Training Summary: September 2013

A little late, but for a good reason: I was on holiday in Moscow, where I had a really good time with three nice colleagues! 🙂 The weather there alredy foreshadowed the German winter (4°C – shiver!!), but for much of the time, it was dry and even sunny!

That’s also a reason why I did not train much in October yet—but in September, all the more! 🙂 So here’s the summary:

Training-September2013With 20 training units altogether, September was a really good month. Most of the time was dedicated to rowing because of the regatta. In detail:

  • Rowing: 14 units, 121k altogether, making an average of 8.6k per unit.
  • Running: a mere 4 units (17.5k altogether), average 5.2k per run. Not too much, but one of them was the warm-up before the regatta, so I kept that one short (to be honest, the other runs were not too long either ;-))
  • Cycling: 2 units, but two really long ones: Altogether, I cycled 126k, resulting in an average of 63k!

I am very satisfied with my training—and the regatta results show that it probably wasn’t that bad! 🙂

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Perfect Splits

After a painful post-regatta Sunday, I dared a little exercise today. Currently, I am on holiday at my boyfriend’s place, with a forest nearby. It was a beautiful autumn day, and so I decided to go for a little easy run to enjoy the sunshine, the smell of the forest, and the remaining warmth, which I am trying to conserve for the long winter days soon to come!

And it was really worthwhile. During the last weeks, I have sometimes been sad and stressed out; today, I noticed again how relaxing running is. It is no more another strenuous activity where I want to prove myself, but rather some sort of meditation, with no one there but myself (and some occasional dog walkers or cyclists). And beautiful birds! I saw a Eurasian jay (there are two of them living in my garden, too—my boyfriend baptized them Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) and even a black woodpecker, which I have never seen before! First, I mistook it for a crow, but when I saw it sitting on the tree’s stem, it was clear it was a woodpecker. It ran around the stem in order to hide from me; but on my way back, I could hear it knocking on the trees.

Speaking of the way back: I had taken the time just to have an orientation (we wanted to buy some stuff, and my boyfriend had to work in the evening), and my splits were as perfectly even as can be. My way there took my 20:42:87 minutes, my way back … 20:42:87 minutes! 🙂 Overall, I guess it was a slow 5.5k—but a very relaxing one.

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Regatta Time!

Our goal-oriented training has come to an end: we finished the regatta on Saturday with respectable success! 🙂

It was really exciting. I had hardly slept the night before and was really full of adrenaline when we met at the boat house. Our coach took each of us aside to give us some last suggestions. For me, it was not to raise my hands too high when I pull the sculls towards me and not to get distracted: “Keep your eyes in the boat!”

Our start was at 11:40 a.m., and when the bell rang, we went off at a strong, yet calm pace. It’s a long-distance regatta of 4k, with a turn after 2k. All boats make flying starts at about 2-minute intervals, and the one that followed us was quite strong; but we didn’t let this discourage us! The way to the buoy was quite hard, as the waves from the ship traffic were a little difficult to handle. Our turn was not the greatest either ;-), but we managed without bigger mistakes. I was really focused, so everything that happened outside is somewhat blurred. Besides the waves and the turn, I remember one club mate following us on a bicycle, but not much besides that …

On the second half of the way, the boat following us was getting stronger, finally trying to overtake us. We rowed really, really hard, and when we arrived at the bridge at a couple 100m from the finish, I heard our coach yell: “You won’t let them overtake you, will you!!!” (I am not exaggerating the exclamation marks!)

