#BeastMode: Former Crash-B Sprints Champion Conlin McCabe on Approaching 2k Race Day

Conlin McCabe (right) and the #TrueNorthFour in San Diego (Photo: B. Kitch) 
Wednesdays are coaching days here on RR, and today we thought we would shift gears a little bit from our Best Rowing Drills series, and take a look at preparation for that most important of tests, the 2k. We asked former Crash-B Sprints champion and Canadian Olympic silver medalist Conlin McCabe how he goes about getting ready for a test, from the night before to the warmup. Here's what Conlin had to say.

RR: Do you have a routine that you go through the night before a 2k test? If so, what is it (and what do you recommend)?

Conlin McCabe: The night before I test I try to eat a feastI know in the morning I will be nervous, and I'll have a hard time eating when it gets too close to the race. Thinking about the erg test is inevitable the night before, so I set a chunk of time aside in the evening (10-15 minutes) and make sure I have a solid race plan. Once I have a plan I am confident in I can go to sleep knowing that the next day I should be able to execute what I put down on paper the night before.

RR: How long before the test do you arrive at the facility? How long before the test time are you warming up on the erg? What does a normal warmup look like?

CM: I always try to arrive one hour before any big test. I try to sit on the erg up to 40 minutes before and lightly paddle to get things moving, once I get to 30 minutes out I like to paddle at a pretty solid pace for 8-12 minutes once paddling at a pretty solid pace I know that I can start doing some bursts, I do a minimum of 80 hard strokes before every test and most of the time will do 120. I find it reassuring to do at least one 25-30 stroke burst to make sure that I have some sense of the rhythm. When it’s 2 minutes to go I put the handle down and focus internally on having my best performance.

RR: What kind of stretch routine do you do? Is it the same every time or do you vary it depending on your current needs/time of the year?

CM: I do the same routine before every practice. I believe in routines not rituals and think that having the same routine everyday can not only prime the body for optimal performance but can help set me up for getting into the zone.

RR: Where do you stand on music while testing?

CM: All of my personal bests have been pulled without music. I love doing my regular erg workouts with music and think it can help break up the monotony of long workouts. When its time to test and perform I don’t need a song to help to me get through any sticky points. That being said, if music is going to allow to you pull a bigger better score then turn up the volume and go for it.

RR: How do you structure your race plan? Do you break it up by 500s or do you split it up differently?

CM: When I do a 2k I typically have a 10 stroke start, and after that I just try and row a steady rhythm until 500 meters to go. I don't think there is any magical race plan that everyone should follow, some people will score better if they negative split, others need to go out fast and see the opportunity to pull a personal best early in the test. I’ve tried it all and had success and failures doing all of them. I think the most important thing is to be fit and committed. Whatever you plan to do before, stay committed to that and don't let the emotion of the test change your mind in the final minutes before.

RR: What do you do immediately afterward to begin recovery? 

CM: After I've caught my breath I like to walk it off for a bit—as soon as my breathing is steady I will jog for a few minutes. Eventually I'll get back on the erg and paddle out for a bit but it’s always nice to get outside and smell the roses (or the vomit of your teammates). I try to enjoy the result of my effort, but also reflect on where I will make up more time for the next one.

Thanks very much to Conlin for giving us a peek into his erg-racing routine! You can get caught up on our Best Rowing Drills series, as well as discover more coaching and training content via our Coaching page.


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