Indoor Rowing: How Not to Row Your 2k Race

I’ve done 2k races both ways, completely clueless and ready to attack. Guess which race felt longer, more painful and didn’t bring home the results I wanted? You guessed it… having no race plan is like trying to win an election without campaigning.

Going into your next race with a plan will calm your jitters, keep you focused and set you on course for nailing your goal.

Avoid the Faux Plan

The mistake I made was thinking I had a plan when what I had was a goal. Goals are great. Everyone needs to know what split they’re shooting for and a goal finish time. But when you’re in the heart of the 2k pain cave your awesome goal does not help you recover after a bad stroke, or get your brain off of the soul crushing number of meters left on the monitor.

Take my cautionary tale. During my first 2k competition, I was assigned a cox I didn’t know due to an imbalance in the athlete/coxswain ratio on my team. Him: “So what’s your plan?” Me, confidently: “Do a race start and then try to hold my split until it’s over!”

I was too proud of my “strategy” to notice the expectant look he gave me or how his only response was, “Uh, ok…” I confidently strapped into my erg, buzzing with adrenaline and misguided optimism. READY. ATTENTION. ROW!

Oh man. I came out of the gate so hard and could not settle for over 200m. “Wheeeeeeeee!” I thought. “I am so fast and strong!!!!” For the first 500m I crushed my goal split, and my cox, woefully unprepared by me, was super encouraging. We were so young, and innocent, not realizing what was looming. Then mere meters into the second 500m, it all fell apart before our eyes. Bad. My legs felt like lead. White hot burning lead. As my early split trickled steadily away, my cox eventually abandoned the “bring it back down” cues and switched to “how about just holding that…or that?”

When it was all over and I stopped seeing stars, I felt a mix of accomplishment for finishing my first 2k and confusion about what had gone wrong. Looking back at data, there was a 10 second upswing in my average split between the first and last 500 meters. Now let me tell you friends, in these 2k races you’re supposed to get faster in that last 500 meters, not grind down to your steady state pace.

Inside the piece the whole thing had felt chaotic and I had a hunch, an inkling if you will, that it had something to do with my stellar race plan.

What Is a 2k Race Plan?

My confusion stemmed from the incorrect assumption about what a plan is. A race plan is not a goal. It’s how you are going to attack this here race, today, meter by meter. It’s the sum of your goal, your training, your overarching strategy and the mini-goals you have inside of the race.

So how do you know if you’ve got one, let alone a good one? Typical questions people with a race plan can answer:

What’s your goal SPM/split/finish time?

What race strategy are you using?

What is your start sequence?

When do you plan to start your sprint to the finish?

What cues/coxing style work for you?

If your answer to these questions is “…” don’t worry, we’re here to help. In part two, we’ll go over how to create your own 2k race plan.