#AskHenry

#AskHenry

The first of a number of insights from one of Gavan's mentors, Henry Lupton. Here Henry explains just what the VMG is on the tracket app when following Gavan.

The red line is the rhumb line or shortest distance from start to finish. It is curved because, like airline routes, the shortest distance is a curve northwards (in the northern hemisphere) and it's shown on a two dimensional map or chart.  They go at this time of the year because the sea temperature has dropped below 26 degrees which is the minimum needed for a hurricane to form. They go from the canaries because the prevailing wind is NE in this area just as it is SW around Ireland. The prevailing wind or Trade Winds have been used since Colombus went from La Gomera because most boats can't go directly into the wind.

 


The reason they have gone south of the shortest line is that over the years it has been shown where the highest probability of favourable wind blows in a given area in the ocean. Gavan has chosen a strategy to go quite far South. He is better to go wide early on and then close in on the end point later.


The VMG figure on the leaderboard is Velocity Made Good. This can be confusing.  It is not actual boat speed. If the end point is west of him and he is travelling south west then only part of his boat speed is in direction directly towards the finish. So he could be doing 4 knots boat speed south west but his VMG might be 2.5kts towards the ultimate endpoint.  If he was doing 10knots towards Africa he would have a VMG of -10kts. So the speed only equals VGM if he is pointing directly at the end point.

 

Peak Dynamics Interview

Peak Dynamics Interview

Gavan Hennigan in conversation with Sandy Loder, Director of Peak Dynamics

This article was originally published on the Peak Dynamics website http://bit.ly/rowgavrowPD on November 30th.

Gavan is currently undertaking a 5,000km solo row across the Atlantic Ocean in December. It will be yet another experience that will test him to the limit, requiring vast reserves of mental and physical strength. Gavan is a highly qualified commercial diver who has spent a large part of the past ten years either working 8 hour days on the sea floor in the North Sea oil fields or sitting in a decompression chamber on a ship recovering before his next shift. This routine goes on for three weeks at a time.

It is hard to square up this alpha male image with the backstory of his life so far. The son of an alcoholic father, Gavan’s teenage years were marked by serious alcohol and drug abuse that had kicked in by the time he turned 16.

“Pretty much as soon as I started drinking alcohol, initially to get more confidence, it was heavy bingeing from day one. The first night I drank heavily, I blacked out and it went on from there.”

Deeply unhappy as a teenager, he had a tumultuous time growing up with his father and was struggling to cope with the realisation that he was gay.

“It was a struggle to reveal my true feelings for sure and I was just a raging, angry mess.”

Gavan, now 35, is now taking part in the world’s toughest rowing race, rowing solo from La Gomera to the Antigua. The race started on 14th December and could take him up to three months to complete.

It is a far cry from those wayward teenage years.

“After I got clean in my early 20s, I started surfing and snowboarding and that developed into doing more extreme sports.”

I first met Gavan in March 2016 at GSK in West London where we were doing some cognitive assessments on him. He had just finished second in the Yukon Arctic Ultra and was about to depart on a solo traverse of Lake Baikal in Siberia - a 700km trek which he completed in just 17 days.

What was your first extreme adventure or race?

My first race was over 350 miles in the ‘6633 Arctic Ultra’ (@6633ArcticUltra), which they say is one of the toughest, coldest, windiest ultra-distance footraces on the planet. It has an extremely low completion rate. In its 8-year history, only 20 people, including myself have finished it. I completed it in 7 ½ days, pulling all my food and clothing in a pulk behind me.

Apart from the freezing conditions, what makes the 6633 race so tough are the long straight icy roads. The same roads you see on Ice Road Truckers. It was a real mental race due to the monotony.

How do you deal with this monotony?

I break the race down into blocks. In this case, each stage was about 50 miles long, which took me about 12 hours to complete. So I decided to stop every 2 hours. At each break, I would give myself a job to do – make a meal or eat a particular bit of food or do my personal ablutions.

Thinking ahead to this row. One of my biggest fears is the monotony. The storms do not worry me as much as the quiet days when the monotony could set in and my mind could drift off the race. I know once I am in it (the race), I am in it. I don’t give myself a choice. I know I will change and adapt over the first week of the race. That is the person that will get across the Atlantic and not the person sitting here talking to you.

