Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Boat Races: Will Oxbridge Become a Destination for International Women Rowers?

The recent announcement that the Boat Race will become 'the Boat Races' in 2015, with the inclusion of the women's race in the 'programme,' marks a major step forward for equality in sport, as well as for women's rowing in the U.K. The move will undoubtedly elevate the standard of the women's race, as it will benefit from greater exposure. Given this outlook, here in the U.S. it seems only natural to ask a follow-up question: Will this lead to a greater interest among would-be and established female internationals (i.e. rowers from around the world who are on the cusp of the national team, or with national team experience) in attending Oxford and Cambridge and competing in the Boat Races as a means to develop as athletes, as it has on the men's side?

Ryan taking us on a tour of OKC's
Devon Boathouse
The experience of studying and rowing in the U.K. can be a(n) hugely beneficial intermediate step, combining graduate level study at (one of) two of the world's most prestigious universities with a very high standard of rowing. It allows these athletes, who may have national team potential, to develop for an extra year or two, while also looking after their lives after rowing. In order to get an inside take on the appeal of Oxbridge, we spoke to two-time Cambridge Blue Ryan Monaghan (2010 U.S. national team member and 2012 Olympic hopeful) about his reasons for heading across the pond.

RR: What makes rowing for Cambridge (I'd add Oxford, but have a feeling you might take issue!) and racing in the Boat Race so appealing?

RPM: For me, at least, I found myself graduating in a pre-Olympic year. Lost on what to do next, I knew I wasn't done in the classroom or on the water. I came from Cornell, finishing seventh at the IRAs that year. I had never been on a U23 team, hadn't had an outstanding erg, and had very little experience in the pair. I just wasn't at the level I needed to be at to make it onto the national team let alone even train with them. Off the water I didn't know what career path I wanted to pursue. Cambridge offered everything I was looking for–I could further my education while rowing.

The rowing was a full time training program. Until that point I hadn't done two-a-days before (excluding training trips and such). With a full-time training program my fitness improved substantially.

At Cornell everyone on the varsity team is within three years of age and most have done little or nothing in their days prior to Cornell. No one had any international racing experience, no one had been to a higher level in the sport. Ken Jurkowski [U.S. M1x in Beijing] was always of interest to us. Here is a guy that went through what we're going through and actually did something. He would come by randomly and we'd always try to learn something from him. His words went far with us because he was really the only international rower we had any interaction with [at that time].

In contrast at Cambridge, my first year, there was an age range of 20 years between the rowers. You had younger guys on the way up to their rowing peaks and some older guys coming off their rowing peaks (on their way to obtaining a degree from Cambridge so that they could start their careers). These older, not always mature, teammates had plenty of experience competing at the international level and I learned a lot through rowing with these guys. I went from knowing of one international rower to being teammates with several, and I learned a great deal from them.

Cambridge is where I became proficient at rowing pairs. Sure, having high quality coaches helps, but rowing and racing with these old dudes (I'm talking 28+ years old... damn, I'm almost that old...) is what I felt had the biggest impact on my small boat rowing skills. Cambridge is where I also got an internship at a bank and found a career path I'd like to pursue. It really was the stepping stone I had hoped it to be. I don't know what other options I had at graduation, but I wouldn't be where I am today if not for Cambridge.

RR: Given the higher profile that the women's event will take on by being added to the program of the main event, do you think that Oxbridge will become a destination for elite women the way that it has for elite men?

RPM: As for the women, it's great! Naturally, it is going to take some time, perhaps a long time, to have the same international appeal, but I have to imagine that it will happen. Just like the men, the women are no different in their high ambitions on and off the water. I would imagine girls, just as the same as guys would jump at an opportunity to earn a Cambridge degree and row at an elite level.

I am a fan of this addition. With it the race has secured a global sponsor (BNY Mellon), with a time commitment significantly greater than any prior sponsorship. They have greater resources and are committed to pushing the race to an even higher quality than before. By far the greatest costs of the race are putting on the actual race itself (shutting down the Tideway, security, yada yada yada). These costs don't change with an additional race. Therefore having the women's race is no additional burden to the men's programs. There are economies of scale at play here as well. What was unaffordable for one club can be affordable for two clubs. There is an additional sponsor, Newton Investment Management, who is committed to investing large sums so that the women's program hits the ground running before the move to the Tideway occurs.

