Leg 2, Day 49: Pink Pacific Parlour

Laura Penhaul By

Day 49: Pink Pacific Parlour

At night Doris becomes ‘Chez Doris’, by day, Doris is known to be host to the ‘Pink Pacific Parlour’. The floating beauty parlour travelling across the Pacific Ocean. Doris really does have an eclectic array of skills, so I thought I’d introduce you to the wide range of beauty treatments and grooming facilities we have available on board. If you are to ever frequent the beauty parlour aboard Doris, note that the experience is for long stay only of approximate 6 months duration, minimum stay 2 months, with pick up or drop offs in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Hawaii, Samoa and Cairns. The spa facilities are certainly world class, including salt water bathing, fresh tropical rain showers, cabin sauna and possible natural jacuzzi depending on the storm conditions or what your team mates have recently eaten. Please note, you will need to bring your own clothing and dry towel, plus be prepared to be coated in a thick layer of UVA protecting moisturiser, for the duration of your stay.

Here is the list of available treatments…..

Grooming

Self waxing: Doris is a proud distributor of Veet waxing strips also available for sensitive skin. There are a plethora of sizes to account for all body areas where required.

Express hair removal:An alternative option to waxing is that of a razor.

Eyebrow shape: tweezers and a small handheld mirror make this possible and keep any slugs at bay.

Whilst it is deemed sexy and manly for a man to grow a beard on his ocean crossing, for a female to grow leg, underarm or bikini line, I can’t imagine we’d receive the same response. I had planned to wax my legs on reaching the equator hoping this would have been around 4weeks, now after 7 the furry animals would certainly challenge those legs of any male. So being rather repulsed by them, I figured they had to go, so I opted for a full leg wax with Veet self strips followed by a soothing aloe Vera balm.

Hair wash and air blow dry

There are 2 available options here for the process to which the hair is washed:
– salt water rinse: this involves leaning over the side of the boat and immersing the head in the sea to first wet the hair. Following this the shampoo can be applied and massaged into the scalp, before using the drinks bottle to rinse the soap suds away with clean water.

– fresh water immersion: with a half filled bucket of clean, fresh water, you can dunk your head into the bucket with a snug fit (advisable not to do in stormy sea states for risk of getting stuck). The shampoo process is then the same as above.

Once clean, the hair is brushed with a ‘tangle teaser’ (amazing brush!), then there is an opportunity to be taught how to French plait your own hair by the others onboard.

Skin treatments:
For the derrière, the following step by step process is advisable:

  1. A lavage with fresh, desalinated water
  2. Rest time to air dry
  3. application of a soothing Sudacrem balm
  4. sitting on a lanolin, filled fresh sheep skin for 2hrs
  5. application of a wet wipe
  6. a dusting with Johnsons talcum powder infused with Aloe Vera and vitamin E.

Salt water exfoliation
Once doused in a salt water splash, it’s left to dry in the residual sun which will then leave the salt deposits for skin exfoliation.

Tanning options
For the look equivalent to that of Ross from ‘Friends’ when he accidentally has x4 strength 8 spray tans on his front only, then simply rowing for the x4 day shifts should suffice. For tanning of the back of the legs and derrière, unfortunately options are limited to land based only.

Manicure/ Pedicure:
We specialise in the ‘102 year old’ hand look. The way this is developed is through:
– rowing for 2hrs in torrential rain and salt water dumps
– washing clothes in the bucket and then wringing them out to exfoliate the calluses To treat, pat dry the hands and feet, then apply copious amounts of talc powder.

Fish pedicure: Sitting on the side of the boat, allow the feet to rest in the water while the small fish of the sea rise up and nibble away at the dead skin. NB. Small risk is that something larger rises from the sea and you lose more than just deadskin on the sole.

A birthday parlour hamper:
This includes a casing of a zip lock bag within which are the following essentials:

  • flannel
  • handheld mirror
  • tweezers
  • nail clippers
  • sudocreme
  • talcum powder
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • tangle teaser hair brush
  • Elizabeth Arden 8hr cream

For those interested in a spa experience aboard the Pink Pacific Parlour, please contact doris@coxlesscrew.com to share your interest.

Update:

Same old same old aboard Doris today. The wind is ESE approximately 12knots and the current is westerly approximately 1.0knot, we are able to hold a 240degree course at an average of 1.5knots, so slowly but surely the mileage towards the equator is ticking away.
Keep your eyes out for the launch of our documentary film trailer ‘Loosing Sight of Shore’ by the amazing Director Sarah Moshman. We have yet to see this new trailer, so we will wait to hear from you what it’s like.

