2k Time.

Although I have been involved with the sport of rowing for three years, this is my first year as a rower, as a coxswain for two years I learned all about the world of rowing. Until this year though, I never rowed. Part of my job as a coxswain was to motivate and record the scores of rowers on the infamous 2,000 meter (2k) erg test. I have watched countless people take this test. For men this test can take anywhere from five minutes and thirty seconds to seven minutes. For women it can take anywhere from seven minutes to nine minutes (if you are in shape). It is extremely short in comparison to any other workout that we do, but the intensity is so high many people either pass out or throw up by the end of it. Part of the reason for this is because of the amount of strokes that you take within the test. For a longer piece you perform it anywhere from sixteen strokes per minute to twenty six strokes per minute, for a 2k it is a minimum of twenty eight strokes per minute.

Yesterday (Wednesday February 12th) we had our first “2k test” of the season. Since I have only seen people take a 2k test, and never actually participated in one. My anxiety leading into this test was extremely high. This test for our coach is very telling in our strength and fitness. Since this is the actual distance of our races in the spring, this is one of the most important erg pieces that we will do.

We have done so much training up to this point, including 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes and multiple short distance pieces in a short period of time. Therefore, 2,000 meters is the shortest erg workout we have ever done. This concept alone, is what makes it such a mental game. Wrapping your mind around that fact that it is the shortest piece we have ever done is so easy when you are not sitting on the erg.

The morning of 6:00am:

–       I got out of bed at 4:30am, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to eat a little and stretch.

–       I got to Spanos (the top of the track at the very top part of campus) and started warming up.

–       I made sure I was sweating on the warm up, and listened to one of my race recordings from when I was a coxswain.

The Test:

Our team split into two groups, I was in the group that went first.  This is something I was really happy about considering that watching other people go through this and then knowing that I would have to do it seemed like it would be awful. We all sat on our ergs in two separate rows, lined up right next to each other and set our erg clocks to 2000. Our coach called us to attention. As I was sitting at attention, my initial thought before the first stroke was “I am not ready.” ROW. The first 13 strokes felt great, after 13 strokes and 100 meters gone my legs were already BURNING. The air was so COLD, and as my breathing quickened my lungs began to BURN. It is so loud and CHAOTIC when everyone is at 30 strokes per minute you can barely hear yourself think. All you hear are the loud fans of the ergs spinning quickly. 500 meters in my mind started to jump to all these different parts of my body that were hurting. My legs, back, knees, elbows, heart and lungs all felt like they would give out every stroke. My heart rate is speeding up with every stroke. I had set goals at the beginning of the week for how fast I wanted to be going, I was not even thinking about those goals at this point. “JUST FINISH” is all I can think. 1000 meters gone (4 minutes) in and our coach yells “Halfway!”. This “third 500” is the part of a 2k that everyone talks about, it is where you supposedly hit “the wall”. My frustration is that it felt like I had hit that wall so early on, almost before I even started. At 750 meters to go, our coaches start walking around calling people out who are a) doing well or b) are on the verge of failure. At 1300 meters in my mouth is so dry and my lungs are on FIRE. I can hear my coach telling me how angry I am going to be with myself if I GIVE UP. All I can think is “Ill probably die before then, so I am not worried about that”. There are coxswains walking around calling for people to take up the strokes per minute, and take down their times per 500 meters. “Up the rate, drop the split!”. At 1500 meters in, I closed my eyes. I just started counting down from 100. I knew that I had less than 100  strokes to go and all I wanted to do was finish. My jaw and ears starting to feel like someone was pushing on them from the lactic acid build up. The last 250 meters, everyone around you is yelling and some people start their sprints to the finish. The amount of mental power that this takes had been completely abstract to me until now. It feels like your holding a gun pointed at your foot, and your supposed to pull the trigger. Which is funny, because what my coach always tells us at the last 250 meters of any piece is to, “just pull the trigger”.


In my head, I was so angry at everyone who told me that the third 500 meters is the worst. I felt like they all lied. It’s the entire 2000 meters that is the worst. The 8 minutes that it took me, felt like 45.


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One Response to 2k Time.

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Wow, it sounds like you really learned through doing! Congratulations on pushing through. While I’ve never done rowing, I remember some of my own physical and mental reactions to impossible-seeming workouts when I competed in college. The feelings are hard to describe, but you do a good job using language to paint an image–a painful image. The metaphors used to push the body through such extreme conditions are fascinating. Your mental imagery and the language of “just pull the trigger” makes me wonder from where this particular metaphor came. The pain and intense embodiment of sports is something that we must not ignore or forget in our cultural analysis. It is, in fact, one of the reasons that such acute bodily engagements remain so fascinating to us. Such moments are encounters with the physicality of our bodies, even as they are also highly constructed via the strategies and narratives deployed in such moments.

    This also illustrates the very real importance of situatedness. Ergs sound immensely different depending on where you are situated–as a participant or observer.

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