The word Marathon had only ever been used in my vocabulary with the word ‘Movie’ in front of it, involving the delight of plonking on the lounge for hours on end.
But, a year ago I used the word Marathon with a Half in front of it, and accomplished 21,097m on the Concept 2 Indoor rower, whilst on an adrenalin fuelled whim I said “hey maybe next I’ll try a Marathon” (crazy).
I never thought it would come to fruition as I was always postponing the date due to surgery and, to be honest, lack of time and commitment. I needed to set a date and stick to it. I also had added pressure by saying I would row for charity*, a little local girl Sophia who needed surgery in USA to correct her rare limb deficiency, donations still welcome and read more of her story here. Being a woman of my word I had to get it happening.
I procrastinated a bit more, trained for short distance events like the 1 Minute Challenge and Australian Indoor Rowing Championships and it was while I was at this event in Brisbane that I saw an opportunity. The host gym Urban Rowing was holding a Christmas Marathon Day on 13th December 2015, so I decided I would hold my own event in NSW on the same day.
It was only a month away so it was time to get in some longer distance training on the rower in preparation. So depending what time I could fit into my busy life I would do anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, 3 times a week. When I did the 2 hours I rowed 24,000m it was hard but doable and this was to be my longest training row.
Now when I say I only had a month to train, I had been doing A LOT of training before this so I just increased it to more of the longer distance rows. (The experts recommend a minimum 4 month training program, so don’t go from zero to hero in a month.)
Finding a venue was easy, the amazing owners of my gym EnVie Fitness were happy to let me host the event at their studio, as I didn’t know anyone else who would row the full Marathon with me, I attempted to fill 2 other rowers as a continuous marathon relay. So taking advantage of the gym Christmas party and a few slightly intoxicated members I recruited enough people to commit to rowing 2k or 5k or even 10k and more.
As I confirmed the relay rowers more and more started pulling out and made the lead up to the event which made me very anxious, whilst some had good reasons for cancelling it still didn’t help. But calling upon friends is the best thing a girl can do and they came, stayed, filled in gaps, rowed twice or even 3 times and made my row a lot less stressful.
Now MY Marathon row, let me tell you all about it. It started more worried about music and technology rather than the distance, my vintage Ipod failed to charge and my carefully selected Row Ho Ho playlist was never to be heard.
I started as schedule at the stroke of 7am, trying to chat to my fellow rowers rather than focusing on the time and numbers, it was great to chat to friends and meet new people who I hadn’t got to know from the gym previously.
The first 18,000m was, dare I say, relatively cruisey, and from then on hitting each milestone was an achievement in metres and in time, 21,097 half way, over 2 hours then became my longest ever row, when you see the numbers tick down from 20,000 to 19,999 and especially when it went to 9,999 that was epic. But the realisation that 10k meant nearly an hour to go at my current pace was hard to grasp.
With about 8k to go, shit started to get real, my body hated me, my mind wanted it finished, I couldn’t pull harder if I tried and the more I looked at the estimated finish time the more it was creeping up to 3 hours 40 minutes. There was my amazing pit crew at the end Kim and Kate who were adjusting my foot hold up and down to change positions slightly, I was lifting alternate buttocks off the seat on every other stroke for some rear end relief, I was taking many sips of drinks and all too often I would just stop for a second here and there but never putting the handle down, it was getting really really tough mentally and physically.
I rowed for a while hunched over so I wouldn’t look at the screen just to get a few more metres done. To my surprise this seemed to work. Then the counting down of every kilometre, when it ticked over 3 hours I was feeling some relief that the home stretch was in sight. I just kept rowing. My mantra was “still less painful than 3 days on a horse”, I’m still yet to blog about that experience and in saying that this was a different kind of pain, more intense but I kept repeating it to myself and occasionally out loud (weirdo).
It was around this time that my darling husband brought the kids in to the gym, this put a little pep in my stroke, but it was short lived.
I had now stopped talking to my rowing buddies, a new lady got on to finish 1 of the relays and I hadn’t met her before, I said “I’m really sorry but I’m not feeling very chatty right now” (how rude).
There was a small crowd of dedicated supporters to whom I’m very thankful, some not exactly yelling what I wanted to hear like “go harder” but knowing they were there to support me was more important.
With less than 1000m to go my daughter Ella climbed on the rower next to me to finish off 1 of the relay rows, completing about the last 300m, this inspired me to give it all I had, but when I went to push harder with my legs I felt on the verge of a cramp in my quads so I calmed down a bit but still faster than I was going, at this stage I was aiming for sub 3 hours 42 minute but I was just happy to be so close to the finish.
And then, THE END.
I had made it, my amazing pit crew removed my feet from the straps and I waddled like a little old lady to a mat on the floor and lay down collapsed. EVERYTHING hurt.
I just lay there for a few minutes feeling sore and sick to the point of almost vomiting.
Once I peeled myself off the floor the enormity of what I had done still hadn’t really sunk in, it was all pure relief of being off that damn rower.
Here’s my acceptance speech for my virtual award:
I would like to say a massive thanks to Alex and Alita from EnVie Fitness Woonona for allowing me to take over their studio (again). To all the amazing people who came along and rowed you will never understand how much your support means to me. To Kate and Kim for hanging around and helping me as well as filling in rowing gaps in the relays where it was needed and especially for your support at the painful end. To my deer husband (yes it’s spelt right for us) for you never ending
support of my crazy ambitions and coming to cheer me on “row fatty row” (it is an approved cheer) and for my adorable children yelling “row mummy row” before wandering off to play with your friends, I can only imagine how boring it was to watch for 10 seconds but my little angel Ella who rowed with me at the end almost made me cry and she still brags about how she beat me.
So for those who care for the numbers, here are my stats:
Time 3 hours 41 minutes and 56.6 seconds
Calories burned 2149
Average HR 154
Max HR 171
In conclusion, would I do it again, well on the day, and the week that followed I would have said no way, no chance, no how …… but some time has passed since that fateful day and I am contemplating that it could be an annual event, never say never.
Thanks for reading
Row Ho Ho
* From this event alone we raised over $1000 for Save Sophia’s Leg Charity Appeal but still so much more is needed.