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Leg 2, Day 45 – Role Models

Laura Penhaul By

Day 45: Role Models

Since a child, my role models have evolved over the years but they have certainly been influential in my decision making and opportunities that I’ve ceased. At the ripe age of 3 (that’s as far back as I can remember!) my mum was without a doubt my idol. I wanted to become a nurse just like my mum as she was (and still is) the best nurse, so kind, caring and would go that extra mile for any patient to ensure they got the best care. So with my plastic medical kit and little nurses hat, I was set! Granted the nursing ambition morphed to being a Physio but mum has certainly taught me plenty of skills that help me today. I never knew or appreciated what it meant to be a working mum or the influence that would have on me, but seeing my mum raise us kids, keep a household, work full time plus study when we started school so she achieved her diploma in nursing and continue to never stop learning or developing, my mum without a doubt is my best role model. But yet how is it that in 2015 we’re still fighting for the recognition of females in sport, in business, in media, in life, to show children of today and generations to come, the widespread female role models that they can endeavour to become. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a vast improvement over the last decade, but it is far from where it could be. Also I don’t want to detract from the fact that there are many men that are huge role models and have certainly been inspirational to me in my life. I guess I’ve always been one to say ‘if they can do it then so can I’ and it never crossed my mind whether they were male or female. This also however, makes it exciting to be part of the era that is working to improve female awareness and hopefully with this row, as the first ever team to row the Pacific, we can make some small contribution towards it. ‘Inch by inch, play by play…. Life is a game of inches…. We fight for that inch’ (Any Given Sunday quote).

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A perfect example to show that female equality is still far from where it can be, is the fight that Chrissie Wellington (4 times world IronWoman Champion) and fellow female professional cyclists had when campaigning for there to be a female Tour De France. Only last year in 2014 did the organisers finally allow a 1 day female race after many refusals and campaigning to get it launched. It seems archaic that in this day there would be resistance to it, but hopefully in years to come these ideas will be greeted with open arms. The likes of Television presenter Clare Balding is certainly making waves to break this cycle and her support within the media is commendable. In the last few years Sky have devoted a channel to women sport, BBC Five Live have ‘women’s hour’ and there are increasing award ceremonies for women in sport, all helping to provide exposure of some amazing female role models in sport.

‘Strong is beautiful’ is a coined phrase from the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) which is helping to break the stereotype of young girls seeing size 6 models and wishing to be them. Instead, thankfully with the help of London 2012 and the huge success of females winning Gold for GB, young females are getting exposure to the great role models such as Jessica Ennis-Hill. Not only does Jessica highlight how you can be a girl who trains in the gym and does weights, but she’s a perfect example of how competing in sport doesn’t mean losing your femininity. She shows you how you CAN have everything. There’s so many misconceptions that if you’re a girl that’s ambitious, interested in sport or adventure then you’re more likely to be a ‘Tom boy’ and not into fashion or beauty, nor into relationships or desires for having a family as of course you’re too independent and focussed to think of anything else. I think I can speak on behalf of the majority, that this is very far from the truth. Jessica as well as Jo Pavey at British Athletics or more recently Anna Watkins at GB Rowing are great models to show that you can have a family and come back to compete successfully. Jessica Ennis-Hill has just returned from having a child last year and won Gold in Heptathlon at the Athletics World Championships this month, Jo Pavey last year at Europeans won her first gold in middle distance running and she too has children and Anna Watkins has just announced she’s returning to compete for a place in a boat for Rio next year. Helena Morrissey again breaks the stereotype in business, that having children stops you achieving. Helena has 8 children with her husband and has gone on to be the CEO of Newton Investment Group and runs the 30%club in the UK for driving 30%of women to be on the FTSE 100. These are just a few examples of many women out there who are great role models to show that you can have a family and be successful or ambitious.

We are very fortunate to be working with Sarah Moshman, who is one of the few female film Directors out there, which Nat will be enlightening you soon about in a following blog. Sarah heard of our story via womanthology, an online website bringing female achievements to the global net. Sarah made a film called the ‘Empowerment Project’ (www.empowermentproject.com) an amazing documentary touring the U.S. to interview key inspirational women. All of the women were amazing, but 3 that stood out to me were:

Admiral Michelle J. Howard; the first four star female admiral in the US military. Like many of the women that we talk about with Walking With The Wounded, I have upmost respect for those women that have fought in a mans world to achieve equality.

Dr. Sandy Magnus; One of 57 women to become an astronaut and go into space. To work for NASA on this level you have to have an outstanding education in science and engineering, alongside the physical requirements needed in preparation for 6 months in space.

Mina Bissell; A Distinguished Scientist and Cancer Biologist having been involved in some breakthrough Cancer research. A name that you would never have heard of and without doubt there are many more that have also made commendable contributions, that would provide amazing role models in science.

All these women that I have mentioned in this blog, are just a small percentage of the empowering women that are out there but are un-sung heroes in my eyes. So if your little girl or boy asks about role models, then here’s just a few to start them off.

