Todd Vogt’s sparring partner Ned McCall on training alongside USA PR3 Mixed 2x – World Championships coverage
Ned McCall trains at the Portland Boat Club alongside Todd Vogt and Pearl Outlaw, who represent the United States at Worlds 2022 in the PR3 Mixed Double.
In the following letter he sent to friends and allowed us to post on row2k, Ned offers a unique perspective on training alongside dedicated para-athletes that not all para-athletes have not tend to emphasize or even dwell, focused as they are (with most elite athletes) on the goal and not the obstacles.
Of his own rowing, Ned shared that he started rowing in Choate when he “realized that I wasn’t good enough to play Varsity Baseball, and I tried to practice 6 days /week and I race in every boat class imaginable with Portland Boat Club and the North Dakota Indoor Rowing Team (NDIRT).”
It should be noted that McCall is usually joined by US Olympian Tiff Wood in their training sessions alongside mixed doubles.
I have watched the progress of Todd’s Parkinson’s disease since his initial diagnosis. His long-term goal is to compete in the Paralympic Games in Paris, but he has a progressive disease, so he knows he’s in a race against time.
That said, Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) is watching Todd very closely, as it appears that the volume of work he is putting in – 12 workouts/week – could be stunting his progress. his illness.
McCall in the quad’s three-seater riding the US PR3 Mix2x; Tiff Wood is in the seat two
All of his tremors are on one hemisphere of his body – in Todd’s case, his left side. Because only his left side is affected by Parkinson’s disease, he produces unbalanced power. I spent a lot of time sculling with Todd and he is a very fast skier. Watching videos of him sculling, I noticed that his boat, while going straight, did this S-turn every time. Todd’s right hand, or port scull, produces more power and turns the boat to starboard during the ride. Then when released, he drags his port scull out of the water to correct this. It’s no different from paddling alone in a canoe. You can only take a hit to one side, so you naturally slide the paddle after the hit to correct the asymmetrical thrust.
Nobody taught Todd to do this, and it’s not conscious. He didn’t know he was doing it. His body finds a way to keep the boat going straight. It’s really extraordinary that he is able to move a single so quickly. I don’t believe there is a designated PR3 1x boat, at any level. If this class of boat existed, I think Todd would be a contender.
The guy never complained once. He never asked, “Why me?” I sometimes feel a sense of awkwardness around Todd because I’m not sure I have the character to handle what he handles all day, every day, with such grace and courage.
All the local news affiliates did segments about Todd and in one he cries talking about his trip. Todd is one of the most inspiring guys I’ve met and his character is amazing.
Her doubles partner, Pearl Outlaw, is legally blind. She is also amazing. Watching Pearl and Todd throw their double is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I encourage you to try pulling a double out of a rack, walking it into the water, climbing over your head and placing it in the water…while keeping your eyes closed. It’s not an 8, where a person can get a bit off. Pearl holds half the boat and she’s absolutely gripped every time, and I can see why. I tried to close my eyes while wearing a double and each time I open them immediately, for fear of falling, etc. And that’s just launching the boat!
Pearl Outlaw and Todd Vogt at the 2022 World Championships
In addition to rowing side-by-side in our singles, I also rowed a lot with Todd in sculls. When we do, he rows to port and I row to starboard, with me in the bow. When you slap well on the glass of water, on the recovery, and if it’s well wedged, I feel Todd’s tremor shake the oar which bounces slightly in the oarlock. We do break drills often, and on a break sequence we had ten perfect shots. This has never happened to me before or since in any boat. The water was glass and during the break it felt like we were on a gravel road. The boat was installed and the whole was vibrating. Again, how he does this leaves me impressed all the time.
Todd’s warm-up lasts at least 45 minutes. He says he feels like an old man who needs to limber up, relax and warm up his whole body before every workout. I just watch it while I’m sitting there at 52 years old, not even bothering to stretch or do ergs, knowing I’m going to warm up through the draft drills and the first 5k of balance, before any real work begins.
And finally, I sat next to Todd for many of his para rowing erg tests in the US during the winter. By sitting next to it, I mean I did the tracks with him. These have all been 2K or 6K coins. Todd always has a plan when it comes to run rate and splits. My job is to pace Todd on the beat, making sure he doesn’t drop the beat during the body of the piece. Then, at the end, my job is to increase the rate and make sure Todd goes with me.
The problem is, I’m not doing 12 workouts/week, so I’m bringing the drag back, from 120 to 105, which allows me to maintain a higher pace, aerobically, and maintain the ratio – it’s amazing what you can do when you reduce the load! My splits aren’t much slower than my current PR levels, but just stepping back from the load a bit allows me to be there for Todd at the end when we go up. There is a huge difference between 98% and 100% effort on the erg. Again, my real job is to make sure Todd goes fast.
McCall in the red striped shirt rowing the double with Tiff Wood against the US PR3 Mix2x
I’ve been there with Todd when he set multiple WRs for his PR3 age class, often breaking his own record. It was personally very gratifying because he and his trainer, Susan Wood, said there was no way these records would have fallen if I hadn’t been there, side by side, passing EFI (Every f__king inch) with Todd. In 37 years of rowing, these are the most rewarding erg bits I’ve ever done, and despite the reduced drag, they’re not easy.
The whole thing is almost surreal.
Hope this sheds some more light on what’s going on here. I was at our boathouse this morning and Todd and Pearl launched. First comes Todd’s laborious warm-up, then Pearl puts her delicious German Shepherd in a kennel we keep at the boathouse, then Todd takes her arm and helps her down the stairs, and off we go. ..
For more on Todd, watch this profile broadcast on KGW News in Portland Oregon: Portland to Coast Relay: World-class rower Todd Vogt to walk with Brian Grant’s team.