Coming This Spring: the Rowing Exile is Over!

Big news I can officially announce! We are moving!

Alan has accepted a new role in Columbus, Ohio. And guess what? There are seven rowing clubs in Columbus! Two have Masters teams. I’ll be joining one in the spring as soon as we are moved and settled.

I’m looking forward to having a team experience again, and seeing how different it is after being on my own for four years.  I can’t wait to have people to train with again, to get some coaching, and yes, even a bit of the drama. What’s a rowing team without some drama?

I had intended to train for Cincinnati Indoor to defend my title, but it’s already been a huge challenge to fit training in with parenting, working, and managing the move. So it will probably be a floating situation until we are settled in Columbus.


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Reflections on Head Season & Faster Masters

November is “off-season.” I know everyone’s hitting the winter training hard, but I just can’t. I am mentally and physically burnt out.

All said, 2019 has been a big year for me in rowing even though I didn’t race a lot. Many firsts!

  • My first indoor regatta–I crushed it!
  • Got a “new-to-me” Fluidesign for my birthday-anniversary-Christmas-Valentines-Day-next-five-years. Now I race again!
  • I went to my second-ever Masters Nationals. Won my first gold! Composited a whole bunch of boats, met a bunch of people, had lots of fast races.
  • Rowed in my first Head of the Charles.
  • Medaled in 2 of 3 races at the Hooch and raced my 1x for the first time.
Boat snow

Already had our first snow, and well before Thanksgiving.

Now I’m taking some “me” time and reflecting back on my head season. I used the Faster Masters program for my Head of the Charles and Head of the Hooch prep.

I wish I could say, “Look, ma, I WON ALL THESE RACES,” but I didn’t. But my objective wasn’t necessarily LET’S GO WIN ALL THESE RACES. (Not that it wouldn’t have been nice to win everything…duh, it would have.)

Of the four individual events I competed in since starting the program, I aimed to win two of them. I was 1st and 2nd in those events. Breaking it down:

  • Goal #1: Race at Head of the Charles. Achieved. Women’s 4+, 17th of 22. I wished it was higher, but our boat felt like we had a solid race. Physical conditioning was solid. IMG_2380
  • Goal #2: Win Women’s Open 4x at Head of the Hooch. Defending champs. We were 2nd.
  • Goal #3: Win Women’s Masters 8+ under 50 Head of the Hooch. The boat was defending champs, but it was my first time participating in it. We won. 
  • Goal #4: Race in Women’s Masters 21-42 1x at Head of the Hooch. Gain race experience, work on my pesky nerves problem. Finish middle of the pack. Goal Achieved.

Framed this way, I achieve what I set out to do. I survived, I won some races and definitely gained experience.

So how did the program work for me?

I raced three 5ks over the weekend one other time, back in my 20’s (35 now, ha-ha, so long ago, right?) and I remember it being a miserable experience. Dying in the final race, sore all over, and not enjoying the ride. This year my physical conditioning was way better. Three races were no problem and that’s despite nursing the end of a head cold.

Seeing as how I did the program for the two months leading up to that regatta, I’d say it’s a good sign it establishes a solid base. And I felt strong and capable at HOCR.

I liked being able to compare my progress over the weeks in each month. When you’re training alone, you compete against what you did before. That aspect worked well for me.

I’ve struggled with balancing how much anaerobic training to do; in that regard, I also liked the plan (especially October) and I saw improvement in that area. 

I liked the land training workout, but my strength base was at a level that I needed more intensity and variety. So I did the planned land work 2x a week mixed with my current strength routines 2x a week until I had to taper. At that point, I followed the program’s land training to the letter.

The only thing for me I felt I was missing was more meters. I’m not talented enough to do 15k in 60 minutes at a low rate. So I started swapping a 60-minute row with a high meter day, usually 18k, sometimes 21k. But when you read Marlene’s head race advice, she does talk about needing those long meter sessions for aerobic training. It’s just that wasn’t apparent in the training plan. 

Overall, I am satisfied with how it worked. Even now that I’m in “off-season,” I’m still feeling really fit and crushing my cross-training work. Except swimming, but that has some different issues.IMG_2486

I want to note that Marlene and Rebecca know the November burnt-out is true for so many of us masters. It made me happy to see that there’s a “recovery” training plan for November.  Full disclosure: I haven’t really done it. I looked at it and did two of the workouts. But I just can’t face an erg yet. Those two workouts were because of schedule necessity. 

A mental and physical clean break I think is so important to do at least once a year. Especially for me, who spends the majority of my training on that seat and not on the water, I need to step away and let it collect some dust. Right now I’m doing lots of cross-training, experimenting, and having fun. I’ll be jumping back on the horse Turkey Day and kickstarting training again with the Holiday Challenge. 


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Head of the Hooch 2019: Mission Accomplished or Unfinished Business?

The last of the great fall regattas has come and gone. And what a regatta it was. I came into it getting over a head cold gifted by my son, plus a rollercoaster of nerves.

Hooch 2019 Panorama

Practice day

One word: bananas.

The intended plan was just to row the 8+ at 3pm. If I had time, to unload the 1x and find a place for it, but if not, do it later. On the way down we followed the river, and I immediately noticed a problem: zero boats on the river. It’s two pm and the Tennessee should be packed with boat traffic.

We made it into Chattanooga at 2:30; Alan dropped me off without unloading the single because I didn’t want to be late. I still had to find everyone.  Turns out, zero rush because the crazy current meant the ROC delayed practice launching until 3pm.  Plus the 8+ sent a text that I didn’t get that our boat still wasn’t at the venue.

