Having been talking about Saddle Sand Sea for the last three years, is amazing to know we are already two challenges down, having completed the the Race Across Europe and the Marathon des Sables (see previous blogs for how we got on) and now have the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (“TWAC”) to go.
The TWAC is one of the toughest endurance events in the world, which will see us cross the Atlantic, from La Gomera to Antigua, in a tiny boat and be stuck rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off for anywhere between 40-60 days, depending on the traffic.
Having completed the previous two events, we are confident in our ability to get through it, but this will most definitely be a step up in all aspects, not only the training, but in all the admin and logistics required of getting all our kit to the start line and across an ocean.
The training is only a small part of a challenge like this, but of course is a crucial aspect. At the moment, we are very much focused on building up our strength in the gym. From previous experiences, neglecting the strength work early on, can have really bad consequences, so it is very much front and centre in our minds. The key areas to work are on the legs, in particular the glutes (as you need all the padding you can get) as well as our core. Unlike normal rowing boats, ours will never be perfectly flat, but a constantly moving object, so ensuring our core is aligned is essential.
We have been slowly building up the training, but are now in the process of tailoring a plan for the next 6-9 months. The aim is to prepare the body for the serious wear and tear that is going to occur during the crossing. It will involve 3-4 big gym sessions each week, really focused around our legs, lower back and core, and a good cardio session to complement that.
We will also be looking to get out on the boat as often as possible, at least one weekend a month. This is to ensure we are physically prepared to be able to row the boat across the Atlantic, but we also need to know the boat inside and out. Our boat is incredibly strong, but due to the stresses the Atlantic throws at it, there is a high chance a number of the electrical/mechanical parts of the boat will get damaged. So we need to know how the fix each part quickly.
We have also organised a week long training row, in August, to iron out any issues and make sure we are ship shape, for when we send the boat to La Gomera for the start. That will all be focused around ensuring we are as efficient with our time as possible, especially when we have our 2 hour break from rowing to let the other person take over. Two hours may seem like a lot of time, but when you need to heat your food up and eat it, clean your body to ensure don’t get any nasty sores, check in with the race organisers, liaise with our weather router to ensure we are on the best route, update our blog and general maintenance of the boat, there is not a lot of time at all, especially when you need to try and sleep as well. Small tweaks here and there may only save a minute, but will make a big impact throughout the entire crossing.
Overall, we are both happy with where we are with regards to our campaign. We have secured a boat, which is a great relief. There are only a handful of boats in the world, that can handle this sort of challenge and fortunately we have managed to get a really good one (it won the pairs competition a few years ago). However on the flipside, the financial side of everything has proved a bit of a headache, having taken out a rather large loan to pay for it. These boats do not come cheap, but are amazingly built and will take us safely from La Gomera to Antigua. Fortunately, we will be able to sell our boat once we have completed the race, so we should hopefully recoup a large part of the outlay. However, there are still a huge number of things we need to get across the Atlantic, so we are working tirelessly to attract individuals and corporate sponsors to help us achieve our dream, as well as become the first people to complete the three toughest endurance events.
Having spoken to a lot of people who have taken part in the row, getting to the start line can seem like the hardest part. I fully agree with what they say. There have been a lot of sleepless nights worrying about every little detail, but much like any endurance event, you just have to trust in yourself that you will get there! I am a very firm believer of the philosophy that positivity breeds positivity and if we go into each and every challenge with a positive and open mind, we will succeed!
We recently did a talk at a Talisker event alongside a number of teams who have just got back from Antigua, meeting them has inspired us even more. We are both unbelievably excited about the year coming. To say we are not scared at the same time would be a lie, but it is all about harnessing that fear and channelling it into our motivation. We have more than enough time before now and when we leave to get ourselves and our equipment ready. However we just need to keep our focus and not forget that in little over 250 days we will be pushing off from La Gomera.
We will be keeping you up to date on how our training and preparations are going towards the final event of our Saddle Sand Sea Series, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, in future editions. We hope you enjoy the journey, from a slightly more comfortable position!