06 Apr 2005, Kensington
Diana Hoff is the only British woman to do it solo. Her husband has done it twice. Her daughter tried to do it, but had to be rescued after two weeks. Do what?
Row the Atlantic, of course.
Fresh (or distinctly otherwise) from my latest round of torture, I mean testing, with the sports science lab in Hatfield, I hastened to London to meet the Hoff family on the eve of departure by the two senior Hoffs to compete in the Marathon des Sables.
After this and my meeting with Rosie Stancer yesterday, I'm feeling much more informed about the unique challenges and rewards facing endurance athletes, and well and truly inspired to persevere in my endeavours to join their ranks.
06 Apr 2005, Essex
Rosie Stancer, polar explorer, is a cool lady and a wonderfully warm human being. I was introduced to her by a mutual friend, and over dinner at her house last night subjected her to an interrogation about how to prepare for extreme physical endeavour.
It's been invaluable to learn from someone of her experience, who has proved that when it comes to feats of endurance physical size is less important than an indomitable will to succeed.
02 Apr 2005, Oxon/Devon/Hampshire/London/Leeds
I now have a boat, a home for the summer, two new sponsorship deals, a radio interview, and a lot of new friends. It's been a good week.
Things are hotting up as I dash around the country trying to tie off old loose ends and start new balls rolling in the last few days before I leave for Cape Verde and my sailing trip on Steamy Windows.
Quick summary of the last week:
Monday - met Damian West, top bloke and 2001 Atlantic Rowing Race veteran. Guided tour of his boat, and loads of helpful advice and contacts. Great dinner with him and his fiancee Harriet, but stayed up too late and drank too much damson gin.
Tuesday - Damian/damson hangover. Forced self to go for run to sweat it out. Meeting with Jill White of Yukon Tourism to line up dog-mushing experience in Canada post-row. Spent evening in Tetbury with Womad Stevie, who transfused me 1000 songs for my new iPod.
Wednesday - down to Devon for photo session on board Solo with Mick Dawson of Woodvale, to get pics to go with forthcoming mag interview. On to Exmouth for long chat with Justin Adkin of Rowsell and Adkin boatbuilders re the structural work to be done on Solo while I'm away. R and A built the hull of Solo and are THE ocean-rowing boat specialists, and Justin is also an entrant in this year's race, so he's quite the guru. Then on to Portsmouth to stay with Dave and Jane of Polaris fame...
Thursday - up at crack of dawn for 7.30 a.m. interview with Julian Clegg at BBC Radio Solent. I'll be a regular guest on the morning show - next broadcast will be via satphone from Steamy Windows somewhere between the Azores and England, on 11th May. Then a meeting with Furneaux Riddall (watermaker sponsor) in Portsmouth and on to Emsworth for a highly enjoyable meeting with James Hewitt of Tacktick - see the Sponsors page for the outcome. Then quick bit of househunting, resulting in finding my PERFECT home for the summer - a gorgeous old cottage in the heart of the village. Take a look! Quick drinkie with Owain Evans, father of Russ, the skipper of Steamy Windows, to pick up a vital part for the generator, then on to London and the Ocean Rowing Society HQ in Camden...
Friday - meetings in the City to plan a business/charity breakfast, and to see various potential sponsors, then off to new Apple superstore in Regent Street to upgrade my Powerbook so AT LAST it will speak to my iPod... then on to an evening seminar at the ORS to glean yet more information from Those Who Have Gone Before.
Saturday - drive back to Leeds, and contemplate pile of stuff to be sorted and packed ready to move to Emsworth next week. Decide it's all too much for now, and collapse in a heap.
Tomorrow's another day, but for now I think I deserve to sit down and enjoy a small glass of wine and a big sense of accomplishment.
31 Mar 2005, Stratton Audley
"Friend of mine rowed across the Atlantic." My lunch companion leaned conspiratorially across the white linen tablecloth at the National Liberal Club. "Hasn't worked since." And he sat back with a told-you-so look on his face.
So when I rang Damian West, I was half-expecting to find a traumatised recluse, no longer able to relate to the real world. Instead I got a very personable and cheerful-sounding individual. When I told him about my misconception he laughed.
"Yes, M likes to believe that nobody could row across the Atlantic and come back normal. I do work - I just don't put on a suit and tie and get on a commuter train."
It reminded me how I used to filter reality - probably still do. But I used to filter in a destructive way - I'd ignore all the good bits and focus on the negative, and it made me very unhappy. In appraisals from my bosses, I could hear only criticism, never praise, and believing that I was hopeless at my job, I duly lived down to my expectations.
Now I focus on the positive, interpreting everything in the best possible light, and the world seems a much better place. No doubt it's exactly the same world that it was before - it's just that my perception of it has changed.
Objective reality? Who needs it? I'll stick to my optimistic view of life and of myself, and hope that it continues to live UP to my expectations.