Firstly if you have some stories or photos from the bank holiday adventures it would be great to get a selection up as inspiration for the next adventure, long weekend or Monday morning blues. The previous time I headed up … Continue reading →
Since getting back I have been asked quite a few times on “what next” or “how do you top rowing the Atlantic”, both very difficult questions to answer. Despite the fact that there was plenty of time to think on board and so many different forms, types and ideas for my next challenge it’s all about finding and more importantly actually choosing the right one. It all started whilst having breakfast with my dad the morning before flying out to the start, who asked those questions before I had even completed it. He then went on to suggest that it would be good to have an idea before I arrived back. Something I would definitely recommend you do before taking on any sort of challenge, adventure, career step anything always have the next step in mind. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to have a concrete one by the time I got back but I do have a good few ideas up my sleeve and still very much have the desire for one or two.
I have done some smaller events or challenges but it wasn’t until I read an article in a recent copy of national geographic (check the full article out http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/06/125-risk-takers/gwin-text) that made me think about the motivation for taking on a challenge, adventure or similar in a completely different way to previously.
At the bottom of all challenges it points out that regardless of whether it’s exploring the unknown, starting a company, going for prime minister or shooting for a goal there is risk involved of varying degrees and types. It comes down to the balancing of the rewards vs the risk, the interesting bit is that this results in a chemical reaction within the brain. Similar to adrenaline fueled sports the difference being that adrenaline makes you effectively flee or fight where as dopamine associated with risk can push you towards the danger to achieve the goal. The article was summed up with a great quote from John Wesley Powell who explored the Colorado river and Grand Canyons:
“They entreat us not to go on, and tell us that it is madness to set out in this place. And yet to leave the exploration unfinished, to say that there is a part of the canyon which I cannot explore, having already nearly accomplished it is more than I am willing to acknowledge and I am determined to go on.”
The important bit is that everyone has this effect to varying degrees. We take some form of risk every day. My take on it is that the more we step outside of our comfort zones regardless of what it might be to overcome the challenges and to ultimately reap the rewards then the more the mind and body will desire the chance to take on another. So whilst I am thinking and working out my next it would be great to hear yours that are coming up.
Last year saw me write about my experiences of following a nutritional plan after meeting up with Rin from PND consulting (http://www.pndconsulting.co.uk/) to get me up to the recommended weight to row an ocean. Not only has she worked as a dietician for a number of years but she has also put it into practise completing expeditions and multi-day races around the globe from the arctic to the desert. This I believed gave her great insight into what was required before I set off on my row as well as how I would go about hitting my targets.
It had been a challenge to hit these targets initially as the amount of exercise I was doing was burning a huge amount off. Something that I hadn’t talked about previously was how this process makes you feel incredibly hungry every couple hours and then very stuffed following gorging on far too much food and then just sitting in front of a computer. Now I could have spread the eating across more meals than just the main three and some “small” snacks. Ideally I would have but just convenience wise having maybe five to six smaller meals through a day would have felt like I never stopped eating. I’m also not sure that work colleagues would have appreciated the constant crumbs and debris round my desk following trying to cram as much in as quickly as possible as I tried to complete whatever needed doing between each meal.
Those last few calories
Towards the end of the year this did mean eating everything in sight to the point where we went round to friend’s houses and they would insist on third helpings or more. Seconds had become the norm by this stage. Importantly however I was making good progress in this final big push to hit the magic 95kg. It’s safe to say between the Christmas celebrations and then the pre-row time in Gran Canaria that this magic number was easily surpassed. One family member saw a picture of me and described it to me when I got back “I didn’t recognise you in the picture, you looked….. chubby”. This had always been the plan with Rin to strike the right balance between lean muscle and some useful fat supplies. I may have taken the supplies side slightly too far but it did make for a very enjoyable Christmas.
