6/8 to 6/16 – Pretty Hectic

Thursday 6 / 7 – in CA, red eye home.

After my fantastic row in San Diego on Thursday morning, I flew up to San Jose.  I had a meeting in the afternoon and a business dinner that evening.  I flew home on the Red Eye.

Friday 6 / 8 –  rest day after the red eye

I got in around 6 and was home by 7:30.  I needed to hop right in the shower and head up to the office for a 10 am meeting.  After that meeting, I had another, and another, and so on until around 5pm.  I headed home and my wife and I packed up and headed for the cape.  The forecast was sunny and warm for the whole weekend.

We got down there in the evening and settled in.  I was really tired and slept like a log.

Saturday 6 / 9 – 12km coastal steady state

I slept in until about 9, and then I went out to get delicious croissants for breakfast.  After lazing around for a while, we went out and bought some flowers to put in near the path to our door, came home and planted.  Around 5pm, it was really beautiful and there wasn’t all that much wind, so I decided to go for a row.

I launched from the north beach, as usual, and headed up toward wellfleet harbor.  I didn’t notice much at the time, but the tide was with me and so was a little bit of breeze.  My splits heading north to the harbor were quite fast for my tubby little aero.

After I turned around and headed out of the harbor against the tide and the breeze, it was payback time.  The splits were slow and the boat felt heavier.  Although it was just supposed to be a gentle evening row, the slow splits pushed me into putting in more effort.  Although my HR was a bit too, high, I was really enjoying myself.  On the way back, I rowed straight out to my favorite buoy and then turned due east to get back to the beach.  I did the last 3 minutes or so at a hard 24.

Another really enjoyable row.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 8.25.18 PM.png

          Workout Summary - media/20180610-0135230o.csv
Workout Details


Sunday – 6 / 10 – 14km coastal steady state

I was up around 8 and I decided to go for a row before the wind started to build.  It turns out I didn’t quite succeed at that.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 8.32.15 PM.png

I launched from the north beach and looped around the island to go south toward Eastham.  The forecast was for the wind to be from the east, so I figured if I hugged the shore, I would be sheltered and have reasonable smooth water.

As I went, I felt the wind building a bit, but it seemed my plan was working.  The water was nice and smooth, and although I would be buffeted by some of the gusts, it was a nice ride.  I wanted to be done in about 70 minutes, so I rowed for 35 and turned around.  It was then that I noticed that the wind was really coming more from the NE or even the NNE and I had a long slog into to get home.

I rowed in as close to the beach as I could get, and slowly made my way up the Eastham shore.  I was not looking forward to leaving the lee of this shore when I got up to point where I needed to cut over to the west side of Lt Island.  When I got there, it was really tough rowing.  The waves were on my starboard bow, and they were throwing me around a bit.  I made quick decision to turn east and row straight upwind so I would be going right into the waves.  This was slow, but much better rowing.  The boat was nice and stable and I just kept pushing along.

I was looking over my shoulder every ten strokes or so, and it made me nervous every time seeing these well define rolling waves with white caps on them.

Eventually, the salt marsh on the inner side of the island finally started to get closer, and then, before I knew, I was right on the edge of the marsh.  The wind was blocked by the island, the water flattened out, and I turned to follow the shore.  Now the wind was behind me, so was the tide, and the water was flat.  I torn along the south edge of the island until I came out of the wind shadow along the westward side.

Then it was a short final slog into the wind to the beach.

It was interesting, I felt like I was working hard, but my heart rate was nice and low.  The sun was out, the sky was blue and it was the perfect temperature.  When I landed, I was so glad that I had gone out.  Coastal rowing is a very different experience from flat water rowing, but a total blast.

Workout Summary - media/20180610-1540220o.csv
Workout Details
00|00118|02:07.0|08:59.9|000.0|21.2|095.2|106.0|02.6 - getting set
01|06345|34:21.0|02:42.4|000.0|18.8|136.2|145.0|09.8 - downwind
02|04307|29:22.0|03:24.5|000.0|19.9|147.7|155.0|07.4 - up wind
03|01537|08:47.0|02:51.5|000.0|21.0|146.6|152.0|08.3 - sheltered
04|01337|09:04.1|03:23.4|000.0|21.0|148.7|153.0|07.0 - upwind

I was pretty worn out for the rest of the day though.

Monday – 6 / 11 – Steady State and drills

By the plan, this was supposed to be a rest day, but everything has been so disrupted, that I just decided to do a nice steady state session and work on some basics.

I started with a complete pick drill, did some legs only rowing.  I also did at least 10 reps of the KOM drill at the start and at each turn.

         Workout Summary - media/20180611-1745210o.csv
Workout Details

Nice fast splits for the first 3 segments.  I felt great too.

