First Empower Connected Row

So today I had a long gap between a busy first half of the working day and the evening series of conference calls, which was ideal to drive to Pisárky and do a longish outing in the single. This time I did pay attention to switching on the SpeedCoach correctly.

I did three “rivers”, i.e. rowing up to the hydro plant in Komín and back. That is a little over 2km per stretch of river, 4.4km per loop, and the total workout duration was 13km.

Rowing on a river is interesting for me as a lake dweller. There is much more waterfowl and bird life to watch during the row. Except for two mean looking swans that is really a plus. The other difference is how close you are to people walking on the banks. Mothers with prams and small children. People relaxing on park benches. People standing on bridges, just staring at the water. And most of those people smiled at me, which is great.

I played with the SpeedCoach settings. With the Empower oarlock, there is a whole set of new parameters to watch during as well as after the workout. The “classic” screen looks like this:

You set up the top row before the outing, but you can very easily switch what is displayed on the bottom row at the turning points. I was running the Garmin Forerunner in backup mode, so I didn’t need to see heart rate.  Here are the settings I chose:

  • Average Power & Instantaneous Power
  • Catch angle & Slip (a measure of how quickly you take pressure on the blade, after the catch)
  • Finish angle & Wash (a measure of how much the force drops off in the second half of the drive)
  • Total drive length (catch to finish) and effective drive length (taking slip and wash into the equation)
  • Max Force and Average Force
  • Max Force Angle & Work per Stroke

I found the effective drive length a really interesting metric to display during the row. I have to work on my sequencing, and when I do this right, I see that I maintain the effective length well above 85 degrees. When I become lax, it drops quickly. Average power seemed to be more relevant when you do pieces. I couldn’t relate much to the force numbers. I also liked to watch “work per stroke” but it isn’t entirely clear to me how to use it. Perhaps when you do rate ladders, you can try to keep this value constant when you go up the ladder.

Talking about all those metrics, here is what had to say about correlations. Mind you, this is for a single row and I mainly rowed at 20spm.

Interesting that “wash”, which has to be low, strongly correlates with Peak force, power, drive length, finish angle. The only concern I have here is that with the twisty river, there were a lot of strokes where I was steering. Especially on the turns to starboard, where I row a slightly shorter, weaker stroke with my starboard scull, this may lead to a relatively large portion of “non-relevant” strokes.

Export to Strava, now with real power values:

Here are the big plots:

Classic OTW plot
With power plot

And here are the metrics plots:

I leave them without comments for now.

Now that I am a first-hand user of the Empower, I already discovered a couple of improvements that I need to implement on Also, I am suspicious of the drive length. Probably a small mistake in a calculation I made. I like how the SpeedCoach talks about drive length in degrees and I like the “effective drive length” parameter. To make this maximally effective, I will add these parameters exactly as they are represented during the row. That makes it easier for coaches and rowers to analyze the training and then transfer the lessons learned to the next practice.

Next time I will try out the “skill” screens of the SpeedCoach.

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