Head of the Hooch: Going Single is Mental

Once the Head of the Charles was done, nothing stood in the way of the reality that I’m about to race the Women’s Masters 1x at the Head of the Hooch.

Let me be plain: I’m not going to win. I’m not likely to medal.

That’s not me being a Debbie-Downer or disparaging about my ability. Allow me to explain:

HOTH Expectations

I arrived home from HOCR Monday afternoon and jumped right on the training horse Tuesday. Hello, dear erg friend.

Initially, I felt euphoric. All positive sunshine-rainbows-butterflies. After doing so well with race day nerves and framing the HOCR experience, I was buoyed about racing the HOTH. Energetic, even. The bow draw made me happier: I wanted to be dead last, but I’ll take second-to-last. Less pressure from people chasing me down. I started the ten-day gap in a good head space.

Until that evening when the rowing nerd woke up. When I should’ve been getting ready for bed, I started dwelling on the 1x. What could I do? Where would I place?

I wrote down the names of all the entries. I researched each of their race histories and successfully found a comparable 5k score for all but two women. Either a past HOTH result or a time from this season.

I know times are highly subjective, based on weather conditions of the day and currents. Maybe someone is better trained now than last year or vice versa. But still–it’s a ballpark. A statement about capabilities.

Next, I calculated approximate spilt times for different targets. 21:00, 21:30, 22:00, 22:30, et al. Wrote all these down.

I looked up my 5k race history. That was easy. I’ve raced the single over 5k exactly ONE time in my entire racing career. Yep. ONCE. I remember it vividly because:

  1. I did it as part of the first Stetson Rendezvous, which has a 5k on Saturday and a half-marathon the next day. Except they didn’t call it a half-marathon that year, but “17k.” Sure, 17k plus the 3k+ row to the start line.
  2. I rented a boat whose tracks left deep gouges in my calves. I still have the scars.

My time? 25:05. Yep. I was shocked, too. Abysmal. It sucks because I was in tip-top shape, having trained for the half-marathon directly after Masters Nationals 2013. I was pretty fit.

To cap that off, I know what I’ve been pulling in my boat, but I went through my rowing app’s history to verify the more recent workout results. For some reason, it didn’t save the last few sessions. Bummer. Nonetheless, I know the numbers I’ve been seeing. They’re not fantastic. However, I did ask the guys at Croker about my oar settings and they recommended a change. More on that in a bit.

Put it all together. The woman who’s won it the last several years also beat me at World Masters. Last year’s runner-up is a fantastic rower who I personally know and I KNOW she’s way better technically, more physically fit, and just plain faster. Another rower I know is someone who’s been at the top of the Florida 1x circuit for years, has more experience and is incredibly fit. I can see what most of the other competitors are capable of doing. I’m still figuring out my boat. I don’t get a ton of water training or have 5k racing experience. I have an idea of what I am capable of doing. The chances of me pulling a 3rd place out of that pack is like winning the lottery.

Framing the experience

I went to bed Tuesday night feeling pretty rotten. All that post-HOCR euphoric and 1x-racing positivity melted away. All these women are amazing. Am I about to embarrass myself? How bad am I about to suck? What if I pull another 25-minute 5k? What if I’m so bad people think I don’t know how to move a boat?

I won’t lie. It’s been a tough week, mentally. I’m feeling so much pressure about this 1x I haven’t the space to be nervous about my other two races.

But I started digging out of that hole, fistful by fistful, realizing:

  1. So I’m unlikely to place. That’s actually kind of freeing. Less pressure to perform to a certain standard. Let the big dogs duke it out.
  2. Since I’m so far down the draw, I only have one boat coming at me. And if they pass me, well, then I’ll be in my own world. I just row my race. If I pass someone, great. They’ll have to yield over for me.
  3. If someone’s going to judge me by the 5k time, they better have rowed a darn 5k in the 1x, too.
  4. The only person I’m really racing is me, and there’s NO WAY I’m going to row 25 minutes. I can definitely beat that standard.
  5. I’m doing it for the experience. To learn about myself as a sculler. Where do I struggle? Where do I find reserves? How do I handle pacing? What is maximum effort over distance?
  6. Rowing a 5k and running a 5k aren’t that different. One just has a boat and more resistance. Take the same approach. Find a good pace and just keep the boat moving.

Training this week

Coming from HOCR, which was my planned peak, and into HOTH, it’s a tough mental switch. You go from, “I’m racing all out once!” to, “I have three races! I need serious endurance!” I broke training into 4 days for the first week and 5 days for the second week. I also added back in some longer sessions, like some 60-minutes on Tuesday and Friday to keep that base alive.

The hardest part has been fitting in any strength training. My kid has been challenging the last few days. He’s two-and-a-half and definitely asserting some independence. He’s also been sick. He broke out in some crazy hives that had me running to the doctor and not the gym. One day all I could do was a 25-minute bike ride. Hopefully I stay healthy for the next few days.

The best part of post-HOCR training was my time on the river. Like I said, I asked Croker about my oar settings and my new boat. They recommended going shorter over the total length. The Kentucky River’s up again, with a slight current. It seemed a similar to the typical Tennessee River conditions, with no-wind to a strong head/cross. For my peace of mind, I ran a few test 1k’s at 5k race pace. The change in length definitely made a difference.

I feel more confident about what to expect from myself and have a direction for a race plan. I have a few days now, so I’ll be doing some taper sessions again and trying to avoid catching Caelan’s virus.

There’s a potential for sleet and snow in Kentucky Halloween night and Friday morning, when we depart for Tennessee. No wonder they call the Head of the Hooch, “the last of the great fall regattas!”

I’ll be bow 1767 in event 50.

If you’re interested in encouraging me across the finish line, just yell, “Go BABYFACE!” If you’ve ever met me in person, you’ll understand why.





About camckenna

I write; I row.
This entry was posted in Home, Struggles, Training and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s