Leg 3, Day 9 – A Special Message

Emma Mitchell By

Day 9 – A special message

‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are’. Theodore Roosevelt

Leg two of our journey was a tough one for me and our stopover in Samoa was a much needed chance for me to take some time to reflect on the journey so far and the challenges which we have overcome and get some rest and time away from Doris. At the end of the last leg I thought that I would struggle to get back into the boat for this final straight having lost my happy place at the oars and found it hard to enjoy the last few weeks. However I have never liked an unfinished job and always try to do what I have set out to complete so of course I am back on Doris. There is excitement that this is the final leg of the journey and it is strange to think that next time we touch land in Australia this challenging, exhausting, special, exciting and incredibly unique part of our lives will be over. But I still haven’t found my happy place back on the oars and I am still having to work hard to stay in the moment and not let the negative thoughts take over. The other day though I received one of the most beautiful emails I have ever received from someone who has been an inspiration to me since I started rowing over 14 years ago. Katherine Grainger, a hugely successful GB rower, and ordinary person who has achieved extraordinary things wrote to me about her experiences of missing home and the little things which are the really important ones whilst on training camp, and her struggle to rekindle her enthusiasm for rowing after the Beijing Olympics where she won a silver medal with her team in the quad scull. It was such a long and personal email filled with advice and words of wisdom which she summarised as:

– when you can, appreciate the moments
– know that life will be here waiting for you when you are finished on your amazing adventure, so don’t wish this once in a lifetime experience away too quickly
– try to let hope be the constant song in your soul
– keep getting back up
– do what you can
– know that you are accomplishing great things in life, more than the vast majority will even dream about
– and even if you are hating every moment, by going through it you can rightly live the rest of your life as a champion

Her advice for climbing out of a hole was “And at times like that there is no easy answer. It’s just one day at a time, and sometimes one hour at a time. Until you gradually climb back out and up and start to see the view again. And it gets better. And then it gets great. And then the future becomes whatever you want it to be. And the view is exciting, while the memories can be cherished.” Fortunately time on Doris is made up of manageable 2 hour chunks and I am trying hard to take each shift as it comes and get through it in the most positive way possible.


To receive such a message which all four of us have taken so much from was a very special moment. Katherine is such a great role model for so many people and epitomises our team values of strength, perseverance, integrity, resilience, inspiration and trust. This row has introduced us all to so many people that we would never have met in ordinary life and I would love one day to write such a beautiful message of inspiration and advice to someone who was struggling and needed to know that ‘to fully live life, to accept the challenges of every day and to set out to achieve great things, part of the deal is to struggle and have pain and know despair on some level.’
UPDATE: We have been back out at sea for over a week now and incredibly we are still making good progress, travelling in the right direction at a good speed. Two nights ago Nats and I were on the oars in the wind and rain, being soaked by the huge waves when we noticed a bird flying over Doris. He was obviously looking for a place to rest and recover and landed on my oar. We named him Oscar and he stayed there for a little while before a wave hit him and he flew off. Today the sun has come out and the wind has died down a bit so we have been able to dry some of our wet things and air out our cabin so spirits are high.



  1. Jim Andrews says:

    That was a great blog Emma. I was really concerned with how difficult it would be to get back on the oars a third time, especially after the trials and tribulations of that very difficult second leg. I hope you can refind your happy place back on the oars. I am sure there are thousands who join me in wishing you well and hoping we can bring the hint of a smile back on your face. I don’t know any of you other than through these strange communications, but one creates an image of your personalities through your blogs. I have kind of labelled you thecquiet

  2. Jim Andrews says:

    That was a great blog Emma. I was really concerned with how difficult it would be to get back on the oars a third time, especially after the trials and tribulations of that very difficult second leg. I hope you can refind your happy place back on the oars. I am sure there are thousands who join me in wishing you well and hoping we can bring the hint of a smile back on your face. I don’t know any of you other than through these strange communications, but one creates an image of your personalities through your blogs. I have kind of labelled you the quiet determined one? Where I get that from, I really couldn’t say. Natalia high on humour and possibly practical joker? Laura strikes me as being the guvnor and has her finger on the pulse, aware of all that is going on around her. I am happy to be completely shot down but as I said a mental image has emerged. Izzy, lizanne and Meg, have been no less in my mind but I did not really draw a picture, maybe due to the shorter period of time and therefore fewer blogs. though I thought Lizanne was quite a bubbly character. The rate of progress over this leg is unbelievable, I really hope it continues and your smile and happy place return. Your friend Katherine Grainger’s wise words should give you a lift and to have so many people wishing you well, the only way is up, I mean South. Stay safe.XX

  3. Simon TY says:

    Emma, I am sure one reason she wrote is that she, of all people, appreciates what you are doing. The sheer bloody effort; the wet, windy outings when the last place you want to be is on the oars; the cold dark days when a competition a month away seems hardly worth going for; the thought for Olympians particularly that the “end” is months away. The difficulty of putting 100% into every outing, but also saving yourself. The thought that times are not getting faster, that something outside the boat is holding you back, that progress towards faster times is painfully slow.

    And Kath can go and get a steak afterwards. Sleep in a warm bed. Turn off by watching TV or a movie.

