Sunday, August 30, 2020

My little 24 hour row (on the rowing machine)


Why row for 24 hours?

Just fancied it.  It's been a 'itch I've wanted to scratch' for ages, so I thought fuck it, do something about it.   If you've come across any of my stuff before,  you know I like to set myself these challenges  (24 hour obstacle race, running across the Artic, 100m bike rides, 12 hours on a Watt bike, 100 mile Ultra marathon through the jungle) and most of the time without too much physical training beforehand. I'm a rebel without a cause like that. 

One of my life's ultimate goals is the take part in the Talker Whiskey Challenge, a 5000km (3000 mile) race across the Atlantic in a rowing boat.  Now I'm pretty far off of that, but I will do it if kills me (quite possible), so in the intrim I thought I'd a have a go at the rowing machine.

With the whole covid19 global situation going on a the moment, with certain restrictions and some personal stuff going on right now, I just felt I needed to take some control of something. This for me is an element of that, as well reminding myself I had the ability and discipline to do this. 

The plan

When I looked into it, I saw it had actually been done before, and there's a leader's board on the Concept2 website (the brand of rowing machine I'd be using).  For my age and weight class the record was 318km.  I knew I wasn't going to be breaking records, but it gave me an idea of what was possible. 

When I did the maths on it, 280km seemed achievable - that is rowing at an 11.6kph pace which is around a 2.20-2.30/500m split (pace of row per 500 meters).  When I practiced (days before) I was hating a 12.5kph pace - happy days.  However, I only did 54 minutes of the 60 minutes I had planned, because I got bored and my arse was hurting.  So originally I thought I'd be ok...turns out it didn't quite work out like that.

The rules are pretty simple = the monitor has to show that 24 hours of rowing had been done.  So my plan was to do one hour on, with 5 minutes rest.  This would mean I get two hours of total rest (ie x24 sets of 5 minutes rest).  That also meant the event would actually last 26 hours.

I wanted to do 24 hours before the 24th August (my birthday), so I would start at 2200hrs Saturday 22nd August and finish by 0000 24th August.  Not the most ideal, because Saturday I was back:back with clients from 0800-1700.  Then I'd have to travel home, get ready to go out with the missus for dinner at 1900, eat by 2100 and get to the gym set up and start at 2200.  Is what it is.

Fuel

Because I didn't have much time to train for the event I couldn't really adjust my diet.  It's pretty balanced at the moment and is more based around maintaining a sub 10% body fat.  If I was to do things differently, I would've gone on a higher fat diet for 6 weeks (at least ), until the last week where I would decreased  my fats and increased my carbs by double the amount.  

I did increase my carbs the week before still, by extra handful of carbs per day and a few cookies here and there during the week.  On the actually day I decrease my protein and fat and doubled my carbs again and my last meal was a dense portion of ragu pasta and a pizza...oh ok and a tiramisu.

To fuel me though out the row, I relied on my delivery service from FitThree meals, which were around 600 calories each and 60% carbs, 30% protein and 10% fats-ish.  On top of that, sugary jelly sweets, Himalayan salt sweets and caffeinated drinks.  NO gels and NO powdered shite.  Fortunately I was able to eat this way because I was static and had a microwave close by.  When I've done the runs before, obviously I didn't have that luxury and had to use the artificial stuff, which I've found makes me feel shit.  The whole foods made a massive difference.

Here we go

After having loads of carbs from the Italian restaurant binge, I was ready for it.  I felt brimmed with excitable energy and adrenaline until about 2230, then it hit me how long this was going to be.  A colleague has just finished dining out next door and popped in before he went home.  

When I set up, I put the rowing machine out facing the big gym window, so I at least had a view for stimulation.  I thought on a Saturday night there's bound to be some 'entertainment'.  But then I was reminded that bars and restaurants shut at 2230, so there was probably only stimulation for 15 minutes, before everyone got a cab home latest by 2245-DOH!  If it was the UK, I'd be getting heckled, flashed and probably see a couple shagging behind the bins - not in Singapore.

Thankfully, I had a guy join me for morale, bless him, at about 0200-0500, it was nice to chat to someone during the graveyard hours.  

At 0900 I was gagging for a coffee, but I didn't have time to get to the place on the corner before the screen timed out.  Fortunately another colleague came in to the gym to train and grabbed me two Americanos - life saver.  I was back in the game!

Between 1000-1600 on Sunday I was regretting the whole thing, it-was-miserable! I had a few visitors including my girlfriend.  I asked her to leave after a while became as it was a bit of distraction, I just need to get into the 'zone'.

After they left, I went into a bit of a 'cave'.  I liked this, I could concentrate more and I kind of lap up the pain and discomfort (I know, it's sick).

When I got to 1900 it was like I had a second wind, "5 hours to go, YES!". Five hours WTF!  That's still a long time, but to me it was like the home stretch, from there time seemed to pass really quickly until...

Hour 21.  I was playing around on bloody Instagram, creating a poll of what Skittles I should eat for my 'finisher '.  But where I was playing around, I lost track of time and then next time I looked up at the screen, I had one second left before the screen switched off.  By the time I grabbed the oar and pulled, it reset. NOOOO.  21 hours of rowing, aborted for a fucking Instagram story.  What a dickhead!  

Fortunately it could've been worse, as the data was stored, but obviously the total distance covered and amount of intervals completed, wouldn't be saved as one.  Gutted, but I just had to crack one under a new 'workout' on the monitor.