Update: Another day of battling the current and changeable squally winds that one minute try to drive us North and then West, so staying positive has been a challenge in itself. However, the mood yesterday was lifted by an exciting sat phone call with Sarah Moshman. Sarah had a surprise for us which will be announced to you all in the coming weeks, needless to say we were like excitable teenagers. Finally, in the vastness of the Pacific, the biggest Ocean in the world and us doing a ‘sport’ (if you can call it that?!) that at any one time there will be a maximum of 50 people in the world doing it, what are the chances that we come within 17 miles of a solo ocean rower. We couldn’t see him but Tony had alerted us to John Beeden’s position, I only wish we could stop by to share stories, maybe do a food swap and hitch a tow across the equator!

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Leg 2, Day 41 – Twilight Rambles

Laura Penhaul By

Day 41 – Twilight Rambles

For some time now, either my lovely team mates or I, have talked of the gobbledegook that I may share in the early hours whilst on the oars. I have prided myself that during this leg, there have been fewer occasions and I have made it through night shifts on normal conversation with no gobbledegook in sight. Much to our amusement however, that soon enough when Lizanne joined the team, she too was another gobbledegooker and again the midnight ramblings became consistent. I will admit though, that the 01:00-03:00 or 03:00-05:00 shift is the biggest struggle and even after over 130days at sea, this has not got any easier. Last night, after lasting 1hr58mins on a 01:00 shift without music nor discussion, I suddenly found myself with the oars down and I was reaching up to the roof of the aft cabin and into the sky. Just prior to my reality check from Nats asking me what I was doing, it had made complete sense to me that I was handing a pair of gloves up to Meg (due to join us for leg 3), who was clearly sitting on the roof of Doris in the stormy conditions we were having. Funnily enough in the next shift, apparently Lizanne stopped mid row and reached her hand back to Emma, she repeated this 3 times before she finally heard Emma ask her what she was doing, by which point she woke from her daydream state and laughed at the reality that she thought she was passing her heel cushions back to Ems.

Gobbledegook is just one form of sleep deprived chat, it is without a doubt every night is a battle with our own imaginations, so I thought I’d share with you some of those to paint the picture of life on the oars at 3am…..

Falling Asleep on the oars:
Primarily it is falling asleep on the oars that we are trying to fight against. This can become a stubborn battle with inner commentary such as the following:
– ‘just close your eyes for a second and you’ll feel better’ – If you give into this, it is soon followed by an electrical jolt through the body, as the head starts to nod or an oar slaps a wave, causing the body to surge into rapid alertness and leave the body feeling shaky with residual adrenaline for the next 5mins.
‘ no one will know if you keep rowing but with your eyes closed’ – this is a lie, as often the other rower does know regardless if they sit infront or behind you. It’s the slowing of the stroke, the shallowness, the lack of effort into the stroke that is normally there and possibly the bowing of the head that gives it away and then when asked ‘LP are you awake/ are you alright?’ A similar jolt is felt as above with the realisation you just fell asleep on the oars and therefore not wanting to admit to the brief drop off, there’s a sudden increase in rowing rate and perceived effort, with a ‘yes fine thanks!’ in reply and hope they didn’t notice.
‘Arrrr how I wish for just a little more sleep’ – often a thought that then makes you clock watch to chase the next off shift, which inevitably makes a 2hr shift feel like forever!

Hallucinations:
There are then the times when your eyes play tricks with you, thinking an object is something else than what it is, which I guess is what would be known as a hallucination. On the first night when leaving San Francisco (stupidly starting this epic journey in quite a fatigued state!) I shouted to Nat that I vividly saw the shadow of a tall ship without lights approaching us, therefore rendering it a pirate ship. After blinking a few times it disappeared, maybe I should have taken note at that point that it would be a sign of things to come for the rest of the journey!
Another occasion I made myself jump out of my skin one night when I turned to see what I thought was a bald man in the water under my oar. It turned out to be a random white fender floating past in the sea, much to Nats amusement who watched the antics play out from the back seat. Another time I have suddenly ducked out of the way nearly hitting myself with my oars, as I thought my flannel, which was hanging on the handrail next to me, was a low flying bird about to hit me. With a love of food, I have had a number of occasions whilst rowing, that I have drifted off and I am somewhere with friends having dinner. In my mind my friend Mary is passing me a forkful of Thai food to taste which I subsequently lean down to take. I find myself then waking up to my mouth open and body bent down to the oar handle as if I’m about to take a bite. The girls have informed me that my other ‘classic’ was when I was with Ems on the oars, I had stopped rowing, put my oars down and was reaching in under the stowed oars to the side. When Ems asked me what I was doing I subsequently told her I was looking for all the bags of money that I thought were stashed behind the oars – as you do!

I have been trialling a number of different ways to overcome these thoughts and keep myself awake, as in truth it is something that I find rather irritating that I lose my ability to control it (yes there may be an element of control freak in me!). I have come up with the following:

– if I can talk about something that I have to think about to my team mate, then it keeps me awake, I.e. Narrating a film usually works a treat, although this can still sometimes go array. An example being when I narrated Top Gun to Izz, during Maverick and Goose’s request for a fly by I swiftly followed by saying they shouldn’t tie their hands onto the oars as that would be dangerous in the event of a capsize. Lizanne recently narrated the Disney film Aladdin to Ems and apparently the story naturally included a sat phone, the iridium Go, the bucket, the footwell and fruity cereal bars within her citations.

