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...

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...

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.


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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 ...

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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