Tuesday – 6 / 12 – Starts

The plan is as follows:

  • Race warm up
  • 5 x 20-stroke starts
    • Rest between: 3’
    • Rating/Pace: SR 36-40 (or your most efficient rating)
    • Notes: Steer straight, clean releases, same sequence as planned for your race.
  • 2 x 9’
    • Rest between: 2’’ easy rowing
    • Rating/Pace: Cat V: SR 22
    • Notes: Focus on your releases.

As it turns out, I deviated a bit from the plan.  I ended up doing more starts than planned, and a bit less of the steady state rowing.  I think I also skimped a bit on the warmup.

The conditions were far from perfect.  There was a reasonably strong breeze.  You can see the first 2 starts are downwind, then 2 upwind, then two down, then two up.  The last two starts, I extended out to thirty strokes and settled to race rate, around 32 after 10 strokes.

I did about 11 minutes or so of steady state rowing at the end.

6 / 13 – Rest Day

I couldn’t get out of bed at 5:15.  I tried, and failed.

6 / 14 – A horribly bad workout.

It was supposed to be this.

  • 4 x (2’ with your start sequence, paddle 1’ then, 2’ 1k base pace)
  • Rest between: 4’
  • Rating/Pace: 1k base pace

But I just couldn’t put together a good 2′ piece to save my soul.  I don’t know what the hell was wrong with me, but I was ready to withdraw from the Cromwell Cup, quit racing and never sprint again.  I was a quintessential drama queen!

Ultimately, I gave up on the workout and tried to one minute on / one minute off.  That seemed to work a bit better, but I think I have to push through this problem next week.

          Workout Summary - media/20180614-1735190o.csv
Workout Details

One thing I’ve noticed.  With the technical changes that Marlene has had me working on, I can row cleanly at high rates.  Up above 32.  And I can move the boat very fast.  But I burn out very fast too.  I have to find the pace and pressure I can sustain over four minutes.

This workout left me grumpy all day long.

6 / 15 – Steady State and drills

I had an 8 am meeting so I got on the water early, and I only had an hour.

It was a bit windy and I was pretty slow.

Saturday – 6 / 16 -Random fun on Lake Quinsigamond

I went out with a mixed double.  We are reasonable well matched in speed.

We rowed low rate, but good pressure to the south end of the lake, then did some drills for a bit of the way back north.  Then a bit more steady state.  Finally when we got to the north end of the lake, we decided to play leapfrog.  That was a blast.  They would take off and when they were clear ahead, they would call “clear”.  That was my cue to speed up and their cue to paddle.  When I got clear ahead, I’d call “clear” and it was their turn.

We did that for about 2km.  Then we steady stated our way back to the dock.

The only problem with the session was my speedcoach running out of memory and not recording all my leapfrog strokes.

Here’s the data from RIM.

Whew!  Now I’m all caught up!



6/4 – 6/6: Finally back rowing!

Monday – 6/4 – Drills and Steady State

By Monday morning, I had normal range of movement and very little pain in my back.  I decided to do an easy session to test it out a little bit.

I have a new workout plan, but based on the long layoff that I had, I decided to take a week and focus mostly on steady state and drills to get back into the program and avoid risking injury or disappointment.

Today, the plan was to row for an hour and at each turn, stop and do about 10 reps of the King of the Mountain drill.  The longer than normal breaks between segments is me doing the drills.  Weird HR dropout during the second interval.

It was a grey and windy morning.  I was slow and my power values were really low.  I am wondering (hoping) if I have a calibration issue.

Workout Summary - media/20180604-1615230o.csv
Workout Details

Told you it was slow!

Tuesday – 6/5: Steady state and drills

Basically the same session as monday.  Pushed the pace a little bit harder.  Same deal, 10 reps of the KOM drill x 4 sets.  They are getting a bit easier as I do more of them.  The wind sprung up a bit in the last rep.  Headwind, of course!

          Workout Summary - media/20180605-1425220o.csv
Workout Details

Wednesday – 6/6: Starts

I had a 9:30 flight to San Diego, so I had a short time window for a row.  I decided to do a quick session just to start working on my starts.  I started with 5 stroke sets, and then as I got more comfortable, and my “hit rate” improved, I extended them to 10 strokes.

There was a bit of wind and a little bit of chop, but on my sheltered river, I can’t say it caused any of my problems.

The last start was pretty good.  15 strokes at 1:48 pace and 37 spm.

I made my flight with plenty of time.

Friday: Horror Films. Video Feedback

One of the primary reasons that I wanted to get expert coaching was to make improvements in my rowing technique.  I figure that there are three elements to achieving good boat speed.

  1. Lose weight.  (5 kg is worth a second of pace at least just in reduced displaement)
  2. Improve fitness
  3. Improve technique

I know how to do number 1 and 2.  Those items are determined by the amount of time I have to train, work commitments, willpower and desire.