That was a mad scramble. Waiting for our boat, then deciding to find an alternative boat, rigging that boat, having our boat arrive, finding oars, coming up with a lineup, finding a sub for a rower who went out for a row in her 4x. Not stressful chaos, but chaos.

I ended up in 3 seat. The current…well, think of rowing on a treadmill. We were in an 8+ rowing and going nowhere. Our practice row was tough. Down to starboard, and just wonky all around. We couldn’t seem to find a flow. Low sun glinting off the water in the eyes. All we did was go around the island because it was so late.

After, there were many opinions. I figured out pretty quick my mission was to row hard, hold on, and keep quiet. Be a follower in a boat overloaded with coaches. By the time it was all said it done, it was nearly 6pm and I’d been moved to 7-seat. No pressure.

I offloaded just the single and slings, saving the oars and rigger for the next day. I skipped dinner to get back early. Sorted out all my gear. Picking what to wear was the hardest. At 34F, 8am, how many layers do you need to wear rowing? How many layers for 11am, 45F?

I hoped a good night’s sleep would help kick the rest of the congestion out of the head cold.

Saturday- Race Day 1

I woke up feeling much better. Breathing was easier and the congestion had eased.

I knew as we departed the campground, the Hooch was in for a fog delay. Our campground was on the water and it was pea soup on the way out. I could see the cloud bank ghosting above the river on the drive.

Sure enough, shortly after I arrived and the sun peak over the horizon, the bank dropped. Major fog delay. It was pretty though. I’ve got an awesome time lapse, but I couldn’t load it here.

Fog delay 1

Fog just starting to lift; all the support launches waiting to go.

For my first race, event 2, Women’s Open 2x, our bow was sick and bowed out. But she found a sub so we didn’t need to scratch. We shifted the line up, but I stayed in 3-seat. Fiddled with the boat. Then it was just walking to stay warm. Walking, walking, walking, and teasing Marley for not wearing pants.

We were also cutting up about the Hooch announcer and her calm “Mom voice.”  We came up with a backstory and everything. We laughed when she was talking about how gorgeous the fog was. We imagined her ensconced high atop one of the condo buildings, sipping Starbucks and enjoying the nice heated space while the rest of us rowers-in-waiting shivered and paced.  But! As three of our 4x discovered during our pacing, she was not holed up in a comfortably warmed venue but making her calls as she strolled along the river bend.  Our hero.

Hooch Announcer

Figueroa is super impressed. Just saying.

Women’s Open 4x

Like all things, eventually the fog delay came to end. As soon as the call was made official, the venue burst into activity. We’re event 2, so we sprung into action–last port-o-potty runs, stripping jackets and layers, grabbing water bottles. Lauren and I realized we were hungry at the same time. Bow pair are hands on, ready to go, as the venue’s called event 3 already, and here’s stern pair shoving dry biscuits down their pie holes.  Hey, it was two hours after our original launch time! We needed fuel!

As last year’s winners, we’re the first in our event, but we must’ve looked like a bunch of novices. I bet we spent 20-30 minutes down and around the bridge because we had to make so many on the water changes. The on-water officials checked in with us twice because at one point Lauren had let go of her oars and was twisted around backwards to help me sort out the footplate. It was simply too low for me to get full press down on the drive. I was going to deal with it, but she insisted we fix it.

Even with all our adjustments, we weren’t late to the start.

I wasn’t really nervous, even though I knew this boat had won at least two years running. I just trusted everyone in it and expected to row hard. We knew a boat deep in the pack was stacked with some awesome rowers and to be on the lookout.

We took off. I started counting 50 strokes, intending to call something every 50. The whole row, I zeroed in on following Lauren.

The focus rested on pressing back the boat in front of us.  We did, but it took some time to gain that ground. It was clear our concerns were justified on the other boat. We had a clear vantage point on their progress through the pack. I stopped eyeballing our distance on 18, now fairly significant, and focused on the boat moving up on us.  Just trying to press away. They were passing 18 by Lookout Rowing Club. I knew they couldn’t catch us by the finish line, but they definitely were moving in.

I clearly heard Alan call my name as we came under a bridge.

No clear horn for the finish. We came down to a paddle. When finished, I knew we would be first or second. I suspected second based on how the other boat was moving and gaining.  And we were.

Otherwise, this race (and the next) happened so fast, it’s practically a blur. I know I came off the water feeling fulfilled and solid.

Women’s Masters 8+, under 50

The compression resulted in a quick turnaround. The ladies were waiting for us to launch. Someone had my shoes in the right spot in my new seat; I never thanked the boat.

But dunno why we were rushed; we spent so much time waiting on water. I wondered why I was hungry until I saw it was 1:10. All I’d had was breakfast, raisins, crackers, and sandwich.

A bigger concern while waiting: hydration. There was no time to use a restroom between the races, but I didn’t need to pee. With all that wait time, I should’ve been bursting at the seams. Instead I felt like a raisin. I did have time to refill my water pouch, a 24-oz, but I still had to meter my water.

I can’t empathize enough how long we sat there. We’d row up a bit, current would push us back, and we’d row right back up. I swear we rowed past the same patch of grass 10 times.

At one point I counted 12 8+ boats straight across in the queue.

I had enough time to really appreciate how pretty Chattanooga is. The river has a stunning view of Lookout Mountain. Under the brilliant sun, the Tennessee River looked like a flood of diamonds. All the flashing oar blades created a glittering horizon.

The race

Ladies of the Women’s Master 8+ Under 50

Again, this boat has won several years prior but it’s my first year taking a ride in the unicorn 8+. With the move to 7, my sole mission is to focus on stroke and set up starboard side for success.

