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.

August 2, 2022 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

On Monday morning a light rain was falling, so I chose a rainy-day image for the art display that hangs on a wall of my dining room. The weather forecast on my phone was predicting more rain later.

Photo of leafy green trees on a rainy day.

As the day went on, however, the sky cleared. By late afternoon, it was sunny and warm. I went rowing with my husband, taking it easy and just relaxing.

The rainy-day picture was an obvious mismatch when we sat down to dinner. I thought about displaying a sunnier view, but by then it was already late in the day, so there didn’t seem to be much reason to look for a different image.

“I’m glad you didn’t change the picture. That’s my favorite kind of rain.” My seven-year-old younger self, Ponch, peeked out of my subconscious to comment. She was wearing her usual poncho, which covered most of a red-striped dress, and white knee socks with penny loafers.

“Hi Ponch.” I glanced back at the picture. “What do you like about it?”

“My favorite rain is when it’s just sprinkling a little, so you can walk around and feel the rain on your face, but it’s not so much that Mom says to come back inside and put on a raincoat.”

“I have a raincoat for rowing. Mostly I don’t wear it, though, because I would be too hot, so I just go out without it and get wet.”

“Well, you’re grown up and nobody makes you wear it.” Ponch sounded just a bit envious. “Your boat looks like it would be fun. Maybe I can row it sometime?”

“It’s too big for kids your age.” I smiled. “But I am a future you, so I can promise that you’ll have plenty of time to row it when you are older.”

July 7, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When I rowed in the Independence Day regatta last weekend in Philadelphia, my single scull race turned into much more of an adventure than I had anticipated. On Saturday, my husband and I were struggling with the mixed double because it was our first time rowing on the Schuylkill River. There was some wind, the waves felt unpredictable, and we kept putting our oars wrong and just couldn’t get into a good rhythm.

We still had fun on Saturday, though, walking past the Art Museum where people run up and down the steps pretending to be Rocky, and seeing the old boathouses on what is called Boathouse Row. They were built in the 1870s or thereabouts and are beautifully maintained.

Photo of Boathouse Row in Philadelphia.

On Sunday morning the river looked calmer, and we went out for our lightweight single races hoping to do better. The men raced their singles before the women, so they were already on the course when Deb (my women’s double partner) and I carried our singles down to the dock where we would launch them.

The dock belonged to Temple University, and it was high above the water, built for large crew boats. As soon as my teeny-tiny single went into the water, it became obvious that I was going to have a major problem just getting off the dock. My boat was so far below the level of the dock that there was no clearance whatsoever between my riggers (which hold the oars) and the dock, which had a strip of soft rubber along the edge.

When I got into my boat, the rigger on the dock side sank down into the rubber strip, and I was completely stuck. I tried pushing my boat out farther than usual before stepping into it, but that did not help because my riggers, although not totally flat, have less of an upward angle than on most sculling boats. I couldn’t lean away far enough to get unstuck, either.

Meanwhile, Deb’s boat, which has higher riggers and is somewhat too big for her, looked like it would be able to get off the dock without any problems. Other women already had launched. I had the smallest boat and was the only one who got stuck. Although it was early enough that there would be plenty of time to row over to the starting line, I first had to find a way to get off the dock.

“Deb, help!” I called, while she was still getting ready to launch. This didn’t look like something I could manage by myself. Deb’s race was before mine, but we had allowed enough time that she wasn’t in a hurry. I finally managed to get off the dock by pushing my boat just past the end, halfway off the dock, with both riggers out over the water. Deb held the boat in this precarious position while I carefully climbed into it.

Then I rowed around to the middle of the river and into my lane, along with Deb, heading toward the starting line. This would be a floating start, meaning that there was no platform for everyone to line up. Instead, the competitors would sit next to each other in the lanes, floating there while waiting for the starting official to say “Go!” and drop the flag.

We had to go through a bridge before starting the race. Because I was early, I waited before the bridge for a few minutes. The water was calm, and there was little wind. I thought I’d be okay rowing through the bridge and waiting on the other side until it was time to line up for my race. As soon as I did, however, it proved to be a mistake when a strong tailwind started blowing fiercely.

I stopped rowing, but my little boat was still getting blown down toward the starting line. People were yelling at me to back up, which was quite a struggle in that wind. Thankfully, by the time my race was called, the wind had died down for the moment. The referee in charge of getting the boats properly aligned in the lanes did a good job, and we got started quickly.

