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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

One Year Older Ė and Faster (2003 Rowing Update)

Nothing is more satisfying than to challenge yourself Ė and succeed. Always try to improve is the guiding principle of my training. Itís the theme of my last book, Challenge Yourself, and our new video. Itís what keeps me motivated. Itís why Iím still making progress after more than 50 years of training. The most recent example is rowing.

In articles 84 and 88, I wrote about my return to indoor rowing competition after learning that Concept 2 now ranks men and women from around the world for the 500 meter distance. I submitted improving times over several months and ended the 2002 season in fifth place for lightweight men (<165 lbs.), ages 60-69. My 500 meter time was 1:39.6, one second behind Malcolm Fawcett (York, GBR) and Rob Wilkes (Brackney, PA), who both did 1:38.6. Robert Peterson of Texas ended the 2002 season in first place with a terrific 1:35.8.

My fifth place time last year was a limit effort. I tried once more, but could only manage 1:39.9. It was definitely time to cool it. Thatís another basic principle of my training. As I wrote in Ripped 3, "After youíve spent several months achieving a peak, your mental and physical batteries need time to recharge." Ebb and flow is the essence of periodization; you push for a while, back off, and then push again, each time peaking a little higher than before.

I started all over again for the 2003 season, which runs from May 1, 2002, through the end of April, 2003. I included rowing in my regular training cycle, doing everything from 3000 meters to 20 second intervals. I didnít focus on the 500 meter distance again until shortly before the taping of our video, in September of 2002.

I did 500 meters for time about 10 days out from the video shoot, a smooth effort of 1:43.6. In the video I did 1:42.7, maintaining a steady pace to the very end. That strong performance encouraged me to get serious about the 2003 rankings.

Over the course of the next several months, I worked on improving my interval times. I keep careful records and knew exactly what was needed. Over the course of several training cycles, I gradually increased my pace until I made new PR averages for two minutes, one minute, 30 seconds and finally 20 seconds. I was ready for another go at 500 meters.

My 1:42.7 in the video put me in fourth place, behind Glen Vandewinckel, who had posted a 1:42.3. My first goal was to beat his time and move up to third place.

The Concept 2 ranking system gives you many possible goals. You donít have to win be a winner. The rankings can be used to get the best out of yourself. Roger Bangay from Surrey, GBR, was in second with a time of 1:37.7, almost two seconds better than my best in 2002. Plus, my best in 2003 was only 1:42.7. Topping Bangay didnít seem like a good bet. But Vandewinckelís third place time, only 0.4 seconds better than my recent effort, was clearly doable. By pacing myself properly, I thought I could move up. Third place was an exciting challenge, hard but realistic.

I lightened up in my Saturday weight workout and went after the third place time on Sunday. I did it with room to spare, recording a time of 1:41.2. It was hard, but I thought I could do better and strengthen my hold on third place.

There was a problem, however. My nemesis from last year, Malcolm Fawcett of Great Britain, weighed in with a time of 1:39.3, knocking me back down to fourth. That was a big hurdle; I wasnít sure I was ready to displace Fawcett. So I expanded my search to include heavyweight men in my age category. That produced more targets: John Fischbeck of Australia, Al Kennedy of West Hartford, CT, and Bob Sechrist of Pennsylvania, had posted times of 1:42.1, 1:40.2 and 1:39.9, respectively. Those looked like realistic challenges. Plus, Fawcettís time was still a longshot possibility. Things were getting more interesting.

The next week, I did a light weight workout on Friday, rested on Saturday and went for it on Sunday. The extra rest must've helped, because I was stronger than expected. When I opened my eyes after five pulls the monitor was registering a pace of 1:35-36, well under the 1:42 at the same point during my best effort in 2002. I knew I couldnít hold that pace, but it sure looked like I was on my way to a good time. My goal was to stay under 1:40 and hold 1:37-38, if possible. Thatís what I did, until the last few meters when I slipped over 1:40 for the first time. I pulled hard right through the finish and recorded a time of 1:39.2, almost a half second better than last year -- and one tenth of a second better than Malcolm Fawcett. I was back in third as a lightweight and 14 when heavyweights were added to the mix. I was in the top 25 percent for all men in my age category.

Keep in mind, however, that Fawcett did 1:38.6 last year. He can probably do it again. My third place position as a lightweight is clearly in jeopardy. Mr. Fawcett or someone else will probably beat my time and present me with another interesting challenge before the 2003 season ends. As Pavel Tsatsouline would say, "This is fun."

If I can improve my interval times a little more, Iíll probably have another go at 500 meters before the season ends in April. I wonít try it unless thereís a realistic chance of success, however. Thatís another important motivational principle: Always set yourself up for success. Failure breeds failure, and thatís never a good plan.

Iíll let you know if I try again. Iíve already had a satisfying season; for someone whoís been rowing as long as I have, 0.4 improvement in the 500 meter distance is real progress. Staying ahead of Malcolm Fawcett and improving on my 2002 placing would be icing on the cake. The key will be patience. I need to take my time and let it happen. As pointed out in Ripped 2, gains must be coaxed; they canít be forced.

Remember, challenge yourself. Always try to improve.

Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone (505) 266-5858, e-mail:  cncbass@aol.com, FAX:  (505) 266-9123.  Office hours:  Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time.

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