There are a couple of Concept2 functionalities that are good to know if you haven’t experienced the torture of a Concept2 erg. Plan to arrive at the race early and get familiar with the performance monitor and the damper setting. The performance monitor is where your race performance data will be displayed. There are five different display screens, so chose one that you’ll be able to interpret during the race. At a minimum, you’ll want to know where the time, distance, and 500m splits are displayed. Pace is expressed as time per 500 meters (for example, a 3:14 pace means that it takes three minutes and 14 seconds to complete 500m or 3:14/500m). Since we’re racing 1000m, the 3:14 pace would put you on target for a 6:28 1000m time. Take a few minutes to play around with the damper setting (the lever on the side of the fan marked 1 -10). Generally lower settings are best for aerobic workouts and higher settings for strength workouts. Try starting with a setting of five or lower, most likely lower. The feedback from the performance monitor can help you decide what damper setting gives you the fastest splits. You may set the damper setting to any level for the race, but you are not allowed to change it during the race.
Mark McAndrews of Vermont Waterways/ Paddle Sport Training System was kind enough to offer the following advice for paddling your best race with the SUP adaptor.
- Keep the damper setting low.
- On the drive phase or pulling phase of your stroke, begin your recovery phase as soon as the elbow of your lower hand gets to your hip.
- Use equal force with both hands on the paddle shaft. Downward force with the top hand and pulling force with the bottom hand.
- Use your trunk; core, abs and back muscle groups to power your drive phase. Your arms should not get fatigued. Think of them as ropes connecting you to the resistance.
- Unlike rowing the recovery phase should be a little faster than the drive phase.
- Keep your catch as far forward as possible. It is where you will be the most efficient when you apply force and speed to your drive phase.
- Try not to let your top hand drop below your sternum.
- The Concept2 performance monitors will reward good technique and penalize poor technique.
So what’s a good strategy for paddling a good 1K race? Make sure you warm up thoroughly. Once the race starts, paddle fast! Seriously, the first three strokes should be quick and hard to get the flywheel spinning. After about the fifth stroke, it’s important to reduce the rate, lengthen the stroke and back off the power slightly. By the tenth, and probably no later than the twentieth stroke, you should settle into your race pace. It may feel like you can maintain this pace for the entire race, but trust me, that’s your fresh body and the adrenaline talking. Be aware of your limitations and realize that you are paddling at a pace you most likely cannot maintain for the entire race. Settle into your race pace. These first strokes might feel easy, they might feel tough, but it’s a pretty sure bet that it is going to feel tougher as you keep paddling. Stay calm and paddle on. Maintain your split, relax, breathe and above all, stay consistent. If you feel yourself struggling, refocus on your splits. When you reach the 500m mark it’s time to get progressively faster. Drop your split by 1-2 seconds per 500m and hold that pace until 300m are left. You will find more speed by increasing the stroke rating (hint: spend less time on the recovery stage of the stroke) and by pulling harder. For the final sprint it’s all about increasing your rating and power to the final stroke. Anyway, that’s what I plan on doing.
However you decide to paddle the race, your goal should be to leave everything on the erg and walk (or crawl) away knowing you did the best race you could. The best part of racing is the challenge of improving your performance. It pushes you to get fitter, stronger, faster, and to keep working toward your goals. And the best part of racing on an erg is the performance feedback. You get immediate feedback on what is and isn’t working with your stroke, and you don’t have to rely on your gut to tell you that you went out too fast or faded after 800m.
The Colorado rowing community has been very supportive of SUP. Many of the local rowing clubs (Mile High Rowing, Frisco Rowing Center, and Fort Collins Rowing Association) have added a SUP race to their regattas. It is awesome that Mile High Rowing has added this SUP erg event to the Denver Indoor Rowing Championship. Take a moment to thank Mile High Rowing as you nosh on your post-race donut.