The Rowing Training Rollercoaster Rides On

May’s goal was endurance, strength, and working “the middle,” the anaerobic threshold.

I scheduled 44 workouts (erging and strength training combined) and achieved 77% of those. Four sessions modified for time. The completion rate doesn’t include the four sessions of water rowing squeezedo in this month.IMG_1461

The bad news is I missed two of the four long endurance workouts, and they were back-to-back Mondays. I definitely could tell I didn’t get this training in.

This month was a true rollercoaster. Chugging along to gain momentum, finally turning the corner and seeing gains, and screeching to a halt. Every time I make progress, life says, “nope! Back those gains up!” Now I’m facing a big wall.

Let’s start with a training summary.

Week 1

I nailed this week, missing just one planned workout. No joke; it was tough. It started with an 18k broken into 3-6k’s, a big leap to what I’d been doing. But I needed it to get the wheel going.

Week 2

I had to modify three workouts for time, completing only 2/3s of the plan. This was my fault in the planning stages. I was too ambitious with the time I have to train. We were supposed to go camping and rock climbing this weekend, but foul weather changed our plans. I swapped some later workouts into our at-home days, but not too many because our son gifted us with an awesome stomach bug. I was down two days.

Week 3

Again, I swapped some days to fill in the gaps for our schedule, but it left me in a weird place. The plan had endurance rows Monday (motivation Monday!), AT’s on Wednesday and Fridays, and a mix of hard steady state, AT, and rate work on the other days. I ended up doing three AT’s back-to-back because of the way the swapping and my schedule worked out. That was rough. I missed an endurance row because of this.

We were able to go camping, this time in a different place where I could bring my boat. I squeezed in three on-water sessions and earned some blisters.

Week 4

Finally! Started seeing progress in the numbers. Had one workout I wasn’t looking forward to doing, but then slayed the machine. Funny how that works out. The end of the week, we went on a one-night trip. I erged in the morning and had Sunday off, so no big deal.

Week 5

Yes, this month had five weeks and not four! Memorial Day Monday I planned a straight 18k. I missed due to timing/ feeling rotten. I managed Tuesday’s workout, pulling like a boss, only to get laid up again later.

To finish the month, I planned a 20-minute test. I tried, but couldn’t do it.

The Training Thumbs-Ups

Rowing! Finally hit the water. Our camping trip was to the Land Between the Lakes, and we stayed at Energy Lake. It’s a no-wake lake but some fisherman missed that memo. Still, incredibly nice place to row. Rolling hills, trees, tons of birds. The perimeter was slightly under 5k. The west side was dotted with little islands I could scoot around and explore. Most of the time I was the only person on the lake.

On my first morning row, all the birds were bobbing around on the north side. “All the birds” means at least two hundred, easy: pelicans, ducks, geese, water fowl. I launched on the south side, rowed along the perimeter, started heading back east. I figured the birds would move out of the way.

The birds did move, but they’re birds. They’re not smart.  Instead of flying north or south of me, they’d fly east. So they had to keep flying east to stay ahead of me. Birds who didn’t need to move would take off after I’d passed. Finally, the big pack decides it’s had enough of this big, yellow bobber and they all launch airborne. The rush of wings sounded like a waterfall cascading all around me. I effectively chased 200+ birds off the lake. They didn’t come back all weekend.

Caelan wanted to go for a spin with Mommy in her rowing boat. Heart melt! His first time in a rowing shell.

Caelan rows with Mommy!

Made gains. The workouts were killing me, so when I finally started showing progress, I was thrilled. A solid row.

Pilates. I’d been talking about doing it forever, and I finally did. Our YMCA usually offers 8-week sessions, but in May they offered a 4-week class. I worried taking the class would impacted training, but for months, I’ve been plagued with a tight pulling sensation internally, in my lower left hip. Feels like something with the psoas, but none of the stretches or exercises I’ve done have resolved it. Sometimes it clicks or pops. I attribute this partially to my scoliosis. To fix it, I took the plunge with Pilates.

Since the first session, the tight pulling has been gone. Zero pulling sensation when erging. I did have some serious soreness in my lower right back after the first session, and something definitely popped in there during class.  I think the classes are engaging those muscles and evening everything out.

Embarrassingly, these are intro Pilates classes. It’s apparent I’m generally physically stronger than everyone else, to the point the instructor calls me out. “Change to a red and blue, or two reds, or, if you’re Casey, two reds and a blue.” Our last day we had a guest instructor who, in helping modify my C-curve, exclaimed, “You know what your problem is? You’re as strong as an ox, you are!”

