I didn't think it would make a difference. I've been rowing for so long that I often fail to have perspective. In my mind, going 3...

Downsizing

I didn't think it would make a difference.

I've been rowing for so long that I often fail to have perspective. In my mind, going 3 splits slower on an easy paddle spells doom for my fitness. A 15km row is just a normal workout—no reason to be tired from it.

So when I need perspective, I translate my experiences into running. Going 3 seconds per mile on an easy jog is negligible. And a 9.3 mile run is reason for a big meal and a nap.

So when I didn't think it would make a difference, I thought about running in shoes a size too big. At first, it probably wouldn't matter a lot. If you were just going out for a few easy jogs here and there, no biggie. You'd probably even survive your first few races in those shoes.

But when the margins in your races narrow to seconds? When you're losing by just 1 percent?

The last three years, I've been rowing in a club boat owned by GMS. I've had almost exclusive use of it, and it has taken me through some great performances. But it was a size too big, meant for rowers 145-165 pounds, when I'm just 130 pounds. So when the opportunity came to buy the same model boat in my size for just $8000, my coach and I jumped.

The boat, a Hudson S1.11, was about a year old and came in pristine condition. In addition, we already had $4000 of funding in the Northeast High Performance Rowing Foundation. Since Hudson was generous enough to allow us to make the final payment this September, the boat was delivered just after my first race of the season.

It's hard to tell how much of this is time on the water and how much is the boat, but I'm already seeing a dramatic improvement on my splits (and my margins relative to one of my training partners). I also just feel a lot more comfortable in the boat. (The shoes are the right size! No more strapping my feet in with my seat bungie!)

And now I need your help.

I need to raise the remaining $4000 for the boat. You might not think it makes a difference, but every dollar raised translates directly into time I can spend getting faster and pursuing my goals. Even small amount make a huge difference—about 200 of you read my blog posts, and even if you can contribute just $20, I will have reached my goal. (If you can't contribute financially, I'd really appreciate a shout on on social media!)

Here's how to make a tax-deductible donation:
1. Online
Head to the Northeast High Performance Rowing Foundation donation page and click the 'Donate' button. Here, you can donate via credit/debit card or PayPal—super easy. In the notes, specify "Michaela Copenhaver - boat purchase". (Note: Credit/debit cards require an extra processing fee, so we prefer PayPal!)

2. By mail
Don't have a PayPal? No worries, you can also mail a check! Either go to our donation page or download the mail-in form directly.

3. Large donations
If you're interested in making a donation of $500 or greater, please be in touch! I'd love to find an additional way to recognize your generosity.

All donations will get a thank you shout out on social media. Donating at least $30? Include your address on the donation so I can send a thank you card in the mail!


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That's right: a second blog post. This time, with good great reason. One of my goals for this year is to break 90 minutes on a half m...

Danbury Half Marathon

That's right: a second blog post. This time, with good great reason.

One of my goals for this year is to break 90 minutes on a half marathon. Sometime in the pit of despair that is January, I started poking around the internet for local half marathon races. The most convenient one was in Danbury, just 20 minutes from our house. It also checked a bunch of other important boxes, including prize money ✔ and some possibility of winning that prize money ✔.

BUT.. it was two weeks before our first race of the spring.

I hemmed and hawed about racing it for months, and then finally asked my coach, on a scale from 1-10, how stupid it would be to race it. His response? "I think it's a good idea." I couldn't believe my ears!

So I signed up. And then I spent the next two weeks freaking out.

I think I calculated every possible pace for every time between 1:30 and 1:35, plus mapped out at least five race plans. I obsessed over what to wear. Wrote a detailed fueling plan. The usual type-A stuff.

I also looked up half marathon advice. The best piece: know why you're doing it. So the night before the race, I decided: I wanted to know what I'd do when shit got real.

Dan came with me to be my support crew and personal paparazzi. (Pro-tip: he's on Instagram, now. Give him a follow!) We arrived about 45 minutes before the start, and I jogged a mile and a half. I was nervous, so my heart rate was through the roof, which made me more nervous, which increased my heart rate.


I wanted to win, so I toed the line. And when the horn sounded, I immediately threw my plan out the window, because duh.

Ok, so it wasn't that bad, but it took a lot of willpower to not take off with the lead group. I tried to count the women as they passed me. By the time things settled in, I figured I was in 4th or 5th. I took my first gu at 3 miles, trying to stay ahead on fueling. (Eat before you need it.)

