Gosh, Erg Tests Hurt.

The training week began with a planned 1k test Friday morning. You’d think with all that lead time, I’d have a testing strategy mapped out. Hahaha.

Why I couldn’t wrap my head around a 1k when a 2k is so painful, I don’t know. An awareness of struggling sprinting skills? The short duration of the test? The uncertainty around what I thought I could do? For some reason, this test weighed heavily on my mind. I had crazy rowing dreams all week.

I struggled to create a plan until early this morning, half-asleep and stumbling around in the dim lighting. That’s when I realized to stop overthinking. Keep it simple. Follow the same tactic as a 2k, but use stroke counts instead of meters.

So this morning, I slipped on the lucky unicorn unisuit and came up with the strategy : 5 strokes to pry and accelerate, 10 strokes to build momentum, 25 to relax, 25 for technique, 25 to persist, continue to push through the pain until 250 to go. Then 10’s, building intensity with each 10. Base rate 32-34. The mantra: “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how fast you can go. That means your speed is limitless.”

1K test proof

I’m only smiling because I took this photo three hours after the test. I forgot to take the shot with full results  until my second workout of the day.

Music: “Row, Row” by Zeal & Ardor, fast forwarding to final minute to set screen, prepare, and begin, followed by “Superbeast” by Rob Zombie for the duration.

Some chick sat down on the erg next to me as I programmed the screen.

I grabbed the handle. “Row, row, row you fool!” Two deep breaths. Go.

The Test

Half. Half. Lengthen. Press. Press.

Accelerate. 1. 2…

Out of the corner of my eye, the woman does a double-take.

The first 15 strokes flew by. My eyes were glued on the rate, brain on the sequence, body on moving and breathing. A quick glance and I saw 200 meters were down. “That was fast.”

“Shift. Relax.” From around 44, I breathe the stroke rate down. I’m thinking about powering through the drive. Eyes stuck to the screen find the right pace. The watts jump around and I struggle to shift into the right stroke rhythm, like I had earlier in the week. I count. My quads are issuing a protest. Isn’t it a bit early, guys?

Second 25. Technique. Shift focus to the drive speed. Glance down at erg data displayed on phone. Accelerating through, relax. The stroke rate is trending down. Unacceptable. Bring it back to base. Consistency eludes me: up on the rate, down on the drive speed, drive speed up, watts waver. Quads burning. Suck it up. A glance to meters, and the thought, “I should be further!” This sucks! An earbud pops out. Whoops, forgot to tuck in the wireless. “Overcome the distraction!” Focus!

The girl stops rowing and leaves.

Third 25. Persist. Stay on the drive speed. Stay with the watts. Stay above 32. Relax the recovery. My 2k test felt easier than this. Persist. Fight the pain. Temporary. Persist. Rate up. 23…24…25. Okay, 4 strokes to 250. Persist. Come on. Persist.

250. Go. Drive off that footplate. 1… 2… 3… Push. Fast legs. Fire fast. Fire fast. Quads are tired. Ignore. Drive harder. No giving up.

150. Dig in! No giving up! Go! Dig in! Push it down now! Faster! Go for 300 watts! Come on! 300! No! 300! Again! Again!

Numbers tick down fast once you pass 100 meters. 98654321

0.

Breathe. Row and breathe.

The Results

You know the Alicia Keys song, “Girl on fire?” That’s initially how I felt. This 1k brought out every workout leading to Friday, and this was not an easy week.  The last 2k felt easier than this 1k.

1k Test Results

What I see during erg tests…big fat numbers don’t lie.

My first glance at the total time, I thought, “well, that’s okay.” Just that. I test “blind” with the main screen on the large font display showing watts. My phone lays above the handle rest displaying the other data, but I try to avoid glancing down. I thought my average spilt was more like 1:53, which I’d been pulling earlier in the week during an extended speed workout. That disappointed me, because I should’ve been faster.

I couldn’t dwell on the results too much at the time. I have to home by a certain time in the mornings, and I was running late. I rowed just enough to stop gasping and move the lactic acid, took my proof video, and left.

When I got home, I even told Alan about my time, “eh, it was all right.” He reacted more positively than I did. Once I had the ability actually look at the numbers and reflect, I realized it wasn’t as horrible as I thought. The spilt was faster. The final time was on target with my goal.

