"It’s an axiom of travel writing that, if n represents the discomfort endured by the writer, 10n represents the pleasure enjoyed by the reader” Carrie O’Grady
If this quote is to be believe this blog should be a real treat as I recount the tale of the second Men of Oar 24 hour row charity event. Designed to simulate a days rowing at sea we would row two hours on and two hours off from midday Saturday to midday Sunday. But we would be racing the locals of the Wonston Arms! Four of use doing twelve hours each verses one hundred of them each doing a fifteen minute slot.
I say four but that rapidly became three as Sam had twisted his ankle the day before some eye witnesses say he fell (jumped) down a whole, others that he was push by the opposing team-but all agree the timing of the injury was convenient. So, there we have it 100 vs 3 in a 24hour row off.
There was a competitive element to the day but in truth the residents of Wonston and Micheledever have been our biggest supporters. Having made a donation for their 15 minute slot they were rowing in solidarity to help each of us through our twelve hours. This can be seen by the fact that the 2am to 4am slots filled up first, and that everyone got involved, from 84 year old Ernie to 17 year old Josh.
After a brief set up the row began with Matt Todd, the Wonston Arms landlord, sandwiched between Robin and Will who started the event with gusto setting a fine example to all those who would follow. I used the first two hours to help work the crowd a task in which I was able assisted(well actually they did everything) by the Men of Oar WAGS group. We had a raffle and an ice bucket challenge aka ‘simulating a wave’ by chucking a bucket of cold water on a rower for only £5. The desire of the Great British public, particularly husbands and wives, to throw cold water upon each other probably says something profound about society, but I don’t know what it is.
My first two hour row of my first even 24 hour row began at 2pm and I was immediately aware of my first mistake of the day wearing rowing lycra underneath my ‘Men of Oar’ t shirt- double layers as temperatures soared to the high twenties. This felt by far the longest of my stints despite all the people to chat to. As I approached the hour and a half point the pain of the sitting on a plastic seat was starting to tell and made the last half hour drag on and on and on. Oh the relief of standing up as Will arrived to take over from me, I was certainly left with the sense of foreboding about the remaining ten hours left to come.
After a quick shower and change I was back in the pub to help sell raffle tickets-this was the last time I though about anything other than my own world of rowing pain, besides our support team where doing a far better job. As my two hour break vanished it was time to hit the rower again. But this time I brought my secret weapon-a £4 pillow from Primark. It worked and with many a person to talk two this was my favourite two hours although my rowing speed dropped considerably during conversation I reassured myself this event was about publicity and not the competition-I am not sure Will agreed.
Some food and a quick snooze and I was back in for round three, 10pm to midnight, refreshed and ready to go. It was during this row that my energy levels dropped- I simply had not been eating enough nor had I done enough long rows in training. I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that rowing was just a pain in the ass-literally as the effect of my cushion diminished. It was at this point Sam was completely forgiven for abandoning us as I got of the rower he had prepared a meal for me so I could eat quickly and go straight to sleep. He was completely unforgiven when he woke me up at 1.45am(very am) for my next stint on the rowing machine. The overused snooze button on my alarm clock was sadly missed. It had been a long time since I had been so tired that I longed for more sleep with such intensity, however Will was waiting so there was no option but to get up and get on with it.
My remaining six hours of rowing stopped being a physical challenge and became a mental one. The rowing had become nothing more than the will to carry one and the management of pain. We could not rest so changing the discomfort was the only option. Taking your shoes of to get different blisters, different arrangements of cushions on the seat, new hand positions and new rowing techniques. The changing of people every 15 minutes became my clock but-sorry for not being more chatty but I was in the hurt locker! So much so when Sam told me we had just been sponsored a whooping £5000 by Basingstoke Skip Hire and Southern Waste Management it scarcely registered.
The last hourupon me and crowds started massing for the inevitable sprint finish. I had been saving a little energy over the last hour for this moment and as the final 10 minutes approached our speeds began to escalate. Matt Todd, landlord extrodianer, was back in the rowing seat and closing the gap fortunately I had an ally in the crowd- his wife Lisa. She had raised £300 to throw not one, or two, but three buckets off water over her husbands head. I am not sure who was happier team Men of Oar for £300 or Lisa and the Crowd for the glee of drenching her husband/their local pub landlord. But the drenching of the opposition gave me the edge I needed to win the sprint finish and clock up 292km between myself and Will. To rapturous applause it was all over, although I was hardly able to stand after the exertion I was able to accept a pint, from somewhere, to toast our success. Or possibly drowning out the sorrow that this day was one 24hr slot out of the 50 or so days needed to complete the challenge : (
It was at this point that Robin, Looking rather fresh from his two hours rowing, thank the many people in Wonston who had helped us so far and most importantly for the crowd announced the winners of the charity raffle!
Following a massive breakfast, courtesy of Mig and Sarah, I was able to reflect on the warm welcome we had received from this local community who had truly accepted us as part of their family. It was a great feeling to be surrounded by so many people who wanted nothing more than for us to succeed.
Not that it seemed important, but we also raised £8000. Thank you.
MEN OF OAR
The Men of Oar Blog has been written to keep you, our supporters, up to speed with our progress through our challenge and inform you about some of the more complex aspects of Ocean Rowing. Although it is based on true events, the blog is written to entertain. We hope you enjoy-if so please share!