me.  So, the sleuthing begins.  I check to see if he rowed in the HOCR this year.  Nope.  Then I checked the Textile.  Ah ha!  There he is.  He finished a respectable fourth.  I knew the guy that won, and he was 5% slower.

Now, here’s how obsessive I can get.  I then went to the HOCR results and checked the textile winners time and place.  Then I compared it to guys that I am typically close to.  Last year, I beat a guy by less than 1% in the snake race, and the Textile winner beat him by 10% in the HOCR.  Oh crap.  This guy, Dan was faster than me.  Probably 5% faster than me.

So, going into the race, I was thinking that I probably couldn’t beat him, but if I got within 5% of his time, I could feel like I had performed up to expectations.

The start order was Dan, then me, then Dave.

When I got to the lake in around 7am, it was beautiful.  There was no wind, it was warm and the skies were clear.  But as we got closer to the 9am start time, the wind began to build, and build, and build some more.  By the time my race rolled around at 10:50, it was blowing straight out of the north between 12 to 15 mph.  Ooof.  It was going to be a long and slow race.  I hope all that coastal rowing pays off.

The start line was only about 1500m south of our docks, and there was no place to do a warm up on the water, so I went into the boathouse and did a fletcher warmup on the erg.  I pushed it hard because I was doing it about 45 minutes before my race.

Then I launched, and with the brisk tail wind, I was down to the start area way too quickly, and so I sat around.  Dan came rowing up and then he went ahead of me.  No sign of Dave.  I waited a bit longer, and I saw that, even though our start time was still a few minutes away, Dan was heading down to the line.  I didn’t realize it until he was a good 200m away.  Damn, I was hoping to be close enough to try to hang onto him, maybe even push him a bit through the turn.  I picked it up and headed to the line.

The chop was tough.  I was rowing short downwind, and I felt tentative at the catch.  I tried to find a rhythm and crossed the line going kind of slow.  With the chop, I didn’t do as much looking around to perfect my course, and I ended up a bit further off the first island than I wanted.  I was watching the speedcoach and disappointed to see 2;20, even going downwind.  I noticed with some annoyance that the power readings were “—“.  I guess changing the battery before the race would have been a good idea.  Especially with the wind.

I handled the start of the turn well, and it felt great to get into the lee of island.  I lined up to skirt nice and close to the southern point, and hit that turn just right.  Of course, that is also when the wind hit me broadside, and the chop too.  I took a couple of pretty sloppy strokes, but focused on pushing hard on starboard, with very little pressure on port.  I looked around, but in the daylight, it was really hard to pick the point of the third island out against the shore line.  There was fall foliage on both the island and the shore, and I really struggled until I was kind got close enough to make it out.  Luckily because of the practice, I ended up on a good line, and hit  the eastern point at a good angle and nice and close to the island.

Now I was into the head wind, and I was kind of freaked out about how high my heart rate was.  I thought I was going to blow up.  I tried to calm down and just row clean, but the wind was a big challenge.  I tried lower rates and more power.  I tried rating up and rowing light.  That felt a bit better.  But the splits were soul crushingly slow.  I was hovering on the wrong side of 2:30.  All I could hope was that other folks were equally slow.

I continued to battle along.  I never saw the rower in front of me, and Dave started far enough behind me that it was tough to judge distance to him.  I just slogged akong.

There was a funnel effect under the route 9 bridge and there were a few strokes where it was tough to even swing my oars back to the catch for the next stroke.

It took forever to get up to the gazebo, but once I was there, the water seemed to smooth out a bit and the wind seemed to drop a bit.  I pushed up a bit harder.  Then a wonderful thing happened.  I passed the last girls novice four of the event that started before ours.  They were cheering as they rowed along.  I’m sure it was for themselves, but I imagined it was for me and I rowed a bit harder and smoother to the finish.

My arms and legs were cramping up and I limped back to the dock.  Here’s the map.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 7.06.56 PM

Here’s the turn.  Looks pretty good actually.  I went a bit wider around the point than I needed to, but the turn around that south point was better than I feared.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 7.07.39 PM

Here’s a comparison between the practice turns (blue) and the race turn (red).

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 7.09.51 PM

As for heart rate.  It was the hardest I havce ever worked in a race.

As for splits, it was bad as it looked in the boat.

        Workout Summary - media/20191026-1541100o.csv
Workout Details

2:32.6.  In a race.  At 25 spm.  Wow!  That’s slow.

Here are 500m splits in the race.