Technique is tougher.  I know good rowing when I see it, and I can see that there are things wrong with my rowing, but I want some expert guidance to figure out what needs to be fixed first and by what means.

Since I am using a remote coaching arrangement with Marlene Royle, that means that I have to record video and share it.  I did this over the winter and I think I made some good progress on improvement the mechanics of my stroke, especially the recovery.

Now I am back on the water, and before I get too set in my ways, I wanted to take some video in the boat and start fixing stuff.

I have seen all kinds of arrangements to take video.  If you are lucky enough to have a live, local coach, it’s very simple.  They film you from the launch.  Without a coach, you have to figure a way to mount a GoPro or some other camera on the boat.  The easiest is to mount it on the stern deck, but then you don’t get to see a lot of the body work in the stroke.  To get that you need a side view.

To get a side view, I picked up a trick from Larry Tait.  He figured out how to mount an old rigger backstay to the end of his rigger, and then put his gopro on the end of the backstay.  This gets the camera about 6 feet out  to side, and with the wide field of view, that’s more than enough to see the whole stroke.

I described it a bit more detail and included pictures of the setup here.

So, I set myself up and went out for a row.  I had about an hour, so I decided to do a bit of a free form session.  I would do 6 minute easy rate ladders consisting of 3′ @ r18, 2′ @ r20 and 1′ @ r22.  To spice it up a bit, I decided to throw in a few practice starts, just  to see if I remembered how to do them and to see how good my balance was at the catch.

Here’s the whole session

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 5.28.47 PM

And here’s the video….

The first video is the first rate ladder.  During the 2′ at r20 I was making my way through the s-turn.

After the first 2 ladders, I reached the dam in Waltham.  I did a set of four starts after I turned around.  A couple of them were OK.

After a couple more ladders, and a few more starts, I did one last short ladder, just 10 strokes at each rate from r18 up to r28.

Looking at the video, I see a whole bunch of issues.

  • Sad to say, I’m heavier and balder than I was the last time I did side video in the boat. :-(.
  • I am not sitting erect enough in the boat, my hips are rocked too far back throughout the stroke.
  • I am not completing my rock over on recovery before I start to slide.
  • Blade depth looks OK to me, although it looks like my hands are arcing up right after the catch and then leveling out.  The last ladder looks worse in terms of “rowing over the barrel”.
  • As you can see, I struggle a bit with balance.  I lightly skim my blades on recovery.
  • Some strokes have a pretty pronounced pause at the finish.

And here, or pure entertainment value is my worst start of the day.  I caught a crab and nearly flipped

The look on my face as it happened was priceless.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 5.47.27 PM.png

The great thing about rowing is that it keeps you humble!

Wednesday: Tons of Starts (28 of them)

Weather:  Cloudy, warm 70F, intermittent light rain.  Wind flukey, generally from the SW about 2mph.


  • Warmup: increasing stroke rate bursts over about 3000m.
  • Start Practice:
    • Standing start (obviously)
    • 15 strokes (5 to get to full length, 5 hard, settle to race rate over last 5)
    • 1 minute rests, with longer pauses to turn and avoid twisty bits of the river.
    • Technique:  Sit comfortably at the catch.  Don’t overly compress.  First stroke start smooth and finish early.  Quick, short strokes, barely feather, get blades off the water.  Then go out to full slide at maximal pressure for 5 strokes.  Crisp downshift to racing rate after 10 strokes.  Keep it light and above 30 spm.
  • Cool down: SBR, easy steady state, then feet out.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.38.05 PM

After an uncertain start, I had a blast.  My stomach wasn’t feeling all that great, and I stopped for a bathroom break on the way to the boathouse.  I didn’t feel strong and powerful during the warmup either, but I noticed that my paces were actually pretty good.

The warmup took me to the Moody Street Dam, and I turned around, had a drink and set myself up for my first start.  It was terrible.  The first stroke was uncertain and left me unbalanced, which led to multiple weak and shaky strokes.  But I hung in with it and eventually got up to speed.  The next one I took more carefully and it was pretty smooth.  Another 6 starts took me to the beginning of the S-turn.  I paddled through the turn and took about a 4 minute rest.

Then I did 6 starts up which took me to the newton end of the river.  By now, I was getting very comfortable at the catch and reliably getting my splits down into the low 1:40s.

I turned and took another 3 or 4 minute rest and had a drink.  Then I took off for the next set.  The light wind that was slowing me down a bit before was now behind me, and all the sudden I was seeing 1:39 or 1:38 as my peak pace.  This was getting fun.  I did 6 starts to the start of the s-turn.  Another quick break for a drink and to paddle through the turn.

