At The Catch - Episode 2 - Michael Trabue

Nov 4, 2023

Climbing Back Up My Hill of Rowing Endurance

Eleven days ago, I posted about my 34-day break (injury, travel, COVD) from rowing…and, my first post-break workout: A 10-min. Interval-style workout that I rowed at the top end of my pre-break Ergatta “Steady” Pace. I stated I felt like I was rowing through mud! Additionally, my heart rate quickly pegged out near my pre-break 168 BPM maximum. I had expected my long break would impact my aerobic- and strength-related fitness, but at 68, this break really hurt!
Being a data freak, I was curious if I could graphically quantify how crappy I was feeling (i.e, loss of endurance fitness) with my return to erg rowing….and, more importantly, track my improvement as I climbed back up my “endurance hill” so I don’t re-calibrate backwards from my pre-break Ergatta Intensity Zone Class 3.
I generally monitor my erg rowing endurance fitness by measuring my ability to generate Power…and, sustain my Power output over extended periods of time…my ***Critical Power (CP). *** I’ve found this a great method not only to monitor changes in my erg rowing fitness, but also a great way to plan my races…very accurately predicting my ability to hold my highest planned race paces.
Dr. Philip Skiba, in his book “Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes”, describes CP as representing “the dividing line between exercise you can do for a long time, and exercise that is so hard that you have to quit much sooner”.
Dr. Skiba further states Critical Power occurs at about 80-85 % of VO2 Max and is a measure of your physiology you can feel…and, oh boy, did I ever feel it when I got back on my Ergatta!
Attached is a compilation of 3 of my Critical Power (CP) graphs:
  1. CP based on workouts completed 42-days prior to my break - Top curve
  2. CP based on my first 4 workouts after I returned - Botton curve
  3. CP based on all of my workouts after I returned - Middle curve
Graph Notes: Each workout data set (Red circles) generates a Green best-fit curve through the data points and a Red curve based on a math formula for calculating Critical Power (CP). I use the Green best-fit curve as it is generally the most conservative.

May be an image of text that says 'CP chart for Michael Trabue 700 600 Workouts (69): 8/8-9/19/2023 (42-days) 500 492 Power Data CP Model ミ 400 Pomet 300 Sprint 200 Race Workouts (25): 10/23-11/4/2023 (11-dys) Steady 100 1:45/500m Paddle 1:59/500m 2sec 30 sec 10° 2:17500m Returning first 4 workouts: 10/23-26/2023 2:5 1/500m 6.1 Duration (minutes) 10' 10 35 60 100 200'

August 2, 2023

Why I’ve Rowed Ergatta

I started with my Ergatta ~19 months ago unable to walk more than 25 yards after a knee injury, a COVID-era delayed treatment/recovery, and hitting the wall with my traditional physical therapy.
Although I’ve set multiple erg rowing goals during that time, and used analytics to measure my progress (I’ve posted quite a bit😵‍💫), my ultimate goal was to row Crew again…something I haven’t done in 44 yrs.
Monday was a progress check halfway through 4 weeks of on-the-water rowing classes with our local rowing club….
Thank you to all in this community who have inspired me to stay at it. Set your own goals and keep working toward them….and, surprise yourself! The great part is you get to set a new one once achieved!
June 27, 2023

What do my HR Zones look like when I workout?

I typically train erg rowing based on Power (W) (Split), and only monitor my heart rate so I don’t overexert by staying below my calculated maximum HR. Melissa Fey’s recent post referencing HR zones ( got me thinking about where my HR currently is operating during my Ergatta workouts.
Sunday, I was feeling a little frisky and decided to design and complete a 60 min “endurance-style” Power-based “Open Row” workout. The goal of my custom designed workout was to mostly exert within my Endurance (Zone2) Power Zone range of 175-209 Watts (mid, upper Steady to low Race), but to include some variety and end with a brisker finish (Copy attached).
Being a data freak, I thought this would be a good endurance test of my cardiovascular system and an opportunity to measure/record my time spent in both my Power and HR zones during a workout…attached is copy of my results.
As for the numbers, I spent ~53% of the time in my Endurance (Z2) Power Zone while spending ~31% in my Aerobic (Z2) Heart Rate Zone. Anecdotally, it was an enjoyable workout that felt good to complete…and, I never thought about the numbers other than my target splits/Power targets.
I am not a subject matter expert on this topic, nor am I an advocate of either HR-based or Power-based training….there are more than enough people out there with opinions, and who are smarter on this topic than me. Here is a sample of the varying background information on the topic of HR Training Zones available on the web:
June 23, 2023

When to Take a Day Off or Throttle-back?