        Workout Summary - media/20191026-1541100o.csv
Workout Details

I couldn’t believe how slow I was, but it seemed like I held my distance with Dave.  I had real hope that I had made up ground on Dan.  When I looked at the results, as I expected, I had finished second.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 7.01.36 PM.png

A quick bit of math revealed that I was 3.4% behind the winner.  So, I was happy with that.  I wanted to be within 5%.   I met Dan after the race.  He seems like a great guy.  Former college rower, just getting back in the sport.  We talked a bit and he lives quite near where I keep my boat.  I tried to convince him that the place where I row would be a good spot for him too.

But beyond meeting a nice person, now I have a most valuable tool.  A target.  I want to be able to beat this guy next year.  To do that I need to get faster.  I feel more energized than I have in two years.

After the race, I hung out with my friends for the club for a while, then I packed up my boat for the winter and stashed in the back of the racks.  I hope there’s some more good rowing days, but with the colder weather, rowing bigger boats seems like a better idea.


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!








Snake Race

It’s been a busy week.  My last journal entry was on Oct 9 when I did a terrific 5 x 1500.

The rest of the 9th was a blur.  I worked out, then a day full of meetings, then rushed off to go a wake (One of our best friends lost his brother to a sudden illness), then ate dinner, then to the airport to catch a ten o’clock flight to Geneva.

I slept really well on the flight.  I probably got 5 hours of sleep.  We landed in Zurich and then connected to Geneva, finally getting in around 2pm.  I had meetings all afternoon, and then we went to dinner.  I finally got back to the hotel around 10:30pm and had hoped to get right to bed.  Unfortunately a time critical work issue came up and I spent the next 90 minutes on the phone.

My plan had been to do a short workout in the morning before my 10am flight home, but I decided that sleep was more important.  I slept until 7:30, had a nice breakfast, called an Uber and went to the airport.  The flight home was very uneventful.  I did work most of the way, took a short nap, and then I was home.  The worst part of the whole thing was the traffic home from the airport.

Friday – Oct 12: Drills and a little bit of race pace

My usual taper is to do a shrinking number of 500m pieces over the week before a race, and then just do a warmup on the day before.  This time, I had two complete rest days but lots of inert travel time.  I decided that it would be best to do some work on the day before the race to try to make sure that the race pace strokes felt OK.

I also wanted to do a lot of drill work.  I find it quite calming, and it really engages my brain in the session.  So the plan for the day was to do about 20 minutes of light rowing and drills, then a couple of 2′ race pace pieces, then more drills.

The summary shows the 4 – 1 minute pieces and 2 60 stroke pieces.  Plus a little bonus sprint to the dock at the end.  Notice the difference in power between the first 4 and the last three.  The last three are against the current, so it takes a lot more watts to get the same splits.

          Workout Summary - media/20181012-1145320o.csv
Workout Details

Pretty easy session, only 18 minutes above a <ut2 level.

Then I loaded my boat on my car and went to work.

Saturday – 13 October: The Snake Race

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 4.24.57 PM.png

This may be my only race of the season, and I hadn’t raced since my disappointing outing at last year’s Head of the Charles.  I was nervous as hell before I launched, even though this was a low stakes local race.  My competition was.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 4.29.07 PM

The rowers from Anchorage and Community scratched.  As for the rest.

  • Maldari is a good rower from Lawrence, he’s beaten me and I’ve beaten him in other events, we are about the same speed.
  • Kisarale is a rower from Uganda.  He’s 38, but he was in the 2015 Olympic qualifying regatta for Africa in the 2x.  I’d never met him, but I suspected he was a lot faster than I am.
  • Haddon is a rower in my club.  He was rowing this as a tune up for next weekend when he will be in the HOCR.
  • Krupnick was a 1st boat varsity rower at WPI and graduated in 2017.  He was going to be MUCH faster than me.
  • Byrnes is in the other main club on the lake.  I am usually faster
  • Sturges.  Same story
  • Sontgerath was the guy that I wanted to beat.  I had beaten him in the HOCR in 2015 and then returned the favor last year, beating me pretty badly.  This may sound silly or immature, but I saw the race as between him and me.

The way the bow numbers were handed out, I was starting second to last, and Sontgerath was starting last behind me.  So, it was simple, I just needed to keep my eye on him and maintain the spacing.

Bob and I launched around 8:30 for a 9am start.  We warmed up going down to the start.  For some reason, my speedcoach decided to stop soon after launching and I didn’t notice it until I was getting ready for the start.  So, most of the warmup is missing.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 4.50.30 PM.png

It was cold and rainy, around 48F.  There was a light and variable wind that seemed to be from  the northwest, which is a cross/head wind.  I only noticed it a couple of times during the race when I felt like I was working harder and the splits slowed down.  I was quite glad to have the power meter.

