Success at Coetq – Long distance Rowing event

This is a post of two halves. The first is while I was sitting in the airport, waiting to fly out to Rennes in France, the second, is the ‘race’ report:

 

To be fair, there’s not that much that I could have posted really over the past few weeks. Training sessions were either:

 

  1. CTC
  2. 15 x 20/40
  3. Sam’s plan

Yes, I’m back on Sam’s plan. But with the caveat that this isn’t at the expense of the sprint stuff that I now know I need to do in order to make this work for me. I’m unsure whether this means that I’m short changing myself – but I know that sticking to just the plan, and doing no other higher rate stuff didn’t help me for the last year.

I put me in bold as it certainly helps a lot of other people – and to be honest, what it did was stop me getting slower – but as I’ve said before, I think I need to put in lots of high-rate / high exhaustion bits into my training if I want to be serious about the 1Km World Record.

Which brings me to today. I’m sitting in the Edinburgh Airport Departure lounge waiting for a flight which will first take me to Amsterdam, and then to Rennes-Saint-Jacques where I’ll be joining 8 other team mates for an attempt at the 100Km small team 30-39 Lwt World Record. (In terms of venn-diagrams, it’s pretty niche!).

And this is what the 15 x 20/40 sessions have been about. The plan is to do 20 second sprints, then rotate through the rest of the team, and back to me again – meaning I’ll have 2mins 40sec rests between each sprint. Sounds a lot – but I recently tried 40 x 20/1:30 – and by the end of the 40 intervals, it was starting to get ragged. I managed to hold 1:26.4 for pretty much all of the intervals, which is good news for the record attempt. My hope is that although I only did 40 of the 110 I’ll probably have to do tomorrow, the shorter rest time makes up for an equivalent.

An interesting development however is that I had no idea we’d be doing this in our socks!! Apparently, it helps with the change-overs, as I guess holding straps in place becomes too cumbersome for 5:30hours. I’ve had one practise session with only socks, and I have to say, it wasn’t the most comfortable in the world!! I’ve got four pairs of socks that I’ll wear, along with some bubble wrap to put across the top of my foot in order to stop the strap digging in. I haven’t tried sprinting this way (I didn’t want to psych myself out!) but I got 7 minutes into a 30 minute row before stopping and putting on my shoes…

Again, hopefully there will be a big difference between 20 second sprints at the 7 minutes of continuous rowing I did. Either way, even if I get back home in time on Sunday, I’ve ruled myself out of any rowing – as I figure I’ll have sore feet (if not a sore everything else after sprinting over 11,000m).

Ah, gotta run. I’ve got a plane to catch…

 

 

THE EVENT

We did it.

It’s great to say that. It’s a shame that someone had to lose the World Record in order for us to break it – but I guess that’s the whole point of this kind of thing Someone sets a benchmark – for others to beat. And beat it, we did.
The previous record for the small, mixed team 30-39 Lightweights for 100Km was 5 hours 36 minutes. Our international team (French / Spanish / Scots) of 6 men and 3 women managed to row 100Km in 5 hours 7 minutes, 49.5 seconds. Taking almost 30 minutes off the previous record!

 

This was only the second relay I’ve ever been part of. The last one was in September 2016 – and was a four person team racing a 2K. I think we came second… But with only four change-overs in that race, it wasn’t something I was too familiar with. 100Km between 9 people makes you VERY used to changing over!!

 

The first thing to address was footwear. Sounds odd – but it’s an important consideration, as shoes can get stuck in the straps, and different shoes can make how tight the straps are uncomfortable for some. So, we rowed in socks. Sounds horrendous, but to be honest, it wasn’t that bad. Lots of padding on the straps, and on the heel-cups, along with 3 pairs of socks, tape across the top of my feet, gel-blister plasters on my heels, and towards the end, bubble wrap stuff down the front of my sock meant the only foot pain I am left with is a blister on my left big toe due to using this as a pivot point during change-overs.

 

And any concerns I had about the ability to row fast in socks were blown away after the first interval – straight down to 1:26/1:27 as in training.