There are those out there who, upon first hearing of the news, expressed concerns about how the tradition of the men's race would be affected, but the organizers have taken everything into consideration and have a plan in place that I believe will not only bring the women's race up to par, but also raise the level of the men's race.

Plus, there are now more races Cambridge can win!

Thanks very much to Ryan for taking the time! For more information on the changes coming to the Boat Races, please visit the official website of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

-RR

Monday, February 27, 2012

Video of the Week: Selection and Team GB, courtesy of GB Rowing



This week's video comes to us from British Rowing, and is part of a 12 week web series entitled The Squad. This update features input from a number of the biggest names in our sport (including Greg Searle, Alex Partridge, Andy Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed, and others) about selection in Jürgen Grobler's GB Rowing system. The emphasis, as you might expect, is on the unpredictable nature of selection from year to year, as there are no guaranteed seats–a familiar idea that fosters intra-squad competition. The difference is, in Grobler's case, so many of the parts that make up the whole have Olympic and world medals already on their resumes, both adding to and taking away from the pressure of selection. Given the results from 2011, it appears (from the outside) that Grobler could field medal-winning crews in the M8+, W8+, M4-, M2-, LM4-, W4x, LW2x, and LM2x ('amongst' others) by simply leaving things the same. However, because of the elevated status of GB Rowing–the most dominant program in the world at the moment–simply winning medals of any color, it seems, will not be enough on home turf. Based on the rumors flying around across the pond, Grobler is shifting the team's priorities to maximize gold, perhaps at the expense of overall medal tally.

How much will this shake things up? The answers will follow soon enough–after all, the GB Rowing Trials will be open to the public can be viewed from public footpaths, with finals set for Sunday, March 11, 2012.

-RR

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekend Interview: Kim Crow of Rowing Australia on Radio Sport National



The above interview with Australia's Kim Crow (who took silver in the W2x with Kerry Hore, behind Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger of Team GB) provides a great deal of insight into selection and training with Rowing Australia, her recent win at the New South Wales State Championships in the double, racing experience and gearing up for the Games, and the changes coming for the Boat Race–scheduled to become 'the Boat Races' in 2015, with the women's event joining the men's on the Tideway in London. Crow's discussion of the athletes and training system in Australia is particularly interesting, and emphasizes the long-term nature of athletic commitment to Olympic sport there (she mentions that it is fairly common for athletes to take a year off following an Olympic cycle before beginning in earnest for the next Games, while in the U.S. the turnover tends to me much higher).

On the men's side, Rowing New Zealand's national trials are fast approaching, and Eric Murray of the Kiwi Pair has elected to do another 2k test–this time it will be on a standard erg (his last test of 5:41 was posted on a Dynamic). His goal? 5:40.

-RR

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sneak Peek: The March 2012 Issue of Rowing News Goes to Press!

The Dawg Pound after the snow (Photo: B. Kitch)

The second issue of the 2012 campaign for Rowing News is on its way. This issue features coverage of the C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints, with a series of short interviews with the top performers last Sunday (including Rose City Rowing Club phenom Ruth Narode, outstanding Grand Valley State novice Nate Biolchini, who posted a 6:06.3 despite having started in the sport just five months ago, and two-time Olympian Greg Ruckman, among many others). We also checked in with Danish lightweight world record holder Henrik Stephansen on this plans for 2012, caught up with CRI's Matt Zatorski about the 2012 'What Works' Summit (which featured appearances by Bob Ernst of UW, and German Rowing Federation head coach Hartmut Buschbacher), and spoke with Boston University's Tom Bohrer about how to develop mid-season racing technique after a winter off the water. Add to this our features on the amazing health benefits of adaptive rowing, and an inside look at the University of Washington men's program (including an interview with coaches Michael Callahan and Luke McGee), along with cover girl Susan Francia's interview, and you'll be off to a great start for spring racing season.

-RR

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Boustead Cup, 2012: London RC Takes Top Honors in Traditional Clash with Thames

The Boustead Cup (Photo: © Iain Weir)
The 2012 Boustead Cup race between London Rowing Club and Thames Rowing Club took place on Saturday, 18 February on the Championship Course in London (from Chiswick to Putney). The race, which mirrors the Boat Race in terms of its duration and head-to-head nature, is one of the yearly fixtures on the Tideway. The following is a race report by RR London Correspondent, Theo Bakker, who followed the races from the launch. The photographs are courtesy of Iain Weir.

