Xeno is in the comments

Whoa, one of the gods of the single scull, Xeno Mueller, gold medalist in the 1996 Olympic games is in the comments of my erg blogging post.

I actually met him, for about a minute, at the boathouse at Newport Beach, California when I was rowing out of there in the winter of 2003-2004. He runs an erg training service out of a Costa Mesa storefront and is an inspiration to a lot of indoor rowers.

His blog is here.

Erg-blogging: by the numbers

Rowers are obsessive counters. From strokes per minute to the breakdown of the four-component stroke (catch, drive, finish, recover), a lot of rowers spend most of their mental effort counting through the agony. Combine that with the PM II monitor on the Concept2 erg, and a typical workout becomes a major exercise in Distance=Rate x Time.

Today I stepped up the first week’s average training distance of 5K to 6K. The focus for me now is weight loss (I don’t have a scale, so I can’t express my current fatitude). Weight loss is a function of time as a low heart rate. Low heart rate means the body goes after fat for fuel. Therefore, I need to work up to 45 to 60 minute pieces. Going for speed and trying to set records over shorter distance comes later in the training cycle.

The good news is after 8 days I can maintain a sub 2:00 split, coming down 5 seconds in a week. Anything over 2:00 is a grandmotherly pace for me. I know I’m in shape when I can cruise at a sub 1:55 pace.

Erg blogging — Saturday 5K and small improvements

Today is the sixth row since getting back on the erg following 120 days of recovery from a trashed sacroilliac performed while sculling in early November. Easy-does-it is the rule for the first week — with the usual sore shoulder and back muscles as my body gets back into the unique cycle of rowing.

Yesterday was a rest day — NYC and travel — so coming off the rest I was a lot faster and set my personal best for the week, 20 minutes, 20 seconds for the 5,000 meter segment, averaging 2:01 minutes per 500 meter split. Not bad for week one, and a four second split improvement from my 2:05 on day one. Keep in mind that in full shape I am generally cruising in the 1:45-1:55 range (think of splits as the basis “mile per hour” measure in indoor rowing.
I do a 500 meter warm up at a very easy pace, loosening up for the most part. The 5,000 is when I turn on the iPod and crank at a loping 24 stroke per minute pace, focusing on length, a long recovery (the return part of the stroke) and a solid drive, taking great pains to focus on posture and back alignment. I program the RowPro to keep me in a 25 spm band, and a 150 heart beat per minute band, that generally sees me peak around 170-180 bpm during the final sprint.
Feels good to be back on the wheel of pain.

The Daily Erg – Rowing Science

The Daily Erg – Rowing Science
Rowing Blogs – Weekend Reading Anyone?

“Technorati … lists 168 blogs with rowing as one of their topics! Of course not many of those have rowing as their main topic. Here are a few of the blogs that I have had the pleasure of reading over the past six months or so. If you have a chance please take a look at the work of other rowing bloggers”

Rowing Science has a list of rowing blogs I need to check out.

Okay — no erg today for me as I am in NYC and not staying at a hotel with an ergometer. Concept2 used to provide an “erg-finder” database, but it’s always a pain to locate, and I need to del.icio.us the location. I did get a ping from Jeff Wagner at ergscores.com offering to help me with a WordPress plug-in to send my scores to his service: “If you get those scores into ErgScores.com we’ll develop a WordPress plug-in to make you Erg Blogging a lot easier.”
Jeff — I’d be into it. WordPress is the center of my online life these days.

The plan for the forthcoming week of erg is to let my neck and shoulder muscles recover from week one, then get back on it on Saturday with another 5,000 meter piece (5K is a good piece as it lines up with the regular testing interval used by coaches of 20 minutes, and is a close approximation of a head race, ie The Head of the Charles. It’s long enough to hurt, but short enough not to be boring.).

The plan is to build up from 5K to 30 minutes to 10k to 60 minute at a low (18-22 stroke per minute ((SPM)) pace and a low heart-rate, say 120 beats per minute (bpm) or less so I can start burning fat. A tedious month of that, mixed in with on-the-water rowing commencing the weekend after next on my annual return to the water date of St. Patrick’s Day, and I may be able to consider some mid-spring racing at Narragansett Boat Club or the Charles.

Head of the Charles Regatta

Just returned from watching my daughter row in her second Head of the Charles Regatta. She rows for The Brooks School, my alma mater, and is a US National rowing champion in the women’s fours. There was much anticipation for today’s race as she is being courted and recruited by college coaches.

