Oct 7 2018
Here’s a (shortened) video of my head race in Hradiste. It’s cool to have the Empower oarlock data integrated in the video.
Oct 7 2018
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Head Race Day! I was up early, far too early. The town of Uherske Hradiště is an hour drive east of Brno and our race wouldn’t start until 2pm. We left Brno at 9:30 after picking up my club mate (and competitor) Eduard. The early departure time was to allow Romana to coach one of her Junior girls.
Arriving in Babice, at the place of the start of this 6km race, we found sunny weather, fair temperatures and a nasty head wind. The race is down stream on the river Morava, but the river was low because of the draught and there was very little flow. Actually, it would be wiser to stick to the middle of the river to avoid rowing into shallow parts. Still, a head wind blowing against the stream could potentially lead to some chop.
I contemplated setting the sculls a bit lighter, but then thought through the consequences and decided to not do it.
The race went pretty well. I started off and settled on my target 230W, not worrying about the stroke rate too much. I knew the stroke rate would be a bit lower in the head wind, and focused on hitting the power and work per stroke target. I also counted series of 30 strokes, 10 strokes focus on sitting straight at the catch, 10 strokes on legs, 10 strokes on back swing.
The course has a few turns and it was always a surprise what the wind would do after the next turn. At one point, about 1600m into the race, the wind really kicked up some waves. I hit a wave with the bottom of my right blade and nearly capsized. It stopped me for one stroke, then I continued to struggle into the head wind. I had no pace information on my SpeedCoach, and kept trying to hit my power targets, but in the middle 2km, the roughest bit, this was pretty hard.
I was rowing away from the guy behind me (David Ulc) and catching up on someone in front of me, but I wasn’t sure if that was Tomas Zeman or Andrej Hudec. Only at the finish line I found out that Tomas had taken over Andrej very early in the race.
I was worried most about Tomas Zeman and my double buddy Kazimir Nedoba. In the sprint season, Kazi had been faster, but he is fast mostly in direct confrontations and has difficulty rowing in the loneliness of a head race with 1 minute start intervals. Tomas, I had beaten him numerous times in a direct 1k confrontation, but he’s a big guy, a fire fighter, and the “indestructible man” body type. I feared that he could be fast into the head wind.
The first 4km went by pretty fast. The only annoying thing was that my left oarlock started squeaking quite a lot. The fifth 1000m interval started to hurt and the final 1000m hurt a lot.
I had missed all the kilometer markers, but I didn’t really had to look for them, having reset the SpeedCoach just before the start and showing distance rowed in the bottom left bit of the screen. I also saw the first houses of Hradiste, the water got calmer, and I knew it was time to rate up.
The final 500m were really painful but I wouldn’t let myself rate down. I knew it could be a close finish between me and the other contestants, so I wanted to get out as much speed as possible.
I collapsed at the finish line, chatted with Andrej a bit, then did a 2km cooling down row.
Meeting the other Masters rowers in the boat area, we all decided to go for a quick beer before loading our boats on the trailers. On the way to the club house we stopped to look at the results:
Second place for me, “only” ten seconds behind Tomas. Looking at the 2k and 4k times, it is also clear that I lost most in the middle 2k and made up for that in the final 2k.
We had our beer and then we received our prizes in a mini ceremony. I got a nice medal, a T-shirt, and some sweets. Tomas got a cup and a bottle of home made Slivovice. Oh, and we all got kisses from Mrs Tomastikova, the charming club president of Moravia Rowing club.
Here are the race charts. The overview chart and a few comparisons with a year ago. To do justice to the comparison, you have to know that a year ago the river was high and flowing fast. This year, I spent 4 minutes longer on the course.
I have a race video which is uploading to YouTube right now. I will post a separate blog post with the video.
Oct 8 2017
The sun of Austerlitz was tearing apart the fog when I drove past the famous battlefield. I was on my way to Úherské Hradiště and it was a beautiful morning. The sun was coming up behind the hills towards the east, as I passed the famous tree on the Santon hill. From Wikipedia:
The battle took place about six miles (ten kilometers) southeast of the town of Brno, between that town and Austerlitz (Czech: Slavkov u Brna) in what is now the Czech Republic. The northern part of the battlefield was dominated by the 700-foot (210-meter) Santon Hill and the 880-foot (270-meter) Zuran (Žuráň) Hill, both overlooking the vital Olomouc/Brno road, which was on an east/west axis. To the west of these two hills was the village of Bellowitz (Bedřichovice), and between them the Bosenitz (Roketnice) stream went south to link up with the Goldbach (Říčka) stream, the latter flowing by the villages of Kobelnitz (Kobylnice), Sokolnitz (Sokolnice), and Telnitz (Telnice).