From RowingRelated London Correspondent Theo Bakker:

For London Rowing Club, the Boustead Cup of 2012 was all about the “pride of the badge,” and, “putting the club on show,” according to coach Phil Bourguignon. His pre-race talk summed up the day completely, and emphasised the traditional competitiveness between the two clubs undertaking the race–Thames and London. He emphasised to the crews the importance of getting the bow-ball in front off the start and how the race “[would be a] battle of wits and mental toughness.” The extremely competitive nature of the race, which has been a tradition between the two clubs since 1947, was underscored by Bourguignon’s attitude as the race approached.

Bourguignon addresses the LRC rowers (Photo: © Iain Weir)
First to go down the course from Chiswick to Putney were the third eights. According to the London Rowing Club cox, Tim Jackson, the crew raced in a “mature manner.” They stuck to the plan and settled in what turned out to be a “beautiful rhythm.” Prior to the race, I spoke to coach Mark Ruscoe during a training session with this crew. Ruscoe said that the basic club programme consists of ten sessions a week, most of which are mostly on the water, but this is affected by varying work responsibilities, so the training schedule is not rigid. Despite this, London showed its depth, pushing through and winning the race comfortably.

Opening stretch, Chiswick to Barnes (Photo: © Iain Weir)
The second eights race was a much closer one, neck and neck all the way to Hammersmith, until the London Rowing Club crew pushed on through and won the race, and it was two for two for London.

Thames RC First VIII (Photo: © Iain Weir)
Last to go down the course were, of course, the first eights. The London Rowing Club plan was to absorb the Middlesex advantage that Thames had off the start, and LRC delivered the relentless rhythm needed to ensure this plan worked. Both crews stormed out the starting blocks at rates in the high forties, each wanting to get the lead straight away and maintain it all the way through the race. Thames had the early lead, due to the bend in their favour, but the umpire repeatedly warned the Thames cox to move over to the Middlesex station–in fact, the umpire started making these calls quite early, halfway between Chiswick Bridge and Barnes Bridge. Then, under Barnes Bridge, the umpire had had enough and disqualified Thames, much to the disgust of the Thames cox. The five seat of the Thames crew, to cap off this disastrous disqualification, caught a monster of a crab, captured on film by Ian Weir.

TRC called for steering under Barnes Bridge (Photo: © Iain Weir)
After the race, I spoke with Hannah Watkins (the Thames RC cox), who expressed that she felt that the umpire should have given her more time to react to his calls and that, as the race only stopped at Barnes Bridge, it could easily have been re-started. She felt that the decision was a harsh one and argued that the race being abandoned was not at all beneficial to either crew. In any case, Bourguignon of London Rowing Club, clearly delighted, was eager to start the celebrations, but didn’t dare walk into the opposing club where, later on, LRC were to receive the 2012 Boustead Cup.

-Theo Bakker

All images copyright Iain Weir. See more of Iain's photography (and look for more race photos as the 2012 season kicks into full swing) at www.rowingphotography.co.uk, and his personal website, www.iainweir.info.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Video of the Week: Winter Training with the German Men's Eight



The 2012 C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints took place yesterday in Boston, with a number of international rowers turning in podium-topping performances. So, indeed, what better time than now to talk about the erg? The German men's eight has a series of videos entitled, Deutschlandachter: Unser Weg Nach London (Our Journey to London) on the Rudern TV YouTube Channel, and the most recent chapter (embedded above), covers some aspects of winter training. It helps to know a bit of German, but the video is interesting from a purely rowing perspective as well, allowing a rare glimpse at splits during a steady state workout, and showing the consistent technical approach that characterizes this generation of German rowing (with upright posture at the release, and a relaxed rotation out of bow followed by a uniform slide–stylistically it looks quite similar to that of the new-look Australian men's four).

Want to suggest the next 'Video of the Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

Also, in case you missed it–coverage from Boston of the 2012 World Indoor Rowing Championships has been posted to the official site of Rowing News, with links to full results.

-RR

Thursday, February 16, 2012

From the Press Room at RR: Huskies Add Home Race Against Brown To 2012 Schedule

Source: Press Release/Jeremy Cothran
The Bears, one of the top crews in the Ivy League, will face the Huskies on March 31 on the Montlake Cut

SEATTLE – Two of rowing’s most historic programs will meet this spring in the Pacific Northwest when Brown University travels west to take on Washington.

