May 2020

May 6

So I had all these grand plans to start the new month: do a 20-minute test, do a 2k. Instead I took two days off and went camping. The kid and the dog spent an hour just running circles in the meadow around our camper. I made s’mores, the kid deconstructed them all over his face hands. I had several ciders both days. We spent an entire 36-hours outside. The kid crashed the second night and snored like a pro.

It was great.

Weird thing. We got home. Got out of the car and the back of knee felt tweaky, like when you overextend on the erg or after you’ve done a really long run and can’t bend it straight. Except I’d done neither. I’ve had recurring tweediness ever since. So, four days. It doesn’t hurt, per se, but it’s stiff to straighten. It doesn’t happen all the time and it hasn’t bothered me urging. I can’t figure it out. Alan rubbed my leg down and my hamstring did feel a little more sore on that side than the other.

Another weird thing. It’s been going on ever since quarantine started. Sometimes when my alarm goes off to wake up and work out, I can’t get out of bed. I slap off alarm and literally fall straight back to sleep. A deep, deep sleep, not one of those guilty “I-should-have-woken-up-and-exercised” toss-and-turns. I’d say it happens at least once a week. I try and do something later so the day’s not a total waste–strength training, a bike ride. I figure life is so crazy that I’m not going to feel guilty about it. Obviously I needed the sleep and I do feel so much better after.

So training. I’m trying some lower drag this week and it has been way harder than I expected.

I have to do a 2k to finish the Spring VIIIs thing, and I’ll probably do that Friday or Saturday. I’ve decided to bump the 20-minute check to the middle of the month.

I hope to wash and wax the ride this weekend so it’s ready to go when the weather is great. Ohio has no plans to reopen the boat house yet. I want to drive by a boat ramp on Hoover Reservoir to see if I can possibly get out.

May 9

Just did the 2K test for the Spring VIII. I didn’t expect greatness, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be this bad. It’s my worst time in three years. I’m just…floored. I mean…just wow.

So I have some head scratching and ruminating to do.

During the test I really felt like I was trying hard and giving it a full effort. I kept trying to get those watts up, but it was a real struggle. But now that I’m done I don’t have the raw feeling in my mouth like usual. So did I truly go as hard as I could?

I mean, I did make an early mistake by not doing a start sequence. So it took about 600 to really get a groove. And my song list didn’t play proper; it jarred my concentration for a few seconds before mentally *itch-slapping myself to get it together, its just music. And I decided not to test at my usual drag but to keep it at the lower setting I’ve been using all week.

But none of that really excuses the final time and expectations I have for myself.

Well, I’m not retesting it. This has been a learning experience and feedback.

The issue is probably still strength. I’m really struggling to figure out how to fit in just two days a week with our current lifestyle. I only did one round this week.

May 15

I put in some decent, not great, work this week. One strength day thus far. I found a warmup routine from Will Ruth that I’m digging.


We had the house exterior treated for our ant infestation last night. An hour later ants were swarming the basement. Remember–it was just an exterior treatment! But man, they were everywhere down there. Alan dosed the basement with more poison.

The result? This morning when I went down to erg, the chemically perfume was still swirling in the air. It was irritating my lungs while putting my shoes on. If it was like that just moving around, how about when sucking wind erging? Nope.


I could’ve done another strength day, I guess, but it would’ve been a busy noisy moving the hand weights upstairs and going through the motions. I decided why not give running a try again? See what happens. It’s the best equivalent to erging, right?


I made sure to be conservative, with an overall time cap of 30 minutes, jogging slow, 1minutes on and off. My knee tweaked about minutes 3-4, but I pushed through and, to my ultimate surprise, it went away! I didn’t expect to make it to 30, but the ok’ knee did. Is it too early to be a little tiny hopeful that maybe I can work back into short runs? It would be nice if I could just go for a 5k again, even if it’s not a 10 min/mile pace.


Another thing: the forecast changed. From rain all day to dry, low wind, a balmy 58f at 8am.


I said, “Sooooooooooooooo…<details morning weather conditions.>”


Alan: “Does that mean you want to go rowing?”