Except I was taking into account everyone’s feedback from yesterday and the row to the start. Roll up earlier. Quick catch, float feet. Long and easy recovery. Most important: follow stroke.

We got off fast in the chute, but then headwind right away. It was not there in the 4x. Annoyed.  It eases off.

At some point early on our spilt is 1:38.

Cox’n kept the course too far off the buoy line. Stroke tells her to move over. Five tells her to move over. By the power lines, everyone’s yelling at her to move us to the buoy line. At the bridge, five yells to point straight through. Essentially different seats are yelling course corrections at our cox’n.

Headwind at the island. Messy water. What’s happening? Now I’m internally counting 50s again, staring at stroke, breathing, pushing with legs.

More wind in the finish area. The water is disgusting. A bad stroke. Sure everyone behind me is mad at all the splashing I’ve done this race.

And we’re over.

Initially, tired. Thirsty. Hungry. A little defeated because I could’ve done better.

This was not a pretty row. I felt technically unclean, messy, like I couldn’t get out of my head, just lock in with stroke, and jam on the legs. Honestly, I think I rowed better at HOCR than in this 8+.  I was sure the ladies were going to upset at me when we got off the water, but no one said anything.

But we still won.

After the races

Hooch Medals

Wearing Mommy’s medals at dinner.

It’s way later than I intended. I’d hoped to go back to the camper, shower, change, come back. Too late for that. I walked around, socialized, and took some pictures. We had dinner at Mellow Mushroom. Caelan did really awesome and was in a great mood. He passed out soon after we got back.

Sunday- Race Day 2

So here’s the “main event.” Haha–the women’s masters 1x. The race I’ve dwelling on.

I woke up feeling worse, like the cold migrated to my chest. Sore throat. Way more congested and lots of drainage.

I also woke up with the full force of nerves. I kept checking the Twitter for a fog delay announcement, but no message. So we left on time.

The fog delay happened shortly after I arrived. A sense of relief, even if it was clearly just a short one. It wasn’t as thick as yesterday.Hooch 2019 1x

I rig the boat. Wiggle everything. Lay out the “put on before you go” stuff and the “going with you” stuff. Lots of nerves, up and down. Trying to stay positive. Stretching, moving to stay room. Music helped take the edge off the unknown.

More people arrived at the venue. The fog delay ends and off we go. Now it’s a waiting game.

I expected to be hit with overwhelming fear and nervous launching, but it wasn’t too bad. Nervous, but I didn’t come close to tears this time.

The row up was horrible. Against that current, it was a literal workout just to get to the start. And then you have to go race. I thought about all kinds of things on the way.

  • I almost hit the first huge green buoy. I imagined flipping over and returning to the dock a total embarrassment.
  • Why am I doing this again?
  • I am an idiot.
  • I don’t know if I will ever do this again. There’s no one to share the burden.
  • When this is done, I want tequila and a double chocolate cupcake.
  • Please! Please! Counting again, and just trying to stay moving. Worried about being late, but was ok. Passed a few people, made me feel better.   Found my numbers.
  • I want to place well.
  • Stop. Your placing doesn’t matter. It’s about experience. Stay out of your head.
  • Oh. This person is in my race and I’ve passed them on the warm up. I can pass them again.
  • Stop. Passing doesn’t matter. You are not here to worry about passing/being passed.

I made it on time. Stripped the warm-up shirt. Sun is brilliant, current wicked, throat dry as the Sahara. Turned on the stroke coach app.

The race

The marshals call us over. Good news: no crazy nerves. Just breathing, watching.

I had to stop before the chute because our race was too bunched up. I worried about floating past the start horn.

While waiting I told 1768 and Anne they were going to pass me. I offered 1768 the buoy line.

My turn.

Bringing it up. Is that 1:55 at a 24? Bananas!

“1767, you’re on.”

The current shanked me hard starboard. I thought I was okay. Peeked left.

Too late. BAM! BUOY.

Fight to stay calm. To recollect, keep going. Don’t panic. It’s just the start.

Looking, looking, but I’m getting pulled.


Two buoys! Idiot!

I see the ladies following. It’s the same: they’re pulled hard to starboard. I yell buoy at one point, but they miss manage to miss it. Unlike me. 1768 almost went on the wrong side of the buoy.

The result of this early hits? Some shaken confidence and a tendency to over correct to port for the rest of the race. I steered a less than optimal course for the remainder of the race, sometimes three boat lengths over until I regained more confidence in my steering. This definitely impacted my final time.

1768 is gaining, but very slowly. Keep pushing her off. Checking stroke rate. Keeping a steady, even pace. Pushing back.

Anne, who’s in the next division Women’s 1x, is charging forward. She’s going to pass. She’s on line for a buoy, I yell at her. As she encroaches, I call a power 10 for both of us. I yield the buoy line to her.

It was awesome to see such low spilt numbers, but they crept up as I kept going. I couldn’t seem to keep them down.

I passed a boat in my race.

Where are those darn power lines? I’m starting to feel defeated. I look down. This is what I see.

I didn’t expect seeing his picture to literally warm my heart the way it did, especially in the middle of a race. My little plan for encouragement worked. Because no matter what happens, he’s going to be proud of his mama.Caelan in my boat.jpg

Started counting about half way. 50s, then power 10.

Watching the meters count on the app. Trying to keep meters per stroke up. Definitely starting to struggle, technically, and in keeping the pace up. I’m trying to be sub-2:00 but I can’t seem to find the magic sauce between meters, stroke race, and spilt.

Near the island, I started focusing on pulling through the finish and getting every inch of the stroke.

I pass a Boys Lightweight 1x.

The 2000 buoy. Okay, press harder.

