as many of you have already noticed, i did not make the trip to nsrII, which is happening as i write this. it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but also not an end all or be all one either.
right after the regatta, john graves and i talked on the water. we were at different places when we started talking due to our respective finishes. by the end of the convo, i was riled up and pumped to race nsrII as was he. time went by, and things understandably changed in his mind. john planned not to go. then, willy and i were talking. i love rowing with willy, and because of all that we did together last year, i am always pretty eager and open to row with him. this time though i was driving back to VT and then ME to get my pup and a tumultuous ball of cluttered thought as i still sifted through the nsrI results. it felt as if it was becoming too much of a thing, and what i needed now was a little stability and time. as tough of a call as it was, i said no go to willy and am glad to see that him and matt miller are finding a solid cruising altitude. then, john considered nsrII again. i eagerly decided to do some rows. then, we did a mini matrix involving hugh mcadam, ben dann, john, and me. john and i put down some fast times, but they weren’t completely buttery strokes. my pieces with hugh were not indicative of what we could do, but were demoralizing at the time nonetheless. in both cases, i think i would’ve done better in the opposite lineups with me in the bow.
at any rate, we more or less agreed that it made sense for john and ben to row together since out of the box they row more similarly and both have hopes of rowing together down the road. additionally, i had a shortsighted, addiction-based motivation for nsrII. i just wanted to win to win. not to be the double or anything. just to stroke my ego a bit after finishing second at nsrI. wanted to assert my dominance. while wanting to win for the sake of winning is admirable, in this case, it wasn’t necessarily the reason to race this race. even so, this regatta has new meanings now since there’s no quad selection based off of it. consequently, it’s a little less weighty, and i didn’t feel the need to go in a boat that wasn’t going to win with decent certainty. hence, why hugh and i didn’t go and why i didn’t enter with sam stitt. in hugh’s case, we would need some work to straighten things out, and in sam’s case, the call to row came quite late in the game even considering his incredible adaptability in team boats.
all this aside, feels weird to be watching from the sidelines since the double turned into my boat of the last four years whether i wanted it to or not. i raced with five different partners over those four years: mike sivigny, joe spencer, jamie koven, ross anderson, and willy cowles. all brought stuff to the table and taught me something. with each of them, i did well, qualified for certain things, and probably held one of the highest average finish records in the double. i’m not closed off to any boats nowadays, but it’s cool to have the single be a more viable option opposed to simply a courtship dance necessary to finding a doubles partner.
after the doubles matrix, i threw down some blazing 500s in the single (albeit with a tailwind), so that felt awesome.
only bummer is the second day we did 500s, my forearms flared up as much as they had in clemson. i’ve been mostly off the water this week, trying to put the issue to rest. ever since clemson, the underside of my left forearm has been numb to the touch. apparently, i should’ve tried to absolve that. fortunately now, i have the aid of our awesome team at craftsbury in pepa the ski coach, dan my coach, and kimberly the masseuse and pt. additionally, my uncle, an orthopedic surgeon, gave me some tips and advice on getting rid of the medial epicondylitis and cubital tunnel syndrome. it’s annoying since it is such a relative and quiet injury that only acts up some time. just tedious really. but with this crew, i’ll get through it no doubt. one other reason why not racing was probably an ok call in the end.
funny thing to note. you say you have tendinitis, and people are like come on baby just deal with it. say you have medial epicondylitis and cubital tunnel syndrome, and people will make funeral arrangements for you.
there’s a lot to be said that hasn’t been. even at this point, i don’t think i’m at peace enough to write it all. nonetheless, i will attempt to recap the race before it grows too distant.
i must admit that the regatta went pretty well. while i have a history of doing well in time trials, i was still pleased with my execution of this one. fourth is more than adequate a finish. usually, i mediate my effort in a time trial by simply forcing a consistant rate. for instance, i typically make sure to row at a 32 almost straight through the piece with the exception of a little start and know that I will be adequate speed at that rate to make it through to the heats. for this regatta, my approach was a bit different. conditions were challenging with a rough, quartering tail. i saw a fair share of 28s while rowing. however, having a quick boat behind me in the form of nick trojan, i planned to simply pace off of him. i knew that so long as i did a relatively similar speed to him i would safely advance. in the end, i knew nick closed on me some, but based on that amount and a rough estimate of my time, i knew i was fine.