My plan was to hit the 5k mark around 22:30, and I clocked in at 22:04 [4:24/km]. I made a quick assessment. I'd gone out too fast, but it was mostly downhill, the wind was at my back, and my heart rate was a little high but comfortable. My breathing was much less labored than the people around me. Also, I really wanted to catch the woman in front of me, so screw tactics I was going for it.



Passing off my earmuffs. Time to get to work.
Over the next 5k, I started to close the gap on the leading women. Dan drove from the mile 3 meet up to mile 6, cowbelling from the car as he passed. We hit our first hill, and then a gradual descent into the 10k. Goal was to hit 10k at 44:10; I was through in 43:46. [5k split 21:42 - 4:20/km] Too fast, but damnit I wanted to win. And I was technically on my target pace, 4:20/km, just riding off of seconds gained in the first 5k.


Dan only snapped one photo coming into the 10km mark, before quickly digging out the pretzels and prepping my snack pickup. The handoff needs practice, but I grabbed a few. I also picked up two gus at the aid station at 10.3km.

There was an out and back section from the aid station through 13km. I'd driven the second half of the course the day before, so I knew the hills were coming. I wanted to take the lead before we hit them, so I hit the gas. As the leaders doubled back, I passed the last woman and took the lead. I also ate another gu here, my last fuel of the race.




Dan pulled over around mile 9 to cheer one last time before the finish, and I shouted to him "Dan I'm doing it!" as I flew down the hill with a grin on my face.

Then things got real.

I ran through 15km in 66:13, about 20 seconds slower than the plan (65:50). [5km split 22:27 - 4:29/km]

Because my goal was to find out how I reacted when shit got real, I knew this was coming. It helped me push for this moment. And I womaned up.

The hills were hard. (Really it was one hill, climbing continuously for 2.5km before immediately descending.) Rowing has developed my climbing muscles incredibly well, so the uphills were a nice break from the flats. But they destroyed my pace, and the slamming of the downhill thrashed my legs. I had a large enough lead at this point to let off the gas and catch my breath, but I found myself pedal to the metal, grinding into the depths of misery.

Just before the 20km mark, one of my Oiselle teammates had gathered a cheering section that pushed me into the last stretch. I crossed the 20km mark in 1:28:38 and with over a kilometer to go, I knew I wouldn't be breaking 90 minutes. [5k split 22:25 - 4:29/km] I let their cheers carry me forward. Don't think, just do.





And then I broke the tape! I've won two other local races, but neither one had a finishing tape. Seeing it as I rounded the last bend put a huge smile on my face.

Final time was 1:33:22 (average pace 7:08/mile - 4:25/km.)




And then, I got the best kind of trophy—a check! Prize money was $200 (plus some mini-champagne bottles).

I'm definitely soaking in the win and confidence boost, but my priority for the next two days is recovering so I can get back to training. I'll be trying to get extra sleep and drink more water. On the nutrition front, I'll also be upping my protein and fruit/vegetable intake. I'm hoping by tomorrow I can accomplish some gentle stretching and foam rolling.

Woohoo!

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I was wondering if after all these months you'd like to hear how it's going, everything. They say that bloggers like to write but ...

Hello, It's Me...

I was wondering if after all these months you'd like to hear
how it's going, everything.
They say that bloggers like to write but I ain't done much writing.

Hello from the other side.
I must have worked out a thousand times.
I'll tell you I'm sorry for the radio silence.
But it don't matter, it clearly hasn't torn us apart!

Ok, enough Adele-inspired poetry. It's been a while. What have I been up to?

Last you heard from me, I was building back from an August break. I may have been overly ambitious about how quickly that would happen. Life seemed to have other plans. We'll get back to rowing in a moment, but let's talk about life outside of rowing for a bit!

First things first, Dan and I just moved into our own condo! That's right, we bought a condo. We knew our housing situation would disappear at some point in 2017, so we started looking in September/October, and put in an offer on a place in late November.

It was a short sale, and the previous owner's bank didn't get around to approving our offer until late February. In the meantime, we had to move into a temporary place for two months, not knowing if we would even get this place. It was.. stressful.

In order to afford the place, I've also upped my hours at work. I've been working 15-20 hours/week. I feel so lucky to have such a flexible job that pays well enough to save money with so few hours.  It doesn't sound like a lot, but every hour I spend at work is 100% on mentally, which can be exhausting. I'll have to continue with the higher hours to rebuild my savings.