1768 takes a big move while passing 1765. I respond in kind.

Now that it’s getting close, I stop worrying so much about pacing. I allow myself to start thinking about holding off 1768.

Breathe. Relax hands, trust the legs.

I’m not doing well, am I? I’m going to be way far down the finish list. Look down at picture. It’s okay. The finish rank doesn’t matter.

The 2000 to 1000 went by so fast.

I tried coming up in rate for last the 1000, and again at 500. Now it’s all about refusing to let 1768 catch me at the line. I’ve got 2-3 boat lengths of water on her and I want to keep it that way.

I hear Alan.


The finish is coming. I hear the announcer say “in the white boat,” but that’s it. Now I’m pushing. I turn to look for the finish line. Horrible stroke! My worst the whole race. Get it back together. Finish strong.

And a horn.

I knew it wouldn’t be a great finish, but it was over.

Initially, paddling the recovery circuit, I’m content. My goal was to gain the experience of racing a 5k, to find a sustainable pace I can grow from, to see how my new 1x does, and to work on my race jitters. I achieved all of those goals. I’m happy that I picked a stroke rate pace and kept steady for the whole 5k. I didn’t throw in the towel and take it down. I conquered my nerves. I held off 1768. I’m not ashamed of being passed by the next race; Anne is awesome and I’m happy to have helped her a little bit.

Drink Row Hooch 2019

It’s been 24+ hours since the race and I’m still waiting on that drink.

But I’m still glad it’s over. It was a relief to put the boat down and be in slings.

Holly asked me how I thought I did. I said probably 8th. Two minute later, I check the results. Lo and behold, I am 8th! Am I the place whisperer or what?

What would I do next time I race a 5k?

  • Strategy for better middles. I haven’t looked at my stroke coach app yet, but I suspect it’s going to show a slow down here.
  • Do more “moves.” Be more responsive to what’s on the course around me. I didn’t really try hard to “press back” 1768 except for her passing move and at the end. Nor did I really look hard behind me and try to “catch” another boat. All my looks were for steering purposes. Speaking of…
  • Better steering. My wide course definitely cost some time.

Racer’s Regret

Coaches will tell you “leave it all on the water” and to have “no regrets.”

Initially, yesterday, after the 1x, I had no regrets. I achieved what I wanted.

But then, as I looked at the results, that little seed of disappointment started sprouting.

I finished 7th in the raw and 8th with handicaps applied. Pretty solid middle. As I said before, I knew I couldn’t win or likely medal. The results prove that. But I felt maybe 5th or 6th could be a reasonable finish place for me.

When I see that 5th place and I were separated by just 14 seconds…yeah, there’s some regret there. Because you can definitely find 14 seconds over the course of a 5k.

Then there’s how the body feels. I realized around the 1k mark that while my breathing was labored and my cardio felt tired, my legs were still solid. They had more to give and I had to trust in them. Even today, they’re not as worn as have been when I raced 5k’s in the past.

So while I met my goals, now I’m definitely feeling that twinge of wishing…that bugger question, “what if…?”

If you had asked me yesterday if I would race a 5k in the 1x again, I probably would’ve said no. But today…today I am feeling hungry. Like I have a little more to prove.

But for now, I need some TLC to conquer the last of this cold. It’s a few days of rest before training again.


Post-Hooch cupcake. Tradition established 2012 to celebrate end of rowing season. 

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Head of the Hooch: Going Single is Mental

Once the Head of the Charles was done, nothing stood in the way of the reality that I’m about to race the Women’s Masters 1x at the Head of the Hooch.

Let me be plain: I’m not going to win. I’m not likely to medal.

That’s not me being a Debbie-Downer or disparaging about my ability. Allow me to explain:

HOTH Expectations

I arrived home from HOCR Monday afternoon and jumped right on the training horse Tuesday. Hello, dear erg friend.

Erging making me crazy!

Initially, I felt euphoric. All positive sunshine-rainbows-butterflies. After doing so well with race day nerves and framing the HOCR experience, I was buoyed about racing the HOTH. Energetic, even. The bow draw made me happier: I wanted to be dead last, but I’ll take second-to-last. Less pressure from people chasing me down. I started the ten-day gap in a good head space.

Until that evening when the rowing nerd woke up. When I should’ve been getting ready for bed, I started dwelling on the 1x. What could I do? Where would I place?


On my playlist this morning. Is it a sign?


I wrote down the names of all the entries. I researched each of their race histories and successfully found a comparable 5k score for all but two women. Either a past HOTH result or a time from this season.

I know times are highly subjective, based on weather conditions of the day and currents. Maybe someone is better trained now than last year or vice versa. But still–it’s a ballpark. A statement about capabilities.

Next, I calculated approximate spilt times for different targets. 21:00, 21:30, 22:00, 22:30, et al. Wrote all these down.

I looked up my 5k race history. That was easy. I’ve raced the single over 5k exactly ONE time in my entire racing career. Yep. ONCE. I remember it vividly because:

  1. I did it as part of the first Stetson Rendezvous, which has a 5k on Saturday and a half-marathon the next day. Except they didn’t call it a half-marathon that year, but “17k.” Sure, 17k plus the 3k+ row to the start line.
  2. I rented a boat whose tracks left deep gouges in my calves. I still have the scars.

My time? 25:05. Yep. I was shocked, too. Abysmal. It sucks because I was in tip-top shape, having trained for the half-marathon directly after Masters Nationals 2013. I was pretty fit. Then I read the blog about my first 1x experience and realized that time might be wrong. It might have been 23:05. That made me feel better.

