Trials #2, camp, brief holiday…

Non-Olympic (Worlds) trials

It didn’t seem like long between the Olympic trials and the Worlds trials; recovering for a few days, a week of training on the Tideway (blissfully empty after the Head of the River) and a week of training at Dorney lake.

The forecast for the first day of trials looked pretty bad wind-wise, and so the time trial was shifted to the afternoon. We only found this out at about 5pm the day before, and as anyone who has raced lightweight will know, a big change to your routine is far from ideal! Luckily my “gut weight” reduction strategy worked a treat and I woke up with plenty in hand. The weigh-in was therefore suitably easy, but the time trial itself wasn’t my best ever row. With several of the young-guns going pretty quick, I ended up in 5th place. Not where I’d wanted to be, but could have been worse.

The semi-final was destined to be a tough race, given how close the results were from the TT. It proved to be exactly that. Thanks to a solid middle 1000m, I put myself in a solid position coming into the last 500m. Unfortunately, Sam Tuck (Molesey) was out to an unassailable lead, and I was out-sprinted by Ben Reeves (Brookes) so ended up in third. No worries though; the conditions were fair, so the lane draw for the final wouldn’t be a massive issue.

After grabbing some lunch and a quick nap, it wasn’t long before I was warming up for the final. The row up to the start proved somewhat eventful, when I (completely reasonably and safely) didn’t follow the circulation pattern to the letter and was pulled aside for a dressing-down and the threat of a yellow card. All completely ridiculous, and thankfully I was able to turn this to my advantage when I pulled my fastest first 500m of the regatta. Nothing like a bit of rage to fuel the fire!

I ended up holding onto a solid 3rd place all the way down the course. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t go with the leaders in the second kilometre, but I just didn’t have it in the legs.

So all-in-all, a solid result?

Well… yes, but no.

It seems that anything short of a spectacular result was useless in the eyes of the selectors, and the chances of any international racing this year are slim-to-none. Great. It’s always nice to find out something like this after spending several months where your whole bloody life revolves around trials. Dieting to an unpleasant weight, taking loads of time off work, missing friends’ birthdays etc. Perhaps I’m just thick and should have seen it coming.

Either way, I think I might just throw in the towel with trialling. I seem to end up consistently one or two places outside the squad, and I’m competing against plenty of younger rowers who are managing (one way or another) to train pretty much full time. I’m proud of where I have got to, alongside a job in engineering and in an “old wooden boat”*, but I just don’t think I can commit any more years to this ambition. I’m still getting faster, but the whole trials process has a way of draining all the fun out of rowing. It’s not trivial financially either.

Ah well.


And feeling a little downbeat and lacking motivation, what better time to go on a training camp?!?

But it was booked, and promised stunning water, scenery and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

After an easy flight to Porto, we hopped on a bus for the transfer to the hotel (near Ourense, Spain) It ended up being rather unpleasant, thanks to the driver deciding that the only way to combat the condensation on the front windscreen was to turn the heating up higher and higher. I don’t think he realised that we were all sweating like pigs and thus contributing to said condensation. It’s always reassuring when the driver veers across the motorway while wiping the windscreen with a rag…

We arrived at the hotel late, shoved down some food and hit the hay. The following morning, training started too early for my liking, but we were at least rewarded with some lovely water. Three sessions in the pair later, and I was already starting to wane (despite the boat going quite well). Just not in the right frame of mind.

To that end, I took the next day ‘off’ and borrowed one of the coaches’ bikes for a spin around the hills and a bit of time to myself. It seems there is plenty of great cycling nearby, but the thing that stuck me most was how dead it was. Lots of boarded up shops, houses for sale and closed cafés. I guess it’s not tourist season yet, but it did leave me wondering whether he region has been hit hard by Spain’s finances.

I got back feeling a bit more lively and foolishly agreed to get back in the boat the next day. It turned out to be a silly decision, as I found myself setting off for a pairs matrix!! It only took one race for me to start getting into it though. Turns out I do still enjoy racing! 6x1000m later and we were all (excuse my French) f***ed. Unfortunately, the location of the buoyed course – 8km from the centre – meant a long and slow row home.

I ate and slept well that evening (actually, I ate well for the whole week)!

The following couple of days were spent in pairs and fours, smashing out a few pieces and enjoying the water (with the exception of one windy afternoon).

The water on the Minho river was pretty incredible at times.

The water on the Minho river was pretty incredible at times.

On the last evening we enjoyed a few [too many] drinks at the bar, including a somewhat unpleasant warm, homebrew, tequila-like dink offered to me by one of a group of Spanish OAPs who were staying at the hotel. Should’ve said no…

I was unsurprisingly a little “worse for wear” the following morning, but we only had some scratch VIIIs racing to do, so no problem!


