Keeping fit in the winter has always been a tough job for athletes who participate in summer sports. Runners who have no access to padded indoor tracks must face the dreary cold. Bicyclists who are forced to cycle on stationary bikes often lose the intensity of a similar workout on the road.
Until a few years ago, rowers had it even worse. They had no way to train when freezing weather hit. Then in 1978, a Vermont company invented the ergometer, an indoor stationary rowing machine.
Training on the ergometer soon became monotonous. So about 10 years ago, a group of previous world, Olympic, and national rowing team members got together to "race" each other on the machines.
Joe Amlong, a 1964 Olympic gold medalist in rowing, says the "erg" competitions are just as stressful as Olympic competition for younger rowers. "The young kids trying out for the Olympics train just as hard [for the erg races]," says Amlong, 54.
A member of the Baltimore Rowing Club, Amlong competes in erg races for cardiovascular fitness. "I do it just to get the most out of life," he says. He has been competing on the ergometer for the last three years, after not rowing for 20 years.
Baltimore is one of the major cities around the world where ergometer racing has become popular, and for the fourth year in a row, the Baltimore Rowing Club, in conjunction with the Loyola College crew team, is hosting the "Baltimore Burn" satellite regatta at Friends School tomorrow.
Named for the sensations created in a user's legs and lungs, the "Burn" will include between 100 and 150 rowers, ranging in age from 12 to 80. They compete in heats, with each person rowing 2,500 meters. The winners -- those who row the distance in the shortest amount of time, as measured on computerized timers on the ergometers -- advance through the competition.
The best finishers in each of the divisions -- high school, college, open, senior, masters and lightweight are some of the divisions for both women and men -- advance to the finals. Winners in each division then move on to the world championships, Feb. 17 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The world championships are called the "C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints," named for the Charles River All-Star Has-Beens.
The "Baltimore Burn" will attract rowers from other states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. College teams participating include the Naval Academy, Temple, St. John's, University of Baltimore, Goucher, Loyola, Johns Hopkins and George Washington.
Heats for the competition begin at 8 a.m., with finals starting at approximately 1 p.m. Spectators are welcome. "It's really low key," says Sandra Burt, treasurer for the Baltimore Rowing Club and coordinator for the "Burn." "There's really no applause until the finals."