I’ve written before about the necessity of a good playlist to make it through a winter’s worth of erg rowing. Now that I am training for the CRASH-B sprints (Feb. 17 in Boston, registration now open until Jan 7), I back to messing around with playlists on my android phone.
Row2k — the best source of all rowing news online — has a feature on erg playlists and a poll to vote for your favorite (I voted for Rammstein’s Du Hast as it is prominent on my go-to list and is utterly teutonic sturm und drang). I also respect the Rage Against the Machine on Row2k’s list, but have to puke on Jackson Brown. Now to go compile this sucker off of Amazon and load it up for my next bout with the Wheel of Pain.
If you row and you read Row2k you owe them a contribution. Send them $60 and get an awesome t-shirt. No site matches the depth of their coverage, the completeness of their calendar, the awesomeness of the features, the relevance of their news and the usefulness of their classifieds.
My friend Phil Odence has been blogging about barefoot running for well over a year, but it wasn’t until last Sunday that I found the courage to try it myself. The suggestion of another friend that I use the local ball park’s infield for a full-grass experience made me motivated to give it a try along with a recent reading of Born to Run, the story of the Tarahumara runners of the Sierra Madre who kick ass in ultra marathons running in nothing more than a huarache fashioned out of a strip of old tire.
The deal with barefoot running is this: running shoes with their gel inserts, foam padding, and other high tech advances have been murdering runners’ feet since they were introduced in the 1970s. If one subscribes to the whole paleo-movement that argues that homo sapiens has been at it for 200,000 years but ruining itself in the last fifty with processed food and too much technology, i.e. running shoes, then eating and running around like a hunter gatherer on the veldt makes some sense.
I have been easing back into running over the last nine months through the local Crossfit gym which throws in a couple running workouts every week. Rowers are notoriously bad runners, I’ve heard the act referred to as the “rower’s shuffle” by one Olympic gold medalist, but there’s no denying that a good run is not only good exercise but good practice. I suck at it, but can remember a time, probably when I was eleven or twelve, when I was actually good at it.
I took the first step towards barefoot running with the purchase of a pair of Inov8 F-Lite 230 running flats. They look a little goofy — like ballet slippers on my fat feet, but they are awesome for Crossfit.
These things are very minimalist with a mere quarter-inch of hard rubber sole between my foot and the pavement. The reasoning behind doing away with the foam and the shock absorbing principles of a traditional running shoe is two-fold: your foot needs to find the surface and padding it only delays that contact and second, all that orthotic padding causes the muscles in the foot to go soft and unused. A side benefit of Inov8’s and their hard sole is on the ergometer — serious indoor rowers have long held that padded soles diffuse the explosive power of the drive and that a rower is better off barefoot, an opinion voiced by Olympic gold medal sculler Xeno Mueller. The first bad habit to break is landing on the heels — heel strike is bad and the entire POSE and Chi running disciplines try to teach a runner to land on the front of their feet and use the elasticity of their legs to cushion the impact, not the foam in their shoes. I can’t get the hang of POSE running. You’re supposed to fall forward and increase your cadence with your heels kicking up high towards your butt. It looks goofy but I try to keep some of it mind as I flap away. This before and after video might help visualize the difference between traditional and “new” running.
I’ve logged a few miles in the Inov8’s, but on Sunday I drove up to Elizabeth Lowell Park, home field of the Cotuit Kettleers, parked, unlatched the infield gate, and started running around the inside perimeter of the field — about a quarter mile all told or 400 meters. I did ten laps, finding that as my mind got over any fears of stepping on a foreign object I started to accelerate and settle into a very comfortable pace. Being barefoot naturally forces you to land on the ball of the foot, not the heel, and I definitely felt my toes starting to dig in and flex and add some power to the stride that I don’t feel inside of an Asic or Nike.
All in all I liked it and will give it another try. I am not so sure about going barefoot on pavement, but Phil assures me it’s great as long as I start out slowly over short distances.
In 48 hours, at 9:40 a.m., I’ll be sitting on ergometer #19 on the floor of Boston University’s Agganis Arena, staring at a small square LCD screen flashing the words: “Sit Ready” “Attention” “ROW.” While I dread it, I have to ask: how awesome is it to participate in the world championships of anything? Even if it is the world championships of indoor rowing? Sunday is the 30th anniversary of the event, which started in Harvard’s Newell Boathouse in the grim winter following the cancellation of the 1980 Olympics (thanks to Jimmy Carter’s Cold War displeasure with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan). What was a humorous way to kill the tedium of winter training among a few elite Cambridge rowers has now turned into a major affair involving a couple thousand competitors and 10,000 spectators.
Then I’ll be off and puffing for the next six and a half minutes until I pull the handle about 200 times and manage to spin the flywheel at a rate faster than the other 80 or so heavyweight men in their early 50s sitting on identical machines next to me. The results won’t be pretty. The experience will definitely be ugly, and those six-and-a-half interminable minutes will likely be the worst six-and-a-half minutes I experience in 2011.
Or they may be the best. In the end ergometer racing proves the cliche of the man who hits his head against a wall because it feels so good when he stops.
I’m tapering now with one light, last row today on the deck in the springlike sunshine, a pyramid of ten, twenty, and thirty strokes at my race pace, then a rare day off tomorrow before Sunday’s moment of truth. Hydrating, carbohydrate loading, stretching, fretting over my warm-up and race plan, always anxious about whether to set a pace and goal that is within or hopelessly out of reach. Whatever happens, the event provides the venue and the inspiration to dig a little deeper and try a little harder than I would alone, in the shadows of my garage, racing myself against the clock.
Here’s a virtual replay of the finals in my event last year (I didn’t participate).
I just climbed off the erg for the first time since Jan 7. Six weeks without exercise (other than beach walks) has left me fat and out of shape. So back on to the erg I went today — 5,000 meters in under 20 minutes so the news wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Rotator cuff not affected by the stroke, so it would appear I have no more excuses and can try to work off the pounds in anticipation for the first water row on or around St. Pat’s.
I have over 500,000 meters logged so far in the Concept 2 log book for the year (C2’s year begins May 1), maybe I can get another 100K onto the books before the calendar resets.
Tomorrow is the CRASH-B sprints in Boston. I have an entry, but I think my best effort might be a feeble 7:30-7:45. Maybe I should man up and waddle up there anyway. Guilt will weigh on me for the rest of the day. And this was to be the year I went for a 6:15 race as it is my first in the 50+ heavyweight category. Oh well. Always next year.
With a mere 20,000 meters to go before I make the 200,000 meter Holiday Challenge, I entered the 2009 CRASH-B World Indoor Rowing Championships on February 22. Two months of training to get my 2,000 time down to something respectable. I’ll be in the Veteran’s 50-54 Heavyweights and the world record is 6:07. My best 2K is around a 6:25 or something in my early 40s …. so I’ll be happy to get under 7 minutes this year.
Today I crossed the 100,000 meter mark in the annual Concept2 Holiday Challenge — 200,000 miserable meters between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
Today I crossed the 100,000 meter mark, meaning I am way behind and need to do 9K a day for the remaining days without missing a single session. That’s out the window as I’m off to Vermont next weekend for a friend’s 50th birthday party — which means I need to do some 15,000 meter or one-hour long erg sessions this week to stay on course. Woe is me. All this for the right to buy a t-shirt and another pin to nail into the wall of my erg/gym barn.