The Boys in the Boat

January 28th, 2015 No comments

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

February 15th, 2013 No comments

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.