I PR’d so Hard!

I knew for about three weeks I would be doing a 2k test at the end of February to establish a sprint baseline. I didn’t change my monthly training objective to prepare, but based on my 5k test and numbers during workout, I felt confident I could pull a 2:02-2:03.

But beforehand, I felt stupidly nervous. Question after question spun around. “Could I PR? What if I tank? What if I’m not as fast as I think? If I break 8, could I make a unicorn boat?” And then the answers. “It’s just a baseline. You’re just seeing how fast you are right now. You haven’t trained for rate or sprint speed. Just stick with your plan and see how it goes. Don’t worry about PRs. Anything is a PR right now.”

None of that helps when you’re in a downward dog pose, heart racing, palms sweaty, facing the unknown 8 minutes of pain.

I have more fingers than 2k testing experience. The programs I rowed valued on-water results more than erg testing.


Saturday morning. I’m nervous, but I have a plan. I suck down as much water as I can handle. Breakfast is a banana-chia-almond milk-protein smoothie. I wear my unicorn unisuit for motivation. At home, I foam roll. At the Y, a few minutes on the elliptical, then yoga stretches. I’m listening to “Champions” by Fall Out Boy, “Maneater,” by Nelly Furtado, and “Narcisstic Cannibal” by Korn/Skrillex. The self talk wavers back and forth. Staying calm and talking down is a challenge.

The erg is free. Warm up is picks, another quick stretching session, then the 2k warmup. This 20-minute sequence is from a rowing pal in Sarasota. It ends with you all nice and sweaty, ready to work. A brief rest to drink, inhale, and set my three erg test songs. I like my sprint tests to have driving, hardcore beats. I pick Rob Zombie, “Superfreak,” because you have to be to do a 2k test when no one’s asked you to; Korn, “Hold On,” because it’s the middle of the piece and you just need to; Ozzy Osborne, “I Don’t Wanna Stop,” because that’s what you need to hear at the end.

Set the screen. Music start. Brief interlude. Go.


The 2k is a strategy test. Rowers know the term, “fly and die.” Some, like New Zealand, opt for machine-like consistency. Many marry consistency with an all-out, leave-it-on-the-die, puke-your-guts out finish. We tend to break the test into 500s. An even four of these equals 2000m.

I opted to break the test into 400 meter increments. I started this earlier in the month when thinking about my high school track days. I’m usually at my best when everyone is dying. When coach entered me in the mile, each lap had a strategy. I visualized exactly where I would be strategically and physically in relation to my HS track according to my meters rowed. Since a 2k is one extra lap, I extended my second-lap strategy into the third. I completed a repeater 2k workout with this plan, and I really liked how this made the time pass.

For simplicity during the test, I summarized each “lap” into one word.

2000-1600: Relax.  (Let everyone else go. Find your pace and breathe.)

1600-1200: Technique. (Every 10 strokes, focus in on a tech point. Shoulders, swing, breath, leg drive)

1200-800: Persevere. (The middle. Find a number. Stay above the number.)

800-400: Go. (Half mile remains. Start picking them off, one by one.)

400-0: Accelerate. (The final push. Add power. At 200, go, go, go!)


The test goal: 2:02.5 average spilt. I felt confident I could do this because my repeater workout averaged 2:05 at an easy 24spm. Because I wanted a true baseline, I turned the units to watts and used the large font screen. I do have an inkling of how wattage translates to spilt time, but it’s different from staring at the spilt numbers the whole time.

The start showed faster numbers than I anticipated. I worried about blowing out in the back third of the test. I constantly reminded myself to relax. “You have a long way to go. Don’t get excited yet.”

But at halfway, when I didn’t hit a wall, and the numbers were staying up, I started thinking I could pull a PR. In this section of the test, the burn builds in. I had some strokes that dropped under the wattage number I picked. I struggled a bit with consistency, technically and in power application. The inner voice stayed positive. I could still make up the time in the final push.

Then it came. The last lap. I knew it was going to be good. The watts cranked higher than I expected at this stage in the game. I haven’t done much high rate work and it looked good. Oh, it burned, but what a sweet, sweet burn.

The 200 is a countdown. “You can do anything for 20 strokes.”  And then it’s over. You’re sucking wind. I didn’t need to fall off the machine this time. I rubbed my sweaty palms over my face and sweaty hair, wondering, hoping, as I hit the units button to see…

I whooped and thrust my hands in the air. The guy weightlifting next to me clearly thought I’d lost my mind.

As I said in a phone voicemail immediately after, still breathing like a serial killer, “girl, I just PR’d so hard you’re going to shit yourself.”

Rowing PR 2k testMaybe my time isn’t a big deal to you. 8:00.4/ 2:00.1 spilt. It’s a big deal to me. In two weeks, Caelan will be one year old. The bulk of my training has been getting in shape and building a base. I erged my best time ever, even before baby-six seconds faster!

I see I can, and I will, break that 8:00 milestone. Now my training will be shifting to include more anaerobic and rate work. I still have five months to improve. I can’t wait!

About camckenna

I write; I row.
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2 Responses to I PR’d so Hard!

  1. Fantastic website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about here?

    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I
    can get comments from other experienced individuals
    that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions,
    please let me know. Many thanks!

  2. Larry Wagner says:

    congratulations on the improvement.
    i hope to help you on the way.

    i am a now retired former super lightweight, who stole a seat in a heavyweight 4+, winning an open seat race. excellent knowledge in rowing technique, exercise physiology, and biomechanics.

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