This 1k test, perhaps more than the others, revealed areas to improve. Distraction and lack of mental focus came into play in the middle. Reflecting on the experience, I tried fixing too much about technique and numbers in the middle. A 1k isn’t long enough to dwell on the perfection of every stroke, you have to let go a bit and trust in your training. That negatively impacted my performance.

I’d like to drive my base pace down a little more and find some consistency. Continuing with my training plan will help reach this goal, and I have ideas for tweaking.

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Even Rowers Have Nightmares

The other night:

It was the women’s A 1x at World Masters. I’d drawn a horrible heat with TWO of my rowing friends in it, Doc H and Superwoman. I was rowing a third friend’s boat, the Prana. (In real life, she is lending me her boat for this race. Thank you Karen!!! ❤️)

I’m in the lane closest to the regatta island at NBP. The race starts well, I’m not first off but I’m up with the leaders and then wham! Seat jams. I’m pissed. I have to stop, dip water, roll it weightless to go. It’s fine. I jump back on quickly and manage to catch the back pack and Doc H (sorry, Doc) around 500 to go.

It happens again. “What is happening?” I scream. I’d practiced before in Prana with zero issues. A million thoughts race through my mind: I’ve done all this work to be DFL, the worst! I should have been racing for second or third! (No one beats Superwoman.) What is Karen going to think I’ve done to her boat? Did I do something to break her seat? This is embarrassing! What a horrible way to come back and start my week!

I actually woke up in a cold sweat. Heart racing. Angry. Upset. Wondering where the heck that all came from.

Just two-and-a-half months to go. Bring on the crazy dreams.

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Hitting a Motivational Pit

Defeating personal demons is the biggest competition in rowing training. Everyone has them. They lurk around every stroke, waiting to eat you up.

Erging at home

Preparing for a session at home.

Last week I hit a downer. Here I am, putting all this effort into training, and only three races booked for WRMR. One being a single. I don’t want to spend all that time and effort for just three races. Especially knowing winning the A 1x is a long shot, and even a bronze will depend on some luck in the draw. I’m proud of where I am and what I can do, but without significant water time and uptick in my training, I can’t go sub-4 over the 1k on the water. It’s just reality.

I’m young still. While my 34 won’t kill handicaps like I used to, it still makes an impact.

People don’t know me very well or how I race. Just when the Rolodex circuit was picking up, I was injured on and off for a year. When I finally started picking back up again, Caelan came along. And now in Lexington, I live in a rowing black hole. There is no one here. The closest club isn’t competitive. Cincinnati, the next closest club, is a 3-hr round trip too far for me to consider. And races? I should say, lack thereof. Very few Midwestern regattas.

But this week I’ve climbed out of my depressed training black pit. (Some water time helped.) Three races or nine races, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to WRMR no matter what. I will give 100% at what is on my docket and hope for the absolute best over four minutes. Either way, I’ve won at the big game. I’m back in shape and getting stronger. I’m setting a good example for my son about independent, fit women. And, though I haven’t mentioned him too much in this blog, I have a supportive husband who nurtures my rowing addiction. Thanks for the oar bag, boo!

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Just a Rowing Training Update

The last time I updated, I was in Florida visiting my family and ill Grandpa. I’d done a 2k test before leaving.

Since then, my Grandpa passed. I was grateful to be in Florida and with my family during that time.

I’m back in Kentucky now and resuming my team of one training. I fit in four workouts during my two weeks in Florida. Something is better than nothing. Let me be clear: I regret nothing. Family first. I did what I could, but training was not a priority.

One day, the day after he passed, I was able to actually row in a single, a Fillippi. At the end of 9k, I tried a test 1k. Overall, pleased with the 4:16 result. Borrowed boat, a week of little training, no competition, little sleep the night before. Lake conditions, flat with zero motor traffic and minimal head wind.

We arrived back Tuesday morning. The remainder of the week I spent on light to moderate workouts. Now it’s the first week of June and intensity is back. Two-a-days back. My legs feel those two weeks “off.”

I had planned to row at US Southeast Masters, but my pair partner can’t make it and it seems very few other crews are going. Why should they? $55 a single is quite the fee for a traditionally sparsely attended regatta. World Rowing Masters is cheaper!

I do need more time on the water, challenging enough as it is to schedule. The rains seemed to have let off, so the river should be returning to normal flow.

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The Roller Coaster Ride: A Big Rowing Win And a Down

It’s good that things were going well, because inevitability things start to go bad.

