The Voyage: Roz Savage
Keoghan's Heroes
19 Feb 2008, Rolleston, Christchurch, New Zealand

Last year Phil Keoghan, a New Zealander who now works as a TV presenter in the US, did a nice little feature about a certain female solo ocean rower (click here to watch it on YouTube). He and I have stayed in touch ever since, particularly regarding a pet project of his to make a TV piece about the North Pacific Garbage Patch, a pet topic of mine.

So when he heard I was coming to New Zealand, he suggested I drop in on his parents. They run a small but very lovely B&B outside of Christchurch.

I arrived here yesterday after a meeting in Christchurch with Renzie Hanham, a sporting coach who focuses primarily on the mindset needed for success. His company, Gazing Performance, helped me out with my preparations for the Atlantic and yesterday's session was a useful refresher course.

There was a particularly useful exercise we did that I would like to share, in case it resonates with anybody reading this. I suppose you could call it a clash of priorities - but this clash is taking place within one person's mind, and can lead to feelings of conflict and stress.

Do you ever feel like you are being held back from being all that you could be, and you can't figure out why? It could be that you have another goal that clashes with the one you think you are trying to achieve.

An example that Renzie gave was of a very talented athlete who also had a strong desire to be liked. Anyone who is at the top of their field runs the risk of being DISliked, at least by their competitors, so she also had a conflict of desires that led to problems - and could even have led to her failing to reach her potential because she didn't want to accept that we can't necessarily be successful AND popular, all of the time.

And here is my example: I feel I should try to be perfect, yet one of my goals is to be at peace. NOBODY is perfect, so while I strive for perfection I can never be at peace. This may sound obvious, but for me it was a dazzling insight. I either need to accept that I will never be perfect - or face an ongoing tension over my imperfections.

Sometimes we need someone else to hold up a mirror so we can see where we're going astray. Thanks, Renzie.

And thanks also to Beth and John Keoghan for their hospitality at the Garden View. Dinnner last night (corned beef and home-grown veg) was delicious - and all the better for being fresh from the garden.

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Lake Taupo: Final Result
16 Feb 2008, Lake Taupo. New Zealand

Despite a full-on struggle into a headwind and legs that felt like lead after the night's exertions, I just about survived the final stage of the Lake Taupo Relay. With star performances all round, the team smashed last year's team best to come home in a time of 18 hours and 57 minutes. Well done, guys!

A huge thanks to all the Dirty Tricksters: Mitch, Andy, Sinead, Pete, Carolyn, Pam, Fee, Shelia, Helen, Harvey, Finn, Richard, Robyn, Jacqui - and Bruce the team mascot. Thanks for a great time.

photo: Sinead joins me for the final yards.

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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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