Rio Rowing Highlights

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Rusty Rigger has found the last few days exhilarating.

The rowing at the Olympics throughout was wonderful…full of drama and great stories. 

The weather threatened to spoil the party, but relented and there were exceptional performances across almost all boat classes.

But as for highlights, well….you mean other than GB Rowing coming top of the world rowing medal table? Other than the 3 Golds and2 silvers? 

Yes, if you will indulge your author for a minute there was a moment that transcended the others for its simple, sublime recognition of the strength and depth of the British Rowing programme.

It was somewhere around the 750 meter mark in the final of the Men’s 8. It was the moment that the bows of the GB boat seemed to effortlessly slip forward and one realised that here we were witnessing something grand. Something epic. Something important.

For in a few minutes time the result would confirm that 26 GB Rowing squad members would be coming home with medal.

26 athletes (possibly) showing up for training in a few weeks who are Olympic Medal winners. This is a legacy. This is the measure of a mighty programme.

I am not sure how that translates into continued success, but it surely seems that continued success is ours to mess up.

That is not to diminish amazing work carried out daily by the coaches, admin, support staff etc. Only that if we believe that success does indeed breed success, then we are surely in some kind of cosmic ‘sweet spot’ and must maximise this joyful Olympic effect to the max.

The last few days have been a wonderful advert for rowing, and although the Olympic athletes aren’t giving up their time to improve the profile of the sport, their commitment to excellence and performance is an inspiration to those of us at the more ‘grass rootsy ‘ end of the spectrum and we can and will continue to use these gladiators as our role models.

Homeless…in my own crew!

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Stroke, 7,6,5,4 and bow.

Over the last three months, Rusty Rigger has moved up and down the boat like a yo-yo. One week on one side, the next in the other. One week in one seat, the next in another.

It used to be so different. Like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo…..the number 7 was home.

So comfy, so….snoozy.

Everything has changed this season. The Rusty Rigger safety blanket has been ripped away and we are now livin’ on the edge. Oh yeah. Rowing has become an extreme sport for your author.

My friends, it has been an awakening. The sensation of rowing in a big boat is very, very different depending on the end of it in which you are sat. My time in the bows has been lonely and frustrated. What are they talking about in the stern? They are making decisions about the outing and I can’t stick my two penny worth in. Grrrrr.

In the middle I feel like a piece of meat. ‘Just get on with it and row hard….you’re in the engine room. You don’t need a brain’….Grrrrrrr.

No, at 7 you are in the primo spot. It all goes wrong?  Blame stroke. Down on bow side? It’s the dummies in the engine room rowing like Neanderthals. Timing all over the place? What the hell are they doing in the bows….SWITCH ON YOU LOT.

Ahhh….but no one ever has a go at 7.

Teachers pet.

But little by little we will get the hang of it. Maybe end up in the dangerous ‘utility player’ category. Always guaranteed a row, but never excelling in any one position.

Oh well…..always got me scull to fall back on.

New Season, New Energy

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So there it went. Vesta Veterans is in the bag for another year and we have just the promise of a long summer season stretching out infront of us to worry about. The winter training spread sheet can be deleted and the new, sprint focused version, is nearly ready to be unveiled.

Groundhog day?

So how do we make this year fresh and interesting….what can we add to the mix to keep us all motivated and hungry.

Rusty Rigger has been reading up on training programmes (almost none of which are focused on Masters Rowing) and has come to the conclusion that the following elements are necessary:

  • Volume. Whatever the various individual elements to the programme, you have to do the work.
  • Water time. We may not be the fittest or the strongest, but we can make sure that we are all doing the same thing in the boat and that our technical skills are being improved.
  • Variety. Boredom kills motivation. We have to try to vary the programme to stop it destroying the enjoyment and excitement of the sport
  • Testing. Like it or not, you gotta do the business regularly to remind you and the crew that we are all in this together and we can share hard work as we share the joy of success.

Within these headings there is a vast array of variants that can be used to build the plan, but the plan has to reflect all of these areas.

We didn’t have as good a row at Vesta Vets as we did last year. Why? Who knows. It didn’t really click and felt like hard work. But the gang is hard back into it, and it seems that we weren’t put off by a blip in the journey. That’s good.

Next entry in the calendar is Masters Champs in June at Nottingham. It seems like a long way off but will surely come around quicker than expected (doesn’t everything nowadays?)

