On September 17th, Robert Hannah, a junior at Oregon State attempted to break the world record for Individual Heavyweight Men aged 20-29. row2k sat down with Robert afterward to pick his brain about what it's like to do a six and a half hour erg test. Also, be sure to check out the time lapse video of the piece - one photo taken every 15 seconds for the whole six and a half hours.
row2k – How did you first come about deciding to attempt for your age group 100k world record?
Robert Hannah – Over the summer I had talked with one of my coaches, Gabe Winkler, about different workouts I could do to help break up my training and one of the things he suggested doing was a 100k relay with someone else. I considered doing this, and out of curiosity, I checked out the Concept2 website to see what the current world record was for a tandem 100k. That record is pretty out there, set by Olaf Tufte and Nils Simonsen, but I saw that the Individual Men’s Heavyweight record for my age group was only a 1:59.8 split average. I thought that was something I could beat, so I started training for 100k!
row2k – How did you prepare yourself for a six and a half hour erg test?
Robert Hannah – About four to six weeks before I wanted to test, I started putting in some serious mileage at the pace I thought I could hold, about 100 to 150k per week. Then about a week before the test I did somewhat of a dress rehearsal 50k to see how my body would hold up and if I could successfully fuel and hydrate while still pulling reasonable numbers on the machine. My coxswain Stefan and I worked out a pretty good routine of how we were going to go the distance and I learned I was going to need a very good butt pad that would need to be taped down to the seat. The pain in that area gets pretty excruciating after about 30k. Then, the night before the test I ate a large dinner and went to bed early.
row2k – Did you have a goal in mind or a strategy on how you were going to race it?
Robert Hannah – Well the first goal was just to finish it, hopefully beating the world record by any amount. In the 50k I was able to spin about a 1:56 at a 24 rating, so I was pretty confident that if I could get to that point, I could just hang on the last half of it and still beat the record.
Stefan was going to be there the whole piece to help with the food and water, and six other people helped pace me for almost the entire 100k. Stefan also planted some Boggle grids below my monitor to give me something else to focus on other than just watching the meters.
row2k – Describe how your body felt throughout the piece. What started to break down first and how bad did your butt hurt by the end?
Robert Hannah – I felt pretty strong through the first 30k before I started to feel the fatigue set in. At that point I was at a 1:55 average so I popped the rate up a beat or two and relaxed the split just a little bit to conserve some energy. At about 75k is where I hit the mental “wall” where every muscle was tired and it felt like the meters were just crawling. Also at that point my knees started to feel like jell-o from the constant back and forth. The best way I could describe what your butt feels like at that point is that every time my shoulders swung over my hips during the drive and the recovery, it felt like I was being stabbed by a bunch of spoons or like I was sitting on some sharp rocks. Not fun!
row2k – Were you able to mount much of a sprint at the end?
Robert Hannah – I started to walk my split down a little bit with about 1500 to go and then was able to open it up quite a bit in the last 400 meters. There were quite a few people there in the end cheering me on and I was able to my split down to a 1:26 in the last couple strokes. My technique stayed pretty good until the sprint, then it pretty much went out the window! My average split for the 100k was a 1:57.0 and I unofficially beat the record by over nine minutes.
row2k – What were your first thoughts after you finished and were you able to get up and move around at all?
Robert Hannah – All I could think of was that it was pure relief to just get off the erg. I was happy I finished and beat the record but surprisingly enough, I was able to get right up and walk it off a little bit. I don’t think I pushed the middle part of the piece as hard as I could have since I was able to sprint it down so much, but I guess that’s something I will have learned in the event I decide to do it again!
row2k – What was the aftermath like in the 24 hours following?
Robert Hannah – I got some pretty nasty blisters on my heels and a few minor blisters on my hands. My back was pretty sore and the necklace I was wearing had rubbed part of my neck raw from all the sweat. I couldn’t really sit down on anything that wasn’t super soft and I ate quite bit a food. My sister had three Arby’s sandwiches waiting for me right after the piece and they definitely hit the spot. I went to bed at around midnight and slept like a baby until past 1 PM the next day. I weighed in at 214 lbs before the test and 207 lbs after. I consumed several Powerbars, half a banana, about two liters of water, and two liters of Gatorade during the piece.
row2k – Any advice for anyone else that wants to try pulling a 100k?
Robert Hannah – Get yourself a double butt pad. Ouch!