This week has been a busy one. After returning from Slovenia after a great two weeks away as assistant leader on a personal development programme with children from Churches College, Petersfield, I have been bobbing between Kent and London. Two weeks with seventeen, fourteen year olds where I crossed paths with Ems only once who was also out there, was brilliant, but I’m also happy to be back doing Coxless Crew bits.
I’m back working one day a week doing some freelance sales, and stepping into an office after all of this time was hard, but something that was inevitable in order for me to keep more time free to share The Coxless Crews story.
Yesterday I met up with Nat, Ems and Izz at Izz’s work Powell Gilbert who have been a huge support to us, and we gave a talk to them in the office over lunch. It was quite informal, and I just love talking about the row with the girls, it really makes our talks come alive when we can relive the memory together.
Today I then went to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham and gave a talk to the Sixth Form. They have been raising money for our charities, and were such a brilliant audience. I never thought that we would be able to talk about losing sight of shore and continuously rowing to get to land in relation to revising for A Levels, but today that happened – it was so fantastic speaking to the sixth form after the talk and hearing them say that they were inspired.
In other news yesterday we were invited to Buckingham Palace to present the Duke of Edinburgh awards in May which is VERY exciting to say the least!
I think the quote below sums up our team perfectly. The six of us are each different, with different outlooks, different backgrounds, different skill sets, different strengths and weaknesses, different likes and dislikes. And that is what made us such a great team. We used our diversity to make the team stronger than its individual parts.
Having arrived onto dryland weighing in at about 55kg’s (approx. 15kg’s less than when I started), I feel I have certainly been making up for the lack of calories consumed whilst away and find myself still using that as an excuse even 2 months on!
Over the last 2 months I have savored pretty much every mouthful of glorious, non-expedition food! From the textures, to the spices, the naughty calorific burgers to the freshly cooked foods, vegetables and fruits, the exotic to the plain and the sweet cakes or savoury cheeses- I have loved it all!
Last Friday one of my truely great friends, Kirsten Samuel-Hubert, spoilt me rotten for the whole day to celebrate the success of the row. It started with brunch at Roast in Borough Market which consisted of Eggs Royale for me (delicious!), then some pampering at Aveda for our nails, then polished off with a Mad Hatters Afternoon tea and champagne at the Sanderson Hotel https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-sanderson-london/eat-drink/mad-hatters-afternoon-tea
Kirsten knows me too well to make the perfect day based around food as the priority!
So morale of the story, when you’ve eaten nothing but mush for 9 months, you appreciate even the simple things of a piece of cheese on toast, so savor the flavour and take a second to be mindful of every mouthful you taste, because not everyone is as lucky to eat the way that we westerners do. xx
This week we reminisce about food on the boat.
The most commonly asked question on the boat was “what are you having to eat?” In fact it was the first sentence I learned to say in Spanish when Nat taught me.
Even now it is one of the most commonly asked questions; “What did you eat on the boat??” Needless to say, it was an important part of our journey.
We ate well. Lots of food with many calories. Our freeze dried food supply worked amazingly well on a journey like ours. The only thing we regret is not taking more Shepherds pie.
Writing this blog takes me back to a particular memory.
Towards the end of the middle leg the Shepherds pie became gold dust. We treasured every meal.
Needless to say it’s a meal that ran out before many of the others….
When the last shepherds pie was eaten, Nats and I wrote a song about it. Every time I hear the American Pie song I still sing it with our lyrics!
So I’ll leave you with this…
Bye bye Shepherds Pie
I’m gonna miss having you on the menu tonight
And as I look at my options I sigh
It’s gonna have to be beef curry and rice
Any other option would have been nice
What exactly is frustration?
It’s how we react to situations that make us angry, sad or disappointed. It’s OUR emotional response and so surely we should be able to control it?
We all experience frustration in one shape or form – often! I may even go as far as saying that it’s an emotion we most probably feel on a daily basis. Work, relationships, getting stuck in traffic or being delayed on the tube, when something doesn’t live up to your expectation, trying to master a new skill, forgetting to do something, having to rely on other people, the weather, bad time management…there are many elements of everyday life that can provoke this feeling of disgruntlement if not managed well enough.
There are many ways to deal with frustration and many reasons for it to surface in our thoughts.
For us, when we were out in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, I would say that frustration was an emotion we felt on more than a few occasions!
We had good reason. Our expedition was filled with challenges. We were sleep deprived, hot, continuously damp and uncomfortable. There were days where we rowed hard against current and wind but travelled negative miles or in the wrong direction. There were days where we battled to keep the 1-tonne Doris facing the right way and when she kept swinging round the waves would crash continuously across her deck. There were moments where the pain or discomfort of our salt sores and pressure wounds were so distracting that we needed to wait for 10 minutes of a rowing shift before our backsides or hands became numb and we could push through the 2 hours. Our ipods broke, we lost our favourite bikini top, flannels or tupperware overboard or we just simply got bored of eating the same food over and over again!
It was understandable that we felt discouraged.
How did we control those feelings of being annoyed when we couldn’t achieve what we wanted? How did we rise above the frustration and how did we deal with it?
I’d like to share three of the techniques that seemed to work.
One of the most important questions to ask in any situation is ‘can you control it?’ We can only control the controllable, so if something is truly outside your control, then surely you are wasting valuable time and energy on something that you will never be able to change. It’s amazing how often we forget this simple fact.
So, on Doris, we would remind each other that we could only control the controllable when we saw someone get frustrated.
