Imagine leaving your friends and family behind for three months to embark on a journey of a lifetime across the Atlantic Ocean, to raise awareness and find a cure for a disease that affects thousands of Americans. Tim Ryan, Alan Alderman, Dale Smith, Ted Waldo, and Brian Armstrong all rowed 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua in 51 days and 11 hours. They were participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the world's toughest rowing competition. However, their boat was unique, they would be the first people to compete in the Talisker Whisky Challenge with someone diagnosed with ALS. This someone is Alan Alderman; Alan was diagnosed with ALS 16 years ago but he does not let this disease stop him from living his life to the fullest. He and the team are dedicated to finding a cure and raising awareness for ALS. If you want to know more about this unique challenge read on for a Q and A with Alan, Dale, and Brian as they answer questions about life at sea!
Dale: None! I ate Tasty bites and granola exclusively.
Brian: Backpackers Pantry Mac & Cheese. I'm not usually one to eat Mac & Cheese for dinner but it was a real treat on the ocean. You could change up the flavor by adding some hot sauce or by combining other meals with it to get a super high-calorie meal.
Alan: None of them! The “Three Cheese Mac and Cheese” was ok if it was really warm and thoroughly stirred with a Morsel Spork. They tasted like wet cardboard with lots of salt.
Brian, Alan, and Dale all responded with the game “what's for dinner?” They would ask each other what they would be having for dinner if they weren't at sea.
Dale: I slept very well. I did not nap much so that I would be tired at night for my longer off shift. In spite of the loud, rocky boat I slept surprisingly well!
Brian: I thought sleeping on the boat would be a little more difficult than it was. I think the hardest part of sleeping was coming in from a wet stormy night and stripping off your storm gear in a cabin that you could sit upright in, and not inadvertently punching someone in the face or falling over on them.
Alan: In 1-2 hour spurts. Even when I had a several hour breaks, I never slept more than that.
Dale: I ate about 2,000 calories per day and drank 3-4 liters of water usually with electrolyte powder.
Brian: We had originally planned to eat about 5000 calories, but realistically we only consumed about 3000 calories a day and about 7-10 Liters of water.
Alan: Probably 2000 per day consisting of peanut butter, jasmine rice, trail mix, snickers bars, and Swedish fish. I drank 3-5 liters per day.
Dale: Rowing gloves and shoes to row in.
Brian: MORSEL SPORK hands down. I loved my morsel spork and I still often use it just to reminisce on the simpler life on the ocean.
Alan: A Morsel Spork, toothbrush, and hairbrush.
Dale: The 3-day 2-night practice rows. Sounds crazy since we spent 51 days at sea but I would say the same thing about the early days at sea. Getting used to that schedule and being without the daily comforts is an adjustment.
Brian: One of the biggest challenges I believe was not having an ocean close so that we could have training in an ocean environment. So we took to a few lakes and the ocean a few times but the travel really did impact the ability to train on the ocean more often.
Alan: The monotony of rowing indoors.
Dale: The first 2 weeks getting into a rhythm of 2 hours on, 2 hours off and getting the inner ear acclimated to the motion.
Brian: The conditions of the sea really took a toll on our bodies. Primarily the salt sores on our butts. It became miserable to sit on a chapped ass for 12 hours a day.
Alan: Adapting back to life on land.
Dale: I texted my girlfriend daily, sometimes twice daily and my daughter a few times a week. In hindsight, I would do that differently next time. That was too much contact.
Brian: I made contact with my family via telephone about 4 times during the race; on my sons birthday, Christmas and New Years and one other random call. However, we did use the texting feature on the Iridium Go to get updates on the NFL playoffs and other sporting events from my family.
Alan: I texted my girlfriend almost daily and talked with her via satellite phone 1-2 times per week. I talked with my children and parents twice during the crossing and texted with them 1-2 times per week.
Dale: We had rain almost daily and often several times a day. There were never any storms that seemed terribly threatening to our safety and only once put out a deep water anchor. As far as waves, it was not at all unusual to have 30’ swells which were nothing but exciting.
Brian: In the first 2 weeks we had 30' waves and at the time they seemed big and intimidating but we soon missed them and were wanting them back!!
Alan: Yes. During the first 2 weeks, we had high seas and rain. During the last half we had a lot of rain, but not nearly as high of seas as early on.
Dale: Very minimal. The occasional difference of opinions about rowing schedule but by and large considering it was 51 days at sea with 5 guys in a small boat in uncomfortable conditions things went extremely well!
Brian: I think for the most part the team did really well together. There were very few quick snappy comments but we got along really well and everyone is still very close to this day!
Alan: For the most part it was surprisingly good. Whenever you have 5 strong personalities confined in a small area under stressful high-pressure situations, you’re going to have trouble. But what happens on the rowboat, stays on the rowboat.
1. Take time to get a great playlist together (several!).
2. Take along comfort foods. For us, I think the consensus would be to have some potato chips or something similar. I think Pringles would travel well.
3. Be prepared that the first two weeks will likely be your biggest challenge. You may want to quit or wonder if you can possibly endure. For us, it all got better at about 2 weeks.
4. Ass sores are going to be a problem. I think that starting at the beginning using a zinc diaper rash cream and drying out you ass after each row will help. For us, the best seat pad came from Purple Mattress Company.
Brian: I would definitely recommend going to the race and getting a feel for what the team is doing the year before you row.
Alan: Take edible food... Manage the weight of your gear and food, and prepare mentally as well as physically. The mental part is harder than the physical.
Dale: It is difficult to put into words but to accomplish such a monumental challenge is something that makes you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. The brotherhood that develops is this unbreakable bond that I think can only be shared with someone that you have been through and survived an extremely challenging/taxing event with. To have done it with Alan Alderman, first of all, makes you realize what an incredible individual he is. This was hard enough for an able-bodied person but to have crushed it as he did with his physical challenges is truly incomprehensible! He was and will always be our Chief Inspirational Officer!
Brian: It was an incredible experience for me and to be a part of the Row4ALS family is an honor. There is a true brotherhood between all of us.
Alan: As the person with ALS, it was both humbling and an honor to complete this challenge with 4 of the best men ever.
Dale: I will continue to try to bring awareness of ALS with hopes of raising money/finding a cure by presenting our story whenever possible. To all who ask about the row, I refer them to our Row4ALS donation page.
Brian: The boat will be back in action with a few other teams in the coming years and we hope to help them in their efforts to fund-raise and I really think that we will have another ALS team in a few short years.
Alan: My next thing is my annual golf tournament and my annual trip to Washington, DC for ALS Advocacy Day. I will not stop until we have a cure!
Dale: In a heartbeat!
Alan: In a heartbeat!!
Check out a video of Ted on the boat in the middle of the Atlantic!
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Your favorite gear gives you that extra edge – perhaps it is tougher, lighter or more full-featured than its predecessors. Can you attribute that same level performance to your camping utensils?