Friday, 11 December 2015

My 24 Hour Row - Crazy, stupid, and demanding (but so worth it!)

At precisely 9am on Saturday 10th October, I took my first stroke of many as I entered twenty four hours of rowing.

I set off with a marathon, supported by a growing crowd of GCBC members (including my rowing coach from last year who came back especially). Our Club Captain took the first post as pacemaker - this lasted all of eight minutes before he became afflicted with boredom. Despite this, there was a good vibe in the hall - watching films and having people around made a huge difference. The first 3 hours flew by in a blink of an eye and I finished the marathon piece in 3:13:03.4, just 37 seconds off my PB. I was so pumped with adrenaline I hardly felt tired!

Following the marathon, I planned to do a half-marathon, followed by repeated 10k pieces with increasing breaks between each one. The aim was to finish the 200km in 23 hours so I wouldn’t have to be sprinting at the end -just in case I didn’t make it!

Having trained by myself for the whole summer it was really motivational to be joined by eager members of GCBC, jumping on the erg next to me and rowing alongside me in support. Even if people weren’t rowing, they still dropped by and I was greeted with “keep going” or “well done, keep it up!” And so it went on, erg after erg, smashing through 10km pieces, each one more encouraging than the last. As I was maintaining splits in the low 2:20s, I was way ahead of schedule. There was a point where we were seriously considering being able to try and beat the world record but I kept focus - I didn’t want to tired myself out too early on. Between each 10km piece I was refuelling on bananas, Soreen and sugar snacks as well as drinking plenty of water and Science in Sport’s energy powders.

10 hours in I hit the crucial six-figure milestone of 100,000m (celebratory selfie was a necessity!). It was a fantastic feeling to get to halfway less than halfway through the time. Despite still feeling positive there was a feeling of uncertainty in the back of my mind - going beyond 100,000m was uncharted territory for me.

And so into the night I went. Just before midnight I met a fresher (now a rower in our IM3 VIII) who had decided to miss a college event to row alongside me. Only a true rower would decide to come row 30km that early in the morning, and his dedication gave me great encouragement to make it through the night.

15 hours in, I had what I’ll call a ‘sense of humour failure’. My legs were aching and my stomach was feeling rough. The lowest point was having to endure the sounds of Bo Burnham (whom I never heard of before) that the Club Captain decided to put on. This massively tested my mental strength. According to my support crew, I did not look happy.
The hours from 2am onwards were dark (both mentally and atmospherically) but it was made better by the arrival of some of the College Freps and their corridor. I powered through that 10km to a Taylor Swift playlist - it was special. I’d just hit 170,000 m; so close yet so far!

With 3 hours until the deadline, the final 10km before the big 200km arrived - dubbed, ‘THE GLORY ERG’! This was one of the highlights of the entire row. With the length of Durham racecourse (750 m) left of the piece I started to pick up the pace. I sprinted the last 500m to one of my favourite songs: ‘Can’t Hold Us’ by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It was incredible - even now, I can hardly believe that after 200 km I could still do that! I was a special moment and there was congratulations and cheers all round.  

The feeling of beating my target was indescribable! I treated myself to a longer break than planned so I could row gently over the finish line. At 8:45 am I started my last piece of 15 minutes. The “Sounds of Klute” were back on and I only had one thing on my mind - to finish what I started. With the clock counting down, members of GCBC came along to cheer me over the finish line and this was my second highlight of the whole event. As the last 750m began I started picking it up, adrenaline surging through my body, and everyone was shouting and keeping me going. I physically gave it all I could - getting down at one point to a ridiculous 1:33 average 500m split. The last stroke took me to 209,330m - I finished off the 24 hours in style!


And so it was over. I could not have been happier! The journey that had begun so many months ago was finally done and I was so pleased - with over a million metres in between. I knew there was one and only one way to celebrate this achievement and that was to go to Sunday night Klute - despite the fact that I had only 4 hours sleep and at 7:30 pm could not physically move out of my bed! In the end, we didn’t make it into the club but ended up getting a HUGE margarita pizza which I am pretty sure I must have set a new record for time taken to eat. I lost a ridiculous 5kg over the row, so it was pretty necessary.
Since then, everyone has asked, “What’s next?” I am a highly ambitious, determined (and possible slightly crazy) person so I do always have the feeling of wanting to achieve something bigger and better. I have already started training for the next challenge in which Dave Drury and myself will be attempting to break the world record for the tandem 24 hour row in October 2016. See you there?  


