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Archive for February, 2009

Beyond Boston

Posted by thepeteplan on February 28, 2009

Thanks for the comment on my Boston blog Rob, Alan and Jamie. Rob you are quite right in that my overall training effectiveness does suffer at time from taking part in the various team challenges. As the of the main motivators when it comes to challenges within the MAD team I have to take part in them all myself, and my competitive mentality doesn’t like to not give at least close to 100% effort in the challenges. At times the inter team challenges can provide good motivation for training when competitions are far away.

As I mentioned in the last entry, I think I picked up an illness of some sort around the time I travelled to Boston, and that affected my race. I am sure of this from the training I’ve done in the past few days since I got back.

Tuesday: (arrived back from Boston this morning)

36:26.2 = 10034m / 1:48.9 / 25


30:00.5 = 8012m / 1:52.3 / 24

Thursday: REST


11:12.1 / 3009m / 1:51.6 / 24

2500m = 8:21.7 / 1:40.3 / 31

500m splits = 1:35.4, 1:38.5, 1:40.0, 1:51.4, 1:36.5

This is the session where I really realised that I do have an illness as I really felt it in my chest, hence backing right off the pace. The decision was made here to do nothing hard until I’m fully recovered.


46:32.5 / 12514m / 1:51.6 / 26

I kept the rate deliberately high for this one as I find that it makes the overall effort level lower. My aim at the moment is to build up to a marathon (42195m) at under 1:50 pace. I don’t plan to have any great structure to my training for the next few weeks, but just to gradually build the volume. I’ve just started training in a new gym that only opened this week, and this gives me a better opportunity to supplement my training with additional aerobic training and some weights. I finished off the session today with 10 lengths in the swimming pool.


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World Indoor Rowing Championships

Posted by thepeteplan on February 26, 2009

Thoughts on the plane:

Going to the world indoor rowing championships, always held in Boston USA, is really the only opportunity in this sport to be properly immersed in the competition experience. I have only been to the Crash B’s (the name given to the world champs, standing for Charles River All Star Has Been’s) once before in 2004, but even now, on the flight to Boston, I remember how different this experience is from any other. The British Indoor Rowing Championships is a bigger competition in terms of competitor numbers, but the competition in Boston is the World Championships. There is more organisation around the event with dedicated team hotels, special training rooms set up in these hotels, and even an international competitors reception on Saturday.

For all the races within the UK you generally work a normal week, drive to the event in the morning of the Saturday or Sunday race, hang around for a couple of hours before warming up and racing, then drive home again. Flying seven and a half hours to another continent 3 days before the race is just a different experience. The next three days will be spent in and around a group of people all there for the same reason. Some will be your own competition, but most will be in different categories on race day, and every single one will have a mixture of nerves and adrenalin coursing through their veins. Some people will want to discuss training and tactics, some will want to take their minds off their race, some people will even be stupid enough to listen to someone else’s advice and change something vital in their race plan or preparation a couple of days before the race, which is never a good idea. I’ve been in the warm up room at competitions before and someone I vaguely know on the erg next to me asks me to tell them if I see anything they’re doing technically wrong that they could change. If you ever get asked this question before a race, don’t answer it, no good can come from the answer to that question. If you have the time, and of course only if you have the knowledge, tell them to come and ask you after they have raced, never before.

So I am currently on a British Airways 777 over the mid Atlantic, around 3 hours from Boston. I’m travelling with “Rocket” Roy Brook, the 55-59 lwt World Record Holder. Now Roy, being a seasoned competitor, former Hammer winner (the trophy given to winners at the Crash B’s), and I think now on his 5th (and final, so he says) time racing in Boston in very careful. Someone sneezes near him on the plane, he moves seats away from them. That’s why I now have an empty seat next to me and the space to use my laptop! As a lightweight Roy also has to be very careful about his calorie intake, so while I ate a nice chicken noodle dish at Wagamama while we waited for our flight, Roy had a fruit compote, possibly the lowest calorie item on the menu. I digress…

With 3 days in Boston now before the race my plan will go around in my head hundreds of times. I’ll go from high confidence, to wondering why I’m doing this. When I visualise parts of the race my heart rate will shoot instantly from 60 to 120. This cycle will go around and around until the minute the announcer called “pick up your handles”, then it’s the easy part, the bit I’ve training for, the part I’m ready for.

