The 500 meter row. A staple for many. An all-out fly and die effort. For the fast it’s over quickly yet feels like it takes forever when done at max effort. Many, such as Sam Loch, have tried to chase down a two-decade old world record and have come close, but it still sits out there beckoning challengers to try it. Others excel in their age group and dominate many different distances, such as Anne Bourlioux, who owns 35 world records.
Some people battle records for months; others break their own records, almost daily. Shawn Baker has done just that: he’s broken the 500 meter record for heavyweight men, age 50–59, over ten times in 2017. The previous record holders? Shawn Baker himself. Shawn likes to push to that dark mental place often, way more often than this writer does. A brutal 500 meters isn’t something that often crosses my mind as a piece I’d like to do every day.
If you haven’t tried rowing your fastest 500 meters, it’s not what everyone would describe as “fun.” Competitive sprinters live for this distance though: it’s short enough to pull incredibly low splits on the monitor, but long enough to be a mental challenge. Breaking your own record is thrilling at any distance, but at 500 meters, it’s exciting to execute a great race plan where every single stroke counts. Shawn pushes to that 100% very often, as often as 10 days in a row.
What pushes someone to do such a challenging piece over and over? “I am interested in seeing what I am capable of doing. I don't see my age to be a limit at this point. I honestly feel that if I can continue to bring my strength levels up and my efficiency at higher rates on the rowing machine, then I can compete with anyone regardless of age.”
We all often hit mental blocks before physical ones. It’s a lot easier to not try and race 500 meters. So what is the human body capable of? As of today, Shawn has rowed a 1:14.6. For anyone who follows him on social media, this could very well change by the time this blog gets published.
You’d think breaking your own World Record handfuls of times would suffice, but Shawn sees opportunities to improve his time continuously. We’re impressed by his will and desire to push limits. This type of mindset is reflected throughout the Concept2 rowing community: from those who dedicate themselves to losing weight to others who complete a million meters, to those like Shawn who set new records. We love seeing individuals push the boundaries of athlete achievement.
Congratulations, Shawn! You inspire us to keep setting goals!