Today I competed in my first indoor rowing competition—called the CRASH-B sprints—here in Boston.
I achieved my two main goals—to beat my personal best and not to finish last.
For context, everyone rows 2 kilometers on an indoor rower. The world record is below 5:40. For men under 165 pounds, the “lightweight” division, the record is slower and for ones pushing 50 slower still.
I beat my 2k record by four seconds for 7:39, about a minute slower than the winner and a few seconds ahead of the last guy. Curiously, my time would have placed me better—third out of five—had I rowed in the lightweight men 27 to 35 years old group. I would have placed nearly last in the lightweight men 50 years old too.
Here are today’s results.
I raced about the pace I intended. My previous best was 7:43. I aimed for splits of 1:55, which would give me a 7:40. I intended a slightly faster start and finish. My second 500 looks a half-second slow and I think I could have pulled faster at the end, but I’m pleased with the results.
A few years ago I rowed a Personal rowing record: 5,016 meters in 20 minutes—a pace barely below 2:00—and after effectively matching it twice figured I’d never row that fast again. Now I rowed 40 percent that distance significantly faster. In the meantime, I improved my form. Practicing with new form slowed me down for months, maybe a year. Now beating 5,016 in 20 minutes seems inevitable, though no cakewalk.
Pictures from the regatta
Why I rowed faster
Training: while not major training like for an athlete, for the month of February, I rowed 5ks twice every five days. This was less than my 10ks twice every five days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but still something.
My first 2k after the Thanksgiving 100k challenge disappointed me, since I thought all that training would have prepared me more, but I couldn’t match my record then.
Practice: I’ve rowed probably fewer than ten 2ks as hard as I could. Each time teaches me what to expect at different stages, mentally and physically. At first I was just getting used to the feelings, which I experienced as pain, suffering, and misery.
Now I experience the sensation with less value of good or bad. It makes me want to slow down, but I feel it less as suffering or misery, more as an obstacle to overcome with training and familiarity. In the moment it hurts or weighs on me, but I fear it less.
I practiced a couple 2ks in February, including one I meant to challenge myself but not try for a record. I aimed for a 7:50 and did a 7:46, which gave me confidence and experience for today.
I can pay attention more to my thoughts, feelings, sensation, how much I have left, strategy, and tactics. I can see I’m far from my potential. I don’t love indoor rowing enough to explore my potential, say to get below 7:00, but I can see exploring enough to beat 7:30. Not sure.
Competition: racing with over a thousand other competitors, nine direct, increases something mental. Competition doesn’t just mean beating someone else. It also means reaching and expanding your potential.
A new machine: My machine at home is at least ten years old. It trains me as well as any other machine, since I only need resistance and safety. Today I rowed on a nearly new machine. It was quieter and felt more solid. It’s possible my machine loses energy to wobbling or friction.
Beets: I’ve heard that beets help cardioresperatory athletic activity. Late winter in the northeast means root vegetables, so I’ve eaten a lot beets lately.
I read that greens including chard and beet leaves but especially arugula work more than beet roots, but greens aren’t in season and I avoid buying things out of season.
Caffeine: I’ve heard caffeine helps too. I rarely drink coffee—maybe a cup every two or three years—so I haven’t built a tolerance to caffeine. In college, playing ultimate, I ate chocolate covered espresso beans for caffeine without having to pee, which coffee did.
Since I won’t eat milk or sugar, this morning I ate four coffee beans with breakfast, a little over two hours before competing. In minutes I felt the rush. They may have helped. I’ve read that caffeine may limit the effect of beets, though.
Why I didn’t row faster still
Not tapering: Friday, my train arrived about an hour before the dress rehearsal for my TEDx talk at Connecticut College and the map showed the walk from the station to the campus was four kilometers and about 40 minutes.
I’m not going to take a polluting vehicle that distance and rob myself of doing something, so I walked. I didn’t look at the elevation and ended up walking a lot of hills with maybe 35 pounds of stuff. Nothing serious, but I’ve reached an age where walking counts. I’d guess the effort added a second or two.
Needless to say, I did over 50 burpees and other calisthenics the day before.
Inexperience: I’ve still only rowed a few hard 2ks. I’m getting used to the feelings at different points. While competitors around me helped, noise and a foreign place distracted.
I think I finished with more in reserve than I needed to, meaning I could have pushed harder earlier, but didn’t want to run out before the last sprint. I still haven’t explored a lot of endurance mental and physical territory.
I haven’t decided if I’ll come again next year, though I’m sure I’ll return again some day.
A few world records fell today, including one by a 98-year-old woman.
Yes, a 98-year-old woman set a world record for a 2k—about 15:00.
Exercise keeps you young. Rather, exercise keeps you what I consider normal. Not exercising causes muscles and mind to atrophy, disease to weaken, and everything to age prematurely. I don’t understand why the majority of Americans choose not to exercise.
Did I mention the competition going on when I left included competitors with disabilities like missing limbs, blindness, genetic dwarfism, intellectual disabilities, and such?
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