Friday, August 31, 2012

What happened to skating?

I have another rowing update, but no skating.
Again, I have a good excuse.  I couldn't go to Wednesday freestyle because we had the inspection on the house we were buying.  It looks pretty good, just a few minor things to fix.  Which is as expected, because it is new construction.  Some weird things though- there are no fans on the fireplaces, so if we want to get any heat off them, we'd need to install that.  The downstairs one doesn't even have fake wood in's just like a picture of a fire, but real fire. So odd.

I cannot wait to move, but the sad thing is, because we went a little higher than we meant to, we don't have money for furniture.  So it will be like another year before the house is put together to have people over...

So Thursday night I went rowing.  It was freaking 90 degrees! WTH Iowa?
I couldn't find my visor and when I went to Hobby Lobby to get one (it's where I got the first one, "ready to decorate" but I left it plain) they didn't have any.  So I had to wear one of Kevin's hats.  Except for the logo of a rival school from my own, it was perfect- fit great, kept the sweat out of my eyes, kept the glaring sun out of my eyes.  I have a new rowing hat!

So I rowed in the double scull again, this time with Ning.  She started off a little uncertain that I could actually row with her, and we did the one at a time thing, while she set the boat for me- to keep balance.  I told her R.C. had been having me row with the other person, so we switched to that.  Once Ning was convinced I could balance well, I think she upped the pace- because holy crap, that was some hard rowing.  We did take a few long breaks, and when we turned to head back upstream (? There isn't much current, so I'm not sure which is up and which is down) she started rowing oars off the water* and that slowed the stroke rate down a little bit.  But man was it a workout.  I'm not sore today, but I was worried about it.  In the boat, I could really feel my calves and hip flexors in pain.  I just have no flexibility in my legs.  What happened to me?

*When beginners scull, they slide their blades across the water and it makes the most awesome sound, however, it causes friction which slows the boat down. So a more advanced sculler feathers above the water.  The blades on the water balance the boat, so taking the blades off the water creates an element of instability if your oars are not exactly even in height.  Even having just one person row off the water created a few tippy moments, I imagine it is really hard to control when we both do it.  I am nowhere near ready to row oars off the water, even though I do seem to be sculling really well.

Another weird thing about rowing: I am covered in bruises.  I don't fall much in skating, so I have only had a few bruises from hard falls.  Rowing: I have a cut and a bruise on both calves from my slide bites,  I have two bruises on my left bicep and one on my right from who knows what.  I have a bruise on my left thigh, I think from trying to massage my hip flexor- so I did that to myself.  And I have major sore spots, but only minor bruises on both shoulders from carrying boats.  The one thing I don't really have: blisters.  I only get those from sweep rowing, not sculling.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday Update

I went rowing at 5:30 a.m., which meant I left my house at about 5:10. This is earlier than I have to leave, but I really really hate being late to things, and they really discourage late...
There were 2 other people signed up for the practice.  When I got there I found out I was assigned to a big, stable recreational single shell, and that the other woman was assigned to the single I like (this boat is Grace O'Malley, who I rowed during my private lesson, also a rec single, but slightly more streamlined, and lighter than the other boat, Bob). R.C. asked me if I wanted a challenge to take out racing single. And I said that Grace O'Malley was probably still a challenge for me, but that if she thought I could I'd try it.  I pointed out that if I was going to take a racing single out this year, I probably needed to try in the next few weeks.  It is pretty much guaranteed that you'll flip a racing single when you are new, and the river water will get too cold in the upcoming months.  The possibility of flipping in cold water is obviously present in any of the boats, but it is just stupid to take a boat out if it is guaranteed...
So R.C. tried to convince the other woman to take the racing single, so I could have Grace O'Malley, but she wasn't interested, and then somehow, rather than taking Bob, she put us out in the double.  This was actually quite perfect.  It was the same double I rowed last week, though with a new partner.  This woman wasn't quite as strong as Barbara, but we got along very well, so we were actually pretty evenly matched.  This meant that we kind of took an equal row in decision making, and I was more responsible for steering (as bow seat is) than I was with Michelle, who was very experienced.  Barbara mentioned to me that it was over 6 months before she rowed 2 at a time when she was new, she expected we would row one at a time while the other balanced the boat.  We had no balance problems at all except the minor checks when one of us missed our catch (oar didn't go in the water) or sunk the oar too deep.  It was fabulous.
The best part of the row was that the sunrise occurred during it.  It was dark when we set out, and then suddenly, the sky was beautiful and it was bright. Really quite lovely.  Technique-wise, my grip was picked on (I don't like where the thumbs go!), I am still rushing my slide (I think I literally have to just stop and wait for a count at the end of the slide before putting the oar in the water. I can't slide for that long, the legs just aren't long enough) and we worked some on the flexing of the wrists when feathering.  It was a good session.  I was able to take a shower and get to work before 7:30, so I don't need to change my hours for that.