– if I sing or even lip sync along to power songs/ ballads that can work a treat for a short period much to the amusement of anyone sitting in the aft cabin looking out.

– continually eating and drinking whilst on the oars helps give me boosts of energy to stay awake, but does however mean there is often evidence of my midnight snack-age at morning light.

– temporarily standing up and doing the ‘dawn dance’ (coined by Izzy in the first leg) but basically flailing my arms and body around in pretence to a song in my head, works to wake me up, albeit short lived until sitting down once again.

So twilight ramblings and oddities are now a normal occurrence upon Doris, I guess when people say ‘are you crazy’ to do this row, maybe the gobbledegook doesn’t add to my favour in highlighting some of those crazy tendencies!

Update: Would love to say it’s a positive one, but unfortunately with no signs of wildlife to lift our spirits today has been a frustrating one. Once again we continue to battle the current to struggle to hold a southerly course and travel at a speedy 0.2k if we’re lucky. On the upside though, we all spoke with our families this morning. Hearing your family sound so close is such a comfort. My niece who will be 3 in October, brought a tear to my eye as I hung up the phone and heard her shout ‘Love you’ (well that’s what I think she said!). It certainly makes us ever eager to get to the finish line and home to those we love.

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Leg 2, Day 37 – Introducing Uncle Tone

Laura Penhaul By

Day 37 – Introducing Uncle Tone

As in previous blogs, we have introduced to you the team behind the team, the people that are the pillars to this row, the cogs that make it work. On numerous occasions we have talked of the infamous Tony Humphreys who has aptly become ‘Uncle Tone’ to us and we have become his ‘Tony’s Angels’. So seeing as we are nearing our half way point, I felt it pertinent to give some well deserved air time to the man we rely on the most, the man that has become our Uncle, our ‘Charlie’, our saviour when we reach land.

Tony is our onshore support and throughout the row he is on-call 24/7. Tony monitors our progress, plots our route, monitors the weather and provides us with daily meteorological reports. He is our emergency contact and when things go array, he is the first person we call. Tony liaises with our families, our Sport Psych, our sponsors when needed and our PR team, he co-ordinates the logistics whilst we’re away and is there pre-arrival into land. If Keith our Sport Psych is the ‘rock’ for this team then Tony is our glue.

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Tony has supported over 240 ocean rowers involved mainly in the Atlantic race, but also boats that have covered the Indian Ocean and North Pacific routes. He worked with Sir Chay Blythe back in the day and has supported a number of other sailing ventures. So what Tony doesn’t know about ocean rowing or sailing, isn’t worth knowing about. Suffice to say, Tony tends to be right about (nearly) everything! Much to my dismay, I have learnt the hard way never to bet I’d be right over Tony, if he takes the bet, then you can guarantee he knows he’s right and you’ll lose, regardless of how adamant you may believe you’re right. He seems to be able to fix anything and problem solve better than anyone we know. So when looking for someone to invest in supporting us, there was no question that Tony would be the only man we’d want.

Tony’s relaxed yet softly confident nature, immediately puts you at ease when you meet him. He is assertive, professional and gets on with the job in hand but does it with a smile, a laugh and a dry sense of humour (important traits when putting up with us!). He is the most integral person I know, so honest and open which again immediately puts our parents and families minds at rest. Without a doubt, there is no one else I would trust more to have provided us with the onshore support than Tony. We love him like family and although we are an all female team, he is an exception to the rule and wears our pink t shirt with pride.

Update: Today has been another scorcher on the oars and as ever tediously slow moving. However it is South and slowly but surely the miles are getting less to the equator and as Lizanne mentioned yesterday, there are plenty of happy moments we can draw from. Today’s happy moments was a fleeting visit by a 5ft shark, listening to some pick me up tunes on our Fusion radio and taking the photo of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ you see attached to here – small things amuse!

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Leg 2, Day 33 – Unbroken

Laura Penhaul By

Day 33: Unbroken

As you know, we row, eat, sleep, repeat, but for a couple of sessions in the day, we have about 4hrs to have some ‘downtime’, this is often the time we email, blog, wash, eat etc. but sometimes cram the time in to read.

I have found it bizarre that everything that I have read so far, without consciously realising it, I’ve found a connection with, either personally or with the row. The first audiobook I listened to was ‘The fault in our stars’ a touching story of two teenagers with terminal cancer. It was an emotional read and made me reflect a lot about the challenges faced by the families as well as the sufferers of cancer shared with our charity Breast Cancer Care. Then I read the autobiography of John Bishop, my families household favourite comedian. Again I found myself totally in the moment when he was enduring the Arc De Triumph to Marble Arch challenge and I remember following it avidly on Radio 1 at the time and actually shedding a tear when he reached the finish line. It gave me a flash of feeling of what it will be like for us reaching Australia but I feel the need to push the overwhelming excitement to the back of my mind as we are far from celebrating having yet to reach half way. I’ve been listening to Clare Balding’s ‘Ramblings’ on audiobook and just a few days ago she was reminiscing of when she presented on Channel 4 for the Paralympics at London 2012. A smile suddenly beamed across my face when she talked of ‘thriller Thursday’ when Jonnie Peacock, Hannah Cockcroft and David Weir all won Gold. I had a sudden sense of pride as these are 3 of the athletes that I work with now in some small way and it reminded me of the team and the road to Rio which is scarily just around the corner.