Maybe see you there?

Rowing is cerebral sport

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How difficult can it be. Really.

We flog up and down our beautiful stretch of the Avon week in, week out. We try this exercise, we try that exercise. We try this rate, we try that rate.

We have good outings and we have challenging outings.

We want full concentration. That’s all we can ask. We aren’t a big crew but we can be a clever crew.

As we tick off the days before the Vesta Veterans HoR we must use this concentration to try to squeeze a performance on the day. It will be difficult this year as we have to row down an age category and don’t expect to achieve the position in our category that we did last year.

But this is irrelevant. We’ve rowed enough together to know exactly what we want from an outing. The feel, the speed, the set.

This weekend we did what is likely the last race piece before the Head. At the debrief afterwards there was that quiet sense that we had nailed it. As we went through the boat each crew member used their own words to describe the piece. Each with a slightly different emphasis, each using slightly different words.

But we all knew. We could have all walked away from the club without exchanging a word, but with a satisfied smile on our faces.

Rowing is a cerebral sport. Sometimes the words just get in the way.

Nearly there.

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The end of the winter season is nigh.

With lighter mornings and evenings revealing the promise of Spring it is time to start thinking past our annual trip down the Tideway in the Vesta Veterans Head, the focus of our training for the last 5 months.

There is an odd comfort to the relentlessness of Winter training. While Rusty Rigger will admit to publicly moaning about the tedium, in fact the whining is far from the truth. There is something noble (stop scoffing please) yes, noble about the Winter grind. Every session, every mile, every erg is a building block to our fitness.

If you cheat this, you cheat yourself and your crew.

Winter should be hard. Bloody hard.

But there is reward. Satisfaction from performance. That performance is the culmination of the effort we’ve dug from the tedium. It is a satisfaction that turns into confidence and that confidence is turned into results.

We all really know what is expected of us now, in these last weeks leading up to the head. This is the heads-up, deep breath, heels down run-in where we grind out the last 5k test knowing that this one has to be ‘THE’ one. 5 months of base-building to give us the platform we need.

The end is in sight. We’re nearly there.

Be strong my friends!

Tiny. Little. Things.

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Do you not, my friend, find this sport of ours quite tormenting.

A change. A tweak. Nothing big, almost an emphasis rather than an action, can dramatically change the crew experience.

While the river is still emptying out from those last few weeks of rain, it is now quite rowable. Treacle on bow side and air on stroke side sent to challenge our watermanship maybe, but decent enough for a really solid weekend of outings.

  • Saturday, work.
  • Sunday, technical.

Rusty Rigger can’t speak for all in our boat, however the 80 minutes of technical work was more tiring and challenging than any hard work outing we can invent.

The boat has had a nasty habit of drifting into bow side on the recovery for a while. Nothing that stops you rowing, but it can be annoying and frustrates as we can’t seem to shift it.

Down on Bow Side

Down on Bow Side

But today, a simple call from the cox took us to a new place.

A good place.

The call was “Don’t over-reach”

And that was it. A tweak. Nothing dramatic. A change of emphasis, something in the brain clicking into place. It just felt good, and more importantly…cured the drift to bowside.

It’s not that we haven’t worked on this before. So why today? What something in the call had the desired effect? A tiny little thing maybe. But with a dramatic and most pleasurable consequence.

Wise Words

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Rusty Rigger has always wondered why there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of ‘stuff’ out there on Masters Rowing. Whether one is searching for technical ideas or training plans or simply wanting to share information about Masters Rowing, trawling the web only gets you tripping over the same stuff over and over….little to inspire really.

So it was a welcome hour spent recently listening to the highly experienced Masters coach,  Marlene Royle,  answering a series of questions from the audience of the Rowperfect stable.

Marlene seemed, to this humble practitioner of the dark art of rowing, to know what she was talking about. On several occasions one found oneself marvelling that ….’we were just talking about that!’…and on others, nodding vigourously in agreement.

OK, to those with a limited attention span, the one hour presentation does drift a little, but all in all, it was wonderful to hear this good stuff from the horses mouth (no offense Marlene!)

This weekend the puddle that is the Avon at Bristol was puffing out it’s chest with some fresh water brought to us courtesy of the recent Atlantic storms. It was as if it was saying ‘look at me …I’m just like Tideway you see…’

And so rolling starts with the stream it was. Entries for the Vesta Vets HoR have just opened this weekend and so it was right to get our Vets Head hats on.