    I suspect she would far prefer to be doing what she has been than your voyage. Blimey, rowing in waves, oars flicking out of yr hands, missed catches, surely coach this is too rough, cannot we just go in ? No girls, interval training today and I want you to do 1,200 sets of two hours on, two hours off. Sack the coach. Even Jurgen would not make us do that.

    So, Emma, I am sure, as well as a friend, she is one of yr greatest admirers.

    No, it is time to start preparing for Australia. So a daily dose of Strine from that fabulous book by Afferbeck Lauder ( get it ?) a staple of my childhood.

    Egg Nishner: something to keep you cool
    Eye-Level Arch: how you will order a steak in Cairns when you arrive
    Garbler Mince: just before your next shift on the oars
    Gloria Soame. What you all long to get back to ( it may be a Terror Souse)
    Grade A: when the sun is shining

    Enough for now.

    Xx STY.

  4. Jim Andrews says:

    Must apologise for half a response followed by a response. Dammed tablet has a mind of its own. Stay happy smile mile after mile, it will soon be the last one! Stay safe. XX

  5. JG says:

    Emma – like Jim I have an image of you as a quiet one, hugely dependable but more likely to retire than push into the foreground. Sensitive too and possibly a little vulnerable as a result, like so many of us. The difference with you is your great inner strength and ability rise above your personal doldrums. What you have written today, telling us about your struggles and determination just makes us admire you all the more. In situations like this I believe it is important to remind yourself of what you enjoyed before Doris and see where that is currently replicated and maybe the enjoyment of rowing will return. Every oar stroke is one less to Cairns. Thank goodness for 2 hour shifts – short enough to pass very quickly and not long enough to become really tedious. Keep that sharp eye out, immerse yourself in the routines think ahead and daydream. God bless and keep safe.

  6. Dan Trueman says:

    What a simply beautiful blog.
    As Katherine Grainger is an inspiration to many you too – and all of you on Doris – are inspirations to many; many of them people you will never meet who have been touched by your resilience, your strength and your spirit in the face of the challenge you are all facing. And facing head on, shoulders back and heads held high – as you know it doesn’t always feel that way but please remember you deserve to feel that after every single stroke let alone every two hour watch, every night, every mile earned at the oars.
    There are some wonderful Robert Service lines:

    “To scorn all strife, and to view all life
    With the curious eyes of a child;
    From the plangent sea to the prairie,
    From the slum to the heart of the Wild.
    From the red-rimmed star to the speck of sand,
    From the vast to the greatly small;
    For I know that the whole for good is planned,
    And I want to see it all.”

    You, the four now, and all of you who have shared Doris are experiencing the enormity of your challenge wrapped up in the daily tasks you do for and with each other.

    In not so very long the perspective of achievement will return and the understanding of how much you have inspired people will become clear.

    Never stop being the incredible, resilient and inspirational people you are.

  7. Barney says:

    Lost your happy place on the oars! That I can imagine after nearly 200 days and nights! Too much of a good thing will usually cause loss of enjoyment, and the three of you rowing all 3 legs are certainly getting your fill of ocean rowing. Well done to KG for providing the much needed moral booster. Emma, a problem shared is a problem halved, so hopefully you just shared with thousands reading your blog and offloaded a whole load of negatives!! Hope it works that way!!

  8. Tora says:

    Hey Emma,

    I have been stalking your progress around the globe…. I am totally in awe of you for doing this! Makes our outings at Marlow seem like a relaxing morning at a luxury spa… You are so nearly there. Just. Keep. Rowing.


  9. I have been following your blog since you left the UK. It’s been so exciting to hear about your journey and to travel with you in some small way. Your updates have been a constant comfort to me. If I’ve had to face anything challenging I always think of you all. It has given me so much inspiration for just tackling the everyday challenges that we all face. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I hope the conditions stay favourable for you. I’ll be with you every step of the way. Claire xxx

  10. Ruth N says:

    I’m really touched by your blog today Emma. (I do like a distraction when faced with a pile of marking.) It’s so important to recognise that the tough mental struggles are just as much a part of the journey as the blisters, the birds and the sunsets. It’s how you deal with them that makes the difference. KG’s wise words about taking small steps and appreciating every moment for what it is, joyful or painful, can so easily apply more widely. You are still inspirational to us back home, even if you are feeling less than heroic.
    I do hope you’ll come into school next term to inspire the kids with your incredible stories!
    Much love from wet, windy Marlow!

  11. pete mewton says:

    Very touching blog Emma. Great thing KG did to write so supportively. And just when you needed it! Spooky!
    I just wanted to say that you are already a hero and when you finish in Cairns you all will be as much champions as KG and the inspiration of a new generation of aspiring champions.
    Hope this helps. Now” Back on those oars!” Lol.
    Oh, and what sort of oar-perching bird? Im wondering.

  12. […] mentioned before that my friend Emma is currently rowing across the Pacific. Well, she posted a blog yesterday, in which she shared that she’s been having a tough time of it recently. It’s […]

  13. Peter Walker says:

    A great blog Emma, and wonderful of Katherine Grainger to get it so right. We had Lizanne visit our school in Reading today with the inspiring message of “If you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk, crawl. The important thing is putting one foot in front of the other, and you will succeed” OWTTE. She had 50 young girls sitting agog at her powerpoint, statistics and hands. Many stopped for a photo and her autograph..she pointed out that her leg had ‘just been a part…so best wishes for the whole.

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