An Atlantic Rowers thank you

About this time last year I was arriving a head of my Atlantic row. The festive period had been an incredibly exciting period, in some respects quite a tense one with final preparations and certainly a time to gorge on those extra calories. I thought the timing was right to thank my sponsors, friends, family and work colleagues for all their support as I opted to spend my time training, eating and sleeping on top of my day job impacted on you. The Team Has Landed

When you make a serious choice in your life I don't think you can ever comprehend the effects it has on those around you. I think what really brought it home was first seeing my Dad in Barbados, then Mum and brother who were unable to make it out to the finish and the relief that they had for our safe crossing.

So thanks goes to Binn Skips who have supported me on a couple of challenges now. Skye Skyns who provide the softest and most comfortable sheep skins I have ever felt, we sat on them and it made the journey all the more comfortable. Cameras underwater who provide an amazing camera case that allowed me to take my camera underwater and take some incredible pictures! Patra kindly gave me some silk underwear which despite the harsh conditions held up very well and were very comfortable.

A sunny Dover coastal rowing experience

Numerous people helped me train and prepare for the event Fulontri with their numerous quality training sessions. Rin Cobb from Pnd Comsulting on my nutrition and managed to help me gain the necessary weight in time. Phil Barratt from Physique Body works for regular holistic sports massages. Simon James and Heal physios of Dundee also seriously helped with both my pre-race preparation and post race recovery. Roger Gould from extreme rowing challenges for his advice and enabling me to get some rowing practise including rowing behind the Olympic torch. Dover rowing club enabled me to gain some valuable coastal rowing experience as well as rowing from Gravesend to Richmond with them.

Rowing with the Olympic Torch

River views on our row from Gravesend to Richmond

Finally the Ocean Row Events support team and most importantly Leven, Livar, Tim, Calum, Pete, James and Jan who made for a thoroughly memorable adventure. If you are interested in and ocean row I would highly recommend checking out Ocean Row Events!

Arrived safe and sound

There are many others who inspired, helped and kept me going whilst out there. Maybe if the book deals ever comes about then they can be additions to that...

The main thing is I may have been out there in the middle of the ocean but to reach that point there was a much longer journey that involved far more people than just myself. Regardless of what they are exactly without you all life's challenges and adventures are not possible. So whatever your next challenge remember those who help with the journey in whatever way that might be.

The Benefits of a Christmas Diet

Following on from my last blog about meeting my nutritionist who made a number of suggestions on how I can increase my weight but in a way that wasn’t just in extra squidgy bits. I took to following her advice as much as possible. Apart from the idea of eating something like tofu which I just couldn't bring myself to do. scales

It was quite strange to start with noting everything I ate and drank, it certainly helped re-enforce the aim to the point where I didn’t need to write it down so much as I mentally noting what was going in.

The idea was pretty straight forward stage 1 would involve reducing my fat intake from the likes of whole milk and yoghurts and increasing my carbohydrates through the likes of pastas, rice and potatoes that kind of thing. The rest of my diet was in pretty good shape apart from the odd tweak. I did have to ensure that I was still consuming in excess of 4000 calories on a day of normal exercise and then 5 – 6000 calories if it had been longer in distance.

The results from this I had checked a couple of months ago around mid-September; the results showed good progress. My weight had increased in a stead manor and the skin calliper test showed that my fat percentage had also dropped. The slight downside was I was still occasionally losing weight and short of my target weight of 95kg.

I had watched my brother struggle with the weight gain process a couple of years ago and as easy as it sounds, it reaches a point where whilst doing exercise and everything else you do in a day it’s a struggle to get in all the calories in a healthy and sustainable way.

That is where stage 2 came in, the decision from the results was to give it another month to about mid-October and if the weight was not increasing enough to give it a boost with more calories. I think my work colleagues noticed the increase in the size of lunch that I was bringing in each day added with the daily litre of milk. It had become less important about where it’s coming from and more about the sheer quantity.

The timing of Christmas and the start of the Atlantic row has been very fortunate with the huge quantities of food and possibly a spot of drink that has been on offer over this festive period. It has certainly helped towards the last minute body stores.