Always in search of data to qualify how my fitness training is progressing, I started to explore ways to quantitatively track my workout training load. I have found myself “over training” two or three times over the last year, which have led to an increase in related nagging aches and pains…or, just feeling plain tired. I have found this becoming more prevalent as I continue to focus on increasing/sustaining the Power of my strokes.
I find sometimes my 67 yr old body can’t keep up with my competitive nature to workout and and my analytical nature to experiment with my body’s limits during these workouts. As such, I’m hoping quantitative feedback helps me control myself.
Most of the software tools for tracking “Power-based” workouts have been developed for the cycling community; however, a few of these tools have been expanded to other workout activities (e.g. rowing) for multi-sport athletes. (Who needs another subscription?!)
I have been trialing “” ($4/mo.) since mid-April to track my workout training load, importing my rowing workouts from Strava. The analysis and reporting tools in Intervals are robust (which I’m still learning to use), but I think my data is beginning to show some interesting results (see attached photo) when I compare the data to anecdotal notes I’ve logged about how I feel after I workout.
One thing I’ve learned while exploring this and other Power-based tools is the mathematical models they use to track fitness & fatigue all have flaws, and that everyone responds differently to exercise. These tools can be usable to predict how your going to respond to exercise, but that you have to listen to your body and not fight against what it is telling you. Since I’m predisposed not to listen, I will be interested to see if this “tool” might provide me another feedback loop to help throttle myself while attempting to keep improving my overall fitness.
No photo description available.
May 22, 2023
Being somewhat data nerdish, I decided to try to determine my Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) more accurately so I have a better idea of my training limits. I have been using a MHR based on the formula: [ 207 – 0.7 x Age ] – more precise formula, adjusted for people over the age of 40” ( This formula recommended my MHR should be 160 BPM which I’ve used for over a year..
Additional research (; affirmed the most accurate method to determine one’s MHR is an erg-based performance test…one designed using an erg rower. I chose Rowing Australia’s 7 step protocol, leaving out the VO2 max and Blood Lactate testing:
Note: The test protocol states to use a C2 rowing machine, but I’ve found both machines operate on the same Power Curve (math is math)…the Ergatta just shows more Force and Power generated than the C2 if the two ergs were to be reading the same stroke. An Ergatta 2k completion time used as the basis for selecting the test interval workloads should require close to the same relative effort as you would exert rowing a C2, just the Ergatta Power/Pace targets will read higher.
My Wednesday MHR test was basically a 7x4-minute sub-maximal interval workout with 1-minute rest intervals in between. The only kicker is the last (7th) 4-minute interval is at an all-out maximum effort…basically a constant-applied power 1k race that was preceded by a good sub-minimal 30-min interval warm-up whose targets were based on my most recent 2k race time. I wasn’t on the floor at the end (close), but I was definitely gassed……..
The attached results recommend to me a new MHR of 168 BPM. Of interest, my HR recovered to 2x my Resting Rate (116/58) in 2 min, 49 sec after the test. This “test” was a fun warmup workout for the 60 min recovery row that followed. I didn’t “earn” anything with the 8 BPM increase, just a little more knowledge….and, data to play with🤓
May 7, 2023
Two Tails of the Same, but Different Workout.
Brian’s post about the great 61 min “Xander’s Run” workout by Kimberly Holcomb (again, nice workout!) and an interesting question by Michael Hausknecht about training HR intensity got me thinking about (I know, no mystery here) data.
I always wondered what difference, if any, there was in training impact between the Pulse and Meteor versions of the same workout. Kimberly’s workout seemed to be the perfect choice because it is long and steady, which provides a lot of regular intervals at the same intensities to capture data.
My methodology: Row at the lowest possible (for me) SPM, whlie staying within the respective “Zone” or “lane”…and, score the maximum points (Meteor) or consecutive intervals (Pulse). I other words, follow all the rules, stay in the lanes, and max out.

For the Pulse version, this means holding my Pace at the lowest Split (02:24 - Paddle; 2:05 - Steady) of my Ergatta intensity zones. For the Meteor version, it means trying do the same while staying in the “channel”…and, getting all possible points).
I completed these workouts on two consecutive days, beginning with the same warm-up and cool-down routine…I rowed the Pulse-version on Friday, followed by the Meteor-version Saturday.
My Results: Anecdotally, I had fun 🤩 completing both…they are both great, long workouts to start the day!
Based on my Power⚡️and HR❤️‍🔥 (Rest: 58; Max: 160) zones numbers (attached): The Pulse-version was definitely a good ”endurance“ workout, during during which I was able to develop slower and more consistent power strokes.
The Meteor-version was a great recovery workout …I find the structure of Meteor workouts have a lot more to focus on, and don’t allow me to develop as much Power at lower stroke rates if I want to stay ”in the lanes” and get all of the points. Regardless, it was a great way to start out my very early Saturday morning before heading out to the Farmer’s Market😍
May be an image of text
March 17, 2023
A Tale of Two-2Ks.

