The journey is the journey

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I am not rowing in the 2018 Great Pacific Race. There, I said it. I am not rowing. This year. 

After 24 months of planning, eating, talking, lifting, rowing, waiting, eating, and rowing, and waiting some more, I have pulled out of the GPR. This decision did not come easily, but I do believe in my heart of hearts that it was the best decision for my family and me.

I have learned a tremendous amount these last two years- about ocean rowing, about myself, and about other competitors. I have learned that I fall fast and hard for teammates and I am outrageously loyal- losing past teammates still smarts and I still feel a lot like the 2nd grade kid who isn't picked for the team. I miss weekly Skype sessions with women I thought would be in my life forever.

I have learned that although patience is not my trademark virtue, I am more patient than I gave myself credit for. I trained slowly and steadily after I hurt my shoulder last summer, patient with my body as it healed, and now find I am stronger than I have ever been. I was patient again while I waited 5 months for a follow up MRI to confirm that the benign cyst at the back of my skull had not changed and I am cleared to participate in any activity at all. 

I have learned that for my head to be in the game, my heart has to be first. I was all about this row- for two years. I dragged my friends and family into it, some members more reluctantly than others, but they all came along. Every. One. Of. Them. Through the ups and downs of kids growing up and the ups and downs of my ever-changing team name and roster of teammates, they came along. Every. One. Of. Them. It was hard on all of them at times- my kids often needed me but they granted me the time to prepare. This row is not just about the 2 months at sea, it's about the 2 years of endless hours on the erg, at the gym, on the computer, and out talking to people about the row and about the charity of choice, in my case, Doctors Without Borders. My family and friends were behind me- even when they may have preferred not to be. And I hold that support dear to my heart.

And that is a big part as to why this race is not my race. I was offered a seat on a fabulous 5 person co-ed boat, but I did not take it. The rowers involved were excellent- dedicated and invested. But I did not see myself in that boat. I saw myself in the original 4 woman boat going after the world record. I saw myself in the 3 person boat that I was not selected for. But just getting into any boat was not my goal. Developing a team, connecting with people, being a part of something over time is very important to me. And, it is important to my friends and family- that I am with a team they have come to know and to trust. It's that part of the journey that went missing.

An ocean rower I did not know contacted me right after I posted on Facebook that I would not row. We talked at length about the 2018 Great Pacific Race and my take on it.  She listened to me and then gave me some stellar advice. "Think about buying a boat and making your own team," she said. "Don't lose your dream," she added. The latter is totally out of the question. And the former, well...let's just say it has a lot of promise. 

I dream of the ocean just about every night. Not standing on a beach looking out at the ocean, but, of being out in the middle of it- of feeling the pitch and yaw of it. I shudder at the cold spray, bask in the morning light, and review all the ways I know how to deal with seasickness- all in my dreams. And then I wake up and see my kids. And I understand that although I would have rowed my heart out in that 4 or 3, I have made the exact right decision for where I am right now.

When I get out on that ocean, I will not be able to control it- it will do as it will do. But, right now, on land, I can be as deliberate about my choices as I need to be. My journey to the ocean continues, as I continue to learn about patience, support, teamwork, and love with my family and friends right here.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all of your support. 

Courtney

 

The race to the race

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I know I have been a little quiet on the keyboard lately- been waiting way too much for my taste. So, below are the short and long versions of my future and the Great Pacific Race 2018.

Short Version: I'm out of the race for the time being and I won't know if I'll get the chance to row til April 2, 2018 the earliest, May 15, the latest.

Long Version: Back in October I fell while riding my bike- rainy day, left turn, wet leaf...bike slid right out from under me. Thinking only about being healthy for the race, I went to the ER to make sure I did not have a concussion. Nope. No concussion said the tech, but "The neurosurgeon will be right out to speak with you." Twelve minutes of planning for the worst followed.

