However, I'm not sure which order they belong in. Maybe they're equally important?
You use a lot of fuel when rowing long distances. Fact. Your fuel tank is not large enough to do the whole thing in one go (think Formula 1 in the 1990s, say, and not like it is today). Fact.
This all seems perfectly reasonable and sensible as you read this in front of your computer or other online device. But you'd be surprised how often people get this wrong. Although there's a good reason why they do.
Which is, that when you haven't eaten enough, your decision making ability is impaired. And this leads to you making poor decisions about eating. Which only leaves you MORE "not having eaten enough": you can see the obvious spiral downwards.
So, here are some tips to remember about eating on expedition rows:
- Eat when you have the opportunity. Don't wait till you feel hungry. You may not have the opportunity to eat then.
- If you feel too tired to be able to make the effort to eat, use your last reserves of effort to eat. It will be worth it.
- If you feel so tired that you don't think even eating will help you, eat anyway. It WILL help.
To help with point 1b, make sure you have easily-digestible, easy-to-eat food close to hand. I am a big fan of having a Ziplok bag of Jelly Babies by my rowing seat. My crew mates are often fans of this too (offering round Jelly Babies makes you someone people want to row with).
My crew's hands after our first 160km race
round Lac Léman. Note the lack of blisters.
We wore gloves.
As far as I'm concerned, there is absolutely no need to finish up with raw hands and skinned bottom at the end of an expedition row. Or, worse, part way through one.
Injuries like that are almost certainly going to doing to reduce your physical performance, but they will also get you down. And long-distance rowing is generally hard enough mentally, without you making it unnecessarily worse.
So here's the deal: wear gloves. No, I know that, with one exception I can think of in the last 15 years, no international rower wears gloves. Or even any good club rower going to do an outing or a race. But this is different. It's expedition rowing. You're not just nipping up and down the river for an hour and a half and then going home. You've got to keep rowing all day. And possibly the day after too. Maybe even for several after that. And "once it's gone, it's gone".
Gloves may also not be enough: use tape too, and take supplies with you.
And here's what happens if you don't: the double Olympic gold medallist and ocean rower James Cracknell famously went on to do a race to the South Pole, in which he got infected blisters. However, he admitted later that when he felt his boots starting to rub, he didn't call for his team to stop so that he could tape up the friction points, and when they did next pause for a scheduled break, he didn't grab that opportunity to do so either, as it was a lot of effort and he was exhausted (I'm sure he was).
And the point here is that, only a small part of the way in to his long trek, his feet were clearly not going to get any better by being ignored. It is NOT "manning up" to put up with the pain. Stop and tape up at the first sign of tenderness.
Nevertheless, when I turned up for my first "meander" with a large piece of upholstery foam, there was a lot of laughter. Which had died down by half way through the first day. And when we assembled for my second, well, let's just say that "Square Sponge" had plenty of company (and the local branch of Fabric World couldn't understand its unusual spike in foam sales).
Things aren't quite so difficult in the gluteus maximus area for sliding seat rowers, but there's still no need for unnecessary suffering. "One seat pad good, two seat pads better" pretty much sums it up, as far as I'm concerned, and in a survey of people I've rowed round Lac Léman with, 100% agree.
3. Shut up and row.
It's also the basis of how you should choose your crew mates (never, ever embark on any row further than about 15km with someone who can't do this, and don't even contemplate more than 5k with such a person if there is a sharp or heavy object in the boat, just in case you're tempted).
Incidentally, I was amused to read on the website of a French women's four called, of course "Rames Dames", who rowed the Atlantic, that the concept has universal traction: their team slogan was "Tais-toi et rame".
|When the going gets tough, just shut up and row.|
(Note good observance of Rule 2 here.)
But when you're tired and in pain, you want to have faith in the rest of your crewmates. When you do, you can safely be determined not to be the weakest link and let the others down, which will help you push on. You don't want to know that they're struggling, and they don't want to know that you are (although on one recent row, my skiffing partner's back was hurting a lot and he actually found it reassuring when I admitted mine did too i.e. what he was feeling was 'normal'). The last thing they need to be thinking is "Is X going to make it?", "Is Y not pulling any more and am I going to have to work harder as a result?", and definitely not "Why doesn't she shut up?" And, frankly, if you don't talk about it, it isn't so bad.
Telling other people about your (rowing) problems (during an expedition row), is pure selfish indulgence. It's being an emotional drain on everyone else and they don't have resources to spare for that. It won't make the boat go faster or the finish come any sooner. Don't do it.
|Expedition rowing: great to do and |
great when it ends too.
And, above all, no one likes a whinger.
4. If it's valuable and would sink, tie it on.
This one clearly isn't in the same league as the first three. But, having had one expedition row disappointingly turn into an unplanned swim, I can promise that it would have been even more frustrating to have lost my camera (waterproof), GPS, and torch, all of which had been tied on and were successfully recovered with the boat.
5. Know how to use your abdominals.
When you back hurts, and it almost certainly will, you can reduce the strain on your back by engaging your abdominals aka "sucking it all in". It's an effort, but nothing like as bad as rowing for another two hours wrapped in lower back agony.
If it helps, engage the services of a Posture Pixie to sit on your shoulder and whisper "Sit up" in your ear at regular intervals.