A dense fog helped to cloud the advance of St. Hilaire’s French division, but as they went up the slope the legendary ‘Sun of Austerlitz’ ripped the mist apart and encouraged them forward. Russian soldiers and commanders on top of the heights were stunned to see so many French troops coming towards them. Allied commanders moved some of the delayed detachments of the fourth column into this bitter struggle. Over an hour of fighting destroyed much of this unit. The other men from the second column, mostly inexperienced Austrians, also participated in the struggle and swung the numbers against one of the best fighting forces in the French army, eventually forcing them to withdraw down the slopes. However, gripped by desperation, St. Hilaire’s men struck hard once more and bayoneted the Allies out of the heights. To the north, General Vandamme’s division attacked an area called Staré Vinohrady (“Old Vineyards”) and, through talented skirmishing and deadly volleys, broke several Allied battalions.
In fact, I discovered on my Instagram feed that a drone user discovered the same magic moment. Here is a picture he took of the Prace hill.
An hour later I arrived at rowing club Moravia Uherske Hradiste. I would spend the morning there, waiting for the early races to finish, load singles on my trailer and shuttle them back to the start for the afternoon races. The weather was gorgeous when I arrived and I took a few pictures of the mirror flat river Morava.
Sitting on the bank, watching the races, noting down times about 200m before the finish line. In this head race, the start time is exactly on the clock, in one minute intervals. So by starting the stopwatch as the first boat of a field passed, then noting the differences, I could see the results as they happened. It was quite interesting, especially in the Juniors 1x and the Girls Juniors 1x, where there were s few unexpected fast boats in the back of the field and a few favorites performed badly. This is going to lead to discussions, because funds for youth are distributed to the best twelve rowers, using the outcome of this race and a 6k erg test in November.
The sun disappeared and the weather got humid. Then it started to rain. The mirror flat water got ripples and the final stretch had a nasty headwind – good Werthera for powerful rowers.
By noon I saw the last boat of my batch finish, loaded it and drove to the start. I arrived there at 1pm, with my race start time being 1:50pm sharp. That is when they start the stopwatch to measure my 6k. Arrive late and you will find your clock already running.
I grabbed my start number 225, rigged my boat in heavy rain, then changed to racing gear in the club minivan, and carried the boat to the dock to launch 20 minutes before my race time. No time for a warming up run. I warmed up with a few speed burst while the sun came out again.
My main opponents were Mr Machacek, the president of the Czech Rowing Federation, fresh back from Sarasota, with start number 227 (starting two minutes after me) and Mr Cernak with 228, who regularly beats me on the 1k distance. But Cernak is a sprinter pur sang. Mr Skodik with nr 226 had scratched, unfortunately, so there would be a gap of two minutes between me and Mr Machacek.
I started as the second boat in the Masters 1x field and had good hopes of passing number 224 fast.
The river was flowing and the referees ordered me to counter Row constantly so I would not drift past the starting line. Mr Machacek shouted: “Give him a warning! He is so fast he doesn’t need a shorter course.” I didn’t get a warning.
The start was good and I rowed a few hard strokes, then tried to settle for 250-260W on the SpeedCoach, as well as making the first turn. Turns were slightly harder than in other years, because I didn’t wear my rear view mirror. I had decided to not wear it because of the rain.
I tried to estimate the difference between Mr Machacek and myself when he rounded that first turn. It looked like about 500 meters.
So, now I was doing business. Focus on form. Don’t go crazy in the first three kilometers. In terms of Watts, I was pulling a bit harder than my target of 255W. But I was also closing in on the guy ahead of me. Perhaps I could pass him before half way?
Well, that didn’t happen. It took the entire 1000m between 3km and 2km to go to close in and pass him. I rounded the big turn at the beer brewery, using the power lines to time the moment to start the turn. I remembered this from last year. Turn when you are under the second power lines. After the turn I took the ideal line to the next turn, pushing the other guy into the bank, which he obviously didn’t like. Too close to the bank and the flow of the river is reduced and you slow down markedly. So now I was rowing in his puddles and there was a risk of blade collision.