No need for that. We soon learned the techs spotted an arachnoid cyst on my brain- "An arachnoid cyst is a small, benign sac that develops between the brain or spinal cord and the arachnoid membrane...An arachnoid cyst is not a brain tumor. It is a benign cyst, usually filled with clear cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and is most often present at birth...It often causes no symptoms at all, but if an arachnoid cyst is going to create symptoms it usually does so early in life."   http://weillcornellbrainandspine.org/condition/arachnoid-cysts-intracranial-cysts

To follow up, I went to a neurologist who confirmed what I already knew- I am in great health and do not demonstrate any evidence of neurological issues. So, my scans went to a neurosurgeon- they deal more with the "hardware", i.e. the actual brain, as opposed to the neurologist who deals more with the software, i.e how the brain functions. The neurosurgeon recommended another scan in 6 months...

As with all medical issues, I decided to get a second opinion...well, not to make this long story too long, I sent my MRI and CT scans to two other neurologists and neurosurgeons. In the end, this cyst, of which I I had no idea even existed in my head before it was incidentally found, which most likely has been with me from birth, and from which I am totally asymptomatic...well, it is requiring me to put my race on hold. In April, six months after my first MRI, I will get another one and the excellent neurosurgeon at Tufts Medical Center will tell me if it has grown or otherwise changed. IF it has not grown or changed and IF there happens to be a seat open on someone else's boat for the Great Pacific Race 2018...I will row. So, I am still training. I am still trying to get my head around rowing across the Pacific Ocean. I am still here.

It is hard. It seems this race has been challenging me from the get-go. For one, my shoulder was injured last summer. But, I learned a little patience and I nursed it back to health. It feels great and I am training well. And, now I have this...the Pacific knows patience is not my best virtue. And, I know the Pacific can't be controlled- I will have to let go and take what it gives me- waves in my face when I want calm and clear, thunderstorms and howling wind when I want quiet. I want to row in the race. I want to know I can row. But I can't know that yet. So, as I told Chris Martin, the Race Director, who put me on the list as "first reserve," I will continue to do what I do well- lift heavy things and daydream about the ocean.

I will also think mightily about the people who inspired me to contemplate this whole ocean row in the first place- Doctors Without Borders and all the people they help all over the world. Everywhere. Everyday. To all who have supported me with financial contributions, I thank you dearly. Please know the 2400 Mile Foundation is more than just this row and that your donations, whether or not I row, will support international refugees and those suffering from natural and human made disasters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back on the water at last

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SO freaking happy to have a blister! Yes, it means I was holding the oar too tightly. Yes, it tingles and is sensitive to the touch. Yes, I am keeping it clean so it doesn't get infected by any funk that lives in the Potomac River. And, YES, it felt great to be back on the water.

Many years ago, a most phenomenal rower, Billy Cox, approached me after my very first regatta- I was sweep rowing (one oar)-and said we need to row together sometime. After totally soaking him practice after practice (learning how to scull- 2 oars), I had to leave crew so I could work and be there for my kids. But, we kept in touch on Facebook. Last year when I announced my plans to participate in the Great Pacific Race, Billy showed up at my initial Happy Hour- full of support and sage advice. He also said if I ever wanted to go out on the water to just let him know- he'd take me out.

I was all set to row this summer...until I hurt my shoulder...but then my shoulder healed and today, after a good 3 or 4 years, I got back in the boat with Billy and we rowed. Now, I am not saying it was all that beautiful- Billy had more than his share of straightening out the boat when I ended up pulling harder on my starboard side, or when I totally missed catching water on my port side...but I rowed and I listened to Billy...relax, cup the oar handles, let the oars find their place in the water, relax...

My technique is a little rough, but it is there. Rowing is in my body- my muscles know what to do. I just have to get my brain out of the way and listen to the water, the oars click in their oarlocks, and to Billy- relax...relax.

I'm back

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Three months to the day I wrote about my uncertain future as an ocean rower, I sat on Rehoboth Beach in Delaware and stared out to sea. I made pro and con lists in the sand. I hemmed and hawed. And then I told my kids my shoulder was well enough to make the row. I asked them what they thought about me still going for it- to row across the Pacific...

"I never thought you would do anything else."

"OK. Of course you will. It will be OK."

My kids were not surprised. 

And so, with the blessings of my orthopaedic doctor, my endurance trainer, and my family...I am so freaking excited to be back in the game!

Every day...

I think about this race every day. Every single day. It is usually the first thing I think about when I wake up and often the last thing before I fall asleep. 

I think about the ocean. The massive expanse of it- the pitch and roll, the benevolence and the violence of it. I think about the smell of it in my nostrils and the sound of the wind and the waves in my ears and rattling through my body. 

I think about getting to a place where the only things that matter are rowing, eating, drinking, and sleeping. Where everything is pared down to what is utterly necessary. I think about letting go of everything else. Decision making is reserved for the best route to take, which knot to employ, how to bear the burden of rowing 12 hours a day with hands shredded by rowing 12 hours a day. 

But, mostly I think about whether or not I will, in fact, row. Will my body heal with enough time to get in the training I need to carry me across an ocean? I have tried to put the goal of rowing on the back burner- to train as I can, to get comfortable with the uncomfortable fact that my future as an ocean rower is still unknown. I am trying to just go about my business. My oldest daughter calls me out. "What are you doing? You talk about rowing all the time. Are you doing this or not?" "I don't know yet, " I answer. She is her mother's daughter and the not knowing doesn't sit well with her either.

I want to row.

Sorry Mom and Dad- I know the thought of me crossing an ocean in a 23 foot boat makes you very uncomfortable. But, the thought of not doing so makes me very uncomfortable! So, I will continue to train as I can, will my shoulder to continue healing, and do what I can to get to California next May to start the Great Pacific Race 2018. I want to row.

Potentially.

I hurt my shoulder and back. Not a lot. Just enough. Just enough that I've had to put the bulk of my training on hold. Just enough to potentially render me off of Daring Greatly in 2018. Potentially. I have to heal and strengthen. I have to wait and see.

My first reaction was to say, "I'm out. I am hurt. I will not jeopardize the chances of DG going for the world record." I immediately started preparing myself for the worst. Either in or out, black or white. This wishy-washy "maybe" did not sit well with me. I figured if there was any chance in hell I could row, it would suit me better to pull out entirely and then start to rebuild. Put me in last place. Put me at the bottom of the mountain. What has to be done is very clear from those vantage points. But let me assume I would heal and be better, and then NOT be...well, that just didn't seem like an option I could sit with. I am training to heal myself. In a few months time, I will reevaluate where my shoulder is and how prepared I feel I am. I am at the bottom of the mountain and I am climbing up. And for those who don't know me, up is my favorite part of hiking.

I tell family, friends, and clients this news. They are all wonderfully supportive, saying exactly the right things. But, I have a hard time hearing them. I know there is a race in 2020. I know my training time and my time away would have been hard on my family. I know they are not disappointed in me and I believe they are proud of me for what I was attempting. And, I thank each and every one for their well wishes. Thing is, I still really want to row. 

And, this is where the revelations begin. In a way, I am already crossing the Pacific. We all are. We all are dealing with what life throws at us. Trying to live with grace and beauty as best we can. Trying to temper the storms. Taking one step at a time, one stroke at a time, just moving in the right direction. I focus on my mental game now that my physical game has been sidetracked some. I sit with it- expecting the unexpected. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable- silly me, I was thinking about cold weather, rogue waves, and bad food. The uncomfortable is not simply physical now- it's mental and it is embodied by the word, "potentially." Potentially out of the race.

The Great Pacific Race is what I have been doing. It has been such a focus this last year- and promised to continue to be. I felt quite unmoored last week when I blew out my shoulder- my focus, my compass, my North Star was suddenly gone. "What the hell am I going to do?" Train as I can when I can? Love on my kids more given some of my newfound free time? Go about my business as if all will be well and I will row? Yes, yes, and yes. I will do all of those things, but my original question was larger than that. It was the $64,000 question- why am I here? How can I help? So I research more on the International Refugee Committee here in Silver Spring and I contemplate how to get involved. And I go for a run and a ride, but I only row for a bit...

