Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First time in the racing single!

Tuesday the 25th
I have the day off work for a career development day (big paper due- so I will hopefully get the entire thing done today), so I got to row from 7-8:30 a.m, rather than 5:30-7 a.m.  Man, I like that time slot so much better. And what is really nice about it is I imagine I won't be dead tired this evening.  (Which won't really matter, because I'm not skating tonight- we have a walk through of the house, which we close on next Monday.)  Anyhow- I was really worried about rowing this morning.  I woke up and my right wrist was in terrible pain.  It felt like I had broken it, and any pressure on it hurt terribly.  You have to make changes to rowing by 4:30 a.m. though, so unless I was half-dead I was committed to at least going to the boathouse, I figured I'd decide whether I could actually row or not once I got there.  Just like my knees and back, once I was in the boat, the wrist didn't hurt at all (it hurts again now.) When we got there, the boats were already in the water for us- I was taking the boat Barb (who I often row in the double with) had been in.  I expected this to be the WinTech.  It was not- it was a racing single!  My first time in one!  I'll sum it up this way: success- I didn't tip the boat and take a swim.

More specifically, the boat is really easy to row.  It moves fast if you row well, and so even the low pressure strokes I take cause it to move pretty well.  I think I'm at the point now where I'm no longer "good".  Any natural inclination I showed toward this took me to here, but now the picky things to make me into an actually good rower are coming up.  I need to stop lifting my shoulders to get the blades in at the catch, and just let them go in from the flick of my wrist.  I really need to get some abs, because my knees are popping up too early on the recovery, and I need to roll through my body before I let them do that.  We have kind of combined the arms/body of the stroke, but they are still separate from the legs.  And I need to use my legs more on the drive, though I'm not sure I have enough leg to really do that. I tried pushing with more pressure on them, but I can only stretch them so far...

It was very hard to steer the single, as I've gotten used to in the Wintech (rec single) and the double using harder pressure on one side, or a longer stroke at the catch to help steer- to prevent having to stop and take strokes with one arm every time I need a correction.  At this point, though I have good balance (maybe only two major checks today), I am not stable enough to do that, so anytime I was off track I had to stop and row on one side.  I think I did okay though.  I drifted center a few times, but I don't think I was ever on the wrong side of the river.  Near the end of practice I was very near the shore to let a women's team 8 pass by, but I hadn't seen behind me another women's 8.  RC picks up the bull horn and yells "heads up", and then tells me to keep getting over, almost into the rocks, then yells "heads up" again.  Turns out that boat WAS on the wrong side of the river and heading right at me.  I just got very near the shore and stopped, and they got positioned to get back over to the other side, and I got a polite "sorry" from the cox as they went by.  The novice women have been rowing for about as long as I have. 

I really hope I get to go out in the single again sometime.  I don't know if I'll ever have the power to race successfully, but it certainly is fun!

Sculling in the quad

Sunday the 23rd.

Sunday practice often has more people at it than the others I attend, and this one was no exception- which meant we got to do something I haven't done before- take out a quad!

A quad is different from a 4, because a 4 is sweep (one oar each) and a quad is sculling (two oars each).  I really love sculling, so I was super excited about this. Even more exciting- I wasn't bow seat or stroke seat, so my only job was to do what bow says (there is no cox in this boat) and keep my oars at the same pace as stroke.  No steering to think about, no setting the pace.

It was WONDERFUL!  I had so much fun in this boat, and really hope we get to take it out again. My only complaint is I think we spent too long rowing by 2s, as it is much more fun to row by 4s, and our balance was fine, and it didn't appear the steering issues were any different by 2s or 4s.   As a team, we really stunk at steering- apparently the rudder on the boat wasn't working very well either.  We kept finding ourselves very far into the middle, or wrong side of the river.  In that respect the quad is much harder to row than the double.  I think the person in charge of steering almost needs to act ahead, proactive, not reactive because it takes longer to get it repositioned.  That- or we just all stunk at rowing heavier on one side!  I'm just thankful it wasn't my responsibility, because it is definitely a tough job.  Oddly enough, the big issue we had had to do with us swerving the way we hadn't been swerving the entire practice.  We were rowing and the bow seat calls "heavy on starboard" and then just two strokes later the bow seat calls "weigh enough" (stop), and we all start dragging the oars down, and CRASH.  Ooops.  Apparently the rocks on the shoreline didn't want to get out of our way.  Luckily we were going slower when we hit, so we didn't damage the boat (I don't think...).  We didn't drag up onto the rocks at least.  There were people walking along the road who saw us though...that was kind of embarrassing.

