Author Topic: OC1 time trials  (Read 9448 times)

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  • Full Name: Steven Cho
OC1 time trials
« on: December 01, 2006, 12:21PM »
this was an interesting post on

Now we’re talking!

I tried out lots of different combinations while coaching high performance OC6 crews and agree with the posters who observed that;

    * OC1 time trials are essential to forming an OC6 crew,
    * the finish order often doesn’t change after the iniital 20-30 minutes,
    * everyone can be fast to 45 minutes,
    * time trials need to reflect race durations, AND
    * I will add that time trials should be used to evaluate paddlers AND to evaluate your coaching skills. Being able to use these evaluations to modify your coaching plan is essential, otherwise you are not treating your paddlers with respect by guiding and preparing them to meet your team boat selection criteria.

First, time trials are a central component of an unbiased and open crew selection process, some may argue this is the right of any paddler looking to make a club team. Time trials are one of the few selection criteria that can be considered relatively objective.

Second, the finish order doesn’t change much after the first 20-30 minutes in a long distance event. I would say this is mostly due to teams having settled into their race pace by this time, or if they haven’t will blow up very soon. It is usually somewhere in the initial 15 minutes where the most changes in race order occur, coincidentally this is the physiological point where any errors in pacing will catch up with a vengance.

Usually, only tactical errors will affect the final standings after the initial portions of the race. This can include a bad line, inability to surf, go upwind, hydrate or feed properly, etc.

Third, I would agree that pretty well anyone can show potential up to 45 minutes, after 45 minutes race experience begins to show. Those with experience will be hydrating properly, will have warmed up properly, fuelled up well before the time trial and addressed those “little details” that inexperienced athletes either neglect or don’t know about. Any small errors in initial race pace will show up big time here.

Our club used a 5 km (3 mile) time trial loop for program evaluation and crew selections. Early season we would do 1 loop only and as the year progressed towards six man season we added loops on. The top paddlers always did better on laps 2+ than the other paddlers. In many distance based sports, the idea of knowing how to “negative split” or go slightly faster as a race progresses is essential to elite performance. From 4:00 minutes and up, negative splitting is the most reliable way to win a race.

Some real world sport examples;

    * All of the 10 km running world records were set with less than a 0.5% difference between the first and second 5 km splits, with the second 5 km being faster,
    * A study of splits at rowing world championships showed that a negative split strategy yielded the most medals while the least successful medalling strategy was start fast and progressively slow down.

Lastly, on time trials reflecting race durations, I would add it it not how well paddlers do in those longer duration time trials, but the experience they get from being out there in a solo with no one to relie on but themselves. In some early races we had lots of “experienced paddlers” racing with no fluids, bonking, or just not giving 100%. Our coaches decided that when our goal was a top long distance event (2 hour race) we required all potential crew members to have done one longer (20 km) individual time trial to know what their abilities were. This taught them the importance of hydration, pre-race planning, pacing, mental toughness and respect for their team mates. It also added a level of camaraderie by sharing the experience as well.

A good coach can also learn a great deal by varying the time trial format from mass start to dual starts to individual starts; slowest first to slowest last. Each race format will tell you more about your paddlers and potential team.

For change races, choosing OC1 trial formats gets even more fun!

Once paddlers started to learn about their own strengths and weaknesses when racing solo, they became stronger team paddlers as well. Those who didn’t or wouldn’t do the trials to learn were often seen as liabilities or unknowns.

All that being said, top solo paddlers do not make top team paddlers. A progression from OC1 to OC2 to OC6 is needed to see who can make the leap from good solo paddler to good team boat paddler. Evaluating OC2 combos is the next step, you’ll see non-team paddlers show up very easily at this level as well as stronger and weaker combinations. You’ll than need to evaluate seat specific skills from stroke to steersperson, and more so in change races and sprint turn race crews.

And yes it will take more time, but add in that next level in a small team boat, you will learn more about your paddlers and illustrate it in objective, measurable ways.

As a good coach, you should then take that OC1 and OC2 info and use it to direct your training plan. A good OC1 and poor OC2 paddler needs team boat skills and you need to teach them those skills. A poorly paced OC1 paddler needs to work on pacing and learn how it can make them faster. And so on.

One observation on the perception in OC that bigger is better. In many gliding sports, this is true.

Bigger more powerful athletes have an advantage over smaller athletes in some conditions. However, this comes with a warning label that it is functional lean muscle mass that lends power to the boat. Too often I have seen bigger (in some cases overweight) paddlers treated preferentially over smaller (leaner) paddlers despite faster solo time trials by the smaller paddler.

An example is a paddler who showed great solo time trials at 210 lbs was pegged for first crew material, while a 160 lb paddler of the same speed was not. The 210 lb paddler slimmed down over a few seasons to 160 lbs, and got faster. As did the other 160 lb paddler. The 210 paddler was always perceived as bigger and more powerful in the OC6.

Thanks for a great topic!

Alan Carlsson
A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for.