Mark Rothstein Blog: Fall Season Wrap-up
Mark Rothstein

Nov. 19, 2012

University of Michigan head rowing coach Mark Rothstein will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to Michigan rowing.

We have recently concluded our fall rowing season and have headed indoors to train on the ergometers (indoor rowing machines), lift weights, and run. This transition means a pretty large reduction in time commitment for our athletes and this comes at a really nice time academically since final exams are just around the corner. Our team goal is to have an average grade-point average of 3.20 or higher, and I am confident that we will hit that goal this fall!

It was a really good fall season, although our race results didn't particularly show it. We had a disappointing result at both the Head of the Charles and in our scrimmage against Ohio State. We did, however, accomplish a lot this fall and we are in a great position to have another really fast spring season and to win the 2013 Big Ten championship. One of the great things that we did this fall was that we switched each rower's side in the boat -- all the starboards rowed port and all the ports rowed starboard. We did this for three reasons: 1. Injury prevention -- the body can get unbalanced in an athlete that rows only one side; 2. Skill development -- putting the athletes in a position where they have to relearn the stroke on a different side forces her to gain a deeper understanding of the rowing stroke; 3. Line-up flexibility -- we now have several rowers that can row both sides equally well and this gives us more options to make fast boats this spring. Switching everybody's side forced us to slow things down a lot and probably hurt our results quite a bit, but I have no doubt that it will lead to greater boat speed for us in the long run. And on the very last practice of the fall we started to see strong evidence of this when we ended the fall season by doing everybody's favorite workout: Wires to Peninsula.

We started rowing on Belleville Lake in the fall of 1996 and that is when "Wires" was created. Since that time, we have done this workout close to a hundred times (we usually do it about six times a year), and so we have lots and lots of data to look at. The course record, done in the spring of 2005 (in a raging tail wind), is 21:17.9. The previous fastest fall time was set in the fall of 2003: 21:53.2, and I am happy to report to you that this past Saturday's was one of the best, if not the best, Wires workout ever. The race is a four-mile head race from the overhead wires near the eastern end of Belleville Lake to the Peninsula that is about 500m east of the boathouse. In most head races, the fastest crews starts first, so that passing is minimized. We do the exact opposite. We take all the crews that are racing and determine a handicap for each one, starting the slowest crew first and the fastest crew last. The idea is that if all crews row true to their projected speed, all nine boats should cross the finish line at the same time (it hasn't quite happened like this yet, but I am always hopeful). On Saturday, we started the crews in the following order: fourth novice eight, third novice eight, second novice eight, first novice eight, fifth varsity eighth, fourth varsity eight, third varsity eight, second varsity eight, first varsity eight. We had perfect conditions: 60 degrees, a very light south wind, and glass water. The first eight had, by far, the best practice of the fall season and set a new fall record for wires by more than 25 seconds! (21:26.3). The second varsity and third varsity eights also had solid pieces, going 22:22.4 and 22:46.0, respectively, and the 1st and 2nd novice eights had really strong performances as well. All in all, it was a great way to end the fall season and has left us all excited to head indoors and to get ready for a great trip to Tampa next month.

Till next time, all my best to you and your family for a wonderful Thanksgiving!