Indoor rowing is certainly not the same as being on the water. During those long winter months it is all we have. Unless you are one of those lucky athletes that live up north and can ski during the winter.
Over the past couple years, I found my fitness changing. I was enjoying longer and longer workouts and it turns out I have my mothers endurance abilities. I spend most of my free time on my erg in my living room. Erg Sprints in February each year is one of my only chances to put that training to the test and get to race others.
Here are a few things you will need:
1. Training. This can be the hardest part if you are not on a team. Training on your own requires mental toughness and discipline. I would tell myself that my competitors are taking less of a rest between pieces or are just a second faster, and I had to beat that. If I don't push the pace than I won't get faster. You have to get used to being uncomfortable and train for race day.
2. Water. When you wake up in the morning your body is dehydrated because you have not been drinking water all night while you sleep. Rehydrating your body first thing in the morning on race day and then sipping on water up til your race is critical. For a half marathon you probably won't be trying to take in water during your race but during a marathon you have to plan to do so. During an endurance event, rowers should aim to consume about 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour to maintain blood glucose levels. This can easily be done with a sports drink, or a homemade drink.
3. Fuel up. Test out and practice your competition day fuel. Try eating different foods before several of your training session and see how you perform differently. For long erg races your body requires carbohydrates and fats for energy. For endurance races lasting longer than 90 minutes, consider carb loading the night before to provide the maximum muscle and liver glycogen stores for your race.
4. Tape. Lib balm. Headphones. Anything that you need to race well. Personally, I like to race with my middle knuckle of my middle fingers taped because that is the first callus to blister or rip when I race. I know that is something I have to do to be prepared. You'll see a lot of distance rowers with headphones and a great playlist. I like to blast Foo Fighters to drown out the distractions of other people and announcements that are made during my race. That is what helps keep me focused.
5. A race plan. Do not go into any race thinking you can just pull really hard. Set a goal and plan your split times to achieve that goal. With longer races like these, rowers often break up the race by 5k and set a split goal for each one. If you just want to complete your first marathon race, then great - just hold on and pace yourself. If you're trying to set a PR or break a world record, you need a clear plan that you're trained to execute well.
I have completed several half marathons and marathons on my own, usually in my living room or at the boathouse. Erg Sprints World Rowing Indoor Championship this year was my first time racing since college. Having a race plan and having the right fuel was really what made this a successful come back story.
Next up: I am preparing for a big race very soon!