22/04/2022 | Andrew Tracey
Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.

Anyone who’s ever spent anything longer 30 minutes on even an indoor rowing machine will attest  that no other medium of exercise requires quite the same amalgamation of effort from both your body, and mind.

Big weights are hard, really hard, in fact at a certain point they get so hard that you’re forced to stop, even if your head is still in the game. Running is also hard, but the same principle applies here, eventually your legs will just give out on you. Rowing provides a rare opportunity for your body to share the load across it’s constituent parts, giving you the ability to go further and longer, until eventually the fatigue begins to wear down not just your muscles; but your mind.

It’s hard then to fathom the idea of a Groundhog Day-esque situation scenario where you row for hours on end before bedding down, only to awaken just a few hours later to more of the same. Stroke after stroke, with no land in sight to offer a glimpse of reprieve.

No finish line on the horizon.

Nothing on the horizon, for that matter.

But that’s exactly the surreal dreamscape that ‘Team Dark Trio’ are gearing up for as they prepare to push off from the familiar safety of land and into the undulating unknown of the Atlantic ocean.

We’ll let the Skipper, Gareth Keighley talk you through the what, why and how of The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.


Miles for Minds

In December this year, we team Dark Trio, will embark on the adventure of a lifetime. 3000 nautical miles across the Atlantic ocean is providing us the ultimate challenge we are looking for. We will row in order to raise money for Young Minds, a mental health charity.

Myself, the skipper, and two of my close friends have decided that it’s time to scratch another challenge off the checklist. We have harboured ambitions of entering and racing in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge for over 12 years now. Our campaign is a long daunting process; there are challenges around every corner, but we have battled through, we are now entering into the final phase. This is where the admin and hard work piece together but equally, the pressure builds, it’s now time to put in the performance.

We have recruited two individuals who provide us with the coaching required to get us onto the Ocean in the best possible form. This is so that we can give it optimum effort. Shout out to Duncan at Rowing Roy who has been an essential asset so far and Gus Barton, at Bespoke Fitness London, who has been the brains behind the training plan.

Everyone has a different race in mind, the definition of success will vary, we have a clear vision. We want to win the race. That said we want to win it well and embrace all the traditions and camaraderie this great event and sport has. When it comes to performance, we have broken it down into multiple phases: training, nutrition and mental resilience.


The Training

In the first year we focused on personal training, whatever that looked like for the individual. The team was implementing a lot of Olympic lifting and CrossFit. We felt this would complement the row by really working on the strength base before we started the bespoke rowing training.

Once January came around, we started on the row specific training which included lots of time on a C2 rower. Fortunately for us, we have Gus who is both knowledgable and creative. We have spent the first 4–5-week block building some capacity in the 30-60 min area whilst developing our technique.

This was alternating between strength days, focusing on leg, core, and back strength. There thus far has been many humbling moments, long may these continue as we come away from the initial block stronger and more mobile.  The rowing itself was where we have seen the biggest developments, bringing our stroke rate down and focusing on technique. We can now deliver the same distance in roughly the same time but in 100’s of less strokes.

All that adds up to efficiency and preservation of energy which will be key. The current block is more focused on rowing than strength and we are hitting 4 erg sessions a week. This generally is between 45-60 minutes. We have been doing mobility sessions to aid the rowing but also to help with injury prevention. The difference between taking time to open your hips and unlock that ankle mobility is seldom wasted. We will begin our on the water phase from April this year with Duncan, which will be the first real test if the gym hours are paying off.


The Nutrition

This is paramount, we have the race rules which dictate the calories per kilo of bodyweight we must take.

Food = energy but also equals weight. We are going to be trialling foods from various companies, whilst training to ensure we get enough good rations to eat even when fatigued. We will be looking at carrying 6000 Kcals a day per rower during the race; even with this we will expect serious weight loss of well over 5kg.


On land we are eating regularly, I’d love to say 'healthily', but shall we just say ‘plentiful and balanced’?


Mental Resilience

We have invested time in reaching out to previous rowers, who have had all manners of experience. There is a clear lesson that sticks out, team alignment and individual mental resilience are key. We have recruited a sports psychologist who is helping us analyse our individual traits, strengths, and weaknesses.  This will help us support each other and ourselves. We all have past experiences to fall back on where we have been mentally depleted whilst physically being fatigued. We hope one of our greatest strengths will be knowing how to push through those mental barriers. Max from fortitude IV, a previous winner, was kind enough to share some techniques they used which we believe are fundamental.

All the above is a glimpse of just how we are preparing for our life-changing adventure. We will push the limits together in a new unforgiving and challenging environment. The main goal is to come out the other side with a deeper friendship, mentally stronger and everlasting satisfaction with what we achieved.

See you in Antigua!”

Andrew Tracey