Anyway, we were all at the start, and so the officials decided to move the start time up a few minutes so we wouldn’t just sit there getting cold and wet in the rain.  We were called up to the start in order and off we went.  The starting line was at the southern end of larger island, right about even with the label “Pinecrest”.  My first target was Sturges.  I saw him off my starboard side.  You go up the western shore of the lake, and soon after the start is a beach that juts out.  I decided that I could pass him to the shore side and still have enough room to steer out from the beach.  It worked out fine and I was well clear of him by the time I steered a bit out from shore for the beach.  The guy who started in from of Sturges was Kisarale, but when I looked around I saw no sign of him.  I did see Byrnes, so he became my next target.  He was also off my starboard side, and we had the narrows coming up.  I just held my line and we slowly moved toward the buoy line that marked the starboard side of the course. I passed him right around the narrows and when I looked around I could spot anyone close enough to focus on.

Now it was time to just row.  This is about where the video picks up.  There is bit more than 1km from the narrows to the bridge.  I was starting to feel the pain, so I started counting strokes.  I got to about 130 when I got to the bridge.  The whole time I was keeping my eyes on Heri (Sontgerath).  At times, he seemed like he was closing the distance, and other times it seemed like I was stretching it out.  Frankly, I didn’t even really remember how far back he was at the start, so I had no clue if I was ahead or not.

From the bridge to the end should be about another 200 strokes.  Which I counted off as I went.  It seemed like it took a lifetime to get from the bridge to the Gazebo.  I thought it was almost another 1000m from the gazebo to the finish and so I just settled in and tried to avoid blowing up while I started scanning for the finish.  I saw it, but in retrospect, I wish I had seen it sooner.  I started my sprint later than I should have.  But I finished strong.  I thought the finish was going to be marked with white buoys.  It was marked by a pair of oranges, which I thought represented the start of a finish chute.  I continued my kick for another 100m beyond the finish to a white buoy.

That extra kick brought be me up to be close enough to chat with Maldari.  Apparetly, he was trying to keep his seperation with me, like I was trying to with Heri.  We had a nice chat about boats and stuff as we paddled to the docks.  They I cooled down from the QRA docks to our club at regatta point.

The results

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 5.03.59 PM

Third place, but first place amongst the old guys.  I walked around 10 feet tall the rest of the day.

Here’s a video of the last 9 minutes of the race.  The first 10 minutes were basically useless because of water on the lens.

Looking at the video, as always there is a lot of stuff that I need to work on.  The most obvious is that I have re-established my habit of digging way too deep and rowing over a barrel.  I also need to work on making the body and arms part of the stroke more powerful.

          Workout Summary - media/20181013-1355320o.csv
Workout Details
02|04363|19:36.7|02:14.9|176.1|25.8|170.7|179.0|08.6 - the race.

My pace was 2:14.9 this year.  I did this race in 2015 in similar conditions and my pace was a 2:12.9.  Here is a link.  2015 was my best year at the HOCR.  Comparing the two races, I pushed hard in 2015, with the last 5 minutes above 178 bpm.  My rowing looks very similar.  I am probably about 15 lbs heavier now.  I am ever the optimist and when you put all that together, I come to the conclusion that I can get back to and even exceed where I was in 2015.  As always, it comes down to weight, technique and fitness.

Well, enough for now.  I think I will go do some easy rowing on the dreaded dynamic.






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.

HOCR 2016

The weather reports were ominous.  Rain and wind starting around 11am.  What time was our race…11:07am.  Before that, the water was flat, the winds were calm and the skies were cloudy but not dark.  As the morning wore on, the weather reports seemed to be improving and even when we launched around 10:20, it was still quite nice.

We headed down to the warmup area in the basin and started going around the “box”.  This is a big area marked by 6 huge yellow and black checkered buoys.  We did a couple laps and still had some time so we embarked on a third trip around.  By now it was about 10:50.  We turned the corner and started to row up to area where we were being lined up.  Even numbers on the cambridge side, odd numbers on the Boston side.  We looked up river and what did we see?  A wall of rain charging toward us.  I am serious.  You could actually see the line between where it was raining and not raining coming across the water as it approached.  And then we were in it.  The rain was not all that hard, but the wind picked up from the NW and it was pretty significant.  It was blowing steadily between 10 and 15 mph with gusts up to about 20mph.


We sat in the rain and wind, trying to hold our position between bow # 43 and #47.  Precisely at 11:07, they started the first boat and the odd and even line began to slowly paddle up.  Before I knew what was happening, I saw the red and green flags in the chute that are a couple of strokes away from the start and then I heard the announcer struggling to pronounce Lake Quinsigamond Community Rowing and say we were on the course.

