Erie Photographer John Huegel wins Cleveland’s “Hammer Ergatta” indoor rowing competition for age group

John Huegel at the 2013 Cleveland Hammer Ergatta. First place for 50-59 year old males.

John Huegel at the 2013 Cleveland Hammer Ergatta. First place for 50-59 year old males.

This one’s a bit off of the topic of photography, but what the heck.

Winter is usually the time when I hibernate. But this year, I stayed very active on an indoor rowing training plan. Indoor rowers, or ergometers (“ergs”), simulate the activity of rowing on the water through the use of a flywheel that creates drag with either air or water. The Concept 2 Ergometer is the world standard indoor rower.

This summer I bought a slightly used Concept 2 Model E, and have put nearly a million meters on it. That’s nearly 600 miles if it were an actual boat. The workout is a full body experience, using the legs, the core back/stomach muscles, and the arms and chest. The machine reacts to your force, meaning you can go easy or hard, and you can tailor the workout to very specific outcomes, such as intervals or long, slow rows.

I have rowed a variety of distances on the erg, from 500 meters, which takes about a minute and a half, to the half-marathon distance of 21,074 meters, finishing in just under 90 minutes. As a distance runner, I prefer the longer pieces, but the competition is all about the 2k, or 2000 meter distance.

The 2k has been described as 4 minutes of pain followed by 3 minutes of agony. For men of my age and build, a good 2k time is somewhere between 6:45 and 7:30. When I started training a few months ago, I pulled a 7:39. Then over the fall and the holidays, I followed a training program that gradually brought my time down to 7:10.

I’m no stranger to racing, but all of my experience was the running kind.The Hammer was my first rowing competition. After the heat began, I maintained a pretty consistent pace of about 1:47 per 500 meters. Competing with 7 others in my age group, I started off in 3rd or 4th place, and gradually came up to second. With about three minutes left, I kept my pace consistent while the first place rower started to fade a bit. I finished with a good lead, and trimmed a second off of my best, to finish at 7:08.9. It was a great feeling, and I especially appreciate the support of my wife, who sat in the coach’s chair while I wheezed and panted and pulled.

Am I done? No way! My goal is to break 7 minutes. It’s a magic number for indoor rowers, and I’m convinced I can do it. Plus I really enjoy rowing. I can put on a video and “coast”, or I can focus and pound out some really tough workouts.

So what does this have to do with photography? Well, my wife took a photo of me just after I got my gold medal, so that counts!

Anyway, I encourage everyone to stay active and set goals. Last year my goal was weight loss and I dropped nearly 50 pounds. And I achieved my CPP Professional Photographer Certification.

This year my goal is to reach a fitness level I have never achieved before, and break the magic 7:00 mark!