Twenty one thousand and ninety seven meters (21,097 m.) is the distance for a half-marathon in indoor rowing. The Global Marathon Challenge by Concept2 runs from April 16-30, 2007, and as an avid indoor rower myself, this challenge is one that must not be passed up. Time is running out, and I decided to go for the half-marathon this Saturday at FitnessFirst Ortigas. This is the longest distance that I'll be attempting yet on the ergs. Although I have done the 10k numerous times, this will be different, because this is more than twice the distance and effort, and it had to be done in one sitting, non-stop. I approximated the time it will take me to finish the half-marathon from my recorded times: it will take me around 1.5-2 hours, counting in the possible fluctuations in speed and effort.
Prep: At least 3 times a week of indoor rowing, going for not less than 2k for each, progressing to 10k if time allowed. Of course, include there the normal routine at the gym consisting of Body Combat, RPM and Body Balance classes. That Saturday morning, I stuffed myself with my usual breakfast (Vegemite and Muscovado toast, apple juice) and an extended bed rest (had to recover from my workout the night before). I had a hearty lunch, after which I headed for the gym. I bought enough water (2 liters!) and an isotonic sports drink, and downed an energy drink (ION!) before heading to the ergs section of the gym. I had to choose Fitness First Ortigas as my choice of gym to do the half-marathon, because not only does it provide you with a well ventilated area with video monitors, it also offers a wonderful vista of Ortigas Center and the east of Metro Manila.
I brought Kundun (my latest Sony MP3 walkman... yes I give names to my gadgets...) and programmed it to play the Les Mills RPM tracks (particularly releases 33 and 34), which I found appropriate for rowing. Unfortunately, this attempt at a half-marathon row was a self-imposed goal, and I really have no one to compete with or row with (my gym friends avoid the ergs, I really couldn't expect them to row the half-marathon with me, tsk). I was on my own...
The row: After enough proper stretching and hydration, I programmed the PM3 to a set distance of 21097m. I was beginning to have second thoughts as I was pressing the buttons, when I suddenly remembered the muscle aches on my shoulders and upper back as a result of previos 10k runs. And this time I was attempting twice as that (crazy me!) But I was prepared for this, and there's no backing out. I was not really aiming for an impressive finishing time, but I was hoping to just be able to complete the half-marathon with as little damage (to my body) as possible. This was my first attempt after all. I turned on my MP3 player, and the first track of RPM 33 (KT Tunstall's Black Horse and The Cherry Tree) pushed me at starting pace. Interestingly, I was following the dynamics of the played songs as done in the usual RPM spinning classes. I was pulling harder at Chris Isaac's I Want You To Want Me, doing intervals of fast heavy rows with faster light ones in time with the music. Knowing the choreography of RPM helped me vary my rowing pace, thus not allowing boredom to kick in. Once you get bored with rowing, you get easily tired, I noticed. I was distracted with the PM3 monitor, and I had it face down, just enough for me to see the rate I'm going and not the distance I have yet to cover. INXS' Afterglow was a gem because it signalled I was about to finish the whole RPM release, and I was already at a steady pace. I planned to do some quick stretches and hydrate after this. It was already 45 minutes in, and I knew I was halfway, approximately 10k to go!
The remaining half of the row was a different story. This time I was listening to RPM 34 but found it much more difficult to follow the dynamics of the tracks. I tried to pull harder, but I realized this would drain my remaining energy too much. I tried to maintain a constant load but varying the spm (strokes per minute) as necessary. I was already feeling the familiar aches in my arms and shoulders, but they were still tolerable. My butt was aching, and I found myself switching my weight from one side to another. There was a point when I had to take a brief stretch to relieve the pain, and again to hydrate myself. Soon, Warp Brothers' mix of Smells Like Teen Spirit was playing, and I found renewed energy in doing intervals of slow hard pulls and fast slow ones. It felt like I was strong, but the PM3 says otherwise. I was weaker, but I was still pulling. The last tracks were playing, and I decided to look at the monitor so I can focus on the remaining distance. I decided to do a constant pace in rowing the remaining meters... and it was the most gruelling 2k I ever rowed! As the meter counter trickled down, I had to endure the nagging pain in my shoulders and pressure on my butt, but I already felt like a well-oiled machine and stopping would be more painful. Soon, I raced to the finish line in the remaining 500 meters. With a row like this, the happiest moment is seeing "0 meters" on the PM3. I finally rowed 21,097 meters! A half-marathon in 1 hour, 37 minutes and 24 seconds.
Surprisingly, I felt good afterwards. The pain was not that bad. In fact if there was a Body Combat class right after my row, I would most probably join it. But I knew that I had to respect what my body was telling me (my left trapezius was screaming "I need a traps release!!!") and that was enough workout for the day.
Aftercare: I rewarded myself to an extra-hard full-body Swedish massage right after. I knew I was exhausted because I slept for an hour after the massage, according to my masseuse. All my body aches melted away when I woke up! What a good massage could do!
Now, I'm thinking of when I could do the full marathon (42,195 m!). Of course, I have to finish a series of half-marathons (to the point that it's a habit) before I aspire for the full marathon. But knowing how a half-marathon feels like makes me wonder what a full marathon would be like.
Here's my certificate of completion of the half-marathon for Concept2's Global Marathon Challenge 2007, another proof of how easy I am to please (mababaw ang kaligayahan!):
For the meantime, fitness-wise, I have yet to master the bird's balance pose in the latest release of Body Balance: