Thursday – Failing to break through


It’s a busy week. Lots of things going on at work, including customers visiting and a business dinner on Tuesday evening. On top of that, temperatures are reaching > 30 degrees, already for more than a week, and on Tuesday it was 35 degrees with extreme humidity. At home, the thermostat in the living shows 28 degrees, and in the bedrooms it is warmer. This severely impacts my sleep quality.

On Wednesday morning, I rode to work. It was a dusty, high ozone affair, but I was glad I did it, knowing that the repair of my single hadn’t started, there was strong wind predicted due to cooler air nearing our region, and the fact that I still hadn’t found time to prepare my quarterly Town Hall meeting.

The mailman delivered “How bad do you want it? Mastering the psychology of mind over muscle”. I read just the foreword, because I had a presentation to prepare.


With the Masters Nationals in two weeks, I wanted to know where I stand. I got up early to get the workout in before work, and the plan was to do a trial 1k. I had originally planned to do this one on Friday, but it seemed smart to do it today. When I arrived at the lake, I was greeted by very choppy water. While the coolness has still not arrived (it was 21C at 5am), this is already the second day with strong wind.

I decided to row to the castle and row the 1k on the “straight kilometer”. The wind isn’t weaker on this stretch, but because the river is a lot narrower than the lake, the chop is reduced.

Usually I try to row these trials in calm weather, but this time I thought it doesn’t matter. I have a power meter, right? I am just measuring my max power over a certain duration. So, I thought, I might as well row the 1k in the headwind. Who knows when I will have to row a race in headwind, so I might just as well try to find out how hard I can pull over, what, 4 minutes and a bit? Just 1k. How hard can it be?

Before the row, I looked up my CP chart:

bokeh plot (15)

For a competitive person, there is a problem with this chart: It looks like a challenge. I want to move the data points to the right, or up. And as a bonus, if you set up notifications on, you get a congratulatory email for every time you break through the red line.

For a four minute effort, the green line is at 305W, while the red line is at 326W. So, the plan was to do a start, then drop back to 320W, then try to increase in the final 250m, all the while monitoring technique. I was already composing the blog post with a before and after CP chart. I was also looking forward to rowing this 1000m “smart”, and not fly and die.

The reality was different. I had forgotten how hard 1k rows are, especially in the morning, alone, in non-ideal conditions.

I crossed the lake in heavy chop, then into the gorge. I did a few 10 stroke bursts on the straight kilometer, and a few practice starts after I turned around at the castle. I had the impression that the wind was getting stronger. I lined up for the start, dialed up a 1k, took a deep breath, and got started.

myimage (9)

The plan fell apart after 200m. I didn’t know it immediately, though. I came out of the start strokes with 400W, and then I lowered the power by lowering the stroke rate, which probably was a mistake. I should have lightened up the stroke but not allow the stroke rate to drop below 32spm. It is very hard to recover from a low stroke rate. At that moment, I wasn’t aware of these risks. I just saw that there were strokes where the power was getting close to 300W. I tried to get the power back to decent values but it was very hard. Drifting a bit to port, I also had to turn slightly, which doesn’t help with the recorded power on the starboard oarlock. The gusty wind didn’t help either.

Anyway, here are the splits:

Workout Summary - media/20170629-063736-Sanders SpeedCoach 20170629 0653amo.csv
Workout Details

Interesting enough, the average split was very close to what I had estimated before. I was expecting 2:05, based on the wind strength. So even though the power was lower than expected, the pace was in the ballpark.

I had about 3km to cool down and think about my failure. In the headwind, and demotivated, I didn’t go very fast. The lake part, the final 2km, were virtually unrowable. I saw plots around 3:30 per 500m. I eventually made it back to the club.

Of course, I want to set a better record. I even contemplated doing this again tomorrow. I probably won’t do it, but going into the last two weeks before the Nationals, I will have to focus on 1k race preparation, and do at least two more trials.

Anyway, today’s failure should lead to tomorrow’s success, and at least it will motivate me to read in the book about sport and psychology.

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