We spoke with Erik Hallenbeck about his experience flipping at the Olympic Trials - which is not as unusual as you might think; we have plenty of photos of drenched Olympic trialists, many of them trials winners and subsequent US team members. There was even a flip in training on Sunday; here is what Hallenbeck had to say, with thanks to Erik for playing along like a legend.
row2k: What happened?
Erik Hallenbeck: Well, I went for a little swim around 500 meters into the time trial, then tried to race the rest of it.
row2k: Did you experience the full slo-mo sensation that flips sometimes feel like, or was it fast?
Hallenbeck: It was instant. I wish I could tell you what happened, as you can imagine it's the very first question that everyone asks. I'm thinking it was at the catch on my starboard side, because I don't remember getting smacked with my oar, and that's the direction she tipped.
row2k: What went through your mind when you knew for certain you were going over?
Hallenbeck: My mind was too busy going through the surface of the water to be occupied with anything else. Once I was in my feelings were largely centered about my favorite pair of sunglasses that a croc might be wearing later, then getting to the outside lane so Lucas Bellows wouldn't leave me with a face full of skeg.
row2k: Do you have any idea how long you were in the water?
Hallenbeck: I can tell you exactly! Here's the Speedcoach data exported to Strava, I uh... slowed down at the 39:05 mark, and started taking strokes around 39:50. So 45 seconds, including the swim over to the next lane. I'm honestly pretty proud of that turnaround. I may have even come in second to last if my boat wasn't so full of water.
Hallenbeck's Strava data
row2k: How did you get yourself back in the boat?
Hallenbeck: Imagine a walrus getting out of a pool, that might be a good visual. There was a lot of heaving and sloshing, with a few expletives that USRowing probably wouldn't want aired live.
row2k: What then?
Hallenbeck: I considered bailing my cockpit out, but decided against it. Fortunately, I brought a sponge that was safe and sound soaking up water in front of my foot stretcher. I figured I had wasted enough time cooling off and started right back up.
row2k: What about the next 1250 meters?
Hallenbeck: The extra weight, for some reason, did not make the boat go fast. So as the water bailed out I slowly got faster, but it was too little, too late.
row2k: What are your thoughts a couple days later at having flipped in an official Olympic Trials?
Hallenbeck: Well, today I did a 130 mile bike ride, so I'm going to try and use the shame to squeeze some extra fitness gains before switching focus to Nationals this year. I'm really happy that it will be in NJ instead of FL, because It's easier to stomach getting dead last with only a 5 hour drive instead of a 22 hour one. For instance, I got dead last in HOCR in 2019, and I cried about a tenth as much as I did yesterday, likely due to the hour drive to the Charles and not the fact that I made 10 times more of a fool of myself.
row2k: Do you have any sense of about how fast you were going, and where you might have finished in the TT?
Hallenbeck: The first 500 always feels good, so it's a little unfair to just assume I would be able to keep going at that rate/split. But I was between 1:45-1:50, so if I had continued that (or even faded without entirely blowing up) I think I would have made it through to that delicious top 14 ranking.
The splits after filling up were abysmal, almost 2:00 exactly. It was also much harder to rate as high with the extra weight. At this point I've run it in my head a hundred times... I would love to race again, and I'm happy to be doing that later this year to show what kind of form I have if I can stay on top of the water.
row2k: What else are you famous for in rowing?
Hallenbeck: "Famous" is a strong word; I'm certainly notorious for letting Reddit name my first single back in 2017. I'm egging them on again for fake internet points, this time for a tattoo instead of home depot lettering on the side of a WinTech. I also wanted to make sure that if anyone was going to make fun of me I would get to it first.
Other than that I've had middling performances nationally, mostly in the single: races like the Head of the Fish, HOCR, IDR, USRowing Nationals. I'm starting to show up at more speed orders but those plans got 2020'd. I've choked more races than I've won, but at least it's not entirely one-sided.
After finishing the race