Post-Script (including many thank yous)

Over the past few months there have been so many people that have offered their support to help me achieve this goal without whom I simply would not have managed. Every sponsor, like, share, retweet and shout-out all helped me achieve this feat. It was fantastic to have so many members of GCBC come along throughout the day to come and see me and offer their support. It makes me feel proud to belong to such a community.

There are so many people I wish to thank for their support but there are a few who I must give an extra special mention to. Firstly, a massive shout out to Ellen Lockstone, Lizzie Powell and David Drury who stayed and rowed alongside me nearly all day and all through the night (Dave rowed 70km and Ellen 62km fuelled only on beer from the night before - arguably a more impressive achievement) as well as Isla Mackenzie, who isn’t even part of GCBC, yet stayed all night to encourage me along. Secondly, I am very grateful for the help from two Grey Alumni, Michael Cannon and Nathan Young whom gave excellent advice in promoting the challenge, Thirdly to my friend, turned editor, Lucy Coates for helping me making sure all my posts and letters sounded amazing. Last but not least, to my parents who from start to finish had 100% belief in me that I was going to complete it and helped me all the way in between.  

We raised an incredible £7000 toward a new men’s eight boat. The search for the perfect boat is now on!

Monday, 12 October 2015


My main sponsorship site for the 24 hour rowing challenge, Hubbub, has now closed.

If you wish to donate now, you can via PayPal by clicking the yellow 'Donate' button on the right-hand side of the page.

If you wish to donate by an alternative method, please email me at

Thank you!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Not long to go now!

So there is just one week left until the big day! The full 200,000 in 24 hours. I feel excited to undertake the challenge but I am still awaiting the point this week at which I shall begin to feel nervous! 

I have settled into my new student house well, especially in terms of being strict with my nutrition. I have made sure to get into a good habit of eating nutritious 'home-cooked' meals with plenty of carbohydrates. I said to a friend earlier this week that I was going to start 'carb-loading' to which her reply was, "you don't believe that internet rubbish do you?". However, I trust the Science in Sport's article about it and so I am aiming to get increase my glycogen to a sufficient level for next Saturday which will help reduce muscle fatigue. 

Training has been a little bit lighter this week for two reasons. The first being that I have been pretty busy with the administrative side of the event and trying to get it all organised before next week (I shall come to this). Secondly, I want to make sure I don't my body under too much strain. Currently, any little niggle or twinge in my muscles makes me extremely nervous!

So, as I mentioned before, the administrative side of the project has been keeping me busy and has been pretty stressful as well. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to meet up with either the Master or the President of the College to discuss where the event will actually take place yet, (cutting it quite fine). To make things worse, the event is clashing with a 'Freshers' Only' event in College which means access to College is restricted. I hope this problem can get resolved soonish. 

The good news, however, is that I have finished designing the posters to advertise the event, stickers to give away on the day, a training plan for the day and added a Paypal donation button to the blog which will allow people to donate even after the sponsorship site closes on the 6th. I have also written a business case which I have submitted to the Grey College Trust for a grant which, if successful, would make a huge impact on the overall fundraising total. Again, let's all keep our finger's crossed! Unfortunately, still no word back from Science in Sport about sponsorship :(. 

With just a couple more days open on the sponsorship site Hubbub I would be really grateful for one final push with getting the challenge known to people. Send the links to your family and friends and tell them about GCBC. Whether you row or just like the challenge, any donation amount, large or small, would make all the difference. It would be amazing to reach £2500 before Tuesday!

Thanks for reading and watch out for an IMPORTANT UPDATE soon!

Training w/c 28/08/2015

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Training camp v2.0

There's a rowing machine in there?!
Last Tuesday, the day I was leaving to head back up to Durham, I was awoken early by my phone repeatedly buzzing across my desk. They were messages of congratulations and good news - we had reached that important £2000 milestone. Absolutely incredible! I will say thank you again to everyone so far that has sponsored for your generosity. With this news, and the car stuffed to the brim, I set off back to my student house. 

Home sweet home.
After unloading the car I managed to successfully fit my rowing machine in my bedroom (I wonder what percentage of Durham university students have said that?). There is still plenty of room for all the other essentials as well, like the bed, desk and bookshelves. Training camp v2.0 is set up! 

