The science behind the perfect 2k test

A 2k test is just you against the clock. So how do you pace your race? Dr Mark Homer, GB Rowing Team Senior Sport Scientist, gives advice

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BRIC 2015 (Photo: Simon Way)

Your 2k test result depends on several factors, the most influential being the training completed in the weeks leading up to the test. However, how you pace a time trial can often make a significant difference to your result.

The topic of pacing a high intensity sports performance has been approached from physiological, psychological viewpoints and a combination of the two. Studies that focus on rowing performance tend to investigate on-water strategies during international regattas (Muehlbauer & Melges 2011) or the differing contributions of athletes within a crew during a race (Renfree et al 2012). While interesting, on-water pacing should be different to that of indoor rowing.

The variables that dictate pacing during multi-lane competition are multi-factorial. Much effort is required to overcome the drag resistance of a boat sitting in water and achieve racing speed, while there is an advantage to being at – or near – the front early in order to see the race from a backward facing position.

In a comparison of on-water and ergometer pacing strategies Garland (2005) supported this notion by demonstrating that elite male and female rowers rowed the first 500m at 103.3% of the race’s average speed, followed by 99.0%, 98.3% and 99.7% in boats, and 101.5%, 99.8%, 99% and 99.7% on ergometers.

The author suggests that the similar pattern on the rowing machine could be attributed to rowers being conditioned to race a similar strategy to their water performance.

The graph below describes the 2km pacing strategies for the winners of some men’s age category races at the 2015 British Rowing Indoor Championships. These athletes still favour a fast start and finish. The obvious exception is the fastest ergo recorded that day, by a soon-to-be Olympic champion, Moe Sbihi. He favoured a steadier start with increasing speed – particularly in the final 500m.

BRIC_results

The ideal pacing strategy for racing 2000m on the rowing machine will be largely based on the physiological strengths / weaknesses of an athlete. My experience tells me that although there are common themes in elite rowers’ physical profiles, there are also subtle differences that can result in alternative routes to similar performance times.

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Garland (2005) makes the point that an unrealistically fast start can lead to increased metabolic acidosis that will have a negative effect on aerobic energy production during the dominant endurance portion of the race. This could lead to early fatigue and a deterioration in technique.

Therefore, some practical advice is to work out which tactics work best for you. This could include taking advantage of the tactical freedom afforded by a rowing machine and being realistic in the first 500m to preserve your influential mid-race pace so that there is something left for the inevitable sprint finish.

Follow Mark Homer on Twitter – @markrhomer

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References

1 – Muehlbauer, T, Melges, T (2011) Pacing patterns in competitive rowing adopted in different race categories. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(5), 1293-1298.

2 – Renfree, A, Martin, L, Richards, A, St Clair Gibson, A (2012) All for one and one for all! Disparity between overall crew’s and individual rowers’ pacing strategies during rowing. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 7, 298-300.

3 – Garland, S W (2005) An analysis of the pacing strategy adopted by elite competitors in 2000m rowing. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39, 39-42.