Um, yes, yes it does!

Fingers crossed.

May 16

ROWING!!! On the water!  It’s been FIVE months since I last was in a boat–Christmas vacation. Six since mine touched the water.

While scoping the boat ramps on Hoover Reservoir I saw what looked like an old ramp now shut down. The other ramps were all steep, narrow, rocky, and/or had docks on both sides, making launching a 26′-foot boat near impossible.

I headed for this one, and yep, it would work. Some plants growing in the water, but no big deal.

Launching reminded me of winter launching in Sarasota pre-boat dock. That water was numbingly cold. I could hear Joe’s voice demanding we hurry up and get out of the water. Gladly!

The first kilometer was awkward. Wobbly, rusty, ya know? Wondering if you’re going to flip over. Didn’t help it had a respectable cross wind pushing.

But it was awesome. Low clouds suspended just overhead, softening the sun. The lake wasn’t empty–people were definitely out enjoying this nice day, but without being crowded. A fisherman here, a kayak over there. A few floating sticks and logs, but not like Louisville where every row was playing roulette with your hull and skeg.  A few houses on the shoreline, but not crowded mega-mansions or concrete condos. Still patches of woods and trees.

The birds fluttered around happy, singing, fishing. The wind calmed down. The nerves went away.

In a word, euphoric, to be on the water again. When day after day, it’s cold, rainy, snowy, quarantined, a black screen with ticking numbers, you do start to lose touch with why the meters on the rail in the basement are worth the effort. Being on the water *without a power motor* is magical. You’re going places, seeing views, experiencing the outdoors as not everyone gets to do. Water is beautiful.

I rowed up Westerville’s 5k course and back. I did some up-tempo work back. The rate was rough, painful, and indicative of all the work needed.

Coming out, a race kayaker was getting ready to go out. She had a USA jersey on and the look of someone who trains to compete. Marathon stickers on her car. We did the chin-nod of acknowledgement: two athletic, independent women invested in off-the-wall sports. “Awesome to get out, yeah?” “Oh, yeah. I wish I’d made it earlier, but hey, I’ll take it.”

May 17

Two days in a row? Is the universe making up for the crappy weather?

I mean, the forecast Monday called for five days of rain, Thursday-Monday. Then Saturday cleared up, but Sunday rain…and then Sunday’s rain chances lifted. WHAT? 64F at 7am–yes, I’ll take it!

I went from a slightly different spot that I’d spied on yesterday’s row. The launch beach was wider and a little deeper.

So, now that I’m taking a much longer-view mindset, I have to tackle the trouble with my boat. From early on I haven’t been getting the numbers I expected on the stroke coach. I’ve tweaked the rigging, set up and oars, but there comes a point when you have to accept the engine is the problem.

I remember the summer I decided I was going to figure out how to be a better sculler. Week after week, every Thursday, I’d take out the Maas and just row, drill, practice. And when that got better, I moved to Peinert. Same thing. Row, drill. Learn how to move the boat.

Now that the competitive year is pretty shot, this is the opportunity to relax the intensity  and focus on moving the boat as efficiently as possible. I’m not saying I’m not training or not racing if the chance strikes. It’s just I can’t put in all the training hours I need to be the most competitive, have technical things that need work, and I really need to figure out how to make this boat perform the way it should. Listen to the universe and seize the chance to come back better and faster.

Yesterday I hid the spilts on my stroke tracker while I was rowing. Today I did the same on the row up–just focus on rate, overall time, meters. For the row back, I took the tracker and tucked it under my feet. I already knew what the meters would be.

And you know what? When I stopped fussing about the numbers to go off boat feel and my perceived exertion, it was an amazing row. I worked on getting as much length as possible and cleaning up the release, alternating the focus for 50 strokes. I practiced steering.  Later, when I compared the numbers, I averaged about 6 seconds faster coming back against the headwind.

May 20

Whoa. I just set my new 5k time for the year during a workout!

I always erg better after I row.

And after a day off. Really, two days off. Yesterday I missed the erg session and only had time for some strength training.

