My Boat Got an Upgrade & Other Training Notes

Health update

May ended with a big question mark. The ultrasound showed zero gallstones, just a slightly enlarged liver. The doctor next ran a blood test to test my liver function. My bilirubin came back high. They referred me to the GI, but no appointments were open until July.

The good news is I haven’t had any problems since then.

Happy birthday (and the next year of holidays) to me!

The plan was to move and then buy a better boat, rather than taking the next step on the ladder to an elderly mid-tier racing shell. I’d been messing around on row2k when I found a Fluidesign in my ideal price point in Ohio. I forwarded it to Alan on a whim.

A few weeks and a bunch of back and forth later, I drove on my birthday to Ohio to pick up my new racing shell! A 2005 Fluidesign EL.

Now I can go racing in the Midwest! Woohoo! Now there are no regattas until later, but that gives me time to tweak the rigging. (P.S., I’m still available to fill a seat for the Head of Charles. The deadlines are coming…)

Rowing vacation

We had a family vacation on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina/Georgia in the week following my birthday. I fit in five rows, mostly longer pieces. It was a super way to spend a week. My parents were excited that I could go rowing, especially in my new boat.

Then we got there and Mom said, “I’m not sure how you’re going to do this.”

This put-in was the diciest put-in I’ve done, and I had to do it with my new boat. First off, the walk down was a steep eight stories (says Apple Watch.) The house had a lovely high-profile boat dock perfect unless you’re launching a rowing shell. The alternative was a steep put-in lined with chunky bluestone rock.

Alan and I carefully carried the boat down to the small flat shelf. We squeezed between an opening on the stairs and bridge. The slings were anchored with some bigger slabs of rock. We cleared a “path” in the stones; a route without loose rocks for me to walk the boat down.

First row the next morning, I (nervously) went down alone. I gently lifted the shell, so light compared to the Alden Star. I carried so that if I did fall I could try to “shove” the boat towards the water.

Light step, test footing, shift weight. Light step, test footing, shift weight. Step, test, shift. One step into the water. Almost there. Step–wobbly rock! Crap! Splash!

Luckily I was already a foot into the water. A slight push forward and it was down and safe from the rocks. Whew!

The steep bank steep meant I had to put the shore side blade on some rocks. I cringed to see my pristine Crokers scraping the granite stone. I step in, shove out. Push out against the stones with my oar.

I sit there, floating in the little bay between the dock and shore, realizing as hard as getting in was, getting out is going to be worse. There’s no safe way to pull alongside the shoreline with my oars. I resign to probably jumping out a few feet from shore and swimming in.

Luckily when I arrived back, Alan and my Mom were down at the dock. Even Alan asked how I planned to get in. He clambered down and pulled me in, so I didn’t have to flip test on my first row.

Every row after that he hiked down the stairs to help launch and retrieve. What a guy. A new boat and hands-on service.

I think I’ve got the footplate and tracks in a good place. My numbers were decent, but not great. Some post-vacation thinking had me wondering about oars, which are still set for the wider and heavier Alden Star.

Training Update

Faced with uncertainty with my gallbladder, June started without a defined training plan. The first week I tried fitting in workouts I missed in May. I referred to my erg workout book or Concept2’s Workout of the Day to fill in the gaps.

The reduction in workload was obvious when I took the Fluid rowing around Lake Hartwell. My farthest single row was 12k. I did that twice. Some of that was time spent messing around with the footplate and tracks.

The on-water rowing confirmed what I’d suspected; my strength needs improvement. I wrote a tough plan for the last two weeks of post-vacation June with a commitment to work on the weightlifting. Trying to fit endurance work, anaerobic work, and strength training into my available time has been a definite challenge. I stopped taking showers at the Y on Tuesday/Thursday to gain an extra 25 minutes of free childcare and workout time. It’s fine since it’s summer; I pick up Caelan and we go swimming.

