New Level Results and Breast Cancer Care

Today was a team day. We met up with Andrew Duncan of New Level Results, who we have worked with since the planning stages of our row project (see Nat’s earlier blog) The Best Year Yet programme was instrumental in helping us set clear guidelines and goals to get us to the start line and then to use on the water. Today was an opportunity to reflect on what has gone before and to set up a new team plan for the next stage of our row as we continue with our fundraising and sharing our story.


Lizanne joined us by Skype from Cape Town and we were kindly hosted at the offices of Breast Cancer Care. We started by taking the time to do a debrief about the team’s time on the water. We listed our individual and team accomplishments and disappointments and what lessons we can learn from them going forward. In the afternoon, we made a start on our plan for the post-row world. What do we want to achieve in the the next six months? What is our plan for continuing to raise money for our charities, Walking With The Wounded and Breast Cancer care? Who will be responsible for what? How are we going to balance this with our personal and work lives? It was a great brainstorming session and we now have a clear Best Year Yet plan to work to going forward.

At lunchtime, we were able to share our story with the staff and volunteers of Breast Cancer Care. We were joined by the team in the London office and conferenced in the teams in Sheffield and Glasgow. We ran them through the highs and lows of life on the ocean, shared some photos, and answered their questions about our journey. Breast Cancer Care have been so supportive of our journey and it was wonderful to meet so many of the wider team face to face.


All in all, it was another busy, but productive day and, as always, great to have the whole team together (using the power of the Internet).



Nat returns to London town!


So today saw the return of Nats to the big smoke!
First stop was a talk to the wonderful New Level Results team where Laura and Nats talked to the coaches about the row. They highlighted how the Best Year Yet programme was the ‘glue’ that helped keep the structure and focus both on land and on the boat, inline with our psychology work.


Tomorrow will be a day for the team to be with coach Andrew from New Level Results, to take the team into stage 3 – post row plans. Look out for Ems blog tomorrow to hear more about it.

Following Nats birthday last Thursday, 5 out of the 6 (Lizanne was sorely missed!), met this evening for some birthday celebrations. This involved building our own burgers and drinking some champagne in celebration!


My last week

Laura PenhaulBy


So this last week I started back at work. It was great to be back with the team and they are all so supportive of the row and welcoming me back. Overall it really was awesome to feel like I had returned to a place of comfort, I had been looking forward to it the whole time I was away and had missed the cheeky banter that you get in the world of Sport. What I hadn’t anticipated though, was the feeling that I hadn’t been away, as in I truly felt like I’d only been away on a two week holiday. This is great, but the slight problem with this, is that I’m back and in a slightly different role, so technically less responsibility, but it appears this isn’t something I can just switch off.  I found myself having to be really conscious to not jump in with both feet and just run with things. It was a year ago in March that I had left, I’d been away a whole year and I was noticing myself talking of the athletes as if it was last week when I last saw them! Ben who is my colleague and friend that I’m now working with on the Paralympic side of things, is thankfully the most patient and easy going guy, but I have to remind myself, what would it be like if I’d been doing a role for a year and then someone comes back and they’re like an excitable puppy? I can only imagine it would be a tad annoying! So for the next couple of weeks at least, I am trying to kerb my enthusiasm a little ;)!

I also went back to Cornwall for a few days as I didn’t get to catch up with Trewirgie School when I was last down and really wanted to thank the kids of the Junior school for all their support. Emma and I got to speak to them in October whilst we were out at sea, it was one of my highlights of the whole row. Going in to see them on Friday I got to take Dad too as he’s been working with the school to help with the amazing fundraising efforts that they’ve done. Through doing a sponsored row-a-thon day and collection during their Carol Service at Christmas, the school have raised for our charities over £1,600! We can’t thank them enough and apparently it turns it that it may not be stopping there! Here’s a link to being reunited with the pupils, thanks to ITV Westcountry for capturing it…..


And this was an earlier post literally hours after we’d arrived into Cairns…


I love this pic, this sums up how cool these kids are, when you ask them to pull a funny face for the photos, they don’t disappoint!