And we didn’t! 🙂 So overall, the regatta was quite a success in many respects:

  • Neither of us drowned.
  • The boat came back in one piece.
  • We did not make any bigger mistakes.
  • We were better tuned in to each others’ rhythm than ever before.
  • We did not let the following boat overtake us.
  • We were faster than the boat last year.
  • We managed to finish under 18 minutes (17.47.3, to be precise).
  • And we were the fastest boat of the club! 🙂

I am absolutely certain this was not my last regatta. I had a lot of fun, and there are still many things we can improve. And the cake buffet was excellent 🙂


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Somewhere Under the Rainbow

One thing I dislike about autumn is rain. Especially when training outdoors, and even more so when rowing outdoors. The handles of your sculls get wet, which softens the skin of your palms and adds to the strain they are already under when rowing strongly. You get blisters; and eventually, they tear open. But what shall one do—with a regatta approaching, bad weather is no reason for not going on the water!

Last Monday, one teammate and I were waiting on the boat bridge for the other two to arrive. It was raining slightly, so he went to get a cloth to dry the seats while I stayed with the boat. And while it started pouring! And I mean it. When the other three finally arrived, I was wet to the bones. The rain ceased a little, but not too much; fortunately, I got warm during exercise at least 🙂

And at the end of our training unit, we were rewarded with the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. It bridged the river so perfectly it almost looked artificial. And then, even a pale second rainbow appeared above it! It was truly sublime.

I had never noticed that the second rainbow mirrors the colours of the first one. The prototypical rainbow starts with red on top and goes down to violet, while the one above is inverted. Apparently, this is the case because the rays of light are not only reflected once, but twice in the raindrops. While researching, I found out that there are ternary and even quaternary rainbows (as well as rare twinned rainbows, where the colour spectrum of the second one is not inverted but the same). If you want to find more about rainbows (there are so many more than we usually know, it’s astonishing) and also have a look at some beautiful pictures, check out the Wikipedia website on rainbows. It’s really worthwhile 🙂

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Regatta Training

Since we have started training for our regatta at the end of the month, I have made quite some mileage. And I have the feeling I am getting better—maybe slowly, but steadily. Here’s some things I have learned so far:

  • Strength isn’t everything. That was one thing our cox told us: “Your problem is not the strength but the rhythm!” I think it’s not easy to tune oneself into the rhythm of the stroke. There are so many factors that influence your rhythm, for instance ….
  • … the correct position of your seat is crucial. When I lean too much to the front, I get backaches. So I try to keep as upright as possible and only lean forward with my back straight. This may cause a problem when you try to maintain the same stroke length as all the others in the team. I finally moved both slides about 10 cm to the front—a great improvement!
  • Being yelled at helps. No matter how stupid the things the cox yells: it helps you maintain your rhythm, especially under strain. It really helps to have an experienced cox in the boat who tries to make one unit out of four semi-capable individuals.
  • Team sports can be complicated. I have been rowing for one year now, and clearly, I am the least experienced and likely also the weakest rower in our team. It is a little painful if your teammates reproach this to you in an indirect way. For instance, we have a triathlete in our team who, after a recent training unit, noticed a little too sharply that they had been faster last year. I suppressed my first impulse to snap something like “Well, neither of us is getting younger, aren’t we!” 😉 I promise here and now that no matter how high my ambition will grow, I will always try to take it easy and respect my teammates’ efforts. If you want total control over your team’s achievement level, you’d rather row on your own.
  • Beware of injury! This is maybe the most important thing. Last week, my wrist started to hurt—maybe from three subsequent training days, maybe from a combination of extensive rowing with excessive laptop use. I therefore spared myself last Thursday, which would have been the fourth day of rowing in a row (pun not intended), and took a rest for three days. (This was not too bad an idea, because I was head organizer of a conference which took place on Friday—not being physically exhausted certainly helps you cope with the mental stress of being responsible for so many things!—and had to travel on Saturday.) Now, my wrist feels much better, yesterday’s training went fine, and I am looking forward to the next training units! 🙂
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Autumn Intervals

There’s no longer denying it, despite the still beautiful sunshine: autumn is there. It became obvious last week on the misty river, when I rowed in a single racer for the first time. So the day before yesterday was my first autumn run. My boyfriend had to work for about three hours, and I wanted to use the time for a little run. It maybe wasn’t the smartest organization to have a huge lunch (delicious Indian food, very generous portion sizes) right before, so I waited for about an hour and a half; but when my stomach refused to shrink, I decided to run nevertheless, and maybe take it a little easier. As we are currently training for our regatta at the end of the month, I haven’t run much this month, and especially no strenous runs; but rowing is No. 1 priority at the moment, and that’s perfectly fine.

