Pittsburgh Indoor Sprints Rowing Race Report
I led for only 200 meters, but fortunately they were the last 200.
I put down 6:50 as my estimated time 3 weeks ago, but after some short workouts at higher rates (strokes per minute) I figured I could go significantly under that, maybe even 6:40 if everything went perfectly. The 6:50 left me as second seed of 11 racers. The guy in first had put down 6:47 and won the race last year in about that time.
I got to the race just about 45 minutes prior to the race, expecting maybe a few dozen people. Instead there were several hundred, including a lot of rowers from local colleges.
I started my warmup about 30 minutes prior to race time, as we were supposed to be ready 10-15 minutes early.
10 minutes prior to race time we got to get on the race ergs. It was weird as we were facing the bleachers with lots of people just 10 feet away. The others were continuing to warm up, but I stuck to my plan and just waited for the start once I got the drag factor set. Kipp, the guy seeded first is actually smaller than me. I figured if it was close, I should be able to use my size and strength to beat him over the last 300 meters or so. The monitors were cool. In addition to the usual info about meters left and pace, it showed what place you were in, and how far you were behind the leader as well as the guys immediately ahead of and behind you.
Soon enough we started. Searching the web there seemed to be 2 basic race strategies. One is to take a few hard strokes to get started and then immediately settle into your goal pace. The other is to use your adrenaline the first 20 strokes or so to get ahead of your goal, then settle into a pace just slightly slower than your goal and try to make up any deficit in the last few hundeed meters. I figured I’d take 3 fast strokes to get going, 10 hard strokes, then take the next 10 to settle down to 1:40-1:41 per 500 meter pace.
Apparently, there is a 3rd popular strategy, which is to go all out the first 500m and try to hold on. This turns out to be as effective in rowing as in running, which is to say not very.
I was at 1:36-1:38 my first 10 strokes then settled down to 1:40 to 1:41. My rate was only 30 strokes per minutes, a bit slower than I’d planned, but I felt strong and like I was rowing within myself so I didn’t push it (in general, rowing the same pace at a lower rate is a bit less tiring). Some guy named Storm took it out incredibly hard. By the 500 meter mark I was 29 meters (about 6 seconds) behind him and in 4th overall. Holy Cow. I had promised myself I’d row my race, so I stuck with my pace and let the race come to me. By 700 meters down, I was in 3rd, still 29 meters behind this Storm guy and 9 meters (maybe 2 seconds) behind Kip, who was seeded first. Storm all of sudden starts coming back to us, no surprise. By 1000 meters I’ve almost caught him but was still 9 meters back of Kipp. At halfway my average pace is about 1:40.6 or 3:21.2 for 1000 meters
With 900 meters to go, I decide to try and make a move. I push my rate up a bit and aim for 1:39-1:40 instead of 1:400-1:41. No dice. Kipp is tough and I’m getting nowhere. Storm has exploded (how painful must his last 1000 have been?) and I’m 20 meters or so up on 3nd. I’m thinking I’ve got second wrapped up but it isn’t looking good for winning.
But I keep pushing, and by 600m to go the lead is 8m. Not much but maybe there is a chink in his armor. I had planned to start my sprint at 600 to go, but I’ve pushed so hard already, I don’t have much more. By 500 to go though, I’m hitting 1:39s consistently and the lead is 6 or 7 meters. I’m redlining here with the rate up to 32-33 and slowly moving back. At 300 I’m 3 meters down but moving through him. The spectators realized it is a hell of a race and start to really cheer. At 200, we are even, but I’ve pushed the pace down to 1:37 and he is, in retrospect, dying. With 10 strokes to go (100 meters) I have to back off a touch (to 1:38-1:39) and my last 2 strokes are 1:40 and 1:41 as my tank is empty. But Kipp has crashed. I finish in 6:39.3, the fastest I’ve rowed since college. Kipp is like 6:42, so I put some distance up on him in the last strokes, winning by maybe 10 meters.
Oh did that hurt. I just slide up and down for 30 seconds or so as the rest of the racers finish. That may be the hardest I’ve EVER pushed myself over a shortish distance. After a minute or 2 everyone else is done and we get up to make way for the next race. After walking around for a couple minutes I have to sit down just to catch my breath. Wheww.
Epilogue: All that air going in and out of my lungs gives the sensation that you’ve burned your windpipe and lungs. I coughed up a storm the next 2 hours and am still coughing up some phlegm 12 hours later.
In retrospect, this was a fine race. I stuck with my race plan even as others went out too fast. I held my pace and managed to row through everyone for the win. The fact I tired just a wee bit at the end shows how much I’d already given. I might have gone just a bit faster if I’d taken it out faster, but given this was my first (and perhaps last) race like this, I think a bit slow was better than too fast. Just ask Storm