This past weekend was my first race of the season, the Catch the Cooper Regatta on the Cooper River racecourse in Camden, NJ.
I entered the Masters 1X, which is 1000m run in flights by age group, and also the Men’s Open 1X, which is 2000m with no age restrictions.
Conditions were flat on the course but with a swirly wind that started as a tailwind, then went to slack, then changed to a stiff headwind toward the end of the race. Combine this with a floating quick start (no stakeboats), a crabby old Philly aligner, and a starter you couldn’t hear, and it made for an interesting day. Conditions seemed fast, but actually were quite slow, and the times between races were wildly different because of the drift during alignment and challenging steering due to the shifting winds.
I won both races, which was great and is a huge confidence builder.
In the masters race I went out way too fast due in part to the tailwind. I took a couple of lengths but struggled to hold on through the very long last 500m into a stiff headwind, and I ended up beating Eric Hagberg from Nereid by just 1.5 seconds. It was a burner, and the most hotly contested of the masters single flights.
In the open single, there were two additional late entries that showed up, which was scary as you never know when you are going to draw a 20-year-old pre-elite guy you’ve never heard of. They called me on a bogus false start (the starting flag was directly behind me and right in my POV), but it didn’t matter. As it turned out, I was much faster than the others off the start, then settled into a low and strong base rating that kept pulling away little by little. My strategy was basically “don’t mess up” and “work the base rating", which is why I entered that event to begin with. I went through all four 500m stretches, from tailwind, to flat, to moderate headwind, to strong headwind. With 400m to go I saw the dude next to me in lane 4 get blown into the buoy line and tick them off with nasty little splashes: boom, boom, boom, and I knew it was over. I kicked it in and won by 17 seconds.
Overall, here’s my debrief:
1. My strength increases over the winter have translated into tremendous explosive power at the start, maybe the best I’ve ever had.
2. My “engine” cannot yet sustain the pace throughout the race, but will need to at Masters Nationals in 60 days. I need to work on starting a little slower so that I don’t end up in screaming pain 3 minutes in. I need to work on pain management and do things that cause my legs to work to failure, such as squat jumps and wall sits.
3. I need to work on my steering as I am a little rusty and probably lost 3-4 seconds in the windy conditions.
4. I went in planning on counting every stroke and executing a very methodical strategy. That didn’t really happen. I need to work the mental game more to be stone cold for the next race.