Where does your mind go on these races?

I listen to music and podcasts, but I also go off into a fantasy world. I have a lot of opportunities to think about things but then I do come back and stay focused on what I am meant to be doing. It is definitely a real battle.

As you and I have discussed together over the past few months in preparation for the row, I will try not to let my head go too far ahead from the present. When I start to think how far it is to go or how long I have left, I start to lose my mind and focus. Keeping my mind and body in the same place, in the present, is the real challenge. It is natural to want to get out of there when on these extreme adventures.

How did you come to doing your first extreme adventure?

I had been doing a lot of mountaineering and snowboard expeditions on top of the diving which was my everyday job. When it came to the 6633 Arctic Ultra, I decided to stretch myself and have a go at one of the longest and toughest footraces in the world without any build-up races. Sitting in my decompression chamber, I read a Red Bull article (@RedBullUK) about the race. The cold really appealed to me. I just decided I was going to sign up for it. People say commercial diving is a tough job, but I wanted to try and test myself with something else. The Arctic Ultra was a test. They told me that its biggest challenge was the mental hardship. This appealed to me and that is why I went on to do the Yukon race and Siberia and now the Atlantic.

What drives you on in these races and adventures?

There is probably a bit more depth to this question. When I look back at my past and where I have come from with regards to drug and alcohol addiction, there is definitely a hint of going from one extreme to the other. Going from an underachieving low self-esteem teenager, I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do this stuff. I want to embrace these new challenges. I have the belief that I can complete something like this solo row. I am now able to take on these huge projects and organise them, prepare for them and complete them. Just believing I am tough enough to finish them is something really important to me.

Why do you do it?

Success – everybody has his or her version of success in their lives. The whole monetary and material gain to me is not success but for others it is. Success to me is being able to do things which I frankly see are bigger than myself. Before I enter this rowing race, I did not think it was possible. It is only through the preparing for it and training for it that I have had the belief I can do it. Taking on big things.

So you are coming to the end of all your preparation and training for the Talisker Atlantic Challenge (@TaliskerRace)You will row more than 3000 nautical miles across the world’s second largest ocean, the Atlantic, leaving La Gomera and heading west to Antigua. Once you exit the safety of the La Gomera’s harbour, you will be on your own on the vast ocean and at the mercy of the elements. So how do you prepare for your first ever rowing race?

Since Siberia in March, I have used most of my life savings to buy a race boat. I have had to learn so many new things. I am not a sailor. I am not a rower. I have limited engineering and technical knowledge. The boat has a lot of electricals on it. The preparation has been a huge learning curve, which I have really enjoyed.

Having never rowed an ocean, it is going into the unknown and doing what I can to learn as much about the boat as I can. Learning about the equipment; how to repair stuff; how to trouble shoot equipment, buying spares and prepping all the kit on board.

Have you ever entered a rowing race?

No, this is my first rowing race!

What excites you about this race?

Just getting away onto the ocean, being on my own. Once I am out there, there is no turning back. I will have to deal with what comes my way, to get to the other side of the Atlantic. What excites me is being cast into that arena and I am going to have to excel. I will be forced to cope and that is what happened when I went to Siberia. I was in the thick of it on Lake Baikal with a lot of decision-making, exactly what you had prepared me for. I do not feel I am pushed in my normal environment in the way I am out there on my own. I believe I come into my own when taking part in these adventures. The ocean, the storms excite me, the whole wildlife that I could potentially see, the sunrises, the sunsets. Just becoming really attuned to the ocean environment.

What are you nervous about this race?

Being a couple of days out into the ocean and realising I have forgotten something. The lists have been endless. I have tried to get my head around everything that I might need for this challenge. I am worried about something going wrong with the equipment; not completing the race. That is a bit irrational, however. I have tried to leave no stone unturned. Henry, my technical adviser, has even designed an emergency rudder plan for me, which can be made from various bits of equipment I have on board.

Why have you used Peak Dynamics?

Initially, I found your decision-making assessment fascinating. I found it had an uncanny resemblance to myself. I enjoyed the evaluation and your help planning a performance strategy for me. I am aware of my emotions and mental state. I do question myself and my behaviours quite a lot of the time. The support that you gave me when I was in Siberia, I found incredibly grounding. That is why I want you to be the rock for me when I cross the Atlantic. Between your expertise and your military background, there are a lot of practical solutions to what I am doing.