The rare intersectional matchup will take place on March 31 on the Montlake Cut at 8 a.m. Brown is one of the top teams in the tradition-rich Ivy League Conference, and is a regular fixture at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championship Regatta in June.

What makes the dual race intriguing is how rare it is to see one of the East Coast powerhouses travel to Seattle. But that was the challenge men’s crew coach Michael Callahan sought to overcome when he invited the Bears.

The contract with Brown calls for the Huskies to return the trip next season to the East Coast.
“This is a great opportunity for our student-athletes,” Callahan said. “We’re always looking to enhance their experience and having them race against one of the top rowing programs in the nation fulfills that goal.”

Brown will send five boats from Providence to Seattle: a varsity eight, second varsity eight, third varsity eight, fourth varsity eight and its top freshmen eight.

There are plenty of ties between the two programs as well. Freshmen coach Luke McGee is an alumnus of Brown (Class of 2001) and later coached the Bears freshmen until 2007 when he made the move out west.

“It is going to be exciting to see my alma mater, and the program that gave me my start in coaching, racing on the Montlake Cut,” McGee said. “I know the Brown program well and I am sure that all of their boats will be well trained and will race with a lot of intensity.”

Conversely, Brown coach Paul Cooke started his career in the Emerald City with Green Lake Crew, which is a city-wide rowing program for high school students.

Brown won Ivy League championships in 2008 and 2009, and has reached the Grand Final in the varsity eight at IRAs in each of the past three seasons.

The two programs have been a part of some memorable races against one another. McGee’s final race at Brown – the freshmen 8 Grand Final at IRAs in 2007 – was highlighted by a come-from-behind win over Washington, which at the time were coached by Callahan. In 2010, the Huskies 2V8+ won gold at IRAs with a furious sprint in the final 200 meters to overtake the Bears.

The dual against Brown will be held in conjunction with the Husky Open, which features several UW boats competing against one another on the Montlake Cut.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Winter Training: 'CanaDawgs' Getting it Done Indoors



The above video, posted yesterday, shows the the Washington Huskies in action on land during a winter training session not unlike the one I visited three weeks ago–look for a write up, including an interview with men's coaches Michael Callahan and Luke McGee in Rowing News' March issue–with line upon line of ergs, and the intensity building throughout as each rower works toward a personal best and a team goal. (Looking at the personnel, it appears that this video was shot last season, as 2011 Pan Am Champ Ty Otto is seated next to Hans Struzyna near the middle of the first or second row–see 2:28-2:41–and Anthony Jacob is present as well.) Just recently, the 'Dawgs' visited the Canadian national team for a training camp, covering 100km in just two days at Shawnigan Lake. The relationship between the Huskies and the Canadian national team is quite a strong one at the moment, with several former Huskies are training with the Canadian men's eight–Will Crothers, Rob Gibson, and Conlin McCabe (McCabe is, in fact, still a Husky, but taking the year off to train for London). In addition to these three, Dave Calder (Beijing silver medalist in the men's pair, with partner and Cal alum Scott Frandsen–somehow they manage to get along) and Anthony Jacob are also training with the Canadian squad.

Given this level of crossover, it is impossible not to notice the similarity between the above video, and the one below, posted to YouTube by Will Crothers last year:



The field in the men's eight is going to be very strong in London. With rumors swirling about Team GB's lineups and priorities, as well as shifting going on in the Australian squad as Duncan Free and either Fergus Pragnell or Will Lockwood will push two of last year's bronze medalists in the prioritized M4- into the M8+ (an eight that was perhaps one bad stroke from third place last season), not to mention the dominant German 'Achter' and what we feel will likely be a strong U.S. entry, the race for the podium in London will be an intense one. While glimpses of work and training session details might seem to many like insider information, not to be shared, as Canada's Kevin Light said in a Rowing News interview (referencing his film, The Spracklen Philosophy) not long ago:
I had no hesitation showing by means of video or photography the intensity of work or the quality of rowing from inside our training camp. I believe every successful rower and every successful coach knows that you need to train hard to win. There is no magic formula revealed in this video, and I don't think showing people from other countries that we trained hard to achieve what we did will make it any easier to do. In some cases it may make it even harder to do.

