At the 2023 Erg Sprints in Alexandria, Virginia, last weekend, Elizabeth Gilmore won both the Open Women’s 30 minute and 2000 meter erg titles. The 39 year old went 6:57.2 on her 2k, and her 30 minute score was just 408 meters off the Women's 30-39 World Record of 8486 meters set by Australian Olympian Georgina Rowe.
While doubling up happens a bunch at Erg Sprints (which offers long, timed events to start the day), and even winning a two different distances is not uncommon, Gilmore did it this year not just for the first time, but at her first-ever in-person erg race.
Gilmore, a runner who is a mother of four, started erging seriously after fracturing her tibia in the fall of 2021. Inspired by the annual Concept2 Holiday Challenge, she found that she really enjoyed the erg and has stuck with it: competing online so far in her career as a rower at races ranging from CRASH-Bs to the Scottish Indoor Championship to last year’s World Indoor Rowing Championship, in which she won silver in her age group--from her garage--with a 7:05.9.
For good measure, Gilmore started 2023 by setting a new 30-39 World Record for the Marathon, completing the 42,195 meters in 2:47:52.9, and she is one of the just four Americans to qualify for the 10-woman Versa Challenge coming up at the 2023 Indoor Worlds.
She was joined in the gym in Alexandria on race day by two of her four sons: her 8 year old raced the Kids 500 meter dash, while her youngest, the five-year-old, was on on hand to handle the cheering.
row2k caught up with Gilmore to hear more about her day at the races and the upcoming the Versa Challenge in Toronto.
row2k: How did the 2k go for you?
Gilmore: I'm really happy with how it went. The 30:00 race was my "A" race for the weekend, and I was planning to take it hard for both a personal best and an event record. I had very tempered expectations for the 2k given that it was initially scheduled to start 30 minutes following the completion of the 30:00 race. I was happy to see that the final schedule had 3.5 hours between the two, which allowed me a lot more recovery.
Due to the order of the two races as well as recent struggles I've had with my asthma, my coach Cam Buchan gave me a race plan that focused solely on rate caps for each 500m section, gradually increasing the stroke rate over the course of the 2k. It was my first time racing focused on rate and not pace, and to my surprise it helped with mental concentration.
row2k: Was there a point in the 2k where you felt confident in your pacing and progress, and knew you were going to win it?
Gilmore: I was really focused on my race plan and not other competitors, since it's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a race, go out too fast, and then hit a wall. I was surprised how close to my normal 2k splits I was able to hit with an initial rate cap of 26, and I felt good as I hit triple digits remaining on the monitor and increased the rate up to 30 spm. As I started to sprint for the final 300m, I felt confident that I could hit a sub-7 time with a good lead.
row2k: How did it feel to be racing in person?
Gilmore: This was actually my first in-person race! I usually train and race virtually from my garage. Erg Sprints had such great energy and I loved it. It was so fun watching everyone, from kids to seniors to para athletes, both competing and cheering each other on. I also got to finally meet some people I've been chatting with online, and talked with the coach of a master's sweep team that I hope to join this year.
What length of piece do you prefer, generally, the 30 minute or the 2k?
Gilmore: The longer the better! That being said, I typically prefer events based on distance (5k, 10k) and not time (30:00), but found it really fun to finish at the same time as all the other 30 minute competitors.
row2k: Looking ahead to Indoor Worlds, how did you get involved with and selected for the Versa Challenge?
Gilmore: My interest was piqued when I went to sign up for the 2k at WRICH and read about the Versa Challenge, and I decided to row the two qualifier pieces: 3333m with points for time, and 7x2:30/0:30r with points for the overall meters as well as meters in the first interval. My qualifier pieces put me third among the women which qualified me to compete. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they throw at us!
row2k: Did you think that doubling up on the two events would be helpful as you look forward to the Versa Challenge?
Gilmore: Absolutely. We don't yet know what the events are, but there will be five events over the course of two days, and I wanted experience competing while fatigued as well as working out some logistics around nutrition, warmups and cooldowns.
[Ed. note: you can read more here about the Versa Challenge, which features 5 events of varying distances, which "may or may not" be revealed in advance, according to worldrowing.com--it takes place February 25-26.]
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