Muehlbauer et al. (2008) analyzed rowing performance of the 2008 Olympic rowing regatta participants’ to determine time distribution in different sections of the classical 2000 m race. In addition they aimed to identify whether pacing patterns differ between the heats and finals.
The authors analyzed rowing performance (final and split times) of all boats in all heavyweight heats and finals (n=72 boats for men, n=60 boats for women). Split times were obtained for four quarters: 0-500 m, 500-1000 m, 1000-1500 m and 1500-2000 m.
Irrespective of sex, race type (heats or finals), boat rank (winner or other boats) or boat type (single or other boats), all rowers had a pacing pattern where the first and final quarters were significantly faster than the second and/or third quarters. A fast start could be beneficial as it gives a better visual overview of other athletes and therefore allows faster reaction to their movements. Additionally, as rowers race against each other, not against the clock, it might be important to withhold some energetic reserves for the final spurt to outdistance competitors. These circumstances appear to be the reasons for a parabolic pacing pattern during a race.
What to learn from this?
Taken into account the pacing patterns of Olympic rowers, it might be advantageous for junior or club level rowers to practice the same patters during their races – fast start, then set up for a race pace in the middle and try to accelerate in the finish.
Muehlbauer T, Schindler C, Widmer A. Pacing pattern and performance during the 2008 Olympic rowing regatta. European Journal of Sport Science 2010; 10(5): 291-296.