However, gripped by desperation, St. Hilaire’s men struck hard once more and bayoneted the Allies out of the heights.
I turned my head and shouted “Damnit, move over”, pushed the power up a bit and rowed through him. Head racing is fun. You get to talk with your opponents. He didn’t talk back, though.
In hindsight, this was all very good. I kept the pressure high in that difficult middle part. Now it was only 2k to the finish line. Would I dare to keep the power above 270W?
I guess not. I had passed the guy and it also seemed that the gap with Mr Machacek was widening. At that point in the race, I thought it highly likely that I would win, and I focused on being above 245W and rowing with good form.
In the last kilometer I started counting strokes, and I also passed a boat from the tail of the Open Women 1x field. The lady thanked me afterward for chasing her. It had helped her struggle through the final 2km.
With 20 strokes to go I emptied the tank, and then I collapsed behind the finish line. I noticed that it was 14 past the hour on the SpeedCoach and waited for Mr Machacek to finish. Seemed to take ages, but it was worth it. There were definitely more than 2 minutes between us, and more than three minutes between me and Mr Cernak.
Details. I think the pace fluctuations are mainly due to differences in the river flow and the wind, which was a headwind in the initial km and the final 3km.
Workout Summary - media/20171007-192834-Sanders SpeedCoach 20171007 0149pmo.csv --|Total|-Total-|--Avg--|-Avg-|Avg-|-Avg-|-Max-|-Avg --|Dist-|-Time--|-Pace--|-Pwr-|SPM-|-HR--|-HR--|-DPS --|06098|24:59.0|02:03.0|252.3|28.0|177.7|183.0|08.7 W-|06001|23:05.0|01:55.4|258.7|28.1|179.2|183.0|09.2 R-|00099|01:55.0|09:38.1|040.3|19.6|151.5|183.0|03.4 Workout Details #-|SDist|-Split-|-SPace-|-Pwr-|SPM-|AvgHR|MaxHR|DPS- 01|00500|01:46.5|01:46.5|277.8|28.9|168.7|177.0|09.8 02|00500|01:51.6|01:51.6|270.0|27.1|177.0|178.0|09.9 03|00500|01:57.4|01:57.4|269.6|27.3|177.2|178.0|09.4 04|00500|01:53.2|01:53.2|261.3|27.6|178.4|180.0|09.6 05|00500|01:52.6|01:52.6|259.1|27.7|180.1|181.0|09.6 06|00500|01:57.1|01:57.1|234.8|27.7|180.1|181.0|09.2 07|00500|01:56.1|01:56.1|263.1|28.1|180.4|182.0|09.2 08|00500|01:60.0|01:60.0|261.0|28.4|181.5|182.0|08.8 09|00500|01:58.5|01:58.5|267.1|28.6|181.7|183.0|08.8 10|00500|01:58.3|01:58.3|247.4|27.9|181.0|182.0|09.1 11|00500|01:57.7|01:57.7|252.3|28.9|181.4|182.0|08.8 12|00501|01:56.4|01:56.2|242.9|29.5|181.4|182.0|08.7
This map nicely shows the power lines which I used to time the turn.
I did a 2k cooling down, during which it started to rain again. In my wet racing gear I prepared the boat for transport, then I changed to dry clothes, headed to the club house, got my medal, had a bowl of soup and a hot tea, and that was the end of a great race.
Apr 9 2017
Woke up at 7, well rested. First trip to the bathroom, then to the scale.
Why am I rowing this race when I have to row in the Men’s (age unrestricted) lightweight category? I have no chance of winning this event. But I guess it is because I enjoy head racing. I think the 6k is one of the most difficult distances. There is a lot of room for errors like going out too fast. There is a technique aspect, and I guess I am closer to the elite on longer distances than on the 2k.
Above all I love doing it. Almost 25 minutes of high quality race rowing. Where can you get that?
Yes, on a canal near a muddy field north of Prague. Among others.
So breakfast was limited to coffee and one bun with jam.
And the amount of water I could drink was capped to 500 ml until the weigh-in. Not fun.
The weather was slightly better than on Friday. It was dry, and there was even some sun now and then. Here is a picture I took of the preparation area. The muddy field with all the boats is to the left. The start is 2km away from this place.