And talking about biting off more than I can chew: I'm also working on an MBA right now. Dan and I were both accepted into the Smartly MBA program. Despite the cheesy name, the coursework has been remarkably helpful. It's way less time than a traditional MBA, but another thing on my plate.

Have I mentioned the election yet? Yea. There was terrible awful day in November when I felt like the world was crashing down around me, after a month of hope and optimism. The emotional toll from the election was greater than anticipated, and I'm only now beginning to feel like I've recovered enough to help do something. The work done by activists already has kept me sane and given me joy, but I'm still constantly wary of government in a way I'd never had to be before. I cannot thank my Senators Murphy and Blumenthal and Representative Esty enough for having good sense and judgement so I don't have to call their offices every day.

So that all has been pretty tough. And when I put it all down in writing, I'm damn proud of what I've accomplished as an athlete through all of that. So let's talk about training.

Over the course of last year, all of the other elite athletes at GMS left, either leaving the sport altogether or heading off to a new club. I knew training alone would be hard, so I tried to set myself up for success.

In October, I joined the Oiselle Volée. I needed people who would cheer me on, and people who could inspire me, and I got just that. It's a running team, and so I felt my heart pulled more and more towards running.

That's not my goal, so I found another team, too: the junior athletes here at GMS. I worked with Guenter to adjust my training schedule, decreasing my weekly minutes in recognition of my crazy non-training life, and matching my training up to the junior squad.

I now lift with the girls on Mondays and do the hardest sessions on Wednesday and Saturday with the group. I also often have company for my afternoon steady state on Tuesdays and Fridays. I still have to get through a lot of easy minutes on my own, but it's no longer everything.

So where has that left me?

My base is the bomb. I'm running a half marathon next weekend, and looking to PR by 5+ minutes. My long steady state work is consistently faster than it's ever been. And my head is really screwed on straight about this stuff: I know when to take it seriously and when to back off.

Unfortunately, my speed is still missing. I PR'ed on my lactate threshold test. (This measures the point at which you start to accumulate lactate in your muscles while working out. The more watts you can produce without accumulating lactate, the harder you can go for longer.) Everything above lactate threshold is still missing. My 6k is getting close to PR territory, but still not there (and my PR is still way slower than my competitors). Let's not talk about my 2k.

We're also still not back on the water. The company that puts our docks in missed their appointment to put them in, and then we got 18" of snow, and now the river is drained, and then it's going to windy and... it just keeps going.

I've accepted that I will be underprepared for the first race of the season, NSR1, coming up on April 18th. It's important that I do well, but it's more important that I prepare myself for the rest of the season, and the rest of the quadrennial.

I've had to re-write my goals for NSR 1 countless times over the last 4 months. From top four, to "hope for the best", they've now become "just see what happens". I feel an immense sense of calm about that. Things never work out the way I plan anyways, so all I can do is keep preparing, and trusting my coach, and just see what happens. And with such an amorphous goal, I've set myself up to be brave and maybe even a little stupid, something I definitely need to get better at.

So that's my life right now. If you've made it through, thanks for sticking with me. No pictures, because those take time, and life is busy. There are some on Instagram.

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I finished my last summer race in mid-July, desperately in need of some time away from my typical training schedule. I love training with my...

Training Update August/September 2016

I finished my last summer race in mid-July, desperately in need of some time away from my typical training schedule. I love training with my coach, Guenter, and the training plans he provides are some of the most sensible I've ever seen, BUT they get a little bit repetitive after three years.

So, I ventured off on my own, in the hopes of improving my 5k running PR while staying at least mildly fit during my time away. The first three weeks of solo training were super successful. I won a local 5k race, trained almost every day, had a great time, and earned a huge PR on another 5k, breaking 20 minutes in the process.


Then, things started to fall apart. First, the Olympics were being televised. Late nights watching led to late mornings which led to deleted workouts and more late nights. Second, we were spending time with family, and my priorities were with seeing them, not maintaining my training schedule.

A cross-country road trip quickly turned into a solidly sedentary week.



Was it worth it? Absolutely. I spent about 6 weeks away from Guenter's plan, training well and then half assedly and then not at all. And I came back ready to go.

Part of me feel that those six weeks were wasted time, when I could have been improving the parts of my fitness that have been lacking these past four years. But the sane part of me understands the need for balance and joy in life. I had a really solid September of training, and I have to at least partially blame that on the time I took off in August.

So what did September look like?