Race day:

Over the weekend we had a fair bit of time for socialising with old friends, people we’d met briefly before, people who we knew from the training forums, and some we didn’t know at all. This was the highlight of the trip, and made it well worth the time and effort.

Race day started early with a 7.30am taxi to the arena with Roy ready for the weigh in at 8am. We met Mike vB and Tor Arne “the Viking” waiting for the weigh in, and kept an eye out for the man in the hat, who of course never arrived. The three of them all made weight comfortably, with Roy timing it perfectly to be 164.8lbs on the scales.

Shirley “rowmyboat” Godkin was on in the first race at 9am. As I’ve been coaching Shirley for some time it was great to be able to cox during her race. Shirley had never been to a race of this size before, or go up against someone faster than her (Shirley holds the New Zealand 2k record). So to sit next to last years winner, who won last time in 7:37 (compared to Shirley’s 7:54 pb) was great. The pacing didn’t quite go to plan with a bit too fast a start, and so a bit of struggle holding on the pace through the middle, but the goal of 2nd place and a world championship silver was achieved with a 7:59.

Roy was up next at 10am, and my second coxing job. I had talked to Roy about his race plan on the way over, and I knew the capabilities of the other competitors fairly well. It was always going to take a row of around Roy’s own 6:38 World Record to beat him, so I think Mike did absolutely the right thing to go out aiming for that record. As it turned out, that pace was a little too ambitious, and I’m sure cost Mike a few seconds on his final time, but you have to try these things some times. Roy rowed a great race, and I may have stretched the truth a little during the final few hundred metres telling him they were closing on him, but wanted to make sure he finished in a good time if it was really to be his last race (Roy is turning to time trialling on his bike ready for the world TT championships later this year).

Tore Arne (Norway), Roy (UK) and Mike (USA)

Tore Arne (Norway), Roy (UK) and Mike (USA)

I watched Nav Haz’s race next before heading back to the hotel for some rest. I was feeling confident for my race, with a plan to go out at 1:33/1:34 for the first 1600m or so pulling it down in the final stages with a flat out sprint in the final 200m for the pb. I got a taxi back around 2pm, ready for warming up at 3pm for my 3.30 race.

The warm up felt ok. Nothing special, but fine. I did around 4k in total including some bursts to race pace, and then it was time to head to the race machine. The race started and I did a few hard strokes hitting 1:20 before backing off to the planned 1:33/1:34. Straight away the 1:34’s felt tough, and I just didn’t have the power in my legs I’ve had during the last few weeks training. 1:34’s dropped to 1:35’s, 1:35’s dropped to 1:36’s, and even the occasional 1:37 popped up on the monitor. It was one of those days. They happen once in a while – not that often, and you hope not on race day, but unfortunately that’s what happened on this occasion. I managed to pull the pace back a little in the later stages to finish a bit better, though never hit faster than a 1:33 even in those closing stages. Could I have found a sprint finish from somewhere and perhaps gone under 6:20? Probably. But it felt hard, much harder than that pace should have done. The finish time was 6:21.9, around 10 (and a bit) seconds slower than I planned to go, and than my training dictated I could go.

Perhaps a photo compilation of the race might illustrate how it felt:

Pre race

Pre race

Early race

Early race

second half

second half

towards the end

towards the end

The reason for this is most likely a combination of factors, but I suspect I have a slight illness. I had a headache for the first day or so in Boston, and have suffered with really dry lips the whole time I was away. Jet lag is not an issue for me going West. I have travelled to the US (and often with an 8 hour time difference, not just this 5 hour difference) on average 2 or 3 times a year for the past 5 years, and I never suffer at all going that way. This is my third time racing in the US having done both Boston and Ergomania in Seattle before, so I know how I react to the time difference. Coming back East is a different matter, but luckily I don’t have to do that to race. The late race time could have been a slight factor, but I rested in the middle of the day at the hotel, and felt good up to the start of the race.

I did taper the week before the race which I don’t normally do. I race on confidence, and hard sessions leading up to the race give me that confidence of what I can do. I don’t think this was effective for me, but it’s hard to know whether it was really a factor at all. So I’m not happy with the time, but we all have bad days, and there will be other race days. I know my training has been going well, and I’m in shape to break my pb. What next? Watch this space to find out.