Then it was 4 starts to get to the bridge, then a quick paddle through it and then 4 more to the end of the basin.  The last 4 were a blast.  After I finished I noticed that my legs were vibrating.  I was pretty beat.  But I was happy.  I achieved the highest strokes I ever have and I actually felt like I had better control than in previous sessions.  I also have never routinely seen 1:39 splits.  And it’s fun to go fast.  The thing I need to work on is getting a good settle and getting the pace back to around 2:00 so I don’t torch myself in the first 500m of the race.


myimage (31)

Tomorrow:  Steady State Endurance.  Probably technique oriented.  Definitely HR capped below 155.

Workout Summary - media/20160629-183958-2016-06-29-0658.CSV
Workout Details
01|04050| 21:32 |02:37.9|19.7|134.0|166.0|09.7
02|00103| 00:27 |02:12.0|33.1|130.0|148.0|06.9
03|00097| 00:23 |01:56.9|39.9|143.0|157.0|06.5
04|00114| 00:26 |01:54.7|34.3|147.0|161.0|07.6
05|00104| 00:25 |01:57.4|36.8|148.0|161.0|06.9
06|00107| 00:25 |01:57.2|36.0|154.0|162.0|07.1
07|00113| 00:26 |01:57.8|33.7|152.0|162.0|07.5
08|00113| 00:27 |01:58.9|33.4|152.0|162.0|07.5
09|00102| 00:25 |01:59.3|36.8|152.0|161.0|06.8
10|00329| 02:04 |03:07.6|18.9|140.0|157.0|08.4
11|00109| 00:27 |02:04.0|33.4|132.0|151.0|07.3
12|00097| 00:23 |01:56.6|39.6|144.0|159.0|06.5
13|00094| 00:22 |01:55.0|41.7|133.0|154.0|06.3
14|00101| 00:24 |01:56.0|38.4|146.0|159.0|06.7
15|00101| 00:23 |01:54.7|38.7|149.0|160.0|06.7
16|00098| 00:23 |01:57.0|39.4|150.0|160.0|06.5
17|00110| 00:25 |01:53.6|36.0|138.0|157.0|07.3
18|00110| 00:23 |01:48.2|37.8|148.0|160.0|07.3
19|00094| 00:21 |01:51.5|42.9|151.0|161.0|06.3
20|00103| 00:22 |01:46.2|41.0|153.0|162.0|06.9
21|00087| 00:19 |01:50.3|47.2|151.0|159.0|05.8
22|00093| 00:21 |01:49.0|44.4|151.0|161.0|06.2
23|00101| 00:23 |01:53.2|39.4|140.0|157.0|06.7
24|00092| 00:20 |01:51.0|44.0|150.0|159.0|06.1
25|00094| 00:21 |01:49.5|43.9|152.0|160.0|06.3
26|00090| 00:20 |01:52.1|44.4|151.0|159.0|06.0
27|00092| 00:20 |01:48.4|45.0|144.0|158.0|06.1
28|00095| 00:21 |01:52.9|42.1|153.0|162.0|06.3
29|00094| 00:21 |01:50.4|43.4|152.0|161.0|06.3
30|00089| 00:19 |01:50.5|45.9|152.0|161.0|05.9
31|04019| 23:10 |02:52.0|20.0|141.0|155.0|08.7

Tuesday: Starting to work on Starts

Weather:  Basically like yesterday.  Sunny, cool and blustery.  Generally WNW, 5 mph with gusts to 15 mph.


  • Rojabo style warmup to the moody street dam
  • Do as many starts as I can stand
  • 15 strokes each start, 10 stroke paddle, then stop the boat, reset and do it again
  • In each start work on:
    • Get set comfortably at the catch.
    • Do NOT go to full compression, stop when it feels like my heels are beginning to lift.  The key is to be rock solid at the start of the first stroke.
    • First stroke:  Smooth, powerful acceleration, very early finish, get the blades way off the water, barely feather.
    • Second Stroke:  get back to 1/2 slide fast!  get the blades in, keep it smooth, finish early, get the blades clear
    • Third through fifth:  keep taking short strokes and focus on balance and finishes
    • fifth through tenth: extend out to full slide.  Keep stroke rate up above 38, but keep recovery smooth.
    • 10 to 15:  full pressure, good strokes
  • Long cool down focusing on technique

Here is the whole session in google earth.  I paddled to the lap02 flag, then did the Rojabo warmup.  That took me to the end of the basin in Waltham.  Then I turned and did 14 starts going up river and generally with a cross/tail wind.  That took me back to the beginning, I had a drink, turned again, and did another 14 starts going back down river, now with a bit of a head wind.  A few of them, especially #’s 22 to 25 were definitely impacted by a reasonable strong headwind at the time.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 2.00.23 PM

Here’s the whole session as interpreted by Rowsandall

myimage (17)

This is time based, so it gives you a better picture of the gap between intervals.  There is something fishy about the pace display.  The graph from google earth is in km/h.  Here is a closer view of the speed.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 2.20.57 PM

The top speed is 18.7 km/h.  This is a foreign unit to me, so here’s the translation

  • 15 km/h = 2:00.0/500
  • 17 km/h = 1:45.9/500
  • 19 km/h = 1:34.7/500

This intrigued me enough that I exported the CSV file from crewnerd and plotted it in Excel.