What has been your typical day preparing for this race?

5.00am                              Wake Up

5.30am                              Get on Concept 2 rowing machine for 2 hours

7.30am                              Breakfast and wash

9.00am                              Admin for such as social media, ordering equipment, sorting kit

11.00am                            Head to the boat and do some work on it such as the communications

12.30pm                            Lunch down at the harbour

2.00pm                              Go for a 2-hour row out on the Atlantic

4.00pm                              Wash down and tidy up the boat

5.00pm                              Go to the gym to do a strength and conditioning session

7.00pm                              Dinner

8.00pm                              Fall into bed

What lessons did you learn from the Yukon?

I know I can push myself a lot more than I think I can. There is a lot more in my tank. I do not need a lot of sleep. I feel the more fatigued and tired I get, the more I enjoy the experience. The deeper I get into it, the more I savour it. Typically, around day 4 and day 5. After I get used to the sleep deprivation, I get into a routine.

What lessons did you learn from Siberia?

The traverse of Lake Baikal was more of a day to day routine due to the limited daylight hours. Routine was hugely important and one that I stuck to. I could be mindless in that routine. The alarm went off at 4am. I would then light the stove to melt the snow for cooking and drinking. I had the tent down and packed by 6.30am just as the sun rose. It was like that every morning. During the day, I ran or walked depending on the conditions. In the evening, for the last hour or two, I was scanning the horizon looking for a suitable campsite. When I had found somewhere suitable, I had the tent up and shovelled some ice and snow next to the tent ready for the next morning’s cooking. I was fed and watered by 8pm and then pretty well ready to go to sleep. There were some days when I barely did 10 miles in 10 hours, whereas when the weather was good, I was doing about 40 miles on an average day.

The row will be all about adaptability as there are a whole load more of uncontrollables.

What are your future ambitions?

I would like to row my boat back from New York to my home in Ireland. The Pacific is appealing. On land, I would love to do the Yukon Arctic Ultra race again. I would love to do the North Pole in the winter, but I think North Pole adventures are probably over.

What can we all learn from what you are doing?

I had such fear over the basics of life and a really low self-esteem when I was younger. What I have shown to myself and hopefully others is that you can come from a pretty bleak and desperate situation and actually achieve some amazing things such as these big adventures I am now doing. You just need to have the commitment and drive. In the past, that would not have been my natural state. I was not born an adventurer or explorer. I am really keen to use my profile to help raise awareness on mental health issues in young people today.

What message would you have for a 16-year-old Gavan Hennigan now?

Whatever is going through your head – don’t believe it. Don’t define yourself by what you think of yourself now. Your horizon is so much bigger than you think it is. You can literally go out into the world and do anything you want, whether that is a college degree or a sporting success. There is a massive menu of things you can choose to do.

How is a teenager going to do that?

You need a plan, but above all else, you need the passion and drive. You need a real want to do it.

Thank you, Gavan. If somebody wants to follow you in this race, where should they look?

Go to my website: http://www.gavanhennigan.com. I also have a twitter account @soulogav

If you are interested in using our proven Olympic Gold-Medalling winning 'What It Takes To Win' strategy for yourself, your business or any elite athletes, then please contact us.

This article was originally published on the Peak Dynamics website http://bit.ly/rowgavrowPD on November 30th.

#ROWGAVROW1

#ROWGAVROW1

The first of a series of updates by Kevin Thornton on the progress of Gavan as he solo rows his way across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

Who needs an alarm clock when a pod of dolphins decide to swing by & have a play with Doireann.”

After an epic past 30 hours of rowing in high seas, Gavan was in fine form this morning. Not only had he overcome his biggest test on this epic challenge, his beloved Connacht Rugby had scored a last minute try to defeat Wasps! He's now recovering from the thrill of surfing his row boat Doireann out on the high seas in the Atlantic Ocean on swells of 30ft whilst he and Doireann reached speeds of 13 knots. Recovery involves a series of critical checks and assessments of not only the boat, but his body and mind... more of that later.