 

Changeovers took a few attempts to get right – firstly helping the guy before me (Etienne) take his seat – and then getting on myself for my attempt. As for helping out Etienne, the key became holding the seat in place with one hand, while holding his waist and ‘guiding’ him to the seat. I think rather than guiding him, what it did was guide my left hand to slide the seat in place (well, 100 out of 110 times – a few didn’t quite go to plan).

And as for me plonking my backside down, the  key was to concentrate on getting my left foot in, and then trusting that Catriona would get the seat under me. Which she did more than I did for Etienne!!

 

5 hours is, let’s face it – a long time to do this for. Looking back on it the day after, it went really quickly. But during the race, there were a few moments of looking at the clock and thinking ‘crikey, only x hours gone…’

 

With the pace we were rowing at, it was around about 20,000m per hour – which meant double milestones being hit every hour  (1 hour down, 20,000m down) – a good motivator. And the challenge of stretching between intervals, drinking water, and eating all took up a lot of ‘dead’ space during the row.

 

Nutrition wise, I went through 15x250ml bottles of water (so, 3.75l) 3 CNP flapjack bars, some energy protein chocolate orange bites that Julie had won last week at the Women’s 10K race – a MyProtein energy flapjack and a cereal bar with fruit and chocolate. Not a lot really when you think about it. But I suppose 11,000m rowing doesn’t eat up 1000’s of calories. However, it’ll be interesting to calculate the calorie burn of a 5-hour row on a HIIT basis. Ordinarily, a 11,000m row would burn around 700Kcal – but I figure that it was all down at full sprint pace, and that it was full effort / rest for 5 hours will have increased that massively.

 

Oh, and I only needed to pee once…
Pacing for all of us seemed to be flat out from the start. Etienne was pulling incredible numbers – 1:21/1:22 for the first three hours. 10 strokes, then the next person would count down from 5 to 1, and take the handle. For the first 3 hours, I was holding 1:26/7/8 most of the time (depending on my how efficient my changeover was).

 

At around the 3.5 hours stage, the decision was made to drop stroked to 12 in total, to stop the fade that was happening in the last three strokes. It was like a rag to a bull for me. I don’t fade! So not only did I go against this, and continued with 15, I raised the splits to 1:25 more most of my intervals.

At about the 4.5 hour stage, with just over 30 minutes ahead of us at the pace we were rowing at, the decision was made to drop the strokes to 10. Again, I saw this as a challenge. And unleashed what would effectively be my insanity finish.

 

I acquiesced – and dropped to 13 strokes. But unloaded everything I had left in me. Splits down to 1:22 – I was yelling at the machine with anger for every stroke. I probably looked a complete twat – but I wanted to squeeze out every last ounce of energy I had in me to try to get the time as low as possible. And my body held out. The last three intervals, I could feel my forearms starting to cramp up – but I gauged it well so I’d be at the end of my interval before cramp set in.

 

And after 5:07:49.5 – we had the record.

I tried to do a cool-down row about 10 minutes after we stopped – and that’s when I felt my right arm cramp up. So I got about 400m into it and stopped, live to fight another day!

 

I was surprised by the lack of injuries / lethargy I suffered through the row. My lower back was giving my trouble from the get-go – but never got any worse. One team-member had to pull out with around an hour to go because he’d damaged his bicep. Another was getting intermediate rub-downs on his arms for cramp. But luckily, for me, the row didn’t cause any muscular woes.

 

What DID cause issues, especially for the day after, were the change-overs. I’m left with a bruised left butt-cheek due to rolling off the seat, DOMS (delay onset muscle soreness) in my right quad – not because of the row, but from squatting down into a kneeling position to get the seat ready for Etienne) and a blister on my thumb from putting my hand down when I sat down after an interval.

 

All in all, after what we managed on Saturday, I’ll take that as an injury list!!

Will I do it again? I’m not sure, it was great fun, but a lot of that was the unknown. There was talking of trying to set up a men’s team for another record – but I’ll need to get this one in the long-term memory of my brain before I consider anything like that..

 

I guess the question now is, what next? Well, after all this sprinting, it would be rude not to continue and use this speed to get back on the horse for the 1Km WR attempt!!! If only I could hold 1:22 for that…

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