Finally, not only did I get to spend some quality time with my folks and best friends, but I also popped in to see David White for BBC Radio Cornwall. They too have followed us throughout the row and this morning the interview was aired. You can listen in here  first section is at 1:14, second at 1:30 and final part of the interview at 2:36.

I’m now back up in my flat in Putney, London, but hopefully it won’t be too long until I’ll be bouncing back down again to Kernow! #HomeSweetHome xx






Lizanne Van VuurenBy


As mentioned in my previous blogs, the diary that I kept when I was on the boat was stolen about 6 weeks ago.
In a bag with my phone and some clothes; my diary got snatched outside my work one evening.

By some miracle I got it all back.
And the story is too amazing not to share…

Through the “Find My Phone” app on iPhone I tracked my phone to Mannenberg, Cape Town. In the middle of gangster territory Dan and I went to the local police station and showed them on a screen where my phone was. (The signal went off 45mins previously, but we knew it was around there somewhere).

A team of 4 hardcore policemen escorted us through the streets of Manneneberg in their hardcore SUV with their hardcore protective gear trying to find my phone (At this stage I forgot my diary was in the bag) I felt a little like I did on the ocean; not in the safest environment, but completely safe, secure and trusting of the vessel and the team around me.

I felt bad creating such a fuss about a phone, to which Constable Jordan replied “yeah maybe it’s just a phone, but today it was you, and tomorrow it could happen to our families, so we want these people off the street”. In the heart of gangster Cape Town; these police are incredible.

We drove around for about an hour, following various leads. It was getting late and the police got called on another job, so we went home after leaving our details. The next day they called and asked us to come back to the Station. As I went to greet the officer he took my phone out of his pocket and said “is this your phone?” I was amazed!

They did not stop that previous night until they found it. I am still in awe. Unfortunately there was no sign of my bag.

It doesn’t end there though.

When I realized that my diary was in the bag we started a new mission trying to track it down. We found out from the Mannenberg police that shortly after the thieves stole my bag their car broke down. They abandoned the stolen car and got a friend to pick them up, handing over my phone to their friend as payment.

What happened to the car? My bag was typically girly with flowery patterns all over it, so we assumed they would have looked through my bag, taken the phone as the only valuable item in there and left the bag in the car as it might look too suspicious carrying it around with them.

We were right.

Dan was in communication with Constable Jordan trying to get as many leads on the case, and eventually tracked down the car impound center where abandoned stolen cars get sent to.

Making a trip there Dan gave the dates and a description of the car. “Ah yes, I remember this car” the security officer at the impound said. A man came to collect his stolen car the next day, and was questioned about the very girly bag in his car. The car owner said that it wasn’t his bag and didn’t want anything to do with it, so the security officer took said bag and stored it in the confiscated box.

On Wednesday, almost 6 weeks after the incident I went to collect my bag, and was reunited with my diary.

A huge thank you to the amazing team at Mannenberg police station. It is amazing to see that there are policemen who are truly trying to make the streets safer!




As it happens, Nats mum Anne is in Cape Town at the moment. Seeing as it was Nats birthday this week we saw it only fitting for the two of us to meet up and have a cocktail together to celebrate. We had a great catch up too. Happy birthday to the lovely Nat!


Health, relationships and happiness…

Natalia CohenBy

Health, friendship and happiness

I can’t believe it’s been one month since we stepped foot on land and ended our oceanic journey and one year since my last birthday!

Time certainly flies.

It’s been a fantastic week. The sun has been shining, my body is slowly healing and I’ve spent quality time with beautiful friends – old and new.

I have always believed that being as healthy as you can and having strong relationships are the main things you need to maintain a positive mindset and happy existence. Everything else that happens in life is incidental. Wealth, success, fame, adventure; they all mean different things to different people and don’t necessarily make you happy.

This week I’ve been tending to my physical and emotional well-being.

I’ve been stretching and strengthening my body slowly by doing some walking, pilates and yoga. It’s going to be a gradual process getting my tone back and increasing my strength again, but I’m being gentle with myself and enjoying the non-impact exercise. I’ve had a dental check up and tooth clean (very necessary after the 9 months of snack pack consuming) and received results back from my blood test showing that I have no deficiencies.

One of my biggest health concerns caused by our relentless sun exposure has also now been alleviated after a visit to the dermatologist and a skin check completed with the all clear given.

