"The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare."
Bobby "The General" Knight, Champion Basketball Coach
As this is the first in what we hope will be a series of All Oar Nothing blog-posts, we wanted to use this as an opportunity to give a recap of 2018 so far and the beginning of our journey to try to row unassisted across the Atlantic. 2018 has involved some wild underestimations for the team, but, as Henry Ford put it, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
Part 1: “Never underestimate your ability to underestimate”
Chris Slack, All Oar Nothing - mid-108km ultra-trail marathon (August 2018)
#1: Australia is scary - The Atlantic will (probably) be scarier
December 2017: Chris joined Lewis in Western Australia as they lined up together to tackle Ironman Western Australia. Chris’ first trip to Australia went very "Australian-ny" - the swim was cancelled due to a shark, the bike course caught fire (just as the boys successfully made it through), 200+ competitors pulled out due to the soaring 37 degree hit and some poor bloke got taken out by a rogue kangaroo! Thankfully, Chris and Lewis made it through. Buoyed by their (still less than stellar performances) it was in the immediate aftermath, lying on a beach – beer in hand - that they both confirmed their place in the AON team - as the saying goes, "marry in haste, repent at leisure".
#2: “Boys, I’m running to Paris, from London...next week”
A few weeks before 24hour row (but more on that later)…
When cycling the length of a continent and running across Iceland isn't enough, the obvious next step is to take part in another world record attempt for the fastest run from London to Paris. In recurring theme, Tom - aligned with the AON mentality of giving it a go and hoping for the best and having been unable to train properly since his exploits in Iceland – decided to take part in this challenge on a week's notice. After amassing a very impressive 90km on day one, on day two, exhausted and swaying across a busy French motorway, Tom valiantly retired to allow his running partner (and big AON supporter) Jack to continue towards Paris the next morning – who arrived on the Champs-Elysees the day after having covered over 250km.
#3: What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four little hours.
Whilst January 2018 marked the unofficial start of the preparation for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the first (modest) target for AON was to complete a non-stop 24 hour indoor row across three continents simultaneously - with Charlie and Tom in London, Chris in Singapore and Lewis in Sydney. It did not take long – just 40km on the rower one Saturday in Sydney - for Lewis and Chris to realise the importance of having a teammate by their side and three continents quickly became two as (having drawn the short straw) Lewis flew 2,000 miles to Singapore for 48 hours (to basically sit indoors and stare at a wall) – how jet set. Aside from the blisters and the boredom, the 24 hour row was a huge success for AON, providing some great publicity and much needed sponsorship, whilst collectively rowing over 887,000 metres! Charlie deserves a mention for coming within 25km of a new world record! Will he come close in the future?
#4: The Elephant (Trail) in the room
Clearly having not learnt from Tom's London to Paris experience, Lewis and Chris embarked on a few months of haphazard ultramarathon training ahead of the Elephant Trail 108km Ultramarathon in Port Macquarie, NSW - this is a good time to refresh yourself with the title of this blog post. The ETR is a 4 lap race each lap consisting of 1,500m of vertical climbing and 27k of single-track trail. It took less than 15km for the boys to realise just how much trouble they were in and after covering just under 55km in a little over 9 hours it was time (for the first time in either of their lives) that they had to raise the white-flag. Admitting they had not prepared properly, however was not as painful as having to call Lewis' girlfriend Nicolle to come back – having confidently told her to head off for the day –and pick them up so that they could retire to the nearest pub to debrief.
Part 2 - "Failure isn't fatal, but failure to change might be"
New Plan. Same Mission
The experiences this year have taught AON an important and but really bloody painful lesson when it comes to physical preparation - DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, the boys cannot simply decide it’s time for a beer and get Nicolle to rescue them. Monday August 20th was the start of a fresh new approach to training, the AON crew have enlisted the help and experience of Gus Barton (https://www.gusbartonfitness.com/), Personal Trainer and former Talisker Atlantic Champion and World Record Holder to whip the boys in to elite Ocean Rowers.
What we’ve learned so far?
Flexibility and Mobility are key. AND Years of rugby, football, cricket, water polo, triathlon and (other than Tom) weight training, have left us all about as flexible as a wooden beam.
Heavier isn't necessarily better. Simple exercises we had no idea even existed really hurt.
We have a lot to learn. Although he probably hates us already, Gus has been invaluable in answering a constant stream of questions across three time zones.
The training is proving effective already - as exercises become slightly easier, the range of motion improves along with technique and collaboration among the team at an all-time high. This is despite looking like weirdos in the gym rolling around on the floor for the first 30 minutes of a session.
Part 3 – "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much"
Sponsorship & Partnerships
AON's sponsorship effort so far has started well with over £35,000 raised –including over £5,000 during the 24 hour row. Whilst the team spends a lot of time actively reaching out to potential sponsors, if you would like to (or know anyone who would like to) support our efforts and ultimately raise much needed funds for four incredible charities, please visit: https://www.alloarnothing.co.uk/sponsor to find out more).
AON in the Media
AON have been featured in Devon Life Magazine and the Teignmouth Post.
“Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for.”
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback
Lastly, over the past few months and after speaking to a number of ex-finishers and psychologists it became clear that we needed to appoint a team captain for when we are at sea. This person will ultimately make the final decision and has to be comfortable making a potential life/death decision for the team. In a unanimous vote, Charlie has been appointed as captain and charged with steering us towards Antigua – it probably helps that he is the best (and only) rower among us.
It’s been a hell of a year so far, with plenty more to come. The biggest lesson isn’t really a lesson at all, it’s solidifying Benjamin Franklin’s infamous words ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. Taking this year in their stride the team is now looking forward to 16 months of hard work, planning and preparation for the challenge of a life time. With some amazing corporate partners, a world class coach and a decisive captain - the team is very excited for what is to come..
Thank you for your support and we look forward to sharing the highs (and lows) of our Atlantic preparation with you over the coming months.
All Oar Nothing