To cap that off, I know what I’ve been pulling in my boat, but I went through my rowing app’s history to verify the more recent workout results. For some reason, it didn’t save the last few sessions. Bummer. Nonetheless, I know the numbers I’ve been seeing. They’re not fantastic. However, I did ask the guys at Croker about my oar settings and they recommended a change. More on that in a bit.

Put it all together. The woman who’s won it the last several years also beat me at World Masters. Last year’s runner-up is a fantastic rower who I personally know and I KNOW she’s way better technically, more physically fit, and just plain faster. Another rower I know is someone who’s been at the top of the Florida 1x circuit for years, has more experience and is incredibly fit. I can see what most of the other competitors are capable of doing. I’m still figuring out my boat. I don’t get a ton of water training or have 5k racing experience. I have an idea of what I am capable of doing. The chances of me pulling a 3rd place out of that pack is like winning the lottery.

Framing the experience

I went to bed Tuesday night feeling pretty rotten. All that post-HOCR euphoric and 1x-racing positivity melted away. All these women are amazing. Am I about to embarrass myself? How bad am I about to suck? What if I pull another 25-minute 5k? What if I’m so bad people think I don’t know how to move a boat?

I won’t lie. It’s been a tough week, mentally. I’m feeling so much pressure about this 1x I haven’t the space to be nervous about my other two races.

But I started digging out of that hole, fistful by fistful, realizing:

  1. So I’m unlikely to place. That’s actually kind of freeing. Less pressure to perform to a certain standard. Let the big dogs duke it out.
  2. Since I’m so far down the draw, I only have one boat coming at me. And if they pass me, well, then I’ll be in my own world. I just row my race. If I pass someone, great. They’ll have to yield over for me.
  3. If someone’s going to judge me by the 5k time, they better have rowed a darn 5k in the 1x, too.
  4. The only person I’m really racing is me, and there’s NO WAY I’m going to row 25 minutes. I can definitely beat that standard.
  5. I’m doing it for the experience. To learn about myself as a sculler. Where do I struggle? Where do I find reserves? How do I handle pacing? What is maximum effort over distance?
  6. Rowing a 5k and running a 5k aren’t that different. One just has a boat and more resistance. Take the same approach. Find a good pace and just keep the boat moving.

Training this week

Coming from HOCR, which was my planned peak, and into HOTH, it’s a tough mental switch. You go from, “I’m racing all out once!” to, “I have three races! I need serious endurance!” I broke training into 4 days for the first week and 5 days for the second week. I also added back in some longer sessions, like some 60-minutes on Tuesday and Friday to keep that base alive.

The hardest part has been fitting in any strength training. My kid has been challenging the last few days. He’s two-and-a-half and definitely asserting some independence. He’s also been sick. He broke out in some crazy hives that had me running to the doctor and not the gym. One day all I could do was a 25-minute bike ride. Hopefully I stay healthy for the next few days.

Kentucky River. In case it’s my last row here. Never know with the weather!

The best part of post-HOCR training was my time on the river. Like I said, I asked Croker about my oar settings and my new boat. They recommended going shorter over the total length. The Kentucky River’s up again, with a slight current. It seemed a similar to the typical Tennessee River conditions, with no-wind to a strong head/cross. For my peace of mind, I ran a few test 1k’s at 5k race pace. The change in length definitely made a difference.

I feel more confident about what to expect from myself and have a direction for a race plan. I have a few days now, so I’ll be doing some taper sessions again and trying to avoid catching Caelan’s virus.

There’s a potential for sleet and snow in Kentucky Halloween night and Friday morning, when we depart for Tennessee. No wonder they call the Head of the Hooch, “the last of the great fall regattas!”

I’ll be bow 1767 in event 50. Plus events 2, bow 17 and, event 10, bow 311. I’m sorry not to say much about these right now. It’s just my mental focus is on the 1x. These events, the Women’s Open 4x and the Women’s Masters 8+ (under 50) are going to awesome and very competitive. I’m fortunate to be invited to race with these very fast women.

If you’re interested in encouraging me across the finish line in the 1x, just yell, “Go BABYFACE!” If you’ve ever met me in person, you’ll understand why.





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Bucket List Check: Head of the Charles 2019

Months and months of training, and poof! Over in a flash.

Three days back and there’s still much to process. I didn’t update during the regatta because I wanted to absorb the experience–and I needed to sleep at night.

I did make this short video, the 7 Days Countdown to HOCR. I wanted to capture everything that leads up to a race, plus the results.


The first half of the trip went off with zero problems: Louisville to Laguardia Airport. Now that airport is a disaster. Poor signage, terrible food choices behind security, and one bathroom for 15+ gates?

My flight from Laguardia to Boston was cancelled. Not delayed. Cancelled, due to poor weather. The plane never left Boston. Luckily I saw “CANCELLED” flash on the screen before the gate attendant announced it. I rebooked on the app, getting the next flight out before it filled up, then scrambled to make sure my gate-checked luggage would be re-routed. Then I started wondering if the next flight would also be cancelled. How would I get to Boston before 9am? I started researching train and bus, just in case.

What a hot mess! Mom brain is real and I swear I’m losing it. In between this chaos, I temporarily lost my wallet. It happened when charging my phone. I guess my backpack wasn’t zipped all the way. When I put it on the counter, it flipped out over the sill. I didn’t see it, but neither did anyone else. 15 minutes of sheer panic once I realized it was gone. I could get to Boston–but how would I get home? How would I get money to eat? But I found it, the next plane did arrive (even if late) and I made it to Boston and my cousin Maggie’s about 9 p.m. Rode the bus with a youth team from Great Britain.