I arrived at this place at 9:30, with the club’s minivan. My starting time was at 2:18pm.
At twelve o’clock I went to the weigh-in area to join a small crowd of lightweights. The young guys seem to have accepted my place in this crowd, after 3 years of participating, and a few of them started chatting with me, the crazy Masters rower who rows this race for fun, and not to achieve a qualifying time to be considered for the national team.
I weighed in at 71.8kg, exactly 2 hours before the race start time. So now I had a small window to get some food in (a bun, a banana, and some energy bars and nuts) and drink some water.
Romana was busy with Iva, who had to place 18th to be invited to the “control” races in a couple of weeks. She came in 21st, 7 seconds behind 18th place. In a head wind, she would have made the limit easily. Iva told me afterwards that she had stopped at one point, because a girl flipped. She stopped rowing to ask the girl if she was all right and instruct her dad (who was cycling on the bank) to help the girl. I didn’t know what to say when she told me that. I guess she is right and “qualification” is not so important as making sure that nobody gets hurt.
Then it was time for me to launch. In contrast to Iva, I was looking forward to rowing in a tail wind. Of course, now it was my race time, the wind had stopped. Oh well.
I had my “digital rowing” plan thought out quite well. No heart rate strap (to avoid the risk of the dreaded SpeedCoach hangup), new battery in the Empower Oarlock, the Garmin watch to monitor my start time, and a second stroke meter to monitor the distance, because I had set the SpeedCoach to show SPM, Power, Work per Stroke and Effective Length. However, one of our elite rowers was short of a stroke meter, so I gave him that device for his race. No problem, I could manage. I do want to see the elapsed distance, because even though there are markers on the bank for every 1k and I sort of know the course, it is easy to miss the marker and it is even easier to get confused when heavily fatigued.
So, one minute before my start, I switched the Garmin from showing time to recording and showing distance, and set the SpeedCoach to “ready”.
There were 24 lightweight men competing, and I started as the 23rd of them, with only Mr Hrstka from Brno behind me. Jan Hrstka is a sympathetic young guy who rows at Lodni Sporty, the club on the other side of my “home” lake, and we see each other regularly when training. Before the start I chatted a bit with him, commenting that we had traveled 250km to look at each other again.
Last sip of water to empty the bottle. Set SpeedCoach to record. Switch Garmin Forerunner to show elapsed distance, watch the two other scullers before me get started, paddle to the starting position.
I was off. A race start and ten hard strokes and then try to settle for the 240W that I thought was a good power target for this race. This is very hard. On fresh legs, settling for a certain power value is much harder on the water than on the erg. The numbers I saw were above 300W, and I had to consciously lighten up and reduce the stroke rate to get to the 250-270W range.
Exactly 30 seconds after me, Jan Hrstka started. I looked at him. I was doing 28spm and it looked like he was doing 35spm. He quickly closed in on me.
After about 1km, he was just a few lengths behind me.
I stuck to my script and rowed at 230-250W, 500-600J per stroke, and keeping the effective stroke length above 90 degrees. I was curious to see what would happen.
It turns out we continued to row like this for most of the race.
At the half-way point, he had closed in to one length behind, but it had taken him 2km to do that. At that point, Romana and Adam, our head coach, were cheering. I put on a little more pressure.
At 2km to go, Mr Hrstka seemed to make a move. We were closing in on a bridge where the canal is a bit narrower, so I shouted at him that he should finally pass me, which he finally did. When he passed me, I noticed he looked quite worn out.
These 4th and 5th km were quite hard. I saw the power drop, occasionally to 210W, and had difficulty keeping the effective length high. Also, now I had to row in Mr Hrstka’s puddles. I was wondering if I should have tried to increase the power and stay ahead of him.
The last bridge, 1.5km before the finish, and the start of a long and slow turn in the canal.
When I saw 5km on the Garmin, I started counting strokes. With 500m to go I tried to squeeze out everything and empty the tank, which I think I succeeded in doing.
In the end result, I came in 19th place out of 24 rowers, in a time of 24:48.8 minutes, beating 5 guys (among them 3 U23 rowers). If I had started with the heavies, I also would have beaten quite a few rowers. Jan Hrstka came in 13th place. Our club’s second best lightweight (the best guy had a race in Italy) beat me by a minute. Complete results here.