There is however, one book that has connected with me the most whilst out here; Unbroken, a true story of the life of Louis Zamperini. He was an ex Olympic athlete who joined the US Airforce and went to war against the Japanese back in the 1940’s. His plane got shot down and the story evolved of his and his comrades survival in a life raft in the middle of the Pacific.

I must admit, if given the opportunity I will often choose to see the movie over reading the book, but for some reason with this story I was drawn to read the book first. I had planned to read it in the first leg but never got round to it, so started reading it when we left Hawaii. The reason that it’s pertinent, is because Louis’ plane that he was on that day, took off from Hawaii and went down approx. 1,000nm South West of the Island. So the very region of the Pacific that we are in at this precise moment! The areas they talk about bombing such as Wake Island, Gilbert Islands and Marshall Islands, we can see them on our chartplotter as we pass to the East of them. The awakening thoughts that go through my head when I’m now out on the oars after reading this, is that the deep blue underneath us, that we constantly speculate what wildlife could be down there, there’s actually thousands of Japanese and US aircraft that got bombed down during that time. There are soldiers that were taken down with the planes or those that ejected but didn’t survive, all now on the Pacific sea bed below. Furthermore, what really touches me, is that normally when you read about a significant historical event and you visit that location, the building may be the same, but the surroundings have evolved over the years showing how things are dated. So you don’t necessarily get a true representation of what it looked like to them at the time of their experiences. Out here in the Pacific, what is there to change since 1943? Nothing. The varied sea state and changing sky would have been the same for Louis as it is for us. The sunrise and sunset would have looked the same. The sweltering heat and exposure to the sun he talks about, is something we can definitely relate to. Being surrounded by salt water but not feeling cooled or hydrated by it, we get it. There is however a significant difference, we’re here by choice, in a fully equipped 29ft ocean rowing boat which would have been like a cruise liner compared to what they were in. We are now on day 33 since leaving Hawaii, Louis and his comrades survived on just a life raft (& a sinking one at that!) for 47days, with no food, no jetboil, no watermaker, no change of clothes, no methods of communication to back home etc. etc.

When Lizanne talks of Strength. Perserverance.Resilience. As she did in yesterday’s blog, Louis Zamperini and his colleagues are the epitome of all of that. The life raft survival was just the start of what he had to endure, what Louis and others experience as Prisoners of War (POWs) is unbelievable and how he survived to get through the repeated knock backs, shows the testament to his mental strength, his faith and his will to get back to his family. Furthermore, the book gives a true representation of the difficulties faced when soldiers return from war, try to reintegrate back into society and how PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) can present itself. Soldiers of today who returned from Afghanistan injured at war, face these same problems. It’s one thing returning from an injury physically, but the mental and social impact of being injured at war are more long term and in the end can cause the biggest wounds. This is why we support Walking With The Wounded, as they help to support injured service personnel find a new pathway after injury, whether through expedition, re-education or re-training to create a new life plan. It’s exactly this, that Louis Zamperini struggles through alone and eventually finds his way by himself, if only he had had access to WWTW back then. We are aiming to raise £250K for our 2 charities WWTW and Breast Cancer Care. If you’re in the UK and willing to spare yourself a coffee, then please text DORIS to 70300 for a £3 donation. Further donations and outside the UK please go to our website www.coxlesscrew.com to donate. Thank you for your support.

Update: last night was one of the most beautiful I’ve experienced out here. I was on the oars with Lizanne and the waters were like velvet depicted by a beacon from the full moon. In our first night shift, LV and I raised an isotonic drink to Alex Wolf’s (our S&C coach and friend) dad, who’s birthday it would have been yesterday if not for his sudden loss just weeks ago. A reminder that opportunities should be seized and things never to be left unsaid. In our next shift, just as I was looking into the flat calm, suddenly a dolphin jumped fully out of the water right next to the boat, within seconds we were once again blessed by a pod of dolphins around the boat, where they stayed for about 10mins, it was very special.

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Leg 2, Day 29 – Never be left with ‘What If?’

Laura Penhaul By

Day 29: Never be left with ‘What If?’

