Wed & Thurs: Taper Triples

My long / hard workout on Tuesday was my last hard session before the HOCR.  Yesterday and Today, I implements a very short taper.  Not much need to do more because my prior training load was pretty light.

My traditional taper is guided by this paper.  This is a 5 day taper, based on high intensity (115% VO2Max pace) intervals.  They are intense, but short, about 75 seconds in the study and massively long 6 minute rests.   Since I am making up for lost time, I decided to reduce the intensity of the intervals and make them a little longer, so that I would get additional technique practice at head race stroke rates and pressure.  So, if you believe 2K pace is roughly VO2Max pace (and I do), then that would mean that I should do the intervals at about 250-275 watts.  Instead, I planned to do them at closer to a 5K pace, which is maybe 40 watts lower, and extend them out to 120 seconds.

Also, I have been noticing that my rowing is pretty damn sloppy, especially my finishes.  This has been making me unstable during the recovery, and messing up the whole next stroke.  So, I thought the best way to use the rest time was to do some square blade rowing, so I did 2 minutes of square blade rowing and 2 minutes alternating square and feathered stroke by stroke.

So the plan was:

  • Wednesday: 4 x 2′
  • Thursday: 3 x 2′
  • Friday: practice row on the HOCR course.  Keep it gentle. HR limit <150bpm
  • Saturday: race day!


A beautiful morning.  Clear, about 45F when I launched, but it warmed up fast and it was about 55F by the time I finished.  There was a light breeze, but the water was silky flat almost all the time.

I was having such a good time that I did an extra interval at the end.


          Workout Summary - media/20171018-125059-Greg Smith 20171018 0650amo.csv
Workout Details

230W felt like it was bit too much to be sustainable for the whole race.  Maybe 220W would work though.


Today was a carbon copy of Wednesday.  Clear, 45F, even less wind.

I enjoyed every minute of the session.  I had a little bit of extra river in  the last interval, so I extended it to 3 minutes.


          Workout Summary - media/20171019-164952-Greg Smith 20171019 0634amo.csv
Workout Details

247W felt good today.  Definitely too hard to hold for the whole race, but 255W should be workable.

After my workout I had an evaluation with a Physical Therapist.  He found some imbalances in my glute strength that are causing weird stuff to happen with other muscles in an effort to compensate and this is putting strain on my SI joints. He gave me some stretches and exercises that will help me fix the imbalance.  I’m pretty happy with the outcome and delighted that the PT works on a lot of rowers, including the US national team.

Tomorrow:  Afternoon, I will be bringing my boat down to the launch site and doing a practice row on the course.




Threshold Tuesday

Weather:  Really dark.  Just the hint of a cresent moon on the eastern horizon, and lots of bright stars.  Cold as hell.  32F.  Wind 8-9mph from the NNW.  This was a nasty headwind for my long piece and kicked up a bit of chop in places.

The plan:  The original plan was a 4 x 2000m.  But once I got going, I decided to change it up.  When I setup the speedcoach, I didn’t have a field for distance.  So, I decided to replace the 2k intervals with 9 minute intervals.  Then when I was doing the first interval, I was feeling pretty good.  The wind was behind me and I was in a section of the lake where the water was nice and flat, I decided to extend it to 10 minutes.  I got to the south end of the lake and waited for the double that I had launched with.  While I waited, I looked at the stars.  Venus was very bright in the east, Orion was in the western sky, and I saw a shooting star.

My rest extended longer than the 5 minutes, and I decided that instead of continuing with the planned workout, I would just do the whole lake.  This is a little bit longer than the HOCR course, so it would be a good way to see what power I can target for the race.  Also, with the head wind, it would be a test of character!  Could I keep it up while looking at miserably slow splits?

I set off and settled into a rhythm at 26 spm.  I was annoyed to see that my HR monitor was stuck at 111bpm.  After a couple of minutes, it got unstuck and slowly climbed up to the expected number around 171bpm.  Then a couple minutes after that, the power and angle readings from the empower oarlock disappeared as well.  I took this as a further test of character.  Now, I had no power readings or heart rate readings to make me feel better about the miserably slow splits.  I had no choice but to focus on rowing clean and just count strokes.  It’s between 600 and 650 strokes to do the 5k.  I counted every one of them.