So, I am pretty happy with that result. A minute faster than a year ago, but then it was in headwind, while today there was a very very light tailwind (when I rowed). A year ago I came 15th out of 16 (and Jan Hrstka was 90 seconds faster than I). In 2015, I was 14th out of 17 in a time of 25:05. My gap with the winner is constant around 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Quite a gap!
Workout Summary - media/20170409-073849-Sanders SpeedCoach 20170408 0217pmo.csv
After the finish, there was only a few minutes on the water to relax. After that there was a lot of work to do. Carrying the boat to the trailer (which is extremely hard after such a 6k race). Preparing the boat for transport. Walking to the car to get dry clothes.
Here are a few pictures from the official race photographer.
Then it was time to drive home. I didn’t have to travel with the trailer, because Romana had arrived with our car. We caught up with the trailer at one gas station, so I took a quick picture.
Race Data Analytics
Here are the detailed graphs of my race, for the data junkies (including myself)
And here is the key graph from the entire row.
Both slip and wash became gradually worse as I got fatigued, and especially seemed to suffer from rowing in the puddles of Jan Hrstka.
Oct 9 2016
No training. In the evening, Romana and I made the program for Hradiště, i.e. the instructions where everybody would be at any given point in time. It’s not easy.
There’s a small bus with all the rowers at the start. One by one they do their warming up, get ready to race, and row the 6km race. Somebody needs to bring their shoes and some clothes to the finish, especially when it’s 9 degrees and chilly. Then there’s three singles that are used in the morning and in the afternoon. So at some point in time we have to drive my small trailer from the finish back to the start for those three singles. Then Romana wants to be at the start to help her girls with warming up and race prep. And I will spend the morning on the bike cheering various athletes. One thing is easy. Head coach will be in the big turn half way with his stopwatch, a pen and a note book. He will record all times and give key info to the guys racing, how they stand respective to their competitors.
So our day was planned from 7am to 5pm with 15 minute precision. Well, it’s an important race for the youth. Their 6km OTW time is measured against a standard, and each participant who scores more than 100% will be invited for a 6k erg race and some further testing. If successful, the youth will be part of the “Youth Sports Center” for rowing, and the club will receive state funding for covering training costs.
So alarm clock at 6, leave house at 7, drive to rowing club to get small trailer, drive the 70km to Hradiště, park trailer. Then Romana takes the car to the start and I hop on the bike.
My first task was to cycle with one of the juniors, cheer and give steering instructions. Mr Cermak had the luxury of having his parents on the bike, so I chose to bike with Mr Kuncak. (Sometimes the parents’ steering instructions are counterproductive, but Kuncak is our biggest Ace in the juniors field.)
On the right bank you can cycle the entire 6km. On the left bank you can only do the final 3km. I chose to cycle on the left bank with a better bike path, because I didn’t want to spend my race energy cycling through a stubble-field on the right bank. Picked up Mr Kuncak with 3km to go and started cheering and steering. When I passed head coach we got the information that he was rowing in 2nd place with 2 seconds loss to the fastest guy. So I cheered and cheered. Shouted at him to just keep rowing the same 30spm stroke and hoping it would help.
When Mr Kuncak finished, I cycled back to wait for the race of my daughter Lenka. I saw Mr Cermak in passing, with his father cheering.
Had to spend more than an hour on the 3km point. The autumn sun disappeared and I did a few kilometers of cycling around the local villages just to stay warm.
Lenka arrived on our single. I measured the distance to the girl ahead of her. With 1 minute between starts, Lenka arrived 50 seconds behind that girl, so that was 10 seconds to the good. There was a big gap behind her, so a very positive situation to cheer and steer. Lenka was rowing 26spm, but that didn’t bother me as I knew she had been ill a week ago and the 26-27spm reflected her fitness. I think I cheered her through the tough part between 4km and 5km, and then got her rating up in the final km. Today, she told me she didn’t hear me well, and she didn’t understand what she heard. OK, so far for the coaching. 🙁
Mr Kuncak finished third in the Junior’s field, 5 seconds behind our club’s Mr Cermak, who surprised us all by coming second, just 0.5 seconds behind the winner. Lenka finished somewhere in the middle of her field, but her final time was good for a >100% score, which means she is still in the game!
Our club also won the Men’s single, the Boys 15/16 pair, and got a third place in the men’s lightweight single. Because of the points earned for all youth categories and the U23 rowers, this was a huge success in a race with very strong competion.
