Ben Dyer

Club: CUBC

Height: 198cm

School: Mackie Academy

International rowing record: n/a

Year you first started rowing: 2017

How have you coped this year?

Turning all of these changes into opportunities is a really important part of this. I viewed the lockdowns as a chance to tick off some goals on the rowing machine. I also used the extra time saved by not driving to and from Ely most days to do some long hours in the lab and get ahead on my PhD.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

This has been my third year on the team, and the culture has been as strong as every other year. The adversity and uniqueness of this season has if anything brought us together even more. Thanks to the government guidelines allowing outdoor exercise with one other, I have been able to go for walks or do cross training sessions with various different squad members who I might not have done so in a more “normal” year. There have also been a number of whole club virtual social events which have been really good too.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

I actually really enjoy physiological training, so the additional land training was a chance to really focus on my fitness. You’d be surprised how many good podcasts you can get through when you spend around 10 hours a week on the rowing machine and indoor bike. When it comes to hard workouts however, I get a lot of energy from others around me, so doing those alone was particularly challenging.

What was your lockdown training set up?

Thankfully I live in a large college house. It has a really nice garden for when the weather is good and a garage for when it rains. I used various pieces of garden furniture for weights and had an interesting barbell and ladder combo to do pull ups.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

If you’re nervous it simply means what you are doing is important to you. There’s an inverted-U curve of performance versus pressure, so nerves are useful in the right measure. Over my years of endurance sports racing, I have learnt to channel my nerves into useful adrenaline.

The biggest challenge?

I have Chron’s disease, so managing my training, diet, health and sleep around that is particularly challenging. My main symptoms are increased fatigue, so trying to get 10 hours of sleep every night can be challenge when you have a 5:30am alarm most mornings. I also have to be careful with what I eat and when I eat it. Rowers are known for eating a lot, and I am certainly no exception, so I have to spread my intake over lots of smaller meals to ease the burden on my digestive system. I’ve had to cut out a lot of foods that are seen as healthy and good for performance, as they don’t agree with Chron’s disease, so getting the right nutrients can be hard. Avoiding illness is important as my treatment suppresses my immune system, so I take longer to recover, particularly during a hard training block. The most important thing is avoiding a large flare up of Chron’s as this is detrimental to my physiology and performance.

The toughest session?

Anything which induces lactate. Once you’ve filled the legs with lactate it takes a long time to clear. I actually enjoy the longer sessions like the hour of power as its aerobic so you can push harder for longer. On the lactate end, I’d say 5x5 minutes on the rowing machine is my Achilles heel.

The best day, so far?

I really enjoy any side-by-side racing or pieces. Trial VIIIs stands out to me as it was such a close race and each crew just kept throwing punches back and forth. Throughout the whole twoweek block going into Trial VIIIs the crews were very evenly matched and we gained a lot of really useful racing experience. Nobody knew who would come out on top, but thankfully on the day my crew held on to win by just 1/3 of a length.

Only the Blue Boat races on the 4th April 2021: What’s it like splitting the squad?

Bittersweet. It feels like we have just cut a really close-knit squad in two. I really feel for the 10 guys still training at home and their equivalents on the women’s side. We also have the whole lightweight men’s and women’s squads also still uncertain about their race. Having learnt to row at Cambridge, I have come through the squad and would have been in their shoes last year. On the other hand, it is really relieving to know the Boat Race will go ahead and a real testament to everyone who worked so hard behind the scenes to make it happen.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

Absolutely. Goldie is a huge part of the squad and has a real sub-culture of its own. There’s a certain pride about being a “Goldie boy” that is hard to put into words. I will say this though: “The sun shines on the righteous, and it always shines on Goldie”.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

Relieving. Just relieving to know that the race would go ahead and incredibly exciting that I had the opportunity to compete for a seat in such an iconic event.

Why do you want to beat Oxford?

We must do our part for all of the Old Blues that have come before us. I feel a duty to make sure to add another win to the overall tally and push it even further in our favour. We have such an incredible network of interesting alumni who come back every year and share their rich experiences of rowing and life after rowing.