the race start sequence

race starts 18may14

the race start sequence is an exercise that both my rowing & dragon boat teams practice well before a racing event / our first sprint race is on june 7 & the start was what we did today for our indoor practice in the tank & on the erg <we were indoors because the waterflow on the allegheny river was 66 kcfs + there was a lot of debris, seen & unseen, on the river that can do serious damage to the boats> \ googling the topic, i found that there are a number of variations that rowing coaches favor such as:  3/4, 1/2, 1/2, 3/4, full;   3/4, 1/2, 3/4, full;   1/2, 1/2, 3/4, full;    3/4, 1/2, 3/4, 3/4, full; and … is this a joke?  full, half, 5/8, 6/8, 7/8, full <apparently not, this was reported by a lightweight rower> \ based on their experience, coaches select the sequence that provides the quickest start

starts are powerful strokes <high spm> that jumpstarts the shell or dragon boat \ it typically consists of 5 strokes followed by power 10s or 20s until the cox or db steerer calls to “settle” or “lengthen” / a good start cannot win a race but a bad start can lose a race \ probably more important is the “settle” which is getting into race pace after the start sequence / this is the sustainable speed & ratio that the boat carries through most of the race punctuated only by the cox or steerer’s call for “power” or “focus” 10s & 20s <in my db team, also called “heroic measures” 🙂 > and finally the “finish” or the really heroic sprint to the finish line

though the finish of the race may look like the most exciting part for rowers, paddlers & spectators, i think there is a greater benefit in mastering a good start than a good finish \ first, there is a great psychological boost when a boat has a successful start <in dragon boat, our coach tells us how much distance a good (or bad start) covers; take that as a fraction of the entire race distance (500 meters for dragon boat sprints) puts the value of a start in context> / second, the start sequence gets everyone in synch quickly before race pace | i personally find it easier to be in time with short strokes and so by the time we are about to “lengthen,” i am mentally prepared to do so \ a strong start & race pace on a good ratio both set up for a strong finish / thanks, coach, for a wonderful rowing practice today!


TDMM’s race start sequence is as follows:  

1) 5 strokes:      3/4 ,   1/2,    3/4,   90%,  full slide but not total body swing

2) 20 strokes still at high spm & full slide but not total body swing

3)  in prep for race pace or settling which is at full slide & total body swing, cox says “1, 2”;  recovery on “2”

4)  settle or race pace


a book about the greatest futbol player

pele soccer bookwith world cup 1950, 1958, 1970 & 1994 as backdrop, in his book “why soccer matters” (2014) pele talks about the significant influence & impact that soccer played in his life as a young boy / as well as the role that soccer played in uniting his country with national pride and how soccer & star athletes like him were used in domestic & international politics

soccer was not an extremely popular sport in the philippines when i was growing up <basketball & boxing were & still are> but we knew pele / and this is the football that filipinos would play when they did <not the steelers kind of football> \ i enjoyed watching soccer in my university <diliman campus of the university of the philippines> | the best matches were those between the international center <dorm of international students, mostly other southeast asians> vs. the best team of local students / played at the sunken garden

i’ve heard it said before & pele describes here that a national team reflects national characteristics | the germans were “efficient” <not wasting a pass or dribble>, the british “combined disciplined solidity with occasional eccentric genius,” the soviets played “scientific soccer” and as pele says, the brazilians’ style of playing was “full of joy, improvisation and our willingness for better or for worse, to ignore established conventions & rules”

winning the world cup is a matter of national pride & brings with it prestige & some amount of respect in the international community / inevitably, the sport gets drawn into the game of politics <just like chess, gymnastics, ping pong, the olympics, ballet> \ on the positive side from pele’s perspective, brazil’s loss to uruguay in 1950 was a uniting force for his country & in his later years, he knew to use his celebrity to bring about social good / one thing that i did not know before reading the book was that he was instrumental in popularizing soccer in the u.s. \ after he retired from the brazilian national team, pele played for the new york cosmos with precisely that goal & for practical financial reasons

publication of the pele’s book coincides with world cup 2014 being hosted by brazil \ from my point of view, it also coincides with pittsburgh hosting ac milan vs. manchester city on july 27 which i am excited & so looking forward to watching! / this was an enjoyable, easy and quick read | much like meeting a new friend and listening to him tell highlights of his life story \ soccer enthusiasts will also enjoy his description of his great plays <and some of these plays did not score a goal>

i heard about this book from pele himself when he was a guest in the jon stewart show!  / this is the first time i read an ebook <my device is the nook color> \ the book is still in hardcover & the nook book is half its price / you can choose line spacing, margins, color background, font & size / it’s socially connected & also shows unobtrusively when you have incoming email \ not a bad experience

light blue 2 falls off @2014 boat race

2014 boat race oxford wins160th boat race | the championship course river thames, london |06 april 2014

oxford won the 2014 boat race by 11 lengths with a time of 18:36 <distance is 4.2 miles> / sprinting at the start in the mid-40s then settling to 33-34\ what sealed the loss for cambridge was 2-seat’s oar clashing with oxford 7-seat/ throwing him off & catching crab <and damaging his rigger> \ a disappointingly brief race



two books about young men’s quest for olympic rowing gold

amateurs boys1“the amateurs” (david halberstam 1985) & “the boys in the boat” (daniel james brown 2013) depict the difficult path taken by young men from two different generations to winning a place in the olympics, the song remained the same <deep love of a sport that promises only pain (not fame or fortune), requires lots of self-motivation & tests friendships>

