From age to stroke rate to motivation, the 2000+ participants in the 30th annual C.R.A.S.H.-B. Regatta seemed to differ in about as many ways as possible. But what they all had in common was a shared desire to compete and excel.
How Many Strokes Does It Take to Get to the Finish of a 2k?
This year's event, which again took place at Boston University's Agannis Arena, showed just how many different ways there are to complete 2000 meters.
On one hand, Henrik Victor Stephansen, the Danish world-record holder, kept his stroke rate in the 40s for nearly the entire piece and finished the rate at over 50spm for first-place in the event. On the other hand were athletes such as junior rower Nayara Pena of the Brazilian Rowing Federation who relied more on power-per-stroke, staying at a stroke rate of 26 for much of the piece. One competitor even raced at a rate 20, pausing to catch his breath after each stroke; even at the sprint his rate never went above a 30.
While 20 proved to be a rating too low for a title-contending piece, the lower stroke rate proved not to be a problem for Pena, who was able to edge out Filippa Karrfelt of SPIF Roddforening for second place in the junior women's event. Pena finished with a time of 7:03.1, just ahead of Karrfelt's 7:04.1.
"She just started to row one year ago, and she has not a lot of skill and ability to row high strokes, but she made good time with low strokes," said Sergio Brasil Szantancsa, Head of the Brazilian Olympic Delegation. Because Pena speaks Portuguese, Szantancsa served as an interpreter.
Jeanne Ghuysen of Union Nautique de Liege was the overall winner and raced her way to a 6:57.5. Noting that her goal for the race was "under seven," Ghuysen was pleased with her performance. "That was really cool." Interestingly, neither Ghuysen nor Pena achieved a personal record. "Two weeks ago [at the German championships] I did 6:56," Ghuysen said.
Brazil On The Rise
Pena was a member of a Brazilian national team making its first ever trip to Agannis Arena. The team hopes to bring a larger delegation next year.
"I'm very happy," Szantancsa said of his team's performance. "And I already spoke to the Brazilian president, and he's happy too, and we hope next year we will come with a lot of people."
The Brazilian Rowing Federation also had strong finishes in other events, including another second-place, this one coming in the men's 30-39 division in which Leandro Tozzo finished behind New York Athletic Club's Jamie Koven.
Koven Making A Comeback
Koven, who won the world championships in the single scull in 1997, was able to build a commanding lead during the middle 1000 of the race to hold off the sprints of Tozzo and other competitors.
"It was a good pace for the first 500 meters," Koven said. "But I looked at the average splits and they were much higher than I thought they were going to be for the split that I was pulling... so at 500 meters I tried to react to that, but I wasn't sure why the splits were higher, I thought maybe if I was pulling 1:29 and it was showing 1:29 and-a-half, I thought maybe I had to pull 1:28 to get it at a 1:29 split. So at 500 meters I brought the splits down and went through the 1000 at a 1:29 - and I felt good, but I used up too much early on in the race and that cost me with 500 to go."
Koven, who competed in the Sydney Olympics, is working his way back into the national team system after a long hiatus.
"I'm training with the team out in San Diego right now," he said. "It's a very strong group of guys and some very talented athletes. We're putting in a lot of miles right now. We're just getting into the selection process for the world championships. So I hope to be part of that selection. I hope to make one of the boats, be on the team this year and then train for the Olympics in London. I haven't been on the team since 2000. I went to watch the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and thought to myself it's something I could do again. One of the reasons I stopped rowing in 2000 is because I have a back disease, and that really hurt my rowing the last two years I was doing it, in '99 and 2000, but I started a new treatment for that about three years, so I figured the treatment was going well, and... I'm 37 now, I'll be 39 in 2012, I figured I'm young enough to do it again, I might as well try because I may not be young enough in Rio."
Age Is Just a Number
One athlete who seems to have found the rowing fountain of youth was Bob Spousta, competing for the Occoquan Boat Club. The 61-year old head coach at George Mason University won the men's 60-64 heavyweight category with a time of 6:30.9.
"[My goal was] to try to hold somewhere around a 1:38 average by the end," he said. "I was able to do that." "It's a nice training goal," he said of the event. "Old people need goals too. [If] you've got something to train for, you've got to train harder."
The two oldest competitor still training hard were 90-year old Stephen Richardson and 93-year-old Paul Randall, the sole participants in the respective events: the 90-94 heavyweight and lightweight entries. Randall beat out his 90-year old counterpart, turning in a 10:43.2. Richardson finished in a time of 11:59.0.
Erging: Not Just For When The River's Frozen
C.R.A.S.H.-B. was founded by rowers looking to spice up winter training while the Charles River lay covered in ice. But some of the regatta's competitors aren't counting the days until their respective rivers and lakes thaw.
These athletes compete in CrossFit, a fitness program that emphasizes high-intensity workouts in a variety of disciplines - and they didn't know they were competing until Sunday morning.
"This is actually a group with the CrossFit games that goes on every year in July," explained Erin Cafaro, a U.S. National Team rower and CrossFit coach. "This group finishes in the top 20 consistently, and is a sponsored by a company called 'Team Again Faster.' It's the top athletes in the CrossFit world, and we wanted to get them ready to go and compete. We wanted to bring them to the biggest rowing indoor competition, so we came here. We actually told them this morning that we were coming here, because (to prepare for the CrossFit Games) they have to get ready for the unknowable and just be ready for anything that comes across and deal with the stresses."
But that is not to say that none of these CrossFit athletes are not also rowers. Ryan O'Rourke, who placed third in the junior openweight event with a time of 6:13.8, may have competed for CrossFit Lehigh Valley, but he is also a rower for Moravian Academy.
And Cafaro, who won gold with the 8+ in Beijing, attributes much of her success to her CrossFit training. "I do it as cross-training for strength and injury prevention," Cafaro said. "Being an all-around athlete will help you be a better athlete at your specialize sport and help you with injury prevention."
Some of the most impressive athletes posted some of the day's slowest average splits. These athletes competed in the day's adaptive events, and their range of motion varied from full (for some visually impaired and otherwise very mobile athletes) to minimal, in the arms-shoulders event. As seeing-eye dogs sat patiently alongside the ergs, the diversity of athletes showed the growth in adaptive rowing.
Deborah Arenberg, who works for Alden Rowing Shells and Wintech, estimated that the adaptive event had twice as many participants as the year before. "Today was awesome, absolutely awesome - just to see how far it's come" she said. "I think it's going to grow."
Three and then paddle: Random Happenings
1. Rower to his friend on the water sprayed on the ground (to control static electricity, as the pads in the Agganis hockey arena are lying on top of ice): "I thought this was all sweat on the ground."
2. While most rowers competed in unisuits or spandex and t-shirts, at least one athlete chose to keep things classy, erging in a polo shirt.
3. One female athlete used her children as her motivation. Taping a picture of them to her screen, the lightweight woman kept up an aggressive rhythm for the entire piece. While her kids might not have made it to the race, they would've been proud of their mother (who wore a shirt with her last name on the back, Guerra (Spanish for "war"); not a bad name to sport for an erg competition.
4. Open men's winner Conlin McCabe not only went 5:48 to take the open men's event, but also won the U23 men's category, as well as the collegiate men's category. Three medals with one stone solid piece, woah!