Reflections on Head Season & Faster Masters

November is “off-season.” I know everyone’s hitting the winter training hard, but I just can’t. I am mentally and physically burnt out.

All said, 2019 has been a big year for me in rowing even though I didn’t race a lot. Many firsts!

  • My first indoor regatta–I crushed it!
  • Got a “new-to-me” Fluidesign for my birthday-anniversary-Christmas-Valentines-Day-next-five-years. Now I race again!
  • I went to my second-ever Masters Nationals. Won my first gold! Composited a whole bunch of boats, met a bunch of people, had lots of fast races.
  • Rowed in my first Head of the Charles.
  • Medaled in 2 of 3 races at the Hooch and raced my 1x for the first time.
Boat snow

Already had our first snow, and well before Thanksgiving.

Now I’m taking some “me” time and reflecting back on my head season. I used the Faster Masters program for my Head of the Charles and Head of the Hooch prep.

I wish I could say, “Look, ma, I WON ALL THESE RACES,” but I didn’t. But my objective wasn’t necessarily LET’S GO WIN ALL THESE RACES. (Not that it wouldn’t have been nice to win everything…duh, it would have.)

Of the four individual events I competed in since starting the program, I aimed to win two of them. I was 1st and 2nd in those events. Breaking it down:

  • Goal #1: Race at Head of the Charles. Achieved. Women’s 4+, 17th of 22. I wished it was higher, but our boat felt like we had a solid race. Physical conditioning was solid. IMG_2380
  • Goal #2: Win Women’s Open 4x at Head of the Hooch. Defending champs. We were 2nd.
  • Goal #3: Win Women’s Masters 8+ under 50 Head of the Hooch. The boat was defending champs, but it was my first time participating in it. We won. 
  • Goal #4: Race in Women’s Masters 21-42 1x at Head of the Hooch. Gain race experience, work on my pesky nerves problem. Finish middle of the pack. Goal Achieved.

Framed this way, I achieve what I set out to do. I survived, I won some races and definitely gained experience.

So how did the program work for me?

I raced three 5ks over the weekend one other time, back in my 20’s (35 now, ha-ha, so long ago, right?) and I remember it being a miserable experience. Dying in the final race, sore all over, and not enjoying the ride. This year my physical conditioning was way better. Three races were no problem and that’s despite nursing the end of a head cold.

Seeing as how I did the program for the two months leading up to that regatta, I’d say it’s a good sign it establishes a solid base. And I felt strong and capable at HOCR.

I liked being able to compare my progress over the weeks in each month. When you’re training alone, you compete against what you did before. That aspect worked well for me.

I’ve struggled with balancing how much anaerobic training to do; in that regard, I also liked the plan (especially October) and I saw improvement in that area. 

I liked the land training workout, but my strength base was at a level that I needed more intensity and variety. So I did the planned land work 2x a week mixed with my current strength routines 2x a week until I had to taper. At that point, I followed the program’s land training to the letter.

The only thing for me I felt I was missing was more meters. I’m not talented enough to do 15k in 60 minutes at a low rate. So I started swapping a 60-minute row with a high meter day, usually 18k, sometimes 21k. But when you read Marlene’s head race advice, she does talk about needing those long meter sessions for aerobic training. It’s just that wasn’t apparent in the training plan. 

Overall, I am satisfied with how it worked. Even now that I’m in “off-season,” I’m still feeling really fit and crushing my cross-training work. Except swimming, but that has some different issues.IMG_2486

I want to note that Marlene and Rebecca know the November burnt-out is true for so many of us masters. It made me happy to see that there’s a “recovery” training plan for November.  Full disclosure: I haven’t really done it. I looked at it and did two of the workouts. But I just can’t face an erg yet. Those two workouts were because of schedule necessity. 

A mental and physical clean break I think is so important to do at least once a year. Especially for me, who spends the majority of my training on that seat and not on the water, I need to step away and let it collect some dust. Right now I’m doing lots of cross-training, experimenting, and having fun. I’ll be jumping back on the horse Turkey Day and kickstarting training again with the Holiday Challenge. 


About camckenna

I write; I row.
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