The weight is now there or there about at 94kg, I’ve managed to put on about 10 – 12 kg since February, and now intend to lose most of that and potentially more with the row.

Avalon's Inversion Test

A few weeks ago our boat Avalon under went an inversion test to ensure that she would self upright in the event of a capsize. It is something that every boat undergoes to see how they will deal with extreme weather situations or rogue waves, it certainly  builds up confidence in her abilities when you see how quickly she pops back up. She passed with flying colours! [youtube=]

Putting the Pounds on for an Ocean Rower

Initial Testing As a bit of background up till this year I haven’t ever followed any sort of diet and don’t really believe in the idea of following some of the strict diets that are advertised as I’m not sure how sustainable they are for a person.

However in my quest to be at the peak of my game for the start of this ocean row I knew my understanding and ideas needed to be developed. Back in February this year I realised that at 82kg I was too light and lean for an ocean row. Now I wouldn’t say I was particularly ripped or anything along those lines but given the fact that they can lose as much as 20 kg (3 stone) this can represent a huge loss in power output. Over 3000 miles that can make all the difference between a record and no record.

So I hit the gym to no avail.

I then saw a friend of mine Rin, who’s a nutritionist (a massive thank you for your help!) who got me taking a food diary before analysing it and then having me up to do a skin calliper assessment to check my body fat percentage. Both of these were experiences in themselves monitoring everything I ate and drank was a change from not paying too much attention. It was great as it really made me think about what I was taking in and trying to understand what affect it would have.

The Skin calliper test was a totally different kettle of fish, armed with this strange looking device she measured chunks of flesh as I watched the dial spinning round in various directions trying to work out what the numbers meant.

Skin callipers an interesting look device!

Going through all the data afterwards was hugely helpful having it all broken down in food categories and estimating the number of calories i was taking in, it was a brief insight into what was to be the focus for the coming months. The results were that I was consuming around 3000 calories on a weekday and 3.5K to 4K at the weekend. This I was told was not enough. Awesome! Not so good was the balance which was slightly protein and fat heavy.

I was quickly learning that it wasn’t just to be quantity but quality too in order to get the best results.

The aim of the game was at least 4000 calories a day during the week and as much as 5000 to 6000 at the weekends depending on how active they were. This was going to be a challenge in itself especially given the normal recommended daily amount is about 2000.

Would be great to hear other peoples experience with diets and what they were. From a diet for a particular sport to a summer holiday.

Atlantic Rowing Sea Trials

The day had finally come about. I was just going about my normal day when an email came through letting us know that our 1st sea trials were happening that weekend. My plans quickly changed from the original of cycling and rowing ergs to being out at sea and quickly organising some travel between 2 of us before the early start on Saturday morning. Saturday morning came round pretty quickly. Myself and Jan another crew member, who I’ve rowed with in London, started the 3 hour drive down to Rossiters (our boat builders) in Christchurch on the south coast. By the time we had finished catching up with all that was going on we were there and searching round the boat yard for our captain as well as finding a whole array of ocean rowing boats. This included the resting place for a boat that tried crossing the Pacific Ocean and sadly the occupier was not quite so lucky. A rather sobering point.

We soon found the rest of the crew and after checking out the progress of the boat, made our way to a local breakfast house for some food. Having a 2nd breakfast before 11am was certainly a good start to the day and building our energy a head of the day’s activities. I have well and truly got into the diet required with all the training but will be talking about that later.

The plan was pretty straight forward; leave Rossiter boat yard just before it had reached high tide then out east along the coast towards the Isle of Wight and see where we end up. Then after dark start our journey back to the boat yard on the incoming tide before a debriefing at a local pub. Simple.

Part of the day’s activities was testing out the boat for another rower and his voyage as it had been modified since its previous expedition. First job was to get the boat ready which included putting all our equipment and food for the day onboard, filling the boat up with some ballast and working out which was the keel and which was the rudder as they looked almost identical.

First slight issue came in the form of the ballast tanks leaking into the adjoining compartments, not a problem it turned out as we starting stuffing epoxy resin, supposedly waterproof and highly sticky playdough, into the holes. Turned out not to be so stick but did the job.

