An Ultra-row with Simon

A couple of weeks after my solo journey on that freezing lake, I was at at a party hosted by the owner of our rowing center, Matt Knifton. I was speaking to a few people about that awesome dam-to-dam row when he overheard and said, “You’re that guy who was seen rowing on the lake!” He got excited and shook my hand. The conversation about crazy rowing stories came up, and Simon Borchelt joined in. We were enjoying a few alcoholic drinks as I mentioned to Simon my past ultra-marathons on land and desire to do the same thing on water. He immediately asked if I wanted to take a two-man boat out and do this. I gladly accepted, and two days later I confirmed that this agreement was not just the booze talking. We met that weekend at 8 a.m. with energy bars, fruit, and sports drinks. I decided to use gloves because of my limited skill level (experienced rowers have calluses built up to protect their hands and more precise gripping technique to further protect them). Simon is a far more accomplished rower, having sculled since childhood. His father, Mark, was on the U.S. Olympic team  and now coaches the elite team at our club. Mark used to give Simon money for every mile he did on the indoor rower, so the motivation to succeed was well enforced. Simon and I pulled a boat out to the dock’s edge, and, with oars in place and food and water stored securely, we headed out. The weather started out nice, and there were not very many standup paddle boards, canoes, or other floating vehicles to navigate around. The water traffic can prove troublesome on the weekends, when the college kids and families are out in higher numbers. The combination of a sculling boat’s speed with the fact that we are rowing away from our visual path makes it necessary to constantly look back for obstacles that are in the way or headed into the boat’s path. We rowed to the first dam and turned back, passing the docks toward the other dam. This would be just the second time I had journeyed to this other dam. Simon and I had some funny conversations along the way, talking about ex-wives and places we have lived or visited. With this great company, reaching the second dam felt like a relatively short trip. Rounding the island and heading back to the dock (a 12-mile round trip), we hopped out of the boat to stretch and eat. After 15-20 minutes we headed out for lap two, reaching the first dam then back toward the other. My hands were already starting to feel raw under my gloves, but the rest of my body felt great. Simon was holding up well too. A few miles from the next dam turnaround, I discovered that Simon had only rowed one “dam-to-dam” distance before, so this was a new personal best for him as well. We reached the dam and headed back for another rest break on the dock, this time taking 20-25 minutes to recover before heading out for the victory lap. We were both still in high spirits, feeling just a little sore but ready to finish strong. We reached Tom Miller Dam (at Red Bud Trail) and turned back for our last meeting of the day with Longhorn Dam. The wind was starting to pick up, and my novice-level blade work was getting a bit sloppy, jerking the boat around at times. I pulled myself together as the wind increased the choppiness of the water surface, further testing my abilities. Simon was doing an excellent job of keeping the boat level, often correcting my blunders with a quick oar stroke. He was positioned ahead of me, so was able to give me great advice on my technique. I love surrounding myself with experts who test my abilities and teach me to improve. We made it back to the dock, finishing our 33-mile (36 miles on some water maps) adventure. Simon has since done this triple loop solo. Feeling much improved, I think I’m ready to try a solo quadruple loop. I’ll post it as soon as I do it!!






Simon and I after our second “dam-to-dam” loop (22-24 miles down)




Tired but happy to have completed the day’s challenge of a triple “dam-to-dam” row (33-36 miles).


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