Posts Tagged With: racing

It’s not over until it’s over

I mentioned yesterday our spectacular race last weekend and thought now was as good a time as any for it to be aired. Hopefully people will stop laughing at us for it soon.

It started, as all things do, with general disorganisation. We were travelling in two vehicles (our double and another from the club – one of the guys from the erg race and another) with the others and the boats on the roof of a van (or in the van, either way) and me by car having decided the floor in the back of a van was an inadequate way to travel any significant distance. Things being as they are we were never going to arrive at the same time and I drew the short straw and ended waiting in a delightful supermarket car park in Henley town centre.

As an aside, while I was waiting I watched a large number of people unload bikes from cars and proceed to sit around in the car park talking before heading off on some group XC ride. It made me oddly nostalgic. I think I may have to sacrifice some training weekends next year and go back to some XC races. It’s been too long since I rode properly; the Stumpjumper must be getting lonely.

It’s been too long. I think it’s time to see how well rowing training translates

It’s been too long. I think it’s time to see how well rowing training translates to XC

After fifty minutes or so of people watching I wandered over to where I might find a boat or two. The areas along the Thames through Henley look so alien during the non-Henley-Royal 51 weeks of the year, it’s hard to imagine it’s the same place. Gone are the huge marquee boat tents. Gone are the enclosures with their brass bands and raised seating. Instead there is a quiet field with trees and a road that seems lost without being edged by high white fencing. And trees. Somehow the trees are completely absent from my memories of Henley during the regatta.

After a while wandering round a field full of other people’s boats, the van arrived and with it, the mad rush that was the rigging.

With about ten minutes before it was too late to boat, we collected our numbers and faffed around deciding what we were racing in (braving short sleeves in the end – hypothermia be damned). Joining the end of the boating queue, we watched school/junior crews being shepherded around by worrying teaches/coaches as they took it in turns to forget racing numbers or got blades the wrong way around. I think this must have been the first race for many of them. Having first stepped in a boat in September, getting this far was quite an achievement in itself. Whether the race would go there way or not was almost immaterial. Looking back on my first race, I keep telling myself that anyway. That was after a lot longer and we were terrible.

I would have laughed (to myself) at the crew who forgot to put the seats in the boat before carrying it down to the landing stage but we did exactly the same thing at the Pairs’ head the week before. And we didn’t even have the decency to be at the back of the queue (third boat on the water – stand around for five minutes waiting for someone to find seats. Problem?).

Eventually we were all on the water and, basing our opinions on the carnage that was the marshalling area last year, were having our doubts about whether we would get to the start in one piece let alone on time. As it turns out things were better organised this year. They actually had marshals telling people not to ram each other and the boats were stacked four deep against the bank. We were even on time as well although I’m not sure we’d have wanted to be any later.

The race itself was a fairly non-event. It, along with the pair’s head three weeks before, were the only time we’d held race pace for more than a few strokes and it showed. Looking back at the photos for the head there are some serious timing issues at rate that are probably the main reason we’re unable to rate high enough.

One of the better moments of the Pairs’ head. I think this was just after Chiswick bridge.

It wasn’t terrible though and since there were only two boats in our division with us going off first, we had a good idea of how we were doing compared to our competition. As hard as it is to judge distance from ground level, we seemed to be sitting fairly level with them, gaining and losing ground as we went through faster and slower sections of the course.

As we came through where the enclosures would be during the regatta, I had flashbacks to our r41 finish against Imperial. Still a different league unfortunately. We did wind the rate up slightly though and reached the heady heights of r33. Not good but it’s the thought that counts, right?

This was where things started to unwind. Some one on the bank by the finish seemed to be under the false impression that our competition should win more than us and as we reached them, they shouted (to the other boat) something along the lines of

“Come on [their number]! [our number] is already through!”

By this point in a race I’m not usually too focussed on what is going on outside the boat but apparently not all are so inclined.

I don’t want to seem like I’m passing blame for the events that followed, but I can’t seem to find any other way to put it. When I said things started to unwind, it may have been misleading. Our race wasn’t unwound so much as cut off mid stroke as I suddenly found myself the only one rowing. Forgetting momentarily that there was a bell and a finish sign at the end of the race, a certain someone in the boat took the “…already through” to mean through the finish.

By the time I’d turned around and convinced myself that we hadn’t passed the finish after all and then convinced the remaining non-believers, we’d missed four or five strokes. Paddling the last few strokes across the line I was unsure what to make of it. There’s not really much you can do except laugh in disbelief.

11 seconds.

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know how much faster we’d have been otherwise, the only thing to be sure of is that it probably didn’t help. One good thing to take from it all is that we’re not that far from our competition otherwise.