That matches Google earth.

Next time, I will set it up as a predefined workout in Crewnerd.  15 strokes on and about 1:30 rest would be about the same thing.  I’ll have to pause it sometimes to get to a fortuitous starting point, but it should workout OK.

Other than the interesting pace discrepancies, it was a useful and interesting workout.  The key really is the first stroke.  Being a little conservative and finishing clean is the biggest thing.  Once the boat starts to build a little momentum, it gets easier.

I’ve registered for the Cromwell Cup.  This is a 1km sprint race on July 10th.  So, that should provide some motivation to do some more start practices.

I also had a useful live demonstration of the value of magik oarlocks.  Right now, one of the tension bands, the one on my port oarlock, is busted.  So that oarlock acts just like a normal C2 oarlock.  The tension band on the starboard oarlock is intact, so the little lever applies pressure to the stern side of the oar.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 2.35.06 PM

In normal rowing, I can detected no difference between port and starboard, but sitting at the catch with blades buried, I sure could.  With the wind today, there was a bit of chop, and I could feel my port oar rattling around at the catch, my starboard oar was just solid.  No movement at all.  I don’t know if it was coincidence, or self fulfilling prophesy, but most of the problems that I had with imperfect first strokes were on the port side.

I enjoyed the cool down.  I did two repetitions of 500m SBR, 500m of alternating SBR and normal, and 500m of slow roll ups.  That took me back to the cut.  From there it was just a paddle back to the dock.

Tomorrow:  Another session of easy rate ladders.  HR cap at 155.

Friday: Hard 3K, Hard 1K, Square Blade Rowing and Steady State

Weather: Sunny, warm, mid 60s.  Light WNW wind, 4mph, mainly a cross/head wind going down river.

Plan:  Drills, then Steady State, plus a few starts and a hard 1K.  Work on finishes and balance.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.13.58 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.14.15 AM

00940_|_2900_|_13:04_|_2:15.2_|_288___|_22.0_|_10.1_|_164___|_Hard 22
03900_|_2900_|_14:21_|_2:28.4_|_298___|_20.8_|_09.7_|_157___|_Slow roll ups
06960_|_0900_|_03:39_|_2:01.8_|_112___|_30.6_|_08.0_|_172___|_1K Hard
08600_|_1080_|_05:31_|_2:33.1_|_119___|_21.6_|_09.1_|_150___|_500SQ / 500SS
13180_|_0540_|_03:41_|_3:24.7_|_072___|_19.5_|_07.5_|_135___|_cool down
00900_|_03:39_|_2:01.8_|_112___|_30.6_|_08.0_|_172___|_Main set
10380_|_51:42_|_2:29.4_|_1103___|_21.3_|_09.4_|_155___|_Steady State
00960_|_06:21_|_3:18.4_|_124___|_19.5_|_07.7_|_137___|_rest meters
00540_|_03:41_|_3:24.7_|_072___|_19.5_|_07.5_|_135___|_cool down

That was the plan, but it didn’t quite work out that way.  I was going to stick to r20 and steady state going down river and come halfway back and then do my 1K.  But as I came out of the small section of river that intersects with the cove, I saw another single sculler up ahead.  I felt a familiar feeling and I knew that there would be no HR cap on the trip down river.  I started about 100m behind him and over the first 500m or so, I caught up and passed him.  From that point, I just concentrated on putting a much distance between me and him as possible and to keep my rate lower than his.  It looked like he was rowing about a r24.  By end of the 2900m piece, I was about 800m ahead.  I was pleased with the pace for r22, right about 2:15.

I turned and did a few more drills and had a drink and we set off in the other direction at about the same time.  I was rowing with slow roll ups and focusing on technique, but I also put enough energy into it to put a little distance between us.  I basically did this all the way back to the beginning of the 1K course.  Beautiful flat water today, so I had no excuses for rowing badly.

I turned at the start of the 1K course, took a few deep breaths and then did my start.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 11.09.49 AM

The graph looks different because I was logging every 20 meters instead of every stroke like yesterday. My objective was to keep the pace between 2:00 and 2:05, which I guessed would be about 95% intensity.  I now think it was a bit closer to 98%, looking at the HR.  I really felt the bite at the 500m mark and pushed through it.  I started to feel like I might puke or lose control of other bodily functions.  At that point, I tried my “take 10 for length” idea, and dropped the rate just a little bit.  It seemed to do the trick.  I got through the crisis and continued to count up the strokes.  But something went wrong with my counting somewhere in the piece.

