Yesterday I did something quite a bit different than what I am used to. It was the indoor rowing world championships in Boston. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s a timed 2,000 meter row on a Concept2 rowing ergonometer. Folks come from around the world each year to compete at this event in Boston. I signed up for it a few weeks ago so decided it would likely be a good idea to get on one of these things once or twice in the preceding weeks. I did two rows per week over the last two weeks for 30 aerobic minutes as warm-ups to my strength sessions….that was the extent of my “training”.
Unfortunately, I got to the event a bit late so they wouldn’t let me weigh in (under 165 is light weight), so they ended up sticking me in the heavy weight division. Suddenly I was sitting on one of these machines in the Agganis arena in Boston about to get my tail whipped by some folks that actually knew what they were doing! The guy next to me flew in from Germany the night before, and looked pretty darn serious. Not having done any sport specific training or anaerobic work, I went in armed with only my aerobic engine to help me through the 7 minute effort.
The gun went off and I settled into a 1:38/500 pace….I was in 3rd place! After a minute I pretty quickly realized that this was a tad too fast. By the halfway point I was rowing at about 1:42 pace and sitting in 5th place (out of about 20 in my heat). The last 3.5 minutes, were nasty as far as whole body fatigue goes, but I survived it, and held my 5th place position for a 6:52.
Having not been on one of these things more than 3 hours in my entire life, and not having done any anaerobic work for about 4 months, I was pretty darn happy with the result! It shows the value of building a very robust aerobic engine. I like this example since it was a very anaerobic, non sport specific event, where a solid performance was still obtained…even against athletes of high caliber who have done plenty of anaerobic work. Obviously had this been my goal race of the season, I’d have been primed with anaerobic activity as well, and I’m sure would have done much better. However, it’s just amazing how far aerobic efficiency can get you. For context, at this distance, it was likely about 50 percent aerobic and 50 percent anaerobic in terms of energy production. Given this example, image the value of a big aerobic engine for an event that’s 10 or more hours where 99 percent of the energy production comes from aerobic means.