Now because weekends clearly don’t mean anything to students, the camp ended on a Friday. This seemed a waste of  weekend holiday, so three of us set off in our rental car and headed for Portugal’s national park. Driving into the village of Lindoso after an hour or so of driving, we found ourselves navigating tiny cobbled streets in a picturesque farming village. With a bit of help from the friendly locals, we met up with Ana (the owner of our AirBnB), and soon found ourselves in a superb cottage being offered her homemade fig jam!

One of many amazing views from our walk up from Lindoso (where we stayed).

One of many amazing views from our walk up from Lindoso (where we stayed).

It was raining when we arrived, but the weather soon cleared up, and so we headed out for a walk into the hills behind the village. Within minutes we were out in beautiful countryside and were greeted with beautiful views at every turn.

The view from the top of Pé de Cabril, near Campo do Gerês in Portugal.

The view from the top of Pé de Cabril, near Campo do Gerês in Portugal.

The next day, we headed off in the car towards Campo do Gerês for a longer walk up to the top of a nearby mountain, the Pé de Cabril. Once again, the scenery was incredible, and we only saw a few other people during the entire hike. I’d highly recommend a visit.

Given the excellent forecast, our Sunday plan was to hit the beach in Vigo before heading down to Porto for our return flight. A suitably relaxed day, complete with a fine-dining lunch, chilling on the beach and getting stuck behind donkeys at traffic lights!

Stopped at a red light in Vigo... behind a man on a Donkey!?!?

Stopped at a red light in Vigo… behind a man on a Donkey!?!?

And so all good things must come to an end…

Packing at the Europcar depot...

Packing at the Europcar depot…

Goodbye 26° Spain, hello 5° Gatwick…

Yet more 3D Printing


3D-Printed mount for attaching a phone to an NK SpeedCoach bracket.

Given my lack of a SpeedCoach (a device made by Nielsen Kellerman to measure rowing speed and stroke rate), I decided to go for a different solution. I bought a cheap Android smartphone on eBay – a Motorola Moto G – on which I could run one of a number of rowing apps.

Now I also needed to mount this into the boat, and given the widespread use of NK devices, it made sense to create a clip that would fit into their mounts. I set about designing one (essentially the mating part to the mount I made in the last blog post), and then printing it up. It came out rather well, as you can see in the photo, and so I attached it to a cheap waterproof phone case with industrial double-sided tape. Job done!

As for what I have actually used for monitoring my rowing, the three most interesting apps (I think), are:

  • Rowing in Motion
    • Great app, but I’m unwilling to take the plunge on the subscription cost right now. I suspect there is something to be gained from the analysis of acceleration during the rowing stroke, but having talked to friends who’ve used the app, it may not be worth it. There is plenty of interesting data, but without knowing how to change your stroke to affect the data, and indeed what changes you want to see, it’s just a gimmick. I’m still considering it though, and will do a bit more research.
  • BoatCoach
    • A good bit of software with a clean interface. This one can link to Concept2 ergometers (including the new PM5 monitor via Bluetooth) as well as functioning as an in-boat display. Features include stroke analysis, full logging of acceleration and also force curve analysis from ergos. The only downside I found was that the stroke rate calculation algorithm was a bit erratic in my scull. I had a quick play with sensitivity settings, but didn’t immediately solve the issue.
  • CrewNerd
    • A simpler app than the previous two, but has a clear display and seems to pick up my stroke rate consistently. There are also features for workouts, intervals etc and connection to bluetooth heart rate straps. The app can also display a measure of boat “check” and “bounce” on a stroke-by-stroke basis. A useful feature for gauging how you’re rowing. The app is paid-for (so are RiM and BoatCoach), but at £1.21 per month, I’d consider it pretty good value!

So my complete solution cost was as follows:

Phone = £42

Waterproof case = £6.50

3D-Printed mount and tape ~= £2

CrewNerd = £1.21/month

So after a year, that would be just £65. Compare this with an NK SpeedCoach GPS 2 at £329, and it’s not bad value at all! In fact, I could pay the CrewNerd subscription for 19 years before it cost as much as the NK offering. I would say the only downsides compared with NK are battery life (I get maybe 4hrs) and screen visibility in bright sunlight. I’m sure both could be solved with a better phone. I haven’t had too many issues with the screen, but it could certainly be improved. Perhaps I could make a little sun “visor” for the phone while it’s in the boat…


If you’ve got all the way down here, well done! Let me know if you found any typos ;)

Discuss - 2 Comments

  1. Sid says:

    Hi, you don’t know me but I’ve been following your rowing and blog.

    Don’t give up. Try anther few years before you give up!

    And if you feel like coaching someone :) i would love to hear your thoughts on my shit rowing!

    Good luck with engineering!

    • John John says:

      I don’t think I will be trialling for GB this year sadly. Last season took too much out of me (mainly mentally), all with the feeling that I was being screwed over by the system.

      Trying to enjoy things this year – racing in the boat, on the bike and on foot – whatever I fancy!

      More than happy to have a look at your rowing if you’re in SW London or if you have some video!


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