It was time to return to the small trailer. Three singles (including my single “Dolfijn” which was rowed by Lenka) were prepared. Romana arrived just in time with the car, and we drove to the start, where we unloaded the single, rigged them, and then drove back with the trailer (and some bags with shoes and dry clothes).
Then we took the car back to the start, and it was time for me to get ready for my own race.
Two years ago, I won, with a few seconds lead. Last year, I lost. Mr Polasek gave me 5 seconds. Unfortunately, I had found out during the morning, that Mr Polasek had cancelled. He had a cold last week and didn’t feel like it. At the start, I also found out that the two guys from Ostrava had cancelled. This kind of reduced the tension of the race. My club mate Eduard was the next fastest guy on paper, with me being the fastest. The other participants were three guys from the rowing club in Hradec Kralove, who looked like newbies in the Masters Rowing field, and Mr Bejbl from Brandys, who I estimated to be slower than me.
I found out it is good that I have pre-race routine with a lot of reserve time. Only when I put the single in the water, I found out that I had forgotten to move the footstretcher from Lenka’s position to mine. That is a problem, because one of the nuts is normal one, and you need a tool to unscrew it. Luckily, Romana was still on the bank collecting our slings, so I could get to the car and get the tool. I still had time enough to do a 2km warming up drill on the water.
Here is the full race video:
I made a terribly bad starting stroke, which made me smile and shake my head. Then I was off. After a few start strokes I dropped to my well-tested 27spm and didn’t dare to go higher. I think I made a wise decision. Looking at the power plot, corrected for the river’s current and the headwind, I more or less rowed a flat row in terms of power (Watt).
The guy starting 60 seconds before me was a 68 year old Masters rower. Just a year younger than my father! I passed him in the first kilometer, and then I had enough space to focus on my own rowing. I think I steered well. Perhaps the big turn at the beer brewery was a bit wider than could have been, but the river was really the fastest in the middle. Whenever I got closer to the banks, the pace numbers started to worsen.
After the big turn I was rowing into a light headwind, and I had to tell myself that it was a headwind, and not worry too much about the pace creeping up above 2:00 minutes per 500m.
In the final 1000m I started counting strokes, and in the final 500m I had company of our friend Ludek on the bike, which was very good because it helped me rate up to 28, 29 and then 30spm.
I did a 1km cooling down and when I was taking the single out of the water, I heard the speaker announce the results. I had won!
Second place was for my club mate Eduard.
It took us about 30 minutes to get the boats ready for transport, and then we walked over to the club house to receive our medals:
We arrived home around 8:30pm.
Around 2pm we drove to the rowing club. We unloaded the trailer. I washed my single, and then we watched something very exciting.
Our club was founded in 1912, and in the old hangar at the river club house we have a few very old wooden boats. A few of our older club members have made it a project to restore these old boats. Their first piece was a 1944 clinker eight, one of the few left in this part of the world. Today, after more than 50 years, it was the first row for a 1934 clinker eight, a lighter and faster boat than the 1944 one (and made of better quality wood).
This was no easy restoration. A big part of the middle of the ship was rotten and had to be replaced completely.
By the way, 1934 was also in the time when Czechoslovakia, in the middle of a worldwide economic crisis, warmly welcomed German refugees, antifascists and jews escaping Nazi Germani. A bit of a contrast with the political climate of today. 🙁
My workout of today was cycling home from the rowing club. It was rainy and cold, but it was a nice recovery workout:
Apr 10 2016
Apologies for a long post. It’s the National Long Distance Championship, not just some random training day.
Morning weight – one kilo under the limit. OK.
The day started quite relaxed. We took the girls to the launching area. Inspected the boats. Romana and Iva did some front stop adjustments.
By that time the boys (juniors) pairs and singles were launching for their races. We took the car and drove along the course. At the final bridge we stopped and cheered for the pairs. I took a few pictures. This year they shortened the intervals between starts from 60 seconds to 30 seconds. I think it’s a good thing. It makes the racing more interesting both for crews and for the spectators. The first wave of boats arriving was an impressive sight.
Ah, there were “our” guys:
We cheered our lunchs out, ran across the bridge to see them rowing towards the finish and cheered some more:
We also tried to help them with the steering on the only turn on this course. You can lose quite some time rowing the wider curve.
