Leg 3, Day 28 – changes and compromise

Natalia Cohen By

Only after completion of this expedition will we understand the full extent of our achievements and what subtle or monumental changes have occurred to us all personally. I don’t think it’s possible to spend time out here in Oceania (whether 2 or 9 months) and there not be a shift that happens mentally. What we have shared and experienced as a team will forever unite us and remain imprinted in our lives and all of us will have learnt pertinent life lessons that we can carry with us when we step back onto land. 

I was told by Meg yesterday that I always seem to have a different perspective on things, so today, I wanted to share a different perspective on changes. Today, without thinking about the end and reflecting back on our journey, as that is yet to come, I wanted to let you know how I have changed even before the row began.

1. Rowing
Just before sending off my application for the Row, I thought I’d better see if I actually liked rowing! I went to my local gym and sat on a rowing machine for the first time in my life and stayed there for 1 and a half hours. I loved it. I found the movement really meditative, liked the fact that your mind could wander or be still and felt like many parts of my body were being worked. 
I applied.
During the lead up before leaving from San Francisco, I spent time on Doris and I spent time on ergs (rowing machines), I was taught the basic technique by Ems and I set about learning a new skill –  how to row!

Training at CUWBC - courtesy of Dean Alexander
2. Eye surgery 
After our practice 48 hour row back in November last year, I decided that neither glasses nor contacts were going to work for me on the Row. With the 2 hour shift pattern continuing 24 hours, contacts were not a viable option and glasses were just annoying as they steamed up and would continuously have sea spray and rain drops on them. So, the fact that I would be in  an extreme environment with limited home comforts and daily challenges, made me fast track my decision to undergo laser eye surgery even though the thought of it had always petrified me and I was a little dubious about the long term effects. 

In January 2015, I bit the bullet and decided to go for it. I had the operation on the Friday and was back at work on Monday. As I lay down to prepare for the procedure, the team joked that I surely couldn’t be afraid of what was going to happen as I was about to head off and row across the Pacific! Although it was the most fear I have felt in a very long time, the procedure was painless, quick and professional. Accuvison (the clinic where I had the surgery done in London) were amazing and by the end of the weekend resting my recovering eyes, I was seeing perfectly unaided!!

The operation is revolutionary and I can actually say that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. My better than 20/20 vision has done me proud and could be part of the reason that I’m nicknamed ‘hawk eyes’ out here on the boat.

3. Embracing pink
I have always been a lover of every colour…except pink. Maybe it’s because I was a tomboy as a child and just naturally rebelled against anything ‘girlie’ or maybe it’s because my mum distressingly decorated my bedroom in pink in my formative years. Who knows, but the fact remains, I have never liked pink. Yet amazingly here I am embracing pink like never before. All our branding is pink, my home on Doris is pink and most of our clothes are pink. I have even been known to openly and willingly purchase many random items of a pink colour over the last year! I never thought I’d be saying…bring on the pink…

Embracing pink!
4. The Body 
I can honestly say that when I arrived back in the UK in May 2014, physically I was the the leanest and fittest I’ve felt in many years. I would maybe even go as far as saying that my body felt and looked one of the best it ever has. As LP has already discussed, there were radical changes that all of us had to undergo physically whilst training for the row. There is nothing quite as counter intuitive as making yourself gain weight. Although my strength increased dramatically during the training and there is something very satisfactory about pushing higher leg press weights than most of the men in your local gym, the change in body shape experienced was not the most aesthetically attractive. As the high protein intake was combined with fat and our need for rapid increased weight gain, the change that took place, although necessary, did not fill me with joy. 

I will always count my blessings that I am healthy and love my body whatever it may look like but it was not easy going from lean and small before the row to strong but also the most I’ve ever weighed and the largest I’d ever been! It’s all relative, I know, and I fully comprehended the need to have the extra stores when we began the journey so that we would have the energy to continue it for as long as we have. However, from my personal perspective, I feel that the misconception that at the beginning and indeed the end of this challenge I will/should be ‘buff’ and/or the fittest I’ve ever been couldn’t be further from the truth. 

What I have learnt though, is that our bodies are incredible. They adapt quickly and will often give us necessary signs before serious injuries occur. They come in all shapes and sizes and our mental perceptions of a good, healthy body isn’t necessarily what society leads you to believe.

5. Flipper had to go
When I was 15 years old I had my belly button pierced. I loved it and it very soon became my friend. The design was a silver dolphin dangling from a small silver hoop, I called it Flipper and Flipper became a part of me. As we have already discussed, all of us are taking part in some research being done into the effects of long term endurance on females and this includes bone density scans. To my dismay when I went for my first scan at GSK I was informed that Flipper had to be taken out as no metal on the body was allowed. You can imagine my disappointment. Flipper and I had never been separated – not for 25 years! Truth be told…I didn’t even know how to take Flipper out. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as easy as one would imagine and in the end only with the help of the lovely Tess and a pair of pliers could we actually set Flipper free. I instantly felt naked.  Belly button piercings close very quickly and are are not like ears where the hole always remains. The piercing was out, the hole closed and I said goodbye to an era of my life.  I still look down at my bare stomach with longing and miss Flipper dreadfully and I even still think I can feel him occasionally.