After a poor night’s sleep, I was excited to get to the racecourse. This time I rode a bus with Newport Aquatic Center youth. Their cox talked about heading to Vespoli, also my destination, so I followed them from the stop to the river. At that point, it was easy to figure out. Just follow all the other rower-type peoples heading for the water. IMG_2397

And holy bananas. Six docks? Streams of boats? Official merchandise? Yes! And I soon as I saw my friends from Florida, I teared up a little. For real, but out of joy. I’m here and this is happening!

Our practice row happened thanks to a sub from CRI, a lovely woman who was so encouraging and helpful. Thank you Sarah for stepping in so we could row!

Two doubles collided under Elliot and a men’s single flipped in front of Cambridge. And that was all in the first two minutes of our practice!

Conditions were windy and chilly, but not terrible. Hands tore up on the grips even with light hands. They happened to be my least favorite Concept2 grip, so I expected it. Overall, it felt like a solid row and it was nice to get the jitters out.

My Mom came to watch the races. We met up after practice, sipped some hot cider and walked around the venue scoping out the scene. It was nice to have her there to cheer us on and I got to wear my rowing nerd hat while explaining everything. “That’s HOCR headquarters, this is the last bridge, etc.”


Mom and Maggie, with signs for our race! So sweet.

Saturday: the Race

A beautiful, clear blue sky day. We never had the chance to row our 4+ line-up until race day.

We were hopeful for a top 11 finish. It seemed reasonable to me that we could be close to 11. 

I am super proud of how well I did mentally. There were some moments of jitters. In the morning, at my cousin’s place, getting ready. Laying out the uniform. Seeing a fellow rower on the transit. Standing by the river watching the other boats coming down. Hands on. Some dry mouth while rowing up. Hearing the announcer calling boats onto the course.

But overall, I didn’t lose it like I have in the past. I felt focused. Excited. I let go of the unknown and welcomed the experience. I was happy to be there, in that boat, with four other ladies who I knew had my back. It will be what it will be.

My hands were a big concern. I had the worst hot spots on the right hand bandaged, but worried about their staying power. Sure enough, one slipped off on the way up. But it turned out the bigger problem was the outside palm of my left hand. I The rotation had rubbed a section raw it was doing me no favors. n the rush to leave, I’d left my tape behind. Luckily 2-seat, Caitlin, had some surgical tape. It stayed on the whole race and saved my hand, I swear.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.21.36 PM

Our women’s masters 4+: Cox Sarah, 2-seat Caitlin, bow-Beverly, stroke- Holly, 3- me

The race happened so fast, what I have left are fleeting moments.  I was so dialed in during the race I didn’t see the crowds on the sidelines, the banners on Elliot bridge, the enclosures, my family by Weeks.  Here’s the rundown of what I remember:

  • Laughing at Hunting SZN. Because it actually is.
  • My fellow starboard telling me I was responsible for powering us around those starboard turns. Me telling her if she left me hanging I’d feed her gluten. You’re welcome, Gallie! 
  • It can be tense before a race starts so I came equipped with Halloween-themed jokes to tell right before our event started. 

Where do zombies like to row?

The Dead Sea!

  • The announcer for the Men’s Naval Academy entry, event before ours: “U.S. Naval Academy: you are on the course. Have a good race and thank you for your service.”  So nice!


    On our way to the start…taken during an Elliot Bridge traffic jam.

  • Seeing boat 21. Radcliffe Alumni. Um, yeah, those women are for REAL. 
  • Start was so organized and the marshals were the nicest I’ve had for a head race.
  • Getting chilled. Goosebumps on my legs from the wind, but not nerves. Proud of how calm I felt.
  • I heard her say Sarasota Crew, but I can’t say if she said good luck or have a nice race. Just water rushing under the bow, breathing.
  • Radcliffe, 21, charging right on us under the first bridge. I expected it. Not demoralized. Us yelling at Sarah, our cox, to yield over. Their cox yelling for us to yield. A moment of chaos and finally we give way.
  • Focused on 22. Holding them off. Sometimes it seemed they were moving, then holding. Slowly creeping.
  • Cox yelling at 14 to yield. Excited to pass. 
  • 22 finds a second gear. They work their way by us. Using their momentum to push harder. 
  • Getting internally mad at cox for asking for spilts from bow. Bow is busy. Bow is rowing. And it doesn’t matter! 
  • Bridge.
  • Bridge.
  • A boat is creeping up on us.  Cox yelling at boat ahead of us. But this boat is trying to cut to our port. I’m listening for Bow to tell our cox about it. I hear nothing, but it’s loud. Noise from people, noise from the boat, noise from our cox. She is still yelling at someone else, and at us for power and steering. So much happening. Bridge is imminent. We’re turning, but we’re turning into the boat! Crap! Will they slow? No, they’re not! 

Panic! We’re going to hit! We’re under a bridge! Cox’n is yelling, and I’m screaming too, “POWER! POWER NOW!” and jamming it with everything I got, eyes glued not on stroke but the white bow surging forward and the sunglasses of their cox. I think stroke is yelling too, and we are standing on it—

Swoosh! Inches, they change course cutting to starboard and we cut to port. (Apparently, says our cox, the same thing was happening in her bow, which is why she was also yelling.)

 I was looking forward to row2k’s pictures to see how close this almost-collision was, but they posted nothing. Only one picture of our boat at all. IMG_5142

  • Chaos is through. Cox is yelling about a boat 17. I tell Holly, “Come on, you and me, let’s go get ‘me.” 
  • Steel drums from headquarters. 
  • We don’t seem to be closing on 17, based on what I hear from cox. She’s demanding they yield, but it’s been a while.
  • Telling Holly-You and me. Let’s get 17.
  • Elliot Bridge. Let’s go, Holly, let’s get 17 before the line. Speed coming up.
  • Rounding the bend. Hearing oars off the starboard. Cox yelling yield, yield, yield, at 17.
  • Two strokes.
  • And over. Turning to look. I was at 17’s stern. 16 was right behind them. Two passed us, we passed two, closing on two more. Relief.