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Crash B – Race opposition

Posted by thepeteplan on February 18, 2009

I am racing in the final heat of the 30-39 hwt “Masters” race at 1530 on Sunday (2030 UK time). There are only 8 people in the final heat, and here is how they stack up:

Erg – Name – Recent 2k time (from quick web search)
9 – Pete Marston – 6:17
10 – Kim Andre Eriksen – 6:14
11 – Neil McMullan – 6:04
12 – Joachim Ringer – 5:59
13 – Jens Raab – 6:05
14 – Geoffrey Hoffman – 6:14
15 – Gregory Le Sage – 6:09
16 – Shaun Hickson – 6:19

If anyone can fill in the three blanks that would be appreciated [edited to add them]. I am seeded either 7th or 8th in the heat, and I put down a predicted time of 6:15. Obviously it depends on predicted times, not these recent race times, but I assume Raab is quicker than Ringer, and so the bottom half are faster than the top half. If so that would put me slowest in the heat, which would be perfect, especially with small gaps between each person. So Raab perhaps 5:58, Hoffman perhaps 6:03, and Hickson perhaps 6:14?

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Final fast session

Posted by thepeteplan on February 17, 2009

Taking the advice of Tim and Merv yesterday was my final fast session before Sunday. I still wanted to do some short reps at pace as this prep has worked well for me in the past, and they felt good.

W/u = 11:08.1 / 3010m / 1:50.9 / 25

12 x 25sec / 95sec rest:
1:28.4 / 141m / 36
1:28.6 / 141m / 36
1:28.3 / 141m / 36
1:27.5 / 142m / 36
1:26.8 / 144m / 38
1:26.5 / 144m / 38
1:25.7 / 145m / 38
1:24.5 / 147m / 41
1:24.4 / 148m / 41
1:23.6 / 149m / 41
1:22.5 / 151m / 43
1:19.0 / 158m / 50

Totals: 1757m = 1:25.3 / 40

The last rep I let the rate go too high, but it was just a final rep sprint. I was amazed at the pace I got at relatively low rates for the first 11 reps, considering it takes a few strokes to get to pace at the beginning of each.

After work today will be a steady distance piece, just 8 to 10k. Tomorrow similar with maybe a couple of 500’s at race pace. Thursday rest, Friday a short session as advised by Tim and Merv – warm up and a couple of race pace 250’s just to loosen up from the flight. Saturday rest.

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The final week

Posted by thepeteplan on February 15, 2009


13:48.6 = 3616m / 1:54.5 / 25

1402m = 4:25.0 / 1:34.5 / 34

This was a special cross team challenge done each year in memory of a regular indoor rowing competitor who died a few years ago. I rowed it in the garage in the cold, and for that reason didn’t push too hard as hard effort + very cold = risk of bad chest in my experience.


30:06.0 = 8029m / 1:52.4 / 23

Just a steady row this morning, with the erg brought into the living room so it was a lot warmer!

The final week:

Many thanks for the comments from Merv and Tim. I am going to take your advice and tone down the final preparations for the race this week. You are right of course, there is nothing physically to gain in this final few days before the race. The reason I have prepared like this for the past few races is simple – I have tried to recreate the preparation that got me my 2k pb back at the beginning of 2004. I’ve said this before I’m sure, but my 2k pb came 1 week after we (the MAD team) set the World Record for the 100k ergo team relay. I had done a lot of sprint prep in the 2 months before. Of course it could be that my fitness was very high and I did a pb at the race the following week inspite of the hard training leading right up to the race. I did row a faster 2k in the gym about 2 months later in the course of normal training (around a second faster than that race 6:11.8.) too.

So I will ditch the 4 x 500 session on Friday in Boston in place of a good warm up then a couple of short race pace bursts. I will rest completely on both Thursday and Saturday. I will still do a sprint session tomorrow, as I do find it helps me both get the rate higher in the 2k, and get in tune with a good sprint finish. I will also keep the overall volume down a little, as I did today, with a maximum of 10k for any steady rows, and not pushing the pace at all.

Out of interest, if you’ve read this far Tim, are you the same Tim who is currently slightly ahead of me in the C2 challenge series? If so, your erg times are absolutely outstanding. If not, his erg times are absolutely outstanding – there must be a number of the 30+ lwt British distance records he (or you) could take, if you were motivated for that?

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Steady distance

Posted by thepeteplan on February 11, 2009

45:47.6 = 12513m / 1:49.7 / 26

10min splits for the first 40mins were 1:50.4, 1:49.7, 1:49.5, 1:49.4.