I wanted to take more pictures of our club’s crews, but the batteries in my camera died and I didn’t have spare ones with me. One needs a good optical zoom to take nice rowing pictures of this kind of races, so I will spare you the iphone pictures. You see either a dot in the distance, or a pixelated rower …
Then we drove to the finish area to pick up the singles of our junior guys. I timed the time from arriving at the dock to having the single ready on the trailer. Ten minutes per boat. Two people working together.
We had to wait a bit more for some speedcoaches to be brought back to the start. Finally we were ready and drove back to the launching area.
By then it was time to get the girls ready for their race, and I had to go to the weigh-in. There we had to wait (not weight) a bit, so we chatted with the rest of the field. I was of course the oldest guy. I started in the elite LW category, for lack of another suitable Masters category. So most guys were between 20 and 25 years and do nothing else than rowing and studying.
I weighed in a solid kg under the limit. Good. First hurdle. There were a couple of single scullers and pairs who had to go running to shed a few hundred grams.
Girls were ready and went to the start of their races, Lenka rowing my single. We took the trailer to the finish area again. We managed to get the trailer quite close to the docks, but it took us a lot of time to park the trailer and car in a way that would enable us to move quickly once we would have my single. Then we waited. I checked the live updates on my phone to see the progress of the girls. My race was scheduled for 14:33.
13:08 – Lenka starts
13:25 – I saw Lenka’s first lap time on the live results page – a slow time of 11:12. Damn. Not good. Why is she so slow?
13:30 – The 4k time appeared. 20:27. So she rowed the second 2km in 9:15? That’s quite an acceleration. Or the timing girl at the 2k made a mistake with the bow number.
13:38 – Lenka arrived at the finish in a final time of 30:05.5. I was on the dock helping Iva out of her single. I passed her boat to two guys of our club and impudently claimed stayed on that dock, shouting to Lenka to land her boat here. A couple of girls on the water were not amused, but I didn’t care. The clock was ticking.
13:50 – Boat ready on the trailer. Off we go.
13:51 – We have driven 100m. A guy has parked his car on a very bad spot. We had to decouple the trailer, drive the car through the narrow opening, then manually maneuver the trailer through.
13:54 – A further 100m on the way. An oncoming trailer. The guy stopped. Decoupled his trailer, pushed it off to a parking spot. Then got back to his car, and got out of the way. I tried to stay calm.
14:00 – We were on the main road. In hindsight, I wonder if it would have been faster to park the trailer close to the main road and carry the single there.
14:15 – Arrived at the launching area. Got the boat on slings. Moved the footstretcher. Put the boat in the water. A quick pee. Bow number. Rear-view mirror. Phone. Flip-flops (so I wouldn’t have to walk barefoot in the finish area). Go. When I pushed off I had about 15 minutes to the start time and I knew I was going to make it.
Of course I had forgotten a few things. To take a sip of my water. To take a shot of Gu energy-gel, my favourite placebo. And I didn’t have the XGPS160. That last thing was not a big issue. Using the phone’s GPS, the pace bumps around a bit more, but the average pace is very usable.
I knew I would not have time to go through my complete checklist, so I had mentally prepared a priority list. The mirror was on the top. I know I lose a lot of speed on strokes where I turn to look. The phone was nr 2. Gives stroke rate and average pace. Flip-flops were nr 3.
I didn’t have time to do an elaborate warming up. Just did one 10 stroke interval on the way to the start. I arrived there with 4 minutes to my starting time. No time to turn around and row more. Just wait. Concentrate.
The guy before me started. Between him and me, there was a 60 seconds gap, because bow number 347 had withdrawn.
“Bow 348 – 15 seconds.”
Pushed start on the phone. Prepared in starting position.
“5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – go”. I was started.
A few high rate strokes to get going, and then settle to race pace. Rate was 28. Rippled water and head wind. I tried to row under the north bank to get some shielding, but it didn’t help much. I tried to focus on my head race stroke. Long. Not too slow on the recovery. Long. Reach.
Bow 349, started 30 seconds behind me, was slowly gaining on me. Behind him there was a 5 minute gap and then women’s pairs.
Pace was around 2:02 on the first 500m, then started to drop to a more realistic 2:08. I tried to keep it under 2:10.
The guy behind me slowly gained. Ahead of me there was a large gap of water.
