How I broke the British 1K indoor rowing record (40-49 lightweight)

Yeah yeah, the title of this post is very much sensationalised, and probably geared towards a Twitter headline to get people to click on the link – but this is the story of what happened yesterday. The lead up of training on how I got my body into the right place to be able to do this? Well that’s all in the archives.

If you’re going to watch the video first, jump to 30 seconds, that’s where I start.

The condensed version? Training. A lot of it. Train fast, train for power, find moments to add in extra training. Eat well, and try to control your head.


So there was a lot going on in the lead up to this test. Last Sunday, I had an attempt at a 1K – but didn’t look at the monitor. I managed 3:11 – which wasn’t great, though I hoped I could do better when focussing on splits. Then during the week I tried to do sessions where I was rowing at the right split (1:33.5) for as far as possible. Monday was 500m, Wednesday was 700m and Friday was 500m – but crucially on Wednesday and Friday, I stopped on purpose, rather than out of necessity. So I was hopeful it was going to happen.

Then on Thursday night, my 6 year old girl rowed 1K (in 7:30.4). Why is this special? Because for the last 100m she was in tears. As far as I’m concerned, if she could row the last 100m in tears, I could bloody well finish at 1:33.5 no matter what!!

Which brings me to Saturday.

I woke up at 7:00am and weighed myself. 75Kg according to my scales. In pants (sorry, that’s a bit graphic) so I figure I’ll be good to go for a 13:30 row as a lightweight.

But I’m about to face a 3.5 hour drive to Manchester… which though it’ll stop me eating and drinking loads, means I’m crammed into my car not moving – the danger of seizing up being high! But, 4 hours later (stopping for coffee etc) I arrive at Dave’s house, which is Erg central. I was so swept up in the day that I didn’t take any photos – but with any luck enough will surface to show how impressive an event he’d set up.

It was great to meet up with my ‘Team Mates’. I use inverted commas because we’re an online team. We exist purely because of an internet forum. But what becomes evident throughout the course of the day is that we’re all together as Free Spirits because we’ve found our home. We want to row, we want to compete, but we’re also sociable animals. It’s not just a rowing thing. Sure, other teams may want to win everything, may be all about performance – being the best etc. But where Free Spirits does well is to not put pressure on performance –  it supports it with every fibre of its ethos. And then drinks and eats afterwards.

Loads of faces and personalities now exist where an avatar and username once was. Which is fantastic.

However, there will be no drinking, no rowing, no fun until I’ve done one thing. And that’s go all out for what I hope will be less than 3:07.1

With my race set to start at 13:30 – I do an official ‘weigh-in’ at 13:00, and I’m down at 73.2kg. (On returning home, I test my scales at home. They’re not accurate… They will be replaced!! Best to show me heavier than lighter though I guess!)

I then sink down an energy drink – Optimum Nutrition’s AminoEnergy with a scoop of Creatine Monohydrate in it. I also realise I’ve taken this 30 minutes later than I should have.

Eek! Meh, never mind

And the warm up begins. 10minutes at 1:55 – then 1 minute just arms, 1 minute just legs followed by 4x100m at ascending levels of intensity (the last one at 95%). Stretch a bit, rest for 2 minutes. Then “Raise your Weapon”.

What follows, from my point of view – is a blur. But here’s how I remember it.

Countdown – tighten straps. Breathe, straighten back, look at picture of Jaime taped to the arm of the monitor for inspiration.

Go. Pull hard. Real hard. Five strokes. Monitor says 1:29 – “Hmm, that’s a bit fast”. Back off to 1:32 over a few strokes.

900 down to 750 – this is tough, but I’m doing it.

750 – Stuart Thorp who’s behind me speaks for the first time – tells me I’m 1/4 of the way there. I look at the predicted finish time – it says 3:02. I’ve been going a bit too fast… but I’m at the right pace now.

750-500 it’s starting to burn. This is not going to be comfortable. But I’ve made it to 500 ok before, so I’m not easing off.

500 – Stuart again. Half way encouragement. Cheers.

500-300 it hurts. I want to ease off, and I think I do a bit – looking at splits I’m down at 1:34 at times. Towards 300, Stuart starts to intensify his encouragement. I listen. I push. I get back to 1:32. Cheers fella.

300-150 is about hanging on at 1:32 which I seem to be able to do.

150-50 well this is rather intense! But it’s like auto-pilot. As long as I don’t back off, I can keep the pace. Sounds strange, but it’s true. A little bit of determination from me but a lot of listening to the people encouraging me stops me from easing off, even though it’s tough to hold on.

50-0 Stuart’s telling to push-it – push-it give it all. I do. I’m probably producing an awful split, but I’m hanging on. Faster rate, shorter stroke, but trying to generate as much power as I can. I’m pretty sure I see 1:31’s.

0. Let go of handle, slump. A few seconds later, look up. Crikey! I wasn’t expecting that!! 3:04.6. 2.5 seconds faster than the current British Record. Woo-hoo!!


I couldn’t be happier with it. Like i said, I was hopeful I’d be able to break the record, but figured I’d be in the 3:06 range – I didn’t dare dream I’d get into the 3:05’s let alone the 3:04’s!! And bear in mind that my previous PB was 3:09.7 at the SIRC in November (which kicked all this off) and the drop of over 5 seconds in 6 months is really encouraging.

If I have a hope in hell of beating the World Record for the 1K I need to get another 5.7 seconds faster. I’ve spent the last 6 months training in and out of performance, and have managed to drop 5.1 seconds. So if I make sure to focus for the next 6 months?

Well, here’s hoping…


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