It was 5 full minutes before I could pick myself up off the floor and even then my legs weren’t fully operational.
I’d just rolled off the rowing machine, having rowed 2000m as fast as I could thanks to a client ‘challenge’.
I squirmed around trying to find a position I could recover in where my thighs weren’t burning through my shorts or my heart jumping out of my chest.
Not an easy position to find, and as the minutes ticked by without any noticeable decline in heart rate or level of pain, all I could think about what how glad I was that it was over.
Any notion I might previously had about ‘pushing myself’ now looked like a gentle stroll in a park on a warm sunny day.
It had been a few years since I last rowed 2k.
Apart from running the 400m, it’s possibly the most hideous physical experience I’ve ever encountered in the name of exercise.
After an initially confident 500m I was starting to get concerned about what was up ahead, and after 750m I was in real trouble.
Had I been on my own, I would have coasted to a halt and reevaluated my strategy.
I would have happily stopped with a dozen irrefutable reasons why it was the right decision, and postponed my attempt for some other day…
But my client was standing right behind me calling out helpful things like ‘I hope you’re not going to die George’, and ‘how come you’re slowing down so much?’.
To be fair, I did start to slow a bit when my vision began to blur, and then a little more when I got the tangy taste of iron in the back of my mouth, but I kept going.
Soaking up the pain of each stroke, trying to marshall any remaining strength I had in my body towards turning that little flywheel round a bit faster.
With 500m to go my head was pounding like it was locked in a vice and I was making strange heaving noises that I didn’t seem to have any control about.
I might even have let out a little fart at one point.
Sorry about that one Nick.
As the meters ticked merrily by I watched the last chance of reaching my goal time slip effortlessly out of reach.
I ploughed on to the end, unable to muster enough reserve effort to rally anything you might call a final push.
And as I frantically unstrapped my feet and collapsed off the thing once the 2000m countdown had reached 0m, the real pain started to kick in.
The sheer quality of post-2k discomfort is almost indescribable.
It’s like being winded, whilst being simultaneously set on fire from the inside.
Every muscle burning: thighs, back, shoulders, arms… a full body earthquake, every cell screaming for oxygen.
Several long minutes later I was standing again, all be it with the aid of a sturdy chair.
My client asked what was harder, rowing 2k or running 100 miles.
With no hesitation I declared the 2k row the winner in that particular contest.
Give me 24 hours of measured discomfort over 7 minutes of purgatory any day of the week.
Spectacularly painful though it was, inevitably there’s a part of me glad that I endured it to the end.
Back in the day, a former version of me once rowed 2000m in 6:13.
On Monday it took me 6:36.
I had claimed to be ‘in about 6:30 shape’ and asked to prove it.