Saturday – Erg Race

Saturday morning. Up at 7, to be in time for the departure to Hodonin. This second round of the Czech Ergometer Championships is in the nearby town of Hodonin, and as we were going with a large group of kids, we hired a coach (the type with wheels) to get us to Hodonin safely, and collectively. It takes a bit longer than driving there myself, but it is a relaxing way to travel, especially through the snow storm. (I also liked the idea of having a beer after my 2k.)

My race wasn’t on until 13:40 so I spent the morning watching the juniors racing.

One of the races where we had three Juniors (on ergs 5, 7 and 11):

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And some pictures:

Then it was time for me to do my warming up. With erg racing, you cannot use apps like ErgData or Painsled to get data from the PM. So I decided to just wear a heart rate belt and collect data on the phone that I would carry with my water bottle. On Strava, the result is a confused trajectory across the sports hall as shown on the little map.

I think that is actually an accurate depiction of the emotions one goes through when preparing for an erg race. There were about 40 ergs to warm up on, and every athlete goes through similar routines. Small groups of people left the warming up room for their races and small groups of people returned, limping, some being supported by their coaches, and dropped on one of the gym mats at one end of the warming up area, lying there for a few minutes before slowly moving to an erg to do their cooling down.

One of the people returning was one of Romana’s girls, who managed to win bronze in the Open Women’s competition. Now just to teach her some boat handling skills …

I returned to the main hall during the Masters Women race. Martin “Turkey” Krocil joined me. He is a Masters rower from our club, but also one of the coaches for the kids. He spent the entire day sitting behind ergs, “coxing” the athletes, and had volunteered to do the same for me. I quickly shared my plan with him. My plan was to row below 7 minutes (above would be a disappointment), and negative split, so I told him “1:45 is good, 1:46 is bad, accelerating towards the end”.

Then it was time to get to our ergs. I rowed on erg number 8. Erg 7 to my left was Karel Nevrala, a tall Masters rower from Olomouc, and to my right was the local guy, Kazimir (“Kazi”) Nedoba. Kazi and I are quite equal on the water, and our birthdays are only a month apart. We are good friends on land, and on water we fight like dogs. Unless we row together, like when we raced to our fantastic 3:16 time over 1k in the double, at Varese a few years ago.

On the erg, Kazi has always beaten me.

Stop rowing.

Waiting for all flywheels to stop spinning.

Attention – ROW!

After the start sequence I was looking at a 1:55 average pace and pulling 1:37. I was somewhere in the second half of the pack. On the bottom half of the erg screen you can see who is right ahead and behind you. I was behind Kazi, and Karel was leading the race. In front of the ergs was a large monitor where each competitor was marked by a little yellow boat, and I could see I was in a pack of rowers, and Karel was way in front.

It took some time to get the average pace down to 1:46 and below, because I didn’t want to go crazy to “correct” the average. In fact, I was struggling to find a rhythm. It didn’t help that a few strokes in, “something” traveled from my stomach to my mouth and I had to swallow it down again. “Not good,” I thought, while the erg screen showed me alternating between 1:46 and 1:45.

Martin did a great job of coaching me and he basically calmed me down to 1:45. The click came when he said to focus on pulling a strong finish. It made me sit up a bit higher and what was a 1:46 pull became a 1:45 pull. If I remember well, I ended the first 500m with a 1:45.0 average pace.

I also ended the first 500 thinking that it had taken ages to row those first 500m. I was still behind Kazi, in 5th overall position, but it was just a few meters. I resisted the temptation to speed up a bit and catch up with Kazi. Maybe I should have done it.

At 1400m to go Martin called for 1:44 strokes. “Try hold 1:44 now. You are moving”. He meant that my yellow boat was slowly moving relative to the pack of rowers around me.

I wanted to wait until 1200m to go but I just listened to Martin.

I passed Kazi, which was a big confidence booster, especially when you are in the “dead zone”, the dreaded middle part of a 2k, where the finish is still far, and the rowing starts to hurt.

I kept moving up the field, passing the next “boat” and rowing in third position. I checked the bottom half of the erg screen and saw that the second placed rower was just 5 meters ahead of me.

With 650m to go I started doing 1:43 pace. Next to me, Kazi had a HD moment. He handed down for half a second, then continued rowing. I almost shouted some encouragement to him, but didn’t do it. (After the race, over a beer, Kazi told me the HD demons had visited him three times during the race.)

Between 500m and 250m to go I rowed 1:42 – 1:43. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch up with the guy in front of me.

Martin was now screaming at me to sprint. I was counting strokes and pulling 1:40. Unfortunately, there was a guy behind me (the one I had passed around the half way point) who did a furious sprint. He finished in second place with a time of 6:52.

I pulled in at 6:55.9. My final stroke was 1:45 because I was breaking down after a long series of 1:40 pulls (even saw one 1:39 – I think – it was a bit blurry by then).

I hadn’t bothered to check my Personal Best before this race, thinking I would be happy to finish under 7 minutes. Turns out my 6:55.9 was just 0.5 seconds above breaking my PB. To be honest I didn’t monitor my average pace after the first 500m had passed, and as the race screen doesn’t show your predicted end time, I had no idea how far under 7 minutes I was pacing.

Online results as checked during the travel home

I handed down breathing heavily, and then I just sat on the erg, waiting for the older guys to finish their race. Kazi finished in 7:07 and I saw the disappointment on his face. Then I got up from the erg, thanked Martin for his excellent support, and walked over to the warming up/cooling down area, where I did a very slow 2k cooling down before returning to the hall to see the prize ceremony. No podium for me, unfortunately. Look at the results. Mr Vanecek was the guy I passed, who then sprinted past me in the final 500m.

Karel did one of his regular 6:30 performances.

After the shower, we all had a beer in the cafeteria. And then it was time to watch my sons race. In the 11-14 year categories, they do a “triathlon” consisting of an erg race, a running test, and a 1 minute “burpee” test where only “good” burpees are counted.

Robin’s 500m was fun to watch, but his technique needs to be improved. He stroked 45-46spm for the entire race:

Dominik pulled a 3:50 1k (2 seconds above his personal best). One of our guys won this race. He is to the left of Dominik in the video and he pulled a 3:23 time.

Finally, here is my updated CP chart, showing Friday’s 500m and Saturday’s 2k as the two workouts that are “above the line”:

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