After getting settled in for a couple of days I altered my training to take advantage of the fact that I was the only person in the house. This week I attempted my first ever all night row. I knew that this was a true make-or-break point in my training as, if I didn't succeed, I was going to find the 24 hours near impossible. However, I am delighted and relieved to say that it was a great success! Starting from 9:00 pm on Wednesday evening I planned to row ten lots of 10,000 metres. I finished the total 100 km in 8hrs and 18mins of actual rowing time at 10:00 am on Thursday morning. No sleep!

Mmm sweaty!
How on earth did I stay awake for all that time? The answer is music, films and nutrition. For the first couple of hours I had the tunes rocking which kept me going. For the remaining time I needed something more to keep my attention so I watched films including Rio 2, Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2, Cars and Monsters vs. Aliens. Animation films were easy watching and besides Kung Fu Panda is such a great film. I used Science in Sport's isotonic energy gels (with caffeine) and GO energy powder to keep hydrated and fuelled up. Note: got to make sure I have some 'proper' food on the actual day, all those pure chemicals really don't do the stomach that much good! 

So with just 2 weeks to go its still important to promote the event. I am in the process of applying to our college trust for a grant so time to dig out the old Oxford Guide to Effective Writing and Speaking! Secondly, I am chasing our club's sponsorship secretary about the possibility of approaching local businesses in Durham for sponsorship in return for publicity at our event. I think it is a very good opportunity for them to promote, especially with new freshers who might not know the city very well. We shall we how this goes.  

I am meeting up with the Master of Grey College this next week to discuss where the actual event shall take place so I shall inform everyone of these important details soon.

Thanks for reading and until next time!

Training w/c 21/09/2015

Monday, 21 September 2015

The last weekend at home.

I'm chuffed to bits! (That's a Yorkshire saying...) Last week, I was in anticipation of reaching the £1000 milestone but sat here currently we have gone above and beyond that mark and now are so close to that magical £2000 figure! The reason why this amount is so special is that this is the minimum amount needed to be donated on Hubbub in order to receive those pledges. With just 2 more weeks left for donations to be made; it looks like it's going to become a reality. 
The final alumni letter. Very fancy.

It's been a bit of an up-and-down week in terms of training this week. After coming back from Bestival, the week got off to a flying start having rowed 100 km in 7 hours and 44 mins over the course of two days. I took a rest day on Wednesday to allow my arms and legs to recover slightly and went back to a karate lesson in the evening. The plan was to crack out another 100 km over the remainder of the week. However, mother nature had a different plan and I have been fighting a cold which has restricted my training. I managed to reach a grand total of 150 km for the week but a little disappointed this wasn't 200+ km. I still cannot believe my training has taken me over half a million metres! I hope this isn't an early bout of Freshers' flu! (My dad advised just not to go around kissing freshers' in the first week...cheers Dad :/). 

The promotion side of the campaign seems to be gaining more and more momentum with each passing day. The main point from this week is that the finalised email got sent to the Grey Alumni which has resulted in a number of positive responses of which I am very grateful. It is especially nice to read the supportive comments left on the campaign page as well - it is very motivational and encouraging.

This week I have also written to Science in Sport (SiS) with the request for sponsorship. I have been using their REGO Recovery powder and isotonic energy gels during my training which are fantastic, a good reason I felt to write to them. I am still waiting for a response so fingers crossed it is good news! I have also entered the 'Mars Milk Play Fund' which is an opportunity to be awarded £1000 for the club if we receive the most votes, so head over to and cast your vote to help us win!

This weekend is my last weekend at home, on Tuesday I shall be attempting to pack the remainder of my university belongings to take back up to Durham for round two. I am going back up earlier than usual to get into the final intensive routine: eat, sleep, row, (do a little chemistry vacation work) and repeat. Any bets on how long it will take to fit everything and an erg into an estate car? 

Thanks for reading and until the next update from Durham!

Training w/c 14/09/2015 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

How time flies...

Today was my last day of my summer placement at Bluestar Silicones Ltd (thanks to the team for the leaving pub lunch!) and this makes today a very significant day. This marks the end of a full 9-5 day of chemical testing and the start of the highly intensive 9-5, and probably longer, rowing training days. 

