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!