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Something Different from Swimming, Biking & Running: My Rowing Experience

"I'm going to die." I thought to myself as I stared in the mirror on a Tuesday Morning in April of 2017. My friend and coworker, Matt, was dragging me to a rowing class at Live2Row Studios.

At the time, Matt and one of the owners coached at one of the local rowing clubs. Knowing Matt coached rowing, my husband, Keith, and myself had been playing on the row machine at our local gym. We could only last six minutes on it. One day, Keith let it slip on purpose that we had been on the rowing machine at the gym. I hoped the comment had gone over Matt's head and that would be the end of it.

Of course, it wasn't. The next time I saw Matt he asked when we were going rowing. I tried to get out of it and tell him I was far too busy with triathlon training to learn a new sport. He told me I was going to try one class.

Back to Tuesday morning, I stared in the mirror. "How am I ever going to row for an hour straight? I am not going to make it."

"You're going to get your butt kicked," Keith said sleepily from bed.

I arrived at the studio and started learning the correct techniques of how to row, which is called erging on the machine. I was so happy when I learned the hour class included a warmup and a cool down. The actual class was thirty-two minutes with a two minute break halfway through. It was a challenge and I used muscles I wasn't used to using but I liked it. It was like a spin class on a row machine. I enjoyed the fluidity of the erg and the challenge of learning something new and technical.

After a few months, I noticed I had better stamina in all three disciplines of triathlon and faster times. Then there were challenges from Concept 2, the company that makes the rowing machine(erg). The hardest challenge is the March Madness Challenge. The challenge is to row five or ten thousand meters for twenty-five days out of the month. I have completed this challenge a few times. It is fun about the first week and a half, but then you wonder why you did this to yourself but you are too far into it to quit.

I completed a half marathon and a full marathon on the Concept 2.

One of the great things about the studio is that every million meters someone completes is celebrated with Mimosas at the end of the class. I have completed seven million meters and am working on eight.

In 2018, a few of my friends that I had made rowing classes told me I should do erg sprints.

"It's five hundred meters. You can easily do that." They told me.

Since several other people and the coaches from the studio were going, I decided this would be fun, and Matt was going to coach me through the five hundred that would take place in February of 2019.

When you arrive at erg sprints, you enter an area that has at least a hundred ergs. I arrived, said hello to everyone, warmed up, and soon enough our event was called.

"Ok," I thought to myself. "Keep your shit together for 2 minutes, listen to Matt, you can do whatever he tells you whether you think you can or not." I was still really nervous and as the event before mine wound down, the butterflies of nervousness in my stomach grew. I sat on my assigned erg and took some more practice strokes. Then it was time to stop rowing and wait for the event to start. I took a few deep breaths and watched the monitor count down. Three, two, one, row, and I took off.


The first hundred meters I took off. It was exciting to be around everybody else doing the same thing. "This feels great" I thought. "I might do ok" Matt woke me out of my thoughts as he told me to lengthen out and settle down. My watts and stroke rating were way too high. Power in rowing is measured by watts, and stroke rating shows efficiency. The lower stroke rating and higher watts is the most efficient way of rowing. My watts were around 280 with a stroke rating of 43.


At 200 meters, I was still thinking this wasn't too bad. I had got my stroke rating and the watts a little more under control. I kept the watts up and kept pushing.


How do I still have 200 meters to go? This hurts. You have less than a minute you can do this. Matt told me to pick it up, my watts had dropped more than he liked. I got the watts back up, and kept going.


Last 100 meters, I have this. I was tired. I couldn't get the watts back up to where I was. The monitor on the erg showed who was ahead and who was behind you in the sprint. Matt saw my friend's name pop up above mine. "Push a little harder, get ahead of her." I pulled ahead of her and stayed ahead of her, with Matt yelling the whole way. Finally, the 500 was done. I did the 500 in 1:52.9, which put me in 9th place for my division. I stayed on the erg to cool down. Wow, I thought, that was tough, but it was fun.

A few days later, I asked Matt if he would get through a 500 again at Erg Sprints next year. "Do a 2k, let me actually coach and not just yell," he responded. I cringed. I had heard stories of how tough a 2k is. The high school kids Matt coached dreaded 2k days. None of the coaches at the studio would row a 2k. A 2k terrified me more than an Ironman. I didn't know how I was ever going to push the watts(how power is measured on the erg) that he said I could for eight minutes.

"Do you want me to die?" I asked.

"You won't die, it's just going to hurt alot." he replied.

"I don't know, listening to you guys talk about 2ks has made me never want to do one." I said tentatively.

"You've never done one, we did them when we rowed in college. We have a standard to hit, you don't," he said.

"I'll think about it." I said. I'm not one to back down from a challenge or something I've never done. I made it to my car. The bug had been planted. Crap, I thought what am I getting myself into? I texted Matt telling him to give me a training plan and if he would cox me, I would do it. My plan: workout a lot, row a lot and 2k training will start in November or December.

A year flew by of classes, some days two classes and a couple months before erg sprints of special weekend training sessions. I left the special weekend training sessions very sore and in desperate need of a nap. Two weeks before, the doubt started to set in. I didn't feel ready. All of the coaches told me to calm down and trust the process.

Finally, the morning arrived. I arrived at erg sprints, hopped on an erg, and warmed up. I was a bundle of nerves. The goal was to have a time under eight minutes. I was going to give it my best shot, but I didn't know if I could pull those watts for eight minutes. I had done the work and had great coaching from the Live2Row coaches, but I was still nervous.

It was time. We were called to our assigned ergs for the event. The sign to race was given. I took a deep breath and started rowing. I kept telling myself 500 meters at a time. The first 500 flew by and I increased the watts like I had done in training. One thousand meters in, my legs didn't want to jump to the next set of watts. I just kept telling myself to keep going and don't lose any watts. My legs hurt so badly and I struggled to stay on the watts. I listened to Matt and stayed with it. Near the end, Justin, one of the Live2Row coaches started yelling from the side to keep on it. I had no clue Justin could yell that loud but it helped. Finally, the machine read 2000 meters. I had completed my 2k in 8:15. I was proud of myself and still am proud to this day of this accomplishment.

I continue to row at the studio. Sometimes not as much as I would like as Ironman training takes so much of my time, but I love it for cross-training.

Fast-forward to February 2024. One of my friends from the studio organized a Learn to Row on the water. Rowing on the water had crossed my mind, but in seven years timing had never worked out. Finally it had, but the weekend it was scheduled in February was stormy and it was rescheduled to St. Patrick's Day weekend for Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday.

Friday night was a refresh on the erg for proper rowing form. Since I had been rowing for so long, it was a quick in and out.

I arrived at the boathouse on Saturday, and we got on ergs and recapped Friday night. Next, it was time to learn instructions on how to get the boat to the water, and then learn how to get into the boat. We all got in the boat, pushed off the dock, and were on the water. I found it amazing how many steps it took just to get the boat to the water and everyone in the boat.

Once we were on the water, we started learning the parts of the stroke with an oar. While a lot is the same as the erg, it was a different feeling to move the oar through the water, and also it was difficult learning to time it with everyone else. We spent the weekend learning to move the boat together and getting more comfortable in the boat. I enjoyed learning something new. There is truly nothing like it. It is not the same as canoeing, paddleboarding, or any other sport where you paddle on the water.

The weekend motivated me to get back in the studio more. Will I stay rowing on the water? Well, we will have to see. I felt awkward these last two days and like the uncoordinated klutz that I see myself as, but hey it's only been two days. There are more practices this month that I will be attending and hopefully, I will improve. I look forward to it and seeing where it goes.

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