-RR

Monday, February 13, 2012

Video of the Week: Princeton Tigers Tampa Training Camp, Part 2



This week's video is the second half of Princeton's winter training camp in Tampa, complete with fashion shows and marauding pirates. In my book, anytime you can manage a recurring pirate theme in a training video, you've achieved something worthwhile. The video kicks off with a recap of Part 1 (you can watch Part 1 here), followed by a 'dramatic' recitation of what begins as a fragment of Invisible Wings, by Barbara Wagner (not entirely sure where it goes from there). Along the 'lighter' side of things, there is a healthy amount of footage from sessions on the water, with coaches Marty Crotty, Paul Rassam, Lori Dauphiny and Greg Hughes. Add to the above a mustache competition between the members of the light and heavyweight men, and you've got a recipe for success.

Want to suggest the next 'Video of the Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

-RR

Friday, February 10, 2012

2011-2012 Indoor Rowing Season One of the Best Yet: Impressive Erg Scores from the U.S. and Abroad



As has been acknowledged on the FISA website, this season of winter training has produced some of the most impressive ergometer results ever recorded, and, given the nature of the 'information superhighway' and the greater tendency among athletes to share their erg scores than in previous years, we know more than ever before about these impressive feats. (Disclaimer: the following is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a selection from a season laden with highlights.) The above video shows Henrik Stephansen of Denmark breaking his own world record for lightweight men (besting his previous performance by over a second, from 5:58.5 to 5:57.4), and (amazingly), judging from his appearance following the test, he looks as though he could have gone even faster in his current form.

Not long ago, Cédric Berrest set a new French record for 2k, posting a 5:44.6 on a stationary 'ergo,' and, more recently, defending Olympic champion Olaf Tufte posted a 5:46.9 at the Norwegian Indoor Rowing Championships, while Frida Svensson of Sweden won the women's event in Norway with a time of 6:48.4. Going the distance, Anna Watkins of Team GB set a new world record for 5k, with a 16:56.4 (1:41.6 avg/500m). And speaking of long-distance, Eric Murray's 60-minute test has been widely discussed, but his 2k result of 5:41.8 has flown largely under the radar. Rounding out the recent international scores, the Canadian men's lightweight group has posted some very competitive times, as evidenced by Rares Crisan's most recent blog post (which, in addition to including raw scores from the most recent 2k on sliders–6:04, 6:07, 6:08, and 6:10–shows Crisan's knowledge of and appreciation for the Wu-Tang Clan).

Domestically, friend of RR and UVA men's rowing alum Matt Miller was back in action at the Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints last Saturday, and posted a 5:51.7 (dropping his score from last year by three seconds). Sarah Trowbridge (2011 U.S. national team member, placed ninth in the W2x in Bled with Kathleen Bertko), representing Potomac Boat Club, took first place in the open women's category at 'Mid-Atlantics,' with a time of 6:54.3. And last, but certainly not least, from the U.S. men's eight camp in Oakland, Beijing bronze medalist Steven Coppola recently congratulated Beijing boatmate Josh Inman for a 2x6k performance in which Inman managed two sub 19 minute pieces in a Twitter post.

Crash-Bs are just around the corner!

-RR

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Handle Volume, Part 2: Intelligently Sculpting Your Aerobic Base

"Last 10!" (Photo: B. Kitch)
Volume and technical practice can, and often do, coincide. If we are talking about a coaching a team boat, and the need for technical development, there can be obvious reasons to go out and row a lot of meters on the water if it is going to lead to better boat feel or better boat moving skills. However, from a purely physiological perspective (in terms of training the aerobic system to be as fit and efficient as possible), it is important to make sure that the added volume is quality mileage.

One of the reasons people fall into the training trap of 'junk mileage' is that they have to reduce the intensity in order to be able to handle the volume without breaking down physically and/or mentally. Instead of logging 20-30k in a single session each day, it can be better to split that volume into two sessions of 10k-15k each, with a period of rest in between (i.e. one session in the morning and one at night).

There are three reasons behind the double. First, it just gives you two separate times during the day when your heart rate is elevated and your body is working to try to adapt and become more efficient. The cumulative effect of two workouts in a 24 hour period is slightly greater than the effect of one long workout, because after each workout your body is in a state of recovery and is continuing to work. The second (and arguably more important) reason is that it may allow you to go slightly faster, and not have to dig as deep as you might have to in one, long session.

