He’s done eight Ironman triathlons, a transatlantic row, the Mount Everest Marathon, and last year he set a new world record with rowing partner Josh Tarr in the GB Rowing Challenge around the UK; ultimate personal trainer, Jason McKinlay , talks about conquering his biggest challenge to date …
My journey to becoming an adventurer began with mixing my passion for the boundaries of physical capability with an interest in understanding the restrictions the mind has over the body.
My most recent challenge was to row, non-stop and unsupported around mainland UK. The inevitable stresses of rowing non-stop, especially as a two-man team would crop up, it’s handling these stresses that would determine the success of such a task.
The previous record was 52 days, an incredible achievement by two army doctors a few years earlier. Our attempt would be an audacious one to try and beat this hard earned World Record.
We began our journey on 1st June, our goal was to finish within 50 days.
We had fantastic conditions for the first week and made incredible progress using prevailing winds and tides. Once we left the Thames, the south coast was a great taster for the rest of the trip, albeit a false sense of security.
Moving onwards, the body now adapting to the physical stress of the challenge, we headed straight to Lizard Point and then the end of England, Land’s End. The tricky seas around this point made for hard work and tested both physical and mental abilities.
And now, for the decision that would make or break our goal … head towards Ireland or stay close to land heading up through the Bristol channel and close to Wales and mainland again. This decision was an easy on in hindsight. With again favourable winds we chose to head across to Ireland it what could take five or six days ‘all at sea’. It took us two and a half!
Nights so dark, beautiful and mysterious that there was no difference in colour between the ocean and the sky. Only the occasional wave thrashing the boat gave us cause for concern but the 30+ ft swelling waves helped more than hindered. One mans tough, is another mans doddle … (I like to say)!
Ireland was fair. It gave us beauty, heading up the west coast, passed Dublin’s busy harbour walls and back out into open ocean, at this stage with only feet to view due to thick fog, we drove on with our eyes firmly fixed on the monitor showing us the direction in which to row, and also showing just how many ships were around us, close enough to hear, close enough to feel the wake, but fortunately, not close enough to see.
Northern Ireland’s most beautiful, almost Jurassic coastline, with hills in abundance and barren, stark views of endless green pastures is somewhere I really must return to at some point,
We had to wait for a window to pass across to Scotland. We made it across using two sets of currents in time to get over. The wildlife in Scotland was amazing, it also offered us our favourite and least favourite times. Tough conditions, lots of waiting, and the most spectacular scenery.
Our regime of permanent rowing all day everyday was paying off. Two-hour stints on the oars, only resting for food and water (made by desalinating water from the ocean) and we were getting stronger.
Arbroath we had to sit and wait for a new window of opportunity. It didn’t come … We planned to set out anyway and give it a go to beat the weather. With wind of up to 18 knots against us but a favourable tide, we considered our strength enough to work against it and get back on track for the record. We rowed hard for 12 hours, together at the oars, stopping only for a quick drink. Once we decided to turn back, with the tide, we made it back to Arbroath inside two hours! Exhausted, we rested and moved again the next day. This time, we succeeded in our attempt and continued on our path.
Once over these hurdles, we had very little drama remaining other than the roaring cheers as we reached Tower Bridge 41 days after setting off from the same point. This was truly, one of the most enjoyable endurance challenges I have had the opportunity to take part in and am delighted with our World Record. The thing I personally looked forward to most of all? A pint and a massage.
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