The Erg Rodeo

In the process of getting ready for the last three body building shows and the PowerMarathon event, I developed a shoulder issue: the ligaments that hold my left collar bone to my shoulder blade (AC joint) were tearing and needed time to heal. Looking around the gym for new exercises that would not irritate this injury, I spotted the rowing machine in the corner of the gym. I was already conditioned for leg pressing exercises, back rowing movements, and running, so  the rowing machine seemed right up my alley. I sat on this machine, fiddled curiously with the electronic display, and started rowing. After trying a short distance of 500 meters and scratching the time down on a piece of paper,  I hopped on the rower again a few days later, bettering my last time by several seconds. That night, searching “rowing machines” online, I came across the Concept 2 site. Not only was I using a Concept 2 machine, they also had an online database where people from all over the world could post their times! This is considered the machine of choice for collegiate and Olympic-level racers in the off-season all over the world for increasing stamina, so when I compared my 500-meter time and discovered  I was  second in Texas, I was stoked. Three days later, I became first. Attempting longer distances (1000, 2000, 5000, and 10,000 meters) yielded similar results. Now I was hooked. About a month after discovering this awesome piece of equipment, I wondered how rowing on the open water would feel and so decided to take lessons at the Texas Rowing Center. The center is just a 15-minute drive from my house to the beautiful Lady Bird Lake, where the docks are located. After a month of lessons, I joined the novice team and have been practicing two to three times a week. Hearing from an instructor about an indoor rowing event that would be held at the University of Texas in February, I signed up immediately. This event was called the Erg Rodeo, and it offered two flavors of pain–the 1000- and 2000-meter. I registered for both distances, even though they would be performed just 24 minutes apart. A few weeks later, I was on the university grounds at Gregory Gym signing in. The 1000-meter race was first, and I was up against five other contenders, two of whom were rowing coaches. The timer went off, and so did we. I got off to a fast start, almost too fast judging by the display on my machine that showed my pace. The display also showed the familiar distance shrinking with every surge of force applied to the handle: 900 . . . 850 . . . 800. By 350 meters, I was starting to feel the effects of the faster start. The burning sensation was in every tissue of my being as I gasped for air and asked my body to not give up. I screamed the last 100 meters out to the finish, folding over in my seat, desperate for the pain to recede. I thought I’d finished in third place when squinting at the overhead screen, so getting pats on the back felt like a kind gesture of good sportsmanship. Turns out that I was looking at the wrong virtual boat and that I had won by many seconds with a 3:08 time. I have come in second so many times in my bodybuilding past, so winning a 24-hour foot race, and now a rowing competition, really made me feel good, especially at 45 years of age. My performance in the 2000-meter race was quite poor, as I had nothing left in the tank and vomited immediately afterward in a garbage can hidden underneath a stairwell. I have continued to practice at my gym and improve on this winning time without losing my lunch. Can’t wait till next year.



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