The “chubby” start
So over the row we joked initially that we were not losing weight as we went across. We had 6000 calories to eat per day and were not generally managing to eat all of these despite eating at all times of the day. I had a reputation for cooking up regardless of the time so super noodles in soup at 2am became pretty normal. However soon we could all notice that the weight was beginning to be shed and pretty rapidly at that. Physically we had all changed shape quite drastically over a short period of time. In particular our legs which had begun to lose their size quite a lot, mine ended up looking like a long distance runner’s legs; skinny, lean and sinewy.
By the end of the trip I had lost around 15 – 17kg in 35 days, a huge amount given it had taken the best part of a year to gain that weight. My kilt had not fitted so well since it had been bought although this didn’t last long. Being given steak at 4am when we arrived washed down with a couple of cold ones was all that was required for our bodies to kick into overdrive and to start eating up everything in sight a bit like Labradors for anyone that has had one. Within weeks most of us had wee pop bellies; I think we all put this down to our bodies still maintaining that we needed 6000 calories a day. Or it could have been that it was amazing to taste everything that we hadn’t done for a month at sea and were just making up for lost time.
The weight loss in progress
Overall the plan we had put in place with the amount of weight gain had worked a treat as throughout the trip I didn’t dip too far below the weight I seem to naturally sit at. This I think means that I could continue to perform despite the weight lose. Although I have wondered what if I had stayed quite lean whether the weight loss would have been as extreme, I just couldn’t afford to risk reaching part way across and finding that I was becoming weaker and too skinny.
James with his minimal 7kg weight loss
If you have stories of extreme diets to increase or drop your weight then would be great to hear. If you want advice on achieving your weight or dietary goals and particularly if your preparing for an event or expedition I would definitely suggest checking out Rins website and getting in contact with her.
Its taken a wee bit longer to get onto the computer to write this up but I’m now finally getting round to it. Hopefully this will be a bit of a rolling start for the others.
Our speeds towards the end of the 4th week had begun to slow, partly due to the conditions but I think also due to the fact that the aim of being sub 30 or even 32 days for the world record had well and truly slipped away. Mentally it was a turning point we had to pull together or face the consequences and end up taking a lot longer than planned, this would also involve rationing our food as well as our water. This was not a pleasant thought for any of us. As a crew we certainly rallied and pulled together constantly monitoring our speed, course and checking on one another.
I think that despite all the challenges we had faced this last push was potentially the toughest mentally of all of the trip. We knew what speed we needed more than ever and so when we weren’t hitting this you could see our finishing time slipping all the more than when we had time to play with and thinking that we could claw it back with a better session. To help this I tried envisaging the route I drive from London to Scotland. Despite doing this a number of times I didn’t get very far as I never really took in landmarks every hour or so effectively our daily mileage on the boat 80 – 100 miles. Was worth a try…
It was also the time that the lack of a daggerboard began to have its effect on our bodies, or at least that is what I believe to be part of the reason. My bottom was not in a happy place, it dreamed of a bean bags and huge soft fluffy cushions instead it got a well used rowing seat. Despite them being fantastic for the main portion of the journey they had now lost any padding they once had. One very tired and frustrating session I turned to Jan and pointed out the fact that it was a big design fault to have bolts in the cushion of the seat. Livar told a story of a girl going to the doctors and asking why when she poked anywhere on here body it hurt, the doctor looked at her and pointed out that her finger was broken. The moral of the story being that my bum was just very delicate, there were no bolts in the seat but in the middle of the night it kind of made sense.
We made good progress still being affected by eddies and currents a lot more than we had ever imagined however each day seemed to have a good 12 hours in them. It was almost teasing us as to how good it could be when weather, currents, boat and crew fell into place. It was never quite enough to break the glorious 100 mile barrier. Peter had put a great quote up on the wall of the boat before leaving which I will finish with.
“The purpose of a man’s life is to live not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them I shall use my time.”
Despite being on a boat 45ft long and a rigid pattern of rowing or not rowing every 2 hours it is incredibly hard to sum up 3 weeks out in the deep blue Atlantic Ocean.
There has been a definite increase in on board battering and trading mostly involving chocolate bars which have become “hot currency” and are the pinnacle for trading and bet making for the trip and more importantly the 6 Nations’ results..