Uh, I skipped skating...  Not because of rowing though, I have a good excuse.  I had a biopsy on a mole (no worries, I'm sure it is nothing) and it felt like my ear was on fire and someone was stabbing me, so I chose to go to bed around 5:30 rather than skate.   However, I find myself less excited about skating more often now.  It isn't because I've hit a plateau, in fact, between dance and new spins, I'm making progress.  I think it is just that I've run out of goals.  Competitions are SO expensive.  I really want to go to Adult Nationals, but when I look at it logically, I'm not sure it really is a good idea.  We could go on a real vacation for that much, even if I have family/friends I can stay with.  Local competitions are basically like throwing money away, as they aren't actually competitions, just insanely expensive exhibitions.  I still have dance tests to work towards, but the next test session I know about is in March.  So why bother now?  (There is one in Ames in November, but it is the day after I get back from a vacation, I'd have to take off work, and I'd have to get a hotel, and drive all the way across state)  Plus, now that I have another activity I really enjoy, I'm just looking at all the money I spend skating and wondering why...  If it didn't cost a small fortune (and it really does), I'd feel better.  I feel selfish spending all that, especially now that we bought a new house and are trying to save.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekend update

Saturday was my first lesson on the new schedule.  I got to freestyle at 8:00 and started off trying to practice.  Operative word: trying.  You'd think I had never been on ice skates before!  Couldn't do a scratch spin, basic edges were hurting my ankles, stumbling along on shallow edges for dance...
So Carson comes at 8:30 for my lesson, and I tell him things aren't looking too good... but we start with dance and it goes okay. He is pretty happy with the Dutch Waltz, and the Canasta Tango is okay- I'm not as confidnet with this one, so dodging people is difficult, which messes it up a bit.  Rhythm Blues went well too, I got almost all of the step behinds.  I find if the end pattern is flat across the end of the rink I am way more likely to hit the first one- the second and third I seem to get everytime.  So right now we are trying to flatten it out (as opposed to before when we weren't even turning it to an end pattern, but just shooting to the wall) and Carson says we will work on curving it again later.  This means the first end pattern goes well, but the second I need more power on the side pattern, because if we aren't as far down the rink as we need to be, the end can't be as flat, because then we haven't hit the ice coverage.  But at least now I think Carson understands what I'm saying about why I'm missing the step, so hopefully it will work out.  Communicating the dance issues are hard.  Power is a weird thing- he is skating in a way that he thinks I can keep up with, but I'm thinking "we'll never make it to the end, we need to push more"- but I can't really control the power of the couple, so even if I try a bigger push, it doesn't necessarily help.  Skating with music does help- so I'm glad we did all three dances to music- the speed we skate without it is very different.  At the end of the lesson we did spins, and my scratch spins ROCKED.  Awesome centered and fast.  I also had some really decent change foot spins (and some really bad ones, but we won't talk about those).  I can spin, it is just the stupid foot that's the problem.  Carson refuses to allow me to tuck my foot to my ankle.