I will say we did this bridge exercise that absolutely Kicked. My. Butt. Holy cow, that one hurt.

Hitting the Big Wall

We had a stomach bug run through the house mid-May, but at least that came and went quickly. One day off, one day light, and back on the training horse.


Memorial weekend on our way home from our camping/climbing expedition, my stomach felt off. Not in a norovirus way, but an unsettled way. Nothing seemed to fix it, and I went to bed early.

Memorial Day, wake up, life is good. I’ve a laundry list of chores to do. Plant the garden, row 18k, paint a fence, do laundry, shave the dog. We get to “plant the garden” and “paint a fence,” two monumental achievements with a two-year-old. I’m literally grilling hot dogs, managing a kid, and touching-up a paint job at the same time.

Two hours after lunch, I’m incapacitated. Stomach pains are back. It’s not like a normal stomach ache. It hurts like I’ve done a Pilates 500. I don’t eat. Alan takes the kid to a friend’s cookout without me. By 7pm I feel ok. It’s all better. Weird.

Tuesday. Feeling just fine. A little runs, but figuring that’s getting the bad out of my system. I workout. Absolutely crush it. Wrote “Wow! Awesome!” in the training book. Take kid to splash pad. Eat lunch. Start feeling a little off. Go home. Put kid to bed. By 3:30 the pain is back with a vengeance. I go to Urgent Care.

The Physician’s Assistant suspects something in the gallbladder, but they don’t have an ultrasound there. It’s almost 5pm, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Long story on the doctor’s office screwing things up, but I have to wait for the ultrasound a few more days. And after that? Who knows how long it will take for a GI appointment.

The symptoms I’m experiencing make sense for a gallbladder issue based on Dr. Internet. So I’m looking into the real possibility I’ll be having surgery soon, and be out 1-3 weeks good training at best, 5-6 at worst.

In the meantime, I’ve lost five pounds in six days due to either not eating because I’m hurting, or reduced eating because I’m afraid of another attack. The last two days I’ve managed to only have minor attacks, but I am eating a very restricted diet. I did want to lose a few pounds but not like this.

I tried to do the 20-minute test this morning. “Just buck up and do it! Other people rowed through worse!”

The first problem was I had to do the test at home. My erg is fine for getting in the work, but it’s old with a PM2. When I do the same workouts on the same drag between the home erg and the YMCA ergs, the home erg is always significantly slower. I don’t trust it for testing.

The second problem was the last five days. I knew during the warm-up this was going to be awful. Imagine a vacuum sucking away all your energy. The five days of rapid weight loss, reduced fluids, and restricted crash diet was apparent in each stroke.

But I tried. I came up with two plans. Set the monitor for 20 minutes. Started rowing at a 28, aiming for my target spilt. And…couldn’t hold it, not even two minutes. Spilts kept creeping up. Physically felt horrible. Heart rate jumped up to maximum with 18 minutes to go. It hit the highest rate since I’ve had the Apple Watch.

I changed to plan B, a hard steady state ladder that still sucked the wind from my sails and left a sweat puddle on the floor.

That’s how May ends: with a big, fat question mark written over June.

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5 Things I Learned Rowing Solo and 5 Things I Miss About Rowing Teams

Rowing magazine’s April 2019 issue included a small article about self-coaching. Ironically, my husband had recently asked if it would be different going back to a masters rowing team after all this time. The question lingered, leading me to think about the dynamic of a rowing team vs. rowing solo.

A brief summary of my personal rowing history: like most, I learned to row with a rowing team. I learned during my final semester, which happened to be abroad in England. I loved it. Fast forward a few years, and I found a masters rowing team. I continued with a masters team for the next seven years. The first team had a maximum membership of 27; the second team had a fluctuating membership between 50 to 100 people. Then moved to a rowing black hole: Kentucky. I briefly drove over an hour one way to row with a team, but having a kid made that no longer possible. I became a rower out of water, training solo and mostly on the erg.

So what’s it like going from a team dynamic to training alone?

The benefit of rowing solo

At the Head of the Hooch, someone asked me if I found it challenging to go from the team to training alone. Answer: definitively, yes. When it comes to athletics, I am a team-driven person. I will always push harder, go further, and be better when I have someone else to compete against.