Since the start of the month I have been constantly writing - emails to alumni, sponsorship letters to companies and magazine articles all in hopes of promoting the event. I have even ventured into the mysterious world of hash tags on Twitter to get more interest. I shall talk a bit about all of these. Firstly, after a number of back-and-forth emails to Mr Steve Gregory, Secretary and VP for the Grey College Association, we have successfully agreed on an email that contains all the information about the 24 hour row and how to donate. It looks like this could be sent off in the next few days so let's keep our fingers crossed for some positive response and potential donations! 
Needed this today!

Secondly, during my training I have been using some of Science in Sport's products - their energy gels are particularly effective when carrying out those marathon rows. So, I thought it would be ideal to send the company a request for sponsorship especially appropriate considering they are partners with the GB Rowing Team. It might not be successful but you never know until you try!

Thirdly, as some of you might have seen, back in Epiphany Term the CU held an event week called 'Is this it?'. I attended one of their evenings with a friend to my surprise the guest speaker was none other than the GB rower and Olympic medallist; Debbie Flood. She gave a very inspiring talk that connected God and rowing (I am a Christian) which I used as a basis for a magazine article for my local parish magazine. 

Lastly, I'd just say Twitter is weird and wonderful. I'm still learning how to use it properly but I am proud Rachel Morris (GB  rowing squad) favourite a tweet I was in!
It truly has surprised me the number of different contexts which can be used to promote such a campaign. I never quite realised before how hard people that promote charity events work to get sponsorship!

I am looking forward to a <sensible> weekend on the Isle of Wight at Bestival to enjoy the likes of Duran Duran and The Chemical Brothers. Talking of music, as much as I am enjoying the classic tunes of Klute, 24 hours is a long time to fill and I will create a playlist of songs from next week. So if you have any favourite songs you think I'd like to row to post them down below!

Thanks for reading and until next time. 

Training w/c 31/08/2015 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A crazy week!

It was this time last year that I was waiting in anticipation to see one of my favourite artists, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at Reading Festival. One year on, I'm spending the majority of my Bank Holiday weekend sat on my rowing machine; training for a mammoth rowing challenge. If someone had told me last year that I would be undertaking this challenge I don't think I would have believed them - it's funny what a difference a year makes! 

The training in this last week of August has ended with a bang and I'm thrilled that I have rowed just over 130km this week! The main talking point from this week is having completed my first ever non-stop marathon row in a time of 3:14:06.7. Carrying out the marathon reminded me of one of my favourite films, Forrest Gump:

On Wednesday evening I spontaneously decided to row the full on 42.2km. I had planned to take a break at 21.1km but when I got to that point, and I felt fine, I thought I might as well keep going. When the erg meter clocked over 19,999m I figured that since I had rowed this far I might as well keep on rowing. When the meter hit just four figures of 9999m I thought there is no point in stopping now. Finally when the clock ticked over to 3 hours it gave me the final motivation to power on and finish what I started! My only regret - no padding on the seat. My backside was so sore (no innuendos please!)

I rowed another marathon (official 42,195m) this Saturday with a slightly slower time of 3:15:22.8 but this meant I could submit my time on the Concept 2 rankings page - surprisingly I am ranked 12/20 for my category in the world for the 2016 season! Woah.

In the last blog I mentioned a number of challenges that I had been facing - mainly blisters and water intake. Both have now been resolved. Hooray! My hands and feet have now toughened up and I am now no longer in agony when rowing. The second challenge I had last time was taking on board water. After a fantastic suggestion from Lizzie I attempted the 'Camelback' idea which worked a treat. So now I have a 1L carton strapped to the floor with duct tape (ironic much?) with a large length of silicone tubing. The next problem is finding the right fuel to eat during my erg...

Major update on the promotion side. I am launching something called the '5-to-Wind' promotion. For those non-rowers out there, a 'five-to-wind' is a technique we use in a rowing race to build momentum in the boat. Let us build momentum in this campaign my encouraging 5 friends/family to donate just £1 - barely the price of a Mars Bar these days! If all the people going to the event persuaded
5 friends to give just £1 we could really make a large impression in the sponsorship! Every little helps! 

I have been in contact with the head of the Grey Alumni network and we are in the process of sending out the information to the alumni which hopefully should draw some real attention this campaign as well.

I thought that to accompany the '5-to-Wind' promotion I would release a little Q&A video with some common questions I have been asked. Check it out below :):

Credit: Ollie Fox (3LifeGaming)

Training w/c 24/08/2015