For those of you unaware, 12 teams set off across the Atlantic in the world’s toughest row last Wednesday, December 14th.  There were 4 solo competitors and the other 8 entrants consisting of a variety of teams of between 2 -4 members. Gavan was one of those solo entrants. At the race start Gavan commented:

“A 5,000km long row is the equivalent of going around Ireland three times. I’ve worked out it’ll involve at least 1.5million strokes and I’m hoping to do it under 60 days. To do that, I’ll need to row 100km a-day. That is what I have trained for. That is what I am prepared for and that is what I am ready for. Bring it on!”

Gavan is in 4th place currently. He is clear of the rest of the solo competitors, clear of the teams of two and mixing it with the teams of 3 and 4 persons.

Since the start, Gavan has kept us updated through twitter, texts and emails and what a journey he’s had thus far. It was a quiet first few days on the ocean and Gavan tried to settle into the challenge after a hugely emotional departure from la Gomera, where a host of family and friends had gathered to see all the competitors off.

 “Sun just gone down, 1st few hours on the oars done. Not ideal winds just yet. 10 knt NW. Huge emotion leaving la gomera today”

“Day 2 here. Breaking myself in. Fickle winds ystrdy & this morning but clear of the Tenerife wind shadow & flying! This morning was a slow grind but now the winds have really kicked in, averaging over 4knots.”

“I've rowed alot in the last 18hrs,some great winds out of N/NE & I was surfing the wind chop getting over 3 knots.”

It’s been quite a contrast in environments for Gavan. He went from a very busy, safe, open, and supported base in la Gomera to a very quiet, potentially dangerous, unsupported and enclosed space on Doireann in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s taking time to adjust but he’s enjoying the experience and keeping himself busy rowing and doing maintenance work on the boat. Things such as making water from sea water, cleaning the solar panels and running through his list of critical equipment checks along with listening to podcasts and his beloved tunes. He has to be careful though as power is limited. His only supply comes from the solar panels. If it’s an overcast day… power becomes an issue and he has to be mindful of that.

 

Sunset Gav

First of many of theses epic sunsets. It's been a hard few days adjusting to ocean life but getting easier

 

Prior to the race start a strong favourable weather pattern was predicted to begin on Friday the 16th and carry through for 30 hours or so. Gav knew this and planned to be ready for it. On Day three that predication came through and winds were well and truly with him. Gavan took full advantage, covering over 60nm in one day.

Into day 3 >60nm in the last 24 hours! So far so good, been a hard few days adjusting to ocean life but it's getting easier. Still can't believe the start how intense the build up and to finally set off was such a relief yet a stark reminder that I'm going to be on my own for a very long time!

Gav’s surfing and diving experience added to his meticulous preparation, drive and sheer guts drove him on through the battering wind and rain. Time and again he scaled the sheer gradient, popped over the top of the fluid mountains and skied down the slopes on the far side. Due to the unpredictability of the waves and the currents within them, Gav has an autopilot which he can use to help steer the boat. However, using the autopilot in such conditions can put too much strain on the device. While Gav was enjoying the speed he was getting he became concerned about the autopilot. He made the call to turn his off and relied upon his skiing and surfing skills to navigate his way through the storm.   

His mentor Henry Lupton has been in contact with Gavan on daily basis and gave us some information on what we were seeing on the tracker through the storm and the concerns he had during that time.

 “You may have seen some of the boats putting out drogues or swinging right around in directions if they deploy the sea anchor to sit it out or to get some sleep. The risk is if the autopilot doesn't keep you with the wind the boat will go sideways and roll over. It's a balancing act now between keeping fresh and getting the most from the wind while being careful not to break bits or tire himself. I'm expecting the YB tracker will show a few slowing a lot to ride this wind out. I anticipate Gav having a ball tearing down waves munching on billtong !”

Sandy Loder from Peak Dynamics has been working with Gavan on his mental preparation and his performance preperation for this row and shared some of the advice he gave Gavan these past few days.

 “He needs to be as efficient as possible. Use the surfing to conserve energy, yet maintain high speed. So he probably won't get much sleep. He must keep eating even when busy.”

His drive and determination through that period has helped him take advantage of a tricky situation and he has leaped forward  and is now mixing it with the teams at the front of the race. Sandy is happy with the start that Gavan has made to the race but knows there is a lot yet to come!

If he can attain a good position in the first week, then get some recovery, he is ready to make a move if any of the boats start to catch or pull away from him. He has done really well to now , but he has many days left.”

