More Puddles (Race Report)


Where did I leave you, dear reader?

Ah, I remember.

I, bow nr 351, had just overtaken a second single sculler, I was making progress on taking over bow nr 352, and I had bow nr 350 on my heels. I was doing 29spm into the headwind, and I was starting to get tired.

I started noticing the occasional 28spm. Remembering how I slowed down in the middle 2km of last year’s edition, I tried to keep the rate up and tried to keep #352 behind me as long as possible.

But he was gaining on me. I wasn’t wearing my HR belt, because in races I don’t want to wear anything that restricts my breathing, but I was clearly in the red.

I knew our head coach would be waiting at the half way point and I had told him to tell me to not dip the blades too deep and keep sending the boat. That forced me to focus on technique, even though the head coach never appeared at the 3km point.

So I passed the 3km, 3 more to go. Nr 352 was rowing in my puddles, and I was rowing in nr 350’s puddles.

Not much changed between 3km and 3.5km, except that I crept a little closer to #350, and #352 kept a little closer to me.

The situation now started to be precarious, because the last 1000m is a slow turn, so in my mind I had to chose between letting him pass and be able to row the shortest course in the turn, or risk being passed in the turn and having to row the wider curve.

To make matters worse, #350 was right in front of me on the right-hand side of the canal. This canal is too narrow for three singles, and both #352 and I were gaining on #350.

What to do?

The mind does strange things when you’re at 29spm and your heart is beating at 185bpm, and you still have more than 2km to row.

I saw three options:

  1. Go to other side of canal, right in front of my pursuer, losing distance on him, and risk being disqualified for hindering an opponent, in order to pass #350.
  2. Keep rowing straight into #350 and force him to the other side, thus forcing him to hinder #352 and risk being disqualified. Or, he would keep rowing in front of me so I would be in his puddles, be forced to slow down, and then pass him on the other side.
  3. Slow down ever so slightly, let #352 pass, then sneak up behind #352 and pass #350.

Option 3 seemed the smartest at the moment. Also, my head liked the idea of slowing a little and then going full speed ahead.

Option 3 it would be. What I didn’t realize is that my option 3 had a hidden assumption, that is that when you pass someone, you pass him fast and make sure you gain on him even after you passed him.

I slowed down a little, which Crewnerd immediately noticed. I started seeing the 2:10s on the pace window.

What the heck? Nothing happened. Our relative positions remained the same. I didn’t want to slow down more …

It took about 500m for #352 to come beside me and he kept rowing there.

“GO!” I shouted to him.

“I am trying,” he replied.

What to do now that my perfect plan was showing some imperfections? I could still see #350 right in front of me in my mirror, and I could feel his puddles.

“GO!” I shouted. I wished I had the breath to add some explicit language. I didn’t.

He finally passed me just before the bridge marking the start of that final turn.

The worst place to be for me, because now I was in double puddles under a bridge. So while I was trying to get back my speed I had to row in puddles and wake reflected by the concrete bank in the bridge. I could really feel my single going up and down and left and right. Still, I managed to increase the rate. It helped that at this point Romana shouted at me.

What did she shout?

“Come on, you can take over both of them!”

Good motivation.

I also noticed daughter Lenka on the bank. She didn’t shout anything, too embarrassed to be caught cheering for her father. I didn’t mind. I was going to rate up anyhow.

Mister 350 took the inner side of the turn as well, so it took Mister 352 a lot of time before he could pass Mister 350. All the time I was rowing in both gentlemen’s puddles. On the last straight 300m to the finish, Mr 352 managed to pass Mr 350, with me on his tails and pushing.

Now we were rowing in front of the public.

No light between 352 and myself. My bow ball must have been right next to his stern. I started to pass 350.

Beep. Beep Beep.

Something in me wished there was another 1000m to race.

I paddled a few strokes. There isn’t much to paddle there, because the lock is only 100m after the finish line. Here’s my post finish dialogue with #352, the guy who took more than 1000m to pass me.

  • Man, you should have passed me quicker.

  • I know but I had a crisis. The finish was still so far.

I managed to sneak in front of 350 on the little dock space available and I took endless time to take out my sculls, put on a warm layer of clothing, remove the GPS and iphone, and then lift the boat out of the water.

Post Race

There you are, carrying a single but not knowing where your club’s trailer is. With very very very tired legs. In a very busy finish area. Everybody is rushing somewhere. Nobody to help.

I managed to drag myself 100m further and find our trailer without dropping my single. I had to ask someone to put up some slings for me to put my single in. I am afraid I was a little grumpy by then.

When I finally could put down my boat and start to prepare it for transport, I could get a little rest.

When all was ready, I went to buy myself a nice grilled sausage and some warm tea, which at that moment seemed the ideal combination to me. Hot grilled sausage with mustard. Hot tea. Heaven.

Here’s my final ranking. Looking at the scores, I must have passed another boat, the #344 who DNF.

Horin 2015 020

Horin 2015 021

So I came 14th of 20, not bad for a 42 year old in a field where the second oldest is 12 years younger. I am not worried about being 3 minutes behind Olympians. I am quite happy to have finished in front 2 rowers of LSBR, Lodni Sporty Brno, the rowing club on the other side of the lake. 🙂

If I had finished 15 seconds earlier, I would have been on a 12th place which earns points for our club. A year ago I finished 12th but 12th out of 15.

I did the course in 20 seconds slower than a year ago. But a year ago, there was no wind and they were feeding the canal with river water, causing a slight flow. So I consider this year a stronger effort.

Some pictures taken after the finish. I love this 19th century lock and the view on the town of Melnik:

Horin 2015 017

Horin 2015 018

Horin 2015 024

What followed?

An hour and a half of driving to Pardubice. A stop at a gas station where I saw my reflection in the window, a very tired man in sweaty rowing clothes. A tired but happy man. I paid for the gas and added two bottles of Pilsner Urquell and a bottle of wine.

In Pardubice, at my mother-in-law’s place, I quickly wrote up the first part of this blog and then spent the evening talking rowing with Romana and my brother-in-law.

In the end I think the drama of #350, 351 and 352 gave me enough adrenalin to compensate for the time lost in the slowing down to let 352 pass maneuvers.

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