as for the heat, same thing. i went in with a plan and executed it as such. due to our finish as 3 and 4 in the time trial, i knew that nick and i would be matched up in the heat as well. nick is a young, fast lightweight from the west coast. got to meet him some last year while training in long beach. cool kid with a surprising amount of focus and skill for his age. i anticipated us being ahead of the field around the 1k. my buddy charlie biddle was also in our heat and hung with the two of us for a good while. i made sure at the 1k that my bow was the one ahead, and then as planned, i backed off and started to cruise. still pulling hard, but did the majority of the race’s remainder around a 28. during this time, nick stayed even paced and moved through me. that seems to have been his race plan whereas mine was race with some sauce to the 1k and back off. considering it was my plan, i was ok with finishing second. plus, you only needed top 4 to advance to the semis. in the end, i got lucky with this finish placing me in a relatively easier semi (lane placements throughout the progression favored me at times). despite the mild shutdown at the thousand, nick and i clocked some of the fastest times of the heats, which surprised me considering all that is said above.
the semi was solid. basically, as the regatta progressed, i steadily added in parts of it in a methodical manner until i had my fullest race in the final. the time trial was steady and just working the base. the heat introduced a bit of race with adjustments in pace to the thousand. the semi extended this out further through the third 500, but then i flat lined to the line from there, appearing to those on shore to be relatively comfortable. i had my potomac buds in my semi (matt miller and willy cowles). we expected to be the three that would advance and did. i kept some good power through the third 500 stayed ahead and finished the piece around that pace.
the final. it was the fullest race i executed and honestly was a very good race. john and i know how each other race. we’ve duked out a lot of pieces this spring. at this point in the regatta, we also had developed some confidence about our speed relative to those that we didn’t train with in clemson. we had a hunch we would be battling it out. hunch was correct. i had a precise race plan going into this race to account for a battle with john. i knew he would start fast. he did. i knew he would really want to keep his bow ball ahead at the thousand. he did. i knew i had to work the third 500. i did. we started fast. maybe too fast. i had a 1:41 split to the 500 followed by 1:47s for the next three 500s. john is really fast off the start. my starts fortunately improved throughout the regatta, and i think the lead tape on my low i’s provided me with a bit more stability. i adapted and added a few extra high strokes to stop the bleeding induced by john’s start. around 800 into the piece, i knew i had to start moving. i knew that my 3rd 500 work had to start early as john was a boat length up at least. i started hurling logs over my head. during the regatta i found myself hanging out around 32spm. that’s a little low and in hindsight maybe i should’ve forced the discomfort of a 33, but i was really getting great spacing on my puddles at this rate. i was moving. i knew it, and john knew it. we hit the gazebo and the 500m buoy. i heard a loud voice calling for john. he was still up. i brought the rate up a beat or two and pushed even harder. at 250m to go, i had pulled even. i started to sprint and finally matched john’s rate, but then john shifted and took the rate to a place i couldn’t go at the time. he got me by little over a second. i’m very happy with how i designed my race plan, raced it, and rolled with the circumstances that were thrown at me. that being said, in hindsight, i should’ve really committed early when i thought i need to at the 800m mark and made certain that my bow was even at the 1500m instead of at 250 to go. if we had been even at the 500 to go, it would’ve forced a longer sprint out of john and allowed me to rely on power for another 250m before sprinting. i still have a hard time swallowing the results as the rest of this post will show, but i cannot deny that it was a great race that i will remember (and i don’t remember many). i raced well, and john raced even better on that saturday morning. it was a real dog fight.
when does the second fiddle get to play the solo? i really can’t tell you the amount of times i have felt just one slight step behind. i spent a good portion of the last four years being the first guy on the bench. the guy who always seemed to others like he should make it, but never did. when i started rowing post college with my best buddy ted, he always led the way once we were split up from rowing a pair together. i was the second best colby grad at penn ac. then, ted retired, and i switched to sculling. granted, in certain arenas, i was the best, but in the arenas that mattered, i was not. various stints at quad camps left me on the outside looking in with results that were as good as even at times, but understandably not exceptional enough to upset the status quo.
hopefully, at this point, the people that simply wanted rowing information have tuned out cause we’re going into the deep end now.
