Angkor Wat - My body is my wrecked temple
It's late Saturday July 26 and my handheld GPS is showing 399 nautical miles to go to Hawaii as I write this. Close. (Btw we setup our web tracker to show miles, not nautical miles, so those of you who wondered about number discrepancies that's why!) Sort of close, sort of loooong home stretch, since based on my geometry and calculations here, we won't see land until the day of rowing in. Unless my Pythagoras, earth's radius and circle formulas are messed up in my mushy brain by now.
I'm feeling like the Angkor Wat - the glory days are over. I'm wrecked - at least relatively speaking. Last summer a doctor said "this thing under your tendon is a cyst. But don't worry, at 37 you're just reaching the point when your warranty is running out and these things start to happen." Demoralizing. I'm wondering if my warranty is running out big time now. I exercise about 540hours each year, all type of workouts included. It's a lot from a sofa potato perspective, but nothing for most endurance sports enthusiasts. I'm on the very low volume end of the spectrum and focus on recovery and variety and intensity. Yet now we are just finishing our 39th day offshore and I've rowed almost that 540hours in that short month and a change. Based on my heart rate monitor my rowing intensity has dropped a bit, but I'm still working up to 5,500 - 6,000kcal of rowing work per day. How much is that? It's about the same as a 70kg (155pounds) person running two marathons each day (=42km * 70kg * kcal/kg km = 2940kcal per marathon). This CANT be healthy. High volume endurance training with no rest, among other things, is a way to reduce testosterone levels, which is a way to start a downward spiral in a lot of things.
Of the things I initially worried about, none have materialized badly: skin burns(except my lower lip got badly burnt first week), skin or nerve damage in butt(nothing! My formula of daily new pair of tight synthetic Calvin Klein underwear + 2xu compression shorts + hygiene has worked perfectly even if Meredith claims to see almonds in wrong places), hands (they look like I lift heavy objects for living not MacBook airs, but otherwise just fine) and lower back, which has been my Achilles heel even in cycling.
Two things are really worrisome though. My right lat muscle and it's low connection point is both hurting when pulling unevenly and making funny sounds. I can still pull, but have tried to move all power to legs and just follow up with arms and back muscles. That's easier said than done in ocean rowing as we have to make sudden pulls between waves all day. I think what happened is we had side winds from left side of the boat since the start and the boat flips to the opposite side where we pull extra hard. In addition we entertain ourselves with 10minute time trials and givin TEN BIG ONES all day to people and causes we care about. That'd probably work in an hour workout but 12h each day and you get an Angkor Wat. But I'm confident we will get home with the broken wing without long term damage. I've also stayed totally out of pain killers, as a matter of principle. It's probably suboptimal from performance perspective but I like to know what my body is and isn't capable of without masking it. Reducing overall inflammation with ibuprofen would probably be smart too, but I've decided to stay out of it, even though it looks many parts of my body are inflamed and retaining some water (fingers!).
The other thing is overall fatigue. I can tell my mood is spiraling down, not badly, but gradually. If we had two more months to go, we'd likely have two rest days and an easy week now, but from experience I know that once you are about to go over the edge, you can not take one day off....you'd start a recovery process and the body would shut down and continuing 1-2 days later would be even harder I'm the absence of all sorts of stress hormones. So...we are pressing on!! I'm however very curious to have comprehensive blood work done once we finish to see what kind of hormonal imbalances and inflammation is happening under the skin. Or, Maybe Meredith can already smell my testosterone levels dropping since she constantly complains about a fishy smell these days. I'm serious.
This whining and moaning is of course totally relative. Of course I should be wrecked!? Sort of two marathon runs a day for 39 days nonstop. What should I expect? And I'm eating no sugar and less than 50kcal of ANY kinds of carbohydrates per rowing hour each day. The diet part seems to be working very well and I've proven (to myself) that all the sugary crap that we are marketed is not necessary for ultra endurance performance. In fact, maybe I'm doing way better without them. I'm guessing (relative to ocean rowing stories I've read before) that on relative basis we are doing fantastic. Our work rate is up, we are moving fast, we haven't filed for a divorce yet and we remember our names when asked, as well as today's date. So we must have a long way to go until we reach the real limits of our endurance and capabilities. We will see whether Hawaii or that limit comes first.
ETA? We get that question from many. We have been hesitant to predict anything yet. Ocean rowing is to flat water rowing what mountain biking is to road cycling. Total concentration, using your core, balancing and weight shifting to dodge huge rocks or giant waves and to try to apply power when you can. And predicting speed and times is like knowing that you have to mountain bike 399 miles, climb some mountains along the way, hit some single track, but nobody gave you the elevation chart or told whether the singletrack is old fire roads or a mud pit. We do get weather forecasts, but as we learned again today, with each dark cloud, which was all day, came 17knot winds and growing swells from south east - contrary to forecast. That would be great if we were on our way to Japan, but not so great for Hawaii. Our illusion of steady tradewinds that would carry us to Hawai after leaving California coast hasn't materialized yet and we are 1700++ nautical miles in and 399 to rock. So, ETA? We will share some thoughts by early next week. But with no accidents or last minute tropical storms, we will go well below/faster than our set goal of "60 days and no divorce", which would be a great bonus for the expedition.
Back to oars...to catch more flying fish!