A “head” race is a form of rowing invented by the British which permits a huge number of boats to compete — against the clock — on a narrow river. Boats line up in order of their bow numbers, and cross the starting line at 15 second intervals, racing upsteam to a finish 3 miles, or 5000 meters away. Passing other boats is a good thing. Being passed is a spirit crusher. The best places to watch are the curves and bridges where some magnificant crashes take place.

My daughter’s boat started 12th in the Youth Women’s Fours, but it’s too soon for an official result and finished 38th out of of 50. Not good. But they had a blast.

Video to follow once Adobe Premier finishes rendering the clips. Video was a failure. Out of focus and tons of wind noise over the microphone.

I did not row, having missed most of the summer training season due to May’s bike accident. Also, entries in my event — Senior Master Singles 40+ is very competitive and come down to the luck of the draw. Next year perhaps. This is a very good fall event and one I miss, having rowed in it about a dozen times since the early 70s.

Digital Rowing

The Concept2 rowing ergometer is an amazing piece of exercise equipment that is the standard for off-the-water training for most college and elite national teams. At about $900, it is also one of the biggest bargains for someone looking for the ne plus ultra in home exercise.

Invented by the Dreissigacker brothers of Morrisville, Vermont, founders of the Concept2 Corporation (also the leading manufacturer of carbon fiber oars), their ergometer consists of a rolling seat on a steel beam, a handle with a bicycle chain which spins a fan, using the air as resistance. The rower’s progress is noted on a “performance monitor”, an LCD that shows strokes per minute, average pace, distance, and a wealth of other information that provides incentive and a very accurate session-to-session comparison of progress.

The Concept2 website has an online log for entering in one’s results, and a global ranking that lets one compare one’s best times with other rowers.

The machine is at the heart of the sport of competitive indoor rowing, culminating in the annual world championships, the CRASH-B Sprints, which pits thousands of rowers against each other in Boston every February. There are hundreds of regional and country competitions conducted around the world, with the sport being especially popular in the UK.

This morning I downloaded a program called RowPro. I connected my ThinkPad X60s to the ergometer’s performance monitor with a USB cable and was able to divert the output from the erg to the laptop. A nice graphic of a sculler indicated my progress down a virtual race course, and I set up a pace boat to keep me honest over the course of a 30-minute row.

What is very cool about the program is that you can row virtual races via the internet against other RowPro users,  upload your results to your Concept2 online logbook, and use the system to establish training plans. This, to my geeky mind, is extremely cool, and I can think of no other example of virtual physical competition. Stairmasters, elliptical trainers …. none of them hold a candle to the ergometer in terms of total workout and the added value of virtual competition.

Here’s the rankings for heavyweight men, age 40-49, in the USA. As of this morning I am ranked 25th in the country. At my peak, a few years ago, I was first in the US for the 60 minute distance, and my best performance in the world championships was a 6’28.7″ in 2003 over the standard 2,000 meter sprint distance (this was the most evil thing I have ever done to myself). I’m in training now for next February’s race and will be rowing long distances over the next three months before moving to interval training of intense short distances interspersed with rest periods to build up my maximum heart rate.

The trick is staying motivated. An iPod can carry me only so far, so I’ll buy the full version of RowPro and start virtually racing to keep the competitive juices flowing.

Buy an erg. You won’t regret it. Stick with it and you’ll get in the best shape of your life. I’ll make the bold prediction that indoor rowing becomes an Olympic event in my lifetime.

Ernestine Bayer, 97, Mother of Women’s Rowing in United States dies in New Hampshire

row2k News: Ernestine Bayer, 97, Mother of Women’s Rowing in United States dies in New Hampshire

I spoke with Ernestine Bayer while researching The Book of Rowing. The amazing success story that is women’s rowing is due to her tenacious support and advocacy of the sport. She will be missed.

“Mrs. Bayer was a world leader in introducing women to the sport of rowing. Through her efforts, women’s rowing was added to the summer Olympic schedule. During her life time she earned every award given by the national rowing association: Nominee for the Sullivan Award from rowing, member of the first Women’s rowing Olympic Committee, member of the National Rowing Foundation (NRF) Rowing Hall of Fame, First United States Gold rowing medal, Carlin Award, Coach of the Year, and named one of rowing’s 10 most influential people of the century. She to this day holds the world record on the rowing ergometer for women 90 .”