In recent blogs, Nat and Lizanne have talked of life defining moments and their approaches to life, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you mine. ‘Never be left with ‘what if?” A quote by Chrissie Wellington (4 times World IronWoman Champion). I believe that this is a question that I have asked myself a million times over when I’ve been faced with a fork in the road over the years. ‘What if I take this opportunity to work with the GB Ski team but I lose my job in the NHS?’ ‘What if I stay with my job in the NHS but therefore have to say no to the opportunity of working with the GB Ski team?’ Which am I most likely to regret having not done?’. For me the answer was as clear as day, of course I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to work with the GB Ski team, even though it’s only temporary, even though there’s no longevity in it and even though it means walking away from the security of a 9-5 NHS job with pension and comfort of a steady pay packet. Why? Because deep down, regardless of the concerns of my parents for stepping away from security, I had a strong belief that it would be the best thing for me. So that’s what I did and from this stemmed more and more opportunities to work in elite sport and better still, to start specialising in what I was most interested in, Paralympic sport. 6 months after being in Argentina on a Southern Hemisphere ski training camp, I got approached by the GB Disabled Ski Team. They were just under 2 years away from Vancouver Winter Paralympics and had some good medal hopes on the team. They didn’t have any medical support at the time and were looking for a Physio. Perfect timing! I applied and got the job, albeit a Volunteer for the majority of it which in turn would result in taking up most, if not all of my spare time, but I didn’t care, I loved it and saw it as a hobby rather than a chore. After being fortunate to have the opportunity to go to Vancouver 2010 Games with them, I then crossed over to Summer sports working with Paralympics GB through to London 2012. It was in January 2012 that the row entered my life and suddenly, instead of my career being my focus, the row was. I had to make it happen, I had to make it work because again, deep down I had a strong belief and vision that it would be the challenge of a lifetime (I just hadn’t realised how much of a challenge that was going to be!). Many people questioned it and many obstacles were put in the way of getting to the startline, but it seemed strange in that the more hurdles that were overcome and the more negativity received, it only drew me more determined to make sure it happened, a little like a stubborn child! Typically when you’re on a path and pretty occupied with it, opportunities that you would have killed for before, suddenly come along in abundance. After London 2012, I was approached by a couple of sports regarding full time Physio roles. So I’d ask myself, ‘what if…. I apply and get the job but I don’t do the row? Or I do the row but I miss out on a great job? Which will I regret the most in the future?’. For a couple of options this wasn’t too hard to decide, I was doing the row and if I miss a job opportunity now I’m sure there will be others on my return if not in the near future. However, this was a different story when one of the jobs was an opportunity to be Lead Physiotherapist for Paralympic Athletics – aka. My dream job! They knew about the row and the time out it would require, but regardless they were still interested in meeting me for interview. I started working with British Athletics in April 2013. So 2013-14 was a juggling act between ensuring I gave 110% at work as well as to the row in my spare time. Work became my release from the row and the row became my space from work, which clearly left very little social time, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I was determined to ensure I could make both work out, because when it came down to it, if asked to choose between doing the row or Athletics, I honestly wouldn’t be able to. The support I’ve received from Neil Black (Performance Director of British Athletics), Dr. Rob Chakraverty (Chief Medical Officer of British Athletics Olympic and Paralympic) and Paula Dunn (Paralympic Head Coach) has been unbelievable and it has made me even more dedicated to ensure its success, so that my time away has not been wasted and more importantly driven my passion further for getting back to them and the athletes before Christmas.

Without a doubt, it is the athletes that have inspired me to be here, to be doing this row. I never expected this row to take 4years, to take a Paralympic cycle in its preparations and execution, but it has. It has thrown me curve balls, set backs and many hurdles to overcome, which I can only relate to the difficulties faced by our athletes when injury strikes at inopportune moments. If I can take from this row a glimpse of what mental strength it takes to overcome some of the difficulties our Para athletes and others have to face, then this row would have been a success. I always work hard to relate to my athletes and people I treat, so hopefully this will give me some level of deeper understanding when they need it the most.

Quick shout out to the British Team currently competing at the World Championships, wish I was able to watch it all live but thanks to Izzy and friends for the updates on email.

Update: This morning, just as Ems and I finished off our all day breakfast and granola, noises of excitement on the oars from Nats and Lizanne were heard. There was a pod of about 12-15 dolphins all swimming around the boat. It was magical and as they swam away one jumped fully out of the water as if to say a fond farewell.

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Leg 2, Day 25 – Building Queen Doris 2 (QD2)

Laura Penhaul By

Over the last few blogs you have heard from Doris herself and a description from Lizanne, how well Doris is looking after us.  Hopefully with the detail from Lizanne and the images you have seen of Doris, for those of you that have not met her in person, we hope you have been able to build a good picture of our current home sweet home on the ocean. Now not to distract from the perfectness (if that is such a word?!) of Doris now, but whilst out here, we have developed many an idea of how to renovate Doris when we return home, or potentially these ideas could be shared with Rossiters if a new build is under way. So here are a few of our ideas……:

– A garbage compressor: this would be ideal as space is limited and we seem to accumulate a lot of garbage that we have to keep on the boat until disposal when we reach land.

– An invisible shield: this is to go up at the sides of the boat without compromising the oar stroke. This predominantly was for nighttime to protect from flying fish, but thinking about it, it could also double up to be used 24/7 to protect from the waves and therefore minimise being salty.

