It’s 2 km day!

Today I completed my second 2 km erg test as part of the Off-Water Masters Program at the London Rowing Club. Part of my goal for the Fittest at Fifty campaign was to try something new and rowing is that thing. To find out more, read Row, row, row your boat!.

Each month we’ll be doing a 2 km erg test which will both measure our progress and form the basis for future training efforts. (For example, we did a workout earlier this week at +10, where +10 is 10 seconds above your 500 m split time for the 2 km effort. I did the last 2 km with a 2:10 avg so my goal for that workout was to avg 2:20.)

This is familiar to me from the cycling world. When I was training with the Vikings Cycling Club in Canberra we did monthly field tests–two 5 km time trial efforts, with a recovery in the middle–and sent our times into our coach. Another time we did monthly 15 km time trials, different distance but same general idea. Again, that’s a sure way to track progress and to match people for team trial events. We also used those times to see if we’d adequately recovered during our monthly rest and recovery week.

One thing that’s different is that for rowing on the erg we divide into two groups so that we can cheer one another on. I like that. I always do better with people screaming at me.

I think I was pretty much guaranteed to do better this time around since I have a better idea of the technique: fast, short strokes at the start to get the flywheel spinning, then an all out effort, then before you blow up settle into a pace you can maintain for the middle. For the last 500 m you sprint again.

Here’s my times, last time and this time to compare:

Nov 2nd:

2 km time 8:45.4
avg split 2:11.4

Dec 4th:

2 km time 8:30.1
avg split 2:07.5

What will January bring?

Here’s Coach Jay on How to Pull a 2k test

He’s also got some more thoughts on a favourite theme of mine, pain and suffering. (You can read my post, Why are painful workouts so much fun?)

The 2k test became a staple in the rowing world in 1995, when the Charles River All Star Has Beens changed the format of their little event from 2500m to 2k. Everyone can blame these clowns for the invention of the dreaded erg test in 1980. They thought it would be “fun.” Thus the erg, never very popular before, became synonymous with pain.

You see, there is a big difference in discomfort between a 6000m and 2000m test. As I’ve written before, the 6k is a test of endurance and mental toughness. The 2k emphasizes endurance, power delivery, mental toughness, and pain tolerance. The 2k hurts you, if you do it right. It hurts you a lot, and being mentally prepared for that pain is far better than not knowing what you’re walking into. So, off we go.

I loved only one thing about 2ks, and that was the feeling of the first 350m. All the nervous energy would burn off, and most people get to their target split without too much trouble. (Always have a goal or target for a 2k. Always.) After that first 350 is the beginning of the “fun,” because the rower starts to hurt.

Not a lot at first, but enough to be noticeable. Lactic acid was produced in that first 200m burn, and it ends up in the muscles where it was born, so the legs start a little complaining. The best route here is to find that goal split and concentrate on “building the piece” of as many of those splits in a row as possible. If 1:40 is the goal split, make sure every stroke is there at 1:40. An early indication of a piece in trouble is the inability to hold that goal, with the splits jumping around with every stroke.

At 1500m to go, I’d like to take a little power 10. Nothing serious, just 10 strokes to push the splits down 1 or 2 and get ready for the worst 500m of my life. Because the 2k is going to fail or succeed right in that second 500m, and the mental toughness of the athlete will decide it. Right there, I would usually think, “I can’t hold this pace. I need to back off,” because here it really starts to hurt and you are not even halfway done yet!!!

Read more here.

And here’s what it really looks like! No vintage waves, long hair, or wild wind.

row2 row