 “Tunes on full blast! y'all better be dot watching!”

And dot watching we have! We’ll leave you with a tweet from Gav and ask you to stay tuned here or follow @soulogav on social for updates on his journey!

There has been huge interest online for Gavan’s journey and you can be part of the dot watching family by logging into…

http://core.rock7.com/talisker2016

contact hello@gavanhennigan.com or Kevin Thornton on 0863571714 for any enquire

About Time I Wrote Some Stuff

About Time I Wrote Some Stuff

Final job on Doireann was to apply a coat of anti foul paint to her hull. Henry lining up he laser pointer with the ever present Yoda watching on.

Final job on Doireann was to apply a coat of anti foul paint to her hull. Henry lining up he laser pointer with the ever present Yoda watching on.

Been an age since I did some typing on here. To say i've been a bit busy is an understatement. It's just over 3 weeks until the start of the 3,000 mile Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and 9 days until I depart for La Gomera. I keep getting asked am I excited and to be honest I haven't really connected with the whole thing. I'm sure it's going to get a whole lot realer once I set foot on La Gomera. I've been preparing mentally in my own way which is alot of statements rolling around inside my head like 'You have no legitimate reason not to be rowing'. Physically i'm feeling strong and fit, i've kept my training load high but more importantly i'm injury free and I plan to be well rested and ready to get stuck in come December 14th. My friend and Physio Emmet at Galway Bay Physio has kept me on the straight and narrow in the lead up, he's also been down to the boat to see the space I'm working with to do some basic mobility and stretching exercises. Weight gain has been fun, I'm upto 85kg which is 10kg extra in the last 8 months. The most important countdown at the moment for me is when I get away from the Concept 2 indoor rower. Man I hate that f**king thing. I've really struggled some days getting on it and staying on it for hours at a time. 

My boat Doireann is currently shipping down to the Canaries, I drove her over a couple of weeks ago to Rannoch (where she was built) to be shipped. There was a final flap to make sure 100% everything was packed and sorted. My friends Henry and Marina were on hand to help with lots of little bits done and dusted. With their sailing expertise they were able to suggest alot of little things I hadn't thought of like a Lee Cloth, which is like a guard to stop falling out of a bunk, that will keep me snug in against the bulkhead of the boat. Every bit of food is packed in there, the water maker is working and ready to go. I'll only have a bag with some additional items with me heading for La Gom.

Doireann sat ready with the other boats ready to ship.

Doireann sat ready with the other boats ready to ship.

Today I just did some final testing on my sat phone and comms. A Lot of folk are wondering how the can follow me and it's pretty simple, just keep an eye on here and all my social media channels. To explain the comms, the easiest way for me to let you know whats happening out there is via a text message on my sat phone which automatically posts to my Twitter and Facebook. These will be daily if not multiple times a day. Unfortunately I won't be able to see your replies and mentions as it's just one way traffic. If you don't have Facebook you will still be able to see the tweets as they'll be incorporated into the main page of my website once I get going. Every couple of days I'll be sending a longer message and hopefully a pic to my good friend Kev Thornton who will be managing my accounts, he'll post that up across all channels including my Instagram and add it to a weekly accumulation of blog posts. Pretty simple right? Not really, just figuring out and getting the comms working has been time consuming. The emailing works off a special router installed inside the boat and a compression email from a dial up connection. It will cost probably €10 to send an email and picture, so you better like and share the bejaysus out of it or else! I'll also do a pinned post with the link to the tracking website which will be the fun part of watching a small dot move very slowly across a map over 2 months!.

This is what the tracking will look like, a fully interactive map with leader board and info on speed,distance and position.

This is what the tracking will look like, a fully interactive map with leader board and info on speed,distance and position.

Tomorrow night Tuesday 22nd I'm having a send off in the Salthill Hotel from 6pm onwards. I'm really looking forward to it but also scary knowing people are coming to say good luck. I'll be running through some slides and trying to answer peoples questions before they've asked them! Having had a million different questions thrown at me about all facets of the row I'll be armed. Joanne Murphy will be on hand to MC and there will be drinks and snacks. More info here - https://www.facebook.com/events/998307180269164/

 

 

What Would Ragnar Do?

What Would Ragnar Do?