I found that I would get sloppy and tired at r26, and decide to “take 10 for length”.  My stroke rate would drop to r24/r25 and my pace would improve a bit.  Then over the next couple of minutes, my rate would creep back up again and I would do it all again.

The section from 400 strokes to 500 was probably the toughest.  The head wind was most noticeable, and the chop was at it’s worst.  I was very tired and getting sloppy.  It was a real confidence boost to persevere through it and once I got past 500 and the end was in sight, I was able to start cranking it up.

The finish point is right in front of the QRA docks.  I paddled from there up to the north end of the lake and met up with the double again.  I did the section going south with my feet out of the shoes focusing on finishes.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 5.25.34 PM

You can see the problems with the HR and power numbers in this plot.


Here is a close up plot of the pace and stroke rate, since that’s the only stuff that was accurate through that piece.


          Workout Summary - media/20171017-182015-Greg Smith 20171017 0540amo.csv
Workout Details

So, after this workout, I was delighted to see an email from saying that I had had a “breakthrough workout”.  This is a workout that is significantly better than the power profile that you have built up over time.

Here is the before/after view of the profile.

The difference is all in the long workouts.  There is a chance that the power meter malfunction is driving the long flat plateau, but based on the pace through the piece, I think that power did not fade all that much.  Using this data and the predictor functionality, rowandall thinks that I can target 211W for my race.  I think I can probably target 220W.

After the issues today, I hope that the speedcoach works in the race.

Tomorrow:  Another session of 2′ SBR/2’Alt/2′ 26spm.  This time 4 reps.

Mechanics Monday

Weather:  Blustery, about 60F.


  • repeat for roughly 60 minutes
    • 2′ square blade rowing
    • 2′ alternate square feathered
    • 2′ feathered
      • rate: 25-26
      • pace: ~2:15 or better
  • Technique focus
    • clean finishes.  Avoid touching my chest with my hands
    • blades off the water
    • knees together at the catch

The point of the workout today was to use the SBR and alternating sections to work on all the technique elements, then use the 2 minutes at head race rate to “apply” what I was working on.  I tried to focus on the technique at pressure, especially finishing early and keeping blades off the water.


The oarlock batteries ran out in the session.  Gotta replace those tonight.

The power pie chart is wrong.  The LT number is too big.

          Workout Summary - media/20171016-145520-Greg Smith 20171016 0846amo.csv
Workout Details

I really enjoyed this workout.  It was quite a challenge to row with square blades with the blustery conditions, especially when I was heading up river with it as a headwind.  It was delightful during the r26 chunks when I put together 2 or 3 clean strokes.  Of course, I’d be happier if I could routine put together 700 clean stroke, but I need to be happy with any progress.

This session will form the basis of my taper.  I will reduce the total rowing time and the number of 2 minute chunks of race pace rowing, but keep working on technique at race pace.  I think it the only thing that I can improve over a week.

Tomorrow:  My last hard session before the race.  4 x 2000 / 5′ rests at r26 and 2:15.


Sunday: 2 x 5.5K at race rate

Weather:  Cloudy, warm (mid 60s), light to moderate breeze from the SSW, 5-8 mph with gusts a bit higher.  This was a headwind going up river.

The Plan:  Do two head race pieces at slightly lower than head race pressure to find the power level that I can hold reasonably for the HOCR.  Also work on technique at race rate.  Probably most importantly work on my confidence in rowing while in considerable discomfort.

  • 2 x 5.5K
    • Rate: 25-26
    • quick turn at the halfway point
  • ~ 10′ rest between pieces

I was extremely annoyed to find that I had forgotten my heart rate monitor at home.  Oh well, this session would be managed by RPE.

I did some pick drill out to the start point, and then had a drink and got going.  The pace dropped down below 2:10 and I felt pretty awesome.  Of course, I was rowing in the part of the river where the current was most favorable, and the wind was behind me.  Nevertheless, it got me off in a good way.  I just counted strokes and tried to keep my mind on all the things I had to manage.

  • steering
  • keep knees together at the catch
  • nice clean finishes.  Don’t let the handles hit my chest at the finish.
  • blades off the water on recovery
  • nice consistent blade depth during the drive.

Of course you can’t think all these thoughts at the same time, so I basically would use them to distract myself.  I would try to turn to look every ten strokes, and if I felt like I was pushing past a sustainable effort, I would take the strokes between looks to focus on one area.   It seemed to work.  The hardest part of this session is the turn in the middle.  Mentally, it is so hard to be right on the edge when you get to the halfway point, and then turn the boat quickly and get back up to speed.  I wanted to stop so badly both times.


          Workout Summary - media/20171015-173937-Greg Smith 20171015 0933amo.csv
Workout Details

So, it looks like I can target a bit above 200W for the race, maybe 210W.  You can see  the effect of the fatigue fro the first piece in how my length and power just faded in the second one.

I know that I have plenty of rationalizations for the level of preparation for this race, but it is really bugging me.  It is unlikely that I will ever win a big event like this, but I take a lot of pride in preparing well and building a plan that let’s me do my best in the event.  I don’t feel like that is the case this year.  I need to do some thinking about how to modify my training so I am better focused and end enjoy it more next year.

Tomorrow:  Technique row.  Probably 2′ segments of square blades, alternating square/feathered and race rate rowing.  The intent will be to be able to row at r26 with good technique at less than race pace.

Back home: 3 x 20′ / 2′ dynamic

I slept until around 9:30am, and had a nice relaxed morning.  My basic plan for the rest of the week, leading up to the race is:

  • Saturday:  60′ Steady state on the erg
  • Sunday: Head race piece OTW
  • Monday: Technical Session on the water, 80 minutes UT2
  • Tuesday: 4 x 2000 OTW
  • Wednesday: 60 minutes OTW, short intervals at race pace and rate, with generous rests.
  • Thursday: 45 minutes OTW, short intervals at race pace and rate with generous rests.
  • Friday:  Bring boat to launch area in the afternoon.  Practice run of the course, stick to UT2 pace.
  • Saturday: race day!

So today was steady state on the dynamic

  • 3 x 20′ / 2′
  • Target rate: 20
  • Target power: 165W
  • HR limit: 145, 150, 155



          Workout Summary - media/20171014-1800450o.csv
Workout Details

Tomorrow:  2 x 6K with 10′ rest.  Each 5K will have a turn at 3K.  No rest at the turn.


Late night in the fitness center

Wednesday:  No time to work out in the morning.  I was finally able to get to the gym very late Wednesday night, actually just into Thursday morning.

  • 20 minutes treadmill (15% grade, 3.3 mph)
  • 20 minutes elliptical (level 17, hill profile)
  • 20 minutes stationary bike (level 16, random profile)

All were slightly harder than  the day before, my HR response was correspondingly a bit higher too.



Thursday: I finished around 1:15am, then made a couple of calls.  I got to be at about 2:30am and needed to get up at 4:30am.  I had a 7:25am departure from Munich to Lyon.  So, walk to the ostbanhof train station, catch the 5:24am train to the airport, arrive at around 6:00.  Plenty of time.

I slept a bit on the flight from Munich to Lyon, and a bit more in the 90 minute cab ride from Lyon to Grenoble.  Then I had an internal meeting, business lunch, two customer meetings, and a business dinner.  I got back  to my room around 10:15pm and immediately crashed.

Friday: My alarm was set for 5:30.  We were out on the road to Milan by 6:00.  We got to Milan around 10:30, and straight to a customer meeting at 11.  This wrapped up after 12.  Then a lunch with my colleagues, and straight to the airport.  My flight was at 3:50pm to London, and then 6:50 departure to Boston.  I landed around 8:30 local time, was home by 9:30 and in bed by 10:30.  I slept for nearly 11 hours.

Not the way I wanted to spend the last real prep week before the HOCR, but needs must.

Fitness Center Triathlon

Last night I flew from Boston to Stuttgart via Amsterdam, arriving at 9:15AM.  I got maybe 3 hours of fitful sleep on the plane.

I had a meeting from 11-12 and the lunch with the customer.  Then we drove back to Munich, well I rode and Martin drove.  I fell asleep in the car for about an hour of the trip.  Honestly, it was better sleep than what I got on the plane.

Back in Munich, I hung out at our office for an hour or so and caught up on emails.  Then I walked to my hotel, which has a small but serviceable fitness center.  I put on my workout clothes and headed down.

The plan was to do 60 to 80 minutes of low intensity aerobic work.  And that’s what I did.

