“Now is the time to think of only one thing, that which I was born for.” – Ernest Hemingway
Next summer four athletes will embark on an epic adventure to row 1100 miles across the Arctic Ocean, a feat that has never been attempted or accomplished. Think about that for a moment – the tallest peaks have been scaled, man has walked on the moon, but no one has ever rowed the Arctic Ocean.
In early July, 2012, on the eastern shore of Iceland, Collin West, Neal Mueller, and Paul Ridley will begin an oceanic assault that will require non-stop rowing for 30 straight days. Their boat, a 29 foot long, 6 foot wide vessel nicknamed “Limited Intelligence,” will be the only protection the team has from 32 degree (Fahrenheit) water and air temperatures around 40 degrees.
Before you make a judgment about the likelihood for success, it might be useful to have some insight into the team’s background. Collin is a national champion adventure racer and competitive CrossFit athlete. Paul happens to own the American record for the longest solo row of 87 days in a trans-Atlantic crossing. And Neal, well his resume is pretty limited – except for having swam the English Channel and being one of only a handful of humans to have reached the top of each of the Seven Summits.
Note: And for those of you that are paying attention, you will notice that there are only three names mentioned above, while I said that it would be a team of four. Read on.
Calling CrossFit and Concept2 Adventure Seekers
As it seems like a natural fit, the team would like to recruit their fourth and final member from the CrossFit and/or Concept2 rowing community. In fact, both Collin and Paul are avid CrossFitters and are active members at CrossFit 847 in Evanston, Illinois. They see the dedication of CrossFit athletes every time they show up for a WOD.
Here are some of the key elements the guys will consider when choosing the fourth rower:
- Elite fitness and demonstrated mental toughness.
- Availability for six weeks beginning July 1, 2012 in addition to 5-10+ hours per week of physical training.
- Ability and time to contribute to expedition planning and logistics.
- Willingness and ability to fundraise.
- Videography and/or documentary experience would be a strong plus.
If after reading the following interview, you are interested in learning more or would like to express your interest in participating, please email Collin West at [email protected] or simply leave a comment below.
How much of your training is rowing specific, and are you able to utilize indoor rowing machines like Concept2’s?
On the water, Collin and Paul will do a winter row in Paul’s 2-man ocean boat on Lake Michigan, and we also go to the Lincoln Park Rowing Club for workouts, while Neal rows the San Francisco Bay. Day in and day out, Concept2 Indoor Rowers will end up included in more than half of our training, and if we had closer access to them, our indoor rowing training would probably increase from there. These indoor rowers are the only machines suitable for long-duration indoor training. To quantify, we’ll be spending 5-10 hour each week on them from now until we leave.
Here are a few comments from the Concept2 team:
“Here at Concept2 we feel it is the purest form of flattery when athletes choose our equipment to train for an adventure like this—an adventure that will test both the physical and mental capabilities of all taking part. There is no question that with smart training that includes the Concept2 Indoor Rower and time on the water, their bodies will be fit enough for the task. But we know that will only be half the battle! We wish the team all the best and look forward to following their journey along the way.”
Do you foresee any group training that all four team members would be part of prior to the row?
Yes, we are all meeting in Salt Lake City January 19-22 for the Outdoor Retailer Conference. While there, we will do some group workouts as well as drum up sponsors for the row. We also expect to spend several weekends in March and April training as a team on Lake Michigan.
How about other areas of training? Is there anything you are doing specifically to prepare for the mental part of the expedition?
The current consensus among ocean rowers is that there’s not really anything you can do to prepare for the mental aspect. There have been plenty of examples of massive, fearless guys who crumble mentally in the first couple of days on the water, while a five-foot tall 100-pound woman can flourish. You never know if ocean rowing is for you until you get out there.
Additionally, for Paul, this question was often-asked leading up to his Atlantic row and unfortunately he found no good answers. So, after lots of prodding he agreed to meet with an accomplished sports psychologist in New York City who had done research with a lot of Fordham and Columbia University athletes. They ended up talking for 15 minutes about why he wanted to do the row, what it would be like, and his preparations, at which point he seemed to have concluded that Paul was both sane and prepared. Paul spent the remaining 45 minutes answering all of the usual questions people have and then he left. Paul found a supporter but got little else.
His conclusion was that “mental prep” is not something that can realistically be achieved, and that instead mental toughness can only be built through determination, enduring physical pain, and persevering in extreme and unfriendly environments. Our crew has experience in each of these areas, so I think we’re as mentally prepared as we can be.
More about the team: Our mental strength and composure in uneasy circumstances has been tested and proven many times. Paul owns the American record for longest solo row – there is no other experience that could better prepare someone for our row. Neal is the 120th man to climb the Seven Summits, which is a great example of expedition experience and an undying willpower for success. And Collin is a national champion adventure racer. We’ve looked hardship and fear in the face, swallowed hard, and gotten through it before. There’s no way to train for expeditions like this, especially since it’s never been done before. We expect our prior success on other global expeditions will be a good predictor for future success, and we hope for fair winds and following seas.
What will a “typical” 24 hours look like during the row itself?
Two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day, every day.
We will have 24 hour perpetual daylight so two people can row continuously. Between shifts each man will be responsible for feeding himself but we will alternate cooking duties in most cases. Food will be 5,500-6,000 calories per person per day which, based on our experience, is about the highest calorie intake we can achieve on the water. About half of our calories will come from freeze-dried foods and the rest will be from snacks (perhaps some PaleoKits) and drink mix.
Sleeping is at your discretion. Six hours of sleep per 24-hour time period will be ideal but probably won’t be achieved very often. On Paul’s Atlantic row he woke up every 20 minutes or so for the first 3-4 weeks and gradually built to longer periods as time went on. By the time he landed (after 87 days) he was sleeping for around 2 hours at a time for a total of almost six hours each night.
How are you getting the boat to Iceland?
The boat will be delivered to us in Miami around March. At that point we will trailer her up to Chicago on a roadshow and visit a few events and fundraisers along the way. In Chicago we will outfit her for cold-weather rowing and ice. Finally, we will drive her to New York and ship her to Iceland by barge in May. Then once we arrive in Iceland we will pull her to the Eastern shore of Iceland, put her in the water, and get rowing!
Perhaps someone with the right connections can introduce these guys to Iceland’s Annie Thorisdottir for a CrossFit-style sendoff.
Anyone up for a little adventure next summer?