I was invited to the GSK Human Performance Lab in London earlier in the year for some baseline physical testing. It was through my close friend Dr. Barry O'Neill. He asked me to also do a judgement test via a company called Peak Dynamics. I had just arrived back from Canada after the Yukon Arctic Ultra - a 300 Mile winter ultra marathon and I had 3 weeks before heading to Siberia to cross Lake Baikal. I took the test before I went to London, then when I was at the lab, I sat down with Sandy Loder of Peak Dynamics to have a chat about the results.

The test wasn't really a test, it was two sets of bizarre phrases that you arrange in what you think is the most important to the least important. The creator of it won a noble prize. It can't be gamed and it will give you a full and uncanny breakdown of your strengths and weaknesses in relation decision making. The index helps to identify blind spots and biases. I believe this process was the defining factor for my success in completing the Lake Baikal expedition. I sucessfully traversed the entire frozen lake on foot solo over 17 days covering over 700km.

From my initial test I scored very highly on being self driven/self motivated but scored below par in self concept/role satisfaction. Which means that my balance of judgement was way off. In my sort of situations this could mean life or death. As an example I could be climbing a mountain and I could be so focused on reaching the summit that i'd ignore the warnings of avalanche or weather risk. This was also due to fact that I just coming from a race organised Ultra Marathon where I could push very hard and still be very close to help should things get bad. Going to Siberia was 100% on my own and I had to make good decisions in order to complete the expedition safely.

Typical Lake Baikal camp site, this night temps dropped to close to -40c 

Typical Lake Baikal camp site, this night temps dropped to close to -40c 

When i was in Siberia both my stoves broke. I had to ask for help and get replacements early on in the expedition. I lost my unsupported status but it didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. I was safe and I had taken a step back and made a good decision. The next defining moment came when I reached about the half way mark after a very hard 8 days on the ice. I had been putting in multiple 60km days in extreme winds to make up ground for when I was stalled getting the stoves sorted. I was also low on trail snacks, I was eating more to deal with the demands i was putting on my body and everything was compounding. So I made the decision to take a night off the ice in a home stay to gather myself and dry some kit. My sleeping bag and tent were frozen solid. Beyond the half way point on the lake there was no towns or villages until the very end of the lake in the north. So I was going to be hundred's of kilometers from any assistance. 

Burnt foot 

Burnt foot 

This was a key vital decision I had to make. All the testing that Sandy does on other athletes and extreme adventurers leads to poor judgement under fatigue. So to make this good decision was important and it helped me move on the next day slighty refreshed but in a much better position mentally to finish the expedition. Most people take the easy route in life, endurance athletes want to do hard things, to suffer and be pushed to their limit, but this can be our down fall. Going off the ice for one night I somehow rationalised that I was taking the easy route, but in fact it was the smart thing to do. Learning this balance is key for me especially for the upcoming row.

I have always defined myself as an all or nothing kind of guy, go hard or go home sort of mentality. But I'm having to redefine all this. Learning to redirect my efforts in potentially life or death situations is of the upmost importance. Again this was tested last week on a training row off the west coast of Ireland. I spilled boiling water on my foot, in a bad spot that was affected when I rowed. I had to call a friend of a friend to come tow me into the island I was headed for a few miles away. I initially cursed myself for my stupid mistake. In the past I've always allowed myself a sort of grace period when a mistake is made, but thats even under review now. I am trying to be less reactionary, so i can make good decisions. Burning up energy foolishly giving myself a hard time achieves nothing. 

 

Project managing the row has been one of the most challenging things i've ever done. The whole thing is so involved. From the paperwork admin to the boat and equipment on it to having 90 days of food broken down into 5,000 calories a day. All the PR work I'm doing to gain sponsorship. Then juggling all that with training up to 3 times a day. It's probably been the most stressful time of my life. In the last review of the judgement index I have tried to gain more structure over my day to take away the stress of being in constant reaction. To make a better plan of my day and allocate my time efficiently. So far I'm not doing very good with that to be honest. I like to go with flow and do things as they come up. But with the amount of cogs in this wheel I need to have a better picture of where I'm at. Otherwise I'm just spinning plates and not getting a clear picture of where I'm at, therefore causing more stress.

