Hell hath no fury…

…Like a coach disappointed.

So after our dismal performance on Sunday and the string of similar occurrences preceding it, it is apparently time for some changes.

First up is the training plan. No longer is it a quiet mix of long UT2 sessions with a hard piece once or twice a week. We now have rate as a focus. On Tuesday we had 40 minutes at rate 30. I’d never done more than a 2k at that rate. The last 5k I did was only r28. Then after we’d all (or most of us anyway) managed that, it was announced that we’d have 20 minutes at rate 36 tomorrow. I’ve never held r36 for more than a few strokes. This is all on top of the 5k test that was planned a while ago that we have this afternoon.

The intensity of water sessions too is on the up. Where before we’d have longish outings with rate bursts and the occasional piece, we now have 9k of race pace pieces (yesterday) and 21k of race rate pieces (2x7k + 3x~2k) on the Tideway to look forward to on Saturday.

The 40 minutes wasn’t actually as bad as it could have been. After setting the drag factor down far below where it usually is (about 106 compared to somewhere in the 120s) and getting used to working off rate and not split, it settled into a fairly comfortable rhythm. The first few km were strange. At r30 it requires what feels like almost no pressure on the handle. I was consciously holding the split to where I thought I could hold it; every time I’d take what felt like a normal stroke the split would be ~1:40. Then after half an hour the same rate and split felt like hard work. It’s a bit like repeatedly doing deadlifts. First starting with no weight then adding 1/2kg each time. There is nothing to push against to start with and each increment is unnoticeable but by the end it’s no longer liftable. Straws and camels’ backs etc.

The first of the new and improved outing plans fell apart too. Since we always seem to rate too low during races and people complain that the boat doesn’t feel good, they’re trying different line-ups/strokes. For that session I was moved back into the six seat behind a new stern pair (along with other changes down the boat). While I’m gutted to be moved out of the stroke seat I don’t mind as long as it makes the boat move faster or at least feel better. It didn’t though, at least in that configuration. The first 2k piece was 10 seconds slower than the VIII of five weeks ago and it felt worse. There was no noticeable difference between speeds on the drive or recovery and neither of stern pair had a catch so were impossible to follow. It didn’t help that the new stroke was someone drafted in from the 2nd VIII due to his (alleged) stroking ability. This is the same person who has missed most of the training this term and whose erg times are a long way off the rest of the boat. This would be acceptable if his technique made up for it.

From there, the next two pieces followed in a similar fashion and gave similarly mediocre times. After the third one of the newer guys to the boat (and club) was no longer able to row due to the return of an old injury (golfer’s elbow?). The next three pieces were then cancelled and we sat on the bank for a while and compared thoughts and opined (word of the day) on why the boat wasn’t fast enough.

This afternoon’s 5k should be interesting. I think the r30 stuff helped psychologically. Now that I know I can hold that rate for twice as long as I need to, I can go for a higher rate with a fair amount of confidence. I am also aware that this will be the last official 5k I do at with this club and as such is my last opportunity to get the club record. This would mean knocking 35 seconds off my time from a month ago but I am tempted to go all out at r32 and see how long I can hold it. My time from last time is unlikely to be beaten by anyone from last time and my seat in the boat is fairly secure at this stage. Even if I only get 2k in at 1:40, I can finish it at 1:45 and beat my PB. Will have to depend on how I feel before the erg.

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