Having a successful day is always a good day. It was a great workout, too. Just a 5k, but as a pyramid with strokes on power and steady. About 1500 in I started to realize I might be able to set a new 5k time for the year without changing a thing about the workout. So that’s what I did.

Now 1.1 second faster per spilt. Yay me!

May 30

Time flies when you’re…surviving coronavirus lockdown.

Training wise, the last ten days haven’t been bad. I’ve been put in the work, doing what I can. I tried a second round of running, or a really slow jog. Minute on/minute off, 25 minutes. My knee didn’t hurt, so woo!

Memorial weekend was beautiful, but we spent the long weekend visiting grandparents and rock climbing. Another few days off rowing. A lot of rest this month.

Today I got another row in. It was one of those “character building” rows. I arrived later than I would’ve liked, so the wind was kicking up.

When I unzipped the cover, I discovered a nest of ants around the impeller and under the foot well. I am SO DONE with ANTS!  So the row almost was scratched because there was no way I was rowing with ants crawling up my legs. The darn things were swimming around, making rafts, and wasting my precious water. But I found a can of bug spray in Alan’s car and with enough spraying and washing, got the darn suckers out.

I had wanted to do the low, long row to the north towards the north bridge. I like having destinations and goals. But it was just too windy. So I rowed under the bridge were I launched to the smaller reservoir section, where they do sprint races and near the dam. Much better. So the first 2200m were fine, a tailwind, but pretty flat. I figured I’d do at least two circles of the lake.

It was a flashback to my Lake Cumberland row last year. By the time I reached the other side, it was whitecaps, water rolling over the bow, unstable, messy, gross water. But I was committed. I knew if I got far enough north the crap would get better, so I just had to be slow and careful.

At some point I heard the clank-clank of a loose rigger. Yep. A loose rigger in crappy water. All I could think about was how the last thing I needed on top of this was to flip over.

Luckily Fluidesign rigging is so easy to tighten. But every weird clink after that had me stopping and checking.

Seventeen minutes after I started the 2200 meter row north….

Yep. That’s the right number. 17 minutes, in a headwind, in rolls, and with the rigger tightening pit stop. I watched the spilt time drop by one full minute from when I started to when I paused for water.

I ended up going back and forth on the one side of the lake. At least it was flatter, even if I still had a headwind/tailwind scenario.

Otherwise, I got in some decent technique work. I kept the focus on my release, grip and steering. I walked away with no new crazy blisters, and my back felt good. If it hadn’t been crappy and so mentally done, I probably would have done more meters. But at 90 minutes in, I was done fighting. I had stuff to get done.

May in summary

The month is over. Overall, I think this was a good training month even though I had more rest days than normal. I liked the workouts, I saw progress in numbers, and I got the boat out three times. The weather started out junk and finally warmed and dried over the last week. I fit in two running sessions without pain, which makes me hopeful for a future of maybe some 5ks…? Is that too much to ask for?

The kid’s school resumes June 1. The YMCA starts a limited opening June 8 with a second opening wave June 29 but their child watch is still closed for the foreseeable future. I might be able to do some strength training, but I’m not banking on it.

I have been obsessively tracking my nutrition to tackle my weight gain problem. What I’ve learned: Nutrition is hard. Making the right choices is hard. Learning about food is conflicting and confusing.

It’s been tough to: 1) determine where I’m going wrong, and, 2) cutting back total calories. My best guess is I’m more sedentary than I was while overeating for the lifestyle. But as a result of cutting back, I feel hungry a lot. Part of it is retraining myself on what hunger really means. Asking, “Am I really hungry, or do I just want to feel stuffed as a measure of ‘I’m full’?” Or, “Am I hungry, or actually thirsty?” Another part is re-learning how to balance what kinds of food I’m eating so that I feel satisfied longer.

The good news is I’m down four lbs from where I started and have a little over two lbs to go to be in a decent place for a while.

Finally, it doesn’t look like the local rowing clubs in Columbus are opening anytime soon. I see all your “rowing in single” Instagrams and I am jealous.

The plan for June is to keep carrying on. We have a planned vacation in the middle of the month, so we’ll see how the numbers go.



About camckenna

I write; I row.
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