I kept the rate on the high side deliberately to make sure there was no muscular fatigue from the session. 250m reps tomorrow, I think with a fairly long rest (90 to 120 seconds), though I have not decided how fast or how many yet – something in the order of 16 reps at under 1:30 pace, perhaps.

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Boston and beyond

Posted by thepeteplan on February 10, 2009

It is now just over a week till I fly out to Boston for the Crash B’s. That means 8 training days left. Today was an enforced rest day as I spent the day at 21,500ft taking part in a decompression sickness experiment. My plan for the remaining days is alternating easy distance and hard intervals (as normal), but in ever decreasing rep length. The sessions will look something like this:

Wed: Steady distance

Thur: 250m reps

Fri: Steady distance

Sat: 25sec reps

Sun: Steady distance

Mon: 100m reps

Tue: Steady distance

Wed: TBD

Thur: Fly to Boston

Fri: 4 x 500m / 2min rest as race plan

Sat: rest, Sun: race

After Boston:

Initially after Boston I have a choice to make between a short sprints training period, or straight onto distance work. If I choose to go for the sprint option it will be with one simple aim – a sub 1:20 for 500m.

Either after the few weeks of sprint training, or straight after Boston, I plan to go into a period of distance work aiming to do another marathon. Last year I didn’t do any specific training for the marathon, but simply used it as a bench mark test prior to starting a half marathon training phase. I managed 1:52.3 pace for that marathon. This year I will train specifically and aim to break 1:50 pace. Unfortunately the 30-39 marathon record is the fastest of all the marathon records, and far outside my capabilities – 1:50 pace would put me under the 19-29 record though. There will be a sub plot to this phase of training, and I may not mention this again, so keep it quiet. I plan during this (2 to 3 month?) phase of training to do a high volume with a fair proprotion of cross training, and see what happens to my weight. I will be more careful of my diet too to assist the weight going in the right direction. I would quite like to tip the scales at under 85kg when I row the marathon. Exactly what the weight is at that point might determine the direction I go for the rest of the year….

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Another day, another update

Posted by thepeteplan on February 8, 2009


37:12.5 = 10019m / 1:51.4 / 24


2k warm up = 7:19.4 / 1:49.8 / 25

8 x 500m / 3:10 rest:
1:32.5 / 34
1:32.5 / 34
1:32.5 / 34
1:32.3 / 34
1:32.4 / 34
1:32.4 / 34
1:32.4 / 35
1:28.5 / 40

4k = 12:15.4 / 1:31.9 / 35


AM: 30min turbo, ave = 250watts

PM: 10k = 1:49.9 / 25


2000m warm up = 1:53.6 / 24

2500m = 8:29.5 / 1:41.9 / 29
4min rest
2000m = 6:43.9 / 1:40.9 / 30
4min rest
1500m = 4:59.4 / 1:39.8 / 31
4min rest
1000m = 3:17.7 / 1:38.8 / 32
4min rest
500m = 1:33.0 / 35

Totals: 7500m = 25:03.5 / 1:40.2 / 31

The 8 x 500m on Friday I did with “Rocket” Roy Brook, the 50+ lwt world record holder. It always adds some motivation to a hard session when you’re training with someone else, but especially so when they are one of the best. The session was fairly controlled until the final rep when I decided to try to find out what I actually had left – the answer was a 1:16 split about 4 strokes into the final rep, and 1:22 down the finishing straight. This is a great sign, because it is this sprint finish killer instinct that I have been lacking in recent races, and I really believe it brings me a good 2seconds+ off my 2k time.

The interval session today was along the same theme as the 5 x 1500 session of the original Pete Plan, but varied with decreasing length reps, but increasing pace targets. A nice variation, but it really doesn’t get a lot easier through the session. Again I went for the fast finish to the session, doing the final rep at 2k pb pace.

There was a comment to the last blog entry about tapering, and whether I should do more, and perhaps suffered at BIRC from lack of taper. I don’t believe I was lacking physically because of it, but I do think that mentally I did leave some of my hard efforts in the training room, and so lacked the physical determination a little come race day. Boston is a little different. As I have to travel there it gives more of an enforced taper – flying on the Thursday effectively writes that off as a training day, Friday there will be time for a short session, but I will be too tired to do anything hard, then Saturday will be the pre race day rest. But yes, I will be more careful not to push any sessions too hard really from this point on to make sure I am mentally fresh on race day. I do find it a tough balance between being mentally atune with pushing myself, and not drained from pushing myself too much too often. I admit I do suffer in the run up to races where I know I’m in good shape as my motivation takes a sudden rise and I have to hold myself back from doing too much. Please feel free to comment if you feel I am doing too much, or too little, or you have any comment to make about any aspect of my training, or training in general.