I originally hadn't planned to take LTS on Saturday because my lesson is on Saturday, but Carissa came back, and I felt badly that she may not have a lesson to be in (she is very shy, and scared to skate in Burton's group), so I told Sue if she had a class for us, I'd take it too.  Because of the ice time that comes with it, LTS is a bargain. So Hannah taught our class. She did a great job - better than the Tuesday class she co-taught with Carson.  I assume a) because she was nervous she would say something different than Carson since he was the "lead" teacher and b) because she is like 17, so teaching me and Elka (who is 70?) may have been intimidating.  Carissa is a kid.

Carissa had brand new skates, so Hannah worked on some stroking exercises with her to help her get the feel for them (Carissa was amazing- I couldn't even skate day 1 with mine, she was doing everything pretty well- though I think the new big toepick scared her!) And I worked on some spins and jumps with occasional comments. 

Carson's axel+ class did off ice first, so it worked out really well for ice space, only a problem the last 5 minutes when they got on (because there are already 2 other freestyle classes, both sort of big, on the ice- axel+ is 3 kids, but they obviously need room to set up). As long as he does off ice first, we'll be good.  If he doesn't- I don't know where this class will go...

I did another rowing practice on Sunday.  This time I was in a pair, which is a sweep boat.  I had the starboard oar, which is my idiot side.  My left wrist just isn't strong enough to do the feathering, so I do it with my right hand too, which is just wrong.  But that wasn't the biggest problem.  The lady I was rowing with was about as good as I am.  She is more experienced than I am, she said about a year, but not in a pair.  It was a very different experience than Thursday when I had a patient guide with me.  First, to get started, we rowed one at a time.  If you can picture a boat where each person has one oar, and only one is rowing, you'll know that it will do nothing but zig zag.  Which means staying to the right of the river is going to be tough.  But she wasn't interested in even trying to stay to the right- and was rowing very very center, and at times even on the left of the river.  When better rowers (in singles sculls) came to pass us, she'd say "it's fine- they always pass on the right", which is pretty much the opposite of what I was told- the river is a road, so you pass on the left!

Well, once we got a rhythm going with the zig zag, we decided to take a moment and "set the boat" to go ahead and try rowing together.  I do this, you need to figure out the oar height that allows you to stay even, and then you always row with the oars that height.  She was telling me to do this you let the oar go, and it will float to it's natural set position.  I told her if I let go of my oar, the boat would tip over!  If I even let go of the pressure on my oar, we tipped portside.  I didn't really want to be catty and argue with her, but I was being told to do something stupid, and being judged as obstinate for not doing it, so I didn't really have much choice.  Of course, this is when R.C. drove the launch by to check on us.  We got a "what are you two doing?"  I told her we were trying to find a good balance point so we could begin rowing together and then the woman started telling her about how we were letting the oars float to their "natural set".  I wanted to point to her and say "she's crazy...I'm not doing that", but of course, I'm not a third grader so I didn't.  R.C. then told us this was a TERRIBLE idea (yeah) and NEVER let go of your oar.  My partner then argued with her for awhile that this was how you do it (sure, the coach wouldn't know?), but then R.C. talked us through our balance point, and she told me to count the strokes, pausing at the catch and the recovery.

Now, this is why I say blind leading the blind.  This is my second time on the water, first in a sweep.  I'm bow seat, not stroke seat.  Stroke seat generally sets the rhythm, bow seat follows, but here I was being the one who set the rhythm.  The other woman had a much stronger stroke than I did, but her blade missed the water, or bounced, or dug too deep about as often as mine did.  It was a big mess!

After awhile we took out the pause at the catch, and then we progressed to rowing 3 strokes at a time before a pause.  Finally, at the very end of practice we were able to row continuously for a little bit, but even still, we were NOT rowing a straight line, and were way in the center of the river.  I think R.C. told the other rowers that we'd be rowing drunk, so they expected it, but I was very conscious of how badly out we were- rowing to the side was stressed so heavily in my private lesson.  I guess I see it as freestyle ice, and needing to stay out of the way.  Unfortunately, my partner greatly disagreed with me.