My 1K is basically 120 strokes.  This splits up into the first 30 which is the start and the settle and then 10 strokes.  Then the next 30 strokes are where you start to feel the bite.  By the 60th stroke, I’m in distress, so the next 30 is 10 for length and then either rate up or stay long for the next 20.  I know that if I can get to 90 strokes, that I can make it.  Somehow today, between the 60 and 90 mark, I managed to lose track of 10 strokes.  That meant that I thought I was on the 90th stroke, but I was actually on the 80th stroke.  I started pushing for the finish hard.  I also though that I had enough room before a headland so I didn’t need to cut back to the main channel.  When I got to what I thought was 10 strokes to go, I looked at the elapsed distance and it said 7700m.  In the fog of lactate, I seemed to remember that I had started at 6950m.  What the hell?  I was now too far over to fit in another 20 strokes without crashing into the headland, and I had started my push to the end too soon.  I decided quickly to just push hard through 7850 and then jam on the brakes to stop my boat.  So, I had to settle for 900m today.  Here is the map view.  The 1K starts at the bottom and there is a broad gentle curve to get onto the line between a point (with submerged log sticking out from it) and the island.  Past the island, you need to pick a new aim point to start to turn towards the entry of the s-turn.  Today, I got lazy and didn’t transition to this new aim point quickly enough after the island, so I ended up aiming at the headland.

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I’m not all that happy with the pace, 2:01.8, and I’d like to see the rate a bit higher.  But I battled the demons and won this round in the middle of the piece.  I am now a confirmed convert to Sander’s philosophy of 1K racing.  Which I take the liberty of paraphrasing here:  You need to do a lot of 1K time trials to get used to awful you feel in the middle of the race.  Especially true because conditions vary enough that you can’t really use pace as a guide.

After that, the rest of the workout was an anticlimax.  I basically just did 500m of square blade rowing and then 500m of steady state alternating the rest of the way down to the dam.  When I was rowing square, I tried to work on getting my elbows out at the finish and extracting the blades as quickly and quietly as I could.  Then transitioning to steady state, I tried to use exactly the same tap down, and then feather.  I was working on trying to separate the two actions to clean up my finishes.  I had a magical stretch where I got ten full strokes where I didn’t touch water from finish to catch at all.  In general I would be able to go one or two strokes and then I would lightly skim one side or the other.  But I have to say, that my hands are working better at the finish now.

After the dam, I turned and did 6 practice starts.  I took each one out to 10 strokes.  Then I continued with my 500 square / 500 steady all the way back to the dock.

Tomorrow:  Probably out on Lake Quinsigamond, but I may face transportation challenges.   In any case, I think a reasonable easy session might be in order.

Then next week, I taper for the race on next Sunday, the 21st.  Unfortunately I have a business trip mid week, so I am already starting to plan my excuses based on that.

Wednesday: 29 starts. Some good, some bad.

Well, I’ve gone and done it now.  I registered for the Festival Regatta.  This is a nice little race up in Lowell on the Merrimac River on a 6 lane course on June 21st.  I’m in the Men’s Master 1x (50-59) race (a 1K sprint) and the Men’s Open 2K (a 2K sprint).

I have no pretensions about being competitive in the Open, but I’m thinking that any racing is good racing and as long as I don’t bring an inflated self image, I will be fine with the outcome.

The format is single heat races.  So, you try to win your flight an event.  There are no heats and finals or anything like that.

So, ready or not, here I come.

Today, the weather was really lovely.  Sunny and warm (about 65F). There was a pretty steady 7mph breeze from the West, which was a cross/tail wind going down river and cross/head wind going up river.  It was enough wind to make the boat feel different, but not enough to be disruptive in any way.

The plan for today was to practice starts and do some technical rowing with HR in the aerobic zone between sets.  I decided to take generally take the starts out to 20 strokes so that I could go through the start sequence, lengthen, and then settle down to something like a 1K pace.  If I had technical issues, I sometimes pulled the plug right away, or after 10 strokes.  I was getting tired at the end, so the last set of starts, I did all of them as 10 strokes.

I felt very shaky in the first couple of sets, but gradually got more comfortable.  I will definitely need to pull a few 10 stroke starts as part of my warmup for the race.  It seems that previous practices “wear off” quickly.

Totaling it up, I did 17 “20 stroke” starts and 12 “10 stroke starts”.  That’s a bit more than 4K of hard rowing, but in tasty little morsels, so it wasn’t too challenging.

