Week 3: Listen to Your Body

Casey continues her journey towards the Head of the Charles. 

Halfway there! As the countdown ticks down, two of our women’s four suffered sickness this week. Better sick now than in three weeks.

The moral of this week is it’s great to push yourself and your boundaries. It’s also imperative you listen to your body. You need rest and recovery. As the big race looms, it’s easy to push too far and get broken down.

The 5k Confession

Part of training is measuring your progress. That means a test whether it’s in the form of a regatta or sitting down on the erg and pushing out a piece. I had wanted to do the Queen City Head or the Head of the Eagle as test races, but both were canceled. The remaining regattas within a three-hour circumference of Lexington are on October 12, the weekend before the Head of the Charles. I am not doing a head race the weekend before the Head of the Charles.

Last week, I sat down with the intention of crushing a 5K erg test. The opposite happened. The erg test crushed me.

I am convinced I can break the 20-minute mark on a 5,000m test. I just know I can do it. The problem is translating that belief into the actual test. I can’t figure out what it is going to take to get me to drop those 30 seconds. I know most of the problem lies between my two ears.


The lucky unisuit wasn’t so lucky this time.

When I did this test, I was so hopeful. I mentally tried psyching myself up for dropping some serious time off my PR.  I wrote a note on tape,

“YOU biggest obstacle to overcome-YOU can do it!”

I stuck it above the monitor where I could see it every stroke. I had a test strategy I felt good about. I knew what pace base to sit on, I knew where I hit walls, I knew to stay mentally positive.

But, I know my body pretty well. I can usually tell when I’m getting sick before I’m getting sick. During the warm-up, I suspected it was not going to go well but tried to stay hopeful. I’ve had workouts where the warm-up sucked but I crushed the workout. Sometimes it goes from feeling defeated to channeling the Arnold by the end.

On this day, my muscles felt fatigued, but maybe I’d loosen up. So I pushed the negativity away. Mental pep talk:

“Suck it up. I’m going to do this and maybe some magic will happen.” 

I wouldn’t say I hit a wall so much as I was rowing up a wall the whole time. The incline worsened as the test proceeded. As one thousand meters remaining grew closer, I knew I could not PR, maybe not even tie my last best. I didn’t feel I had much left to give. I tried sticking on the target watts, staying mentally tough, knowing I’d regret it. At 1000 to go, the erg won. Off the cliff I went.

Admitting failure is hard. I know you cannot break a personal record every single time you sit down and test. But I just want to achieve this milestone so badly. I know I have it in me, I haven’t found what is going to take to unlock it. To be stuck in this in this rut is challenging.

But even failure represents learning. Before I threw in the towel, my average spilt pace was close to my PR; that tells me the base I have is still in place. I’ll make sure I’m well-rested and taper off training before trying the 5k test again. Physically, I didn’t do anything to prepare for this test. I kept training as normal, so I made the attempt after a relatively challenging day of erging and weight training. I know better, but let my eagerness to PR get the best of me. I should have done a day of recovery before attempting the test.

I’m reading about head racing and strategies to get perspectives on race planning. The October Fasters Masters Rowing Radio talks about head racing tips, like judging your pace and moving the boat efficiently. All really good advice as race day looms. I have ideas to try for next time. Of course, I have to keep training working on that base fitness.

That was last week, though, at the end of week 2. I just needed time to process the experience before writing about it.

How’s it going this week?

Training Progress- Week 3

Did I improve from Week 1 to Week 3? Overall, yes. The first half of the week when I was feeling great and had no wrenches to dodge, the times showed improvement. In particular, one priority workout dropped the total average spilt by 1.1 seconds. Over 6000+ meters, I’d say that’s a good gain. The base “recovery” pieces saw similar gains in total meter progress.

I knew getting to Sunday was going to be a slog. I should have taken a rest day and made it a five-workout week, but I wanted to get back to having Sundays off. Looking forward, I knew I’d have a five-day workout in week 4 because of travel. I opted to keep going.

This decision translated to ten days of training before a rest day. Midweek, the push started showing. I noted soreness from the prior day’s weight training work out and feeling tired. I didn’t make any significant gains nor see any significant losses.

Thursday I was pressed for time. Skipping a good warm-up showed in the final erg results. I was warmed up for weightlifting and that met expectations.

Friday, I had a morning doctor’s appointment. They decided to run some bloodwork. Usually, I skip exercise after getting blood drawn because I’ve had some bad experiences in the past. Since they didn’t drain me dry this round, I did choose to workout, but only after making sure I was well-hydrated and well-fueled. I also did not adhere to the plan’s target pace numbers. Instead, I opted for a relaxing, technique-focused workout.

So no progress on the times on Thursday and Friday was more about circumstances and decisions I made. That doesn’t mean I didn’t make progress with technique, as I tried to focus on not collapsing at the catch and accelerating through the drive.

After an “easier” two days, I expected a pretty solid Saturday row with the intent to push the envelope.

Introduce Murphy’s Law:


1 x 30 minutes, looped around and around Lake Reba. See old dam at pinch point.

  • Alan unexpectedly went out of town. My in-laws were able to watch Caelan, but we met at a new lake I’ve never rowed before. Automatically more cautious. Trees, gravel bars, islands, and other navigational obstacles (ahem, fishermen)? Check!
  • Friday night’s sleep came in spurts, thanks to crying toddler, barking dog, and neighbors awake at 3 am. Who is willingly awake at 3 am? Exhausted-check!
  • Caelan loves to share, including all his colds. I woke up with a headache and running nose. Rowing doped on Dayquil–check!
  • Wind from all directions. Headwind, tailwind, crosswind, nature delivers!

Despite the hurdles, Saturday was still a good workout. I just made some executive decisions about the practice, like dropping the target stroke rate two beats, sometimes two beats more for steering or wind conditions. Something’s going on with my port side blade work. I can’t figure out if I need to press out more through my thumb, if it’s in my press down and feather, or something else with my grip.

I actually like that I was hit with the wind. The Kentucky River sits in a valley that usually shelters the water on windy days. Nationals proved I need more practice in adverse conditions. I hear the HOCR is notorious for windy conditions, so thank you for the prep, Mother Nature.

But when I finished Saturday, I was glad to be finished. I desperately needed a day off, evidenced not only by contracting this awesome head cold, but when I crashed on the sofa for over three hours on Sunday afternoon. Not toddler nor husband could rouse this mama bear out of her slumber. And I still got a full night’s rest that evening.


Me, over it. Ready for Sunday.

The moral of this week? Listen to your body. If you need a rest day, take the darn rest day. That’s what flexible schedules are for!

The next three weeks of training

I logged onto the program this morning to get October’s plan. Is it weird to feel excited about a training plan? I’m really looking forward to these workouts, the shifts in these pieces require more mental alertness. Since I erg more than row, I need those cues to stay fresh and tuned-in.

I have one more week to crush this land training before the strength taper starts. So weird to be talking about taper! Where did the time go?

And there’s more planning to be done with my 4+, as we won’t have rowed together until race day. You know, the important questions. What kind of start will we do? What important calls do we need the cox to make? Do you wear white or black under the unisuit? Baseball caps or visors?

Right after the Charles is the Head of the Hooch. No forgetting about that. I bit the bullet and put in a bid for the Women’s Under 50 1x. Now that’s scary. The first race in the new boat!

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