Understanding that we are all in charge of how we react to situations and how we choose to behave to them is in our control, makes you a lot more self-aware. Feeling frustrated is not a good, uplifting or positive feeling, so ideally we want to choose not to think in a way that will lead us to the emotion of frustration.
During the 9 months of the expedition, when I started to let my thoughts run away with themselves, I would bring myself back to the moment and find something different to concentrate my energies on. Watching the ever-changing movement and colours of the ocean or the shifting shapes of the clouds in the sky, telling each other life stories or listening to music were all great ways to transform our thoughts and shift our mindset to a more positive one.
It is always beneficial to stop, check in with yourself and breathe!
This is an invaluable tool that can be used in almost every situation you find yourself in when you feel as if your emotions or sensations are taking over.
Just breathe slowly and deeply – in for 5 and out for 5.
It has been said that it is better to view frustration as ‘delayed success’ not as ‘failure’ and then at least you know that you can overcome it, while others say that frustration is an essential part of success…so who really knows!??
All I know that is that through all the peaks and troughs of life out on the ocean, the challenges and the frustrations, the magical moments and beauty, we did our best, as a team, to fully embrace all the emotions that came our way and learn from every situation. We must have done something right as we were not only successful, but we achieved what we set out to do… in style.
We did it with honesty, humility, SPIRIT and laughter!!
Now…let’s see if we can continue dealing with life’s challenges in the same way on dry land!!! x
Before writing this blog, I googled what ‘Diversity’ actually means in definition terms, and one of the sources I looked at said ‘it means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our individual differences’ – and it truly resonated with me and what our team is all about.
Within our team we vary in so many ways – age; interests; experience of rowing; where we live – the list could honestly go on and on. But what brought us together is this incredible experience that we all had together. An adventure that forced us to face our fears, challenged us, more than we have ever been challenged, and as a team, when we are together we somehow manage to bring out the best in each other. I still wonder how, and even why this was possible on Doris. Was it because we had to? No, I don’t think that that was the whole reason, as now back on land despite having this shared experience we really are a close knit group of friends. WhatsApp helps when we are all dotted around UK, and with Lizanne in South Africa, but even still we have this shared passion for what we have done, and the message that we are portraying when we do our talks. I love that moment during a talk when you chat about a particular memory, or a shift and you have a shared smile with that particular person in the team who experienced that moment with you. This photo below is one of those moments:
Right now i’m in Slovenia with a team of fourteen year olds with a brilliant company called True Adventure. Seeing these children outside of their comfort zones whilst trekking is bringing back so many memories. This team is diverse, and yet the way they are working together and using their different strengths is so awesome to see!
This week’s blog theme is frustration. There was plenty of this on our journey, both on the way to the start line and on the water.
One particular example was our struggle to get off the Californian coast and on our way to Hawaii. We spent 10 days battling through strong winds and large swells pushing us South towards Mexico. Everything was new to us, and the sea sickness wasn’t helping! But then it happened, we finally started to make progress West. Unfortunately, just as we did, some water damage meant that we lost the ability to charge our Victron batteries using our Solbian solar panels and we had to make the difficult decision to row 6 days back into shore to Santa Barbara to repair the damage. To say it was frustrating was an understatement. We had started our journey after years of preparation and were finally feeling that we had started to get to grips with the challenging conditions, and then we had to turn around, row back in and do a re-start.
I am really proud of the way that we dealt with this situation as a team. We accepted the decision and decided to put the frustration behind us, re-focuss and make the most of the opportunity. We took advantage of the time on land to repair the damage to Doris and make other tweaks to her and our kit. By staying focussed on the bigger picture, we transformed the frustration into a positive and left Santa Barbara feeling prepared and re-energised, ready to make it to Hawaii.
During the Night of Adventure evening which we spoke at a couple of weeks ago Al Hunphries gave everyone some advice about taking on their own adventures. He also gave his answer as to whether you should travel alone or as a team and concluded that if you wanted more of a challenge you should take on a solo adventure whereas to make it easier you should go as part of a team. Having been a part of the Coxless crew for 3 years now I don’t agree. I believe that our biggest challenges whilst rowing the Pacific where not the challenges which the ocean could throw at us but how we pulled together to deal with them. It was not the isolation from the outside world which was such a challenge as living in such close proximity with each other. Fortunately we didn’t underestimate these challenges and with the help of Keith formed a strong team who could work together drawing on each persons strengths and getting the best out of each other. I believe that one of the greatest successes of the row is that we have stepped off the boat as friends having achieved what we set out to do.
So as the African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
It’s safe to say that (amongst other things) the success of the row was largely due to incredible perseverance and team work. We had a whole network of people who worked so hard behind the scenes to help us reach our goal.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The row was by far the strongest team that I’ve ever had the privilege to be part of. It changed my view on ‘Teamwork’ knowing that we can achieve so much more by working together. Since being back from the row I have looked around me to find that all our relationships are little networks of teams. Our families, friendships, relationships and our working environments. It’s a gift to be able to surround yourself with people who join forces for the greater good.
Even though the six of us set out to conquer new grounds; it would not have been possible without the help of so many people including Ella (who posted our blogs while we were at sea, as well as lead our social media), Kirsten (who monitored or emails), Keith (our sport psychologist), Tony (our onshore support) and of course our friends, families and amazing supporters.
Due to the stressful environments we faced on the boat we all had our own tasks to fulfill, and we helped each other through difficulties. We divided and conquered; even if your task was to simply make lunch for your rowing buddy during that shift.
I would encourage everyone to look at your relationships and realize that if you work together as a team you should be able to encourage each other to bring out the best in your abilities.