– A robot cleaner: this you would set to work in the morning and it would make its way around the boat,cleaning every nook and cranny including the hatches, to leave Doris spotless and smelling fresh.

– Air conditioning: a spot of air con in the cabins would be pure bliss!

– A fridge freezer: this way we could have ice for drinks, a frozen yoghurt supply, chocolate (especially Snickers) kept cool and even keep some fresh fruit and meat.

– A bbq: this could be gas so that’s it’s easier to clean and manage. It could be concealed on deck with a sliding door over it so that it doesn’t take up too much walking space on deck.

– A clear glass hull: This way we could see what fishes and wildlife swim beneath us and would mean we wouldn’t have to dunk our heads into the sea first to check for sharks before jumping in.

– A power shower outside: we do have a solar shower but no where high enough to hang it so we have to take it in turns to hold it for the other person. 

– A Parasol : I would suggest this could be mounted in the middle between the 2 rowers, so that when it either rains or you require protection from the sun, this pops open and covers the entire rowing positions and the rowers themselves. Unfortunately a screen that slides out from the aft to the Forecabin was something thought of previously, but it wasn’t suitable as the rowers sit higher than the cabins.

– Free wifi with unlimited download ability: this would be pretty perfect as we could share photos and videos with you all via Social media, plus live Skype calls, the communications would be endless.

– A washing machine!: we try and rinse our clothes in a bucket of clean water and soap regularly but slowly they deteriorate as there is an accumulation of sweat and/or not drying properly. There would be nothing better than laundry fresh clothes on Doris. 

– the pièce de la resistance!!……A projector screen mounted between the 2 aerials with the projector mounted on the Forecabin hatch so we can merrily watch films as we row. Perfect! Although we do love being in touch with nature and listening to the sounds of birds,  being able to watch a few episodes of Greys Anatomy or to watch a film whilst out on the oars would certainly help break the monotony!

Update: last night was a beautiful star filled sky and we woke this morning to pan flat water conditions. Nat was right …’ You never know what you’re gona get!’ Now at just 10am I’m already sitting in a pool of my own sweat in the cabin yet there’s a torrential downpour out on the oars, bizarre!

This morning we received a sat phone to sat phone call from the lovely Sarah Outen who is currently rowing solo on the Atlantic. We shared a ‘100days at sea’ celebration, whilst we toasted with an isotonic drink to her, she apparently sipped on a G&T (so jealous). Sarah will be finishing in Falmouth approx. same timing as we reach Oz, so Cornish folk keep your eyes and ears peeled and pop down to support if you can, she’s a legend and has been a true inspiration and support to our row. We’ve just reached 900miles! Nearing half way and the equator is an exciting thought for us all.

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Leg 2, Day 17 – Human Guinea Pigs

Laura Penhaul By

Day 17 – Human guinea pigs

As some of you may recall, the day before we left the UK we had a day of testing at the GSK Human Performance Lab. The point of this, was to collect pre- row body composition data such as our skin folds, weight, girths, bone dexa scans. We also did a VO2max test with lactate levels, to again give us a baseline of what pre-row metabolic systems our bodies are normally used to. Post row on completion of either a single leg for Izz, Lizanne and Meg, or the full journey for Em, Nat and I, we plan to return to the lab to have the tests repeated.

The reason for all this, is because I have been interested in maximising what we can gain from this row and from a science perspective, there’s so much information we can collect. Fundamentally we are a team of women who will be sustaining endurance exercise over a 6 month period, involving sleep deprivation, non-impact exercise, sun and heat exposure, possible cognitive impairment and hormone control, just to name a few variables. A hypothesis of what the results may show as an example, is that 6months of non-Impact activity (i.e. Not walking on solid ground for 6months) has led to reduced bone density in a female cohort in their 30’s. Therefore the application of these findings could go on to reinforce the importance of impact exercise to minimise osteoporosis/ bone density loss (this is just a suggested example and not a statement).

What’s been amazing working with the GSK HPL team, is that they have so many awesome facilities and a wealth of knowledge between them all, that it has allowed us to collect a widespread range of data, so that on return we can see what areas show the most significance.