So other than the minor collision, a fabulous row.  And it turned out our stroke seat was brand new, just her second practice.  She did really well! Nice even pace that was easy to follow.

I do still like skating!

Saturday the 22nd

So it turns out I do still like skating.  I think I am just 'over' LTS.  I am thinking maybe I should just stop LTS.  It just doesn't make sense to pay for Saturday ice time though, because it almost costs the same as taking LTS! 

Anyhow, on Saturday I did a freestyle session and had a lesson.  We worked on spins, jumps, and the Canasta Tango (I need better posture).  Everything went really well.  My spins are getting quite good, my jumps aren't horrible, and the dancing seems to be going well.  I started learning the Cha-Cha, though it appears the Fiesta Tango might be a deal breaker for me due to a bad side mohawk.  Maybe I'll be able to do the mohawk holding onto Carson...

I took LTS from Hannah as a make up lesson, and that went really well too. I'm working on a backspin from a pivot, which I think will help my change foot spin.  She is also very particular about no scratching into jumps, so it gives me time to think about that too.

I think I've made the decision not to go to Adult Nationals (it is just too expensive with the new house and all), but hopefully I'll have 4 dances to test at the spring test sessions.  (Which will likely be the next available ones.

Rowing: Thursday the 20th

On Thursday I took the double out with Susan.  (There are a ton of Susan's in the rowing club.  It's like Jessica's and Kristen's on my high school dance team.)  I hadn't sculled with her (she was in the 4 I was in a while back), but she said to me "I'm not very good at sculling.  I've seen you, you're really good."  Can I just say "hahaha!"  First, me, pretty good for a beginner, probably not very good for a rower.  Second of all- she has actually raced sculling before.  She was QUITE good.  Maybe she just prefers sweep?

Anyhow, she was stroke seat so she set the pace.  The pace was a WORKOUT.  (For her it was probably an easy row...)  We rowed at a very fast pace, with very few breaks.  I guess that is good for me, since I have no endurance I need to work on it.  I try no to complain and just do whatever I need to unless I really can't.   The second half of the practice we did slow down, so that was a little better.

I was bow seat, so I had to steer.  I've gotten a lot better at this, at least in terms of not getting too far to the center of the river, and not coming too close to hitting things.  I think I only had to stop us once to get re-situated, the rest of the time we were able to steer within the strokes.  The only problem is I feel like I'm annoying when I do it, because I wonder if I am calling too many corrections.  I don't want us to get too far off straight that we have to do a major correction, but it seems like I'll call "heavy on port", "even stroke", "oh, sorry- heavy on starboard for two", "okay, even stroke"  and have to correct all the time.  Like we barely have even strokes in between, there is always a new correction needed.  How do you keep these boats straight?  I also feel like I'm just not the person for this job, as I have terrible depth perception and can't turn my head the full way around...  But I haven't hit anything yet, and no one has complained to my face that my steering is annoying (Susan actually said I did a good job, but I never know when people are just being polite, and I FEEL annoying, you know?)

But I really like the double!  I'm not getting as bad of slide bites now that I've moved the shoes much further forward (it's those LONG legs of mine!) so that's a big plus too!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Morning Rowing

This morning when I left my house at 5:00 the bank sign said it was 42 degrees outside.  But out on the river, it was absolutely beautiful.  Thank goodness for under armour leggings (complete with rhinestones from skating...)
I wore a fleece jacket and a earband, but was actually pretty warm while rowing.  Towards the end, it actually got a little hot...  I was very worried my hands would be cold, but they weren't too bad at all.

Today I rowed the double again with Barb.  We match each other pretty well, so it was a really good row.  We were definitely slower towards the end of practice, but we never took much of a break (no water break...)
She and I still have zig-zag problems, but we've found a semi-effective way of steering- I just don't think it is sanctioned... The launch was staying with a single, so R.C (rowing coach) never really saw us directly.  Anyway, until we are told to stop doing it (probably right after R.C. reads this blog...) it is way more effective for me to steer by taking a one stroke with just one oar, while Barb continues her normal stroke.  When I try to call "heavy on port side" or vice versus, we rarely end up straightened out and have to stop and reposition and then get started again.  The one side rowing means we can keep going while I even us out.  I don't really think it is "wrong"- but the reason I'm not sure we are "allowed" to do it is it doesn't really let us learn steering by taking harder strokes- something you have to do if you race.  You loose too much speed by skipping out on a stroke from one oar (I would think).