i’m 30 years old now. i’ve always worked hard at rowing, but the first year after college i didn’t know exactly why i was doing it. i said the reasons why, but i didn’t fully believe them. i do now and have for a long while. it’s two part. one, life is full of ambiguity. the majority of things in life will not have a definite right and wrong or even good or bad. how full of a life you lead? how good of a father you are? how good of a man you are? etc. rowing and sport is more objective relative to these questions. while there is still plenty of ambiguity as i’ve highlighted in other posts, it is still more black and white than most things. therefore, i wanted to pursue rowing to the fullest as it had grown into being “my sport” in an effort to reach an objective superlative. why do i need to reach a superlative? that’s part two. whelpleys are masters of mediocrity. i say this jokingly. there are many more flattering ways i can say it, and my dad probably cringes at hearing the phrase once more. i have found that we are average at many things. granted, my definition for average is in actuality above average already. we’re never too shabby at anything, but at the same time, we’re not always the best (with the exception of my dad’s yoga skills…). i wanted to be the best. i wanted to put whatever excessive energy and commitment was needed into something in order to be the best. i’m obviously still not there.
losers give “effort,” while winners take victory. shortly after my race, i hand my hand shaken and was told “good effort.” immediately, i thought F that and came up with the above statement. relax. i know that statement is only digestible in the form of a poppy, power punk song that allows somebody and temporary release, and that is what it was for me, a temporary release. even so, i don’t want my effort to be a consolation prize. i want it to be my trophy.
the last two paragraphs should do enough to illustrate how i struggled with my solid, but second place finish. things were also made more complicated as a result of it as i need to consider how to carve out the rest of this rowing year. do i simply put my head down and stay in the single until trials? do i get in a double for NSR2? do i entertain the notion of a quad? i was going to make this post more digestible with photos, links, raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, but i think it illustrates my thoughts better to simply have the abundance of words. right now, i’m simply trying to put my mood and mind back to a state of rest and peace. i already made the very difficult decision to tell my close bud willy that i felt to frantic and forced to jump back in the double. to date, i cannot deny how great of a doubles partner he was for me, and consequently, our friendship reflects that. a big part of me wants to go to nsr2, race it, and win it to win. i want to win and make life simple and then take it from there. another part of me though just needs to cleanly shovel water and breath in vermont air until my head is clear.
all this goes on and then, tonight, i find myself walking my dog on a near perfect vermont evening. we see a partridge. i let him loose on it. i hear a flute playing in the distance (no joke). walk towards it. come to the shore of little hosmer to find the sound is coming from across it. easily skating across the glass water.
the good news is my arms are doing better. they’re not flawless, but i don’t think they won’t inhibit my racing this week at NSR.
two things to note on injuries. i am fortunate enough to rarely get them. i think both because of my genetics and because of how i train. that being said as soon as you get one you need to be as proactive as possible no matter how minor it may seem. the second pic shows sweat build up from biking in relation to my arm. this is the first thing. you need to be careful when cross-training due to injury because you can switch from rowing overuse injuries into other ones associated with your cross-training activity. biking wore down my legs more quickly than rowing, lead to a lot of saddle sores, and the exceptional sweat was something specific to the clemson boathouse. just reminds you that you need to heal in order to keep your training well-rounded and obviously in your sport of main interest as well.
point two is to do all you can. i iced, put therapeutic cremes on, stretched, and also made pre-wrap bands like the one above. i really found the bands helped while working out. there’s mixed science/thoughts behind it, but the hope is that it reduces inflammation during activity by reducing blood flow and also keeps pressure on tendons that may need more stability.
no, no, no. letting stuff settle now. not going to lie though, as the event that matters a lot to me grows closer so too can the anxious thoughts.
dan had us do a super comp this week, which despite being tired going into it, i was pumped to do. super comp stands for supercompensation. basically, you do a ton of hard work relatively close to a big competition and really run your body into the ground. however, you do it with enough time so that you give yourself a handful of days to really rest right beforehand. the result is that the body with appropriate rest and nutrition bounces back to a great degree in time for competition.
