After rowing for 22 years non stop I stopped for 10 years. My first real race after that long rest was the 2007 head of the Charles. It was my first time there and I entered the Lightweight Men Open 1x. I had the bow number 23. I placed second ahead of few National Team rowers.
When I moved to the USA I started to coach rowing. My first Head of the Charles as a coach was with the first rower I coached full time, Ursula Grobler. She raced the 2009 Head of the Charles on the Open Women 1x for the first time ever and she won starting with bow number 19.
Both of these times I used this text given to me by a rowing friend. This information helped us to navigate trough the unknown course and be able to do our best against the locals!
Mile 1: A little faster than we’re comfortable
Mile 2: Technique (We’ll pick 2-3 things for race day. For tomorrow, 1 of them will definitely be catching on the recovery)
Mile 3: Go like hell.
Anytime we need to make a “fast straight line” move, instead of making a “bee line” let’s call it a “Buzz line”.
First minute, let’s pick a solid line through the BU bridge. It will be loud around Mag Beach, and louder at Riverside. We’ll be stylistically perfect at RBC, and going FAST. I also suspect that we will be passing a boat here. There is plenty of room to pass and still get a good line for the rest of the course.
(I think this will be the first time we pass someone, and that, after this, we won’t pass “cleanly”. I think this will be “pass one boat” and after that, any passing may be a cluster of multiple boats trying to get clear).
After RBC, through the Powerhouse, we’ll do a “wind up” to get us into the Second Mile with power. As we come through that mile, it will be technical. We’ll use the whole mile to be relaxed and get the mid-drive super solid (its been feeling awesome this week, even in the wind!). We’ll cut a tight corner through Weeks and line up for Anderson almost on the Boston side of the river. It will feel very wrong to us, compared to the regular traffic pattern.
At Anderson, prepare for another cluster-$%& and for it to be LOUD at Newall. Likely, we’ll be able to hear Kate our friends, we’ll be very close to Newall. Plan on passing here, with solid form. We will also need to do some “home field advantage” on that buoy line. If I need a really solid technical change there!
As we pass Newall, again, GEAR UP for Mile 3. This is definitely OUR mile. First of all, we both like the last mile, and, second, we will have the advantage on the turn. Let’s assume at this point we are in the lead, or very close, and can make a big break away. Make them chase us. As quasi-lightweights, our cardio fitness is superior to almost everyone else’s.
Finally, really LOUD at CBC again. We’ll get a good line through the arch and make a “buzz line” for the Belmont Hill dock. Once we get even with the dock, its about 5 port strokes, 7 even strokes, and 5 more port strokes around the corner, depending on how far the trees are overhanging the river.
At this point, we’ll just “seal the deal” by charging the corner. We could have a hefty head wind, but we’ll do “corner repeats” the week before to prep. We just need to stay loose.
The day of the race!
Meet at the boat. Race clothes under warm ups. Individual warm ups (erg, stretch, or just sit). Visualizing: 1 motion; we know how to do everything, our MUSCLES know how to do their job, our LUNGS know how to do their job, our HEARTS know how to do their job; our BRAINS don’t have a job-they just have to let the rest of them do it.
Blades down. Boat in slings. Check over.
Rain is good. Wind is fine. We have an advantage in “conditions”.
Perfect from the shove.
LONG warm up. Very relaxed. Let the muscles find their groove. Go from stroke 1.
Strip, last water, set the clock.
Ready for our event!
This is a very stacked field. There are 4 current US National team members, 2 current European World championship athletes, and several former national teamers.
We are on the course. Let’s do it!
Push, press, squeeze. Wide grip. Blades behind. Feet first, feet last. Push harder. Go hard first.
Good line on BU.
Through the bridge, stay OUT from shore.
Hands match boat speed. ONE motion.
Body follows hands out on recovery.
Around Magazine. Port, port, port, even.
Start to hear the rumble at Riverside.
Push the pace. Very clean. Make them come to us.
They won’t beat us, we will WIN it. Outright.
Very loud at Riverside. Sharp, tall. Clean corners.
Secret 5 and 10.
Under the light through the arch.
Make them come to us.
More leg. Squeeze and flow.
Tight corner at Weeks. Far Cambridge-side medallion on the way out. Feels VERY wide on the turn.
Bodies are still. Head is high. Chest up. Tall. Hips under.
Getting loud again. Big lungs. No one will be fitter. The well is deep!
Past the Newall dock, meeting up with the buoys again.
Set up our mile.
Right into the chute. Momentum. Accelerate.
Blades level. Shoulders loose. Grip loose. Feel the water.
First to start, first to finish.
(Keep in mind, “I’ve never seen anything like you guys approaching CBC last year- it was amazing- you could SEE how fast you were going).
Nothing changes but the hull speed.
Port (its usually about 5 port, 5 even, 5 port around this corner).
Build. Build. Squeeze.