In other news- boats are heavy.  I can usually carry them, but if they slide off my shoulder, I can't get them back up.  And I pretty much always need help picking it up.   I hate being weak.
I'm signed up to row tomorrow at 5:30 a.m.  Wonder how that will go...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Skittles Sculls- for real!

So the insane pain from Sunday had waned by Tuesday, and it still hurt to lift my legs up, but I went skating anyway.  Nothing remarkable, just LTS.  Although I felt better, I skipped practice ice on Wednesday, just to make sure I had time to heal.  Because Thursday was a big night: my first on the water practice.

The weather was beautiful, so we actually got to row for real.   The way our rowing group works (because I know others are different, some you have to sign up as a boat team, for instance)  is you sign up on a website for the practices you plan to attend, and then R.C. makes assignments for who is in what boat.  She apparently does try to shuffle people around, so you don't always row the same type of boat, side of the boat, scull/sweep, or with the same people.  There are apparently some people who only scull (I may become one of them...I like it so much better, and sweep seems like a great way to get a shoulder/wrist injury- but I haven't decided yet), and of course, if you ask to be in a certain configuration, you probably will be.

So anyhow, the list tells me that I am a double scull with Michelle.  We take the boat (holy crap heavy!) down to the dock, and she talks me through getting it set up, it's basically the same, but there are minor differences for what you do with a partner vs a single or an 8.   Then we head out.  I'm bow seat, which means I'll follow her stroke pattern.

Michelle is extremely patient and an excellent teacher.  I have two immediate things to work on: pulling more evenly (I had a constant need to be heavier on the right to stay straight, which really seems to mean lighter on the left...) and not rushing my recovery- quite a few times I had the oar in the water before her, and the stroke seat sets the pace, not the bow!

It is also really difficult to see where you are going.  Even looking over both shoulders, all you see is reflections of light, and I'm guessing it just takes time to decide if those reflections are boats?  Way harder than skating backwards...
Can I brag for a few moments?  Apparently I AM good at this.  When we started, Michelle said for balance with a new rower you alternate "setting the boat" (holding oars at a flat stable position, to create a stable base for the boat to rock against) while the other person rows.  So she rowed for a few minutes, then I did, then R.C. drove by on the launch and said "she's good- just row normal", and from then on, we rowed together the whole time (occasionally I would row, while Michelle would try to look over her shoulder to correct an error- like my "chicken wing arms").  Then, Michelle tells me she wishes she was able to race in Des Moines, because she would race with me.  Um- what? Des Moines is in 4 weeks.  I've rowed in a double, uh, once.   Nice vote of confidence there!  Racing would be fun, but it seems like I should have more than a month under my belt.  I got tons of compliments from Michelle (in between tons of corrections...) and afterwards one of the guys said something to me, and I said it was my first time out there other than the private lesson with R.C., and he was shocked- so apparently, I really do know what I'm doing!   (Just put me starboard sweep, I'll stop knowing what I'm doing and be humbled real fast- I'm clueless on that side, slightly better on port.)

So I LOVE sculling, and only having to work with Michelle meant this practice was way more my pace and I am not injured like I was Sunday.  No new blisters today (the two from Sunday have disappeared) though I have some major slide-bite on my left calf, and minor on my right. It's not actually cut open though.  (For those wondering- your calves sit between the track that the seat slides on.  The friction against them causes cuts and bruises- slide bite.  It's like breaking in new skates!  Except I think I'm breaking in the calves, not the boat...  I have permanent scars on my ankles from my skates before I got a gel sleeve, so who knows what my calves are going to look like.
In other news: rowing is a WET sport.  We didn't capsize, but you wouldn't have known it looking at me. The splash from Michelle's oars in front of me, I was soaked.

Oh- other update.  Kevin and I bought a new house! We are moving to a new city (very near where we live) in October :) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Rowing Practice

So after you finish the Learn to Row starter practice, you are free to sign up to practice with the group.  I signed up for my first practice on Sunday, and spent the weekend worrying about it.

