Sunday – breaking ice with the ladies

The Veterans Ladies were missing a fourth person, so they offered me a stroke seat in a quad outing on Sunday afternoon. I was in for a nice, short row, so I gladly accepted.

Romana and I arrived early because there was some work to do. First, we put our single and double back on slings. Some experiments on Saturday had revealed that the new tight racks are a bit too tight. The guy who built them used two of the smallest boats as measures and some boats simply don’t fit. Everything has to be disassembled and rebuilt from scratch.

Then, I wanted to make sure the quad was in good order. There are a few crews in our club with a habit of cannibalizing club equipment, so in the popular boats you can never be sure you are using the original foot stretchers, sliding seats, and more.

The situation was not good. A lot of red C rings were missing under the oarlocks, and the club’s spare part are in Italy with the Juniors and Men on their rowing camp. So I had to take from my own spare parts collection. Also, the stroke seat foot stretcher was not the original one, but I had no way to fix that, and finally some parts of the rudder were missing. The boat was rowable, but it would take a bit more effort for me as a steering stroke to make sure we were going straight.

Finally, we launched, and in the mean time the wind had strengthened. It was a few degrees above the freezing point and the waves were pretty strong. After building up from arms only to a full length stroke, I settled on 16 SPM and we tried to steady the balance on waves, in a blazing tailwind, at this low stroke rate.

I love these kind of challenges, and I think it really helped us rowing technically well, when we went in to the narrow twisty bit of the gorge at the north end of our lake. The idea was to find quiet water, and we did.

It was nice to find out I could still toe steer a quad blindly through the narrow twisty bit. With a slow turning boat you have to make sure you are a little “higher” going into a turn, and I managed pretty well, relying on our bow seat to be on the lookout for any traffic or obstacles.

rowing data

Out of the twisty part, we were all glad and looking forward for the straight kilometer, and I guess our bow seat reduced the frequency of looking. In fact, it was me who spotted the ice first, and very late. We made an emergency stop, breaking ice with our blades and boat, turning the river into a huge black field looking like a gigantic glass of Coke with ice cubes.

We backed out of our Coke with ice, then turned the boat, and headed back for the lake.

The wind had gotten stronger, a head wind now, and we were slow in making progress. When we were half way the lake, our 2 seat asked that we Row back to the club. I didn’t blame her, because through the waves, she and bow seat were wet from head to toe from splashes of icy water.

We returned safe and put the boat in slings for s thorough inspection. Luckily, no scratches or anything from our ice breaking adventure. We did mention the ice in our incident report but the bit about missing boat parts was longer.

I am typing this from a British Airways flight from Vienna to Heathrow, where I will board a plane to Phoenix, Arizona.

How-to

With no holder for a SpeedCoach and classical riggers on this quad, I decided to use the BoatCoach Android app on my waterproof Samsung phone. This works perfectly with the RAM mount and BoatCoach has a splash guard mode preventing splashes to accidentally activate the touch screen.

After working through a few data related bugs with the BoatCoach developer last fall, this app is pretty good for recording and showing stroke rate. I still think the user interface is overly complex, though. Using the app for the first time after a few months, I wasn’t sure if I was recording the outing at all, or if the app only recorded the data after starting a “piece”. As I hate having my crew waiting for me fiddling with menus and settings, I just kept the settings as is and hoped for the best. As a backup, I also recorded position and heart rate with the Garmin Forerunner watch. This connects to my Wahoo Tickr X heart rate belt through the ANT+ protocol. I was glad I did, because it turns out the BoatCoach app hadn’t connected with the BLE channel of the heart rate belt. So I ended up uploading two separate data sets to Rowsandall.com and then using Data Fusion to merge them.

The power data were calculated using Rowsandall.com’s Physics Module. For this to work well, you need to input wind (strong today) and current (not applicable to this row), set the boat type correctly and estimate the average crew weight. If you get all this right, the Physics Module does a pretty good job at estimating power from boat speed and stroke rate. It is accurate enough to get a good value for the average and normalized Power, which is currently the most important metric for me on an outing like this. I just use it to get a value for the training load. As we rowed only 40 minutes and most of it was well below 20spm, the training load wasn’t very heavy.