And, then yesterday I notice how quiet everything seems. This last week, I have not posted about the race. I have not talked about it much. I have not met someone new who heard about it and wanted to learn more. These talks with perfect strangers have been THE best thing about my participation in the race so far. I have met so many fantastic people- have connected with young and older people of all backgrounds about the craziness of rowing 2400 miles, and, more importantly, about being alive and passionate about SOMETHING. About making a difference. About chasing a dream.

So I do not know if I will row in the 2018 Great Pacific Race. But, I do know this race has already taught me a ton about myself and has helped me get reacquainted with other parts of myself (Did I really think I wasn't a competitive person anymore?). This race has also confirmed just how great my kids are. When they heard I pulled myself out of the race for the time being, they all expressed their sorrow- they know how much I want to do this. True, they all like the idea of having mama around more now, and next June and July...but they were all willing to deal with my absence and help each other out. Damn. 

One step at a time. One stroke at a time. Up the mountain to recovery. Across the ocean. Potentially.

 

 

 

 

It's so hard- and I don't mean just the training

There are days I truly believe the hardest part about this race is what is happening now- the incessant juggling of training and fundraising, of working and family time, of finding a way to make all of this just "fit."

I say I want the rigid schedule of life on board a 23' row boat- 2 hours on, 2 hours off. Everyone has a job to do, everyone does it. There is no need for a ride here or a pick up there. No one has missed the bus, no one forgot an assignment. Clients don't cancel and the greatest worry is the spouse took the wrong car and I have to train without weights and a mat. From here, life on the boat seems predictable - row, eat, sleep, repeat. 

Except, of course, when the weather turns and the swells become impossibly large. Or when food packed "watertight" comes out of storage fully soaked in saltwater. Or when sleep deprivation and monotony threaten to make even the nicest, most even keeled person a short-tempered asshole.  Except, except, except, repeat. And I am just speculating here.

So, yes I try to keep these blogs positive but, there are negatives. And, at times, the negatives seem to have an upper-hand. Am I doing the right thing? Will my desire to be an example to my kids of setting a goal and working one's butt off to achieve it be worth it? Will they "see" that? Or will they just remember that I am on my erg a lot? That I am on my computer too much because I suck at social media and everything takes me too long! Do they know that I miss them already?

I have often said I have little use for the concept of guilt. I feel I do the best I can at what I do- I fail miserably at times, but I usually accept failure if I gave it my best shot. So, I am not sure if what I suffer from some days is guilt- but I think it may be. I feel bad when I am not available to my children when I feel they need me. No, I do not want to be a helicopter mom and no I do not think I am SO important that it is only I who can be there for them- but there are times I WANT to be there, I WANT to listen, I WANT to help- but they never need me at convenient times!! Crisis and deep talks do not happen on schedule! And, as I sit here typing,  hidden away in the corner of my basement, I realize this is an integral part of my training.

You take a Type A person and put her in a boat with 3 other, most likely, Type A people and you add an ocean in for good measure and how much convenience do  you think will be out there? How much control? How much will "go as planned?" So, how I deal now with my wanting to be where I can't be, will surely be put to the test later. Every single thing I do seems to be part of my training. And that is fantastic and utterly exhausting- again, part of the training.

When I first signed up for this race I had to answer a question regarding how competitive I thought I was on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most competitive. I answered a 7. My friends and family laughed. They said I was an 11. In my core I felt I just wanted to do a good job; that I wasn't that competitive anymore. Then I heard that there was going to be a woman's boat going after the world record. I quickly told the race director, Chris, that I was an 8...no 9...hell, an 11. I wanted to be in the fast boat. He put me in it. 

And now I am alternately incredibly jazzed and incredibly overwhelmed. In my heart of hearts, I have faith that I will be an asset to my team. I believe I will row across the Pacific Ocean. But, ask me to boost my social media contacts into quadruple numbers and run a successful crowdfunding campaign and I waiver. How can it be that I find getting enough "likes" more daunting than the idea of rowing 2400 miles across the ocean? How can it take me more time to write a blog (which is actually my favorite part of sitting at my computer) than to put in a full training session? How come this part is so hard for me when I truly believe in what I am doing and why I am doing it? 