I'm just a natural worrier, and new people scare me.  When I did the ice show in Cedar Rapids a few years ago, I drove up there and then sat in the car for 10 minutes thinking I should drive back home.  And that was with a group I mostly knew.  (In hindsight, there was major drama involved in that show, so maybe I should have... but it wasn't due to scary people.)

So anyhow, the Hawkeye Community Rowing is divided into two groups: competitive and recreational.  There are also combined practices.  The problem is, the group was newly split, so almost everyone in it is competitive.  There were only like 2 rowers on a list of 30 that only attended recreational practices, another 4 that only attended recreational and combined (yes, I'm a dork and took the sign up sheets and worked this out...)  Everyone else was part of the competitive practices.

So, I signed up for a combined practice on Sunday, really nervous about it, because no one on the list was one of those recreational rowers, and many of the "competitive" rowers in the group were ones who had done an actual race the previous day.  How in the world could I keep up?  And would they all hate me for slowing them down?

Turns out, on Sunday, there was lightening, so we didn't go out on the river.  I figured we would erg, but instead we practiced in the rowing tank.  There was a lot of grumbling about the tank, while R.C reminded us how lucky we are that we have a rowing tank to use at all- most community programs would have to erg, or have to go home.

So in the tank, we started with a 10 minute warm up, left and did 10 minutes of active stretching, and then did 4 sets of 10-minute steady state rowing with about a minute of rest between them.  Then we finished and stretched for 10 minutes. 

And what do I think of rowing?  Holy crap- it is an absolute killer.  The warm up was fine, but I was already sweating.  It was at a faster pace than I had done before.  The first 10 minutes of steady state rowing was insanely difficult.   We were rowing VERY fast- enough that the water in the tank was gushing like a water ride.  It had the nice benefit that the oar would be pushed for you, but if your timing wasn't right, you could hit the oar of the person in front of you.  R.C.  told me I was rushing my slide, and to SLOW it down.  My legs can only take so long to extend and the woman in front of me was like 8 inches taller than me.  Slowing down was very hard, but I worked on it.  By the second 10-minute set I thought I was going to die.  My legs hurt, my abs were starting to fatigue.  But I kept up.  Third set- still keeping up but "legs-body-arms" cadence got changed to legs-arms, my abs had pretty much stopped working.  This was of course noticed, so I was encouraged to lean back more.  I tried...    Before the last set, she asked if anyone wanted to switch sides.  I didn't want to row starboard because I am so uncoordinated on that side, and already we were rowing too fast for me.  Then R.C. said there was a set of slides set up, so if I wanted to erg I could.  I did that for the last 10 minutes, which was way better because I set my own pace.  I was really hurting by this time.  The erg went better too.  I learned how to resist the erg from pulling itself under me and to make sure to only bend my legs when I was ready, not when it forced me to.  I worked on having more efficient strokes, and a longer recovery, so the stroke rate isn't so high.  That went pretty well.

I was sore leaving the building, but by the time I got home I was pretty sure my legs were not going to function anymore.  I had a painful night sleeping, I woke myself up crying a few times...   I'm pretty sure I badly pulled the muscles in the hip flexors in both legs.  Walking is painful, lifting my foot up is nearly impossible.  (I can squat though, they work that way.)  I also have a sore spot in my upper right calf, I don't know what part of the muscle that is, or why it hurt.  It is different calf pain than typical in skating.  My abs are also insanely sore, but not hurt like my legs.

So this is the problem- when rowing as a team, you have to do what the others are doing.  Ease into it isn't possible.  But what they are doing is clearly too hard for me.  Aerobically I got through it, but it hurt.  And clearly, today I'm hurt.

So here is hoping one day of rest is sufficient and I can skate tomorrow.  And row on Thursday...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Skittles Sculls

But first - skating news.  I am NOT getting to skate on Saturday.  Apparently Saturday at 9:00 a.m. is the only time possible for our realtor to show us houses.  It is also one of two times all week that I get to be on freestyle ice (and two times all week there is learn to skate).  Are you kidding me?

Okay, and the title is misleading, I didn't scull.  But I did complete the learn to row starter package, which means I can now sign up for team practices.
The last part of the starter package was a river tour and a lesson on the ergs (rowing machine).

