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July 2003, when planning my travel schedule
for video taping international bodybuilding events, I noticed that the British Indoor Rowing Championships (BIRC)
would take place in Birmingham on November 15, 2 weeks after my last assignment.
Although I'd never competed in an indoor rowing event, having only
taken up the sport in March [Editor: See Success Stories
(4), Fired Up By Gains After 60.], it seemed like a good opportunity to
train for a specific goal. Little did I know what I was getting into.
went to the Concept 2 website and downloaded their 2000 meter interactive
training program and started serious training on August 4.
I had just 15 weeks to prepare for the big race.
learning of my rather ambitious plan, Clarence Bass asked me to write about my
started this report a few days before the event took place at the Birmingham
National Indoor Arena. Although a
novice, I wanted to see how well I could perform against the best rowers in the
world in my age group (60-64). Although
I’ve never stopped training, I was challenging myself after 22 years of
retirement from all forms of sporting competition.
wife, Tina, and I had been training and pushing each other hard earlier in the
year and had achieved personal bests for the 500-meter row.
In August, our focus changed to the Olympic 2000-meter distance, the only
distance raced at the BIRC.
it was early October, and time for me to go on the road again.
First, I was off to the UK for taping the NABBA Universe, then over to
Las Vegas for the Olympia, and back to UK for the English and Dutch Grand Prix.
During this period, I went to the gym on every free day, primarily training on rowing plus some weights. By this point, the stress of work, constant travel, jetlag,
and trying to train at a high intensity was starting to wear me down.
Not surprisingly I came down with a flu virus in Las Vegas. But I
couldn’t let this stop me. I love a challenge and the BIRC was only a few days
BIRC is the biggest indoor rowing event in the world! Rowers compete from many
different countries, including USA. This
year reigning Olympic on-the-water champions, James Cracknell and Mathew Pinsent
joined around 4000 other rowers in Britain’s biggest-ever participatory indoor
the open class, the event organizers were hoping for a repeat of the titanic
battle of 2001, where Pinsent beat Cracknell by one-tenth of a second.
Competition was expected to be fierce in all classes and age groups, men and
women, boys and girls.
experienced rowers were racing for British titles, gold medals, national, world
and event records. I was simply
hoping for a personal best, in one of the world’s toughest and most demanding sports.
highlight of my pre-competition training in the UK was rowing side by side with Nik “Big Bird” Fleming. Nik’s
6-feet-4-or-5 and weights 220 or more. In
2002, he won the world championships in the Over-30 heavyweight class.
He was a wonderful inspiration, and gave me a number of tips.
In particular, he emphasized 5 magic words: Stick to your race plan.
afternoon, the day before the race, arrived in a cold and very wet Birmingham.
I went straight from the event hotel to check out the venue and look for
a place to weight myself. No
problem, scales were being set up in the downstairs warm-up and
weigh-in area. I breathed a sigh of
relief, as I was a pound under the 75Kg or 165 lb lightweight limit.
counted the number of warm-up machines: 76 Concept 2 Model C rowers, with
the new style handle from the Model D. Next
to the warm-up was the massage area.
I also checked out the main race arena where the trade booths were being
set up and the race machines were being wired to the computers, TV control
center and big screen.
of the new Model D rowers were numbered and set up in 6 rows of 20.
The first two rows (40 ergs) were wired back to the control position and
TV area, where any 17 could be switched to the big screen display.
at the hotel, there were 6 rowing machines set up for practice.
This was the first time I’d seen the new Model D, so I tested the drag
on the new monitor (which was simple to operate) and rowed a few strokes to
get the feel of the new machine. Many
other rowers were working up quite a sweat, including some from the British
Olympic rowing squad.
had a light evening meal, to be sure to make weight the next
morning, while I envied the heavyweight rowers next to me who were dispatching
huge plates of food. In bed at 10
o’clock, I had a reasonably good night’s sleep for the big day.
at 6.30, I ate my own muesli breakfast mix, whole grain toast and black
coffee, and was all set for the race. I
took the 15 minutes walk to the venue, registered and went straight down to the
weigh-in area. I was only 73.9Kg
and wished I had eaten more carbs the night before. Still, better to be safe than sorry, because the weighing is
two hours or less before your race time. (If
I could’ve weighed-in on rising at the event hotel, a much more substantial
breakfast could have been enjoyed. This
would have been more sensible in my opinion and I hope it will be a new rule
massage table now beckoned. My masseuse not only knew her job well, she also put
me through an excellent stretching session. [Editor: Where do I sign up?]