  • 20′ treadmill death march: 15% grade, 3.2 mph
  • 30′ elliptical trainer, random profile avg level 16/25
  • 30′ stationary bike, hill profile, avg level 15
  • HR limit: 150

I was happy with the nice low HR, and especially that my HR was dropping fast with lower loads.  Not exactly what I want to be doing 12 days before the HOCR, but you do what you need to do.

Tomorrow:  Morning workout, then meetings all day.  Probably something a bit more challenging and shorter than this.   Maybe treadmill intervals.

Hard 6K – indoors

This morning was a real disaster.  I planned  to get up at 4:45 and head out to Quisigamond for a head race piece.  That was blown up by not getting to bed on time.  It was midnight by the time I was finished packing for my trip and in bed.  I decided that a very early start was not the smartest idea (actually, my wife decided that and told me I was an idiot).  It turns out this was a little clairvoyant.  I got up after 6, and I was on my way to work at 6:30 when my phone rang.  It turns out that I was supposed to be in a teleconference at 6:30.  I saw it on my calendar, but I assumed it had to be some kind of an error.  Oops, I guess not.  Anyway, I did the call from my car, most of it pulled over so I could concentrate on the meeting.  By the time I got to work, I had to rush straight in to my first meeting at 8:30 in my workout clothes.

After that meeting, I had a 1 hour hole in my schedule, so I made my way to the fitness center.  I didn’t have a lot of time, but I had time for a quick warmup and a hard 6K piece.


Then on to the 6K.  I was feeling a bit confident after the good 5×1500 workout and the strong steady state session.  My prior hard distance sessions were

  • 30′ at 1:56.2 on 9/23
  • 10K at 1:56.0 on 9/29

So, based on my rough math, if I was able to do 10K at 1:56, I thought I should be able to easily do 6K at 1:54.  It turned out that that was a bit too much of an ask.

I didn’t exactly hit the wall, but I needed to ease off the gas pedal around the 4000m mark.  There was no way I was going to put the handle down, but I couldn’t hold the pace at 1:54.  I held on and played all the tricks I could with visualization and stroke counting, but in the end it was just enduring it.  With 1000m left I tried to pop up the rate, but I went too far too soon and needed to back off.




          Workout Summary - media/20171009-1416080o.csv
Workout Details

So, it hurt.  That’s kind of the point.

Now I am at the airport heading off to Europe for a 4 day trip.  The schedule is jam packed.  Stuttgart, Munich, Grenoble, Milan.  I am going to do my best to do some maintenance sessions to avoid losing any aerobic fitness, but I think I won’t be doing any rowing until next Saturday.  I also need to focus on trying to avoid coming back from this trip with a big sleep deficit.



12km in Wellfleet. Fantastic!

What a beautiful day for October.  It was nearly 70 degrees and sunny.  There was a bit of wind blowing from the southwest, maybe 10mph.  This was kicking up some very lumpy chop.

I went to row at nearly high tide and it’s a full moon, so all of the roads to the beaches where I launch from were underwater.  I ended up launching off the bottom of our stairs to the water, which took some maneuvering, but worked out fine.

The plan was for 60-80 minutes of steady state.  Heart rate limit at 157.

Since the water was so high, I decided to row up into Wellfleet inner harbor and explore a bit.

The ride up north to the harbor was a blast.  I was surfing down the waves and filling the footwell all the time.  The bailer worked great, but it does slow me down a bit.  When I turned behind the Wellfleet breakwater, the water got nice and flat.  I enjoyed poking around there and I was a bit worried about how much slamming it would be to row back into the wind and waves to get home.

After a planned stop for a drink, and an unplanned stop to clear some reeds off my skeg, I headed back out past the breakwater.  It was bouncy, but very rowable.  I was a lot slower, but in control and moving nicely.  I decided to extend a little bit by rowing out to my favorite buoy before turning to go back to the house.

Getting out of the boat was as much of an adventure as launching, but nobody died and nothing got broken.  So, I’d call it a success.

        Workout Summary - media/20171007-214327-Greg Smith 20171007 1257pmo.csv
Workout Details
00|05052|29:30.0|02:55.2|000.0|20.0|149.1|159.0|08.6 -

Tomorrow – hopefully another easy aerobic coastal row.  Next hard session will be a head race piece on Quinsig on Monday.