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Challenge rowing

Posted by thepeteplan on February 4, 2009


41:04.0 = 11006m / 1:51.9 / 24

Rowed in the garage, about 1 degree C temperature. Due to the snow, and England not coping well with “extreme” weather we were sent home from work in the middle of the day, so I didn’t go to the gym before leaving. I thought I should row later on though, but it was cold.


With Boston now a little over 2 weeks away I thought I would put some scores on the board for the various challenge series’ for the month. Then I can either leave them for the month, or put in faster scores when I’m back from Boston. The first up was the CTC:

w/u = 11:11.8 / 3016m / 1:51.3 / 24

4 x 750m / 90sec rest:
2:22.4 / 1:34.9 / 35
2:22.5 / 1:35.0 / 34
2:22.5 / 1:35.0 / 34
2:24.7 / 1:36.4 / 33

3000m = 9:32.0 / 1:35.3 / 34

I thought 1:35 would be a pretty comfortable target. Perhaps I misjudged the 90second rest between reps, it really isn’t a lot. Perhaps it was the cold temperature in the garage again not letting me warm up sufficiently to actually put in a hard effort.


Back to work today, so back in the gym. It should have simply been a steady row, but I decided to cut that short and put a score down for the Concept2 challenge series.

14:53.8 = 4017m / 1:51.2 / 25

Then 2500m with the aim of 500m splits of 1:40, 1:39, 1:38, 1:37, 1:36

2500m = 8:09.6 / 1:37.9 / 31
1:39.9 / 29
1:39.0 / 31
1:38.0 / 32
1:37.0 / 32
1:35.8 / 33

1500m cool down

The plan was exactly what I ended up doing – 1:40 for the first 500m then 1sec faster each 500. I thought this would seem pretty easy, and even contemplated stepping down by 2sec each 500m. It didn’t seem as easy as I thought though. Am I setting my standards too high, is the pressure of a big race in 2 weeks time starting to show, or is there another reason I seem to be under performing on the standard I would expect on a few workouts? Don’t get me wrong, this workout wasn’t under performed, it just seemed a greater effort level than I expected. I can analyse it afterwards to see that it’s actually half of a 5k well under 5k pb pace, rowed very strictly to a negative split pace plan. That shouldn’t feel easy.

I really need to plan out exactly what session I will do over the next 14 days before I fly to Boston or my race preparation will not be ideal at all. I write training programmes for many other people, but never actually get around to putting down on paper what I’ll do myself….

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Another training recap

Posted by thepeteplan on February 1, 2009

My lack of blog updates last week was due to a business trip for the majority of the week, so a quick roundup of training since I last updates, and then it should be back to regular updates this week.

Sunday 1st Feb:

30mins on the turbo (bike) early this morning, just nice and easy 200 watts average. I did plan on doing an erg session later in the day but I’ve been too busy (writing training plans for other people).

Saturday 31st Jan:

A 10k rowed with one of the guys I coach, both going for a pb. He made it, I didn’t – it wasn’t there in my legs unfortunately:

1k splits:
1:42.6 / 29
1:43.1 / 29
1:43.0 / 29
1:43.0 / 29
1:43.7 / 28
1:45.0 / 28
1:45.9 / 28
1:46.1 / 28
1:45.9 / 28
1:42.6 / 29

10k = 34:42.2 / 1:44.1 / 28

Still a solid 10k time, but the pace had to be backed off after 15mins or I was risking a more severe encounter with a brick wall later in the row!

Thursday 29th Jan:

4 x 1250m / 4min rest:
4:03.2 / 1:37.2 / 31
4:03.4 / 1:37.3 / 31
4:04.8 / 1:37.9 / 32
4:07.2 / 1:38.8 / 32

5000m = 16:18.2 / 1:37.8 / 31

[w/u 2k = 1:51.9 / 24, rest intervals = 1706m, w/d = 500m]

I think the lack of much zip in my legs on Saturday was a combination of this session, and then a visit to the altitude chamber at work on Friday afternoon for some hypoxia training, the same as this technology reporter did for the BBC website:

And finally on Tuesday last week I did, in a hotel gym in Cornwall:

30mins = 8133m / 1:50.7 / 25

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