That said, over the last three years, I’ve come to like training alone. If I ever rejoin a team, I would continue to schedule days for personal training.

#1- Finding the real competitor

This experience taught me new ways to push myself. I jokingly created the #teamofone on Instagram to reflect this new dynamic. But really, I am a team of one. I have become my competition.20

Since 2016, every workout I record the results. Not just the totals, but splits, drag factors, if I was sick, sore, or I had a really good day. And I’ve actively gone back and tried to beat my past workout times. There are no excuses. I know if I’m making progress because I have this track record of numbers.

In the end, aren’t we all trying to be our best selves? Doesn’t that mean we are our top competitor? I will never be an elite athlete, but I can be the best athlete my body allows.

#2- How to train

I’ve learned more about crafting training plans. Training is complicated by a lack of access to water, having a young child, and continuing to work, even if only part-time.  I would love to work out twice a day, but it’s not realistic for my current lifestyle. The restraints forced me to learn about economy in training. This means smart decisions to make the most of the limited time that I have.

#3- Love/hate relationship with the erg

What’s the saying… “Erging, favorite part of Crossfit, worst part of rowing?”

Since I have limited access to water, nearly all my training is on the ergometer. Training solo, seated on the machine, same square black screen and blank orange wall forced me to find ways to stay motivated.

Motivation is not always a success and not always easy, especially in the thick of laying down a cardio base and the workouts require over an hour on that sliding seat. But if you don’t tune into your body, you risk establishing bad habits. I’ve become better at erging, for what that’s worth.

#4- I, Coach

Finally, there is that self-coaching aspect. I do believe there’s only so much coaching you can do yourself. Rowing solo means really listening to your body. This includes rowing eyes closed, capturing video, reading up on technique, and really turning in every time I practice to my technique.

#5- Solo gains

The final proof is in the pudding. I have raced less since I started training again, but I’ve performed better. I PR’d at World Rowing Masters in the single despite only having raced in the 1x six times, and I rowed in two boats that medaled. I earned my first gold at the Head of the Hooch and I won at Cincinnati Indoor.

What I miss about teams

#1- Easy access to water.

With a team, the infrastructure is there. It’s much more work to allows transport your boat to the rowing site. A row used to take two-and-half to three-hours of my morning; now it’s half-a-day.

#2- Rowing culture and community.

I’ve been involved in other communities before, but there really is something special about the rowing community.  Even if I joined a triathlon squad or cycling team, I don’t imagine it’s the same kind of dynamic. In rowing, you’re moving together. Rowers trust in others to create something beautiful. Because that’s what rowing is: gliding over the water with symmetry, sky, and sweat. There’s nothing quite like it.19

By nature, we’re a helpful bunch. Maybe it’s because of the boat dynamic: you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Most rowers I’ve met are giving people: of time, of money, of advice. Even the most competitive rowers get excited meeting another rower somewhere; we’re a unique fraternity of people.

#3-People who get the sport.

Look, with rowing, you get it or you don’t. I can’t adequately explain the sport until you do it. On countless occasions, I’ve shared some kind of training goal or workout stat with Alan only to have him go, “What does that mean?” Other rowers just get it. I miss hanging with people who understand the experience. 

#4- Motivators

To be successful in a double, quad, or 8+, the squad must share the same goals. And when you have the same goals, there’s accountability. If you fail to meet those goals, you’re letting teammates down. I do miss having people to motivate me to be better.

I’m a competitor, even if I don’t always win. I like racing other people. They push me. It’s why I find head racing fun: my starts suck, but I get excited chasing people down.

Today, my training plans are always geared around some kind of endgame, a rowing goal. This year’s goal is to row at my first Head of the Charles. It’s more fun to share these goals with other people.

#5- Feedback.

Rowing with others provides feedback on your rowing technique. That’s not something you can easily replicate when rowing by yourself. Even if the training session lacks a coach, there’s so much sensory data: slide rush, the boat set, the timing, the power application, the sounds of oarlocks. You learn ways to fix it.


That said, I think there are advantages to learning to train by yourself and to training with a team. I think it’s good to have both in your life. Unfortunately, I’m not in that space right now. And it will be interesting to see what it’s like when I finally am able to join a rowing program again.


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April Rowing, Gains Be Showing

After a rollercoaster winter training, I finally had a whole month that went according to plan! Hurray!

I wrote a four-week training schedule with 35 total sessions. I managed to accomplish 77% of them. When I had to sacrifice, weightlifting went first because the goal was to work my cardio base.