It is difficult to write anything interesting about the next 3km. I was struggling to keep the rate high and it started to drop to 27, then to 26.5. The guy behind me gained on me. The headwind was steadily blowing. The water was rippled. The canal is long and straight. A few factories, a few bridges. I tried to focus on technique. Long reach. I had the impression that that worked. That the guy was gaining slower when I focused on technique. But then the head wind pushed a bit harder, I got a bit more tired, and the technique became sloppy again.
At the 3km point, our head coach shouted “long” to me. Reach. I reacted. He shouted something positive, probably meaning that it was better now. This was really the most difficult part of the whole row.
Damnit. I thought. I am rowing against the elite. No problem to get taken over. I am rowing this as a time trial with myself.
The bridge at the 3.5km point. Almost 2km of straight canal to go to the final bridge, the one I had stood on in the morning, cheering for the juniors.
Somewhere on this stretch the guy passed me. It was a non-event. I moved a bit to the middle of the canal. The guy passed me. His coach on the bicycle shouted something to him. For about twenty strokes we were rowing next to each other, then he made another move (or perhaps I slowed down a bit more) and then he was gone.
Well, he was still there. Just two boat lengths ahead of me.
My average pace had now crept over 2:10. There had been a few instances where the wind had pushed my pace over 2:20 and that was having it’s effect on my average pace.
Final bridge. Then the final turn.
“Our” juniors, as well as Lenka and Iva on the bank. Cheering. That was nice. Encouraging. I grinned. (Apparently the girls had been shouting something really silly, and the juniors told them that they made me laugh, and if they would continue shouting silly things, I would have to laugh so hard I couldn’t row. In reality I was just happy that somebody cheered and I didn’t really hear what they were cheering.)
I did the turn well. I hesitated a bit if I should go real close to the bank (and row in the other guy’s puddles) or take a slightly wider turn, but then I decided to go into the puddles.
Final straight 30 strokes. Beep. Finish. Stopped the clock. Here are the stats:
Workout Summary - 2016-04-09-1415.CSV
01|02190| 11:11 |02:33.1|20.7|161.0|170.0|09.5 | row to start
02|05915| 25:57 |02:11.6|27.3|178.0|181.0|08.3 | Race
Here are all the cool graphs. The pace graph is a bit spikey because I didn’t use the XGPS160.
I have to make a remark about the amount of red in the graph. When I first made the pie chart, it had about 25% of red, which was different from the colorful bar chart. But then I discovered a bug in the algorithm. It counted 180 bpm as “red” in the pie chart, but as “purple” in the bar chart, so I had to correct the pie chart. The row surely felt as if there was more red. So here is the graph redone with my threshold lowered to 179bpm.
The official end time is this:
I beat just one guy … But I think the result is about similar to last year’s:
2015 – 25:05.7 -, 14 out of 20, +02:51.7 behind the winner, Ondrej Vetesnik.
2016 – 25:54.3 -, 15 out of 16, +2:42.5 behind the winner, Jan Vetesnik (Ondrej’s twin brother)
The 2015 edition was an exciting race where I happened to take over some people. Apparently more slow people participated last year. In 2015, there was a head wind as well, but it is hard to compare the wind strength. According to the wind data, there was less wind a year ago, but looking at the winning times, I believe it was a nastier wind this year. The Vetesnik brothers are Olympians (London 2012) and are qualifying for this year’s Olympics. On the erg they are equally strong.
In my field, our best sculler Milan came second. Lubos, the guy who I brought to the hospital a few weeks ago, finished in ninth place, one minute ahead of me. Milan’s result was as expected. Lubos disappointed the head trainer, but I believe his result represents his strength.
There were a couple of other Masters rowers in the heavyweight field. Kazimir Nedoba rowed a 27:04 time, 4:55 minutes behind Ondrej Synek. Martin Prihoda rowed a 27:31. So in comparison with them I did really well. When I met them after the race, they of course told me that they hadn’t really trained this year. Hah! Who decides to sign up for a national long distance championships without training for it?
The drive home was long and with a lot of rain. We picked up the boys at my mother-in-law’s place, and then we took them to this place, which is along the road:
Yup, it’s the Czech Republic’s first American style roadhouse. I had a very good ribeye and the rest of the gang had excellent burgers. A very fun place to spend an hour when it’s dark and rainy outside. This is also the place where I concluded that I had given my best.