But one nice thing about Barb is she is just there for a little exercise and to enjoy the river.  She chats most of the time (which honestly, is pretty difficult to hear, since she is facing away from me), so we have a similar goal at this point. I get a little bit of a workout (I'm down 5 pounds since I started! But that also might be the ramped up not eating junk efforts) but I'm not looking to get a major one.

So this morning was very good.  Although after showering and walking out to my car to get to work, I was FREEZING.  Is it possible the air temperature actually got colder?

A "what hurts" update: my knee has been killing me lately and I don't know the cause.  My back started hurting at rowing last Thursday and has not stopped.  Oddly, neither bothered me at all while I was rowing (though both hurt now).  During rowing- I was really getting a pulling behind my knees.  I think I need to work on flexibility.

Skating tonight.  By then, I'm going to be exhausted I'm sure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Two days of rowing

Sunday I rowed, and was in the recreational single.  The Wintech (named Grace O'Malley) is the same one I rowed in last time that I felt like an absolute snail.  For whatever reason, I didn't have that feeling at all.  I wasn't speed racer, but it felt good.  The one sad thing is the pontoons that go on this boat are now permanent, you can't row without them.  This makes me sad because I don't need "training wheels", balance is actually one thing I can do really well.  However, it turns out you can raise them, so it was my goal to make sure they never touched the water, and based on how clean they were when I got out, I don't think they ever did.  Sunday was interesting because R.C. had just come back from a sculling camp put on by Calm Waters Rowing, and she said her mind was blown, and she was scared about what came next.  It turned out that everything she had ever believed about technique was essentially changed.  The straight back arms-body-legs in proper ratio rowing style isn't what is used by elites anymore.  Curved back and slouching -was- poor form that caused pain and injuries.  R.C.said using their method of curved back rowing (accompanied by videos of Olympians winning with the same technique) didn't result in any pain, and her constant tendinitis didn't flare up.  We were told to go sit on the couch and practice slouching.  She said we will never hear the word "ratio" again,  and pretty much all of our drills are gone (like the pick drill that I described in a previous post- picking up arms only, arms-body, arms-body-legs).  Now when we scull, we use the lower abs and the glutes to roll our body through the stroke, pushing our arms with us.  She apologized to me, being new, that this was going to be really hard to adjust, but honestly, I think that it will be way harder for the people who were very used to the other way.  I wasn't exactly good at that, so this will just be something different to master.  It does require a lot more lean back, so I'm going to have to get some abs...  But overall, I'm pretty excited to see how this goes- especially if it is more likely to be injury free...

This morning, I woke up at 4:45, out the door by 5:00 for practice.  It is very difficult to rig a boat in the dark!  I was in the Invictus double (sculling) again with Barb.  Today I learned I have LONG legs, as I need to set my shoes almost in the middle of the stretcher.  Originally, I had been setting them near the front, basing it on the fact that it is a men's boat, and at 5'0", I am very very short by a man's standards...   But twice during the practice R.C. had me stop and push them further away.  She also highly complimented my rowing with the new technique, saying something about how really good scullers have to really think about using the curve back and how I'm just naturally rolling right through the positions.  I don't think it is that I'm good at this, so much as I was really bad the other way!  What's really nice is that my hip flexors, which have really been bothering me while rowing didn't hurt AT ALL today.  I don't know if that is due to the change in shoe position (I don't think so, because they hurt in the rowing tank, and you can't adjust the length of those) or due to the new style of rowing.  R.C. did say she was surprised I was having hip flexor issues, because she cross country skied and realized she had totally under developed hip flexors, so she doesn't think rowing uses them, but I've since read online articles that talk about hip flexor flexibility in rowing.   Right now my middle back does hurt mildly, but it is tough to say if that has anything to do with rowing...   Barb and I match really well as a double, though I still have steering problems and she has stroke problems.  I don't think switching our seats would help though...  My steering issue is that I correct on almost every stroke- it seems like we are headed to shore, so I call to adjust, then we are too far in the middle of the river, and we have to adjust again, etc.  Her stroke problem is that she likes to just stop when she wants, and forgets to call to warn me, or she isn't always even in her pace, so it can be difficult to match.  But overall, I just love sculling.  I haven't had a bad partner in the double yet.  I really hope I can try a racing single before it gets too cold- but afternoon practices are always really crowded, so I don't know what the likely hood of that is.