Here are links for the stern video of the race:

HOCR – Part 1

HOCR – Part 2

The video tells the story.  We hacked our way through the head wind to the BU bridge.  Steering through this bridge is a challenge under ideal conditions.  With a nasty head wind blowing rain in your eyes and with multiple boats ahead of you, it is even tougher.  Joe picked a great line and we zipped right through.

Then we were into the Magazine Beach turn.  Here we were exposed to the head wind across a wider part of the river.  The goal is to get tight to the green buoys along the cambridge shore and try to get into a good rhythm through the turn.  This was complicated for us by a slower boat in front of us and a faster boats right behind us.  Joe did his best to avoid the boat that was passing us to the inside, while not running into the boat ahead of us.  On the video, it looks like they kind of zigged and zagged a bit across us as they tried to figure out how to get out of our way.

The boat that passed us looked like it was going a thousand miles an hour and that kind of got under my skin.  I started to have irrational fears of ending up in last place.  This was certainly spurred me to dig deep, both figuratively and literally.  Figuratively, I pushed up the stroke pressure and rate to an unsustainable level.  Literally, I started to row pretty badly, burying my blades too deeply and not being careful with my finishes.  This did not do our boat speed any favors.

We got into the power house stretch and the water was smooth and the wind was blocked.  It felt like the boat was moving better here.  I hardly noticed, but we passed another boat at the beginning of the stretch.  I think it was because I was too focused on a couple of boats that were gaining on us fast and passing us after we emerged from the Western Avenue bridge.

We took twenty strokes and then turned for the Weeks Foot Bridge.  My wife, sone and some friends were there cheering us on.  Honestly, because of the boats that passed us, I was pretty despondent at that point.  I had pushed way too hard, and I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it to the end.  Strangely enough, once we had passed them, I started to feel a little bit better.  I eased up a bit on the rate and we made the turn to the Anderson Bridge.  Coming out of Anderson, another boat passed us, but I my attitude had improved.  I had decided to just do what I could and just not give up.  The long turn toward the Eliot bridge was uneventful, mainly because Joe steered it really well, including the really sharp end to the turn and the passage past the docks just upstream of the bridge.  Here’s a comparison of my course last year, and Joe’s this year.  (2015 is red, 2016 is yellow)

2015 vs 2016.png

Here’s the first third. You can see the steering around overtaking and slower boats on the yellow line.  I like the line that I took last year closer to Cambridge as we approached the first bridge, but I doubt it makes much difference.

Screen Shot 2016-10-23 at 7.43.35 PM.png

Here’s the powerhouse stretch, into the weeks turn.  Joe did a better job of this than I did last year.  He was a lot smoother through the weeks turn and got us in just right place for the turn under the Anderson bridge.


Here’s the last third.  It looks like I did better job at the beginning of the curve, and Joe did better second half and he hugged Boston side into the bridge.  I hugged to cambridge shore last year, Joe swung a little wider, but again I don’t think it added much distance.


In terms of effort, this was a tough race.

I was into the threshold HR zone within a minute of the start, and I just kept pushing.  I kind of plateaued around 175/176 or most of the race, and then with about 5 minutes left, around the Anderson bridge, I started to up the rate and pushed my HR up above 95% of my HRR.  I usually count out strokes at the end of a race to give me something to focus on.  I had planned to start counting at the Anderson Bridge.  This is about 1k from the end so, about 120 strokes.  But I forgot about it with the steering that was going on.  I remembered as we went into the long turn, and I figured that we must have gone at least 60 strokes by then.  So I started counting and I figured I’d need to count up to about 60.  I was wrong.  I got to 50 and there was no sign of the finish line.  I counted another 10, still no finish line.  I wasn’t sure if I had another ten strokes in me, but I did and that set brought us just across the line.  Luckily there was a big gap between us and the next boat to finish because I needed a few seconds to put myself back together.

With the headwind, and extra river flow, it was a slow race.  The winner was a full minute off the course record for this age group event.  And the winner was the crew that set the record!  We were a good four minutes slower than the winner.  We finished in 43rd out of 52 boats.  So, my fears were not realized.

When you talk to some of the folks that we compete with, you realize that there is some genuine athletic talent in the event.  Guys that were former national team members and varsity level college rowers are common.  This seems different from running and biking where there are a lot of more casual competitors.  We were talking to one guy in our race who set the world age group record for the marathon on the erg 20 years ago.  He held a 1:47 split for whole thing!

In any case, unless you are talented and dedicated enough to win a big event like this, all you can do is try to improve.  Now I have an initial marker that I can try to make better over time.  Looking at the results, there are improvements in many areas that could help.