The Training PlanApril rowing training

April training, sweat is raining

What I used last year wasn’t working. I removed the flexibility from the schedule; no workout choices. If it said 3x20mx2r, that’s what I had to do.

I also used a chart from the Coaching Manual to create personalized target zones for each workout. The top end was based on February’s 2k test and the bottom my goal 5k time of 20 minutes. The ranges were expressed in watts.

Week 1

By Day 3, my weaknesses became apparent, and Days 4-5 confirmed my suspicion. My endurance needs improvement and the anaerobic threshold, or the “middle ground,” the 24-28 spm stuff, is seriously out of order. Low rate and power, solid; short and high; solid. Target ranges during a 4x6mx4r at a 24-26? Fuhgetaboutit.

The workouts sucked, but I felt good knowing where I stood. I struggled to hit target watts minimum on 3 of 5 workouts.

Week 2

I lost four days this week due to travel. I tentatively wrote “body weight/ elliptical” on two days, but I was too busy to fit this in. #familyfirst

Visit with Grandma

The 3x5kx3r when I came back…that was humbling.

I hit target minimum 1 of 3 workouts.

Week 3

Theme was “move the needle.” Even when I failed to hit target watts range, the objective was to try. Always be a work in progress.

On the 3x20mx3r I wrote, “Very gassed, but showed improvement. *need endurance

On the 20x 20s x 40sr: “Fun!”

I hit watt target minimum 1 of 5 workouts. Was close on one workout.

Week 4

Started with three hard days, ended with one easy day the 5k test to end the month.

Again, notes hit the word, “endurance! Need endurance!”

I hit target watt range 1 of 4 workouts.

The 5k test

It’s test time!

Remember: no one is making me do this. Technically, it’s sprint season.

I pondered the best strategy for a couple of days. The problem is I’ve only done 5/6k test four times that I can remember. The last one was over a year-and-half ago. I don’t have a good strategy for me. I made an educated guess how to break up the test.

By week 4 I knew hitting the 20 minute mark was unlikely at this time. I was hoping to be close, somewhere between 20:00-20:30. I settled on shooting for a 2:02 average spilt.

Morning of, I got nervous. Like, I’m about to race nervous. Logically I knew no one cared about this but me. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to be better. And when I don’t have an idea of what I can do, it increases my anxiety.

That’s why scheduling and sticking by these tests are important. It’s nerves training, and a way to measure progress. A learning opportunity, I told myself as I slipped on the lucky unicorn unisuit. To learn how to endurance test and learn where I’m at in my training.

I used my 2k warm up routine, and added two more songs to my 2k playlist to make it 23 minutes long. Just in case.

Warmed up, screen ready, I slapped my thighs. This moment is procrastination at its best. There’s no reason not to begin, but I don’t want to. I’m putting off something that’s about to hurt.

And it hurt. The first 1k was right on the 2:02. I decided to focus on target spilt and a nice pace rather than stroke rate. It was relaxed and easy. I reminded myself to not get excited, it’s still a long way to go.

1500k in, the first pangs of fatigue. Actually, it hurt more than I anticipated.

And it all goes downhill…literally…

The whole test went downhill from there. Every stroke became a battle. By halfway, it stopped being about a 2:02, or 192 watts. It became a battle to not give up.

And, oh, did I want to give up. The idea of quitting, seriously quitting, came up lots. 2k to go, legs hurt, back hurt. No ability to go up in rate. Just survival.

1k to go. The most miserable 1k ever. Time slowing down…why aren’t those meters ticking away faster?

Last 500. I want to stop! Let’s quit! No. It’s just 500. Don’t give in now. Finish the damn test. Push harder. I declare war! The erg is winning this battle. What is this idea of more power?

Last 100 meters. Counting every burning stroke, forcing the rate faster.

It’s over. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Worst test experience ever. I remember the 5k being bad, but nothing like this. It drained my soul.

The final result: 20:40.8, 2:04.0, 183w.

The worst rowing fitness test I’ve ever done.

It’s a PR, (by 27 seconds) but not one I’m happy about. I wanted to be faster. If it had been 20:30, I would have been satisfied. I do feel that the result is an accurate reflection of my current ability. My legs burned after, and I definitely was gassed the rest of the day. I did feel under hydrated early in the test, but I don’t think that would have gained me time.

