‘How’s the training going?’ was one of the rowers most frequently asked questions. While this question is normally directed at the physical side of preparation, there were plenty of other aspects to training to consider, some of which you might not have thought of.
For instance, most successful ocean rowers will tell you that the challenge is 95% mental and can be completed with a good level of physical fitness – you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete!
To make it easier, we’ve split training into three parts – Physical, Mental and Technical. These are the three key areas where the team had to focus and put training plans together.
Both maintain a good level of general fitness. Ten years of paddling for the Great Britain Dragon Boat team has instilled discipline and an in depth knowledge of how far they can push themselves physically.
The biggest physical challenge initially was to learn to row. Neither of the two had rowed before and dragon boat racing involves a team of 22, facing forwards with a short, single bladed paddle! The women joined their respective rowing clubs on the same day and both took to it very quickly, racing for their clubs within the first year.
With the help of Water Rower who supplied the team with indoor rowing machines, they built up the hours spent rowing. Both women are members of gym’s but having the rowing machines at home meant they could train around their busy schedules much more effectively and also build up the time spent on the machines.
The intensity of training is much different to their previous sport and in addition to interval type training, they have worked hard to build up to being able to spend 2 hours on the machine at a steady rate. This continued until they could repeat the 2 hours several times! They also completed a 24 hour row, recreating the ‘onboard’ routine to find out how they coped.
The final physical tests will be onboard their boat, once it’s paid for in full! The team had to complete 48 hours rowing, including one overnight. The tricky thing there was is to find somewhere around the UK that is safe enough as the boats are not really designed for coastal waters and are strongly influenced by wind, tides and currents. The team chose Poole Harbour.
Now some would say that you have to be slightly unhinged to even consider a challenge like this one, but for our rowers, the decision came after hours of soul searching.
Having raced for the Great Britain Dragon Boat team for over 10 years, both women coached and were coached to an elite level. The difference this time being that they were a team of only two of them and conditions were far more extreme.
Lynn and Rochelle chose to work with Ned Skelton of the Clean Coaching Company to help prepare for this challenge. Ned worked with the dragon boat team for some time and the women were at ease with his coaching and approach.
Ned completed some early work to look into their real motivation – this was essential to help the women get through the tough bits of the challenge. Working deep into their values, he was able to establish that the two have similar motivations and their goals are closely aligned. He also worked with Lynn to successfully overcome her fear of water and with Rochelle to help develop her coping mechanism.
In addition to this the team drew on previous techniques that they’d honed over years of international competition. Motivating phrases, visualisation and centering are all valuable tools that have worked well before. The women were also be able to coach each other to help overcome all obstacles and control the controllables!
A new area for the two women, technical training included the four mandatory qualifications required to enter the race, plus specific knowledge relating to the systems on board their boat.
In order to compete in the Atlantic Rowing Race, Lynn and Rochelle had to pass the RYA’s Shorebased Ocean Yachtmaster course. Normally this takes up to 5 months to complete, but the rowers had just 5 days and one chance to make the grade!
Citing it as by far the most difficult course that either one had attempted before, it covered the delights of astro-navigation, using a sextant and taking sights to help calculate (and we’re talking heavy calculations!) position. In addition it looked at passage planning, meteorology and time zones, culminating in a 2 hour exam. Both women passed first time!
Additional required courses are Sea First Aid, where the main difference to land first aid is that there’s no 999 call and no nice paramedics to come and help! Sea Survival is pretty self explanatory but was great fun to do, and they acquired their Marine Short Wave Radio licences. All of the courses are ratified by the RYA.