As well as spending a lot of time with my amazing brother and father (my mum is in Cape Town), I have been catching up with a number of friends and enjoying quality time with special people that I share a long history and deep connection with.

On my birthday yesterday I received messages from friends from all over the world (Facebook is a wonderful thing!) and it gave me an opportunity to reflect on the incredible relationships I have developed over my 41 years of life and in particular over the last year with the girls. There is definitely something to be said for having strong, supportive, positive relationships with your family, friends, partners and/or community.



As I head to Oxfordshire this weekend to continue birthday celebrations and spend time with my best friend in the whole wide world, I have just watched a very wonderful TED talk about ‘What makes a good life?’ by Robert Waldinger who actually shares my belief on the importance of good relationships.

Having done a 75-year-old study on adult development he has access to data on true happiness and satisfaction and what it is that actually does keep us happy and healthy are in fact having close relationships and real social connections.

So as we move into the weekend, I urge you to re-connect with an old friend, forgive someone you’ve been holding a grudge against for so long that you can’t even remember why or make the time to connect genuinely with your partner/friend/parent/sibling/self.

Life is short and the one thing we have in common is that we all want to live it happily and healthily! x




The monk, the mountains and Ebay…

Meg DyosBy

There was once a traveller who was walking from a village in the mountains to a village in the valley.

As he walked along, he saw a monk working in a field, so he stopped and said to the monk, “I’m on my way to the village in the valley, can you tell me what it’s like?”

The monk looked up from his labour and asked the man where he had come from.

The man responded, “I have come from the village in the mountains.”

“What was that like?”  the monk asked.

“Terrible!”  the man exclaimed, “no-one spoke my language, I had to sleep on a dirt floor in one of their houses, they fed me some sort of stew that had yak or dog or both in it and the weather was atrocious.”

“Then I think that you will find that the village in the valley is much the same,” the monk noted.

A few hours later another traveller passed by and he said to the monk, “I am on my way to the village in the valley, can you tell what it’s like?”

“Where have you come from?” enquired the monk.

“I have come from the village in the mountains.” 

“And what was that like?”

“It was awesome!” the man replied, “No-one spoke my language so we had to communicate using our hands and facial expressions.  I had to sleep on the dirt floor which was really cool as I’ve never done that before.  They fed me some sort of weird stew and I have no idea what was in it but just to experience how the locals lived was great and the weather was freezing cold, which meant that I really got a taste of the local conditions.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

“Then I think that you’ll find that the village in the valley is much the same,” responded the monk.

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond.  Don’t allow the challenges of life to take away your joy. 

There are lots of reasons to complain and be miserable if that’s how you look at life.

There are lots of reasons to be enthusiastic and joyful if that’s how you look at life.

How do you look at life?

I got sent this story when we were rowing, and it really made me smile. It’s also a question from the past week that I have been thinking about, as I attend job interviews and continue to contemplate my career prospects – life is good, and I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying wearing socks and drinking tea.  On the other hand, I am still missing my sunset bucket sessions and the heat of the sunshine on my back.

Update: This week I got promoted to an Ebay seller that can now sell 30 items a month instead of 10! I’m so proud of myself I had to share it with you all.


Doris – made of stern stuff

Isabel BurnhamBy

Along our journey (to the start line and on the water), we have been constantly surprised by the generosity and enthusiasm to share our adventure that people have shown.  One example is the lovely Emma of Doris and Co.  Doris and Co sell beautiful English creamware pottery and homeware under the tag line “made of stern stuff”.  Emma contacted us while we were on the water during our first leg and kindly offered to donate £5 from the sale of each of her signature Doris mugs to our charities, Walking With The Wounded and Breast Cancer Care, for which we and our charities are extremely grateful.

Signature Doris mug

On return to the UK, we were all delighted to receive our own Doris mug each, a wonderful reminder of the support that we have received.  If you would like to buy a signature Doris- made of stern stuff – mug, you can do so here.

Signature Doris mug

The real Doris is currently making her way back from Australia, thanks to Transglobal Express.  We have just discovered that she is likely to arrive on Easter Monday!