I did learn:

  • Steady pace is the way to go. I experimented with some lower rate/higher power and up rate/less power. It didn’t work. Once I’m locked in, stay locked in.
  • I really liked setting the monitor to show 500m spilts. When the going got tough 2k in, I was able to tell myself, “Don’t let the spilt watts drop under 180.” It’s how I survived the middle. You can do anything for 500 meters.
  • Still need to work on endurance
  • Keep working on the AT
  • More power would be nice, but there’s time to gain it.

Moving forward into May

I’m creating a similar system for next month, but now with an accurate target watt range. The top end will be the 20 minute 5k goal and my existing 20:40 is the bottom.

I still haven’t been on the water; hoping that changes tomorrow!

May is a little less crazy, but life happens. I’m brainstorming ways to fit in weightlifting without sacrificing too much else in my schedule. I’d always love more time: more time to stretch, for yoga, for on-the-water sessions, for lifting.

Just doing what I can with the time I have. Always moving the needle, a little at a time.

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Bi a Tri: Disaster & Redemption

A triathlon is so far out of my wheelhouse, I started feeling a bit nervous last night because I had no idea what to expect.

I’m competitive, so naturally I wanted to do well. But with zero experience at swimming and cycling racing, I don’t know the ins and outs warming up or how to handle situations.

Sinking the swim

In case you haven’t been following, I entered an indoor triathlon as a relay team, “2 Girls and a Tri.” I planned to swim and bike and my neighbor ran.

McMo Sinking: the Swim

The swim portion sucked. Everything I practiced didn’t exist. Those stupid nerves and adrenaline got the best of me from the first stroke. I spent all that time working on my technique, practicing turns, and coming with a strategy. I knew what I could execute.

Instead I swam like a tank. I raced against two kids who decimated me. I couldn’t manage my breathing or fall into a rhythm. I knew from the third turn the swim was going to be about survival. Everything fell apart. There were times when I’d take a stroke and feel myself losing momentum. I only flip turned twice! I had the sensation of being heavy and sinking in the water. I stopped using big muscles to push through the water because everything became about breathing. The cheering towards the end distracted me, causing me to pause.

I ended up doing only 20 lengths, when in the last practice I finished 23. Further evidence of total disaster. Lesson: stick with racing ABOVE the water, not in it.

I’m going to beat myself up for a long time over this swim race. I didn’t expect to win, but my performance was shameful.

Redemption: Thank You Rower Legs

I flashed a thumbs down at my relay partner on exiting the pool. “Titanic walking!” I heard another lady say she swam 19 lengths, so at least I wasn’t DFL. But I knew those girls (literal, girls, like 10-11 years old) trounced me.

I knew I had some ground to make up on the bike. Luckily, the first five minutes started solid and those pesky nerves finally abated. I was able to focus and execute strategy. Having numbers on the screen helped.

Thank you, legs

I started banging out 30 seconds pieces, but not with a real “off.” Just 30 second sprint, 30 second 75% effort.

A little over halfway, a guy walked around and announced leader distance. Men, 6 miles, Women 4.95 miles. Well, I was at 5 miles. I figured I had to be the women’s leader.

“Come and get me, B—–,” I thought, and dialed it in even further.

I relied on those legs, letting them crank it out. I kept checking in to see if they were at their limit. Nope. Nope. Keep banging. Don’t worry about cardio.

I hit 8 miles at 26 minutes. I started chasing down nine, upping the resistance and cranking legs harder. At one minute, I upped the resistance and RPMs harder, hitting 26.3MPH.

I thought they said stop, and ended 3 seconds too early. Boo! 9.11 miles.  I didn’t catch the men, but I was close. The slowest one finished 9.5 miles.

No running for me

My relay partner banged out over 2 miles in 20 minutes on the treadmill. I don’t know how; treadmill running isn’t intuitive to your pacing, and you have no idea how any one else is doing.


So we were a very solid 3 of 3 in all our events. I’m disappointed in the swim, obviously, but we did decently in the bike and run. The other relay teams had men in them, and there’s no way I was catching kids who obviously are on the swim team. One had a woman wearing a “Tri-Mom” shirt, so she does this regularly.

Individually, even with my piss-poor water performance, if I had been able to run at all, I probably would’ve placed, if not won the women’s division. If I’d been able to execute a decent swim at 21-23 laps, definitely could have eeked out a win.

I absolutely slaughtered all the women on the cycle. Thank you, rowing legs!

The real motivation behind entering this trip was to work on how I handle competition nerves. Clearly, I more work to do.





