2018, the year I row across the Pacific, fulfill an idea that has consumed my thoughts for a few years and hopefully walk (row?) away with a Guinness World Record at the end of it.
Rowing an Ocean is an odd thing. You train mentally and physically as hard as you can, read and watch as many books and documentaries on previous crossings as possible but you'll only ever realise what you've signed up for when you are out in that ocean. Sleep deprived from rowing 2-hour shifts 24/7, experiencing the terrifying waves that others have told you about, witnessing the sun rise and set over the horizon that never changes and going through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. Most crews plan and train for a crossing two to three years in advance. I got offered the chance to take the journey of a lifetime 11 months out from the start line and what a journey it has been! Let me explain...
There has been numerous occasions over the past few months where a little voice has crept into my head and told me maybe I should quit. Family who have always been supportive started to suggest I should set a deadline to decide if I was going to row or not, people suggested I should postpone my entry to the 2020 Great Pacific Race and I began to question whether the enormity of this adventure was just too much in the space of time I had. The thing is, I don't like quitting. I like it even less when someone tells me I can't do something. Quitting just wasn't an option.
I was recruited into the row at the beginning of August 2017 by another rower. I'd responded to an advert, researched the race and decided it was finally time to live what I'd been dreaming about. We met, we chatted and we shared the sames dreams. Break the current world record, inspire women that they can do anything they want, raise considerable amounts of money and awareness for our causes and do something amazing. Something that only two other female 4x boats have done. Ever. I took up rowing, I bought a row erg for my house so I could train at all hours of the day, and I began to train to harder than i'd ever trained before. We recruited the final rower for the crew after a long process of speaking to a lot of inspirational women who wanted the last seat, and everything seemed great. Then I received a short call out of the blue to inform me that the rower who had initially recruited me and our latest recruit were stepping away from me (and our 3rd rower) as they didn't think we were capable of breaking the world record and therefore didn't want us in their boat. Short, sweet and no real explanation. Having never been in a boat with either of them or ever asked for my training stats, and only having spoken to the latest recruit when we interviewed the week previously, it came as bit of a surprise. But apparently my lack of rowing experience was the decider and we were unceremoniously turfed out of the crew.
Left to fend as a duo I found myself eight months from the start line having paid my race entry non-refundable deposit without a full crew and a step backwards from where we had been a week earlier. No sponsors are interested in you without a full crew. I didn't want to ask friends and family for sponsorship in case everything fell apart. We went back to a few of the amazing women we had spoken to previously to see if they still wanted to row, all of whom declined due to having moved on with their own future adventure plans. Over the next few weeks we advertised and spoke to so so many women. I was taken back by the number of women who responded and some of the previous adventures they had been on. The crew for the final two seats was almost filled a number of times, until something would come up and cause that person to drop out. It felt like every day was a constant hurdle, time was running out and the plan was falling apart.
When I thought things couldn't get any worse I suddenly found myself the sole crew member. Circumstances out of anyones control meant that my remaining crew member had to step away from the boat, and I lost the person who I shared so much of this journey with and really respected. Six months out from the start line I had no crew and no sponsorship. A panicked call to the race director convinced me now was still not the time to quit or be disheartened (thanks Chris Martin!!) and I put all my efforts into one final search for a crew. By this stage I was probably more determined than ever to be on that start line and prove that not only could I get there, I was also mentally and physically ready and able to break the world record. This is still the thing that drives me through this journey and never makes me consider quitting, that want to prove to myself that when others doubt you to not listen, believe in yourself and just keep going. I'm not afraid of failing and I know there is every chance we might not get that record. But i'm not prepared to not try because people doubted my ability.
As happens in life, when I was at the point of wondering if I could row the Pacific alone three amazing women turned up amongst the long list of women who were still inquiring about the row. Within the first two minutes of speaking to each of them I knew they were the right crew for the boat. All have impressive adventure resumes, Megan has mountaineered across the globe and climbed some of the tallest peaks in the world, Siriol recently hiked the 1200 miles perimeter of Wales alone and Andrea has sailed around the world, with more than 30,000 miles at sea under her belt. Are they all rowers? No. Do I think that's important? No. Do people who currently hold WR's in Ocean Rowing think being a good flatwater rower is important? No. What's important is having a crew who are mentally strong enough to cope with the challenge, physically strong enough that they can row on the oars for 12 hours a day giving all the can and above all, three other people that I want to spend 50 days with in a small 25ft space with no way off!
With 5 months to go it feels like we have been a full crew for months. Sponsorship is beginning to roll in from companies (big thank you to all the companies who have jumped on board and are backing our adventure so far), training is going well and we hope to have all our compulsory hours as a crew in our boat signed off by the end of January (without these we aren't allowed to race!). What have I learnt so far? Never quit, never give up, never doubt yourself. If I can just inspire a few other people to not give up on their adventure dreams when the going gets tough then I feel like I have accomplished something. What are my aims? Still the same as they always were... Win the Great Pacific Race and break the WR, inspire other women that they can do anything they want, raise a significant amount of awareness and money for our nominated causes and walk away from the Pacific knowing that whatever the outcome I gave it my all and have one hell of a story to tell. The Pacific Terrific Crew will put up one good fight on the Pacific and we are thrilled to have another Female boat to race against. The race is on...!!
Want to follow the rest of our journey to the start line? Head over to PacificTerrific.com to find out all about our row or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.