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.
Sep 23 2018
The plan was to row another hard 6k, but when I arrived at the lake … it started to rain.
The rain didn’t change my plans, but what I saw on the lake did. There was a sailing regatta going on in the south half of the lake, and I didn’t feel like rowing my 6k at speed straight through their regatta. It was also slightly choppy, so going to the cover of the gorge seemed a good idea. I was actually looking forward to a little change of scenery.
So I did. I also changed the workout to a 4x”10min”/”5min” threshold intervals session. The work and rest interval durations are just for guidance, because the plan was to row from the end of the twisty part to the castle (intervals 1 and 4) and from the big turn after the castle to the bridge in Veverská Bítýška (intervals 2 and 3). I have indicated the start and end lines of these stretches in the map below (the black stripes):
I estimated the stretches to be roughly 10 minute intervals with the exact duration depending on the wind, and I would take the rest duration as the time needed to drink a bit and paddle to the start of the next interval, respectively turn the boat.
Workout Summary - media/df_20180923-124012.csv
01|02329|10:23.1|02:13.8|232.8|25.2|162.8|173.0|08.9 - tailwind
03|01912|08:54.3|02:19.7|227.4|26.9|170.3|180.0|08.0 - headwind
The interval summaries are created with my “patented” automatic summary generator for OTW rows. You can see it thought I was taking a few strokes rest in the middle of the second interval, splitting a almost 9 minute interval in two pieces of a bit over 4 minutes. There is quite a sharp turn in the middle of that stretch, and with the power meter on the left oarlock that leads to a temporary reduction in power. The world is not perfect.
I was really happy with the session. I was able to hold my target power (230W) for all intervals. The summary does show a lower average power for the fourth interval, but that one had two large left turns. I also enjoyed rowing fast in the narrower part of our rowing water, and having a different view, including the unfamiliar sound of the reeds blowing in the wind.
Well, looking at what the Empower Oarlock tells me, all sessions were pretty good except the final one, where it got sloppy. It is natural to row a bit shorter drive length in headwind, but I am worried about the values for Wash:
That’s the red dots in the right-most picture. I was recording the row with the RowP app as well, so let’s look if we can see anything in those in-stroke data. Here’s the first interval (“good”):
The left chart is the seat acceleration and the right chart is boat speed and acceleration. I am showing the average curve for the entire interval, as well as two shorter samples from the start and the end of the row.
Here’s how the final interval (the bad one) looks:
Now tell me if you can see a difference? It’s extremely subtle, but here is what I note:
It’s too early to draw conclusions, but I am getting less and less convinced of the merits of trying to accelerate the seat into the catch on the recovery.
This workout marks the end of a training week, and it is probably the last session in my single before the 6k head race of early October. I am going on a long business trip. Here’s how I did this week:
Funny how I underestimated how hard the threshold sessions would be. Especially today’s one seems to have been a brutal one (and I didn’t record the last 1000m because of a full SpeedCoach memory).
I have recently improved the training planning part of the rowsandall.com site, and I can now do summaries for micro cycles (weeks) and meso cycles (groups of three weeks in my case):
The pink card on the left is the plan vs actual for the three weeks. The light blue cards on the right are the individual weeks. I plan the rowing sessions by rScore, which is a score taking into account intensity and duration of the workout. I do actually plan cross trainings by time. You can see that I am getting better adhering to my plan but I am training harder than I planned, except for the first week of this training plan.
Sep 17 2018
Another Steady State row in the single. It was beautiful weather. No wind at all. Mirror flat water. Great day to do rate ladders and work on technique.
Paying attention to pace at constant stroke rate I noticed significant speed improvements when focusing on sitting up straight on the catch and making sure I don’t open up the back too early. However, it’s difficult in the boat to check whether the speed gains are because I row at higher Work per Stroke (average drive force, stroke length) when focusing on this or whether I am improving boat efficiency. The following chart seems to suggest it’s primarily a power/length/force thing:
If I look at a measure for efficiency and do the statistics, I find a small positive correlation with:
I also find a small negative correlation with:
I find no correlation whatsoever, i.e. pure random behavior on:
It may be that I am pretty constant in drive length, catch and finish angle, but I do think that the stats point towards one thing and that is ramping up the force too fast at the catch. Look at the correlations. Larger slip, lower average and peak force and work per stroke point to a most efficient stroke when I am not pushing too hard. The odd one out here is the peak force angle.
