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Rowing a Marathon

September 12, 2018

Coach Tim took on his own challenge of rowing a marathon. Whaaatt ??!?!? Yup, a marathon. Here is his journey.

Many of us set personal goals for various reasons. Some may be family, work, or fitness related. This may include being a better husband and father, getting the coveted title at work, or reducing our Fran time by 10 seconds. These goals are an effort to make us all better and stronger versions of ourselves both physically and mentally. These pursuits take persistence and consistency and over time will yield the desired results. As I have described it to others some days at PR days whereas others we are just trying to make it through the day.

Sometimes life gets in the way and interrupts our path and we find ourselves hanging out in a valley as we climb the mountain. Distractions or personal limitations can thwart our efforts, which can lead to frustrations and inadequacy. Over the last several years I have experienced several of these interruptions along my fitness journey. The most recent example was a minor foot surgery that placed me on the sidelines. During this time I found myself resisting my condition instead of accepting it. I attempted to find substitutions to maintain my fitness but grew more frustrated because of weight bearing limitations and decreased functioning wearing a massive boot.

Watching the Crossfit Games this year I was intrigued with the marathon row event. Definitely an event outside of the normal time domains that we usually train. Having completed 20,000m in one session I knew I had to try it. I set a goal for myself. After I shed the boot I was going to attempt it. Row 42,195 meters.

Since I knew it was going to take me several hours I chose to compete it on Labor Day. Me, an empty gym with no distractions and the rower. I set the damper at 4-5, entered the workout in the PM5 monitor, and set the pace at 2:05/500 meters.

During the first 5k, I felt amazing and keeping pace. I thought that I was definitely going to finish in less than 3 hours and find myself in the same class as Matt Frazier. I started to high 5 myself in my mind. But as the meters continued to tick down I knew my pace was not sustainable and shifted to 2:15/500 m pace. I continued to press on but the pace eventually fell off even more.

As time continued to pass my seat grew more uncomfortable. I started to alter my pull and catch position to decrease the friction. I added a towel to my gel seat that seemed to help but still ended up with a friction sore.

I tried to find means to relax my grip. Shifting my hands on the handle but these sacrifices came to head later. With 20,000 meters left my forearms began to cramp each time I pulled the handle past a 90 degree arm bend leading to more rest periods. At one point I wiped my forehead and couldn’t immediately straighten my arm to grab the handle.

I really had no plan for when to rest or nutrition needs during the row. I initially rested every 10,000 meters in the beginning moving to 5,000m and finally 500m toward the end. Rest periods were no more than 30 seconds for fear the monitor would rest. I tried to find ways to

stretch my arms but toward the end nothing seemed to help. During the rest I tried to chew on an RX bar.

Mentally it was extremely challenging. At the halfway point I began to bargain with myself. I considered rowing a half marathon was respectable distance and thought about stopping. No one would know that I only went half way. But then I knew I would be disappointed in myself. I persisted and continued to row. Several times I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. Removing the focus on the pain and coming back to the breath. During these moments I found myself more at peace, but the pain became to much to bear.

With 10,000 meters I really regretted my decision. Thinking this goal was too ambitious. Approaching 9,000 meters the rest breaks came every 1,000 meters because I was physically and mentally fatigued. With 2,500 meters I had to rest every 500 meters. In these last few meters I thought about quitting with every pull. Unable to pull toward my body due to the increased cramping in my forearms with every pull.

As the monitor showed 0 meters remaining I knew I had done it. I took a picture and sent it to Marci with the message “I will never doing that again.” But she followed with, “but you accomplished it.” She was right, I accomplished an ambitious goal and never gave in to the voices telling me to quit. I will never forget the experience but not one that I will likely repeat for a while.

Workout of the Day

10 Rounds

5 Bar facing Burpees

6 Toes to Bar

7 Power Snatch 75/55

25 minute Cap


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