I completed a benchmark 2k Race on 2/10/23 as part of my current Stroke Power Improvement Training Program. This was a maximum effort race using a (dead-start) racing start. My goals were to first catch-up with the lead participants, settle down to a steady pace/split, and then finish the last 100m as strong as possible (empty the tank). I held the lead throughout the race and finished completely gassed, dying (dead in the water), with a time of 07:09.
On 3/13, my power stroke training program had me complete a 2k Race, but this time using the following structured plan regardless of what my competition did:

1. Dead-start. Seven short, rapid strokes to attain my first 500m interval target SPM (24), followed by 13 power strokes to attain 240W/01:53 Split @ 24 SPM.
2. Attain & hold the following:
1st 500m - 240W/01:53 @ 24 SPM.
2nd 500m - 263W/01:50 @ 26 SPM
3rd 500m - 286W/01:46 @ 28 SPM.
Final 500m - 310W/01:44 @ 30 SPM

The result: I eventually caught/paced my last race competitor around the 1700 m mark, and finished with a time of 07:02 (a 7 sec improvement) breathing heavy….but, feeling strong with gas in the tank.
Nothing jumped out to me on my 1st review of the compared metrics of these two races, but after reading up a little on muscle metabolism, my guess is I died at the end of my 1st race because I put my body into too high a level of anaerobic metabolism (Power developed) too long & too early at the beginning of the race…my muscles built up too much lactic acid and were never able to catchup and clear it out; and, thus I died at the end.
Happily, that didn’t happen during my 3/13 2k race. After my initial, but more controlled-burst off the Start line, I settled into a controlled-elevated exertion that I incrementally stepped up as the race progressed. I was tired, but felt good and knew I could have given more during the last 100-200m.
One last observation (see Power vs SPM graph): When compared to my 2/10 2k, I have significantly improved my ability to exert consistent power across my stroke rates; but, more importantly, sustain that exertion (Work per Stroke) while holding those elevated SPMs for longer time periods…which was my goal when I started this insanity😵‍💫
March 5, 2023
I’ve previously posted about my 2023 erg rowing goal to improve my ability to generate Power (speed) by improving the quality/consistency of my Stroke (Work done) at all of the rates (SPM) I row. Rowing maximum meters in no longer my singular goal…now it is achieving that maximum more effectively and safely.

At 67, I found I’d hit a wall in improving both my endurance and increasing/maintaining Speed. I was trying too hard at higher SPMs to increase/maintain speed, and thus started developing nagging neck/shoulder/injuries. I had let my stroke form get sloppy.
My plan: January - Focus on improving my core strength. February: Retrain my stroke form. March: Application and further development of those changes
Being somewhat analytical😵‍💫, I’m driven to keep trying by seeing progress to a quantified goal. Attached are some graphs that illustrate my progress since December towards my Green Line of maintaining constant Work as I increase my Stroke Rate…and thus, efficiently increase my Speed.
Graph Analysis
  • The size of the bubble scales with the number of strokes taken at that particular SPM/Power combination
  • You can see at one glance in which zone you are training the most, and how power transfers (incline if the bubbles) to higher stroke rates
  • The color of the bubble is an indication of Work per Stroke. It if preferential for WpS (color of the bubble) to be more constant across all stroke rates
  • Larger numbers of bubbles at/around any Stroke Rate shows a larger variation (my lack of consistency) of Work performed at that rate
I’m sloooowly getting there🤓
Feb 16, 2023 
After focusing on racking up meters rowed last year, my New Years erg-rowing resolution was to improve on the quality of my stroke form (legs-torso-arms…arms-torso-legs) by increasing the Work accomplished per Stroke across my entire range of stroke rates…..beginning at the lowest.
As I approached 5 million meters rowed, I found I was inefficiently burning thorough my cardio capacity by rowing at higher SPMs to generate more power in an effort to lower my splits….I had become a “Rabbit-stroke” rower, relying more on a higher stroke rates to generate/maintain power instead of generating it with an effective leg drive. Having turned 67, I’m finding I can’t afford any longer to waste my effort ❤️‍🔥
I’ve spent the last two months working on SPMs below 24, and the attached comparison results from this week’s retest of my mid-December benchmark workout is showing positive results 🙏: I was able to lower my average stroke rate by ~5 SPM, increase my average Work per Stroke by ~142 Joules, and row ~270 meters farther over the same amount of time🤔
If I can continue down this path, At the end of this year I expect I’ll still rack up the meters….I’ll just have some heart beats to spare….and stronger legs😎