As the boats from his years Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge continue to roll into Antigua, a group of teams from next years race gathered at in Henley and On Shoulders of Giants were among them.
More than anything the event was an opportunity to test out some processes for the main event. For the bulk of the Atlantic crossing, we will row 2 hour shifts. For the 24 hour row, we had 2 rowing ergs which we rode in pairs on the same shift pattern.
From the beginning the atmosphere was great, none of the teams really knew what to expect which brought us all together. Again, like the race, there was everything from solo rowers up to teams of 4 like us. The solo’s are a real special bunch, rowing 90 minutes on, 10 minutes off for as long as they could before maybe taking a slightly longer break but still not long enough to get a decent rest!
As well as shift pattern, we wanted to test out a nutritional strategy. Dan had put together a program based on our, body composition, target heart rate and age and we had some of the freeze dried meals we’ll be using at sea.
So how did it go?! Well…we learnt a lot firstly, getting enough food in is tough! We’re all big lads and like our food but trying to get in 8000 calories was an effort. Aside from the fact calorie dense freeze dried food isn’t the most appetising, you just don’t feel that hungry. We had all kinds of snacks, from energy gels and haribo to home made sausage rolls, flap jacks and rocky road. The first of any of these was great but 16 hours down you just don’t want to eat any more of it. And the less said about what the mixture of that amount of food plus that amount of exercise does to your insides the better.
The other big learning point was time. Rest is key, but that 2 hours off goes ridiculously quickly (unfortunately not so much when you’re rowing!). You have to be up about 20 minutes before your on shift to get set up, so that’s 1hr 40. By the time you’ve stopped, set the other boys up, been to the toilet, eaten and done anything else you might want to do, it’s easy for that 1hr 40 to be closer to 1hr and that’s in great facilities on land. When we’re at sea we’re going to need to look closely at how we work this out.
As ever, ashmei’s kit stood the test. Our t-shirts dried easily within the 2 hours off the rower and despite some serious salt marks didn’t smell (although I will confess we didn’t brave wearing the same one for all 6 shifts!). This is ideal for the row, not having to carry loads of kit because what we have dries quickly and doesn’t smell will help us keep weight down and stay comfortable which is a huge part of keeping going.
It’s been a tough but awesome weekend, I’m not sure how I feel about repeating it for more than a month at sea but it hasn’t put me off!