I managed to row more evenly than in the previous day’s mixed double, but I still had trouble judging the waves and couldn’t get going fast enough to stay near the frontrunners. Afterward, when I was rowing back to the shore after an unimpressive finish, a gust blew my hat off. The hat fell in the water next to the boat, and I had to back up and retrieve it before it sank too far. When I arrived at the recovery dock where my husband was waiting to help me take my boat out, I threw the soaked hat on the dock, grumbling about how that was the sort of race it had been.

My husband was cheerful, although he hadn’t rowed a fast race either. He told me that I should count it as a victory to have rescued the hat. Also, he said, now that I’d had a floating start in my single race, I would feel more comfortable doing it again in the future.

“This was my first floating start in the single?” Until he mentioned it, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. “It didn’t bother me at all. Actually, it felt like the only thing that went right.”

After we got all the singles ready for transport and strapped them back on the boat trailer, I had one more race—the women’s double with Deb. We rowed pretty well against strong competition and finished third, mainly due to her efforts rather than mine. She had a better sense of how to deal with those funky waves. Still, it was a fun vacation over a long weekend, and I am feeling pretty good about it.

My rowing club’s annual training camp, on the first weekend in May, left me feeling stressed. That was mainly because I hadn’t left myself enough time to rest and recover after traveling with my husband on a road trip to Chattanooga the previous weekend. We had fun, but it was a long way home, and then we were back to work as usual.

I hadn’t quite gotten back my energy when the rowing camp started, and the weather conditions left much to be desired—heavy rain on Friday, then high water, and a chilly wind. Walking between the boathouse and the dock, I noticed violets blooming in the grass, but I didn’t pay much attention to them because I was more focused on avoiding the goose poop.

Afterward, I was lying awake in bed on Sunday night sometime around midnight, still feeling unsettled. My bed felt like it was not firmly attached to the floor but, instead, was bobbing around like a boat on the river. Then it occurred to me that my archetypal imaginary protector, Dame Shadow, featured in several posts, hadn’t been around for quite some time. Admittedly, she could be troublesome: her past antics included giving me a backache to get my attention (twice) and shrieking at me to trust no one.

Still, I felt that Dame Shadow’s protection would be helpful at that moment. I did a bit of searching in odd corners of my psyche, trying to determine what had become of her. Although I didn’t see or hear the Dame anywhere, my bed started to feel like it was solidly anchored again. Behind my closed eyelids, tiny violet dots appeared all over the comforter, which floated peacefully above me; and I drifted off to sleep.

By morning I still didn’t feel entirely refreshed, but the image of violets floating on calm water had helped to settle my mind. I had a quiet workweek, followed by a mostly unhurried weekend in which I spent time in the yard, weeding and mulching. Meanwhile, my husband traveled to Michigan for a junior rowing regatta where he was a referee. He sent me a photo of the course, which was beautiful.

Photo of starting line at rowing regatta.

After he returned, we went for a short row in our double; he wanted to spend some time outdoors with me, even though he was tired from driving and from waking up early. We also rowed on Monday and Tuesday.

I wasn’t expecting to go out yesterday because of rain, but it started tapering off later in the day. My husband said we’d be fine with our raincoats. I wasn’t as confident because we’d gotten soaked through our raincoats during the rowing camp, but it turned out he was right. The water was calm, the rain moved off, and we saw a rainbow. It was getting dark by the time we took the boat out of the water, and the grass was still wet, as were my feet; but then I thought about walking through violets, and all was well.

April 5, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Saturday’s rowing regatta went well. My husband and I both had four races because our friendly mixed double rivals from the Great Miami club came to the regatta (we finished just ahead of them by 0.7 seconds in the 1K sprint, for third place) and each of us also rowed a single-sex double with them as our partners. My women’s double advanced to the finals in a large field of competitors, but did not medal. My husband also coxed for Great Miami once.

There wasn’t much time to rest between the 1K mixed double and the 2K because they were scheduled fairly close together. That was all right, though, because we still had a good amount of energy. Unfortunately, we didn’t go straight in our lane because of shifting winds (we need to work on that) and whacked a few buoys with our oars, which slowed us down. We finished three seconds behind the second-place boat and 20 seconds behind the crew that took first place.

Rowing medals from Clemson Sprints 2022.

We would at least have gotten third place regardless, as there were only three entries in the mixed double 2K race. Still, we’re happy with our medals because we were middle-aged lightweights racing against much larger college athletes, and we stayed close to them all the way down the course. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…