to give you an idea, on tuesday morning (before we technically started the supercomp), we did 3x2k. the first one at the top end of our steady state, but the second two at full press just 8 beats below whatever your race pace would be at each part of the 2k. it was tough, but a solid workout for sure. wednesday is when the real fun began:
- wednesday am: 6x500m (4 start race pace, 2 base race pace)
- thursday am: 3x1000m (2 start race pace, 1 finishing race pace)
- thursday pm: 1x1500m (race execution)
- friday am: 4x500m (finishing race pace)
i lost the majority of pieces to john graves. while bow balls being behind are tough to swallow at all times, there’s a good amount of variability in these workouts. instead of hitting them like all out distances, we were supposed to use them to continually walk through our 2k effort, meaning don’t just try to cover the distance itself as fast as you can. for the most part, i executed race plan and pace decently, but at times, i definitely let my attention drift too far out of the boat as is understandable in a competitive setting. also, like i said, going into this, i felt pretty beat already from the biking and running i had been doing to compensate for my agitated forearm, which i’m happy to say is doing much better.
all that being said, i still walk away from these not 100% pumped because i have a couple of things to improve and tweak before race day next week. my pitches are still not 100% comfy from side-to-side. just have to get them done or at least equal. we’ve had a lot of rough water here and instead of always rising to it, i sank to it. some of the pieces were done in challenging conditions and others were interrupted by wake. granted, i was trying to protect my forearm some, but i didn’t coast through the conditions or press through them. last few rows down here will have me focusing on reestablishing the comfort i had early in the trip before winds and boat traffic picked up. there’s something about me that makes me the most fidgity in a boat right now of the 5 grp rowers that are here. i’ve always had wobbly knees. just need to relax into things a bit more. few drills and ample catch to finish will be an easy cure.
despite how things went at times during the supercomp with the handling of conditions or the execution of my pieces relative to others, i have a strong sense that with the rest, i’m going to come up with a lot of energy and power now. there were moments like in the 1500m piece when i do i could press it out for days. it’s funny. despite enjoying say a 1k piece or 500m distance more, i feel more built for a 2k distance than usual with a really strong sense of being able to pound out the middle 1500m with poise and constant pressure.
so first off let me say this could be riddled with mistakes and spelling errors because I am dictating it through my phone. i’m doing this because my forearm is still a little swollen and sensitive. happened a while ago when doing 6x500m with limited rest, but i think it represents the culmination of a few factors: consistent rough water, tweaking pitch a bunch, and… testing various oars.
this is not nearly a comprehensive test of all the oars on the market, nor all the abilities of the oars that I did test. nonetheless, it was something worthwhile to do.
i took a look at it the dreher apex oars, conceptii fat blades with skinny shaft, and the conceptii low i’s with the smoothy 2 blade. it was a wakey day, so the test was far from a closed environment. but basically, i went out, watched speed while paddling, did a start, did a high 20 at a 30, then did a start 5-5 high-5 stride with each set. each had its own strengths and weaknesses. however, none of them had everything that i was looking for in an oar. rather than give you guys the splits and numbers i saw since i think they are far from concrete results, i am simply going to review the feelings and sensations i had with each set of oars.
conceptii fat blades w/ skinny shaft
i wanted to love these oars for two reasons: one dick dreissigacker really believes in the speed of the fat blade and the abilities of the new skinny shaft and two i love the oxymoronic name. i liked the weight in my hand of the oars. they are not a “light” set of oars by any means, but that is compensated for by the skinnier shafts in relation to their swing rate. i also did like the purchase i had at the catch. however, in spite of knowing that the fat blades demander a shorter, tighter finish, i could not come out as cleanly as i would have liked with them.
dreher does do some amazingly pretty things with carbon. these were very light oars and despite that, i still liked the weighting in my hands. catches feel very sharp with these blades, but at the same time, it feels as if it comes at a price. the blades are so thin and sharp that i didn’t feel the “grip” i would like to have on the water mid-drive. looking out at the blade, i still had tight dark puddles, but it looks as if the puddle is spilling over to the back of the blade as if it can not keep it in front. the stiffness was impressive, but didn’t yield the same feel for the water i’ve had with other blades. with time, i think i could adjust to them, but do think that the sharpness of them is both a strength and a weakness.
conceptii low i
i have been rowing with these for the year. consequently, i am the most comfortable with them. so mid-drive and finish these felt hands down the best. however, the catch was better with the other two blades. these oars are almost as light as the drehers and yet the weighting leaves you with the feeling that you have nothing in your hands (ie there’s no weight out at the blade). also, while they grip well for 3/4s of the stroke, they don’t bend and grip as quickly as the other blades at the catch due to the combination of how they are stiff and how they are weighted.
ok. plenty more to be said. far from conclusive. mostly just wanted to post the pics, but my arm is tired now. goodnight.