We finished the month with potty training boot camp. Talk about exhausting. Early hour wake-ups, 5:30 am alarms, constant staring at a kid. Our first week of July will continue the potty training boot camp. Translation: training takes another hit. The goal is to do what I can to not slide backward.

5k test

I missed the 20-minute test last month because of my health, so I couldn’t skip a test this month. I debated between 20-minute and 5k, but then I figured 20 minutes is almost 5k anyway. Might as well go the extra 100-ish meters.

Thursday started potty training and I did the 5k test on Friday, at 1:30pm. I figured it’s a true simulation of race conditions as a parent: I’m exhausted from lack of sleep, have to manage what I eat all day, and have a crappy afternoon race time.

The last test sucked, in terms of how I felt, execution, and numbers. This time I walked into it with a strategy to test. I had a good idea of the numbers I wanted and set a small improvement goal of 20:35, which would be 0.5 off my average split.

I didn’t wear my lucky unicorn suit. Just normal race clothes. A 20-minute warm-up.

I broke the piece into 500 meters with a plan to match or exceeded the prior 500’s average wats. The early section would be a “base” near my previous time, or around 181-183 watts. Around 3000-4000m I would build it up to 185 watts. Then up more each following 500, with a big push to the finish.

The first 1000 proceeded as I planned. The focus was on watts and not stroke rate. Find a solid, sustainable rhythm and build a base.

Last test I hit a massive wall at 1500m and the piece went downhill from there. This time my legs started feeling the effort around 1500m, but it wasn’t a crash-and-burn. More of an “I’m changing fuel systems.” I pushed through the first fence pretty easily.

The middle transition, around that 2500-3000m, began the struggle to keep the watts on target and build a bit. I did a much better job on sustaining and fighting the downward spiral than last time. Mentally, I didn’t feel like quitting yet.

The 3000-4000m was a fight. I was trying to build the average watts up. By 4000m it was apparent my efforts to reach 185 watts weren’t enough to grow the base watts. I was risking tying my last piece and not exceeding watts. From 4000-4500m I aimed to 190 watts. The pain is kicking in, and so is the panic. I’m at risk of not reaching 20:35.

Those last 500 meters were absolute murder. Knives and terror in every stroke. I wanted to quit at 150 to go, but that little voice was, “IT’S JUST 150 METERS, DO NOT STOP.” Lactic acid overload.

I distinctly remember seeing 83 meters left and wanting to die. Longest. One. Minute. Ever.

Where most of the 500 meters were around 2:04, the last 500 was 1:57.

So, somehow, I pulled it off. 20:34.7, 2:03.4 average, 186 watts.

The time improvement isn’t awesome. What I did get out of it was a workable strategy. Other than the desperate attempt in the last 500 to show gains, I’m happy with how I executed the plan. Now I’m armed with a framework to help me get faster. I know where I need to tweak this plan for next time.

As tired as I was immediately after that 500 meters, I recovered much faster afterward. This is a sign I could’ve pushed harder earlier. And, because I didn’t want to crawl into a hole and die for 3500 meters, my endurance has improved. I do need more strength and power to help push those numbers down. Still more work ahead.

Strength test

After looking for a while on how to test strength, I decided to use Crossfit’s Total WOD as my weightlifting test. The movements incorporate the big lifts I use to supplement rowing training: back squat, shoulder press, deadlift. I also added pull-ups, as many reps as possible. I did this Saturday, our third day of potty training boot camp. Here’s the baseline:

Back squat: 175lb

Shoulder press: 65 lb (Yes, I suck at this. Shoulder always have been a major weakness of mine.)

Deadlift: 215 lb

Pull-ups: 12 (5/3/4)


Excited for the next month. After the first week of “survival” training, I should be back to a regular schedule with an eye on making gains.

I’m still looking for a boat to join for the Head of Charles.

About camckenna

I write; I row.
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1 Response to My Boat Got an Upgrade & Other Training Notes

  1. Pingback: Reflections on Head Season & Faster Masters | 10morestrokes

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