Adam does EIRC

Following on from my reasonable performance at the 2009 BIRC I decided to have a crack at the regional indoor rowing championships (thanks for the suggestion Barney!). Not only did this give me another target for which to train, but from studying past results I noticed that the standard is more comparable to my own level of “ability”.



manchesterThe venue for the English Indoor Rowing Championships is Manchester Velodrome; although this would mean a three hour journey t’ North, I decided that it would probably be worth it to gain some more racing experience. Maybe one day I won’t be quite so absolutely terrified on the day of the race and might actually be able to win something….

Unusually for me I entered the race in good time (men’s 30-39 heavyweight category) and managed to find a lovely (hmm) but reasonably priced B&B situated in an upmarket part of Manchester, near the City stadium. The weeks of intense training (a few ergs per week) and strict dieting (fish and chips, profiteroles, etc. yum) quickly passed and race weekend arrived. I duly printed off some vague directions from Google Maps and set off on Saturday morning, filled with a sense of anticipation (or it might have been snot as I had a cold). My drive up to the bleak, barren wasteland of The North was uneventful, the only issue being my inability to leave the motorway at the correct junction, which resulted in my spending an additional hour navigating my way through the delightful (poor) suburbs of the great city (sprawl) that is Manchester. I eventually located my accommodation on Hyde Road and wound my way through the back streets to find the B&B car park (every shop that wasn’t boarded up was a pound shop. I’ve never seen so much broken glass covering the streets).

The friendly couple (Phil and Kevin) running the B&B were very nice, and I felt that £28 for a night of comfort and Freeview (the room had a TV!) was very good value, despite the presence of the odd, er, body hair in the bed. The chaps recommended the local pubs as great locations for dining out, but one look at the patrons (there was a fight outside the nearest pub involving lots of skinheads) left me too scared to even walk on that side of the road. Fortunately I had brought pasta salad with me. Getting up at 6am would mean fending for myself for breakfast so I bought some milk (on which to float my cereal) at the nearby convenience store (also full of skinheads) and hung it out of the window using a coat-hanger (to keep it cool).

Race day!! I got up as planned, had my breakfast and a lukewarm shower and left the B&B…..only to find that there had been at least two inches of snow overnight (to be honest I was just glad that my car was still there). My two mile journey to the Velodrome took almost half an hour, but I managed to include some four-wheel drifting and handbrake turns to keep myself amused (fortunately there were no other cars around). Upon my arrival I discovered that the organisers were late and that there was some doubt as to whether the event would be on at all, given the amount of snow, but they eventually arrived and myself and a few other competitors helped them to finish setting up. My race was scheduled for 9:30, so just before 9am I changed into my sexy City one-piece and started warming up. Myself and the other racers then made our way to the competition area, exchanging words of encouragement (“good luck”, “break a leg”, etc.). The excitement was building, everybody completely focussed on the task in hand…we were about to begin the race…when...the computer linking all of the ergs together crashed and had to be rebooted (twice). At 9:50 the race finally started (at last!!).

Off the line I went straight into last place (bit of a pattern forming here) and completely failed to hit my target split. In fact, I couldn’t even keep a constant split – one stroke would be 2s above my target, the next 2s below. Hmm. This continued for the first 1000m or so, during which time I steadily climbed from 18th into 6th position. Eventually I managed to settle into a rhythm (in pain at this point) slightly slower than I had consistently managed in training. Oh dear. The last 500m suddenly arrived and I realised that I was only just on target for a pb (which would be a poor effort) and was still in 4th position (also poor), albeit only 1m behind the guy in front and 2m behind the bloke in 2nd (who happened to be sitting immediately to my left). Spurred on by shouts of encouragement from the spectators (very nice of them) I decided to make a move….and shot straight into 2nd place, only 14m behind the leader. I then pushed harder and got within 8m of the lead, when he responded, just keeping me at bay (at this point I was going slightly purple). The last 100m of the race were genuinely very uncomfortable, and I’m pleased to say that I gave it 100% for every stroke, but it wasn’t quite enough, and I finished 2nd by around 12m (~3s). I was completely shattered, and very surprised to see that my time was 6:17.3s – over 1.3s faster than I was aiming for. I shook hands with the guys sitting on either side of me and staggered off of the erg. It was a good half an hour before I could even talk at all without coughing, as the dry air in the Velodrome had left my throat very sore. At least I was able to walk though (in a wobbly sort of way) – the chap racing on my left was lying down for about 40 minutes after the race.

After about an hour I had peeled off my one-piece and was enjoying a post-race snack (energy drink, protein drink, pack of oatcakes, banana, two sandwiches, crisps, and a Double Decker) while waiting for the medal ceremony. At this point some very friendly chaps came and congratulated me for my performance (very kind of them) and said that they had enjoyed watching a very entertaining race. One gentleman who worked for Concept 2 remarked “you have a very unusual style” which obviously shows that he was impressed by my own personal interpretation of erging. Or something.

The 30-39 men’s heavyweight medal presentation was first, and the medallists were announced in reverse order. The third placed man went up, and was handed the gold medal; I went up, and was handed the silver medal (hooray!!), and the winner went up and was handed the bronze medal. Neither chap noticed that they had the wrong medals (dur) until I pointed this out. The chap in third seemed slightly reluctant to swap for some reason.

Anyway, if you fancy entering an indoor rowing competition then I can highly recommend the EIRC. The venue is excellent, the other competitors are very friendly and it’s a more enjoyable experience than you might expect. I hope to compete again next year (and pull a better time!!).


Additional information