I also used the Quiske pod to measure seat speed and try to correlate that to efficiency. I recorded three full lake lengths, and from each stretch I selected strokes at 20, 22 and 24spm. Here are the charts:
Stroke Rate 20:
Stroke Rate 22:
Stroke Rate 24:
I am glad my strokes are so consistent and all curves look nearly identical, but it doesn’t help with the analysis. Only at 20spm there is a clear difference between the red curve and the two others. The red curve has
In this chart, in particular the recovery in the blue curve seems inefficient. I am hesitant to look at the boat speeds as I haven’t correlated it to average power yet. I am conscious though that this blue curve corresponds to the first Rokle – Sirka stretch, where I was most fanatical in trying to be slow around the finish (doing a “Drew”). One has to bear in mind though that all this was done at low boat speeds and low stroke rates. At full 1k sprint speed and 35spm the recovery dynamics looks totally different, and both boat drag and seat acceleration are much higher. Still, I am sceptical.
Sep 16 2018
Saturday – rest day. Watched some Rowing Worlds finals on the live stream. Exciting racing!
On Sunday, I watched the rest of the A finals. Incredible performance by the Norwegian single sculler. Synek a good second place. Mason at behind. Interesting. I think it says a lot about tapering and peaking for form.
After lunch, I headed to the lake for a 6k effort.
Not a story to be proud of. I started at Rokle and rowed towards Sirka. A few minutes in, I got hit by a pretty strong head wind. A few minutes later, the wind stopped again.
The water was nice and flat and apart from having to watch other traffic carefully to avoid bumping into pedalos, sailing boats and people relaxing on electric rental boats, the first 3k went by without any drama. I turned and found it hard to keep hitting my 211W target power.
Then, about 20 minutes in, it started to be really hard. In the chart you can see that that coincides with the end of a long stretch in red heart rate values. I decided to slightly ease up on power, but that didn’t seem to help much. With about 1200m to go, I stopped again, paddled for 200m and then finished the final 1k at target pace.
The average normalized power for the workout is 210W, so that is not so bad. Not sure if I am tired or overtrained or both. Anyway, I need to repeat this 6k coming week.
I did set up an online race featuring a slightly shorter course than the 6k here. I managed the course in 25:16 including the 200m of paddling.
I useed the RowP app again to measure boat acceleration. All curves except the red one were measured with head wind. The red curve represents a few strokes just before handing down.
I had the Quiske Pod under the seat, but due to some server error I can get the seat speed graph only for one segment:
Not sure what this chart means. I’ll need to collect more data.
Sep 11 2018
A nice steady state row in the single. I am still having a head cold, but this was a nice sustainable effort. Pulled a bit harder in the second half of the workout as I was passing two guys from the Lodni Sporty rowing club in a double, then was not too much slower than our Men’s pair, and finally passing a Lodni Sporty guy in a single. I felt fast.
While Monday’s training was in the evening, Tuesday’s had to be first thing in the morning, because of travel. Not ideal when you are scheduled for a hard 7k.
I skipped the hard 8k, so I thought it would be a good compromise to row this one as a hard 7500m. Target power 211W.
In contrast with Monday’s row, this time I remembered to take the Quiske oar pod, but I forgot to put on the heart rate belt. Too much gear!
The first part of the 7.5k went pretty well although it surprised me that I had to work hard to get the stroke power above 211W. Normally, the power comes almost for free in the first half of the hard distances and I am focusing on not going off too hard. This time I had to watch and make sure I was at the target power. Perhaps because the target power was 10W higher? Or perhaps because I was still fighting a head cold?
The first turn was after about 3km. I set off fiercely, happy that I had bitten the first part off of this long hard row. Now I was rowing into a head wind and after about 1.5km I just stopped. I had been watching the total stroke angle on the RowP screen and saw my stroke shortening, which usually leads to shortening. I worked pretty hard to bring the number up again but the long strokes also seemed to sap the energy out of me pretty fast.
Demotivated by the large number of meters left. Unhappy because not being able to keep the stroke angle up? I don’t know. I paddled for the rest of the stretch, during which I formulated the plan to “save” this workout. I would row the final 2km at the original power, and argued to myself that it would still count as a decent threshold workout. At least RowP told me that my stroke was pretty consistent:
The three lines are the average over the entire session, a short number of strokes at the beginning (light tailwind) and a short number of strokes at the end (light headwind), just before handing down.
During the recovery you can see a little acceleration bump which is typical for stroke rates 25spm and higher. Basically, the boat is floating the fastest during the middle part of the recovery. Here’s a comparison (of whole session averages) between head race pace and Monday’s steady state:
The x axis is a bit deceiving as it is a percentage of the stroke duration. A 25spm stroke is of course shorter in duration than a 20spm stroke. What I can see during the row is that on “good” strokes the deceleration troughs on both ends of the chart are relatively short in duration, while on “bad” strokes they are wide. Those are pretty good clues to watch technique during a row.
Here’s a comparison of my head race pieces so far:
The averages are calculated over the “on” strokes only (discarding the middle 1.5km of today’s fail). So I am slightly longer, faster and slightly higher power. At least that’s comforting. Not happy about today’s handing down, but I have another opportunity coming Sunday, when I will row a 6k, which is my race distance.