rowing is the ultimate amateur sport / there are no star athletes or celebrities | no financial gain or product endorsements | no fan merchandise | no season tickets | hardly any media coverage  even if it’s the olympics | a participant sport / “the amateurs” is the story of four young men’s journey to win a place in single sculling in the 1984 summer olympics held in lake casitas california / sculling which is rowing with two oars & done as single, double or quad is the natural progression from crew after college \ to win the gold as a single sculler in the olympics means being THE best rower in the world <not 1 of 8 or 1 of 4 or 1 of 2 but the single best> / in sculling, rowing becomes an individual sport with athletes crafting their own training, practicing on their own schedule, jockeying for position \ the story of “the boys in the boat” is about crew <that’s sweep rowing, you’re either port or starboard oar | 8 rowers & a coxswain> and because of the time that it unfolded, is much more dramatic / it was the chance to represent the united states in the 1936 berlin olympics which gave the games under hitler’s germany a subtext of a battle between good vs. evil \ here the dynamics of the group was as important as the individual rower’s character & skills and winning the olympic gold in 1936 was a metaphor of good triumphing over evil

what i found most interesting about the books was that these rowers not only belonged to different generations but they also had very different socio-economic backgrounds / the generational difference did not manifest the way the athletes pursued their goals but their social & economic circumstance did \ the amateurs came from privileged eastern families | they held professional jobs or later on pursued careers in finance & medicine | they drove volvos & saabs to practice | they had supportive families \ the boys on the other hand were sons of hard scrabble working class western families | they supported themselves with construction jobs in the summer | they pretty much fended for themselves | they transformed quickly from boys to men / what was common among these young men was their love of the sport | how rowing filled some deep need or gap in their  lives | and how they were so intensely determined to achieve their goals

to this day, rowing continues to be an amateur sport and because this is so, i think it imparts the best virtues of & the purest reasons for competitive sports / however, the consequence of being a purely amateur sport <no professional careers, no big money, no industry> is that it becomes a financial burden for schools & universities \ sadly, when budgets tighten, rowing programs are among the first to get axed just like temple university’s recent decision to cut its men’s & women’s crews / it is a shame, rowing is a beautiful sport that deeply inspires those who find & stay with it \ i am glad that pittsburgh has gained a strong rowing tradition

the virtue of competitive sports

fast pools

one of the most apparent differences between our educational system vs. asian countries is the greater importance we give to sports than academics / significant time & resources are channeled to sports in schools & colleges \ our society expects no less and parents enthusiastically sign up their children starting at pre-school in at least one sport / on the other hand, i grew up in a culture & educational system that emphasized academics over & above other pursuits \ and so i have had to balance my belief that a strong academic foundation is significantly more important than excelling in sports with the need to accommodate the norm

happily, my favorite young athletes who are passionate about swimming are also good students and well-rounded, really nice persons / the swim season started last month \ they’ve already gone to away-meets in cleveland and a “fast” meet is upcoming this weekend at the university of pittsburgh trees hall / they attend swim practice 5 to 10 times a week | one is at the pool at 5:30 a.m | impressively, they swim 5 to 7 miles on a typical practice day! \ on top of that, they are violinists in the school orchestra and their grades are mostly A’s / an aside:  they are not unique in what they do, their peers in school pretty much carry similar loads of activity 

competitive swimming has instilled in them virtues that some adults would take a lifetime to acquire or not / self-motivation, self-confidence, determination, perseverance, strong work ethic \ moreover, the demands of being an athlete have all encompassing benefits to their physical and mental well-being & health <a plus with swimming is the lower chance of serious injuries compared to other sports>

our dismal performance in international academic tests* does not bother me as much as it used to / because i know that there are many factors that contribute to our youth’s success \ it will not hinge solely on academic prowess / equally important are creativity, innovativeness & independence of spirit <fostered by rich & challenging experiences> and the virtues that participation in competitive sports bestow
* subject of 12/4/13 blogpost much ado?

season ender: at last, not dfl


this is our last race of the season, the head of the occoquan  /  a beautiful sunny day made the river glitter though at times it turned a bit windy and chilly \ i rowed with a  good novice crew / that felt good, the lineups i had been in all my previous races this year consistently came dfl but not this time!

we drove about six hours from pittsburgh to arlington on saturday \ georgetown was a short walk across key bridge but we spent a good bit of time searching for a place to have our traditional pre-race team dinner / on a busy saturday night, a table for a party of ten is almost impossible to come by \ nice to see georgetown after so many years

occoquan team dinner

i am always nervous before a race / with rowing, so many things can go awry and can affect the outcome of a race or even a practice session \ let me count the ways:  the lineup, since rowers come in differing abilities and sizes | equipment failure like foot stretchers, seats, or oar collars coming off | water conditions that can change hour-to-hour or spot by spot | wind conditions that can be constantly variable | an engaging coxswain or not | non-working coxbox | race rules that can change at short notice

then there’s the rowing technique itself with many parts that have to come together for the individual rower | that have to be acted out in synchrony as a team /  but that is what i love about rowing = the challenge of mastering these irritations and the supreme focus needed to achieve mastery \  i also enjoy the camaraderie of my teammates and fellow athletes  / we come from different backgrounds and though we have different motivations for taking up the sport, i think we are united by one common goal especially at every race and that is, not to let the team down, not to catch crab, not a good thing