May 8, 2024 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The river was full of cottonwood fluff when my husband and I went rowing this afternoon. We had an easy day on our training schedule, so we were just paddling along and enjoying the peaceful sounds of nature.

Then we heard some agitated quacking and wings flapping, right next to us. Before we knew it, we had rowed through several tiny ducklings that were barely noticeable in the floating fluff. I didn’t have my phone to take a picture, but they were even smaller than the ducklings in this photo I took a few years ago:

Wood duck swimming with her ducklings.

As far as I could tell, we didn’t injure any of them. We were rowing slowly enough that they mostly got out of the way, and my husband picked up his oar to avoid bumping one of the ducklings. After a minute or so, when we had moved on, the parents flew back down to collect their scattered offspring.

February 28, 2024 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My spring break vacation last week, which ended with a rowing regatta on Sunday, was a lot of fun. My husband towed the club’s boat trailer with his SUV, as he often does, and we also carried boats for two other Ohio clubs that had members rowing with us.

When we arrived at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota on the previous Sunday, it was chilly and wet, and the parking area for boat trailers was very muddy. It dried out pretty well by Monday afternoon, though, and we had a good week to practice rowing in the park’s buoyed sprint lanes.

On Friday there were high winds, and the middle school races were cancelled. The high school and college crews raced on Saturday, which was still windy, but manageable. By Sunday, the weather was perfect for the masters crews. My early morning single race, in which I placed third, was comfortably cool and had very little wind. Conditions stayed pretty good for the double and quad races later, although it got warmer and the wind picked up a little.

I raced with a composite crew from three different rowing clubs in the women’s quad. Although we hadn’t practiced together, we had a good race and took first place.

Photo of Meg with women's quad mates in Sarasota.

I’m the one on the left wearing a bright pink “Barbie” unisuit because, well, masters rowing is all for fun, and who needs to be a mature adult anyway?

Last weekend’s trip to Boston was amazing! The Head of the Charles regatta, which has a 60-year history and many thousands of athletes, is MUCH bigger and more competitive than anywhere else I have rowed. To be honest, I felt kind of apprehensive when my husband organized the trip, but everything went well. People lined the bridges cheering for the athletes, and some of our online friends gave us a cowbell and kazoo decorated with a rowing motif so that we could make some noise too.

Photo of a cowbell and kazoo on a table.

My husband’s single race was on Friday morning, when the middle-aged and older rowers compete. He got into a collision with another boat under a bridge and lost some time because of it, so he didn’t do as well as he would have liked; but I have to give him credit for being brave enough to go out there in a single, which I’ll freely admit I was not.

Although it rained much of the day on Saturday, we went out to cheer for our friends and our coaches anyway. I had to change my shoes after they got wet, but that was okay because my husband ordered some nice waterproof boots for me after we got home.

In our quad race on Sunday, my husband was in bow and steered well through the narrow Boston bridges. It was very exciting to be on the course with big crowds cheering for us! Even though we weren’t anywhere near the frontrunners, it was a lot of fun anyway. My husband is already talking about going back next year to row our double.

I thought about calling this post “Embracing my Inner Couch Potato,” but then I decided that didn’t work because there was nothing “inner” about the way my rear end inhabited the couch yesterday. I had a vacation week scheduled, with one free day between returning Sunday night from a two-day rowing regatta (in which my mixed quad crew won second place, yay) and setting out on the road again Tuesday. So, having very little energy when I woke up on Monday, I spent much of the day in total veg-out mode.

Photo of vegetables on grocery shelves.

(Photo credit: Pamela V. White)

My glorious day as a veggie queen ended around 5 PM when I begrudgingly pried my butt off the couch cushions and went to do my prescribed rowing machine workout, followed by shower, dinner, and packing clothes for the next trip. But it was wonderful while it lasted.

For much of the year, I’d been feeling overscheduled and run down from so much hurrying to row after work, in combination with some overtime this summer and road trips to regattas. That was far too much, and my body had been screaming at me to slow down and rest. The Monday veg-out day was greatly needed and was taken with intention. Truth be told, I didn’t feel at all guilty about lazing around on the couch while my husband was in the home office all day fixing the latest software blow-up at work.

July 25, 2023 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Following up on last Thursday’s post, I got a bit more pushing than I expected at the rowing regatta. Eagle Creek in Indianapolis looks peaceful and calm in this photo that I took when we arrived, but it is wide and often windswept, which makes it choppy and a challenging place to row.

Photo of Eagle Creek in Indianapolis.

