The Voyage: Roz Savage
Pushing the Comfort Zone: Lake Taupo Relay Race
15 Feb 2008, Taupo, New Zealand

"Slight change of plan," Sinead said as we sat in a cafe en route from Auckland to Taupo yesterday. I was feeling tired after the AXA speaking tour, so had fallen off the no-sugar wagon and was eating a muffin. "Somebody has had to drop out of the relay team, so we've had to rearrange the runners."

"Errr, yeah?" I said. I'd be training specifically to run the 7.5km home strait. That was what I was prepared for - physically and mentally.

"So now you're going to doing one of the walking legs. You HAVE to walk - running not allowed."

"Oh." I was crestfallen. I'd been psyched for running - and was looking forward to a good workout.

"Or maybe you could do Pete's run? He's got a bad back."

"How far is it?"

"14km. You OK with that?"

Twice as far as I'd trained for. Twice as far as I'd run since last November. Errr.... I looked guiltily at the muffin crumbs on my plate. Guilt can be a powerful motivator.

"Sounds good to me. Sign me up!"

Once we got to the team house, though, I started to wonder if I'd been rather hasty. Who, me? Rash? Sign up to do something without knowing what I was letting myself in for? It wouldn't be the first time....

It now turned out that my 14km leg would start at midnight - not exactly my peak hour. And it would be largely uphill. and probably into a headwind. And, as I was dropped off by car for the start of my run, it started to rain. Oh joy.

Luckily I've been spending my whole week talking to AXA staff about how to tackle seemingly impossible challenges. Keep your eye on the goal. Take it one stroke (or one hill, or one step) at a time. Focus on the process. Believe you can succeed.

And so I coached myself through it. I knew from Sinead's description of the course where the uphills and downhills were, so even though there were no kilometer markers I knew how far and how fast I was going. Mentally I ticked off the kilometers, then counted the strides to the next landmark.

By halfway I knew I was going to make it. The final stretch, described in the course notes as "undulating" seemed more like an uphill to me, but by then I knew I was on the home stretch.

My goal had been to run the whole way (I imagined Rob Hamill's voice in my head, telling me "Just DON'T STOP!") and ideally to finish in under 1:30 hours - Pete's original estimate for his own completion time. I did indeed run the whole way, and finished in 1:20.

OK, so I wasn't breaking any land speed records, but I had run double the distance I had trained for, and had managed not to let the team down. I had, once again, got outside my comfort zone and risen to the challenge, and BOY did it feel good!

And then a vacancy arose for another leg - the final leg, the one that I had originally trained for. That will happen at 5pm this afternoon. And I seem to have accidentally volunteered for that one too....

photo: Team Taupo bringing it home - the team join me (wearing the race number) for the end of the final leg.

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Ocean Rowers Of The World - Unite!
11 Feb 2008, Hamilton, New Zealand

"I would hate to row across an ocean with you, you slave-driver!" I panted as I struggled to keep the pedals of my mountain bike moving up a rough hilly track outside of Hamilton, New Zealand. I was on a mission with Rob Hamill to pick up raw milk for the family breakfast.

It was Sunday morning and between us Rob and I had polished off two bottles of red wine the night before. With that cockiness that comes after too much alcohol, I had signed up to go on the milk run, and was now regretting it.

"You're nearly at the top," he called. "Just DON'T STOP!!!"

I replied with something unrepeatable.

But Rob assures me it was this competitive attitude that helped him and his rowing partner, Phil Stubbs, to win of the first ever Atlantic Rowing Race in 1997. They had no satellite phone, so were unable to get news of how the other crews were getting on - so in order to keep themselves motivated they competed with each other to see who could contribute most to the boat's mileage. You can read the full story of their trailblazing row in Rob's entertaining and well-written book, The Naked Rower - available here.

Agonizing bike ride apart, I had a fantastic time with Rob, his wife Rachel, and their three young sons. We had so much to talk about - on adventure, the environment, healthy eating, self-sufficiency, motivational speaking and book-writing, amongst other things.

But as I battled bravely with hill and hangover, I was really wishing that the conversation had not been quite so well-oiled with New Zealand's finest reds...

{photo: Fin, Rachel, Ivan, Rob, Declan and me]

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Cork On The Ocean
08 Feb 2008, Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

I spent last night with friends on a small island in Auckland Harbour. Waiheke Island is an alternative, green, beach community of about 10,000 souls. This morning at the weekly market I met a few of them, including author Mark Sommerset. He has written a charming children's book called "Cork On The Ocean".

I picked up one of his COTO bookmarks that seemed particularly appropriate. On it is written a short quote from his book:

"Don't be afraid," murmured the maid.
"Be happy the sea isn't flat,
for what is a high without a low?
Where's the adventure in that?"

This is very much on my mind as I prepare for my series of motivational speeches next week - taking my Atlantic experience and relating it to "real" life in a way that people will find useful, no matter what their challenges. My problem is not finding these "lessons learned" - it is narrowing them down to a one-hour presentation.

The ocean is indeed a wonderful teacher, and I loved the way that Mark's story presents this to a children's audience. His story is about going with the flow and making the best of adversity - useful lessons for readers of any age!

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Across the Pacific - the Easy Way
07 Feb 2008, Auckland, New Zealand

This blog post comes to you from sunny Auckland, New Zealand. I am here to do a series of speaking engagements for AXA Insurance - a demanding schedule of 7 presentations in 7 cities in 5 days. Motivational speaking takes a surprising amount of energy, so it will be an intense week - but it also GIVES me a lot of energy, in that kind of positive energy exchange between speaker and audience, so I am really looking forward to it.

Once the speaking tour is over, I will be taking part in the Lake Taupo Relay on the North Island, then heading south with an English friend, Sinead, to explore the South Island. We've booked to do the Routeburn Track - one of New Zealand's classic walks, through spectacular mountain scenery - which will be a real treat. I'll be posting some photos to my blog - so watch this space!

On a totally unrelated subject, here is some good news for the environment - the stunning success of the Irish tax on plastic bags, which within weeks had led to a reduction of 94 percent in the number of bags being used. Other cities, states and countries are now following suit. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a virtually plastic-bag-free world? Let's hope that one day history will record that plastic shopping bags were an unfortunate but mercifully brief episode in human progress.

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