Well, that was disappointing! #indoorrowing

Here’s the TL:DR headline: I learned two things yesterday.

  1. I still have a lot of work to do mentally and physically
  2. I either row, or do tech bits. Not both. Yesterday, I did both disastrously!

If you want to settle in for the full rant, here we go!

I’ll cover the row first. I guess if I was searching for an excuse, I’d say the that I made a mistake rowing the 5K at 10:20 ahead of the 1K at 14:00. And I certainly made a mistake in HOW I rowed it. The plan was to use it as a warm up. Kinda like stirring the tanks, get the body prepared for the big show a few hours later. But whether I pushed too hard for most of the row at 1:52.5 splits at 26spm was part of the issue, I’m not sure. 

That I sped up to 1:45 splits with 500m to go was more likely an issue, and that I sprinted home from 250 with a 1:30 split finishing at 1:28 was DEFINITELY the issue. My thinking of course being that it wasn’t too long, and that it would get my muscles ready for the 1K later. But I think doing this on the back of a 5K anyway just drained my legs too much, and rather than firing them up for the 1K – it doused the flames and made them less ready for the race. 

To be honest though, at the end of that 5K I felt great. Controlled, strong etc. Sure I knew I’d just rowed 5K – but I was sure I would recover within the three hours I had until the 1K race. 

Fast forward then to 14:00 for the 1K. Mistake 2 was that I didn’t leave enough time to warm up. I managed a quick 1K at 1:55 splits, then two 10 stroke ‘sprints’ at race pace before I had to climb onto the race machine ready for the start. Another two quick 10 stroke sprints to check Drag factor and make sure I was ‘happy’ and we were off. 

It started well. 

(But then, don’t they always!)

Actually, it started fast. One of the quickest “attention/row” sequences I’ve experienced in a live race before. But that’s just a sidetrack. 


I spotted the guy next to me on ERG1 going hell for leather right off the starting block – and he had an 8m lead on me. But I had settled into 1:35 splits after a 1:30/31 opening set of strokes, so although he was ahead, I didn’t think he was uncatchable. 


The plan was to count down from 120 strokes. My 750m TT the week before took 90 – so 120 seemed sensible. And even if I had to do another 3 at the end, that wouldn’t bother me. 


So from 120 to 90 took me to the 750 mark. And although that first 250m felt like work, a 1k never feels easy so I was ok. Approaching 500 is very similar to the 1500 to 1000 stretch of a 2k. I feel in no mans land. It’s getting harder, but I am not even halfway yet. And therefore, questions of whether I can continue at this pace start to set it. But, I answered yet. 


And then. 


500m to go, my world fell apart. I just blew up! Breathing was all over the place. Arms were like jelly. Legs (hamstrings) were screaming with the effort. 


My technique was all over the place. Everything I had been trying fix over the past few months had been forgotten in an instant.  

  • Not driving hard from the legs.
  • Not making sure my shoulders are relaxed at the drive
  • Not actually pulling arms into a finish.
  • Back breaking too early. 
  • Not paying attention to how far forward I take the slide before driving back
  • Not keeping a strong back which then leads to a bit too much layback
  • Not making sure to engage the core at the drive and then at the finish
  • Not focusing on breathing

Ok, so now a write that all down, there’s a lot to think about! And it’s certainly easier to go through that checklist during the relatively slower rows like a 5k. But the whole point of training these technique points it that it should become my natural stroke without me needing to concentrate on it. 


Anyway, all I’m saying is that I was hurting and my technique was not helping things! 


And this meant that with 500m to go, I eased off. Not a huge amount really. I slipped down to 1:37 first, then I think I fell away to 1:42. (weird though that at this point, 1:42 felt like an easy recovery row, but if I were in the middle of a 2k – 1:42 would be close to race pace and I’d be suffering and wanting to slow down!) 


I could hear my sister behind me screaming for me to go faster. But I was gone. I had made the mistake of basically giving in. It’s not like this was a new feeling. All tough rows feel like this. But the point is to get through it. To fix what you can. To realise there is only 90 seconds left and it’ll stop. To not give in. 