On the practice day before the races started, when I had thought I’d go out in the double, my husband suggested that we row singles instead because the weather was good. I had never rowed a single there and, to be honest, I wasn’t planning to row it because racing singles are such tiny, narrow boats that it can be scary to go out on a choppy course. He talked me into it, though, and the water was in fact pretty calm, so it wasn’t bad.

We also had a good day for the mixed double race, with very little wind. The regatta was well attended, and our competitors were fast enough that we didn’t win any medals this time. Still, it gave us a good benchmark of how much we have improved and of what we need to work on.

The other races had the more typical windy, choppy conditions, and I felt that I had to push myself to keep going back out there. Our club currently does not have any quads that are small enough for lightweight crews (although one is on order), so we were bobbing around a lot, which made me nervous. By the end of the regatta, I was exhausted and glad to get home. Still, a few years ago, I couldn’t have done as much, so I can’t complain—it’s definitely doing me some good.

June 22, 2023 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: , ,

Although the training plan that my husband and I got from our online rowing coach provides for a rest day every Sunday, we haven’t been taking it regularly. Sometimes we practice with our quad mates on Sunday afternoon, and sometimes we go for an easy row when the weather is nice. If we travel to a Saturday regatta towing the boat trailer and get home late, then we have to take the boats back to the boathouse on Sunday, so it’s not the most restful day whether or not we do any rowing.

My husband always has plenty of energy, but it takes me longer to feel fully recovered after a long road trip. To make sure I get enough rest, for both the mind and body, I’ve decided not to do any rowing most Thursdays. That is an easy day on the training plan, in a low heart rate zone, allowing for cross-training if desired. Today I did 20 minutes of yoga and then took a quiet, peaceful walk.

Photo of concrete steps with hostas and other plants on both sides.

(Photo credit: Sergei Gussev)

Although I enjoy rowing, it does get a bit hectic sometimes when I hurry to get my work done so that we have time to go down to the river and finish whatever we have on the training plan before it’s late in the evening. Too many days of that can get overwhelming. Blocking out Thursdays as a day when there’s no rush to do anything should help to give my weekly schedule a more restful flow.

When I wrote last Thursday that I had been struggling not to feel burdened by self-imposed tasks, something didn’t seem quite right in that wording, but I went ahead and posted it anyway because I couldn’t think of what might improve it.

After work yesterday, my husband and I went to row on the river. The weather was pleasant, with patchy sunshine, moderate temperatures, and little wind. Our coach had assigned a distance of 16K, which seemed a bit much for early-season rowing, although we couldn’t deny the fact that our long indoor workouts over the winter had been useful—we competed in three 1K sprint races on Saturday morning, in windy and choppy conditions, without feeling tired. The distance yesterday didn’t bother us because we were just glad to get outdoors and enjoy the river, instead of being on the rowing machine in the basement.

I changed the picture on my digital art display this morning, as usual. I noticed that I suddenly felt much calmer after replacing an animated image of fast-moving clouds with a photo showing a distant waterfall slowly trickling over large mossy rocks.

Waterfall photo with mossy rocks.

Then, after I got my coffee, I realized why the wording of last week’s Nurturing Thursday post hadn’t felt right. Framing the issue as “struggling” was the problem. By definition, struggling involves a significant amount of effort, and it implies the existence of a burden under which a person struggles. It reflects our culture’s impatient and judgmental attitude toward anything that hasn’t shown immediate results. So, by thinking in such terms, I was subconsciously causing myself to feel more burdened, rather than less. No wonder I hadn’t been getting anywhere with it!

With storms rolling through the area this afternoon, today’s workout (which was not as long as yesterday’s row, but more strenuous) had to be done indoors. Because I had a quiet, unhurried workday with no meetings, any time was okay. I randomly picked 11 AM and gave myself a pep talk about not being burdened at all, with so much flexibility in how to arrange my schedule. Although the workout was tiring, my energy level was good, and I had no feelings of being pushed or overwhelmed. From now on, I’ll keep in mind that those self-imposed tasks feel much better when they have enough space to flow easily and naturally, like the waterfall on the art display.

On both Saturday and Tuesday, I had good workouts on my Concept2 RowErg, in which I was able to stay below my desired pace of 2:05 for a series of five 500-meter intervals. These workouts, with a minute of rest between intervals, are meant to assess fitness for a 2K rowing machine race. Concept2 is the standard machine used for competitive races.

Rowing machine results for a 5x500 workout.

This is noteworthy because I had been trying to achieve the 2:05 pace for two years, but I had never been able to do it in a 2K race. I could stay at 2:05 for a little over 1000 meters, but then I would get tired and start slowing down. I couldn’t pick up the pace at the end, either; when I tried, my heart rate spiked and then I went even slower.