The Aftermath

About fifty meters past the finish, we’re on the paddle when our cox’n says, “Hey, Texas, do you know Felicia?” Holly and I whipped our heads around, thinking about the same thing–”Oh my god, our cox’n did not just ‘Hey Felicia’ that boat”– but she quickly followed up with how she used to cox with some girl there and to say hi. Relief. Holly and I chuckled at that. IMG_2367

My right hand: as soon as we went on paddle and the race adrenaline wore off, I felt the damage. Light pressure on the right hand all the way back home. Strangers asked if I was in an alumni about because clearly I don’t row enough. I also turned down the offer of alcohol from the first aid station. Not a glutton for punishment.

Someone looked up the results. I don’t think it was me, but maybe. We were all disappointed to find ourselves at 17. A general, “really?” The row felt decent for a composite 4+, maybe a little messy near the end, but it came back together. If boat 17 had yielded, we probably would’ve been 16, as it was a 0.2 second difference. img_2465.jpg

I hoped for a better end, but the goal was experience. That we nailed 100%.  It was an awesome race. I enjoyed every second. I felt strong, I know I made a solid effort by how my muscles felt at the end, and I conquered those pesky inner demons. Triple win.

HOCR Impressions

  • Wow! Talk about people! Never have I seen so many people at a rowing event: not World Championships 2017 or World Masters 2018. It was incredibly cool to have that many people packing the venue, the bridges, the riverbanks.
  • Steel drums at a rowing festival? Mixed feelings about that.


    My Mom and cousin Maggie came to watch us race.

  • Those bridges–loved the challenge of rowing through them! It broke up the course nicely.
  • The only good collision I saw was a Princeton 4+ hitting a bridge, but I was pretty far away when it happened. We sat on Weeks for a long while and everyone expertly navigated through it.
  • I know we lucked out on weather. What an amazing weekend to be outside, on and by the water!
  • The warm-up erg section was seriously lacking in ergs. It may need a different system or maybe two stations by different dock areas. It seemed to be taken up by all youth when we were waiting to warm-up–but aren’t most youth events Sunday? We waited half-an-hour before giving up to run for warm-up.
  • The food choices were slightly better at Weld than the Athletes’ Village. They need more diverse, less greasy options.
  • I am disgruntled about a row2k article which referred to the morning races as, “When the under-card races were finished…” as in the Master’s and Alumni races. But that’s a topic for a different blog.

What’s next?

No rest for the weary. The Head of the Hooch is less than 10 days away and I’ve got three races including the single. I landed home Monday and

picked training back up on Tuesday.

It’ll be my second race ever in the 1x, the first being over six years ago. With the HOCR out of the way, there’s nothing to stop the mental wheels burning about the Women’s Master 1x, but I’ll save that for another time.

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Week 6: It’s All About the Taper

I just finished my final workout on the training plan. Tonight I pack the bag and tomorrow I’m on an airplane to Boston.

I realized about four minutes into the piece that this was it.  My final erg session before the big day. Wow. It snuck up on me.

There is nothing else I can do but eat well, sleep well, have a good practice run Friday, and stay calm.

The taper week


All smiles for last training row.

My final four training days started with a Sunday row. You couldn’t ask for better conditions. Brilliant sunshine, bright blue sky, a balmy high 50-degrees. It’s about the same as the Saturday afternoon forecast for Boston.

We were visiting family, so I rowed on Owsley Fork. The reservoir is the lowest I’ve ever seen it, resulting in a tighter course. I also forgot I changed the poppers at the end of my last row. That threw me for a loop the first minute.

The workout was steady-state with some higher rate work. The first piece it seemed like all the high rate work fell when I had to steer, but I figure good practice for HOCR, right? All-in-all a solid afternoon of work.

I dragged the machine outside for more weather conditioning on Monday’s erg session. I felt good about the work. I had an epiphany about relaxing the stroke and pulling through to the release. IMG_2118

Tuesday, I started feeling energized around 2 pm, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve with afternoon training. No energy slump for race time! I also received my coaching notes from the video I sent it. The little extra jolt of positivity was exactly what I needed. The reminder to keep working on my body positioning at the catch helps, too.

And finally today. The final taper workout. Some HOCR video and a push-it-out session. Tapering always makes me feel nervous. You get off the horse thinking, “Is that it? Shouldn’t I do more?”

How do I feel about the training now that it’s done? Part of me wishes the numbers were better, but doesn’t everyone? I keep reminding myself there is nothing else I can do at this point. I’ve done what I can with the time I have to prepare for this race.

I really enjoyed the workouts in this month’s training plan. I have to trust in the work and in the taper plan. 

The Mental Preparation

As race day nears, I’m getting more texts from the girls. We’re all getting nervous. You’re going about your day when suddenly it hits you: “I’m buying airplane snacks for Boston,” or like today, “This is my last workout!”

I think asking a rower if they are nervous is dumb. Does a rower face backwards? Of course, we’re nervous! Asking just draws attention to it, even makes it worse. Maybe instead ask, “How are you feeling?” and let us fill in the gaps.