Remember, you are training to go fast for 2,000 meters. The longer you go in a workout, the more you create, work, and develop slow twitch muscle fibers and endurance capabilities. This is not necessarily a good thing, as you don't want it to take away from your power, which is generated by fast twitch muscle fiber. You want your 2,000-meter time to be your relative strength. If you trained for power and speed all the time, you might be really good for 100-500 meters, but you might lack the endurance to pull a good 6k-10k. Conversely, if you're doing 15 and 20ks all the time with no speed work, you might become really good at 6k, 10k 15k, but you might lack the speed to have a great 500-meter and a strong 2,000-meter piece. The point is that you want to develop your aerobic base without neglecting or softening your speed and raw power. The third and final reason behind the double-day is that shorter pieces are easier to recover from, as they will not take as much out of you. It is much harder to recover from a 20k than a 10k. Also, in a 20k, in addition to running the risk of overdeveloping slow twitch muscle fiber and endurance at the expense of power, you may start utilizing muscle for fuel toward the end of the session, once your glycogen stores are depleted (assuming you aren't stopping your row to consume carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen). Obviously, you want to utilize as much glycogen and fat for fuel as possible without having to get into using muscle tissue.

That being said, the long steady state is a very valuable tool, and I do not think it should be done away with altogether. However, it is important for athletes not to go overboard, and end up dulling the edge on their speed/power, especially when the body is already struggling to recover from a great deal of quality volume. To further illustrate my point, an elite 100 meter sprinter like Tyson Gay or Usain Bolt wouldn't want to do a 5-10 mile run everyday, as it would (gradually) start to convert some of his fast twitch muscle fiber into slow twitch. Obviously, this is an extreme example, because these are purely anaerobic athletes, whereas rowers require great endurance and aerobic capacity, but even in a 2,000 meter rowing race, the need for power and the anaerobic component is significant. If we look to the build and the ability of the best rowers in the world, it is equally important to have power and endurance in rowing. We know that rowers must have great endurance and be very fit to excel, but we also know that they must have raw power and speed. Too much of one might take away from the others and we want to make sure they aren't working against each other.

Ultimately, the best way to get faster is to have 2-3 really high quality, high intensity speed or lactate threshold sessions a week, with everything else being about managing your aerobic development while letting your body recover on the easy days. It is much better to really bring it for those 2-3 sessions a week in which the intensity is through the roof, and go slightly easier on the easy days to allow yourself to do that, than it is to have 'mediocre' intensity everyday. Long aerobic training sessions definitely have their place when there is not time to train twice a day or in certain times of the year in one's training cycle (the further from the peak one is the more the long sessions can have their place), but mileage should still be carefully controlled and technique always monitored.

-Justin and the RR Team

Monday, February 6, 2012

Video of the Week: CUWBC Training Camp in Soustons


CUWBC Training Camp 2012 from James Appleton on Vimeo.

This week's video comes to us courtesy of James Appleton, and features some stunning visuals (as well as a healthy bit of banter/faffing about off the water) from the Cambridge University Women's Boat Club training camp in Soustons, France last month. The CUWBC squad is gearing up for the 2012 edition of the Henley Boat Races, which, like their counterpart, the Boat Race, match crews from Oxford and Cambridge against one another on the Thames. The Henley Boat Races, however, take place (as you might have guessed) in Henley-on-Thames, and cover the same course as Henley Royal Regatta (albeit in reverse), while the Boat Race takes place on the Tideway in London, from Putney Bridge to Chiswick Bridge (approximately). While the Boat Race features the heavyweight men from Oxford and Cambridge, the Henley Boat Races include the openweight women, lightweight men, and lightweight women.

For more information on the Henley Boat Races, please follow the link to their official website. And, if you are a fan of adventure tourism (with a classical edge), check out Appleton's video journal from his two-day, 84-mile run along Hadrian's Wall, in Northern England. (If you're not sure what Hadrian's Wall is, click here.)

Want to suggest the next 'Video of the Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook page.

-RR

Friday, February 3, 2012

Scott Frandsen on the Men's Pair Final in Beijing, and Questions Surrounding Team GB



In the above video, Scott Frandsen of Rowing Canada Aviron discusses his experience of the Olympic final in Beijing, with hints at the work along the road to the podium, and a healthy amount of humor thrown in for good measure. As he mentions in this talk, he and pair partner Dave Calder qualified in the Olympic year (at WC II in Lucerne, where they took gold ahead of NZ and AUS, respectively), which will no doubt perk up the ears of every sweep rower on the U.S. men's squad this year. Also, the men's pair has become the subject of a great deal of debate of late, given the dominance of the Kiwi duo, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.

