The two medics who work in Devon, will take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in December 2021. As they tackle the jaw dropping 3000-mile rowing challenge, they hope to raise £100,000 for essential medical charities, and also have their sights set on breaking the mixed pairs record for the competition. Not to mention, to help further Charlie’s research into female performance in ultra-endurance events.
“Having the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge on the horizon has helped keep our mindset positive in between emotionally challenging work shifts, as well as being a wonderful distraction from lockdown.”
That is how Dr Charlie Fleury and her husband Dr Adam Baker describe their current state of mind as they countdown to competing in one of the hardest ocean rowing events.
The two A+E doctors have been on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic since the outbreak started early last year. And not only have they been working challenging shift patterns, but they have also begun training for the most physical and perhaps mental test of their lifetime.
According to the duo, preparing for the challenge has offered them “very little down time with every spare moment outside of work spent training for the row and raising money for [their] chosen charities.”
This busy schedule however, might be the key to their success in the race. Charlie explains:
“A&E rotas are notoriously challenging, working a lot of “out of hours” and switching frequently between day and night shifts. We feel we have become fairly resilient...and hope this gives us an edge during the early stages of the row.”
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a 3000-mile unsupported ocean row from the Canaries to Antigua, across the Atlantic. It is dubbed the World’s toughest rowing race, and it is easy to see why. Teams are faced with sleep deprivation - rowing 2 hours on and 2 hours off, 24 hours a day. As well as, extreme physical exhaustion and the mental challenge of facing the elements for weeks on end.
Backed by their title sponsor Scilly Spirit Distillery the Emergensea Duo will line up against 33 other teams from around the world, with the goal of attempting to beat the mixed pair world record, which is currently set at 43 days 15 hours and 22 minutes.
The pair describe their journey towards the start line:
“We have both finished a Masters in Extreme Medicine run by World Extreme Medicine through the University of Exeter and felt it was time to undertake our own extreme adventure, trading A&E for the sea. We want to give something back; raise money for charities close to our heart and hopefully inspire others to create their own challenge.”
Charlie and Adam will also be the first married couple in the world to race in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Something that they describe as “really special to us.”
Essential medical charities
Raising money for charity has always been one of the biggest motivators for the couple, and they hope to raise £100,000 for four essential medical charities. The pair explain more: “The pandemic has really stretched medical services and the four frontline medical charities we have chosen are very close to our hearts as we work closely with them on a daily basis."
"We love the fact that they encompass saving lives by air, land and sea; the Devon Air Ambulance, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Trust Charity and Mind. We added Mind after we witnessed, and continue to do so, a massive rise in mental health presentations as a direct result of COVID-19, both in healthcare workers and the community as a whole.”
With just over 10 months to go until the pair set off from the Canary Islands, they are doing everything in their power to prepare their bodies for the challenges ahead. They explain:
“At the moment, it is all about getting strong and improving mobility. We don’t want any injuries so will be working on any imbalances in our bodies through unilateral work and ensuring we both have a strong core and posterior chain.
“We have also been spending lots of time on our rowing ergometers, and have an awesome rowing coach, Duncan Roy, who is ensuring our technique is good and becomes muscle memory.”
But it is not just about the physical challenge they have been preparing for: “A lot of this challenge is mental and that is why we are building up our mental resilience by sitting on the rowing machines for hours at a time rowing around 22s/m getting used to the monotony!”
Soon the pair’s training will include another element: “In just a matter of weeks, we will start taking our ergometer technique on to the real thing, and fingers crossed from the 1st of March 2021 our on-water training will start.”
The two doctors understand the importance of rest and recovery and have turned to bioelectrical therapy for help, explaining that NuroKor is going to play a significant role in their training and during the race.
“NuroKor has become a fundamental part of our training and recovery,” explain the pair. “We use it after every training session to minimise DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) and maximise strength gains. It can be really therapeutic and relaxing after a hard session."
"The NuroKor mibody is so compact we can even pop it under our scrubs at work to help with any aches or pains on the go.“
Charlie explains more:
“We literally use it everywhere, but Adam’s personal favourite is on his upper back which gets pretty sore after a few hours on the ergometer. I use it predominantly on my legs to aid recovery, and specifically around my pelvic area where I had a peri-acetabular osteotomy operation around 16 months ago.”
They will also continue to use NuroKor during on-water training and indeed during the race:
“Once out training on the water the KorGlov will be invaluable for recovery as the stress of rowing on the ocean can lead to wrist tendonitis and claw hand.”
Research in practice
To give their challenge yet another element, Charlie and Adam will also use the event to gather research into the physiological differences between males and females in ultra-endurance activity, with the hope of inspiring equal participation in ultra-endurance events.
Charlie explains more: “It is becoming increasingly recognised that women can equal, or even outperform men in many ultra-endurance events. The question is why? Adam and I will use ourselves as subjects to further understand the physiological and psychological reasons for this."
"We shall collect body composition data pre- and post- the row along with psychological data such as profile of mood states before, during and after the row. This will build on preliminary data already collected in a feasibility study I carried out on the 2019 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge rowers.”
As the challenge gets closer Charlie and Adam are faced with thoughts of monotony, sleep deprivation, salt sores and physical exhaustion. But the two doctors seem unphased.
They are looking forward to lining up with teams from all walks of life and are united in their objectives: to cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat, raise money for frontline medical charities, push their own personal boundaries, attempt to break the mixed pair world record and promote equal participation in sport.
On top of that mighty list, they are also passionate about wanting to “inspire others to find their own ocean to cross”, oh and just the little matter of ensuring they remain married!