Head of Prague Race Report

We got up early on Saturday morning. Left home at 7AM for a 9:15 arrival at the Prague Rower’s island.

I loved seeing the new Dukla boat house for the first time:

New Yellow Dukla Boat House

There were also a few singles out training:

Single Sculls rowing on Vltava river

We quickly found our boat and other team members, and prepared the boat for this Head of Prague Race. It was cold and windy, so when we had an hour before launching, we spent it inside in the cosy Blesk rowing club house, drinking tea and chatting.

Pre Race Chat at Blesk

Then it was time to launch. We had a few minutes to take a picture but then we had to go, because the organizers had prepared a launch schedule with 30 second precision, and who misses his launching slot gets to the back of the line, launches last, and risks missing the start.

Mixed Eight posing

We started in the “Mixed 8+” field, which wasn’t age restricted. We were one of the older crews, up against for example fourth year students of the Delft Technical University from the Netherlands. As you can see from the picture, my son Dominik (11) was coxing. We had an experienced cox, but she announced on Thursday that her “personal coach” was over from the USA and she would spend the weekend with him. Dominik had been coxing our trainings, so we took him. He wasn’t nervous at all, but his mother was all the more nervous, which showed during the row to the start and the waiting.

The Vltava river was full of eights, and maneuvering was complicated by the wind. Dominik, with some help from our stroke man Krocan, managed very well.

After more than an hour wait, it was our time to start. We aligned under the Barrandov bridge, listened to the count down and off we were.

Immediately out of the bridge, Dominik took a sharp turn towards the middle of the river, which caused Tomas to shout to him what he was doing. Dominik continued, and I figured it was something that our stroke seat had agreed with him. Martin “Krocan” Krocil (second from the left on the group picture) is a former national team rower who has done numerous trainings and races on this river. Looking at the map, I think it was a good thing. We were in the middle of the river where the stream helps us most, and by copying the bank we would actually row more meters.

Map of first part of the race

The Barrandov bridge is a the bottom of the map. At the top, you can see the start of the Rowers’ Island with the Boat hotel (“botel”).

Krocan was keeping the stroke rate at a low 27spm, which was good, given the age of some of our team members. We settled in a very nice stroke, and it was a pleasure to row.

Passing the Rowers’ Island, there suddenly was a drone circling above Dominik’s head and following us for a few strokes. I guess the race organizers were busy getting footage for a nice video. This was also the first place with spectators cheering from the banks and the balconies of the Blesk and CVK Praha rowing clubs.

Between the Rowers Island and the Railway Bridge, we were being overtaken by a team called “Lost in Translation”. Chatting to their cox after the race, he told me he was worried that Dominik was aiming at the pillar of the bridge, but in the end Dominik made a move towards the middle of the river.

Between the railway bridge and the Palacky bridge, Lost in Translation rowed next to us, forcing us to take the second bridge opening. After the Palacky bridge rowed towards the two Redbull buoys, and rounded them as quickly as we could.

Map of second part of race course

Again, looking at the map, there was nothing to complain about Dominik’s steering. He was also dutifully repeating the technique instructions that he heards from me at 6, Eda at 7 and Krocan at 8, which really helped. Rowing back towards the Rowers’ Island after the U turn one has to steer closer to the bank where the water is streaming less fast, but we were overtaking a team called “Golden Girls & Boys”, so we could not take the ideal line.

In the end, we were 6th. Below is the race chart. Ignore the bottom (Power) part. I decided to record this row using BoatCoach on my Android phone and my Garmin Forerunner as a backup. I needed the Garmin in the end because BoatCoach didn’t get my heart rate. The reason I chose the phone instead of the NK SpeedCoach was that I didn’t have a good way to mount the SpeedCoach at my 6 seat position. With a RAM phone mount, mounting the phone was straightforward. During the row, water drops caused the app to switch to different modes and randomly start and stop “pieces”, so I thought I would have no useful data. In the end I had perfect data, uploaded them to rowsandall.com and imported my Garmin data which had synced to Strava. I then used the Data Fusion and Split Workout tools on rowsandall.com to add the stroke data from the BoatCoach record to the Garmin record which had speed and heart rate, and to remove the 60 minutes of warming up and waiting.

Pace, HR, stroke rate chart

After the race, we prepared the boat for transport, checked in to our hotel, and took an Uber back to the Rowers Island to have some beers. Later, we headed to the center of Prague (Wenceslas Square), and had a very nice dinner in a Lebanese restaurant.

On Sunday, we drove up to Liberec in the mountains, to greet Emma, the newborn baby of our niece. We drove straight through a hurricane which put 500,000 homes out of electricity. Then we drove the 300km back to Brno through the hurricane.

It was OK. There were a few places with fallen trees and debris on the highway, and we were lucky that we got a full fuel tank, because the entire Bohemian Moravian Highlands (between Brno and Prague) were out of power and no gas station was working. At home, we have electricity and all is fine.

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