It started with a couple of grueling weeks, as my body re-adjusted to training. I registered a pretty low anaerobic threshold (4mmol blood lactate/L) after our first week of training, but a solid 2mmol/L level. I was also close to my PRs in the weight room, which was encouraging, if uncomfortable.

A 6k erg test after two weeks of training was humbling and embarrassing to share. One of my goals for the fall season is to accept where I am, and work from there. This 6k test was great, terrible, wonderful, awful practice.


Now, five weeks in, I'm starting to regain my confidence. My normal splits have returned on easy rows. I can hold my technique for more than 25 minutes.

And the workouts are starting to feel really, truly productive, in a way they haven't before.

I have been on a fitness plateau for a while now. My last big improvement on a 2k was in early 2015, and I've only made minor progress on my 6k as well. I spent much of last year regaining the fitness and strength base that I lost in the summer of 2015, and now I finally, finally, finally get to use that base to have some real fun.

Follow along on social media (@lightweighteats) to see how my training progresses. I'll post race results, my next 6k erg test, and too many workout selfies.

In rowing, fall is the time for goal setting. By New Year's Day, you've already lost months of valuable time and are entering the ...

Fall Goals and Racing Schedule

In rowing, fall is the time for goal setting. By New Year's Day, you've already lost months of valuable time and are entering the scramble to prepare for spring racing.

I always start my goal brainstorming with outcome goals: 2k PRs, big wins and gold medals. But to reach those targets, I also set process goals.

This fall, I've got a big process goal, something I can work on every day for the next three months.
GET MORE OUT OF THE WORK YOU'VE DONE INSTEAD OF DOING MORE WORK.



What does that look like for me? Sleeping more (including a midday nap), stretching after each practice, rehydrating and refueling more effectively, and ultimately trusting the training plan.

This is a really difficult process to stick to. Because I'm more rested going into each session, the temptation is to use that energy doing more work or adding other activities into my day. It's helpful to remind myself of all the times in the past that this has failed. This fall, I am embracing patience and balance.

If you'd like to follow along with my fall racing, here is my race schedule.

Head of the Riverfront - October 2nd - Hartford, CT
Last year, I won the open 1x in ridiculously slow headwind/current conditions. I loved this race as a low-key fall season opener. I'm entering the single again. If you're interested in covering the $55 entry fee through a tax deductible donation, send me an email or visit the Northeast High Performance Rowing Foundation website directly.

Head of the Housatonic - October 8th - Derby, CT
By the afternoon that entries opened, there was already a waitlist for the women's open 1x. If I make it off the waitlist, I'll be making my debut at this regatta. This is a slightly bigger race than Head of the Riverfront, so it will be good preparation for Head of the Charles.

Head of the Charles - October 22nd - Boston, MA
Last year, Morgan McGovern and I won the lightweight championship double. This year, we'll be back to defend our title—a tall order as we will be competing against the Swiss national team. A generous donation (thanks Chris!) covered the entry fee and gas money for this regatta; a friend's couch is covering housing.

Fall Speed Order - November 5th and 6th - Princeton, NJ
This is my least favorite race of the year. Since it is a two day affair and far from CT, it requires a two night hotel stay, which is expensive. It also involves a weigh-in and an erg test. And attendance is usually very low, with lots of last minute scratches. Attendance at this regatta is undecided.

Newtown Turkey Trot - November 24th - Newtown, CT
Back to the roads! The 2015 winner ran the 5k in 19:20, so I will have to have a big PR if I want to take the win. In any case, I'll definitely earn my Tofurkey.


What's on your race schedule? Will I see you at any of these regattas??


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Your coach gave you a training plan. You're following it, but you're impatient. You want to hit that PR asap, and you're motivat...

So you wanna PR?

Your coach gave you a training plan. You're following it, but you're impatient. You want to hit that PR asap, and you're motivated to do more. Where do you start?

Trophies are not won the day of the race.

Adding in a lot of extra work can really mess with the flow of a good training plan. Instead, try adding in just 10 minutes a day of extra work. Here's my suggestion:

Add in 10 minutes of:
Day 1. steady state
Day 2. stretching
Day 3. strength

Day 4. steady state
Day 5. stretching
Day 6. strength

Day 7. sleep

Here's the catch, though—you have to actually DO it. On paper, adding in ten minutes a day seems really easy, but it's much easier to add in 70 minutes once a week. The hard part is making the little bit extra a part of your habits, and that means coming back to it over and over again—even when you've stopped.

