"It was hell."

"From night one til the end."

"There was no pleasure at all."

This is how my conversation with Cyril Derreumaux begins. He was on the world record setting United Nations boat rowing from CA to HI in 2016. 


This is how the conversation ends an hour later when I ask if he would row an ocean again...and in between, he was a veritable fountain of information. I am immensely grateful.

Think about it. If there are 6 changes of rowers a day and each change takes 5 minutes, there are 30 minutes every day the boat is not moving. If those transitions take 10 minutes each, the boat is still for an hour a day. In 24 days, an entire day's worth of rowing is lost. And, this is why I hate word problems. They never come out how you want them to.

So, perhaps one of the best pieces of advice from Cyril was this: focus on your transitions. Get off and get on the oars quickly. Know what you need to have with you when it's your turn and be ready: water bottle with powdered supplement, sunblock, foul weather gear, hat...all seems straightforward now but it sounds like it can get pretty messy when you're sleep deprived as hell and it is 2:00 am and raining to beat the band.

So, then Cyril throws out another word problem. Great. Say you row 2.5 knots and hour. You row 25 miles in 10 hours and approximately 50 miles in a day. But, what happens when Neptune is pissed (he didn't actually cite Neptune- but that's what I imagined) and you only row 25 miles that day. Life sucks. Morale goes down. Shit, we're never going to make it. But, alas, the next day you are back in the god's favor and the water is calm, the breeze in your face (a good thing when rowing) and, hot damn, the crew rows 75 miles! Woot Woot! We got this! 

Mileage is going to fluctuate. It is. So instead of focusing on how many miles you cover in any one day, focus instead on bringing the best you can to your shift...every. time. you. sit. at. the. oars. Every time. 

Which leads us to training. Pull ups anyone? 5...10...20...30?! Push ups? Throw a clap in with each one. 2:00 minute split time for 500m? 1000m? 1 hour! 2 hours! (split time is the time it takes to row 500 m). A mix of cardio, strength, and endurance training- to the Nth degree.

And, there was more and more information. Wonderful pages full of notes to review and study. Notes on hygiene. Notes on nutrition. When and how to wash this; when and how to eat that. And don't forget about monitoring fluid input...and output. Or, dealing with seasickness and constipation and fever and...and...and.

For now, 15 months before the row, Cyril leaves me with these thoughts.

"Remove any laziness." 

"Discipline as a training."

And I thought word problems were hard.

Many thanks to Cyril for his time and willingness to share so much about his race prep and time on the water.