*turn back your biological clock


images-1If this interests anyone – and it may not – it is going to be people who are “into” endurance training.  I did my last practice “race” today before the Head of the Charles on Saturday. A warm up of one mile, a “race” of three miles and a warm down of a mile. The question for an older, not-so-amazing athlete like me is how hard do you row, for how long? With the help of a great coach, I concluded that the target for me was to hold at 24 strokes a minute, the whole way. (A gadget measures that all the time.) Kids will be rowing at 28 and 30 strokes a minute, with bursts in the mid-30’s. Good for them. The question for me was, can I hold at 24 for that long?

Good news: I pulled at 25 strokes a minute the whole way with adventures up to 27 and 28…. A moment or two at 30. I was not tired at the end (even did a bit of a sprint at 30 spm) and felt good afterwards. Fine. But the interesting thing for an endurance athlete (at any age) was, what percent of my max was I at? The answer is that I was at 80-85% the whole way. And up to 93% of my max at one point. That is very good news. (And my max is a little better than most folks my age: the good formula- 208 minus 70% of your age (rather than the pathetic 220 minus your age) – puts my max at 156; my actual max is 165.) So I am at at 80-85% of a respectable max. I am slow as molasses but I am using my modest “machinery” to fairly good advantage. In terms of aerobics, anyway. If I do that well on Saturday, hooray.

One minor point: the heart rate monitor is a wonderful help. For example, I found myself tiring a little at one point: sure enough, my heart rate was edging up over 90%. I KNOW I can do 80-85% for a long time. And that I can NOT do that at 90-95%. So I tapered off a little on stroke rate and did not boink.

NOW! IF I had been a better kid and trained harder all summer, I suspect that I could have gone at a higher stroke rate. AND – more important – could have pulled harder on every stroke. We are now talking strength, not aerobic fitness. If I ever do this again – and I probably won’t – it would be interesting to test that proposition. That is, how hard can a non-athletic guy my age pull – how hard and how fast – without keeling over.

A last surprise: this hellish training race was great fun! On to Cambridge tomorrow to try to learn to steer this crazy, corkscrew course.

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Chris Crowley

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