0005-ish, finished job done.  Get the fuck home....but first, tidy up and pack away, that was a mission in itself.  I was so exhausted.  Anyway, home by 0100 and as soon as my block head hit the pillow I was out for the next nine hours.

Lessons to take away

Be ready 

I was fairly confident in my fitness ability that 'd be able to physically do this.  I knew it would be hard and I knew there would be pain, but I knew I could put my body through.  If you need to, could you?  How much achievement are you missing out on, because you're unfit.  I live on the 15 story (top floor) of a block of apartments, the other day the fire alarm went off and we couldn't use the elevators, so I had to use the stairs instead.  Lucky there was no fire, but I was still able to carry myself down the stairs.  Could you, or even still, could you carry a loved one down the stairs too?  It's harsh to use this as an example, but it's much better to be physically ready for uncertainty, than not.

Preparation is key


Although I only had two weeks to prepare physically, I knew I could prepare for the actually event, ie prepare my food and drinks.  Having spare underwear (to reduce chafing). I moved a microwave close by, to heat my food and I kept the food in a fridge close by, to save time.  I used fresh batteries, lubrtcated my inner elbows and outer knees (as I noticed in training they mildly rubbed, so over 24 hours was going wreak havoc).  I thought of as many scenarios as possible and even took the advice from others to help.

Eliminate distractions  


I was doing this event for me, for my own test of will and satisfaction, but I let slip slightly.  I had people come and support me, I put a sign up out-facing the gym window so people could see what I was up to.  Thing is, it wasn't 'me'.   I found that with the support there I was unable to concentrate.  Subconsciously (I believe) I was making it seem harder than it was, for extra pity-so the support could see how hard it was.  

Eventually after everyone went, I got rid of the sign (I wasn't proving anything to anyone other than myself), I killed the lights and music and went into the 'cave'.  I snapped out of the 'bitching-this is hard' show and actually went back to increase my rowing pace.  

My takeaway from that is:

1.  Everyone is motivated differently, I'm more intrinsically motivated

2.  If you have people around to bitch and moan too, guess what?  You'll bitch and moan.  If no one is there,  then the only option is to crack on with the task at hand.

Quitting sucks  


I've quit one endurance event before (24 hour Worlds Toughest Mudder).  It was a very hard gruelling 24 hour obstacle course in the Nervada desert. There was a freak storm that hit the course in the night and the conditions rapidly changed and no one was prepared for it.  Over half the starters bailed out, the camp sight was destroyed or blown away and even one of the favourites to win was pulled out with hypothermia.  

Three guys I did it with stopped at midnight and I continued until 0800 in the morning.  My body was in a shit state and I seriously thought I going to go man-down.  The lads wrapped me up and I didn't stop shivering for a good three hours.  They advised and convinced me not to go out and finish.  I had two hours left.  TWO HOURS!  I knew I could've done another lap (which was taking me two hours a time), but I let others get in my head and to this day I haven't forgiven myself for it.  

Believe me I want to quit the row.  I was hurting so bad I wanted to give myself the excuse to stop.  I even text a mate to say "I don't think I can do this".  His reply "you're made for this shit, keep going".  
As much as you want to quit, in whatever you want to do, quitting sucks-it's painful and it lasts forever.  Sometimes you've got to get through it and it will make you harder.  

The second takeaway from that is, find people who will push you, not feel sorry for you.

Complacency kills dreams   


When I was in the military on tour or exercise, most accidents or incidents happened in the last couple of days to go.  Troops would start relaxing and go into 'holiday mode'-switiching off and dropping standards, occasionally lives were lost as a result.  Leaders would push harder and be harder in their discipline, to make sure soldiers were staying focused to end.  

I dropped a bollock at hour 21, posting on Instagram and as a result, I went over my rest time and the screen timed out.  I lost my progress and the data, all because of a fucking Instagram post.  

Lessons from that:

1.  Instagram is a fucker and we should get rid of it.
2.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  

I think we can all relate to that, especially with weight loss.  We get into a good routine, see progress and slip a little bit when we feel we can 'get away with it',  because you've been working hard, only to go too far and get disappointed at the next weigh in with outcome.

How do eat an elephant?  


One of my support crew was Andre from Namibia and in conversation we talking about how I was breaking down the challenge, I replied something like "in chunks".  To which he replied, "we have a saying in Africa 'how do you eat an elephant?...One mouthful at a time'".  Great point.  24 hours at the start can seem like a massive take on (and fuck me it is), but adapt your mindset a little bit, it's not that bad.  

I broke down time into hours, ie 1 down, 23 to go.  Then in that hour I would break it down into 20 minute chunks, "right that's one set of 20 minutes, only two to go.  That's 40 minutes gone, now only 20 to go...".  Then that 20 mins I broke down into 5 minutes.  

The numbers matter 


Carrying on from above, there wasn't much stimulation, ie change of scenery and I was just going backwards and forwards, (pretty monotonous right), all I could do was focus on the numbers in front of me on the monitor and on my heart rate monitor.  Also how can you track your progress if you're not counting anything measurable? I wouldn't like to guess 24 hours and get that wrong.

What's next?

I don't have a clue, but the real question is what's my true potential?  I needed this challenge, I've proved to myself what I'm capable of and this has given me back some confidence, dignity and some control back in my life.  

I've learned that my body needs a week to recover from the Ultra Endurance stuff.  I've got back to normal eating and light resistance training.  I'm going to buy a road bike next and I've got a swimming pool downstairs, so maybe something to do with one of the two...or both???

You can watch whole thing on my the Instagram stories here.

Keep it real folks
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