Easy to say now. 


Slowly (well, actually quite quickly) I fell down the placings in the screen. From 2 to 3 then to four – and then finally down to fifth place. 
With 200m to go, I figured I only had 25 strokes to get to the end. The pain had gone – but I was still ragged fitness wise and technique was nasty at this stage. But I told myself to at least pick up and sprint to the end. 


Which, of course, I did. Just like I would have done if I hadn’t given up for the 60 seconds or so I’d slowed down for. I locked up the pace, sped up stroke rate – and got back to the 1:35 area and down to 1:29 for the last stroke. 


I say last stroke. The big mistake with counting an amount of strokes to sprint to a finish is that it’s easy to not take an extra, needed stroke to get to the finish line. And even though my last stroke took me to 7m – and I rolled into the finish – it took a lot longer to roll those last 7m than it would have done is I’d have just towed one last stroke. 


The difference between my 3:14.0 fifth place and fourth place was 0.4 seconds. Would that last “non” stroke have made up that difference? I’m not sure. But it wasn’t a good way to finish regardless. 


I went into this race feeling strong and confident. Convinced I would get 3:10 and then hopeful that I would go faster. 


It’s the worst 1k race I’ve done. But I guess it’s my heavyweight PB! On the more positive side, I’ve done it and it can act as a proper marker for my training going forwards. But that doesn’t do anything to help the disappointment! 

Not a happy Chappy.
Holding head in my hand as I realise I’ve just blown it


Tech woes


And then there’s the tech side of things. After last year’s success with streaming the race online, I didn’t have any concerns about it this year. Which I should have. 


Everything worked when I left Glasgow. But when I set up my MacBook and then all of the capture feeds (one static camera, one roving camera and then the race screen feed) only one of them worked. 


I still don’t know why.  I’m writing this at 20,000 feet while flying home – and intend to replicate what happened so I can work out why those gremlins occurred. 


But all this meant a very lacklustre online presentation. For a start, the software wasn’t linking into YouTube – and by the time I’d fixed that, I’d missed streaming the first hour or so of racing. 


And then when it did go live, viewers were only able to see on camera angle, shot from the corner of ERG1 down the line of machines. 


Couple this with people walking in front of the camera – and that there was no screen in the shot – and I know I would have turned it off if I were at home. 


I eventually moved the camera so that it was behind the racers, showing the big screen in front of them. It depends on what people want to see when they tune in. Do they want to see the look on people’s faces, or do they just want to know who’s winning, so the screen is enough. 
But with no camera angle changes, it was a dull watch. 

You had one job


But the problem was, I was rowing too. Case in point, Sam asked for me to take a photo of the first race, but I was so involved with trying to fix the tech, and then getting changed for my race – that I completely forgot. 
And then the rowing took me away from fixing the tech, so that wasn’t online until after my race. And then between the tech challenges and the rowing, but by bit I was less and less helpful to Sam. 


So I think next year if I go to this event again, I’ll only do the 1k. This will hopefully let me settle into getting all the back-room bits purring properly before I indulge myself in some rowing. And that way I won’t be distracted by it when I eventually DO row! 


What all this really means is that I’ve come away from Devon Indoor Champs with a general feeling that it was a wasted opportunity. 
An opportunity to row fast and prove to myself that I am getting fitter, faster and stronger. 


And also an opportunity to showcase how easy and simple it is to film and broadcast these events – with a view to trying to convince other competitions to do the same. This weekend proved the exact opposite!  And the frustration is that right now, I don’t know why. And until I do know why I can’t promote and suggest to other competitions that they do it, or that they allow me to do it. 


Moving forwards


A day off today. Fly home, have a nice dinner with family. Get a hug from Julie. And then tomorrow, back in the saddle. Lose this last 1kg to get back to lightweight status. 


Get stronger. 

Get fitter

Get faster


And then make sure to do it right at the Scottish champs at the end of November. 

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