Time was flying and now it was time for my warm-up on one of the few vacant
machines nearby, followed by my final stretching.
My UK Internet coach, Noel Frost, had instructed me to warm-up at a nice
steady pace for 10 minutes, till I raised a sweat.
No speed bursts or practice starts, just a nice easy warm-up, with all
energy being conserved for the race.
I was glad I followed this advice, because I felt relaxed, strong and
confident when I sat on rower #C2 (third row, second machine), waiting for the
final five minutes to race time flew by, no time for nerves. I adjusted the
monitor, read my notes on what to remember under pressure, gave my race plan
instructions to the cox sitting behind my machine, strapped in, and then it was
“5-4-3-2-1-ROW!!” The race seemed like a blur,
until my cox called out “only 300 meters to
go.” I lifted my stroke rate and
gave it absolutely everything I had--and prayed for the last 100 meters to
count down; then the finish, and a feeling of relief and elation.
Relaxed and happy after
went exactly to plan, I rowed faster in each 500 meters of the race, hit my
target time of 7-minutes, 30-second on the dot--10 seconds better than my previous best.
Sixth place was also the highest I had hoped to achieve, based on the
previous times of the other competitors.
was very happy with the final sprint, although it just failed to take me under
the 7:30 barrier. That
is now the challenge for next time.
receiving confirmation of my sixth-place finish, it was time to call Tina back in
Australia with the results and all the news from the event.
I finally had time to relax, watch the other races and chat with some of
the various medal winners in the other classes.
It was especially good to meet Roger Bangay, an elite British rower--he
placed second by 1.1 seconds in the 65-69 lightweight class--whose
help and advice over the last 3 months has been invaluable.
Wayne enjoys a few minutes
with Silver Medalist and mentor Roger Bangay.
was also thrilled to see Cambridge training friend Nik Fleming row twice,
first for 14th place in the Open Class, and then first in the age
the day finally came to an end. For
me, competing in the BIRC was like playing tennis at Wembley, as an amateur.
It was an experience of a lifetime.
Where else can you rub shoulders with Olympic champions such as Pinsent,
Cracknell, and Sir Steve Redgrave, gold medal winner in five consecutive
spoke briefly with Rich “Ranger” Cureton of the USA, who won the Noel Frost
Millennium Cup as best rower in the competition. Rich, 52, set a new lightweight world record in his class of
6:28:0. What an inspiration! The enormous
power he generates is nothing short of amazing.
back to training for next year’s BIRC.
closing, there are a number of people I want to thank. First, Clarence Bass for inspiring and encouraging me to take up
indoor rowing. My wife Tina for coaching,
excellent cooking, nutritional advice, and sharing many grueling gym sessions
with me; Noel Frost for great coaching advice along with fellow Brits, Nik
Fleming, Roger Bangay and John Batten. Nik
Fleming was a wonderful inspiration in training. Lance
Robson of The Bradford Leisure Club in Northumberland, and his business partner
Robbie Redpath for their support, while I stayed with them for intensive training
prior to the event. My thanks also to my supplements sponsor MRM of the UK for their
generous support and to the Fitness Warehouse, Adelaide, for our Concept 2
Finally, my thanks to Dick Rossan and Clive Jaques for getting me to training sessions on the road and working under the greatest pressures. All of you have made my participation in the BIRC not only possible, but extremely enjoyable. It was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying days of my life.
(For more information on the BIRC, visit www.concept2.co.uk.)
Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone (505) 266-5858, e-mail: email@example.com, FAX: (505) 266-9123. Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time. FAX for international orders: 00l 51 505 2669123
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