So, my friends, I grapple daily with the personal and the practical. Will I ever figure out how to train the hours I need and also sit on the edges of my kids' beds, waiting in the silence of the night, for them to open up and tell me what has put them in such funky moods? Will I be able to raise the money I need to get on the water? Will I find that balance of control and going with the flow?

This race is all about the process and I often say I am more process than goal oriented. That may be true, but let me tell you, I am chest deep in process right now and it is both exhilarating and a royal pain in the ass.

 

 

 

Practice, practice, practice...Safety at Sea

Know your boat. 

Know your crew.

Know your safety equipment. 

And practice, practice, practice. 

After 11 hours of lectures, 5 simulations of a rescue at sea (including a helicopter rescue), and a chance to jump in the pool in full foul weather gear and to get into a life raft, the mantra I took home with me after my weekend at the US Naval Academy was...practice. 

Know how to use your radio. Know what different cloud formations mean. Know how to fix gear, patch a hole, prevent a hole, put out a fire...how to call for help, when to call for help, how to use a flare- and which type to use and when...and practice those skills.

Practice person overboard drills, practice how to alert container ships of your presence, practice securing gear, providing first aid, making knots, finding all the seacocks, reading weather charts, moving on board, wielding a knife...

Now do all of this in the dark. On a boat rocking and rolling in gale force winds. Did I say in the dark?

What an extraordinary weekend. I am both thankful and overwhelmed by the vast amount of information shared at the 2 day Safety at Sea course. Seasickness- take scopolamine, chew ginger, stabalize neck, do something to distract self...Hypothermia- don't massage extremities as it can force cold blood into the core and result in cardiac arrest...Low pressure coming- winds will move counterclockwise toward the pressure's center...and on and on and on.

Stay calm.

Practice.

Practice.

Practice.

Better yet, practice intentionally. Think about what you are doing. Practice it and know it.

Thank you to the US Naval Academy and all the presenters at the seminar. Thank you to the young midshipmen who were there, practicing beside me, and to the retired officers who were there...yes still practicing.

 

 

After 

Dante's newest level of hell

Me: How was it?

Vicki: It was incredibly fun...Harrowing...Difficult.

Me: Would you do it again?

Vicki: I would do it again in a heartbeat.

And so began the question and answer period with Vicki Otmani- one of the two women who now hold the World Record for two North American women rowing across the North Pacific. Yes, TWO women. TWO. I will be in a boat with 3 other women. What a wuss I am!

There were so many highlights to this talk! Like Cyril, Vicki had some excellent practical information and some more profound insights to share with my teammates, Mahee and Emma, and me. Here are some of my favorites.

Try not to get too seasick.

Love this one. In one sentence, Vicki blew all that I had going for me regarding managing seasickness. Yes, I know about ginger chews and accupressure bands, the Dramamine patch and essential peppermint oil, but I was also counting on just watching the horizon- that wonderful fixed line that just doesn't move. Then Vicki said something like, "It was so super foggy when we began, that we could not see anything at all." Bam. They could not even see the horizon. Hoping the ginger and drugs work well.

Start practicing being as uncomfortable as possible all the time and make peace with it.

Getting up in the middle of the night to pee? Do some pull ups or row for an hour. It's cold and wet outside? Take a walk. Tired? Tie knots. Solve word problems. Change the wheels on your rowing seat. Be uncomfortable and be ok with it. Your goal is to increase your pain tolerance. You like control? You are no longer in control. "It's whatever the ocean wants to do...Be OK with (the fact that) something is going to break...the wind is not going to cooperate...LET GO OF WHAT YOU THINK YOUR BREAKING POINT IS."

Regarding nutrition and almonds.

The things us landlubbers NEVER think about! Like how chewing almonds gets taxing. "You don't want to waste the time chewing them." Really? Yes! Go get an almond or 2. Start chewing. Have you ever noticed, before this very moment, how long it takes to eat an almond? Nor had I.