Here is what I learned on the river tour:
-The dams will kill you.  Do not go anywhere near the dams.  You will be on a major shit list if you ever go under the railroad bridge (2 bridges before the dam on that side).  The Burlington street dam is invisible from the water, but it will kill  you.  The Coralville dam is visible from the water, but if you can see it, you are too close- it will also kill you.  Dams = death.
-River right of way is serious business.  The women's team gets priority.  Stay out of their way.  Unless you are too incapable to stay out of their way (likely...) If so, make sure to shout a verbal warning so they don't expect you to act.  Slow people stay to the right of the river, just like a road.  Seems easy enough, except:
-The banks of the river are filled with trees and other things to run into.  Don't hit them. 

So, now I'm pretty terrified of rowing because death awaits me on either side of the stretch of river we row, I need to stay as far right as possible to not be in the way, but also not too far right because there is tons of stuff to run into.  Fantastic!

There are also a million landmarks to remember, because she refers to them in practice. 

After the river tour, which took about 45 minutes (big river!) we went into the boat house and I tried to erg on slides.
Slides are the neatest thing- rather than pulling against an erg that stays in place, you pull the erg underneath you, much like a boat.  However, it totally wrecks all sense of body awareness.  I did okay on the drive (legs, body, arms) but then on the recovery (arms, body, legs) my legs would suddenly either not move at all, or they would move at the same time as my arms- absolutely baffling.   I only banged the erg against the edge of the slider once (though I was going really slow, so it was probably because I was being careful) which R.C. said she expects beginners to do- so apparently coordination on these things is difficult.

Then I learned how to read the monitor, what split times we generally row at (much faster than I was going), what strokes for minute to aim at (I was at that- um, apparently I don't row with much power...), how only the drive affects the split time, not the recovery, and how to set a workout.

Then she showed me the sign up website they use for practice, and I am free to sign up!

Except, I'm terrified.  I looked at the practices, and while they have been split into recreational and competitive, it appears there are only a few people who only row in the recreational groups.  Most of the rowers are part of the competitive group (which is my eventual goal).  This sunday there is a practice I can go to, a combined one.  But everyone in the group is a competitive rower, and most row 3-4 times a week.  I'm terrified I'd be too slow and crappy.  So I'm thinking I should wait until next Thursday and row at a rec practice.  Except everyone signed up for next Thursday is a competitive rower too- so it's really the same issue as Sunday, but a slightly smaller group, and they are knowingly going to a slower paced practice.

But mostly, it's just the social anxiety thing that made me want to run away from my first ice show practice...  But seriously- with rowing, there are SO many things to run into.  And unlike ice skating, you never get to go forwards.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Danger! Danger!

So yesterday while warming up the Canasta Tango, I hit my toe pick on a crossover (um, bad technique much? Rather than the underpush, I just shoved the foot into the ice...)  What should have been a horrible face plant ended up with me hopping a few steps, sliding onto my thigh, and spinning onto my butt.  The absolute best toe-pick fall ever.  Not even a tiny bit of pain, like sitting down at the bottom of a sit spin you just can't stand up from.  I was thrilled.  Best fall ever!

However, I stood up and found out that my legs did not agree with my brain's assessment of the fall.  I got off the ice and for about 5-minutes my legs were shaking, sewing-machine leg style (rock climbing term), as if I had just had a near death experience.  WTH legs?

However, I managed to get back on the ice and have a decent lesson.  Carson and I have flattened out the end pattern of the Rhythm Blues now, so I am no longer doing the step behinds straight at the wall (he had been doing that to not require me to skate at such a severe angle around the curve) but around the rink.  I only did 2 step behinds the first time we did the pattern, but managed all 3 the second time.  That first one is just a killer.  The second time we did the dance, I don't remember how many I hit, but Carson did them too and it wasn't that different from when he just holds me up while gliding.

Worked a lot on edges, as I prefer to angle a flat the direction I'm going...  Canasta and Dutch seem okay.  Even Rhythm Blues seems promising.  I don't even attempt the end pattern on my own. Thank goodness you don't have to solo tests.