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March Training Update: Ribs, Bis, and Decisions

Winter hasn’t gone as I would have liked. Lots of ups (Cincinnati Ergatta) and downs (recurring illness.) I’ve been meaning to record where I’m at for a while, so here’s the reality.

Baby back, baby back, gimme back my Rib

I haven’t had it Xrayed. Is it broken or fractured? No idea. Doesn’t feel as bad as before, so I was banking on sprained or strained until Caelan jumped right on it Thursday morning. Holy freaking cow, that hurt!

Two choices: row through the pain or back off and cross train? Knowing what some of my friends went through for Worlds, part of me felt inadequate for skipping off erging. The other part said, “you have a recurring problem and nine months till HoCR. Play it safe.”

I opted to play it safe, to focus on maintaining cardio and working on strength. Lots of cycling, lifting, swimming, stair stepper. All erg sessions were capped at 3000m or 15 minutes, with a low drag, and emphasis on tech over numbers. The end of last week, when the ribs felt noticeably less sore, I bumped it to 20 minutes, then 30. I tried a low rate strength session that lasted 40 minutes. That irritated it. So I’m capped at 30 minutes for at least another week. Swimming seems to help stretch it out. Today I did a 20 minute piece with more pressure and that seemed fine .

So I’m doing a triathlon

Or, a biathlon. Our YMCA is holding an indoor tri. The running portion is on the treadmill. Before signing up, I tried it. The knee starting tweaking at 10 minutes and forced a stop at 15. It’s not worth making the knee worse. I didn’t want to set back my overall training any more than it is. They have a relay option, so my neighbor is doing the run. I’m swimming and spinning.

I’ve never done a bi or a tri or raced in the water or on the bike. This will be fun! The practice transition from swim to bike sucked! The rules require you to change into dry clothes. Nothing like squirming into a bra when you’re dripping water.

At least I have a training goal. The tri is now a week away. After that, the weather might be good enough to row! I unwrapped the boat today. Cross your fingers no more flooding!

Water, water everywhere

Speaking of water, last year’s return to training was delayed due to flooding. The situation is worse this year. We’ve had more than double the same amount of precipitation as the same time period last year, and that was a record year!

I did some training at Lake Cumberland. Remember the boat ramp I had to walk 120 steps down to water?

The water was so high a few weeks ago, that it covered where I parked the car and derigged the boat. The lake remains high above normal, with many marinas closed. Debris is a major problem.

My first row will definitely be a scouting mission. There’s sure to be new obstacles.

Those pesky 5 pounds

Confession: about two months ago, over a two week period, my body suddenly decided to pack on 8 pounds. I watched it happen totally flummoxed. Every day, more weight.

It’s sticking like super glue. The scale has been stuck on this plateau for two months. Just when it seems to be reversing, shrinking down, it pops back up. Talk about a tease!

I’m not sure why this happened and why I can’t get them off. Is it a winter thing? Less activity from being sick and stuck inside? An increase in weightlifting? I’ve been frustrated . Finally admitting it and making it public.

On the flip side, I did PR in Cincinnati with the extra weight. And I plan to keep working to lose around five of it.


Making workout plans. Every time I make a workout schedule, life busts it. Illness, special activities, weather, etc. After the tri, the goal is to get back on a regular training program again.

Fun things

This decision to cross train means I had an opportunity to go roller blading on a flukish warm February day. Yesterday I did a 1.5 mile run, 1m on/ 1m off, outside.

More sunshine means more time outside! That has been extra nice. Still cold, but better than drizzly all the time.

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Guess who’s sick again?

I spent the whole week after Cincinnati on a high. I walked into the gym with swagger.

The problem? The coughing that settled in after the test didn’t go away. It got worse.

I suspected I might be getting sick a day or so before the Ergatta, but it didn’t come on strong. The race kicked it in high gear.

The sinus infection reared it’s ugly head and said, “I’m still here!” And no amount of home remedies made it better. I kept getting worse. Constant coughing. Poor sleep. Unable to breathe. Headaches.

This is the third round since November. I visited an ENT Monday but won’t get results of the culture until today. She ordered a special compound of drugs, promising the pharmacy would overnight it. I should have it by Wednesday, she said.

Well, the pharmacy isn’t overnighting it. Priority mail. And it’s not going for pick up until Wednesday. So the earliest I could have it would be tomorrow, but more likely Saturday. Maybe not even until Monday.