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The gory details.

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I managed to really blow the third start in the first set.  It was my classic problem.  I did not get my oar fully squared at the catch on the second stroke and it dove deep.  I did a 10 stroke start after that and focused on being really controlled on the recovery.  After the first set of starts, I rowed with slow roll ups the rest of the way down the river.

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I turned around and did 4 – 20 stroke starts back across the basin into the headwind. In this set, the only problem I had was actually on the first pull of the first start.  I though I was really balanced, but as I squeezed out the first stroke, I tipped pretty badly.  I have no idea why.  So, I held water and tried again.  The following 4 starts were very comfortable and reasonably fast into the wind. The fourth one brought me close to the bridge, so I paddled through and lined up on the straight section in front of the watch factory.  I was feeling a little winded at this point, so I did 3 – 10 stroke starts.  It was actually 4 attempts, but I pulled out of the second one on the first stroke.   After the 3 short starts, I did 2 – 20 strokes starts to finish off the rest of that straight section.

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I paddled with square blades through the s-turn to set up for a few more.  With the wind coming from the West, coming out of the s-turn is generally the crappiest water, which on an absolute scale still is pretty good water, but at least it provided a bit of chop for me to practice on.  So I did 3 more 20 stroke starts.  I was pretty happy with these.  Good acceleration, no miscues, and a good settle to racing speed in each.  After the starts, I rowed the rest of the way to the up river start with square blades.

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After I turned down river, I did my best start of the day.  My first 3 strokes were clean and was able to ramp up to 40spm with reasonable control.  At 10 strokes, I downshifted cleanly to 32 SPM and the pace drifted up as it should have.  From a standing start, I covered 150m with a avg pace faster than 1:50. Basically all of these starts felt pretty good.

The rest of the way down the river I tried to focus on rowing without touching water.  I was OK with letting the rate drift up, I just wanted to really focus on perfect finishes so that I could swing through the recovery with no wiggles.  I was having a very good time.

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This took me all the way back to the dam, so I turned to do my last set of starts.  I was pretty worn out by this point, so I decided to give myself a break and do all of them as 10 strokes.  Again, I was going back into the head wind, but this set had no horrible misfires.

This only took me halfway back to the bridge, so from there all the way back to the dock, I alternated 500m on the square with 500m of steady state trying to row very clean.  By transitioning from on the square to feathering, I was able to focus on trying to keep my tap down and feathering as two distinct motions.  When I got it right, I heard a distinctly different, quieter sound at the finish.  More of a “pock” and less “gurgle”.

All in all a very nice morning.

Tomorrow:  I think I need to do a full intensity 1K.  I will probably also do a few 2Ks.

Thursday: Steady State and Starts


  1. Warmup:  King of the mountain, top quarter, 20 strokes or so of each: arms only, arms and body, half slide, full slide, legs only.
  2. 4 repeats of:
    1. 5 good starts.  Focus on balance and control.  Try to get good blade placement before each drive
    2. row the remaining 2500m at steady state pace and work on technique and balance.  HR cap at 155.
  3. Cool down:  Square blades and high pressure / low rate.

It was beautiful this morning.  Sunny, no wind, mid 50s.  It was good to do a structured warmup.  The legs only was a good thing to do.

Starts are getting a bit better.  At least I have an idea of how hard I can push the initial stroke without compromising my balance.  I also have a better idea of how fast I can push the stroke rate in the start.  It looks like about 35 is as high as I can go without rowing in severely and screwing up the finishes.  From here, it is just lots of practice to slowly improve the pressure on the first stroke and the tempo of the initial strokes.  I’ll try to take some video this weekend to see if I’m doing anything horribly wrong.

The steady state was nice.  I was pretty focused on trying to balance and row quietly.  I really wanted to push too hard and blow the HR cap, but I need to save that feeling for tomorrow.

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00902_|_0489_|_02:45_|_2:49.1_|_050___|_18.1_|_09.8_|_138___|_5 starts
01391_|_2331_|_11:03_|_2:22.3_|_223___|_20.2_|_10.5_|_155___|_steady state
03722_|_0448_|_02:31_|_2:48.9_|_047___|_18.6_|_09.5_|_143___|_5 starts
04170_|_2549_|_12:35_|_2:28.1_|_257___|_20.4_|_09.9_|_155___|_slow roll ups
06719_|_0513_|_02:49_|_2:45.0_|_053___|_18.8_|_09.7_|_144___|_5 starts
07232_|_2361_|_11:35_|_2:27.2_|_219___|_18.9_|_10.8_|_155___|_steady state
09460_|_0551_|_03:03_|_2:45.8_|_056___|_18.4_|_09.8_|_144___|_5 starts
10011_|_2612_|_12:53_|_2:27.9_|_266___|_20.7_|_09.8_|_153___|_steady state
12623_|_1162_|_06:38_|_2:51.3_|_127___|_19.1_|_09.1_|_138___|_cool down

