500 meter race strategy

With less than 48 hours to go until race day and the physical training behind you, its now time to conserve your energy and to mentally prepare yourself for your Decathlon. Smack in the middle is the 500 meter indoor row.
A 500 meter Erg race is a relatively short distance. The standard race distance for the sport of indoor and on-water rowing is 2000 meters or 1.25 miles. If the 2K is the rowers equivalent of the runners mile, a 500m Erg race is the equivalent of a 400m track sprint, the opening event. Like the 400, the 500m row will require a maximal effort and a smart race strategy if you plan to get your best time on the day.
By now you should have a realistic sense of your ability or goal for your 500m row. An important part of achieving your goal is to know how to pace yourself. The common ‘fly and die’ or all-out from the start approach used by most inexperienced rowers is not a smart strategy. It will only result in a faster build-up of lactic acid, rapid fatigue and an inability to hold your pace or to even finish the race.
Your 500m time will be the result of two factors. The first and most important factor  is the split (or speed) displayed per stroke and average on the machine’s performance monitor. The second factor is your stroke rate or SPM (strokes per min) also displayed on the monitor. Stroke rate is a measure of pacing and as long as you can maintain your target split (speed) a higher stroke rate (30 spm +) will allow you to get a faster time.
Keys to a successful 500 meter race
  • Have a goal and a strategy for your race.
  • Know what split or speed you need to hold to get the time you want. Note that your average split will be your finishing time.
  • The best strategy is to have your average split decrease, and not increase, during the course of your race.
  • Know what stroke rate (pace) you can sustain for the first three quarters of the race. Starting out at a stroke rate that you cannot sustain will result in early fatigue and a slowing of speed (an increase in avg. split)
  • Don’t allow yourself to get overexcited by the competition. Be disciplined about holding your target stroke rate for the first 375-400m.
  • Try to relax and recover between your strokes. This may sound counterintuitive but is probably the most important key to effective rowing.
  • Try to find a rhythm and focus on driving with your legs.
  • Do NOT make any drastic changes to your technique on race day.
See my video demonstration of a 500m pacing strategy. The target goal for the  500 piece is 1.40 but this same strategy can be applied to any 500m goal. My average stroke rate for the 500m was 33 which tends to be my typical race pace. Note that the video displays the race data such as distance, split per stroke, avg. split and SPM. The same data displayed on your monitor on race day. Because at the end of the day (or race) its all about the numbers! Specifically your average split. The last segment of the video shows the high pull to the chest technique that can be used for the last 10 power strokes to help you shave a second or two off your time.
Row Strong!
Mike
 

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