Oh- and this morning I woke up with a quarter sized black spot on my knee. So apparently I DID hit it when I fell, but it didn't hurt- so WTH legs?

Friday, August 10, 2012


I'm not sure I have enough fodder left for a blog.  The first like six years I was excited to post about my practices because things were new and different.  Now it's the same stuff all the time.  I take three lessons a week, but it is rare that I post even once... 

I think I'm making progress on ice dance.  Carson wants me to get deeper edges and more power on the Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango, but both are okay. For an "encouragement" test- I think they'd pass already.  We are at a weird point where I could skate with more power, but I can't move him, and trying to increase my power if he doesn't just means flying over my toepick, and he is afraid to push me past my comfort zone, so we just need to communicate better. I told him to just skate the dances properly, and I'll keep up.  I do understand he is afraid of taking an edge that is going to take me out.

The Rhythm Blues are also making progress.  I still do not skate the end pattern when doing the dance by myself, but I am no longer holding the wall to practice step behinds.  We are doing the steps of the end pattern now when we partner the dance, but not in the right place- we have not yet started trying to flatten out the progressive so the steps go around the rink, instead we pretty much head them right at the wall, and then recover on the exit progressive to get back on pattern.  Not sure when we'll change that.  I'm about 50/50 for hitting the first step behind, the other two I get every time now.  When we first ran the dance, Carson didn't do the steps, but just held me, but the other times he did them.   I'd like to start flattening the pattern out, but we'll need to do it on a day that Taylor doesn't have a harness lesson.  The corner of the rink was cratered like the moon...

Last night I had my second "Starter Package" rowing lesson- this time on sweep rowing in the tank.  I don't like sweep as much as sculling, but it went well.  I think I have better form than learn to row, because my back is not killing me.  My wrist does hurt though- the feathering motion is very hard on my right wrist, but when I row starboard side my left wrist just sucks and I end up using my right when I'm not supposed to.  I don't think I did too badly though as she increased the speed of the water in the tank because my slow water technique was good.  My faster water technique, less good.  I need to loose a few pounds if I want to race (also, because I'm overweight right now).  I am just at the lightweight cut-off for some races and about 5 pounds above for others.  I will be much more successful racing if I am a lightweight, because even for a lightweight I am SHORT, for an open class rower- I am miniscule.  (Did you see pictures of the Women's Olympic rowing team? They just won another gold medal.  In the pictures they have one tiny girl with them; their coxswain.  Well the coxswain is 3 inches taller than me.  And about 30 pounds lighter...about the same as I weighed in college.)  See why even against recreational rowers, I can't be open class :)

Next week I have my final private lesson- on the erg.  Then I can start rowing at 5:30 in the morning with the community group.  They have afternoon times too, but as long as I keep skating, I can't do that or I'll never be home to see my husband!  Adult Nats were just announced for Scottsdale, AZ, where I have family and a skating friend, so it is definitely the goal to go, and I'd like to test at least the first 6 dances in the next year or two, so I'm not giving up skating for afternoon rowing.  Kevin and I are also looking at a new house, and sadly it is going to lengthen my commute.  When I have to drive 15 minutes instead of 10, I'm not sure how 5:30 is going to look- haha!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rowing takes over the skating blog.

So I cancelled my skating lesson this week.  I felt bad doing it, but it was the only time I could arrange another lesson: sculling.

Since taking Learn to Row I have been eager to get back on the water, but the rowing program hadn't been very ball about getting together their next step: a "starter package".  For this, there are three private lessons: sculling (2 oars) on the water, sweep rowing (1 oar) in the indoor tank (you can't do that in a boat by yourself), and erging (rowing machine).

I was thrilled to start with sculling, because it looks like the coolest part of rowing to me.  Because it had been over a month since I rowed we started in the tank just to remind me of basic technique.  The thing I am worst at is remembering to square my blade (point it down ready to go into the water, as opposed to feather which is when it lays flat over the water) before I do the "legs" part of the stroke.  Going slow this mistake isn't a big deal, going fast the safety video has assured us we will "catch a crab" which results in the rower being launched out of the boat to certain doom.  However, the coach (LynnAnn) then told me you don't actually have to do that in sculling, so WOO! I'm ready.

