19.1 Strategy

I have to admit, I’m a bit confused. For years now, I’ve been predicting a 4 mile run in the Open. And for all those years, my anguish, my anger, my sorrow and my strife, my constant disappointment at the lack of 4 mile run has had a locus of focus, an obvious nucleus, a bullseye at which to aim my ire. I am referring, of course, to The Dave Castro.

But now what? I don’t even know who I’m supposed to be angry at any more. I suppose there’s nothing to do but move on as if everything were normal. Fortunately for us, some things never change, and one of those things is Sam Briggs’ completely absurd level of endurance. Very few people have earned a nickname quite so thoroughly as Sam Briggs has earned “Engine”. She put it on display in 19.1, and we are here to reap the analytical reward.

19.1

AMRAP 15:
19 Wall Ball, 20# to 10’/14# to 9’
19 Calorie Row

Analysis & Output Management

Notes    1. Split times for each movement are taken when the athlete completes each set. Transitions are therefore accounted for at the beginning of each movement. i.e. the split times include the time it took Briggs to move to the rower, get strapped in, and start rowing, and vice versa for the wall ball (excepting the first round.) 2. This is all hand timed and imperfect, but sufficient for our purposes. 3. Asterisks denote times when for a number of reasons – camera moving away, feed freezing, etc – I was unable to get Briggs’ exact times. Based on her final score (9 rounds flat) and Briggs’ general consistency, I’m confident that these are sufficiently representative.

Notes

1. Split times for each movement are taken when the athlete completes each set. Transitions are therefore accounted for at the beginning of each movement. i.e. the split times include the time it took Briggs to move to the rower, get strapped in, and start rowing, and vice versa for the wall ball (excepting the first round.)
2. This is all hand timed and imperfect, but sufficient for our purposes.
3. Asterisks denote times when for a number of reasons – camera moving away, feed freezing, etc – I was unable to get Briggs’ exact times. Based on her final score (9 rounds flat) and Briggs’ general consistency, I’m confident that these are sufficiently representative.

The challenge with this workout is determining how fast you should row. Based on some rough calculations, I estimated that Briggs was holding an average pace a little bit faster than her 2k from the Games in 2013.

Row

The calculations are simple enough. Briggs’ 2k row time of 7:17 (1:49.2/500m) equates to 1224 calories/hour using this calculator. Please bear in mind that there is no direct conversion between distance and calories, so I can’t be too certain how accurate the calculator is (but it seems fairly close – possibly a bit low if anything, meaning Briggs’ calories/hour would actually be slightly higher than the 1224 estimate).

1224/hour = 20.4/minute. Briggs was completing her 19 calorie rows in 0:59 including transitions, so I would estimate the real times to be closer to 0:53, or 21.6 calories per minute – about 6% faster than her 7:17 2k.

It’s worth noting that even though 1224 calories per hour “equals” a 1:49.2 500m split, that’s only true quantitatively, not qualitatively: because of the way the ergometer measures calories versus how it measures distances, holding a calories/hour pace “equal” to your 2k 500m split may feel significantly easier than it would if you were rowing for distance.

There are a lot of caveats here: it was over half a decade ago, for one, and it was a 2k that proceeded right into a half marathon, for another, and all of these measurements are approximate for a third. Nonetheless, I think it’s likely that Briggs time of 7:17 is both fairly representative of her current rowing fitness, and not too far off of a true max effort 2k row.

Based on this, I’m making the following recommendations to my athletes for establishing their target row pace:

  1. Determine your most recent 2k pace and perform the conversion to calories/hour.

  2. Pace test in warm-up (included below).

  3. Based on how you feel in the warm-up, determine your starting pace.

This pace should be fairly aggressive, leaving you a bit of room to back off after the first round or two. Your aim should be to negative split the workout, i.e. to perform more rounds from 7:30-15:00 than you do from 0:00-7:30. Therefore your pace should be challenging enough that you can back off a bit and still be rowing at a respectable clip and leave gas in the tank to kick on the back half.

A final note here: selecting your pace is an inherently personal challenge. All of the data in the world is only able to draw a picture of how this event will actually shake out for any particular athlete. Push your limits, but trust your instincts – the numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell us the whole truth.

Wall Ball

Determining how to tackle the wall ball begins with a question: do you need to break the wall ball in order to maintain your rowing pace?

If the answer is no – great! You’re really fit. And apart from keeping your transitions quick, there’s not a whole lot you can do to impact your time per rep – it’s going to be what it’s going to be. But what if you do need to break the wall ball?

This is a movement on which I strongly advocate for a less-is-more approach. You absolutely can perform relatively small sets of wall ball with tightly controlled rests and perform very well. My recommendations are as follows:

  1. In the warm-up, you’ll determine your planned set-breaks and rest times for wall ball.

  2. During the workout, if you need to increase rest, do so on the clock, not in your head. You’re a liar when you’re tired, but the clock always tells the truth.

  3. Perform wall ball on a wall, not a rig. When resting, place the ball against the wall and lean your chest against it, letting your arms hang by your sides as you recover.

I’ll say it again (and again next week and the week after that and the week after that and…): rest on the clock, not in your head. Do this and you will surprise yourself with the pace and consistency you can perform with. Fail to do so and your plan will fall apart.

Technical Considerations

Row: First off, row correctly. Although calories and meters measure different things, the erg calculates calories/hour based on 500m split. Don’t adopt some weird, huge-pull-18-strokes-per-minute technique. Row the way you would if it were a 2k time trial. Other than that, the only thing to consider is the start. I advise an aggressive, powerful start into a cruise, as this will often help game the machine and let your calories accumulate more quickly.

Wall Ball: Use your legs! Despite the fact that your shoulders get a break on the rower and your legs don’t, you still want to be steadfast in keeping the arms relaxed and doing the work with your lower body. Focus on your breathing – it should be relaxed and loose, more similar to the way you breathe when you run than the way you breathe when you pull a max deadlift.

Warm-Up

Note: This is only the part of the warmup which is specific to the Open workout. It should not replace your general warmup routine

  1. 8:00 row, slightly escalating intensity every 2:00. Row the last 0:15 at your 2k pace.

  2. 3 x 10 Wall Ball, slow eccentric on squat, rest 0:30-0:45 between sets

  3. 3 Rounds: 12 Wall Ball/12 Calorie Row. Perform the first row at your 2k pace and adjust up or down from there.

Last but not least: this one is going to hurt. If you want your best performance, you’re going to have to hold a pace which you really don’t want to hold. Expect this to be an event in which you’ll need to lean into discomfort a bit – do so intelligently and you’ll walk (crawl) away with a performance you’re proud of.

Jacob