In order to pull your best possible 2000m test, you need to be realistic! You only have so much in the tank, and you can do no more than that. In order to ’empty’ the tank completely you need to have paced it perfectly and be in a great psychological state. It takes a supreme effort to do your very best score so you need to be robust mentally as well as in great shape. Being rested helps but is not essential.

A great score is achieved over a period of time, but you need to have done the work. First build an aerobic base, then layer on the high end endurance and only then the intensity. I do not propose to discuss how to build the physiology, but I have a two month preparation build up as well as a few ideas about pacing the test itself.

How do I know what to aim for?

Week 1

Once you have been training for a few weeks, pick an ergo session and do 2x1000m at a stroke rate of 24. Be strict and use length an power to get your best score, take 10 minutes between pieces.

Week 2

The next week do a 2000m test at rate 24, here again do not use the rate to improve your score. the pacing for this test will be the same as doubling your fastest 1000m r.24 and adding 15 seconds.

Then train for a month. Here the training you do will depend on your training history and fitness.

Week 6

At the end of that month of training, time for another 2000m piece. It is important in the intervening month that you do not prepare in any way for this piece, in fact you should not even back off. This is part of the training.

This piece is based on your previous 2000m piece at rate 24. Let us assume that you pulled 7:10.0. That is an average 500m pace of 1:47.5. The aim is to do the first 1000m of this piece at rate 24 pulling 1:47.5. Feel free to pull harder for the first 3-4 strokes just to get the average on the display down to 1:47.5, do not sprint for longer than that. Also don’t go too high on the rate, as you will find it hard to find a rhythm.

Once you get to 1000m you should feel fine. Time to step up! The aim of the next 1000m is to pull your best possible score for this 1000m. That doesn’t mean you should go crazy straight away, if you do you will blow!! Don’t be afraid to use the rate as the 2nd 1000m piece progress’. But again be sensible. At 1000m aim to step up about 2nd the split (1:45.5-1:46.5), maybe the rate goes up to 26-27.

As the piece progresses keep making steps up and up and up, when you get to 1800m, really go for it! Don’t hold back, and be brave. You may blow up, but there is no point getting off this test with anything left. You need to max out, you must feel you could have done no more in the last 1000m. Use power as much as possible, you can use the rate as you progress, but don’t replace power with stroke rate!! Be tough and pull hard!

Record your score all four splits as well as the final score.

Now train for one month.

Week 9

In week three of the next phase pick a day to do a few preparation pieces. I have included one idea, there are many variations of what you can do. There is no right or wrong, but there are a few basic principles that you should abide by in doing that session:

  1. Do not do a ‘practice’ 2000m piece. You will most likely do your best score on that day not the next week when it was scheduled, plus it will most likely not be the score you are capable of.
  2. Use the pieces to get a sense of of your pacing.
  3. Do at least 3 minutes sitting on your 2000m pace and rhythm. Get on rate and on pace and be efficient. Make sure you don’t overwork your rhythm even tough it is tempting in these pieces.

In order to decide on your pacing for these prep pieces you will need to have come up some idea of what score you are going for.

If we go back to our example,

Week 1:  2x1000m r.24 with (10 minutes paddling in between)

Scores of 3:32.9 and 3:30.4

Week 2:  1st 2000m r. 24

Score 7:10.0.

Week 6:   2nd 2000m (1000m r.24/1000m Max)

Score 7:03.4

Week 9:   2x500m and 1x1000m

1st 500m as the first 500m of the test (rehearse transition)

1000m piece as the Middle 1000m pace planned for the 2000m test

2nd 500m Max or as last 500m

Week 10: 2000m Test

So the Target for the test, based on those numbers, will be sub 07:00.0 and may be below 6:55.0 if your having a great day!! If you didn’t really bury yourself in the prep stuff you will not go much faster than 6:55.0.

So let’s assume for ease of the numbers you will be aiming to pull just under 07:00.0. That equates to an average split of 1:42.5. That is NOT your target pacing, it is your target average at the end!!!

So if you are aiming to pull an average split of 1:42.5, then you need to be spending the middle 1400m at a split of about 1:43.5-1:44.5.

So split your 2000m into three sections (not 4x500m)

300m start and transition into rhythm

1400m at race pace

300m build and wind for the finish

1st 300m

It’s easy to overdo this part of the test. You feel strong and can keep powering on, but you will pay the price for that later in the test.

Go off hard, very hard, but not rate 50 and 1:29.0, you will never find a rhythm off that.

But it is a test, so for 5-7 very aggressive strokes!! Then you need to begin the process of getting onto your race pace, it will take you quite a while to hit the correct split and rate and get into a rhythm. This will take quite a bit of confidence and practice, by the time you get to 300m you need to be on race pace and rhythm (as an example 1:43-1:44 at rate 30).

Middle 1400m

At 300m your display may show an average split of something like 1:40.4. Your average split will now slip for the next 1400m!! Be ready for this, at roughly 1000m it will show 1:42.5 and keep slipping. This will take confidence so that as your split drifts to something like 1:43.8-1:44.2. You need to keep to your rhythm on pace and on rate.

Although the split remains the same, the effort required to keep that split and rate will get tougher and tougher, and this is when you need to be mentally focused. Chunk the 1400m into 100m chunks, just complete each one at the same rhythm. Try to be efficient with the rhythm. Do not lose concentration, this will ruin your test.

Last 300m

As you get to 1700m, it is time to build into the finish. This is when you will remember the last 300m of your 2000m (24/Max) step up in the same way. Keep using power as much as possible and do whatever it takes to get the score down. Be tough and get the best possible score. The average pace will keep improving, chase that sub 7:00.0 score.

If you happen to be having a great test and get to 1000m properly and feel great, don’t get too excited. It might be worth testing your split a little bit, just 0.5-0.75 and see how you feel. If it’s ok then keep going, if not be clever and drop back to what you were doing and wait a bit longer before you push on.

I hope this helps. I have used this system over the 15 years of my coaching career. And it does work. The biggest challenge athletes have, who are not good at pacing 2000m, is to going off too hard. They also initially struggle to buy into this because they feel they will never be able to make the step up in the last 300m, because they have always blown up and have never had the ability to accelerate at the end.

Good luck on your next 2000m, when you get ready for that test, you will still not be completely confident it will work. But back yourself and see what can do.hopefully something special.

This was written by @CassidyAdrian


Adrian rowed for Great Britain in the 1990’s and went on to coach at Cambridge University, the GB Rowing Team and the Irish Rowing Team. Adrian has coached at many World Championships and at the London 2012 Olympics. Adrian is a Co-Founder of ErgStick.