In 2009, Concept2 invited Tanya Wagner and Tommy Hackenbruck of the 2009 CrossFit Games to participate in the 2010 CRASH-Bs, the World Indoor Rowing Championships. As our contenders trained for the 2000 meter race, we followed their preparation and posted training tips through the Countdown to the CRASH-Bs blog.
This coaching advice, from the blog, can help anyone training to compete on the indoor rower. Good luck!
Finding Your Pace for a 2000 Meter Race
One of the most important aspects of race preparation is determining your optimum race pace. In the excitement of race day, it's all too easy to go out too hard, which generally means dying early and ending up with a disappointing finish. The key to avoiding this is to know your pace ahead of time.
The Concept2 Performance Monitor
Pace is expressed as time per 500 meters. This is displayed in the central box on the PM (Performance Monitor) (see photo). A pace of 2:14 means that it takes you 2 minutes and 14 seconds to row 500 meters. The smaller the number, the less time it takes you to row 500 meters. So, the smaller your pace number, the faster you are rowing. At the end of a fixed distance piece, your average pace for the piece will be displayed as shown.
Here is a step-by-step protocol for determining your pace for a 2000 meter (a.k.a. 2K) race, developed by C2 co-founder Dick Dreissigacker.
- Your baseline 2K: Set your PM for a fixed distance work piece of 2000 meters. As you row, it will count down to 0 meters. Row the 2K, starting easy, at a pace that you KNOW you can maintain for the whole piece. If you feel comfortable and strong, increase your intensity in the second half of the piece. At the end of the 2K row, record your average pace (time/500 meters) for the entire 2K. (This will be recorded on the PM and stored in Memory or LogCard if you have one.)
- At least a week later: For your next 2K piece, start out rowing at your average pace from the first piece. If you feel comfortable and strong, increase your intensity in the second half of the piece. And again, at the end of the row, record your average pace for the entire 2000 meters. (time/500 meters)
- Repeat this process until you close in on the best average pace that you are able maintain for 2000 meters. As you get closer to your real race pace, the 2Ks will get tougher, so be sure to be rested before you attempt each 2K trial. You probably shouldn't do more than one of these test 2Ks per week, especially as the race date approaches.
- After three or four of these pieces, you should be homing in on your target 2K race pace. This is the pace at which you should start your 2K race. It will take discipline to keep to this race pace but stick with it, at least until the last 500 meters. At that time, if you feel strong, you can go ahead and increase the intensity. In fact, your goal is to completely "empty the tank" by the end of the race. This race pace will also be a good target for interval workouts as you prepare for the big event.
When preparing for a 2000 meter race, spending time on the indoor rower is essential and accepting the inevitable suffering should be a key component to the work done. This will prepare the mind and the body for the 2K distance and create a beneficial confidence leading into the event. Here are some of my favorite workouts in preparation for a 2000 meter race to get the mind and body ready:
- 12 x 500 meters at 100% maximal intensity. Set up the performance monitor for 500 meter distance intervals so that you can see the times for all 12 once complete. Stay as consistent as possible so the times for all 12 pieces are within 8 seconds of each other.
- Train your body to hold your desired pace to achieve your goal 2000 meter time by determining your goal 2000 meter split (500 meter pace) and hold that goal pace until it slips for three consecutive strokes. Record the length of time you were able to hold that pace. Rest for 5 minutes and repeat. This process is continued until you cannot get the monitor to show your desired pace for one stroke. Once you can hold your goal split for your desired 2000 meter time, you have met your goal. Next time, set up the performance monitor for 2000 meters and attack it with the confidence that you can hold the 2K split (500 meter pace) that will give you the goal finish time you have set as your goal.
- 6 x 2:30 minutes. Every piece is faster than your goal 2000 meter pace. Rest 5 minutes after each. The goal is to get all six pieces within 10 meters of each other.
- 10 x 90 seconds at 100% max / 30 seconds rowing lightly with no intensity (known as paddle pressure among rowers). Rest 5 minutes and repeat 10 x [90 seconds max / 30 seconds rest].
- Row 4 minutes at your goal 2000 meter pace; rest 8 minutes; row 3 minutes at a pace that is 3 seconds faster than your previous pace; rest 8 minutes; row 2 minutes at a pace that is 2 seconds faster than your previous pace; rest 8 minutes; row 1 minute at a pace that is at least 1 second faster than your previous pace (for example: 4 minutes at 1:43; 3 minutes at 1:40; 2 minutes at 1:38; 1 minute at 1:37 with 8 minutes of rest after each)
Just like going into the CrossFit Games, competitors at the CRASH-B’s accept that everyone will be suffering. The goal is to train the body and mind to not only accept the inevitable discomfort, but to push the onset of it a little later so that it occurs a few meters or a few seconds after your competition has begun to be affected by it. A 2000 meter race is an awesome challenge and one that the CrossFit athlete will likely excel in.
Strategy for a 2000 Meter Race
If you talk to any elite athlete, they rarely ever practice the complete all-out race, or all-out jump or all-out sprint in their selected discipline until they get closer to competition. Most disciplined athletes spend most of their time practicing the different sections of the race, their approach, their technique, and most importantly, practice visualizing their goal. In preparation for a 2000 meter piece on the C2, I have very rarely willingly put myself through not just the physical pain, but more so the mental stress of an all out 2000 meter practice piece. It makes me sick just thinking about it, actually. A much more palatable way to prepare for your 2000 meter goal time is to do intervals. As CrossFitters, we are very familiar with intervals, so this should be easy.
