With most of wicked winter behind us and spring slowly but surely approaching, most rowers have moved indoors, but were still looking to test their fitness levels and compare their scores against fellow competitors this past Saturday.
The Abbey Centre in Blackfalds played host to the 2015 Alberta Indoor Rowing Championships on March 14th.
Over 160 entries, from all across the province, including the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and Lakeland College, competed in the races. Eighteen medals were given out at the end of the morning.
The high caliber athletes hopped onto a line of indoor rowing machines (ergometers) and through the use of a computer and a projection system, raced virtually and without even touching the water. Hosted by the Central Alberta Rowing Club (CARC), this was the 10th year for the event and the second year hosting the event in Blackfalds.
The championships were previously held at the Collicutt Centre in Red Deer and the Lacombe Upper Elementary School among other venues during CARC’s hosting years.
Organizer and Central Alberta Rowing Club President Andy Nokes said that the pre-season event is mostly good competitive fun, but the times from the event are used for selection for the juniors in the Canada Summer Games for placement in training camps. “It’s really a start for the rowing season,” he said.
The rowing machines, much like the ones found in gyms, can gauge just how hard each competitor is rowing by measuring watts.
Nokes estimated the average output of the athletes on Saturday was around 400 watts. A heavyweight athlete would have an average output of around 550 watts.
During the Masters category, rowers 27 years and plus, with handicaps, took on 1,000 metres in well under eight minutes. Juniors in other categories can span thousands of metres in six to seven minutes.
Many of Canada’s future National team athletes were competing in the indoor event, as it offered a great way for athletes to compete in a highly competitive environment, testing their training volume on the ergometer during the past winter months.
“At this event, someone here will represent Canada over the next three or four years,” said Alberta Rowing Association Provincial Tech Director Michael Simonson.
Mark Laidlaw, University of Calgary coach, was also in attendance on Saturday. He was a member of Team Canada for numerous years, winning a world championship in 2008, and a silver medal in the 2011 Pan American Games.
As the coxswain for the National Team, the member of a crew who sits on the stern and steers the boat, Laidlaw has garnered much experience motivating his fellow athletes.
“The cox is the guy you see yelling and swearing, edging out every bit of power from the rowers,” he said. “You provide motivation, encouragement and technical feedback.”
The coxswain plays a critical role on a crew, working alongside the coach but still in the boat, they are the go between, relaying the message from the coach directly to the crew.
“They have a very important relationship with the crew and the coach,” he said.
The next major event rowers will participate in, which officially kicks off the season is the boat race on the North Saskatchewan River held on May 23rd.
At a distance of 5.5 km, and going with the current, the race will take on average 15 minutes to complete.
The CARC currently calls Lacombe Lake, located in between Blackfalds and Lacombe, home throughout May to October.
The group is always seeking out more members to grab an oar and join in for some fun on the water. For more information about the CARC contact Nokes at 403-782-0732.