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Contact us e-news signup JL Origins Interviews with Lou

 Former Record Holder, Lisa Schlenker Shares Her Story

I called Lisa Schlenker to talk about her new books Erg: 75 Workouts for Athletes and A Training Log for Athletes, (available at and at the Race in JL store).  I happily took advantage of the opportunity to learn about her experience breaking the lightweight world erg record three times.  As it happens, just days after talking to her (and 10 years after she set the record) Ursula Grobler shaved 2 seconds off Schlenker's Previous mark.  What follows is a brief account of Schlenker's experiences breaking world records.  I hope it provides a bit of inspiration as your winter training wears on.

       Lisa Schlenker first broke the world lightweight 2k erg record in April of 1999.  The previous record stood around 7:05.  Her training had been going well and when her coach, Nick Haley asked her what she was planning to pull before she started her 2k she said, "Let's go for seven."  6:59.6 minutes later Schlenker earned the distinction of becoming the first lightweight woman to break seven minutes and being the new world record holder.

       Schlenker reset her mark at Ergomania in January of 2000.  "They were offering a trip to Rio to anybody who set a world record, so I asked the coaches if I could go."  She traveled up to Seattle from the Olympic Training Center in San Diego to grind .3 off her previous record.  "it was a really ugly, painful struggle," Schlenker said.  Her coach was mad she didn't improve by more, but her parents were proud of her, not to mention pleasantly surprised with their free trip to Rio.

       A few months after her Ergomania effort, Schlenker headed off to C.R.A.S.H.-B.s with every intention of putting on a show.  Lauri Dauphney coxed her through what she called, "A textbook piece.  I was on fire, everything aligned.  I went out at a 1:45.  At 1250 things really start to burn.  I was bouncing between 1:44 and 1:45.  I remembered my coach saying, 'If you can pull a 1:45 you can pull a 1:44.'  I thought, 'Oh right, exactly.'"  With 750 to go Schlenker realized she was on her mark.  "I believed and just started opening up.  The rest of the piece flew by."  She finished in 6:56.7- a world record that stood until this past weekend when Ursula Grobler posted a 6:54.7 at Ergomania.

       Schlenker seemed excited by the news of Ursula's performance.  "That's amazing.  I was lucky to have the record for 10 years, but it was there to be broken.  Going under 1:44- that's beautiful."  Lisa's humility stems from her seemingly endless love of competition.  At 45 Schlenker's still racing (and doing well).  "I love competition.  I go seek out venues where there's competition.  I just like seeing how fast I can go with what I've done."

       Now Lisa's working to share her enthusiasm with others.  She coaches Portland's Lake Oswego Junior team and offers personalized training plans for athletes of all levels through her company, Urban Erg.  She enjoys watching her athletes' perception of the erg shift from torture device to a tool that shows how their work pays off. 

       Schlenker recently published Erg: 75 Workouts for Athletes and the accompanying A Training Log for Athletes.  Together the books contain workouts, training advice for all levels, and a well organized system for recording one's progress. They will help add variety and purpose to any rower's training.  She includes her e-mail address in the books and encourages athletes to contact her with any questions.

       Happy erging, rowing world! 

Lou Kinder - February 4, 2010    

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