Today I’ve been working hard to reframe how I’m feeling. Just little notes like:

  • I have full faith I have done what I can to be ready, and so has my crew. I know they will be giving 100% and so will I.
  • I am going to have an awesome experience. It’s my first HOCR. It’s not about winning or racing for a certain time. I can’t control those things. I can control my experience. If we happen to make time or place well, all the better.
  • My objective is to make sure the things I do don’t slow the boat. I don’t know if I’m saying that right. I got it from Marlene. Somewhere she talks about before you go fast you have to know how not to slow down. I liked it.
  • I have to let go of my fear of the unknown.

What I’m Looking Forward To

Head of the Charles is the event that every rower who’s into the sport talks about. There’s an interview somewhere where someone says, and I paraphrase, “HOCR is the event ever rower is either at or wishes they were at.” 

I’m looking forward to experiencing that for myself. What is like being surrounded by superfans? Hooch and the 2017 World Rowing Championships are probably the closest comparisons I’ve had. I want to soak it all in, from the vendor village to the banners.

I can’t wait to row under the bridge and see the banners.

I want to see a crash firsthand–as a spectator, not a rower!

I can’t wait to cheer in person four of my rowing friends out to defend their bow #1, two on Saturday and four on Sunday.

I want to watch the Women’s Championship 1x. 

And I have a date with alcohol and ice cream/some other form of sugar high Saturday around 5 pm.


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Week 5: Race Prep Brings on the Nerves

All was well. The house, quiet. Lights, dark. Bed, cozy and warm. Alarm snoozed. 

Out of the darkness: “Next week this time, you’ll be heading to Boston.”

I blinked. Crap. In my mind, HOCR was nine days away, but I hadn’t thought about it like that. Who’d have thought one simple sentence would be a sucker-punch of adrenaline?

Five weeks down, one to go!

Comparing week 1 to week 2 of the October 5k training plan, I made gains almost every day. It was interesting because the priority workout I struggled with last week I crushed, while the one I loved absolutely ran me over. Those two twelve-minute pieces picked me up and body-slammed me hard four times, adding an elbow for good measure, screaming, “How do you like me NOW?”

This workout didn’t see an average spilt improvement, but it also didn’t see a significant loss.


Tuned into HOCR videos for recovery row day

It’s funny how that works–great workout experience one day, horrible the next. 

All-in-all, a good training week. A little stronger at the start, but I think that has to do with sleep trouble. For the last four days, I’ve struggled to get a full night’s rest. I keep waking in the wee pre-dawn hours for no good reason. No crazy dreams, no nerves, no crying kid. Just, “hey, it’s 4 am, let’s lie awake in bed for the next two hours. Sounds like fun!” I took a sleeping pill last night and somehow still woke up at 5 am.

I ended Week 5 with a five-day training week, taking Saturday off. Early weather reports had rain and wind on Saturday, so I thought Sunday would be the better rowing day. I think the switch will work out better, too. Four final days of training: Sunday-Wednesday, then off Thursday for travel. Then bam! It’s showtime.

The taper & recovery

Rowing’s still been charging ahead, but weightlifting started the taper. I think I find tapering hard because I feel guilty. After pushing and building for months and months, now go easy? It seems counter-intuitive. 

Now that a have a little extra time, I tried to spend more time on a better recovery. I’m guilty of the same thing other adult athletes are: not giving time to the post-work cool-down. When I train at the Y, I have a two-hour clock in child watch. I try to squeeze it all in, but that usually means sacrificing the tail-end of training. I might say, “I’ll do my core later,” or, “I’ll put on some yoga at naptime,” but let’s be real. It never happens.

Early steps to prepare for HOCR 

At the sub-10 days out, I decided to start shifting training to the afternoons. I hate racing late in the day. I’m always worse, but I suspect that’s true for a lot of people. For me, I always seem to hit an energy lull around 3-4 pm. And when’s the race? 3:16 Saturday.


When your Mommy is a rower…

I’m hoping training later conditions my body to get used to making a large physical effort later in the day.

I started adding some land-based warm-up before all the rowing sessions, just like I do when I race. Again, just practicing the routine. Trying to normalize everything.

I watched more HOCR race videos on a recovery day, but I realized they weren’t really going to do me, the rower, any good familiarizing with the course. I’m not a coxswain! My butt goes over the line first, not my feet. I did find two videos shot from rowers wearing Go-Pros. Besides the shakiness, that was actually helpful. On the second one, I saw a building and remembered a bridge was coming up.

And I added Boston to my weather app. That’s a sure sign it’s soon!


Rest day! 7 Days remaining

Those pesky nerves

You know when you’re giving a speech for the first time, and someone says, “everyone else is just as nervous as you,” as a measure of comfort? 

It doesn’t help.

Maybe everyone else is just as nervous head racing, and especially head racing at the Head of the Charles, but that knowledge does nothing to stop those adrenaline jolts.

The first round of nerves hit with Alan’s innocent little remark Thursday morning. The came again as I drove to the YMCA to work out. The sweaty palms. The tumbling rocks in the stomach. Dry mouth.

I’ve also had checklists running through my head. What to pack, what to buy, what to do this weekend.

Nerves and the mental game are two rowing demons I struggle against I am my worst enemy. The bigger the boat, the less I struggle, but the panic is always there. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of being in the boat I’m in.

In my spare moments, I’ve been reading on strategies and approaches to help stay calm and focused. If you have the Faster Masters program, there’s a section on head race planning. I liked this image from this morning’s research:

 “One major cause of race-day stress is the unknown… How fast will you run? Will you finish? Will you be the last person across the line? Will you qualify or break that personal record? What will your finish-line photo look like? The key to calmer waters is to race with what the day gives you and surrender to running your best on the day.Source

The idea of surrendering resonated with me. It will be, what it will be, right?



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