I raced my single in four head races - the Lift Bridge Regatta in Fairport, NY; the Five Bridges Regatta in Welland, ON; the Head of the Charles in Boston; and the Head of the Hooch in Chattanooga. Three were about 3 miles (Fairport has shortened its course to closer to 2 miles). I was lucky with weather and water conditions with all three (it got much windier at the HOCR later in the day). I raced several people more than once but many different people in each regatta, given the distances between them.
I did not win any of the races, but I also did not come in last in any. I improved my time in comparison to some others, while some of my competitors improved in relation to me.
My main takeaway was that, while I rowed hard, I was never rowing at full power. This tells me several things. First, I enjoy rowing lightly on the bay in the Martin and that may be good for my aerobic base, but it does not prepare me to compete. Second, the increase in power I experience during most workouts (i.e., I start slow and end stronger) is productive as far as it goes, but does not achieve what I want for a race pace without intentional increase in pressure. Third, the planned workouts I did, both on the water and on the erg when the bay was too windy, were far more effective as training sessions than simply going out for a row. Fourth, the more I planned and used interval workouts, the easier and more helpful they became. (With regard to this last, I have to say that not too many years ago, I did very little interval work. However, at that time, my average pace on the erg was under 2:00 minutes per 500 for almost any distance and my practice was to start strong and stay strong. Now I start - it seems - half asleep and gradually strengthen my pace. Inserting intervals after a warmup improves my pace throughout.) Fifth, I need to find time to get out in my racing single more times during the summer and fall. The Martin is great - and better for open water that rarely stays flat, but I need more time in the racing single to improve my comfort and control and technique.
In 2016, I considered doing some summer racing (1k sprints) but did not enter any summer regattas. In 2017, I will consider it again. And if I do enter those races, my intention will be to use them to 'up the ante' on the interval work I do in the summer for the fall. And to do so sooner (and perhaps with something closer to 'full power') in order to gain a competitive advantage on the pace I had by Labor Day in 2016.
And then, for the fall, I like the idea of 4-5 head races. I have a guarantee at the Hooch but not the HOCR. I do not need one at the Lift Bridge and Five Bridges regattas. And perhaps it is time to add a new venue. We will see.
Today, with snow on the ground and ice on the bay, my hope is to get some miles in on the water before the end of March!