Now that we are in the thick of winter training, the erg wars have begun.
Of course there are the eternal number battles that occur every time we do a workout for scores; pushing your speed to see how many athletes you can beat in the training group.  Testing and racing on the erg are the inescapable measures of talent, training and fitness that we complete for selection as the cycle wears on.  But this year, more than most, there are other, bloodier battles taking place at the boathouse:  the daily erg wars.

I think it is safe to generalize that rowers as a population do not enjoy change.  We are a people of pattern, repetition, and perhaps even clinically compulsive in our desire for control and mechanism in many things that we do.  If you row long enough, it is is simply the lifestyle:  perfecting your execution of one movement by practicing it over and over for millions of kilometers.  So I don’t blame anyone for wanting to have their way when it comes to executing their winter training program–all that everyone want to do is give themselves the best possible opportunity to perform.  So, when you walk in to the erg room on a given morning and you see someone sitting on your erg, obviously things can escalate quickly.
Over the past few weeks, I have seen several subtle spats go down in the early minutes of our morning workouts over territorial ergometer issues.  Over the past three weeks, for the most part people have identified themselves with a row in the erg room and every day there is little variation in the seating pattern.  When inevitably someone goes rogue and decides to “try something new” sometimes tempers flare.  And believe me, pissing off any of my teammates at 6:45 a.m. is not a nice thing to watch.
I, personally, am a front row person.  Not only is there a set of ceiling fans over the front row, but it also has coveted mirror space which is actually a significant help to me while I struggle with technique changes on the erg during long steady state sessions.  Moreover, I like that I don’t have to watch anyone erging in front of me, and I like having one machine that is a constant value in evaluating my speed week to week on competitive workouts.  Maybe it’s weird and obsessively particular, but I know I’m not the only one who gets pissy someone trying to move in on “their” erg on any given day.
To avoid conflict, I (and several others) have taken to staking out our ergs as early as 6:30 a.m. (practice starts at 7:30).  I find that even though I am typically one of the first athletes to arrive at the boathouse in the mornings, I still need to proceed immediately to the erg room with water bottle and notebook in hand in order to assert my claim on my machine before “front row poachers” (you know who you are) get there and start rocking the boat by trying to squeeze out other front row regulars.  It’s hot property up there, and I know it and respect it, so I do my best to avoid conflict by getting there stupidly early. Usually it works.
Of course, part of the PTC/Terhaar philosophy is coaching athletes to be able to perform on any machine/in any boat/with any weird circumstances that may arise (such as starting your erg test late, for example).  No one who trains here needs to have any one erg, or a particular place in the room in order to perform.  But that’s not going to stop us from liking to have it our way.

PTC Winter Training video montage with the US Women coming up later this week, stay tuned!

Long Live the Dream,


12 thoughts on “Erg Wars

  1. It only gets worse when you’re still rowing on Model C’s. The things are so beat up that being on a different machine really does feel different!

    Boo erg usurpers!

  2. I guess it will be an interesting trip to San Diego with all 40 of you going. At least you have reserved seating on the plane. Good luck and I heard the weather is warmer.

    1. Thanks Sarah! Only 20 athletes going to San Diego for this trip so hopefully the bloodshed will be kept to a minimum. Also I think the increased levels of Vitamin D should help things. :)

      1. How did the 20 girls get to go? Was the erg testing that did it? Coaches choice? previous race performance? It must be tough to be away from your family. I guess if you can do it thru college, you can do it thru training.

        1. Selection was done based on a variety of Tom’s criteria. For more details you’d have to ask him!

          Being away from friends and family is hard, but they are very supportive of my training, so that makes it easier. Plus the 75 degree sunshine seems to help.

  3. Hey Megan, please don’t scowl at ME! I’m not the one who pre-emptively *re$erved* your erg on Friday morning! (Don’t know who did, either.)

  4. Great synapsis Kalmoe. This is why I will continue to stumble in last, and take whatever dog-eared erg I can take in the hallway. The thought of arriving an hour early for practice So, hey, want to save me an erg? :)

  5. This is why up here in Canada we have our own individual ergs and our seating arrangement is based on last round of testing. However, there is always someone who gets confused and takes your erg, or sits in your spot….or if their batteries die they find it ok to just take another erg…..Great post on erg wars, funny how similar we all are.

  6. “perfecting your execution of one movement by practicing it over and over for millions of kilometers”? If you row from age 15 until age 75, you will have to row 16.666 km per year to do just ONE million kilometers in a lifetime. That’s more than 45 kilometers per day. Not sure if anyone in history ever rowed 1 million kilometers :-)

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