Now I am heading to the airport and will spend the rest of the week in Sofia, Bulgaria, without an opportunity to go to Plovdiv to watch the worlds, unfortunately. My training plan has anticipated this trip, so I have running and weights scheduled.
Sep 10 2018
So the week started well with a hard 9k in the single. Still got an “amber” score on my training plan because it was harder than anticipated:
On Wednesday, we had the inaugural training for “Head of Prague”, in the mixed 8+. This one was easier and shorter than planned, although I suspect that I pushed the power a bit harder than what rowsandall.com estimates based on boat speed and stroke rate. We had some replacement rowers which definitely didn’t pull as hard as Martin and I in the “engine room”.Thursday’s steady state in the single was a very nice one. I had chartered Martin to be my sparring partner and we were about the same speed.
Now the same thing with the much hyped “wait” around the finish:
I did take care to select the same stretch of lake. It looks like I gained 3 centimeters per stroke at very comparable stroke rates, but I was also adding a bit more Work per Stroke. Looking at OTW Efficiency, which is a measure of the power/velocity efficiency, there was a slight increase from 60.5% to 61.5% when I was adding a slight pause at the finish.
In theory, 3cm per stroke would mean 6.6m over a typical 2000m race, but the problem is that I expect the difference to become smaller as stroke rate increases to above 30spm. I think it is good to measure these things and to try and quantify them. Of course, it’s also possible that I was already rowing pretty well (?) or I was not executing the “improved” stroke well enough. Also a third explanation comes to mind. Perhaps this hyped slowness at the start of the recovery works better in crew boats, and perhaps the mechanism isn’t about boat acceleration but more about being in sync. A fourth explanation is that the wind slightly changed. Definitely, wind has a big effect on these metrics. It was only a mild wind on Thursday, but I had to discard the middle stretch of this workout as it was rowed with a very light tail wind, improving the distance per stroke and OTW efficiency numbers.
More to follow. I am really interested in improving my efficiency on the recovery.
I had a morning swim planned as Friday’s recovery cross training, but they are still reconstructing the 50m indoor pool and the outdoor pools have already restricted opening times (because the school vacations have ended). I also had some late conference calls (until 9pm on Friday evening) so there was no time for a light evening workout.
Also, I had started to develop a head cold. This changed my plans for the weekend. The original plan was to do a hard 8km in the single and then either a cross training or a row in the double on Sunday. I decided to go for a run on Saturday (causing muscle soreness because of not having done a running session in a long time) and go out in the double with Romana on Sunday.
Sunday’s row was a great one. In the first part of the workout we focused on our synchronization around the tap down (again using the pauses that I discussed above). In the final part of the row, we added a slight acceleration in seat recovery speed just before the catch. We didn’t do quite enough strokes with this feature to really nail it, and the negative consequence was that we lost a bit of our lightness on the catch, but there were a few interesting strokes. I recorded everything with the Quiske pod and RowP app and here are the charts:
The green line represents the stretch were we focused on our catches. We were slower than when we weren’t! However, I have to point out that even though most of the workout was with mirror flat water, the wind increased strength during the workout, and this final stretch was rowed in head wind conditions.
You can see a very slight delay of the boat deceleration just before the catch when we were focusing on the catches (green line), but the effect is blurred because we were rowing in the double and there were many strokes where the timing wasn’t 100%. In the next chart, I try to pick out one stroke where I think we nailed it:
The blue line is the one with the delayed deceleration before the catch, which is the right most part of the chart. The green line is a similar stroke (at same stroke rate and on the same stretch of the lake) when we weren’t working on the catches. The wiggles at the end of the pull are not good. You typically see them when the synchronization of the tap down and hands away between bow and stroke is not good.
In that sense, the double is a great boat to do these measurements. In bigger boats, one guy being out of sync doesn’t do much to the boat acceleration or deceleration, and in a single you cannot be out of sync and you’re only looking at your individual strokes.
Thinking about boat acceleration charts, another thing should be noted. When rowing at a steady average boat speed, the area of the positive (acceleration) part and the area of the negative (deceleration) part should always be equal. So, if I change something that makes me row more efficient, the boat should speed up a bit. Because at higher boat speeds, drag increases, thus increasing the deceleration. What I am trying to point out is that looking at boat acceleration charts one has to be very careful about comparing two curves if they are taken at slightly different boat speeds. In this case, you can see that although we are managing to delay the big deceleration (checking) of the boat just before the catch, we are paying for that by slightly higher deceleration during the first part of the recovery.
And again, we’re trying to look at very subtle things here, where we always have to bear in mind that the effect of wind or stream may completely overwhelm any slight speed benefits.