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Ready All? Putting the Finishing Touches on a Good C.R.A.S.H.-B Training Plan

by Ed Moran, ed@usrowing.org | Jan 28, 2016
In boat clubs across the country, most rowers with the intention of racing at the C.R.A.S.H.-B sprints the last week of February in Boston, have been toiling away on rowing machines, piling up the long, steady state workouts and meters that build a good endurance base.

crashb1In boat clubs across the country, most rowers with the intention of racing at the C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints the last week of February in Boston have been toiling away on rowing machines, piling up the long, steady-state workouts and meters that build a good endurance base.

With the event now just a handful of weeks away, those endless workouts have been replaced with more shorter, intense pieces designed to get an athlete ready for the grueling 2,000-meter test awaiting them at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, Feb. 28.

For those wondering what they should be thinking about as the days tick by, Cambridge Boat Club coach Boris Kusturic offers some workout tips and advice, the most important of which is staying healthy and focusing on proper rowing.

No athlete that has worked since early fall to get ready for the dreaded “C.R.A.S.H. B.s” ever gets injured or sick on purpose, but there are ways to optimize the work behind and prepare for the work ahead to help avoid any pitfalls.

“At this point, we have started to cut down on the steady-state and we do short intervals once a week to get the body ready to bring the rate up,” Kusturic said. “And while doing that, we try to maintain the proper technique and proper form.”

The first thing Kusturic has his athletes of all levels and abilities do when January comes around is what he calls, “the tryout” piece. This, he explains, is a test of where an athlete physically is in relation to the score desired on race day.

“I tell them, ‘whatever you want to hold at C.R.A.S.H. B.s, realistically, whatever your desired split, when you come to 0.2 over your target, you can call it a day. You can stop, or you can finish.'’’
crash5
The point, said Kusturic, is to find out if what you think you want to do is what you may actually be capable of doing. Set the meter count on the monitor for 2,000 meters and execute a race plan, pulling the split necessary to reach a target time. When holding that spilt is no longer possible, stop.

Athletes who have set a realistic goal can hold the desired split for between 1,200 and 1,400 meters. Those who have set the bar too high go off-pace much more quickly.

It’s not a pass or fail test. And it is not designed to be pressure-filled, he said. It is merely a way to gauge where an athlete is with seven or eight weeks left to train before the race.

“Most people get between 1,200 and 1,400 meters in, and call it a day,” Kusturic said. “From that point, we start building the race pace with short power pieces, in between 30 seconds and a minute at high intensity, and then do race pace work once a week. It can be 500 meters times six, or four-minute and thirty seconds pieces, or 1,000-meter pieces - different lengths and a combination of times and distances. Some people might feel they need more, so we add it to the training program for that group,” he said.

Under Kusturis’ training program, Cambridge athletes spend the time from the tryout day to C.R.A.S.H.-B.s doing a workout that continues utilizing steady state and anaerobic threshold workouts (5,000-6,000 meter pieces, or 20-minute pieces). Kusturic lets his masters athletes pick which work best for them, given the time constraints adult competitors have.

“We have a huge variety of athletes,” he said. “So it’s hard to tell everybody to do exactly the same thing. If they want to do (6,000 meters), I let them do that. If they want to do (5,000 meters), I let them. If they want to do a 20-minute piece, I let them.

crash2mast“There is limited volume to what the masters can put in compared to the kids, taking care of work and households. You can’t really overload them the way you can juniors, or college, or pre-elites, or elites. So most of our (masters) workouts are designed to fit in 60 to 75 minutes max, with a warm-up and cool-down, and it seems to be okay. They’re encouraged to do extra steady state whenever they can, or do yoga, or what they can on their own. Some people have time. Some don’t. It’s tricky navigating a huge masters group of athletes.”

Under the typical plan at Cambridge, mid-January through up to a week before the race, combinations of workouts vary from steady state and “AT” work, to speed and race preparation.

All of them include a warm-up and a cool-down. One workout calls for four times 2,000 meters at a pace above the desired race split with a start, middle and finish that mirrors a race and three minutes between them.

Another day calls for longer pieces of varying length and times and intensity between AT and steady state, while still others have scheduled cross-training or yoga days. As the race gets closer, the workouts have more race preparation work.

One such workout that Kusturic and his athletes like sounds like a monster.


The Monster Workout

“The weekend before, we do a workout that is a progression. And people seem to love this one. We do a 2k piece at (5k for women and 6k for men pace), then we do a 1,500 meters at a (5k or 6k pace) minus two, then we do a 1k piece at (close to race pace), then 750 meters at a (race pace) minus two, and then 500 meters max. The rest is always equal to the work. It’s a pretty substantial workout, but once done, people seem to love it and really appreciate it.”

From then until race day, the plan calls for the same volume, but more focused race preparation.

“The week leading into C.R.A.S.H.-B.s, we maintain the volume, because it’s really not that high. I cut the hard intensity into a third. The Wednesday before we do one 1k piece at (race pace), then a 500-meter piece at (race pace) with four minutes rest.

“We do a couple of days at steady state, 65 to 70 percent, not very hard. And then on the (day) before we do a race warm-up and a two-by-two race prep at steady-state with a start, middle, with maybe 15 or 20 strokes in the middle, and then a sprint.”

Kusturic’s final advice to his athletes is about proper hydration and mental preparation.

“They come to the arena an hour and a half, to two hours before the race,” he said. “If they are lightweights, they have to weigh in. Then they have to stay hydrated because it’s dry in the arena on that ice.

“The air tends to get pretty dry in there, so I prepare them for that. And that’s it. I tell them just deal with the adrenaline and keep up the good rowing, keep up good technique under pressure and when they start to agonize. Keep up with what’s important in a good rowing stroke. Stay relaxed and stay strong, especially in the face and grip.”

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