Thanks to Rebecca Caroe for putting on her rowing talks and thanks to Marlene Royle for giving up her time to talk about the thing that we love so much.

 

 

Long weekend

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If Rusty Rigger would take the piece of straw from his mouth he could sure tell you what a good day it was on Saturday to travel ‘up the big smoke’.

Us provincial oafs love a trip down the big track.

Quintin Head marks the start of the run in to the Vesta Vets Head for us. It is a chance to remind ourselves that the Thames is a different kettle of fish to our beautiful, small-but-perfectly-formed stretch of river.

T’was a curious race. The de-brief served only to ascertain that there were almost as many versions of the truth of the outing as the number of crew members.

The start was a bundle of fun as we were introducing a new cox the the delights of tidal Thames rowing. We held ourselves in position quite admirably for the majority of the time until the stream took the bows and we pirouetted neatly through 360 degrees…ending up two minutes later pointing in the correct direction again.

Elegant.

We may struggle a little this year. Rusty Rigger will admit that we have yet to master the Hudson 8 we are rowing. Maybe a little more time spent on the set-up is in order. Maybe it needs a little more sophistication from the crew. Whatever, the squad miss the comfort blanket stability of the Stampfli we rowed for two seasons.

But this is rowing isn’t it? If we are not striving to improve, get fitter, get faster, get cleverer, then what are we doing?

Sunday was recovery day. A chance to get Bada Bing (The Rusty Rigger Scull) out on the river for the first time in a long while. It is a blessing to be able to scull (however poorly). It is easy to forget the feeling of control and the need for absolute focus that goes hand-in-hand with a single.

Yes, it was a long weekend by the time we were leaving the club. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. A solid race on the Thames one day followed by a gentle outing in the single on the Avon the next.

Perfect.

 

Back-end Brain ache

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This weekend was a fine example of the most frustrating and yet most rewarding aspects of our wonderful sport.

Saturday’s outing was technical. Just the rock-over.

That was it. An hour and twenty minutes of trying to sit up and over, feeling the swing, back and forward. back and forward. An hour twenty. Up and over. Feeling the swing.

Rusty Rigger’s brain hurt by the end of it.

And then Sunday’s outing was work. 3 lots of 5 minutes at race pace to sharpen for next weekend’s first Head of the River race – Quintin.

Quintin Boat Club

Quintin Boat Club

How satisfying was that. To be let loose after the intensity of Saturday.

It was clear that the work the day before had some effect. There was definitely more swing off the back-end. A nice feeling.

Now we can look forward to the first race for 3 months. Can’t wait!

Boat speed. Do no harm.

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It cannot be that our rowing naval-gazing can be unique among Masters rowers, indeed Rusty Rigger assumes that many others spend equal amounts of time debating stroke length, rating, inboard, spans and the like.

After spending a few hours studying some recent video taken of our mighty crew, your humble author had what can only be described as a bit of a ‘light bulb’ moment.

Looking at the individuals in the crew it was clear that there are many small (and some a little bigger) things that we can all work on. A bit more rockover, a bit more layback, a bit quicker catch.

But in the end, the boat speed is a function of a whole bunch of things that we as a group, or individually, may or may not be equipped to refine/change/improve upon.

Why do I say that? Is this tantamount to giving up on improvement?

And that’s where the light bulb got switched on.

Changing rowing styles and idiosyncrasies honed over 30, 40, 50 years is a tall order.

But one thing that we can all agree to do is to NOT harm any boat speed that we have worked so hard through winter training to achieve. Yes, it is the simplest rule of all.

Don’t slow the bloody thing down please.

It ain't rocket science

It ain’t rocket science

We surely can all agree on that. give it a shove and then, in a nice, elegant way, get ready to give it another shove. Just let the boat do its work unhindered.

Let’s not obsess about scrunching ourselves into unnatural shapes mimicking our olympic heroes.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Let’s not drive ourselves potty working to get that extra inch here or there when it is unsustainable over a 6,000m Head race.

Not worth the effort.

Let’s, instead, row in an efficient and comfortable way that allows us the transfer what power we can muster into the water and then, having given it our best shot, let’s agree to try not to do anything to slow the boat down.

Sound like a plan?