As I have now found the entrance to the forest near my boyfriends house and do not have to hop and skip through brushwood, thorns and small trees any more, it already began quite nicely. But it got even better: MUD!! I love mud, and that is one thing I particularly love about autumn. Dirt is great, and so is jumping into puddles—at least if the temperature is warm and you do not have to run long distances in wet shoes and socks. Which was the case today 🙂

Streaked with mud, I came to a small track (eventually leading into an industrial area) where I started some speed experiments. I want to become faster, and if there is but one rule to remember about getting faster, it is that you don’t get faster if you do not run faster from time to time! Five intervals of about 100–150m strewn in may be a small beginning, but definitely a beginning 🙂

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The Ghost Ship

I’m all on my own—in a racing boat, for the very first time! It’s astonishing how different the touch-and-feel is if you are no longer part of a coxed four and have to assume the consequences for all mistakes you made.

And boy, I made a lot. First of all: a racing boat is shaky. Really shaky. One reason is that the boat itself is very slim; another, that you sit on top of it rather than in it, while the boat sinks in deeper than the usual gig boats. All of a sudden, the swans appear huge and extremely dangerous 😉 It is not easy either to turn around all the time to see where you are actually going (I can imagine that this becomes easier once you are able to row nicely and straightly without moving in curves; but I am definitely not that advanced yet). You really have to pay attention to keeping your sculls at level every time you turn around and not drop any of them.

I was close to toppling over more than once, but I tried not to be afraid of falling into the water. After all, what would be the worst that could happen? If you are unable to mount the boat again, you pull it behind you and swim back. You would be wet and the laughing-stock for some time, but who cares?

As autumn is beginning, the water started getting misty while I was on my way back. And all of a sudden, I heard drumbeats at a rhythmic interval. When I looked back, I saw a boat appearing in the mist under the bridge. After a few metres, it turned and moved back and out of sight. A spooky moment!

Not too long after, I managed to maneuver myself into a willow tree next to the riverbank. I was going down the stream and somehow got caught in the branches. Unfortunately, the current only took me deeper into the tree! I remembered that once we had practiced rowing backwards; and after a little logical reasoning, I was able to free myself while laughing my butt off for the absurdity of the situation.

All in all, rowing alone in a single racer was a success, though: I reached my two goals of (1) bringing the boat back in one piece and without larger holes, and (2) of getting back without getting wet 🙂 It was great fun, and it sure wasn’t the last time!

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Post-Exercise Treats, Part 5: Thai Food Fantasies

I had a free sunday last week; and because the weather was fine, I decided for a cycling trip! My bike has been repaired and works smoothly again now, so it was about time for the two of us to go out for a longer distance than the way to the rowing club and back!

So I took my watering pack, a couple of snack bars, and a tasty carbohydrate gel (from the free trial pack), plus my mobile and train ticket just in case, and off we went! It turned out to be my longest bike trip of the year: I turned around after 32k, having discovered a really beautiful route all along the river.

The way back was tough, though. I had one muesli bar left and tried to postpone eating it as long as possible, filling my stomach with water and counting on my endurance. I had seen some blackberry bushes and wanted to take an early dinner break near them, enjoying both the fresh berries and the bar. The berries were no longer at their best—some of them had gone a little mushy already—, but they were still juicy and very sweet. I ate about two handfuls of them along with the muesli bar to brazen myself for the remaining distance. I guess my energy supplies were really quite low, because I started fantasizing about … FOOD!