  • Weight:  I should lose 20 pounds
  • Strength:  I’ve been reading more about strength training for 50+ year olds.  I think I need to add this in over the winter and see if it helps
  • Fitness:  I think this is pretty good, and the best way to get better is a lot more duration at
  • Technique:  Lot’s to do here once it is next spring.  I need to improve my stroke in a couple of essential ways.  I need to fix my tendency to row “over a barrel”.  I also need to clean up my finishes and get my hands away faster.
  • Steering:  The key to this is to get enough time on the course, so next year I think doing weekly sessions on the Charles is going to be a big priority.

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.

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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.


Sunday: Cromwell Cup

Weather:  misty rain.  Temp around 65F.  Light winds.  Flat water, except for some launch wakes.

I got to Riverside around 6am.  I unloaded and parked my car close by.  I was all settled in time for the 6:20 racers meeting.  Then I waited around to launch.  My start was at 8:43, so I launched just after 8AM, and made my way up river to the warmup area above the start.  I did a version of my normal warmup with increasing rates, and then did some starts.  The first couple were pretty horrid, but I settled down and eventually shook off the nervousness.  Then it was pretty much OK.

Were called to the line 5 minutes before our start and lined up across the river.  No bouys marking lanes or the start line.  There was just a tent on the shore and a person with a megaphone calling alignment.  As soon as she called it aligned, the starter on the launch behind us called out.  “This is the start.  Ready.  Attention.  Row!”  I’m very glad that I setup at the catch when alignment was called, because there was no screwing around on this one.

My start was clean, but uninspired.  I was in lane 2, which share the center span of the two bridges with lane 3.  I was side by side with the guy in lane 3 through the first bridge and there was only about 5 m between us.  It was exciting stuff, but he was faster than I was and I was flying and dying trying to stay side by side with him.  After the first bridge, I settled in at about r30 and just tried to hold on to some semblance of technique.  The launch was aggressively calling steering commands to all of us, and I found it a bit disruptive.  I lost stroke count a couple of times because I was trying to listen, steer, watch the pace, count and row cleanly.  But the main thing was that I had gone out too hard and I was paying the price now.

The second bridge is only about 300m away from the first, but I felt like time was passing in slow motion.  That’s what happens to me when I don’t have a good stroke count to keep me centered.  I went under the second bridge, finally, and looked at Crewnerd.  Crewnerd told me I had 350m left to go.  In my head, I translated that to another forty strokes.  Two sets of 20.  I can do that.  I started pushing the pace again and got through 20 strokes.  At this point, I got some more steering suggestions.  I had drifted over into lane 1, by the docks of the Riverside Boathouse.  I took a couple of hard port strokes, and then counted out the remaining 20 strokes to the finish, but no beep!  I kept on going for a couple more strokes and the finish horn finally went off.  I was massively disappointed with my time, 4:01.3.    I finished 3rd in my 4 person race.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 1.17.20 PM.png

Here are the results of the other heat.

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After the finish, I rowed down to the BU bridge for a cool down, and that was it for the day.

Here’s the whole row.  The race was from LAP002 to LAP003.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 1.25.08 PM.png

Here’s a zoomed view of my course.  You can see that my steering was way less than ideal.  I started off going toward lane 1, eventually got my point on the bridge and went through it side by side with the guy in lane 3.  After that bridge, I veered away from him, but it looks like my course was reasonably straight toward the second bridge.  Coming out of the second bridge, I started veering toward lane3, and was pointed back by the launch following us.  I guess I must have overcorrected because you can see how I drifted out into lane 1.  The guy in lane 1 was well behind at this point, so there was no interference,  but I added some extra distance and slowed myself down to steer at the end.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 1.25.47 PM

Here’s pace, spm and heart rate.

Here’s a zoomed view of the race.


I covered an extra 10-20 meters over the 1k due to my lousy steering.  The slow down at the end was me steering back to lane 2 away from the dock.





So, what am I to make of this race.

  • The pace that I managed was what I should have been expecting based on the prep work I had been doing.  I was doing an all out 500m at a 1:55 pace, so a 1K should have been between 1:58 and 1:59.
  • My steering was bad.  I think that was mainly because I have been trying to make up for a lack of good specific preparation by trying to push very close to my limits.  Last year, I was very disciplined about looking every ten strokes and it was a better race.
  • With regard to race specific training.  Between my travel schedule, my lack of a boat until a month ago, and not having a good specific training plan, I was not well prepared for this race.  I did enough training on starts, but I did not do enough heavy lifting.  I needed more 4x1Ks, 6x750s and 8 x 500s.
  • My base fitness isn’t as good as it has been either.  My 2mmol power is around 185w right now on the erg.  I think last year it would have been about 10 watts higher.  That’s about 4 seconds on pace, and I think it made a big difference in the second half of the race.

