The Rowing Rollercoaster

Jun 22, 2017

There’s two ways I could write this post: the physical and the emotional. Blimey that all sounds a bit dramatic…..

Right. Point number one. Firstly, I completely underestimated how tricky it would be to move around our beautiful boat, Lion Heart. I had guessed it wouldn’t be plain sailing (excuse the pun) but even the simplest of tasks such as manoeuvring oneself from one end of the boat to the other is a challenge in itself.

With 2 people synchronised on the oars most of the time, moving from end to end means skipping over the oars without disrupting our crew mates, whilst maintaining balance and not crashing into everything.

Then there’s tasks such as pouring boiling water into flasks and dehydrated food packets. Week 1 was a messy experience, whilst week 3 lead to a unfortunate accident where boiling water was spilt over the side of my body, scalding my skin.

Then there’s the business of using ‘the bucket.’ For those that haven’t read my previous post on this subject, the bucket is the on board toilet. The mid blue, sturdy plastic, nautical specific bucket (who knew?) is slightly too small for my womanly backside to comfortable sit on. On a choppy day, I clutch onto the safety straps that run horizontally along the boat and pray both me and the bucket don’t go toppling over.

I mostly use the bucket straight after my rowing shift so I am able to then eat and relax in my 2 hours off, and I do so directly in front of my rowing partner Lesley. Each time, there is a little chuckle from her as she watches me balance on top of this thing. The boys have got it good. They have this wonderful piece of equipment called a penis which they direct into a water bottle then throw the contents over the side. Not a bucket in sight. Jealous!!!

Rowing Rollercoaster

So that’s enough of the toilet talk. Next subject, the emotional rollercoaster…

It absolutely fascinates me how I can go from having a terrible day to having a great day in a matter of hours. Just 3 days ago I was totally hating life. There is no way I would ever pull out of this challenge but I can quite honestly say a few days ago, I was wishing I wasn’t doing it. I couldn’t shake that horrible feeling for 2 days and felt scared I’d feel like that for the remaining 6 weeks.

Fast forward to this morning. It’s 0415 as I write this and I’ve just come off my 2 hour rowing shift. We’ve named the 0100 until 0300 shift the Graveyard Shift. It’s the one that sees most of us fight chronic fatigue, with the crew falling asleep at the oars. HORRIBLE!!!

Rowing Rollercoaster

But tonight something shifted. Charlie, the skipper and I were bombing along the Irish coast at 5 knots (that’s 5 nautical miles per hour – fairly fast for 2 people rowing) with little effort listening to tunes. It wasn’t a cliche magical starry night that you’d imagine would make us feel ‘alive’, just a normal cloudy one but I’m feeling on top form. The word content springs to mind, and the feeling I have in my brain is similar to the one I experience after meditating.

Welcome aboard the rowing rollercoaster.

I know this feeling won’t last for the whole challenge. Yesterday, we stopped for 24 hours in Arklow, Ireland for food, rest and a much needed shower and it’s made a world of difference. Soon we’ll be back to our 2 hour rowing shifts and no doubt I’ll feel like death again. But I now feel safe with the knowledge that bad days won’t last forever and I’ll soon be rewarded with this euphoric feeling once again.

Happy Summer Solstice all xxx

Read more from the Great British Row 2017