Have a variety of easy to get down foods and some treats to increase morale, and, another hugely important tip- make sure the packaging is easy to get into. Yes, we want the food to be in something water tight, but we also want to be able to open it. 

You are always wet.

"Dante should have talked about it as another level of hell." You will always be wet. Always.  From the waves and the spray. From the condensation from your breath dripping down on you when you are sleeping in the berth. But, you have to find ways to clean the salt water off of you and get as dry as you can if even just for a short time. Biodegradable baby wipes and Gold Bond Powder. Get clean and dry(ish) after every shift. And then, climb back into your wool socks and wool underlayers because you'll not only be wet, you'll be cold and wet, and wool, even wet wool, insulates. That is until nearing Hawaii when it's hot and humid (more wetness, just hot wetness).

Strength, "critters," and batteries

When I first thought about my training for the race, I focused a lot on my leg strength so as to have a strong leg drive day after day. That's all well and good, but what about pulling in a sea anchor with a 50+' tether? A sea anchor is like a parachute under water that holds the boat relatively in place. Vicki and her partner Meg deployed their sea anchor 9 or 10 times! Better yet, they pulled in their sea anchor 9 or 10 times. Given that a sea anchor is used when the weather rots, one can imagine the serious upper body work that was done on Sedna (their boat). Hello midnight pull ups!

It's hard to put the more profound bits Vicki shared with us into words. Most of it came through in her tone- her word choice. She spoke of being "on" all the time; of responding to her environment, keenly aware of the water all the time. She was present- and actually said she welcomed boredom as a chance to just rest her brain. She spoke clearly and concisely about her long hours at the oars. She just had this clarity and sense of purpose. Hard as hell as it might have been, she has a peace about her now. It's just there- about her. Hell, hurricanes, salt water, cravings for potato chips, sharks...thank you Vicki, I am inspired, overwhelmed and, really, really excited!

 

 

 

 

Information

"It was hell."

"From night one til the end."

"There was no pleasure at all."

This is how my conversation with Cyril Derreumaux begins. He was on the world record setting United Nations boat rowing from CA to HI in 2016. 

"Yes."

This is how the conversation ends an hour later when I ask if he would row an ocean again...and in between, he was a veritable fountain of information. I am immensely grateful.

Think about it. If there are 6 changes of rowers a day and each change takes 5 minutes, there are 30 minutes every day the boat is not moving. If those transitions take 10 minutes each, the boat is still for an hour a day. In 24 days, an entire day's worth of rowing is lost. And, this is why I hate word problems. They never come out how you want them to.

So, perhaps one of the best pieces of advice from Cyril was this: focus on your transitions. Get off and get on the oars quickly. Know what you need to have with you when it's your turn and be ready: water bottle with powdered supplement, sunblock, foul weather gear, hat...all seems straightforward now but it sounds like it can get pretty messy when you're sleep deprived as hell and it is 2:00 am and raining to beat the band.

So, then Cyril throws out another word problem. Great. Say you row 2.5 knots and hour. You row 25 miles in 10 hours and approximately 50 miles in a day. But, what happens when Neptune is pissed (he didn't actually cite Neptune- but that's what I imagined) and you only row 25 miles that day. Life sucks. Morale goes down. Shit, we're never going to make it. But, alas, the next day you are back in the god's favor and the water is calm, the breeze in your face (a good thing when rowing) and, hot damn, the crew rows 75 miles! Woot Woot! We got this! 

Mileage is going to fluctuate. It is. So instead of focusing on how many miles you cover in any one day, focus instead on bringing the best you can to your shift...every. time. you. sit. at. the. oars. Every time. 

Which leads us to training. Pull ups anyone? 5...10...20...30?! Push ups? Throw a clap in with each one. 2:00 minute split time for 500m? 1000m? 1 hour! 2 hours! (split time is the time it takes to row 500 m). A mix of cardio, strength, and endurance training- to the Nth degree.

And, there was more and more information. Wonderful pages full of notes to review and study. Notes on hygiene. Notes on nutrition. When and how to wash this; when and how to eat that. And don't forget about monitoring fluid input...and output. Or, dealing with seasickness and constipation and fever and...and...and.