Some best practices:

Steady State
This is super easy work tacked on to the beginning or end of an existing workout. It can be 10 minutes of drills after a hard row, or an easy jog/bike after an erg workout. It's not enough to mess with the training plan, but over the course of a year, you're adding an extra 1,000 minutes of work. Think of it as setting yourself up for next year's PR.

The pace should be easy enough to take selfies and wear sweatpants.
Stretching
If you have mobility issues, this is a no-brainer. But if flexibility doesn't limit your stroke, it can be hard to remember to stretch. I find that 10 minutes of stretching right after practice or right before bed helps me sleep better, which makes all the difference in the world. I like stretches that focus on the hip area.


Strength
Here's an easy 10 minute strength session you can do: 2x1' each of body weight squats, planks, super-mans, pushups (or pull-ups, if you have a bar—assisted if necessary), rest.
If you're already lifting weights on the reg, change this to 10 minutes of easy core work: 2x1' sit-ups, bicycles, supermans, planks, rest.

Sleep
Yup. That's right. Wanna get faster? Use those ten minutes to sleep a little bit longer. In fact, if you're not feeling jazzed about steady state, stretching or strength work, feel free to sub in 10 extra minutes of sleep any day of the week. It's that important. Can't sleep well? Use this time to practice (or just lie down and relax).

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If you've ever read a women's magazine, you'll know that a typical dinner for women is an egg white omelette with broccoli. Not!...

Healthy Meals for Hungry Athletes

If you've ever read a women's magazine, you'll know that a typical dinner for women is an egg white omelette with broccoli. Not! It turns out, even if you want to keep a trim figure, you have to actually eat, y'know, calories.




Believe me, I've tried skimping at meals. I ended up making up all of those calories at snack time on much less well-rounded foods.

So, here's how you put together a well-rounded meal that will actually satisfy your caloric needs. If you're a normal, active human being, you probably need to be eating 500-750 calories per meal. (Pro-tip: that's a LOT of egg whites and broccoli. Not recommended.) Let's assume you need about 700 calories, to make the math easy.


The Basic Components
1. Starchy food - 300-400 calories
That's a lot of food. We're talking two cups of cooked rice, 3 medium flour tortillas, about a quarter pound of pasta, or half of a baguette. Other options include quinoa, oatmeal, pita bread, polenta, potatoes, soba noodles, tortilla chips, pretzels, graham crackers, cold cereal, bagels, etc.

2. Protein-rich food - 100-200 calories
A solid meal has 20-30 grams of protein. Starchy foods and vegetables usually have some protein, so aim for 15-20g in this ingredient and you're doing well. Some examples: a half block of tofu, a half can of beans, 16 ounces of soy milk, half of a Tofurky sausage, a quarter cup of nutritional yeast, a serving of protein powder, or a Gardein beefless burger patty.

3. A plant or two - 50-100 calories
Vegetables and fruits definitely need to make an appearance on your plate, but they also don't have many calories. They should be a part of your meal—not the whole thing. I like to have fruit with breakfast and snacks, and veggies with lunch and dinner.

4. Sauce - 50-150 calories
Sauces make the meal. They're also a great way to adjust the calorie count on your plate. If you're looking to gain weight, use the sauce to add fat and calories. If you'd rather eat more pasta, go light on sauce or use a veggie-based sauce.

Some sample meals:
- Three cups of corn flakes with walnuts, soy milk and frozen blueberries
- Two cups of rice, half block of tofu, broccoli and teriyaki sauce
- Three tacos with a half can of black beans, cabbage slaw, salsa and/or guacamole
- A big pile of pretzels and veggie sticks with a bean dip (like hummus or black bean dip)
- Savory oatmeal with two tablespoons of nutritional yeast, two tablespoons of sunflower seeds, fresh spinach and cashew cheese

Veggie and tofu stir fry + rice 
Bagel + PB + berries + banana 

You'll need to eat THREE of these meals a day to fuel a decently athletic lifestyle, plus snacks if you work out a lot. If you're not exercising much, scale these meals back to the low end of the calorie range, or eat smaller snacks.

Advanced tips:
- Mix a starchy protein with a fatty protein to make a well-rounded meal without a specific starch (e.g. chickpeas and walnuts on a salad)
- Use whole grains in at least one of your three meals
- Vary your starches, proteins and veggies over the week to get a good mix of nutrients (i.e. don't eat rice, tofu, broccoli and teriyaki sauce at every. single. meal.)

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