A busy week

The last week has been a busy one.  On Wednesday morning LP and I headed over to GSK to be a part of their first monthly podcast.  We got to talk about the testing we have done with the team at the Human Performance Lab before, during and after the row.  We are really excited to see the full results once all the analysis of our body composition and saliva testing has been completed.

gsk podcast

After enjoying a lovely lunch with the HPL team I headed down the M4 to Bath to catch up with Keith for a full psych debrief.  It was great to see him and to talk about the row with someone who has been there supporting us since the start and who we owe a lot of our success to.  Before we left the UK I said that the row would only be a success for me if we got off the boat still friends and the fact that we have is definitely down to all the mental preparation and psych input that we had before we left.

I also got to spend time catching up with some good friends and spend some time walking in the beautiful countryside around my house.  My legs are finally feeling stronger and I managed a couple of longer walks and to hike up some hills.

Finally at the weekend I found myself back in a boat for the first time since getting off Doris.  I had planned to meet the Marlow womens squad for breakfast but as always seems to happen when I visit Marlow Rowing Club I ended up on the water.  My lovely friend Tamsin took me for a paddle in a double and put up with my slightly wobbly rowing after so long in the stable Doris.  It was lovely to be back on the river and even lovelier to see everyone at the club who are all so supportive.

The week was finished up yesterday with our first team Skype since arriving home and plans are afoot for reaching our fundraising target so stay posted for more news.


How things have changed….

Laura PenhaulBy

I found it quite amusing whilst we were out at sea, thinking how people come back from expeditions or having lived away for awhile and the comment is always, ‘nothing’s changed!’. Well I can safely say that I disagree!
Whilst away, as I mentioned in a previous blog, one of my best friends has been pregnant and had the baby, all before we arrived into Cairns. Alongside that, my sister in law is pregnant with my second niece or nephew as are now 6 other friends of mine with either their first or second little ones. But this isn’t all that has changed, besides the baby boom, there’s a whole heap of things that certainly since arriving back in London last week i have noticed. There are certain things that I feel like I’ve woken up from an ice age and if things move this quickly in 10months, then I’m going to need to remind myself to keep my finger on the pulse as I get older! …..
– Contactless cards; I wondered why I had a new card in the pile of post when I arrived back, as mine wasn’t due for renewal until 2018. So initially I couldn’t get onto my online accounts until I realised I had a new card. When I left I’m sure it hadn’t been that long that since we’d started using chip and pin!
– Buses don’t take cash!; So when I went to use my ‘contactless card’ on the bus as I couldn’t find my trusty oyster card, well I hadn’t realised I needed to activate it, so it didn’t work, well no dramas I thought, I’ll just pay, ummmmm think again, the bus driver didn’t take cash! Since when did buses not accept cash?!
– Putney train station is all new and improved
– Blackfriars appears to now be open (I’m sure that’s the stop that was closed for like years!)
– Doctors are going on strike; since when do those in the health service who have an ethical duty of care, end up striking?! I’m guessing something has seriously gone array in the government if they see that as their only option. Clearly I have some reading up to do.
– The new iphone 6 is HUGE! I might as well take my ipad mini around with me rather than get my upgrade, I thought phones were supposed to be getting newer and smaller?

Rant over, suffice to say the rest of life has stayed the same and there’s certain things that you just wouldn’t ever want to see change….. I mean Wagamamas for instance, Lizanne will understand my mouth watering dreams I would have in the middle of the Ocean, for a raw juice, chilli squid, chicken raisukaree & gyoza’s on the side & at the weekend I had just that! It was even better than I’d remembered :)! Saying that though, every meal I’ve had since being back on land has tasted A.mazing, obviously Aunty Marie’s pasties are still up there though ;)!

Quick update:
With all my talk of pasties I was honoured to be invited to the Eden Project National Pasty championships in March, I am unfortunately away with work so for this year I have nominated my dad and Uncle to go in my place (fingers crossed there will still be an invite for next year!). This is definitely an invite hard to beat but I’m sure my Uncle John and dad will do me proud ;)!
I start work again tomorrow and I’m excited to see the amazing progress of the team and to get back into the swing of things for Rio (less than 7 months to go!). The countdown begins….

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