We started by using a tool they didn't have ready in learn to row- the dock box.  Now, I've since googled them, and it appears in most cases a dock box is a slide seat that sits on the dock and allows the rower to put the oar into the water and slide through the whole stroke, but remain in place, like the rowing tank.  This is not what our dock box is.  Our dock box is a slide seat, and it gets set onto the dock (it should get screwed in, but she forgot to!) Well then, LynnAnn detaches the last portion of our floating dock and I literally rowed the dock around the river.  The advantage to this is it is very wide and thus very stable.  Also, the coach can sit on the dock and talk to the rower, rather than drive along in a small boat (called a launch) and yell instructions at the rower who is going much faster than the tiny boat, since she doesn't want to cause much water movement by using the motor too much. 

So rowing the dock around I worked on the sculling stroke.  It turns out rowing is very much like figure skating in that whenever you finally reach "perfect" they change the standard on you and suddenly you can't do anything anymore.  The progression of this in sculling was to row body-arms, and then once you can do that to row legs-body-arms.  After doing that for awhile she then told me to start feathering my blades.  Well, this is when it gets to be like rubbing your belly and patting your head.  You have to keep the correct motion of legs body arms, keep the oar handles at the right height, keep your grip correct (I like to death grip, and my thumbs are never in the right place. I have a feeling "fix your grip" will be the "bend your knees" of sculling.) and then you also have to twist your wrists at the right time.  Still, I think I did a good job.  At one point she asked me if I had been erging, but when I said no didn't elaborate.  I'm not sure if I should take it as a "you are doing the parts of the stroke well, it's good you practiced" or a "man, you sure taught yourself some bad habits".  Since I think I did okay, I'm going to pretend it was the first.

After working on rowing the dock, and practicing steering (stupid winding river…) R.C. decided to have me switch to an actual boat.  I figured we would be using the boat we used in Learn to Row- I think it's name was Bob, and he was a big wide platform and super heavy. Not even the slightest was he tipsy, but no. I was introduced to Grace O'Malley.  She was very lightweight- I was shocked when we picked her up that it wasn't difficult for two people to carry at all (during learn to row I learned that boats are heavy and I am weak).  I got into her with no problem at all- thankfully I have decent balance.  I pushed off from the dock and was able to 'set' the boat so it was balanced.  I rowed one oar at a time. Things were looking good. And then I tried to row with two oars. Holey crap! If your oar handles are not exactly even, you are falling to the side. And I learned that if I fall out of a boat, it is going to be to the left.  Skating has taught me that balance checks can't be huge, so I think I managed to keep the boat balanced without overreacting to tips.  I eventually got to where I was able to row full, continuous strokes with the full motion.  I love the sound the blades make as they feather over the water (good rowers don't do that….but R.C. also said she doesn't let people feather until they are ready, so that gives me some step up).  I loved it.  As you can see by the overly excited LONG blog post, I've fallen in love with sculling.

The only problem is I can't row straight. Just like skating when you row without a coxswain you have to spend a lot of time looking backwards. The boats move fast (HUGE difference in feel from rowing the dock. Once I got over the initial fear, it was like flying. I can't imagine how fast competent rowers must go), so as R.C. said, they crash fast.  It was recommended I look over my shoulder every 2 strokes, and she said even she won't go more than 5.  So I think once I'm not the only person on the river it is unlikely I'll be able to row a single due to traffic patterns (really the river banks, rocks and the trees proved enough of a challenge. Why can't the river be straight?).  And as a beginner I'll probably row sweep a lot, because that puts you in a boat with experienced people. But man, I loved sculling.

Also I can barely walk today my legs are so sore.  I knew rowing was a full body workout, but so many people say "man, your arms are going to be so toned!".  Those people don't row.  This is a LEG workout more than anything.