There is an excellent article outlining the range of possibilities facing Jurgen Grobler and Team GB, by Rachel Quarrel and Martin Gough of Rowing Voice. The debate remains one of quality versus quantity. The GB squad took home the most medals from the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, but some of their top athletes did not find themselves on top of the podium. As of right now, it seems that Grobler will be trying to decide between fewer and 'golder,' or more medals, but a mixed bag.

A question for RR readers: What would you rather see? Signature, dramatic wins in marquee events, or a show of strength across the board?

-RR

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to Handle Volume, Part 1: Avoid 'Junk Mileage' to Maximize Gains

Quad at dawn (Illustration: B. Kitch) 
Without question, volume is an important aspect of aerobic development and training for a sport that requires significant endurance. Volume is necessary not only to build an endurance base for racing, but also to build a broader base for higher levels of training. The more aerobically fit the athlete is, the more the athlete can handle in a workout.

When you've built up a solid aerobic base, it manifests itself quite obviously. You can hold the same pace with less effort, and can also sustain that pace longer. Improved aerobic fitness can help you to improve because it allows you to train harder and handle more difficult workouts, as when your fitness level is higher, your recovery time improves–bottom line: you recover better during rest intervals. There is a significant difference between an athlete who is 'in shape' and one who is 'out of shape,' in terms of his/her ability to recover from a hard effort. Two athletes might be able to go the same speed in an all out effort for 2000 meters, but yet if they were to do a workout like 6 x 2k w/ 6 minutes rest, or 6 x 1k w/ 4 min rest, a more talented, less fit athlete might lose to someone who is in better shape even though he/she can match the less talented athlete for one all out 2k. This would be because the less fit athlete cannot recover during the rest period as well as someone who is 'in shape.' The better you recover, the harder you can work. You can do more quality reps at the desired speed/intensity and you can force yourself to do them with reduced rest. So, in other words, aerobic fitness can facilitate heavier training which can, in turn, allow you to get faster.

Depending on their experience level and what their body can handle, different athletes might have different needs in terms of what is required for them to reach their individual best. I would challenge coaches to try to think of creative ways to control volume for athletes depending on their (the athletes') level, which can be easy at the high school and college level when there are separate novice programs for the freshmen. But what about cases of sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school or college? Some sophomores might be ready for the same volume as a top senior, but are they all? At the same time, coaches should make a conscious effort not to hold back the athletes who can not only handle more, but who might need more training and volume than others to reach their maximum capabilities. This is a challenge, to be sure, for coaches with varying levels of skills and experience among their athletes, but there is a lot that can be gained from managing the training in this manner to find subtle ways to give every athlete what he or she needs, whether it is more, less, or just something different.

If you try to do too much volume as a young and inexperienced athlete, you're likely to injure yourself. It's important to lay a groundwork first, getting the body accustomed not only to the level of training, but also to the specific demands of the sport itself. For example, a novice rower at any level trying to do 200k a week of training would be susceptible to both overuse injuries as well as to injuries that arise from fatigued muscles and bad habits. Even if you could handle that volume, you might not need to do all of the volume to go as fast as you can go in a given training cycle/at a given point in your physiological development.

Let's break it down. For every athlete and every training cycle, there is a ceiling on performance that is  established partly by the training, and partly by the physiology of the athlete at the outset of the training. If, given the above parameters, an athlete has the potential to go 6:10 for 2k on 120k/week of training, and this is the maximum physiological potential of that athlete within that training cycle, then there is no need to do 160k per week. In fact, it may actually be detrimental if it leads to illness or injury. Put another way–don't do junk mileage, which means don't just add volume for the sake of adding mileage, do it because it will make you faster.

I find that once athletes discover the value that adding volume can have to aerobic development, some of them go overboard and end up logging too much mileage or mileage that is just too slow to be very beneficial. The focus should be on adding as much quality volume as can reasonably be added and only as much as is necessary to achieve maximum gains. Training is a process, and we can't just transform ourselves 'overnight' by cramming a bunch of volume into a short period. There needs to be a level of patience and understanding of the systematic process that is required to make improvements every year.

How to Handle Volume, Part 2: Intelligently Sculpting Your Aerobic Base, to be posted next Wednesday.

-Justin and the RR Team