The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat is that book; you know, that one row­ing book that you actu­ally want to read. This book is so well writ­ten that you will quickly become fully immersed in your copy of The Boys in the Boat (buy it here, at; you won’t be able to put it down until you’ve read it cover to cover.  



This review on cap­tures the expe­ri­ence of The Boys in the Boat per­fectly: 

“I have never rowed. I have never read a row­ing book that I can remem­ber. If all sto­ries about row­ing were writ­ten like Daniel Brown’s fab­u­lous multi-​​level biog­ra­phy, I would read every one of them. This is a won­der­ful account, told with such detail and pre­ci­sion that I some­times felt as if I were in this tale. Mr. Brown totally sucked me into his adven­ture. These young men who rowed for the USA in the 1936 Olympics faced huge obsta­cles. It was the Depres­sion. Many were dirt-​​poor. They came from a small (then) and non­de­script town of Seat­tle. They could not have had more dif­fi­cult prob­lems thrown their way. But by tak­ing every sliver of hope, and mix­ing in superb crafts­man­ship (from George Pocock), excel­lent coach­ing (Al Ulbrick­son), and these nine per­fectly attuned young men learn­ing together.….…the result was per­fec­tion.

This is a true Team sport. I learned that. It is nice to learn some­thing you never knew, but is com­mon knowl­edge to an entire set of other peo­ple. If you want to read a great, true story of suc­cess, this will fit the bill in spades.….and you will under­stand row­ing to boot.

The research is mostly based on pri­mary resources, includ­ing inter­views with some mem­bers who were still liv­ing as the book was pulled together. Fam­ily mem­bers did sup­ply addi­tional infor­ma­tion to make this under­tak­ing feel solid and well thought out.

Con­cepts from Daniel Brown to con­sider that are mixed into the story to teach all of us:

1) One of the fun­da­men­tal chal­lenges in row­ing is that when any one mem­ber of a crew goes into a slump the entire crew goes with him.

2) There are cer­tain laws of physics by which all crew coaches live and die. The speed of a rac­ing shell is deter­mined pri­mar­ily by two fac­tors: the power pro­duced by the com­bined strokes of the oars, and the stroke rate, the num­ber of strokes the crew takes each minute.

3) To defeat an adver­sary who was your equal, maybe even your supe­rior, it wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily enough just to give your all from start to fin­ish. You had to mas­ter your oppo­nent men­tally. When the crit­i­cal moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know some­thing he did not– that down in your core you still had some­thing in reserve, some­thing you had not yet shown.

4) The things that held them together – trust in one another, mutual respect, humil­ity, fair play, watch­ing out for one another – those were also part of what Amer­ica meant to all of them.

There are other great ideas to pon­der in this epic almost 400 page, could-​​not-​​put-​​down story. I am not giv­ing away any­thing by telling you that they DO win Gold at the 1936 Olympics. It is HOW they did it that is so darn excit­ing. Even know­ing the end result does not dimin­ish this big­ger than life adven­ture. This is a must read, period.“



The Seat­tle Times tells the story of how The Boys in the Boat became a most unlikely best-​​seller:

…one cus­tomer asked, “Is this a good book?” Another cus­tomer turned around and said, “You don’t have to know any­thing about row­ing. You don’t have to know any­thing about the UW, about sports or World War II. It’s just a great story.”

“It’s a book that peo­ple are pas­sion­ate about shar­ing,”

It’s about much more than row­ing, It’s about a gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans who fought hard, endured much, sur­vived and pre­vailed. “I make the case at the end of every book talk that these nine Amer­i­cans, who climbed in the boat and learned to pull together, (are) almost the per­fect metaphor for what that gen­er­a­tion did,” Brown says. ”They endured the Depres­sion and the war. Pull together, build great teams, get things done.”



Note: The Ama­zon link in this post is an affil­i­ate link.


Ian’s 2k Erg Strategy

Every­one seems to be weigh­ing in with their 2k erg strate­gies, so here’s mine.


Fol­low­ing a good warm-​​up (very impor­tant!) you’re ready to go. Before the start, take a cou­ple of deep belly breaths and use the exhales to steady your nerves. Your focus should now be on the first two strokes only. Sit ready in a strong posi­tion; you’ll be mov­ing your body weight from a com­plete stand­still, so don’t row your first stroke too long – you need to get that fly­wheel mov­ing first before going after the next 5 or 6 strokes. I don’t advise going any fur­ther at such a high level of inten­sity; we’re tap­ping into the short-​​term energy sys­tem caused by hydrol­y­sis of phos­pho­cre­a­tine and ATP re-​​synthesis in gly­col­y­sis, which reaches its max­i­mum after about 5 sec­onds. After the 6th stroke you should get quickly onto your tar­get aver­age race pace; at this point in the race, this pace is going to feel too easy. You must resist the temp­ta­tion to go faster than tar­get; the goal is to even pace or even neg­a­tive split as you get deeper into the race. So make sure that you stay calm, be really effi­cient with your move­ment and con­serve energy – because you’re going to need it later. It’s impor­tant to achieve your race pace at race rate – don’t drop the rate in order to get down to pace. You need to keep the machine “alive.”

500 meters into the race

So you’ve been click­ing along row­ing most strokes at your 2k tar­get pace. How­ever, due to that ini­tial start­ing burst, your aver­age split may be slightly ahead of tar­get. After the 1st 500m you can allow your splits to get slightly worse, by per­haps 0:01/500m. This has the effect of giv­ing you some “breath­ing room”; but you can do this only if you under­stand in advance that when you reach 1,000m you have to com­mit to going faster. It is impor­tant that every time you drop worse than your tar­get split for this 2nd 500 meters, you must push back imme­di­ately on the very next stroke. Keep those legs dri­ving, keep the han­dle mov­ing off the catch.

1000 meters into the race

This is where I like to play the “aver­ages game.” For most of the 3rd 500 you should make sure that every stroke you row is at, or under, the cur­rent aver­age split for the piece. When­ever you fall off that split, you MUST get it back again on the very next stroke. This is where you have to keep the han­dle mov­ing quickly from the catch and over the knees and squeeze out that lit­tle bit extra at the finish.

500 meters to go

From this point in, every stroke is impor­tant. You must make every stroke count. What I like to do here is “chase the dec­i­mals.” Focus on bring­ing your aver­age split down, one dec­i­mal at a time. As soon as you get one dec­i­mal, imme­di­ately go after the next one, and the next, etc. When you get to 200 meters to go, you can shift focus slightly and chal­lenge your­self to see how low you can get your splits.

As a basic rule of thumb, your rat­ing should increase 1 or 2 beats each 500m, and sig­nif­i­cantly more in the final sprint when you’ve just got to get more strokes in.