ELKO – Local veterinarian John Dinsmore earned both national and world titles in his division at the World Indoor Rowing Championship held Feb. 24 in Long Beach.
Completing the 2000 meter in 6 minutes and 45 seconds, he rowed against 30 rowers from eight countries, placing fifth overall and first in his division. Dinsmore competed in the Lightweight category for his age group, 55- to 59-year-old men.
Competing against Dinsmore were rowing legend Mike Caviston, who holds two world records, and Josef Reiter, world champion from Germany.
“These guys are sitting right in front of me during this competition,” Dinsmore said. “And so, it was kinda more intimidating than anything. But at the end of the day, the camaraderie showed. Each of these guys comes up, and I mean they are supportive; they are doing all the right things. It really made me feel like, ‘OK, now you are part of this community.’”
In the end, Dinsmore placed first, Reiter second, and Caviston third in the division.
“In the grand scheme of things,” he admitted, “I didn’t beat everybody.”
The race is run on an ergometer (or “erg”). The sport began in 1980 when a group of former Olympic rowers wanted to just have some fun. They began the CRASH-Bs (Charles River All-Star Has-Beens). The team still holds 2000-meter “erg” races every year in Boston.
This year’s event was the second World Championship. Last year, it was held in Virginia and next year it will be in Paris.
Competitors row an ergometer designed by Concept2. The “erg” measures the amount of pull exerted by the rower and correlates it to how quickly that would move him or her through the water. Experts say it won’t necessarily tell you how you will do on the actual water, but it definitely tells who is pulling the hardest.
“It’s about how many strokes are you pulling per minute,” Dinsmore said. “You pull too many strokes a minute, you kinda burn yourself out. And how much resistance do you set the machine for? You set it too high, you have too much resistance, and it’s like trying to pedal up a hill on a bike with not a low enough gear. You’re just not going to have any power.”
Dinsmore, who only began rowing in October, said he couldn’t have done it without the help of his friend and training partner, Dan Leff. Leff, a Komatsu salesman, has been rowing for 15 years. The men met through their wives and quickly bonded.
“I’m gonna throw lots of kudos towards Dan,” Dinsmore said, “He’s the motivator, he is the drive behind all of this. He’s like if you’re gonna do it, do it right.
“We cycle together, and same thing. He’s like you’re just out there pedaling around — he said get on a structured program. I did that and it helped a lot. And same thing here. He’s like if you’re going to do this here is the plan you need to follow, and you’ll improve.”
His plan had him training six days a week at various intensities and workout lengths. Once he started to see the improvements, Dinsmore became very motivated to continue.
His workouts vary from long rows of 15,000 meters a day to “these hard intervals where you’re gonna go really hard. And then you’re gonna take a break. I think one of the things that Dan and I like about this is the high intensity part of it … that’s where you gain a lot of the fitness, you gain a lot of strength. And so this rowing thing has us enthused. It combines the cardiovascular, the aerobic part, with strength. So you’re hitting both ends of it.”
In order to keep from becoming bored during long training sessions, both men admit to watching movies or listening to podcasts and music.
“I am more about the music,” Dinsmore said.
“I think another big motivator for me is that it is my time in the morning. Nobody messes with me. When I’m here (at the clinic) I’m the only vet here, I mean it’s constantly – there might be three questions rolling at once. And so this just kinda allows me to settle, Zen. … That’s my time to listen to my tunes.”
After seeing improvement, Dinsmore said that Leff, who had competed in a couple of indoor competitions, suggested “You know the world competition is in Long Beach this year. We should go.”
And so with his friend by his side and with only a few months to train for it, Dinsmore prepared to take on the world. But it wasn’t like he was starting from ground zero.
“He comes from a wide base of fitness,” Leff explained. “One, he’s on his feet all day. He’s a vet … and he’s done some major cycling events in California.”
“I tend to take off more than I should sometimes,” Dinsmore said. “We play around with climbing (biking) Lamoille Canyon. So, the next thing I want to do is – I want to do the Death Ride, which is 130 miles in 15,000 vertical feet whereas this (the canyon) is 11 miles in 3,000 feet. So that was in 2017.
“In 2018, it’s like, I think I can do more than that. So we did the Alta Alpina challenge. That’s eight passes. So, you’re doing total 20,000 vertical feet and 200 miles in a day. So that was my challenge for 2018. So this rowing thing was my challenge for this year.”
Dinsmore is already “scheming” to go to Paris next year to defend his title. “Time’s a wasting. I better start training so I can break the world record. So if I’ve got a year, why not?”
“I always tell him he’s a good cyclist,” said Leff. “He’s a great rower. He’s pretty set up to row real well. For one thing when he decides to do something, he actually does it. So, I always tell him he needs to be careful what he commits to. He’s able to follow a structured plan. He’s able to get up every morning. He’s one of the few that has that gear that it takes to really endure the pain. What it takes to be the world champion.”
Rowing machines have been used as training tools by professional and athletic rowers since ancient times. The first patent for an indoor rowing machine was granted in 1872 to inventor W.B. Curtis. Soon a linear pneumatic system manufactured in Rhode Island became popular. In the 1950s and 60s, rowing machines changed to using a friction brake in the design.
In 1981, Peter and Richard Dreissigaker and Jonathan Williams came up with their own design. They were given a patent for their “Stationary Rowing Unit” in 1983 and Concept2 was born. Since then their “erg” has become the machine of choice.
“I don’t know really if it’s a great spectator sport,” Dinsmore said, as he reviewed the video on YouTube, “but you sure get enthused after all the work you put into it.”