This week's row2k Interview is with Hobart senior David Ranney. We chat with Ranney on working on a container ship this fall and some of the extreme workouts he's done.
row2k - How did you get your start in rowing?
David Ranney - Following in the footsteps of my two older brothers, I began rowing as a freshman at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. After witnessing how the sport positively effected my brother's lives, I felt compelled to join the team and participate in a program that offered such a unique physical challenge and team culture.
row2k - You’re now a senior at Hobart, how did you end up in Geneva, NY?
David Ranney - I truly chose Hobart College in frigid upstate New York on a whim. Though I loved my high school rowing career, I was hesitant to commit to another four years of such a demanding sport. I loved what Hobart had to offer academically. The small class sizes and liberal arts education encapsulated me, and I knew that Hobart offered a learning environment in which I could thrive.
Though I was not recruited to the rowing program, I recognized that rowing in high school had instilled within me the qualities and traits that allowed me to flourish as a student athlete. Thus, I decided to literally give it the, “old college try,” in the hope that it would provide the structure I needed to succeed. It turned out to be one of the most fruitful decisions of my young adult life and is the reason for much of my success.
row2k - You worked on a container ship this past semester, tell us about that.
David Ranney - For financial reasons, I spent the fall semester working as a merchant mariner on the Great Lakes as a deckhand. In total, I sailed for 135 days on the 1,004 foot self-unloading bulk-carrier M/V JAMES R. BARKER. The ship routinely loaded 60,000 tons of coal or iron ore in Lake Superior ports, such as Duluth, and delivered product to cities and ports throughout the region.
Though my duties as a deckhand were physically and mentally demanding, I spent my free time lifting in the weight room with fellow shipmates or practicing breathing exercises and yoga with the ship’s chief cook. The sport of rowing has always seemed to instill within individuals an insatiable thirst for pain, competition, and a desire to take the hard route. Thus, it was a common occurrence for my fellow deckhands to give me a weird look as I timed how fast I could secure all 1,080 hatch clamps or perform a certain number of burpees on deck—all while tracking my heart rate. Overall, my experience sailing the Great Lakes was incredible. My success as a greenhorn, or ‘novice’, deckhand was solely dependent on my ability to put my head down and work and solve problems in the face of adversity; qualities that I have adopted and refined through collegiate rowing.
row2k - Your coach mentioned you’ve done some epic workouts, which workouts stand out to you as particularly epic and why?
David Ranney - As a rower, I have always been drawn to the idea of finding comfort in physical and mental situations that are inherently uncomfortable. To practice this, I have run a multitude of self-organized and executed marathons, ultra-marathons, and other long-distance physical challenges.
I spent the early months of quarantine planning and training for my own Ironman-distance triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. After researching logistics, nutrition, and a race plan, I enlisted the help of family and friends to staff several aid stations and support vehicles. At 7:00am on July 3rd, I set out swimming along the shore of a beautifully calm Lake Erie as I began my race. After finishing the swim in under ninety minutes and completing the bike in just over six hours, I felt physically and mentally confident as I began the marathon run.
Though I expected to conclude the run in well under five hours, I hit a major wall just several miles into the last event. I could feel my autonomic nervous system shutting down and lost the ability to take in any foods or liquids. I knew I needed to finish the race but didn’t know how I could. I took twenty minutes or so to rest on the side of the road and collect my thoughts. With the emotional support of my father and a high school rowing coach following along in his car, I was able to push on. Slowly, I proceeded on the run two miles at a time and finished the race a few minutes passed midnight. This was undoubtedly one of my favorite workout experiences. Though I hit an unprecedented barrier, I used the tools I had gained from rowing to navigate the difficult situation and finish the race.
row2k - How well did you and your team cope with all the unexpected COVID-19 issues in the spring and fall?
David Ranney - At first, COVID-19 totally disrupted our training regimen and ability to compete. As it did to most people, the pandemic posed unique challenges that required new solutions. Though the onset of the virus tested our team, our resilience and relentless pursuit of personal growth and excellence prevailed. Personally, I have always recognized and welcomed the challenge of training on my own. However, it’s understandable that not all athletes train the same and its certainly more difficult to push yourself alone than it is when you have the support of your teammates.
Thus, we attempted to establish some form of continuity in the early months of the pandemic with team Zoom workouts and video review sessions. While I was working on my ship for the fall semester, my co-captains and coaches were able to successfully create a training program at school that both maximized water time and followed COVID-19 safety protocols. Through the team’s ability to adapt to an uncertain and volatile world, we have put ourselves in an excellent position for spring competition.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
David Ranney - My most memorable race was the 2018 Stevenson Cup vs. Columbia, Navy, and George Washington. As a freshman walk-on, I found myself sitting in four seat of the Varsity Eight—a surprise to both myself and my teammates. Though we did not win the race, we fell within a boat length of Navy and George Washington and were able to finish less than half a second in front of Columbia. While I was happy with the result as we glided across the finish line, the upperclassmen in my boat were ecstatic to see that we were able to hang with such fierce and established competition. To me, this race was a testament to the transformation that our program has made over the last several years.
row2k - What are you studying at Hobart and do you have any plans for after graduation?
David Ranney - I will graduate in May with a degree in History and Political Science. My time spent near and on the water has drawn me to a career in the United States Coast Guard through which I can continue developing my leadership and team skills while challenging myself physically.