For now, 15 months before the row, Cyril leaves me with these thoughts.

"Remove any laziness." 

"Discipline as a training."

And I thought word problems were hard.

Many thanks to Cyril for his time and willingness to share so much about his race prep and time on the water. 

To Dare Greatly

There are many days I sit on my rowing machine and visualize, to the best of my ability, what it will be like to row on the ocean. Not what it will be like to row across the ocean- but rather, just what it will feel like to be sitting just a foot or 2 above water level, looking out across the expanse of water, and rowing. Rowing with the waves and swells and rowing against them. Some days I try to feel the wind pushing at my back; others with the wind in my face. Most days I have focus and calm- regardless of how hard I work.

The last two weeks were nothing like this. Isn't is so hard sometimes to juggle all that is vying for one's time? The balls all just fall down and for awhile it seems I can't do anything well at all. I just chase the balls, lean over, pick one or two up, drop one or two in doing so, and then start picking them up again. I try to embrace and neutralize this frustration, knowing damn well it most likely will come to me when I am on the water in some form or another, and am slowly getting better at doing so.

Then there are the times I get paralyzed from the realization that I will miss an entire swim season for my girls and 2+ months of the summer before my son moves out to college. I will miss after dinner conversations (the ultimate bonding time for my family), piano practice, and baking bread and sweets with everyone. I will miss my family. I will not be there for the tears that will fall and the smiles that will beam. And, sometimes this kills me. It guts me.

My children put on such brave faces. They support me and tell me, yes, they will miss me, but they know this is something I want badly. And I hug them and love them for it. I tell them they too must go after what they want. I tell them I will miss them fiercely when their dreams take them away from me- but I swear to them, and to myself, that I will not get in their way. I will support them.

When I was 20 years old, I moved to Greece. Many people asked me what my parents had to say about it. I told them I hadn't asked them if I could go- I just told them I was going. But, my mom told me she was with me on the decision. She had my back. I could come home if it didn't work out. She didn't give me permission- I had already made the decision. But she did give me support. Now, with this row, well, again, I didn't ask her for permission. And, I know this is really hard for her. She is worried and I feel horribly for making this hard on her. But, she supports me. She has my back. 

So, again, I look at this quote above. I think about rowing across the Pacific and the goal of breaking the world record for a 4 woman trans Pacific row...and I want to row this ocean. And, I really want to break this record. And, I realize that I have already begun to dare greatly. I am in the arena. And my children, my family- I believe they too are in the arena. They could have been unsupportive of my row- but they are not. They are strong and valiant- even more so than me at times. It is my quest to row. My dream. And they are being pulled along for the ride. But they are going along with such grace and understanding it is they who are triumphant.

 

 

Sisters of the sea

That is how one of my new crew mates signed off on a note to me- she called us sisters of the sea. This, even after we realized I am old enough to be her mother (I am, actually, as old as her mother!). This, even though we are from different countries and we have different first languages. This, even before she knew pretty much anything about me other than my age, my home land, and that I want to row across the Pacific...

My other crew mate is full of questions: Why do I want to row? What am I afraid of? How am I training? She walked around her home picking up books (and her cat!) to show titles to read and even a picture of what "pizza bum" looks like- a horrible rash that can happen to one's butt from sitting in salt water logged clothes and rowing for hours on end. 

These are two of the three women I will spend 2+ moths with. Two months in tight quarters, dealing with sleep deprivation, often rough weather conditions, and physical and mental exhaustion. 

So, we talked about our fears (or lack there of- we seem to be pretty no-nonsense; goal is to keep a level head and take it one step at a time), our motivations, our goal (break the record), and even our musical taste (so important!). And, on my prompt, we talked about our ages. I have 20+ years on them. I wanted them to know I could pull my weight- that my age would be a benefit not a disadvantage. "No problem," they said. "Great."

But, then I had to check myself. Did I have a problem with their ages? How did I really feel about women in their late 20s taking the time and putting forth the energy, and the money, to take on such an adventure? What experiences will they have to call upon when shit hits the fan out there and they need bolstering?