The next was a little tougher. It turned out that the keel and the rudder were the wrong way round however we only noticed this at the point at which the supposed keel was stuck in the boat and obstructing the rowing position. I wish I had got some photos and footage of first trying to get it in and then an even tougher job of getting it out. But sadly we were too engrossed in the problem. Trying desperately not to damage the boat we tried everything from levering it out to giving it a smack with a mallet. We manage to wriggle it out of the hole at which point we all decided a keel wasn’t so important. They do however make a big difference it your ability to stay a course and turn which we were to discover later.

The row out was fantastic, passing a solo rower also out testing their boat, winding along the river mouth past various on lookers of this strange looking rowing boat with 5 guys in it. It was amazing being out there on the water after so much dreaming, talking, planning and hours of training.

It was the time that Jan and I had been waiting for, to get behind the oars and get some power through them. It was a strange sensation having done most of my rowing recently on the relative calm of the Thames on a fixed seat boat to then go on a boat with a moving seat and throw in a few small wavelets (it was a pretty calm day!) all made a real difference. However after changing seats on the second session we were soon finding our groove especially thanks to a mixture of Leven and Tim our rowing coaches who were providing advice for us.

Making it round towards the needles off the Isle of Wight we started relaxing between rows with a mixture of munching some food whilst curled up in the front or rear cabins or admiring the various quotes written on the inside of the rear cabin. Im pretty sure one of them went:

“Row, row, row your boat

Gentle down the....”

As my brother has already made a joke about this it made me laugh, I certainly don’t think that Atlantic Ocean really fits after the gently bit. But we will soon see.

It was fast approaching what was for me to be one of the highlights of the day and I think it could be each day of the row too. Sunset. Despite being just off the coast of the UK it did not disappoint and for an hour or so we admired the colours change across the sky from pale blues to burning red before darkness set in. There is however something very peaceful about rowing in the dark whether I feel that way later we will have to wait and see but all there is, is total darkness apart from the boats red and green marker lights and your team mates back in front of you moving up and down the slider.

Turning the boat around Jan and I took up the oars, already there was an element of competition between the teams of rowers. This maybe a slight understatement. However we wanted to go faster than them so decided to up the rate and see where we could get to. Admittedly come January it is going to be all about distance covered but still in the meantime we can have some fun. Although I can’t remember the exact result I’m going to say that we won and I hope they would say the opposite in case one of them is reading this.

The journey back in was certainly an interesting one, navigating towards a light between mud banks as we had beaten the tide back too. We could make out on one side the breaking of some waves and on the other slick mud and gravel. This was until it got a tad too shallow to row, the water however was rising quickly and we were soon paddling on into the darkness trying desperately to make out the unlit buoys. It was slow progress and without the keel sharp turns were impossible, the only saving grace was the tide was still against us preventing us from flying up the channel. Finally coming into the yard we found ourselves several feet below where we had left it. Without a motor to ease us into the mooring we took a bit of a run up before I jumped up and onto the bank armed with the rope to tie us on. We were safe and sound to row another day.

Next stop pub debrief and a quick and an uneventful drive back to London.

Insight into Ocean Rowing

Following our recent sea trials Tim one of our crew members put together a short video of the day. It gives a brief but very exciting insight into what is to come on our Atlantic Row. I expect it’s going to be a lot warmer than off the coast of the UK! Check out the video and let me know if you have any questions about how it will all work.



Atlantic Row 2013

During the training for the Marathon des Sables, at the event and since I have met a number of people that have inspired me and given me ideas on everything from lifestyle choices to what my next challenge might be. Once I passed that finish line I wanted to find and choose what it might be so I could continue the journey so to speak as well as to have something to aim and train for.

It wasn’t until I met a multiple world record breaking and highly experienced ocean rower Leven Brown back in February that it really cemented an ambition that I have now had for a number of years. To row an ocean.

More specifically the Atlantic Ocean. January 2013 will see myself and 7 other crew members taking on the challenge of breaking the 30 day barrier for rowing all 3000 miles across it in shifts; rowing for 2 hours then off for 2 hours constantly from start to finish.

Much more details to come...

But for a bit of insight here was a snippet from the weekends action.