6. UK – Winter
Having been away from the UK for a number of years (about 15), I’ve done my best, wherever possible, to attempt to live an eternal summer.  The shock of having to deal with my first English winter in so long, definitely took some getting used to. As some of you already know, being cold and wet is not one of my favourite states of being. An English winter is just that…but armed with my three quarter length puffer jacket and my Mum’s winter boots, I managed to survive and push through.  The plan to then complete the Row and come back for yet another Winter was not really supposed to be on the cards. However, if I’m really honest, after the relentless beating we’ve received from the heat out on the ocean, a winter and rest from the sun is most probably desperately needed.

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I’m used to travelling by myself, beginning a new life somewhere in a far away destination alone and being in my own company. One gets very accustomed to independence and doing things as and when one wants to. I’ve recently been a little concerned that I am getting stuck in my ways and would find compromise difficult. Preparing for and implementing this expedition has shown me that for the right opportunity (and hopefully person), I am more than able to embrace and make compromises. What we need to remember is that compromises can more than often be positive changes. If we recognise this and always remember, as we know, change is present in every part of our lives, then hopefully every time something shifts or doors close, benefit will be felt and other doors will definitely open x

UPDATE:

Highlights
1. Had the most hysterical day shifts with Meg discussing every topic of conversation under the sun including twerking and her desire to perfect it!!!
2. We managed a half an hour sunset social where for the first time our cocktail/drink choice became a reality. We laughed, chatted and all drank Baileys from make shift fruit pot shot glasses.

Lowlights
1. We are still travelling at a depressingly slow speed.
2. Last night was by far the worst night I’ve had on Doris. There was the most flying fish carnage we’ve ever seen. They were EVERYWHERE. I dreaded coming out on the oars and spending the full 2 hours having to dodge the flying kamikaze creatures. One went down the neck of my jacket and another hit me so close to my mouth that if I had been breathing in slightly open mouthed at the time I would have swallowed it!! There were fish and fish scales all over the deck. I had to don my full wet weather gear for extra protection from them hitting me. I’m praying tonight will not be a repeat performance.

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6 Comments

  1. Simon TY says:

    Another change is that you have bared your soul to so many of us. I can guess that an independence, an adventurous spirit, a resourcefulness, has led you to be exactly that, independent. Able to get on with it, sort it out yourself, not rely on other people. So, a baring of the soul may not have been easy. But you have been extraordinarily honest, and open ( and articulate).

    So, another change: we all feel we know you. And it has been really fun, really rewarding getting to know you. Your enthusiasm and resolve puts us all to shame, and allows the mirror to face us for a while. I am absolutely glad you have not compromised.

    Anyhow, really look forward to meeting you in the New Year. Learn about yourself, but do not stop being yourself: it is that that we are rather in awe of

  2. Simon TY says:

    You think you are getting wet. Just seen the news bout flooding across Cumbria particularly. Not sure if you heard about the storm that hit the UK at the weekend. Anyhow, just read that they had 13.4 inches of rain in 24 hrs on Sat . Unbelievable

  3. JG says:

    Natalia – the original free spirit, The world goes round and round and every day is much the same as the last for most of us. Free spirits make the difference, adding the sparkle, the lateral thinking and enjoyment to life. So it is with your blogposts and long may they continue although I recognise that it’s almost a superhuman effort for the Crew to write these things every day and that alone makes them special for the many (mostly silent) readers and followers. Take care and keep safe.

  4. Jim Andrews says:

    Another great blog and another insight into your personal values and strength of charcter. You put me in mind of one of my favourite poems:

    When you get what you want in your struggle for self
    And the world makes you king for a day
    Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
    And see what that man has to say.
    For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
    Whose judgment upon you must pass
    The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
    Is the one staring back from the glass.
    He’s the fellow to please ‘ never mind all the rest
    For he’s with you, clear to the end
    And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
    If the man in the glass is your friend.
    You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
    And get pats on the back as you pass
    But your final reward will be heartache and tears
    If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
    Stay safe. XX

    • Jim Andrews says:

      Once again my rushed spelling embarrasses me. Delete “charcter” insert “character”, also I am aware that the above poem is directed at the male gender but the general message applies to all. 🙂 XX

  5. pete mewrton says:

    Great(and long) blog Natalia. I may have missed some earlier blogs but Im finding theae recent ones fascinating for filling in the detail of what youve all been through in preparation and execution of your challenge. Thanks for this latest particularly detailed and eye-opening( no pun intended) one. Amazing clarity in your descriptions, N.
    Id just like to semi- concur with you on ‘pink’. It used to be my least favourite colour too. Until I started to see it in nature. Eg. The, for a long time much loved flower, foxglove. Also the multi-seasonal campion and summers ragged robin, mallow. It can even appear to emit an irridescent light of its own at twilight. Im forgetting the less common versions of primrose and dog rose. And in the bird world chaffinch and jay and too many others to mention especially if you go exotic. So ” a All power to all things pink, especially The Coxless Crew!
    Au relire.

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