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.

About camckenna

I write; I row.
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