Saturday Skating

Saturday I did a freestyle session, but no lesson.  Carson, who doesn't go to football games, went to a football game.  No big deal, we are trying to save money, so not having the lesson kind of helped.  Nothing remarkable about the skating.  I'm really spinning well right now, which makes me happy.  I tried to think of ways to incorporate scarves into my artistic routine, and if I decide to go to Nationals, I think that is how I will use the prop.  I think it is looking less and less likely that I will go.  There are just so many other things that it I want to do with the money that would have to be budgeted for that.  Additionally, if I want to get my dance tests, that won't give me much time to focus on really cleaning up a freestyle program.  I'd like to take 3 dances in the spring at the Hawkeye competition, and maybe the next 3 in the summer at Quad Cities.  Honestly, after Carson graduates, I think that might be a clean ending point for my current skating.  I don't want to find another coach.  One of the things I thought about really wanting to pass my Bronze test, is once I pass- I have it forever.  I know I can come back to skating (and probably be insanely frustrated having to learn everything again...) in 10 or 20 years.  But for some reason, for the first time, I feel like I am spending A LOT of money on a sport, and I'm not sure I'm getting the value I used to get.  (Maybe I've finally hit the point where I feel like I need adult friends instead of small children...)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Skittles Sweeps!

I wasn't able to go skating on Wednesday because I broke out in a weird rash on my arm and had taken so much Benadryl throughout the day I didn't think I could safely stand on skates...It is mostly gone now, so I think it is just stress from work.  Work is stressful right now.  We did manage to get nice pictures of the house taken to list it as a rental.  If you know where I live, and know anyone looking for a nice rental in this area, let me know!

So Thursday night was rowing again.  I did not get to scull, instead I went out in a 4+, which is a sweep boat (I was 2 seat, second from back, portside oar) with a coxswain.  The three other rowers were experienced, our coxswain is also new, and it was her first time coxing.

So, how did it go?  I don't like sweep.  It is much harder on my shoulders, harder on my wrists (well, not as bad as Sunday was- but that was a hard practice in the single), and gives me blisters.  Surely my fingers are going to callus up soon?  I get these same two blisters everytime I sweep.

The actual practice went pretty well.  We ran through some standard drills, which I haven't done before.  We started with a "pick drill", rowing by 2s.  Thank goodness the stern pair started, because it let me watch what was going on.  A pick drill is where you add on one part of the stroke at a time.  You start arms only (and pretty much don't move anywhere), then arms-body (that moves a bit), then arms-body-half slide, and then arms-body-full slide. 
After the stern pair and bow pair both did this drill we rowed 1 minute stretches of one pair, both pairs, other pair.   This was a real challenge for the coxswain, who had to remember to say things like "stern pair out, bow pair in in 2" and then count the strokes.  Because she was new, the launch (small motor boat that carries life jackets for us, and also coaches) driver was having to feed her lines. So then I was having to decide "two strokes from when she said it, or do I wait for the cox to get around to saying it?"  Very odd, and it didn't seem to get much better as practice went on...  Now that- OMG terrifying.  When all four of us were rowing it was an absolute tippy mess. I'm sure my face showed just how terrified I was, but it felt like we were going to topple over.   Thankfully, by the end of practice we managed to get our balance together and were rowing quite well, though maybe not as stable as we could be (my oars alternated between being way above the water, and gliding on the water- so even though we felt not-tippy, obviously we weren't being consistent).

Next we did a drill called "cut the cake", and Ning told me the purpose of it was to have a steady oar height.  Again we did it by pairs, and then altogether.  In pairs, it went very well.  Altogether, it was pretty good, but not nearly as stable.  The way this drill works is you take a stroke, and then when you bring the oar out of the water, you feather it, hold it above the water and lean arms/body back and forth 3 times (without the oar height changing- holding over the water), and then take another stroke.  Good ab workout too.  The reason why it is important is oar handle height is what sets the balance of the boat. So when we were rowing insanely tippy, it was likely because our oar heights were all different.  Not putting the oar in the water at the same time, or taking it out together seems to be more of an effect on speed than stability.

Finally, have you ever wondered what a cox says to their boat while they are rowing?  It isn't "stroke, stroke, stroke".  I'm still not sure what it is though, because the woman who was coxswain was CHATTY!  We were rowing a hard interval (probably not for the other ladies- but it was hard for me) and she's telling us "heavier on port side, okay, even pressure, I really wanted to see Zach Walls, you know the Iowa student, talk at the convention tonight. I think he is probably on while we are out here.  I bet it will be on youtube tomorrow, isn't youtube great. You can find anything on there...."   The stroke seat (first person) occasionally would chat back with her (it would be rude not to), but she is microphoned so we can all hear her, but in the back of the boat there is no way we can talk to her...  It was just really weird.  Caroline drove the launch, and at one point had us do a 100 yard power interval and she kind of did the standard motivational yelling "catch together, don't rush those slides, I'm catching up to you, stay ahead of me, really pull, get the most of each stroke"  I think that is more likely what coxswains really say...  

