So how do you train a Grandad to row across the Atlantic...?
It's time to knuckle down to some serious physical training. We want to be in good shape by the time our boat arrives in late March so we can focus on getting to know the water, finding our routines and discovering exactly how hard it is to row a half-ton ocean rowing boat....
Yep, ocean rowing boats are HEAVY! They are designed to cope with big seas so they sit comparitively heavily in the water and race rules also specify that we carry fresh water, which also acts as ballast. This means our training has to be about strength and endurance - we are tortoises, not hares. Our muscles need to be strong, but equally so do our backs and our core - especially important for two chaps in their sixties who are creakier and more prone to injuries.
Getting our heads around this has been the first step - we both feel like we are still in our twenties, when as young Paratroopers we could drink a few pints in the Mess and still get up for a full kit, 10-mile route march at 5am. Back in those days, we knew our bodies might complain but they wouldn't break. Sheer determination and a good sense of humour was usually enough.
The reality is now, that we must listen to our bodies and do what our trainers tell us. We need to think, train and eat like endurance athletes - instead of two comfortable Grandads who love nothing more than a nice glass of red and some gooey cheese...
Our new training routine (courtesy of Southsea Rowing Club and Wye Leisure in Hereford) includes three to four sessions a week where we spend hourly intervals on the erg, rowing steadily and slowly (18 strokes per minute max and wearing a heart monitor to stay under 145bpm). It takes a bit of discipline not to speed up - especially when surrounded by fit young rowers who are speed training for their upcoming racing season.
Importantly, our shifts on the erg are followed by an equal amount of weight and strength training - we're learning some new moves here! Conditioning has changed a lot since our Army days; these sessions include elements of yoga and pilates with resistance bands and kettlebells. It's all about small, focussed movements and lots of stretches that are designed to strengthen those 'supporting' muscles and help us stay supple and hopefully injury-free.
When the weather gets better and we have the boat, we will spend more weekends out on the water (if you find yourself on a ferry out of Portsmouth, keep an eye out for us!) This will include some overnight rowing where we will aim to row continuously in two hour shifts. This will be our planned regime when we hit the Atlantic but we'll need to see how it goes - we've learned that for many teams, their rest needs change after a week or two at sea and they adapt their routine.
Whatever happens, we need to be ready for weeks and weeks of relentless rowing. We estimate it could take us up to 50 days to row across the Atlantic - although we hope the weather will be kind and 'push us along'. The 2017 race has seen 30-knot winds blowing teams across the Atlantic in record times, but it's also meant some big seas and very challenging waves. Many of the teams have described it as more like surfing than rowing and there have been capsizes. The boats are designed to right themselves, so we have been reassured that as long as we are hooked on and the hatches are closed, we will be OK.
If it's really bad we will shut ourselves into our tiny cabin and sit it out.... apparently it's like being in a tumble dryer and crash helmets are recommended....gulp. Parachuting into battlefields might feel like a warm fuzzy memory after this!
Want to support the Grandads? Make a donation here.