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!