My grandpa ended up with a life-threatening infection after several rounds of surgery. Things looked, and are, grim. Last week I made the decision to come to Florida to visit him and family. As I finally found the time to write this last night, we had a devastating phone call.

I’ve trained exactly once since arriving.

Before I left for Florida, I did squeeze in a 2k test. I hadn’t intended to, even as I started the workout. The plan was to test at the end of the month. But I knew this trip would set back any gains. Five minutes into my warmup, I figured, “why not?”

Based on my training numbers, I had an idea of what I could possibly push. Even being not as mentally prepared, distracted, or well-hydrated, I thought I could still do it.

I kept the same plan as before: 400 meter spilts. Same mental focuses: easy, technique, consistency, consistency, dig in and go. The same screen setting, on watts, but with a new minimum stroke rate of 30spm.

I’ll admit to my mind wandering a bit off the focus at different times, and to my technique not being as clean or on point as I would’ve liked. My music playlist repeated Rob Zombie’s Superbeast twice, which annoyed me. The burn set in around a 600 to go, but I think excelled at staying mentally strong. I kept reminding myself it was temporary, that I was well past halfway, that I could tolerate this. “You can do more than you think you can.”

Around 400 I started up two beats. At 200 all I could think was “go go go!”

The result? A brand new PR, 10 seconds off the last time, and a test that reaches my overall 2k training goal for this cycle.

Of course, now training has hit this speed bump. I don’t know how long I will be here. Rowing is wonderful and it’s brought so much value to my life. I miss my water time constantly in Kentucky. But it’s just a sport. Family must always come first. We can only do what we can, when we can.

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This Little Rowing Notebook is Mine

This little book is mine/

Rowing notebook

My workout notebook

I use it all the time/

To write the workouts I do/

And how much faster I grew.

 

Maybe I’m a little old school in actually writing the workout results down. I could snap photos. Create an album. Scroll back. The question is, will you actually look back? Me, no. That’s why I think a paper notebook is better than digital.

Why a Workout Notebook Works for Me

  1. I like writing. It helps me remember things, like, “Yes, I have done this workout before,” or, “Your last piece was 147 watts, you have to beat that.” Numbers get harder to remember when you’re deep into a tough workout.
  2. The first workout recorded in the notebook post-Caelan.

    I like flipping backwards through the pages to see what’s been accomplished. As the pages fill with numbers and dates, I gain perspective. I remember after Caelan was born 10k felt like a stretch. Now a standard steady state workout is 13-15k.

  3. I race myself. Since I’m a rowing team of one, there are no training partners pushing me. Sure, I have some idea of what other people in my rowing circle are doing and how they’re performing, but they aren’t in Kentucky. They’re not enduring this horrible erg workout with me. I can’t sneak a peek at their screen. In my notebook, I have my training partner.April workout sample
  4. Progress is measured. Like last week. I repeated the same workout from a month prior. I didn’t just improve, I crushed it. I left that erg session with a puffed-up ego. Yes, I bragged at home about how I killed the numbers. Luckily, Alan tolerates me.

    May workout sample

    Over four seconds ave spilt faster, one month later.

  5. Proof is in the pudding. When I don’t improve on a workout, or gains are very minimal, I have a little self-chat about why. Was it lack of sleep? Feeling fatigued from the prior workout? Do I need to revise training?

I’d recommend keeping a training notebook for recording numbers, even on the water. I make little notes about outside training, like “killer headwind,” or “recon row,” to place the numbers into some context. Over time, the information becomes a valuable diary of progress.

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When rowing training is going right.

I tend to write when things are going tough, but it’s important to acknowledge when things are going well.

My Florida training trip is paying off. I always erg better after rowing. Since my return with technical points to improve, my workout numbers have dropped. Sessions have been tough, but I feel more motivated to dig through.

Caelan has been healthy, and that means we have not been sick. Slowly, but surely, I seem to be dropping weight without crazy diet adjustments. I could always eat better, and will keep working on staying healthy, eating nutritious food, and drinking water. Indoor training session

The next three months I consider to be very important for World Rowing Masters Regatta training. I can’t do much to change the water situation, but I can keep plugging away at training. This week started my first two-a-day sessions. Up until now, I’ve had a lot of flexibility built into my training to account for unexpected (baby) things, but I dropped some of that. I still need some wiggle room, but I must hit certain targets.

Fun fact: I’m drafting this during a long spin session.

Is it strange I’m looking forward to my next 2k test? It’s a few weeks off, but I can’t wait to see how fast I can go.

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