There is nothing quiet like coming from behind another crew or athlete with momentum and having the ability to push through them and out into the lead. Even during training sessions it’s a great sensation to improve speed and see the results compared to others. I mention this because it can be a good strategy to use on the water and off the water with cross training.
When it comes to racing it is certainly easier to get out in front and respond to challenges, but the contrast to this is to develop the ability to surge past competitors in a way that can be very effective. Think of Muhammad Ali doing the roper dope tactic. Let them punch them selves out and then when you strike it can be devastating. So what would be rowing’s version of the roper dope? Giving someone a lead and consciously deciding to let them go a little before building the pressure and chase ‘em down. Training is for that purpose, it’s a time to practice various tactics and try to improve your weaknesses.
When you go toe to toe it can become a matter of survival. Pure will power is required to physically and mentally overcome your opponent. What if you allow them to do their thing and while waiting patiently just in striking distance? What if you can hold you self at a margin that is close enough to keep the pressure on, but far enough away that gives you the chance to build your momentum slowly with out it being a visible difference. These are a few what ifs and years ago I remember hearing a coach say don’t play the, what if game. I can’t help but that by imagining the scenario’s that is becomes a possibility to perform in these ways.
Some times it not like you plan to be behind, it’s quiet simply the situation that your competitors have start well in a race or training and suddenly you find yourself on the back foot. That is probably the reason why I give it consideration and importantly how I might respond. Chase ‘em down has a great sense of excitement and cheekiness that is necessary if things aren’t going to plan. The fact is that I often find myself trying to get easy margin when I don’t feel confident. Over the years I have noticed that other try anything to get a lead and this means usually they pay a price for the extra effort. Maybe they are not confident that they can achieve optimal performance with a consistent effort.
Coming from behind can be an advantage if the leaders have over stretched themselves. This cannot be relied on, but if you’re good enough you will get over them. The example I would use here are Redgrave and Pinsent. They were the best at keeping themselves in striking distance. When they moved it was with such purpose and amazing power that for those competitors they must have started to think how could they ever stay in front. This is in rowing the most obvious case of chase ‘em down and they were master at it.
In other another sport like cycling it becomes a great spectacle watching the peloton charging down the road after the break always. Like a pack of hunting dogs on the sent of it’s prey. The ferocity is intense and the speeds and momentum created by the chasing intent are never more evident then when you see a break away begin to look over their shoulders in desperation. The cycling visual maybe shows this element best. The mind set of the rabbit verses the fox is an interesting one and certainly in cycling the pack of speeding foxes frothing at the mouth is an exhilarating sight and feeling.
What I am suggesting here is a tactic I enjoy practicing. It could speak of the weakness I think I have which is why I like to work on it during training. Recently I have been using it on riding my bike. Even just yesterday I was riding with a mate and we thought it would be good to have some fun. So he took off up the road and after about 10sec I gave chase. Initially I made no impression and actually he probably pulled away from me. Then once I settle into rhythm and was maintaining the margin I took a deep breath and with every ounce of energy I charged down the road. The excitement was fantastic as I began to draw closer and as I came up behind him I surged and pumped my legs with all I had and the difference in speed was amazing. I felt like I was riding on a cloud and with every pedal stroke I was intent on sustaining my speed. After I took a few glances between my legs to see if his wheel was behind mine, I sensed I had broken clear. It was great feeling and I am certain that it would have been difficult to replicate on my own. We continued the activity a number of times and it really brought the session to life.
Chase ‘em down create an intention that can bring out an animal like instinct. It’s not for every session, but certainly worth practicing because you never know when some will catch you by surprise.