09853_|_48:06_|_2:26.5_|_965___|_20.1_|_10.2_|_154___|_Main set
02001_|_11:09_|_2:47.1_|_206___|_18.5_|_09.7_|_142___|_20 Starts
01162_|_06:38_|_2:51.3_|_127___|_19.1_|_09.1_|_138___|_cool down

I set up the speedcoach for stroke by stroke data.  Here are the details of the starts.  I think the best metric to judge the quality of the start is the pace in the third stroke.  If the pace is below 2:00 on the third stroke, then it was relatively well executed.  If it was slower, generally, I either wobbled on the first stroke, or had trouble getting clean catches on the 2nd or 3rd stroke.

So, in the first set, the fourth and the sixth are OK.  In the second set, all of them were OK except for the second one. The third set was all OK.  On the fourth set, I blew the first 2, but the last 3 were OK.

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Tomorrow:  8×500 / 500m rest.  Standing starts.  r30 or higher for all reps.

Side note:  My right elbow has been bothering me.  I think it is bursitis or tennis elbow or something.  Time to buy a wrap and start popping the Ibuprofen.  If it doesn’t improve with these steps, I might need to lay off rowing for a few days.

Saturday: 44 starts, 20km and a sore bum

Today’s original plan was to do 250m pieces with standing starts.

I did the Rojabo warmup.  It’s a really good warmup for hard sessions.  I recommend to anyone who is looking for a structured warmup.  Here it is.

  • First 1000m or so.
    • Pick drill
    • Legs only
    • steady state
  • 10 strokes at r20 / 10 paddle
  • 20 strokes at r22 / 20 paddle
  • 30 strokes at r24 / 30 paddle
  • 20 strokes at r26 / 20 paddle
  • 20 strokes at r28 / 20 paddle
  • 20 strokes at r30 / 20 paddle
  • 20 strokes at max stroke rate / 20 paddle

When you’re done with that, you are completely warmed up and you’ve rowed at a higher rate than you are likely to row during the rest of the session, so it’s a good confidence builder.

After the warmup, I attempted my first start. It was terrible.  No balance, ugly finishes, just terrible blade work.  I decided to change my plan from 250m reps to just doing as many starts as I could stand.  I would pull out of the start if I really blew a stroke, or take it out to 10,15 or 20 strokes depending on how much room I had and how the piece was feeling.  I ended up doing 44 starts.  Some were “slomo” starts where I purposely slowed down every stroke to try to get some muscle memory going around the initial short slide strokes.  Some were less than full pressure.  Some were all out.

The key take aways from the whole thing were:

  • First stroke:  Think of it as prying the boat away from the start.  Apply leg pressure smoothly.  Don’t yank the handles.  Finish “too early”.  Basically tap down as soon as my arms start to break with a straight back.
  • Second stroke:  recover up the slide until my hands have just started to come apart as I am half way up the slide.  Very important:  Take a split second as I square the blades and place them in the water before I start the leg drive.  This is my major fault.  I am missing water and mis aligning my blades my starting the leg drive before my blades are well set.
  • Beyond the second stroke:  Get out to full slide over the next couple of strokes and keep layback to a minimum.  Keep the finishes clean and don’t rush the catches.  That’s what kills me.

There was a pretty good wind blowing today, a tailwind going down stream.  So the first set of starts were into a head wind.  The second set were with a tail wind (they were fun!), and the third slogging back into the headwind.  By the third set, my legs were shot.

After the third set, I deliberated an decided to row another 8K steady state.  I’ll be missing 3 days on the water because of my son’s graduation, so I thought I should get the strokes in.  It ended up being about 4K too far.  I was really tired for the last row upriver into the head wind.

Here’s the whole row.  The warmup to 4K.  Three sets of about 15 starts each.  2 with head wind, 1 with tail wind.  Then another 8K of steady state, slow roll ups and square blade rowing.  The wind built through the session.

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The last two 20 stroke bits of the warm up were tail wind assisted and a real blast.  It might be the first time I’ve ever seen a 1:39 on the speedcoach.

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Then the starts.  First set, with head wind.  You can see where I aborted the bad ones and extended the good ones.

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Second set.  Tail wind.  Fast splits.  Still screwing up a lot of them.  The longer paddles are getting past things like the turns and bridges to a clear shot.

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Third set.  Getting a bit weary.  Into the head wind, which was worst for the first 5 or so.  Concentration was waning a bit.

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So, tomorrow morning it’s off to New Jersey.  I might have time for an erg session before we depart.  If I do, it will likely be a 3×20′ steady state session.