Based on all of that, I did as well as I should have expected.  And I’m fine with that.  Honestly, I’m not completely fine with it, but I understand it, and I will use it to define my training from here on out.

Now I set my sights on head racing season.  Here’s a preliminary race schedule.

  • Sept 17: CRI Fall classic (5K)
  • Oct 2: Textile River Regatta (6K)
  • Oct 9: Quinsigmond Snake Race (4K)
  • Oct 22: Head of the Charles (5K) (If I get in the lottery)
  • Nov 5: Merrimack Chase (5K)

I need to put together a more formal training plan, but for now, I will be focusing on aerobic base.  Lot’s of 2mmol rowing.  It’s also time for some video and RIM feedback.



Merrimack Chase – I won.

Weather:  Broken clouds.  Warm, nearly 60 degrees.  Windy.  It looks like some kind of a front went through during my race.  It was a WNW wind at about 10mph, with gusts up to 23mph.  This is a pure head wind through the first 2 km of the course.  The water as nasty.

Here is the weather underground almanac for today from a station right on the Andover side of the river in the middle of the course.  The cursor is about 5 minutes after my start.

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I was pleased with the race result.


I finished first among the Master D/E group.  And finished close to top guys in the Masters C group.  I know those guys and they are good scullers.

Looking at the map of my course, I am not all that happy with my line.  I messed up my approach to the bridge and it added about 30 meters to my course, or nearly 10 seconds to my time.  And I did not hug the big turn nearly close enough, that probably added another 30 to 50 meters of length to my course.  Having said that, I steered it bette rthan the guy behind me.  I think he could have beat me if he followed my line, but he went way wide around the turn.

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Since the wind was from the WNW, the first half of the course until you were completely through the turn was straight into it, and the chop was pretty nasty, so the pace was really slow.  Once around the corner, it was a lot smoother and much less wind.  Still a few gusts to contend with, but much nicer water.  The splits reflect that

In the last 1000m I was coming up behind one of the boats from the Master C group.  I wanted to take the line along the buoys on the western shore, but he didn’t really give me a good line and I ended up nearly hitting one of the course buoys.  That pissed me off enough that I cut across his stern and spinted my guts out to the finish.  I nearly caught him at the line.  I can thank him for probably a 10 second better thime than I would have other wise had.  🙂

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00020_|_0340_|_03:17_|_4:49.3_|_038___|_11.6_|_08.9_|_126___|_in the chute
05060_|_1480_|_09:36_|_3:14.6_|_160___|_16.7_|_09.3_|_124___|_back to the dock

04700_|_21:34_|_2:17.7_|_594___|_27.5_|_07.9_|_175___|_Main set
01480_|_09:36_|_3:14.6_|_160___|_16.7_|_09.3_|_124___|_rest meters

Video will be coming a bit later.

Saturday: Lake Quinsigamond Snake Regatta

Weather:  mid 50s, before I launched there was a 5 to 10 mph breeze from the north.  This moderated and by the time I finished it was more like 3-5mph with a few stronger gusts.  Very Sunny.  The water as sparking.  A perfect day for a row.

I was really looking forward to this race.  My first race on “my lake”.  The Snake Regatta is an even that is held every fall as a Collegiate head race.  It is run over 4200m from south to north on the lake.  This year, our club, Lake Quinsigamond Community Rowing (LQCR), and the other masters club on the lake, Quinsigamond Rowing Club (QRC) got together to sponsor a masters division in the race.

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Since it was it’s first year, and we really only started to publicize it late this summer, it was small.  There were 22 boats in all and 12 singles, most from our two clubs.  But it is a great place to row and beautiful day for the event.

I am not sure how they picked bow numbers, but I was given bow number 179, which was the eighth boat to start.  I knew some of the guys who started in front of me, and I decided to consider it a “target rich environment”.  With the width of the course, and how straight it is, overtaking boats was straightforward.

Me and Bob launched from the regatta point docks, just north of the route 9 bridge and we joined the parade of boats heading down lake to the start.  I worked on getting used to being back in the boat.  I had not rowed since Monday, so I just focused on balance and reach and trying to clean up my finishes.  Toward the bottom of the lake I did 2 sets of 20 strokes at faster than race pace to get the blood flowing.

Then I took off my overshirt, and revealed, for the very first time, an actual LQCR uniform shirt!  The coach of the high school kids gave it to me before I launched so I could war club colors at the Head of Charles next week.  I was so delighted, I can’t even describe it.  I haven’t worn a sports uniform since I was in high school.