It wasn’t from lack of fitness; I was training pretty hard, and I could hold a better pace on 10-minute rowing races on the Hydrow machine, which didn’t make sense to me because a 2K race is shorter than 10 minutes. Why did one machine feel so much more exhausting than the other? I couldn’t figure it out, and the worse I did on the Concept2, the more anxiety I had about it.

So, when I did the practice on Saturday, instead of visualizing it as a race, I told myself that it was just another workout and that everything would be okay. I focused on staying consistent and didn’t worry about anything else. Much to my surprise, I felt that I had plenty of energy and was able to maintain the pace throughout. Then I spent all weekend wondering why. What had changed?

By Monday, it occurred to me that the difference was simply that I had started a little more slowly. With a Concept2 race, the machine has to be started from a standstill, and I had been taking three strokes faster than my race pace to get going quickly. Hydrow races, by contrast, have a flying start, which allows for a gradual buildup to race pace before the race actually starts.

I hadn’t thought it would matter if I used a little more energy at the start, but apparently that made it harder for me to sense when I was on a sustainable pace. Subconsciously, without having a consistent pace, I couldn’t be confident that I had enough energy to finish. I believe what happened was that after a while the uncertainty triggered my mental threat detectors, causing me to slow down to prevent overexertion. When I tested that theory by starting at a consistent pace on Tuesday, I was able to sustain it again.

Now I’ve started to wonder how many other things in my environment might be causing preventable feelings of anxiety or overwork. Maybe there are a lot of ways in which an easier pace, or some other simple change to everyday routines, might leave me feeling much calmer and more refreshed. I’ll be looking for them!

My husband and I went to Chicago over the weekend for a half-marathon row. Although we’ve done half-marathon road races before, this was our first time rowing that distance. With younger and faster competition, we were mainly just sightseeing rather than contending, but rowing through downtown Chicago was a sight well worth seeing. Here’s a photo that I found online, taken a few years ago:

Chicago Marathon and Half-Marathon

(Photo credit: vxla)

I lost count of the bridges we rowed under—there were so many. At first the weather was pleasantly cool, but then a rainstorm blew in, and we still had a long way to go. The boat had a lot of water sloshing around in it by the time we got back to the dock. Other than a few blisters on my hands and a sore rear end from sitting in the boat for so long, I was no worse for the wear. After changing into dry clothes and getting coffee and a bagel, I felt pretty good.

We could’ve done without the adventures of Chicago traffic on the way home, though. There was one tollbooth that took almost half an hour to get through because some drivers didn’t feel like waiting in four clearly marked lanes, so instead they formed five lanes and jockeyed for position while rolling down windows and yelling at each other. We noticed a car with the license plate “PRVRBS29,” which definitely suited the circumstances.

Because of the tollbooth delay, we got stuck driving in the rainstorm most of the way home, rather than being out in front of it. That was okay, though, because we got ahead of the storm enough so that we had time to stop at our club’s boathouse, take the boat off the SUV’s roof, and wash it and put it away before the rain caught up with us again, just before we got back to our house.

Today I took a midmorning break to go down to the basement and do a live workout on the Hydrow rowing machine. I was getting close to 7 million lifetime meters, and when you’re about to reach a milestone on a live row, the instructor gives you a shout-out to recognize the accomplishment. My lifetime meters weren’t quite close enough, however, so I had to do a long warm-up first. I did a “virtual journey” with scenery going by on the screen, but even so, it still felt a bit tedious.

When I finished my warm-up and joined the live workout, the instructor, Aisyah, gave me a nice shout-out. She was rowing in a single scull on the Charles River, and she said that it was hot in Boston, but she wasn’t going to complain. She talked about the importance of getting a workout regularly, even when it starts to feel like a grind. Exercise routines and Monday mornings are good for you, she said.

The workout was 30 minutes at an easy pace, and I felt pretty good afterward. Several people who did the live row gave me nice comments in the Hydrow app, and a “7M” badge appeared on the right side of the screen. Hydrow has badges for milestones and for special-event workouts, such as holidays. Clicking on a badge starts animated confetti flying.

Screenshot from Hydrow rowing machine showing 7M badge.

Sometimes it can seem a bit silly, all the bells-and-whistles gadgets that the modern world uses to keep us interested in our daily grinds. Still, they are mostly good for us, as we need to stick with routines to make meaningful changes over time. Whatever keeps us going is helpful, even when it gets corny.