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Jay’s 24-hour Row

-Hilary Achauer

Jay Porcano had always wanted to do a 24-hour row.

“I suck at rowing, and I knew it wasn’t something I was good at, so I wanted to challenge myself,” he said.

It was something Jay kept putting off until tragedy struck his family.

 

On October 15 Jay lost his sister, Patricia, to a drug overdose. Patricia left behind two very young children—a four-year-old boy and a four-month-old girl. In the midst of their grieving, Jay and his family wanted to create something positive, so they started Sofia’s Grace (https://www.gofundme.com/patricia-porcano-memorial-event?fbclid=IwAR2n-jH8cUX3N9j228HfGVePmfiK8_oqgPYAvBM4fcXDCk_RxyltUH445wA), a non-profit dedicated to helping the children of those who suffer from addiction.

Now Jay had a purpose for his row.

Jay’s 24-hour row would be a fundraiser for the nonprofit and a way for him to honor his sister on what would have been Patricia’s 28th birthday, November 18.

So at midnight Jay started rowing, and he continued for 24 hours.

Jay said his sister and her children were on his mind throughout the row, and the experience helped him process the anger and pain he felt at losing his sister.

“I had a tremendous amount of personal growth during the row,” Jay said.

Best of all, Jay didn’t have to row alone. Someone from CrossFit Pacific Beach was with him every hour of the row, from the early hours of Sunday morning until late Sunday night.

People reminded Jay to keep eating, to stay hydrated. James Polanco brought in his DJ equipment and played music for two hours. Nick Alexander rowed a marathon in the early hours of Sunday morning. Jeff Fontaine showed up multiple times to take photos, Shawn Paone helped him keep a steady pace, and Jenny De Veaux created a meticulous chart with his hydration and nutrition planned out to the hour.

“All the people with me gave me another reason to keep going,” Jay said. “People were telling me I was an inspiration, and I was able to find meaning through other people,” he said.

CFPB members also provided distraction and entertainment, and Jay said he laughed a lot during those 24 hours.

The lowest point, Jay said, was between hours 16 and 18, when it started to get dark again Sunday evening.

“I wanted to stop,” Jay said, but then I looked at the handles and thought, ‘do I want to keep doing this?’”

He wasn’t sure he did.

Then he had another thought.

“If you pull once, you will keep going.”

So Jay pulled once. And then again. He kept pulling until it was almost midnight. Jay told the people around him he wanted to row in silence for the last five minutes so he could think about his sister. So at 11:55pm Sunday night the jokes stopped. Every one of the five rowers was filled. No music played, conversation halted. The only noise in the gym was the whirring of the rowers as the clock ticked toward midnight.

As hard as the experience was, Jay said he didn’t want it to end. Once he stopped Patricia’s birthday would be over and he’d be left with his loss and grief.

But then it was midnight, and Jay stopped rowing. He let go of the handles but didn’t stand up. Later Jay said he was trying hard not to cry.

He took a deep breath, and smiled.

“I never wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for her.”

Then he looked around the gym. “Thanks guys,” he said.

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