As Judy said in her article, think out a race plan. If you've ever been on a C2 before, you've noticed it's sometimes very hard to hold the same 500 meter split pace every stroke, especially when you are going hard. The average of your 500 meter splits will help you keep track of how close to pace you are for your given goal time. (Refer to Judy's article for a good explanation of split, avg split, time, etc. on a C2 monitor.) For example if my goal 2000 meter time is 8:00, and if I have an average 500 meter split of 2:00.0 at 1000 meters in, you could say I'm pretty much on pace to finish at 8:00. But holding exactly a 2:00.0 the whole 2000 meters can get pretty hard and frankly, pretty boring.
The typical elite rower approaches the 2000 meter piece in four different sections: first 500 meters, second 500 meters, third 500 meters, and fourth 500 meters. In each of the 500m he/she has an idea for what their average split (section on the screen that reads avg/500m) should be in order to get to finish in their goal time.
The first 500 meter—Go out hard for the first 10 to 20 strokes and settle into a rhythm. Most rowers usually average one or two seconds below their 500 meter split goal in this first 500 (for example, 1:58 avg. 500 meter for a 8:00 2K goal) due to adrenaline and fresh legs. (Be forewarned, you may feel like God in the first 500 meters and try to hold 5–10 seconds below your average split goal, but you will most likely will feel like a turd on wheels come the third 500).
The second 500 meters—Settle into a good rhythm and try to hit your target 500 meter goal split. If your goal 2K time is 8:00 then you should be seeing 2:00, 1:59, or even some 2:01's flash up on the 500 meter split screen. The goal in the middle 1000 meters of the race (second 500 meters and third 500 meters) is to be consistent and find a hard but sustainable pace to hold.
The third 500 meters—This is usually when you start to feel the pain train coming in. The third 500 meters in a 2000 meters race is usually the deciding piece of the race. I've found that if you hold your split pace consistently in this part of the race, you will most likely gain on your opponents; most people fall below their average goal pace in this 500m, because it hurts the most. You are too far in to stop and not close enough to the end to sprint. It is mentally the hardest part of the race but if you can recognize that ahead of time and prepare yourself to stay strong and focus on seeing your goal split numbers, I guarantee you will have a successful piece.
The fourth 500 meters—You are in the homestretch! Now is a good time to look at your average 500 meter split and see how close to pace you are and also do a little gut check to see how much left you have in the tank. If you are feeling pretty good and you are on or below your goal average split, then push yourself. You only have about two minutes left, so see how low you can get the numbers. If you are hanging on by a thread and your average 500 meter split is close or right at your goal then just focus on being steady and consistent and pulling your goal split. If you are hanging on by a thread and your average split is above your goal pace (you are going slower than your goal) well then now is the time to suck it up and push yourself past your limits. As I said before you only have about two minutes left and you can do anything in two minutes. Some people do a whole entire Fran workout in two minutes! That could actually be good motivation—at least you aren't doing Fran right now. Sometimes in the last 500 meters, I count strokes. I'll say to myself, I can hold this number for 10 strokes and just concentrate on holding my split for 10 strokes over and over until I am done. Which brings me to the last 250 meters in the fourth 500 meters. You now, most likely, have less than a minute left and now is the time to go as hard as you can. Remember, the faster and harder you row, the sooner the pain is over!
Practice holding your goal splits in a workout such as 8 x 500 meters with 3 minutes rest. Row pieces one and two like your first 500, pieces three and four like your second 500, five and six like the third 500 and pieces seven and eight like your last 500 meters in a 2000 meter piece.
Good luck and happy training!
Last Minute Tips for Competition Day
Ok, ok I know, but I have to do it. I have to give those last minute pointers that I am sure everyone already knows. The mother in me is making me do it. I just want to be sure you all have every tool possible for optimal performance.
Let's start with the final days before the actual CRASH-B competition. I have gathered suggestions from a few people who have experienced the infamous "2000 meters of pure fun" and I think their tips will offer good reminders to competitors.
A lot of competitors will arrive in Boston two days before the competition, so a travel day will likely consume one full day for most, leaving no time for a workout. Not a terrible thing really. I have been told that a full rest day should happen two days prior to competition or at least the day before. Preference tends to be to take this rest day two days before the big day. So maybe some stretching in between flights or once you arrive and get out of the car, take a walk around Boston. The point is taking it easy on this day.
On the day before competition it would be good to get on the indoor rower, but again don't push it too hard. Light rowing, fine tune technique, and maybe even do short spurts of how you would start your race. Practice your initial pulls and then settling into your target pace, but only do this for about a minute or so. Donít go too crazy. Get rest, eat well, and in general just take good care of yourself. That's a mom speaking if I ever did hear one.
Now for competition day. You walk into the Agganis and there is mass chaos. Lots of people, competitors and, of course, a lot of cheering. Having already registered, you know the exact time of day you will race and now it is just a waiting game.
One area that every competitor should migrate towards, at least, 15 minutes before their race is the warm-up area. Warm-up ergs will be available for use by all competitors adjacent to the competition portion of the race floor.
This warm up area will be an optimal space for competitors to go and remove themselves from the chaos of the Agganis. A place to go and focus on the task at hand. Adrenalin is running high at this time and although adrenalin is good for energy, you need to work some of it off so you donít get on your erg and go all out, creating the classic "fly and die" scenario. Use your time in the warm-up area to fully warm up, take some easy strokes and dial in your technique. After a few easy strokes, throw in a couple of strokes at your target pace. This is your time to check your attitude. It's ok to be nervous, but you should still have a positive attitude. Stay calm, and get your nerves under control. Most importantly, remind yourself that you are here to have fun.