We just hung out in a clump chatting until they called us to get organized into bow number order.  With this few boats, it was pretty simple.  They started with bow 170, a 32 year old rower from community rowing in Brighton.  He looked like a rower.  Then 171 and 172 were scratches.  173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178 (who was missing a bow number but they worked it out), then they called me to full pressure and I was off.

On the video, I am on the course at 2:50.  I could feel the head wind making the boat feel a little heavy, but it felt good to row with full pressure and I probably pushed the pace a little too hard off the line.  I found my line to hug the shore of the next island and counted strokes.   I overtook a boat at 4:15, it looks like he made a mistake steering to the east side of the island and then needed to correct it.  You can see him rowing across my bow then falling back.

Then I was past the first island and I had my sights on two things.  First, don’t run into the beach, which juts out a bit.  Second, the next boat that I was going after.  I pass the beach at 5:40.  Prior to that, you can see that this boat made the mistake I wanted to avoid.  He needed to steer radically around the beach, right while I was closing the gap on him.

After the beach, the next challenge is the narrows.  This is a spot that is wide enough to fit four boats with oar tips touching.  They have it marked with a buoy so that boats going down lake are separated from the boats racing so there is just enough room for two boats side by side, but it’s tight.  I looked over my shoulder and I saw two boats right ahead of me.  I closed on one of the quickly and passed him right in the middle of the narrows.  The other guy seemed to be rowing at something very close to my pace.

From the Narrows, it is about a kilometer of relatively unprotected water.  This is the widest point of the lake.  There was a little bit of head wind, but not much chop, and I could really focus in on this next boat.  It was the guy with no bow number.  His name was Bjorn and he came from Narraganset Rowing Club.  A group of women from that club borrowed one of our eights for the race and they told me that he was a good rower.  At any rate, here we were.  I had made up the start interval on him, and it seemed like he thought I shouldn’t make up any more.  From 8 minutes to 9:30, he basically holds me off, and then from 9:30 to 10:00 I manage to crawl up and establish a bit of overlap with him.  Then we are stroke for stroke for the next 2 km.  Right at the end of the first video, both of us overtake a 3rd boat.  We are in our own little race at this point.

The second part of the video picks up right before we go under the bridge.  Over the first minute, you can see his bow disappear from view, but he’s still there.  I push really hard in this chunk because a couple of my friends from the club are watching from our docks and I hear them yelling.  I usually have a significant crisis at the bridge because I know how much the second half hurts and how long the 1.6km from the bridge to the finish feels.  I’m still counting strokes and when I get to 400, and I haven’t yet reached the gazebo, I fear that I am going to blow up.  But my friend Bjorn is still right on my tail, maybe half a boat length back and showing no sign of slowing down.

I finally pass the gazebo and I know that it’s 60 strokes to the finish.  I keep my rate and pressure for another 20 strokes and then I start to push for the finish.  The last 40 strokes, I bring up the rate a touch, and the splits obligingly come down, and finally in the last 300m I start putting more distance between us.

I was really hurting at the end and paddled well clear of the course before turning.  Bjorn and I congratulated each other and then paddled into the QRA docks.  I stopped there for a few minutes and chatted with some friends from  the club up there, and then paddled home to regatta point.  At this point, I had no idea what the results were.

I packed up and headed home.  About an hour later, Bob texted me a picture of the results.


I got a second place behind the guy who looked like a rower.  Considering the 20 year age gap, I guess I’m OK losing to him by 16 seconds.  Truth be told, I’m delighted with the whole race.  I feel like the benign conditions let me really push myself as hard as possible, and having someone to race side by side with forced me to keep it together when it started to hurt.

Here’s the data:

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500 meter splits

Here are the videos

By the way, there is an excellent online tool to watch rowing videos called Rowvid. It let’s you use slow motion or speed things up so you can look at form an fast forward through the dull bits.

Sunday:  Recovery / Endurance session…4 x 20 / 1′ rest with lactate

Sunday: Cromwell Cup

Weather:  Sunny and Hot!  85F  Cross wind, about 7mph.

I got to Riverside Boat Club at about 6AM and unloaded my stuff.  Luckily I found a parking spot close to the action.  (I was worried that I wouldn’t)

I checked in and went to the Coxes and Coaches meeting at 6:20.  Then I found a few folks from Lake Quinsigamond and hung out until it was time to launch.  I was in race # 13.  Scheduled for 8:08.  I launched around 7:20 and started to head up river.

I was nervous.  Very jittery.  The boathouse is at the finish, and you have to make your way upriver through the same bridge spans that lane 1 uses coming down river.  So they post referees on each bridge to give you the all clear to go through.  I rowed nearly the whole way up to the start doing drills.  Arms only.  Arms and Body.  Legs Only.  Legs and Body.  Once I was past the Weeks Footbridge, there is enough room to do a proper warmup.  So I started to my ten stroke on / ten stroke off rate ladder.  I found there was too much turning required, so I just did sets of twenty up and down this short section.  After I went through that, I did a few practice starts.  The first was horrible.  After that I calmed down a bit.  Around 8:00, I paddled back down through Weeks and drifted toward the start.

