Head Race Rowing Training

Morning training in the 1x with the sunrise coloring a thunderstorm.

Morning training in the 1x with the sunrise coloring a thunderstorm.

Two “Rowing Bucket List” items have been achieved since my last post. I rowed in a pair, successfully, without flipping, and in a relatively straight line, and I began coaching for the Sarasota Scullers Youth Rowing Program.

Now that the season has been in gear and I’ve started learning more about the amazing athletes in the program, as I coach and train for the Hooch, I find myself reflecting back on what I want the junior rowers to do. How do I communicate clearly and effectively to get them to do that perfect stroke every time? When I’m rowing, am I getting that catch I want, the right body preparation, the correct bend on the oar handle? Am I practicing what I preach?

The theme is the same in both departments: long, steady state rows, building endurance and distance. “Laying the base” as we say, for sprint season, starts now in the fall with Head season. We’re pushing down to the start of the Sarasota 5000 race course and running against the current all the way back, dodging rolling manatees and markers. At the clubhouse, the athletes are pounding through erg pieces and hours of power with the weightlifting coach.

It’s not just the youth training. Masters boats, especially quads from my club, SCRC, are out with coaches doing timed pieces and working together to find their race pace.

While I won’t be racing in the first regatta of the season, the Sarasota 5000, hosted by the Scullers, I want to throw my hat in for the Head of the Hooch this year. I used the information from the Level II Coaching Clinic to design a training plan, using all their terminology and example workouts. For the fall, it’s a mix of low rate steady state (18-20spm), medium steady state (20-24spm), and high rate short intervals, spread out over six days, mixed with general body weight conditioning. The plan alternates leg days upper days with core training each day. Each week brings an additional 100 squats, until I hit 1,000 squats. This week it’s at 600.

Alas, I still think it will be too late. I didn’t jump on the ball fast enough for this head race season, but I intend to endure and see how US Rowing’s suggested training methods impact my rowing performance. Rowing results are long-term, not short-term. Every day, every row is about getting faster, stronger, and more balanced. Every squat is about building back the power.

Head races are actually my favorite. I take a while to warm up. Fast and Furious is not my favorite movie series and neither is it my favorite rowing style (aka, a 1k.) But long, even pacing? Oh, yes. I hate that first 1k, but after that it’s all in the sweet spot. Once that perfect rhythm is found, I’m on it like frosting on a cake all the way home. And, as long as I’m not in a 1x, I get more powerful, too, as the strokes fly by and we all sync together. The 1x over distance is much more of a mind game, for me, and that dreaded inner voice. Once I’m in a boat with another suffering person, my brain shifts to doing everything I can to not let my boat mate down.

And that’s what a head race really is: suffering. In Florida, it’s sticky hot through the head race season. It’s impossible to come back dry. To train is to be caked in sweat, to exhaust yourself over miles, to tear yourself apart and build it all up again. All in the name of 1/100th of a second in March.

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About camckenna

I teach; I write; I row.
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