An area that particularly interests me, is how our Cortisol levels fluctuate when we’re sleep deprived and facing stressful situations and how this links to our cognitive function and psychological baseline. Cortisol is a hormone that can be collected via saliva samples, however previously you used to have to refrigerate or freeze the samples immediately to allow for testing. GSK HPL however, have found a genius who has developed a medium that the salivary samples can be kept in at any heat for up to 6 months without deformation of the results. Very kindly, Joe Dunbar of IPro (real time salivary diagnostics) has sponsored us with these sample kits. So twice a week, 15mins after waking from the sunrise shift and before eating, we each pop a small Popsicle stick with an absorber on the end, under our tongue and leave it for 15mins to collect some saliva before putting it in the small pot of solution with our name and date on. The collection of samples is then sent back to GSK after each leg with the team member who is being tested for their follow up post a single leg row.
Alongside this, we fill out a questionnaire which gives a brief description of our:
Readiness to row
Physical muscle or joint aches and pains
Perceived sleep quality and duration in 24hrs
General mood etc.
Finally, we also complete a quick 3min cognitive test. This is an app based programme on the iPad and measures our reactivity and response times. It’s a bit like the game Batak where you have to hit the light as soon as it flashes up. Collecting this real time data in situ on the boat, will be really useful data to see the developments over the duration of the row. Combine this with our logbook information and blogs to give an understanding of what was happening on that day of testing and hopefully it will confirm how Cortisol is a good predictor of stress response and its impact on cognitive function. So watch this space and hopefully post row I should be able to have some write ups to share with you courtesy of GSK HPL team.

Update on Doris: As you’ve most probably picked up, it’s a tad toasty out here on the Pacific at the mo and typical British, we’re never happy with the weather (it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too wet, it’s so exposed etc.). Just a month ago we would have been rowing away from rain clouds, yesterday we were chasing one down just to get under the cool shade and fresh water of a shower. Today we’re taking an hour to grab some social time together as a team whilst we have a quick dip and eat our lunch together on deck. Freeze dried Chicken tikka, chicken korma, oriental chicken and an all day breakfast, is on the menu for today, so I hope you all savour the flavour of that fresh food you’re eating!

image1 (4)

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Leg 2, Day 13 – Wet, wet, wet

Laura Penhaul By

Day 13 – wet, wet, wet

Some of us on the team have silly superstitions such as saluting a single magpie, or saying white rabbit 3 times on the first of every month. None of us however had previously thought the no.13 was a ‘bad’ number, so I’m hoping the last 24hrs was just a coincidence. As we make our way due South from Hawaii to Samoa, our route is not in favour of the westerly current nor the easterly winds and swell, so this therefore means as the swell picks up, we have waves crashing over the beam side of Doris. Yesterday the winds picked up to a steady 18knots and by nightfall it was 21. For Nat, Emma and myself it suddenly started to resemble our early days of leaving Santa Barbara and for Lizanne, it was about to be an eye opener to the less glamorous side of ocean rowing. Wet weather gear was donned once again and shift change overs in the cabin revisited the wet/dry routine with plenty of talc to go around. This particular occasion we seem to be getting a proper soaking literally every 2 minutes. This would be rather refreshing if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s salt water, which leaves you constantly caked in a layer of salt. Nat has described the different types of waves in a previous blog  and I’d say the predominance has been the ‘selector’ (although it’s been generous to douse us fairly evenly between pairs), the ‘air dump’, the ‘suprise’ and the ‘wipeout’. Em and I got washed clean off our seats about 3 times in one shift.

The difficulty at night time is that you can’t prepare yourself for what’s coming, so you’re always slightly on edge with anticipation. The moon rise wasn’t until 02:30am last night so the majority of the night shifts were in complete darkness. I’m pretty sure the sky was star filled last night, but can’t say we saw it as we were concentrating so hard on keeping the boat moving and staying in our rowing seats. Just before I was about to have a sense of humour failure last night, I decided to listen to some tunes whilst rowing. A good friend of mine Carli had been so thoughtful and sent me a package of treats to open when I reached Hawaii. Alongside some cadburys chocolate and water pistols for us, both herself and another friend Jo, had generously put in their iPod shuffles which were full of music. I had been saving Carli’s for a rainy day as I knew she’d have some good tunes to cheer me up. So heading out onto the oars in the pitch black of the night with the sound of crashing waves as Doris pitched and rolled, I pressed play on Carli’s shuffle. The first song that played was ‘I need a Hero’ Bonny Tyler – absolutely blimin perfect! Suffice to say there was no hero that unfortunately turned up, but it certainly worked a treat at getting me powered up to fight the waves. Music is such a powerful tool; it can bring back memories, it can motivate and it can cheer you up when you need a pick me up. To those of you that kindly put forward suggestions for our playlist, we thank you. Last night other songs from the list that got me singing out loud was:

Roar – Katy Perry : thank you Esther Baggaley

Girls just want to have fun – Cyndi Lauper : thanks Joanne Owen

Eye of the Tiger : thank you Martha Johnson

Offshore – Chicane : this is one of my favourites for sunset time, thanks Simon Goodison

Personal messages:

Kim H: hey roomy! So lovely to hear from you and I loved hearing all your news and what’s happening at Ullswater. Can’t wait to be back to hear more stories over a glass of vino or two. Mary and Darren: thank you for your lovely email! How’s the house hunt going? Miss you guys and think of you frequently, especially when I have a peppermint tea! Lily: hey hon, how have the triathlons gone? Wondered if you’d been out SUP’ing too this Summer, everyone loves it in America and Hawaii. Hope it’s not too hectic at work and prep for next year is going smoothly. Lots of love to you all and thank you for your ongoing support. Xx

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