After a bit of backing and forthing they had us set up for the start.  In Lane 1 was a guy from Maine (Hornney).  He pulled a 6:30 erg at last years Crash-Bs, and did well in the Cromwell last year.  I figured he’d beat me by 5 to 10 seconds.  Maybe a boat length or two.  Lane 2 was another guy from Maine (Beretich).  I couldn’t find as much info about him, but I figured I would be competitive with him.  In Lane 3 was another rower from Lake Quinsigamond.  I beat him by a little in last year’s textile regatta, but I’d never matched up with him in a sprint race before.  I thought we’d be side by side as well.

We eventually got aligned and they called the start.  Which was helpfully captured by row2Ks cameras.  I’m in blue.

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I was slow off the line, but accelerated well and seemed to be even with everyone after about 10 strokes.  I didn’t settle my pace down after 10 strokes because I didn’t want to let these guys get away.  But around the 20th stroke, I did pull my rating down to 30 and focused on  trying to get way out over my feet for the catch.  At stroke 20 was the point to check my steering and I saw that I needed to make a little adjustment away from the center of the river to get lined up with the Boston side arch of the first bridge.  I did that while counting out my next twenty and I was through the bridge.  At this point I looked across the other lanes and I saw that I was about half a length up on lane 3, lane 2 was a couple lengths behind me, and it looked like lane 1 was maybe half a length ahead of me.  I settled into this next set of 20 trying to focus on taking long strokes.  I was a bit distratced between the two bridges because there was a wakeless launch trailing with a photographer, who I swear had the longest telephoto lens ever.  I think this is the result of that.

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At the end of this twenty (60 strokes into the race), I checked for my line and discovered that I was drifting over toward the boston bank of the river.  So, I corrected as I went into my next 20 strokes.  This set I tried to focus on legs.  Really staying forward during the leg drive and getting my arms out an body over before I broke my knees on recovery.  I checked my line after 5 strokes and saw I was still off line and corrected more strongly.  This was about the slowest I got in race and I saw the pace drop below 2:00/500.

I remembered what Sander had wrote about focusing on technique and I lightened up a bit and tried to take good smooth strokes the rest of the way through the second bridge.  This happened on schedule around 80 strokes.  Coming out of the bridge, I noticed that I was still only about a length down on lane 1, and a couple lengths up on lane 3.  Lane 2 had not yet emerged from the bridge.  This was highly motivating.  I counted out another 20 strokes, allowing the rate to start creeping up and apparently lane 1 did the same thing because he actually started to pull a bit further ahead.  You can see this at 3:00 of the video, his bow just becomes visible as he puts in a push.  He continues to get further ahead until about 3:25 when I look over again.

It was time to decide.  Either I could just row the rest of the race out and settle for second, or I could try to take this guy.  I decided to give it a go.  I had about 30 strokes left, so I threw everything I had at it.  I started to overtake him and I pushed the rate up even higher, it looked like we were right on line together.  I was rating up at 35 and rowing very sloppily.  I could hear a great “pock” noise at the catch because I was starting to drive to soon, but I just wanted to get more rate and get more strokes in before the end.  I totally ignored the markings of the course and just rowed until I heard the beep.  There were two beeps right together, and neither me or lane 1 really knew who won the race.  I went for a nice cool down row and then came back to the dock.  I wandered over to the finish line officials and asked.  They told me I had come in second by 0.78 seconds.  My final time was 3:53.1.  Although I would have loved to win a medal, I was delighted with the race.  I stuck to my plan.  The course was a blast to row.  The conditions were beautiful.  The race officials were friendly and helpful.  I rowed the fastest 1K I have ever rowed by probably about 6 seconds.  I am already looking forward to coming back next year.    Here are the full Cromwell Cup results.

cromwell results

Looking at the results.  I was 0.3% off winning time.  The guy who won the second heat (Loucks) beat me by 7 seconds at the Festival Sprints.  Today, my time was 5.5 seconds faster than his although he was not pushed at all in his race.  So, it’s all good.

Here’s the HR plot for the whole row.  Warm up, Race and cool down.

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Here is stroke rate and pace from the speedcoach for the race:

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Here is the GPS data showing how I got off line before the first and second bridges.

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Finally, here is the video of the race:

Now I am off to Austria on business.  I’ll try to do some cross training and start thinking about a specific Head Race Training plan.