So that’s six days from the doctor visit before I get antibiotics. Six days of symptoms growing worse and worse. Six days of workout results growing more terrible because I can’t breathe and it causes headaches.

Six days of coughing. Coughing. Coughing. Nonstop coughing. No medicine works. Not the cough drop diet, not the prescription stuff, not the OTC.

I’m hacking so much an attendant at the Y said she hoped I felt better when I left after Tuesday’s workout.

Now the rib I fractured a few years ago hurts, especially when I cough. The pain worries me enough I’ve stopped erging. Just machine weightlifting circuits and spinning. The last thing I need is a repeat of 2013.

I’m starting to be concerned with my workout plan but I still have time to make it up. After all, I’m not starting from ground zero.

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Ergatta Accomplished

We’re walking and Alan says, “I’d like to go to REI sometime soon and try on some climbing shoes.”

“Well,” I say. “Cincinnati Indoor is this coming weekend. We could go and make a day of it.”

So, literally, six days before this event, I register for my first indoor rowing regatta ever. No specific training. Registration closes and I’m the only Masters Woman 30-39. Only one other Masters women period signed up.

The LOC sent the heat sheets. They’ve flighted me with the other Masters Woman, 50-59, and two Varsity Collegiate women. At least I’ll have people to row against.

I decide not to alter anything about my training schedule. I’ve already won, so I can use this as an early season test.

We had a hard time deciding if we should go the night before or not. In the end, I decided it would be better to sleep in my bed and get up early rather than dealing with our camper or paying $80 for a hotel room.

The only preparations the were the day before. Decide what outfit to wear, what to pack, light row, and sit in the hot tub.


5:15 rolls around early when you’re not used to it. Caelan heard us packing the car and woke up just before departure at 5:40. We hoped he’d sleep a little on the way. But he’s a toddler, so he never does what you want. My getting amped music was “Baby Shark” and “If you’re happy and you know it.”

Ohio River, Cincinnati, 6:45 on a Sunday morning

The thing about racing is you have to prepared for anything. That takes on a whole new level as a parent.

The venue was a little hard to find. A “turn here!” sign would have been nice, but we just followed all the other lost cars roaming the residential street at 7am to figure it out.

I realized on the way we forgot to pack Caelan shoes. Alan dropped me off and ran to Walmart.

My wireless headphones refused to sync, so my awesome 2k warmup list was useless.

Check in, the volunteer asked what ROCCS stood for. He knew where Citrus County was because the cops gave him a speed ticketing there. Sounds about right, I laughed.

The bathrooms have lockers, so I stow a bunch of gear, strip down to rowing wear, and stash it all. I’m the first chick to jump on the ergs. It’s all older men, who race first.

Warming Up

Initially, the nerves hit hard. Doing pick drill actually works to recenter me. Still nervous, but controllably so. Mouth dry from adrenaline, so I keep sipping.

I stretch. Drink more water. Some women are now rowing. I get back on and start the 2k warm up.

Someone stars talking over a speaker, but it’s so garbled I can’t understand it.

As part of my race prep, I wrote out three index cards with three different plans: “7:45,” “PR,” “Reality.” I wasn’t sure which I’d go with. I wanted to be close to 7:45, a time I consider the next benchmark to beat. I’d settle for being close to my PR. But based on my recent workouts, I thought I’d end up between my PR and 8 minutes.

Two of my race plan cards

Based on the 2k warmup, I grabbed “PR.”

Around 17 minutes in, I hear “Ready.” I look over to see the first race start. It’s loud, and kind of cool in a shot-of-terror inducing way. I’m the only one erging. Everyone else is watching. I wonder if I’m being rude? Will I be penalized?

Screw it, I’m warming up.

I finish the warm up. Alan’s back with Caelan. He gives Mommy a kiss.

I see my name on the big screen. There are now six names in my flight. Someone else entered my age group.

The men finish. The women start to walk to their ergs. I join them.

I keep reminding myself to be calm. To breathe. They’ve sandwiched me between the two college girls. Great… they’re either going to smoke me or I’ll kick their butt.

Shoe feels loose. Tie it. Fiddle with the drag. Shove my index cards into the handle holder.

Remove jacket.

Don’t look at anybody.

“Stop rowing. Prepare.”

The official is very kind. Explains what will happen on our screens. Asks us to prepare. Breathe.

The 2k Race

Practically every rower hates 2ks. Masters really hate 2ks. We race 1k on water, why should be race 2 on the ergs?