(The more observant of you may have noticed that this post was actually published tomorrow – I wrote it today but ended up not submitting it due to family taxi service duties taking longer than expected and sleep becoming a priority)
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Categories: Cycling, No NaNoWriMo, Rowing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Far too competitive by half a third

As part of our new training plan, we have one hard erg a week to use as a fitness marker. The erg we’ve chosen (or uni chose last year – I copied the training plan almost session for session) is the 30min r20. Another couple of guys from the club have also joined in with the plan and do the ergs with us and occasionally follow our outing plans as well. It works quite well and it’s better to have a group of people (albeit a fairly small one) to train with.

Taking two months out of training over the summer to let a torn hamstring heal, lost me a lot of fitness. When we restarted in September, I was covering about 300m less (~4s off on the split) than my PB over 30 minutes. I’m still a long way off now and given that the target I’ve given myself for the middle of next year was 2.5s/500m better than my PB. I have a long way to go. The mornings sitting on a bike in the shed are paying off though; the distances are creeping up and the split is falling. The gains are coming in fits and starts though, depending on how I feel on the day of the erg each week. PB+4, +3.6, +2.8, +2.4, +2.3.

I’m getting there slowly. Give it until Christmas and I’ll be back in PB territory. I know I can do it, I’ve been there before, it’s just frustrating when my legs don’t agree.

This evening was supposed to be this week’s erg although it was plagued with problems from the start. My back has been playing up since our race last week (a whole sorry story in its own right. It may have to have its own post) and I wasn’t looking forward to a hard session. Erring on the side of caution I decided I wouldn’t do it but I would go to the boat house and do a UT2 session on an erg, just for a change from the turbo if nothing else. The bowman had his own problems as well. Apparently he’d damaged his shoulder over the weekend while training in the masters 4x. A good combination really.

Since I’d said I wouldn’t be doing the normal session I arrived to find them doing a weights circuit. I joined in on a couple of the less back dependent lifts (bench, bench pull etc). For the first time lifting anything heavier than the boat for a long time, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It still wasn’t good.

When they’d decided they’d finished the idea of an erg was floated. An interesting, shorter one instead of the usual. A relay with two pairs was suggested. It’s worth noting here that I have an unfair advantage over the other three in terms of fitness. I benefited from three years of regular, planned training that we were expected to both attend and push ourselves in. They’d learnt to row and rowed a few evenings a week for a year or two. As far as I can tell there hasn’t been an official training plan as such, only an evening a week of circuit training run through the winter season. In the half hour ergs, this translates to around 7-8 seconds on the average split. When this was pointed out (by them not me) the pairs idea was vetoed and a 3 vs 1 race was suggested instead.

This is the point I should have laughed and told them to bugger off. My back needed resting. What actually happened was that I laughed and took them up on it. Where the original plan was going to be alternating 500m pieces, the new idea was for them to still do this and for me to do 1500m. As a slight help to me, they’d have to change over twice in the middle missing 4 or five strokes each time. As a slight help to them, there were three of them and they’d only have to sprint 500m.

With two ergs set for 1500m, and me and the first of them lined up, we went off. This was the first high rate erg I’d done since June and I had no idea how it would go. I ended up settling about 3s slower than my 2k PB pace and about the same behind the first of the competition. By the first switch over I was down but not a huge amount, maybe 30m. By the end of the switch I was up again, maybe 20m. It’s hard to tell when both numbers are changing quickly.

Their second leg was faster and though I was still holding the same average as before I was now 5-6s slower on the split and the advantage I’d gained, slowing thinned and vanished. By their second switch I was back down to 40m or so behind. Gaining a similar amount on this switch I found myself slightly ahead again as I went into the final 500m.

Starting to feel the effect of the first fast erg in a while I should have held the pace I’d settled at and seen where I finished against them. It turns out being beaten isn’t something I much approve of so pushed harder and harder as the distance fell. I was looking at their screen as much as mine by this point and I still couldn’t tell who was ahead.

At 200m to go I upped the rate as their final leg slowed up. I think the last few strokes we were on the same split. Falling off the erg at the end onto a stretching mat trying to catch my breath I almost immediately wondered why I’d done it. I’m sure it’s not a recommended treatment for aching back muscles and I had nothing to prove. We all know who’s faster than who amongst the four of us. I could have lost and had the perfect excuse. Three perfect excuses even. After a while though someone flicked through the monitors and found the times we’d actually done it in. I had managed it. By 0.3 seconds.

That was why I’d done it. That third of a second against three people who are racing for the same club as me mattered much more than I care to admit. I didn’t even care that they would have been faster had they had slightly better changeovers, that they’d actually been faster for the time that they’d been rowing. It was somehow still justification for going flat out and giving everything when I’m supposed to be resting. I sometimes wonder if I’d be better off not caring. I seem to manage at the rest of life.

Categories: No NaNoWriMo, Rowing | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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