Now Tim isn’t a fan of Snickers so in his wisdom he was putting his all left overs from each day’s ration pack including his Snickers into the “spares (or left overs) bag”. Pete spotted an opportunity when sifting through the spares bag, and took the Snickers and munched them, which Tim noticed. One day Tim said that as Pete had been eating his Snickers he owed him a Double Decker! Pete was shocked by this and although he went through begrudgingly with this deal was a little upset as he thought “the spares” were fair game; and to ensure any further raids on his rations by Tim (or the other crew members) munched his way through all the remaining goodies in his ration pack over the next 5 minutes
There have been many special moments – when we passed the halfway mark between Barbados and Porto Mogan, witnessed shooting stars and caught, but didn’t land, our first Dorado. We have coped with rogue waves and issues with our power and have been on water rations ever since.
From a rowing perspective the 3rd week meant we hadn’t got as far, or as fast, as we hoped due to broken daggerboards, bad currents, low winds and a natural spectacle of a lightening storm. This was particularly impressive although thoughts of what was higher than an ocean rowing boat in the middle of the ocean with nothing else around did get us thinking about the odds of a direct hit by lightening. Fortunately the storm tracked away from us and we were just left watching the all night light show of forks of lightening came down.
All that is left is more rowing, eating, sleeping and now a new addition more time is being spent by everyone looking after sore bums and other aches and pains
One of the lessons I have learnt from this trip when dealing with oceans is that the unexpected does, and will, happen. We have experienced equipment failures, electrical problems, water shortages, attacks from wildlife and the weather and currents have been much worse than we had hoped and anticipated.
A lot of these problems have been overcome by being well prepared, thinking of back up solutions or working round the problem. In our most recent, our spare daggerboard broke and although we are a bit less stable, and a bit more rocky on board, our speedhas not been as adversely affected as I expected. We only have 940 miles to go before we reach Barbados.
The RNLI respond to calls all year round to problems like the ones we have experienced, and in all conditions. People dont go to sea expecting problems and although they can prepare as best they can, sometimes its just not enough. Equally when the RNLI are called into flooded areas around the UK, the problem scenarios can happen very quickly before people and communities have time to react and prepare for the worst.
So please show your support and donate to the RNLI via the link on my blog (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BennoRawlinson) or Google “benno rawlinson virgin fundraising” or if all else fails just go straight to the RNLI website and make a donation as each donation will make a difference and help save lives in the UK and abroad
There have been slight technical problems as I thought I was sending updates to my blog but they haven’ t arrived so… I have a lot of catching up to do after this update; possibly going to be a bit of a catch up session on everything that has happened so far, will see how it pans out.
So before heading out I heard from a lot of people that flying fish manage to get everywhere and will find the smallest of crevasses to hide in till you find their smelly remains. At the time I didnt really appreciate how true this would be till the other night.
Now, regardless of conditions outside, the cabin has become a cosy, warm and safe haven from the elements and there are some things you just don’t expect. This is definitely one of them.
I had finished my second shift of the night and was curled up in bed in the front cabin fast asleep when I was woken up at about 2.30 by a wet slap on my bac!
I momentarily disregarded it as I wanted to go back to sleep. This was only brief as I then heard what has become a common sound of flapping around and realised there was a flying fish in the cabin! Whilst trying to process this fact, I jumpedup onto to my knees and started trying to grab the wet, smelly, flappy thing with both hands whilst it squirmed around my bed and ultimately “snuggled“ under my pillow and where I managed to grab it and throw it out of the cabin roof hatch which was open.
Meanwhile 2 other crew members had overheard the commotion and were curled up with laughter watching the scene unfold – as a naked man fumbled ed round a small enclosed space on hands and knees after a sliipery invader.
What makes the whole thing so amazing is that this fish had to fly out of the sea, above our cabin and either drop perfectly down through the hole of the cabin roof hatch which is only 2ft by 1ft or bounce off the cover and in through this hole.
It still makes the crew crack up when they hear the story.
I seem to have become a flying fish magnet as on my next shift a number flew over our heads and one bounced off the rear cabin just missed me and landed by my feet!