And this is about to happen.


Grab handle. Feel the eyes on the back of your neck.


Sit tall.

“Row.” A buzzer.

I’m in my head, counting my start, not looking at anything. Half. Half, three quarter, lengthen, lengthen, sit on it. Find it.

10 strokes in and it looks bad. I’m in 5th. Everyone around me is rushing up and down, and here I am, a turtle, plodding. First place is +48 seconds up. She’s either going to crush this or she’ll die. Don’t worry about her.

Stop looking. Breathe. Focus. Let them go. Do not panic.

All concentration is on the stroke rate and spilt. The first 400 I am actively trying to bring down the spilt to a stable number. 1:57. Okay. Stay steady.

Behind me, in the spectators, Alan: “Push! Casey, Push!”

“That is the wrong thing to say right now!” I think, but I’ve got to shove that thought away. He’s being supportive. I gave him key words to say but forgot to say when to say them.

The collegiate girls coach is bouncing between them. He’s saying the right things: Relax. breathe. Relax. I listen to him.

Next 400. Technique. I start counting. Shoulders. Breathe. Steady. Steady. Mental focus so tight on the spilt and stroke rate. Finding a rhythm.

Occasionally, glance at the placement. Gaining ground. Leader +30. Leader +27. 3rd place.

800 down. I’m hanging on that 1:57 like duct tape. It’s now I know I’m definitely going to PR.

Moving through the 1k. Steady, strong, breathe. Hang on that 1:57. No slip.

Gaining ground. 2nd place. Leader +18. +13. +10. Spider sense. People are watching. The coach has become more intense, lowered his voice. Alan’s commanding, Drive! Push! Go, Casey, go!

College girl on left is groaning.

1200k down. Persist. Stay strong. I let the stroke down down just a smidge to gain recovery time. The burn is setting in. I see 1:58 flash a few times; I dig in deeper, pushing it back.

Leader +8. +5.

Do not let her go. Chase.


It’s time. I bring the rate up two beats to 30. Focus is on the leader.

I’ve heard people talk about how their vision narrows as they near the end of a erg race. This definitely happened. I stopped seeing the girls beside me. It was all on my screen. I keep looking for total time, but it’s not there. Just spilt, spilt average, stroke, distance, leaderboard. I never look up at the spectator projector.

Leader +0. +0. +0.

And she vanishes.

Alan: Go! Drive!

250. Do not let her catch you. Go now.

But it hurts.

Who cares. Over soon. Go! Go!

McKenna-Monroe: +2 +3

Go! Trying to keep it down. 1:51. 1:55. 1:53.

Bamn! Over! Handle smacks down.

I’m the first done!


Post Race

I need off this machine right NOW. Legs are shaking. I can’t take off the stupid straps. Struggle, struggle- will no one help me? Damn it! Finally I get them off and collapse over. Breathing. The girl next to me finishes.

I see the screen. 7:43.8! I broke 7:45! I look back at Alan and smile.

Obligatory post-race selfie; I cannot stand up

I hurt and I’m thirsty. Need water bad now. Suck some down. I can barely move.

People are clapping for the final racer. I try, but so weak. I have to crawl on my knees to pick everything up. All wobbly finally getting up. I have to row it out, I know this. I go.

Ever get the sick, kind of bloody feeling in your teeth after a hard workout? That’s what I’ve got. Raw and gross.

The college girl that had been on my left sits down on my right to also row it out. She PR’d and broke 8. I gave her my race plan card.

Alan and Caelan sit next to me. Alan’s talking through my race, and about the audience. Apparently I was getting the stink eye afterwards and he may have heard, “Damn, she’s fast.”

Not fast. Just consistent with a big kick.

The coxswain-in-training for the win


I saw people were racing Saturday and pulling some amazing times. I know my time isn’t the realm of super fast women, but I’m still proud of this effort. It’s in the 80-90th percentile for my age/gender/USA rowers. Once everyone uploads their scores, I should rank in top 50 once erg season closes.

Considering my training the last few months, to drop 6 seconds off my PR is a real accomplishment. I wanted to do this to work on handling my nerves, and so breaking 7:45 is icing on the cake.

Cinnamon rolls, the celebratory cupcakes of the morning.

Notes for next time

  • Bring a zip-off jacket and not a hoodie
  • Roll out more after because my quads are so sore
  • Slightly faster start? Not much, but maybe more formal?
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