It did teach me though- when it is my turn to be coxswain (everyone has to do it, and there is no way the 5'0" girl isn't going to get pulled into it...):  Don't chatter. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Skating (!) and Rowing

I skated! Twice!

You're shocked, I'm sure.   This post is long, so I used headers. Read what you are interested in :)
Saturday I went to freestyle ice and had a lesson with Carson and then LTS with Hannah.
Everything went well- I was spinning really well during the lesson, even eeked out a few revolutions on the camel.  We only got to the Canasta Tango and Rhythm Blues for dance, but those are feeling a lot better.   I won't be testing these until April, so I think we might start on the next 3 dances.  April is a long time to go on the first three, although once we get closer we will drop the next 3, as I don't want to test on contingency.  Unlike better skaters, I'm quite apt to do something stupid like catch a toe-pick and fail the Dutch Waltz…

LTS with Hannah was fine.  She still doesn't have a lot to say for corrections, but it does force me to practice elements I wouldn't necessarily do on my own.  Plus she really hates scratchy waltz jumps (Carson only picks on my salchow for some reason) so I am forced to focus on fixing that.

LTS ice drama:
LTS was, however, ice rink space battle ground again.  The Burton-Carson war had finally been settled, and Burton, Carson, and Carlos were all given a third of the ice.  This system seems to be working.  (Hannah gets Carson's Axel Plus ice until his kids come on, but they do off ice first.  For the last 5 minutes of our class, we go off behind the hockey goal to do spins in place.)  Well, Sergei apparently decided he wanted to teach his own student in axel plus, and not have Carson do it.  So Sergei now has a student out on the ice.  And he decided she should do the 30 minutes in the harness.  The harness which takes up half of Burton's ice!   Burton's class is huge, and they were using 1/6 of the ice for a freestyle class.  Not okay!  Finally, Burton asked Hannah to switch with him (because there are only 2 of us), and that was fine- it did crowd Carson's axel plus class, but they just set up through Carlos's space, and he seemed okay with that.  But using the harness in the middle of a crowded group lesson- it makes no sense.

On Monday I skated again, with JSM from SkatingForums.  It is always fun to meet someone from online.  This is the second time she's been at our rink.  I don't usually skate public sessions, but this one wasn't too bad. I was spinning pretty well (kind of travely), was able to jump, and able to dance a bit.  Near the end it got a lot more crowded (with a few speed skaters!) and the dances became quite scary- not sure how AgnesNitt does it, since I think she is always on publics.  I think I'll stick to freestyle!

On Sunday I rowed again.  This time, there were only 2 of us at practice, so I rowed a recreational single- though not the big tub one, but the skinnier one.  It had pontoons on it for stability, but I removed them. That seems like cheating, besides which, balance isn't really my problem. My problem: stamina.  Holy crap.  This was HARD.  I never realized how much work the other person does in the double, even if I actually row twice as fast in it. I was slow as a snail and dying!  I'm really a little confused by it- because the practices are all the same length, the double goes much faster, but in the single I rowed the furthest I ever have.  Maybe the boats get into the water quicker with fewer people, so it was more on the water time? But I went from the Boathouse to Crandic Park, Crandic Park to Hancher, and then back to the Boathouse.  Which means nothing to those outside of Iowa City.

Always injured drama:
And here is the problem: I'm getting nerve pain in my elbows.  When I bend my arms, it HURTS.  I've had this happen before and was tested for a trapped nerve. I was told the nerve conduction tests/emg would be fine, because I wouldn't feel anything. I didn't have a trapped nerve. What I had was a spinal cord injury, which I knew about.  The solution- don't bend your arms.  It eventually went away.  So I don't know what to do.  It doesn't hurt at all during rowing, but is really aggravated outside of rowing, and it has to be rowing that is doing it, because nothing else is new.  Not to mention yesterday my left wrist was killing me, and that is clearly from feathering the blades.  I really want to like rowing (even though it is getting harder! OMG what a workout) but I don't want new problems. I paid for two months, so I guess I will re-evaluate then.