And, I realized, I think it's freaking awesome they are doing this- at 27 and 28 they are defying convention and doing something most just don't do- kind of like how I am doing the same at 47. They are doing. Taking who they are and where they have come from and creating who they will be...kind of, just like, me. Twenty years difference, but not much different at all.

So, to my new found sisters, I have new books to read, a song list to add my favs to, and a feeling of hope.

This is good.

The same, but different...but the same

I ran across this picture of myself the other day and I keep looking at it. I am amazed at how different I look now and even more amazed at how much I look exactly the same

It's my hands that I keep looking at. They are so relaxed, but so at the ready. I half expect to see them open up into a, "What?" kind of gesture; palms turned slightly up. I also notice my feet- planted, barefoot then as now, firm to the ground, weight even, sure footed.

My expression though? Tough one. Maybe lingering signs of a recent argument with my brother Jonathan. Maybe a hint of disappointment. But, nevertheless, there is a look that says I am still going to do exactly what I had planned prior to whatever stopped me and got me to sit on these steps. Maybe someone told me I couldn't do something. Maybe I was just thinking, "OK, go ahead and think that." And, I knew better. 

This girl. Feet firmly but lightly on the ground. Hands relaxed but at the ready. Lips set, but not in a tense straight line. Eyebrows gently knit in concentration. I'm taking her with me across the ocean- she seems to know what she's doing. Oh so different and oh so the same.

Food and Drink

I have not had an alcoholic drink in a few months. This isn't huge news because, a few exceptions aside (Denmark!), I have never been that much of a drinker. But now? A few sips off the top of my husband's or my friend's drink, yes- but not a whole beer, a whole cocktail, an entire glass of wine. I did not plan to become a teetotaler. It just happened.

My body is changing with this training. I am realizing that I just don't want to eat or drink anything that doesn't fuel me and doesn't help me. Well, let me clarify that. Sometimes I want to eat something that just tastes damn good even if it isn't going to help me all that much nutritionally...until I do eat it and I end up feeling like crap the next morning. My body seems to have very little patience with the whims of my fancy-and it is taking my head some time to deal with that.

Yesterday, a friend told me that after work she had to stop by a French bakery to find some emotional support . Now, although I usually have a pretty clean diet, I have been known to partake in finding emotional support via a nice dark chocolate bar (or 2...), some homemade goodies, or even the old stand-by- Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey or Mint Chocolate Cookie. Thing is, lately, this isn't working that well. It's hard to find a spot of peace in a pint of ice cream when the ice cream itself is making you feel crappy. The good news to this is I will have to seek healthier avenues to soothe the wounds suffered by my ego, my soul, and my body. The bad news to this is the same- I will have to find other avenues for solace. I say bad news, but it really isn't. This race is one again upending how I "do things"- how I have lived my life. Getting a grip on emotional eating is great. But, it is also true, that with any change- even change for the better- there is a period of having to let go of what was and accept and embrace what is. I am not sure yet what will replace my comfort foods- what else will give me that outlet, that feeling of, "what the heck," that feeling of reprieve...

Maybe something physical- but tough when already physically spent. Maybe reading or sewing- but tough as it requires me to think! Maybe meditating- but tough as I like to communal aspect of ice-cream eating. Don't laugh- but right now I think I'm stuck doing jigsaw puzzles!

That all said, I do not feel rigid. I do not feel inside like one of "those" people who don't eat this and that, don't drink, don't stay up late...but I can see how someone else may see me that way. Sometimes, as I shake my head, "No," as Jay, my favorite bartender, looks at me with raised eyebrows (his signal for, "Can I make you a drink?") I feel a little odd. Seems a little funny that that is where I draw my line in the sand. Crossing the Pacific? OK. Staying out late and indulging- not now. 

Slowly my mind and body are merging- Descartes be damned. What I crave- nutritionally- is what my body needs. For someone who has been physically active her whole life, who has a pretty keen awareness of her body and how it functions, and who eats, by and large, well...it has surprised me how much more active and aware I have become. This journey is way more than crossing an ocean.