Warner Bonner’s story continued

May 2, 2012

 Getting Back in Rowing Shape! – Warner Bonner Henley 2011  – continued

By the fourth month, he had me racing for Penn AC Masters in the Ladies Plate Challenge at the famed Henley Royal Regatta in England.  I was racing with some the best US master’s rowers out there (Grant Nichols, Garrett Klugh, Ivan Smilijac, Jack Nunn and Sebastian Bea).  We traded blows with the 2010 defending Henley Champions and 2011 IRA silver medalist, Harvard’s Varsity Heavy 8 who took us in the quarterfinal by just 6 seats, not bad for bunch of old guys with only three (3) full practices together.

Penn AC Ladies Plate Henley 2011


As a bit of background and to really appreciate what Bob did for me in a short 4-month program, you sort of need to look at where I was physically when I started training with Coach Kaehler.  I had not truly trained for a rowing race in more than15 years when I prematurely ended my rowing career in pursuit of another athletic goal, sprint kayaking.

 In 1997 I switched sports to train with Bob’s former Olympic teammate, Chris Swan on the US Sprint Kayak team for the 2000 Games.  During this time I completely changed my ‘rowing body’ into and competitive sprint kayaker’s body.  I lost the power in my legs and gained a much larger upper physique.  After 2000, I started rowing a bit again, went to the US Trials in 2001 with Brian Klepacki but really was never too competitive again. 

Ladies Plate 2011


 Between 2001 and 2010 I did the random master races every year but never really took them too serious. I fell into doing long distance triathlons (half Ironmans and full Ironmans) and REALLY started to loose muscle mass.  In 2010, I looked like a rower due to my height but the raw rowing power simply was not in me.  Due to all this alternative training, Bob felt it was critically important to get my body “balanced” right away.

In the fall of 2010 my former teammate from the 1995 USA Pre-Elite and Olympic Fest Team, Curt Browder, asked my bud, Sebastian Bea (2000 2- USA Olympic Silver Medalist) and I to row in the Penn AC Men’s Master 8 at the Charles.  The last time I trained out Penn AC was in 1995.  During that fall race, I sort of fell back in love with the sport, in a major way.  Sort of a nostalgic mid life crisis thing that I bet many a Master Rower goes through at some point. 

After a solid performance in a few fall races, we started chatting about the idea of Henley after seeing rowing legends Porter Collins, Ben Holbrook and Jamie Koven threw down some solid performances in their Brown Alum line-ups.  When I learned of the Brown Alum’s using Bob’s program, I quickly gave him a call and got on board. 


San Diego Crew Classic 2011

I have done all kinds of training; from Crossfit to personal trainers but what was magic about Bob’s program was it was designed for me, on a daily basis and did not take up too much time.  From the detailed erg workouts that built up my base to the lactic work, it was the most efficient program I have ever come across.  The first thing I noticed was my strength and after a short month of training we took gold in the Master’s event as Penn AC at the San Diego Crew Classic, I

was really starting to feel much more strong, as if  the “hands of father time” were starting to turn back.

 After the Crew Classic, we started to get serious, as I was only a few months out from Henley.  As the intensity of Bob’s workouts increased, the single most important thing for me, from a motivational perspective, was that I knew who Bob is.  I was well aware of what a stud he was in sport of rowing.  Knowing how long Bob rowed at an international elite level, well into his thirties… motivated me as to what was physically possible at nearly a Master’s C level of 40 years old.


Ladies Plate – Finish Against Harvard 1V

Coming into the final few weeks, I ventured up to Penn AC for a few weeks to train with their Elites.  This was a major wake-up call for me as my first day on the water consisted of us doing race pieces.  While it took some time for me to get my timing and technique down… my engine was there.  My fitness was never an issue and by the end of my time in Philly, we were trading pieces with Penn AC’s top boats.

The Henley was truly an incredible experience and I recommend it to any Master out there.  The Ladies Plate event is very competitive with the likes of Leander, Germany, Ireland, Russia and Imperial in the event. 

We posted a time that would have won our event 9 times in the last 20 years.  So… once again, THANK YOU BOB!  My Henley experience would not have happened without you!


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