I think it is really cool how your body tells you exactly what you need when you are under strain. My fantasy was about tofu curry from my favorite Thai takeaway, which is just a couple of minutes from my apartment; so when I arrived, I treated myself to what must have been the best Thai curry I have ever eaten. Along with a well-made whodunnit on TV, it was a perfect evening after cycling 64k on a perfect day 🙂

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Orange Glasses

Another very useful piece of gear, particularly for cycling, is a pair of sunnies with orange glasses. I had always wondered why people wear them—they sure look cool, but do they really filter the sunlight, transparent as they are?

Apparently, this is not the idea at all. What they do is to enhance contrast—which makes them extremely useful when cycling under cloudy conditions or at dawn! (And it is great how much sunnier the world looks ;-)) The sports sunglasses I bought have interchangeable glasses: transparent (just as a protection against wind and insects), dark (the classical sunglasses), and the mentioned orange glasses. At about 8 euro (purchased at a local coffee dealer), they were not even expensive—and I use them a lot.

I did some research on the Internet, and apparently, their ability to block the blue light spectrum (as the one emitted by televisions and computer screens) even improves sleep quality! Apparently, blue light suppresses melatonin, which reaches its highest level during sleep. Therefore, blocking what blocks what supports sleep should lead to better sleep (to express simple things in a complicated way, but you probably got it anyway). Guess what I am wearing right now in front of my laptop 😉

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Oh. My. God. I just got the creeps of my life. As you may have guessed from the title, I had an unpleasant visitor: the most gigantic spider I have ever seen (not even in Australia had I seen a bigger one, and they have quite huge ones over the’e!). I once had a similar one in my living room—but then, fortunately, a fearless visitor rescued the damsel in distress. (He later told me that he had been anything but fearless, but that’s a different story ;-))

Today, I was all on my own—so I literally jumped off my chair when, all of a sudden, an enormous representative of the Tegenaria atrica species ran across the floor of my kitchen. When I say “enormous,” I mean it: including legs, the beast was about the size of my palms (and at least since I took up rowing, my palms are not that small any more). So what should I do?

  1. Run away, close the door, lock it twice, and don’t enter the kitchen again unless you are sure the spider is dead. (This may take a while—not an option.)
  2. Get help from a neighbour. (Currently, no one is there—one is on holiday, the nice couple is at a party, and the new neighbours have not yet moved in. Dammit.)
  3. Crush it with a shoe. (Yikes. This would mean that I (a) would have to approach it, (b) to hit it precisely—they are really fast!—and (3) to get rid of the spider mush under the shoe afterward. Not an option either.)
  4. Leave it alone and let it live with you. (Are?? You?? KIDDING???!!!)
  5. Cry helplessly. (Actually, this never helped, even when I was a kid ;-))
  6. Get the vacuum cleaner! YEAH! That’s it!

When I had taken out the vacuum cleaner, the spider had disappeared. Worst case scenario! But as I had seen in which direction it had run, I found it under the radiator. Gotcha!

You can imagine I cleaned the entire apartment afterwards just to make sure the spider is really, really dead. Because I was not 100% sure despite my efforts, I did some research. So in case you ever need to vacuum away a spider, read this executive summary:

  • Turn on the power. Not the “clean the curtains” program, but the “suck away rocks the size of a fist” program. Under such pressure, resulting in a speed of over 100 km/h, the spider is likely to crush already when it hits the walls of the hose.
  • Vacuum your doormat (resulting in a bombardment of sand, dirt, and little stones).
  • Once you’re done, pluck up your courage and put your hand over the opening of the hose with the vacuum cleaner still running to create negative pressure. Releasing it will result in overpressure. Because spiders cannot cope with rapid changes in pressure, it will certainly be dead after this step (if it wasn’t already).

I know it is not kind to kill animals, especially useful ones such as spiders (this one in particular was even “German Spider of the Year 2008”), and I am sorry I am not more courageous. They simply creep me out. Fortunately, spiders are rare on the second floor of a pre-WWII house; the death toll up to now is two big spiders in six years. (I’m certainly glad there aren’t more of them ;-))

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