Lesson for the week - 'Listen to all feedback, but take action selectively' - One of my other blind spots that came from the judgement index that I've been working on was that I was not inclined to listen to others and I still don't! But I do receive feedback and comments from many people here and there. I am extremely grateful for anyones advice, input or opinion surrounding anything be it the row or personal. But I can't take action on everything or else I'd be a right mess. I look to myself ultimately to make the right decision but I selectively will seek out those I trust to guide me in the right way. A good example of this is my tattoos, I have several and one extremely large one that covers alot of the right hand side of my body. I have never asked anyone what they thought of them, nor did I ask someones opinion on what to get and where. These sorts of decisions are the easy ones for me, but I have to wisely recognise situations where I need help and not be afraid to ask for it. 

 

Night Rowing

Night Rowing

Last Thursday night I did my first night passage onboard Doireann along the south coast from Castletownshend to Old Kinsale Head. I've been keeping Doireann down in West Cork the last few weeks to avail of the predominant West and South West winds. The logistics, planning and what is actually possible for a small very hard to maneuver boat has been challenging to say the least! Most people are under the impression that I just get in go for a row, which is kind of what i thought when I got a hold of this beast of a boat. But she is specifically designed for down wind and open ocean rowing. Not along a coast with changeable winds and tides. Put me in a small marina and I will be bouncing off other boats like in a pinball machine. 

So I have to get a lot of help to get anything done, launching and recovery onto the trailer is a lengthy process as i've to get the rudder assembly on and off, which involves getting wet. Luckily Henry and his Wife Marina have been amazing with their support so far and I'd be lost without them. They have their yacht Beoga down south also and have been shadowing me and helping plan different passages. Again a lot of planning goes into these and it all depends on the weather and tides. I am trying to tick as many boxes as I can each time I'm on the water. Just getting as much exposure as possible to everything involved from kit to all the electronics onboard. My last few outings i've been getting to grips with the autopilot and chartplotter. I've built some routes and followed them sucessfully and was even able to relax enough to take a quick nap during my night passage on Thursday. 

Cruising along the south coast.

Cruising along the south coast.

So to my night passage... I need spend a minimum of 12 hours at night onboard at sea. So last Thursday I got a tow out to deep water from Beoga and let go a few miles offshore of Castletownshend in West Cork. I planned to row for Kinsale which as the crow flies as around 22 nautical miles. I had been up in Galway the day before and had a super early start to get down to Cork which seems to take longer every time I drive it. I've been trying to set the boat up as it will be for crossing the Atlantic, but the stark reality is it's nowhere near like that at the moment. So I've added extra weight in the form of 5L water bottles. I spent a few hours preparing some bits like securing the life raft on the main deck, as a race stipulation it needs to be easily accessible and secured by the painter line to the main deck. I then lashed on my 2nd set of oars which act as spares for the journey. More messing around with the spare autopilots making sure they were calibrated, then building a passage plan. Henry and Marina in their wisdom decided to quiz me on a few essential items for being at sea at night and all of sudden I wanted to crawl under a rock. Flares? Flashing beacon? Fog horn? none of the above, so they kindly loaned me some bits to complete my bare bones list. 

But things went pretty smoothly out there and we picked the best night to be offshore, not a cloud in the sky and a massive meteor shower on the cards. The last light faded slowly around 11pm and Beoga disappeared from view, i was all alone on my little boat with only my nav lights and deck repeater for company. I nailed my routine for getting going under the autopilot. The problem here is that the autopilot gets a bit confused with the heading and direction of travel if i'm not pointed in the general right direction and going at least 2 knots. None of these things would be problem with another body on the boat but it's a bit trickier as a solo rower. Once I got the autopilot on course and following the route I had built earlier I was away. Not much to do now but row and watch the little screen on the back deck and the miles tick off very slowly to the next waypoint. This will be the bane of my existence out on the Atlantic, but my plan is to make manageable distances on a daily basis and bate myself into competition with myself to try and beat my daily totals. As i don't fancy having it slowly tick down from 3,000 nautical miles, i'd be driven even madder.

I was absolutely shattered starting this night row, which was the perfect sleep deprivation training. I'm really out of touch with that at the moment and it's something I will need to adapt to coming closer to off. I rowed for 3 hours then went below for some rest. I tried to stay to a bit of a routine but I was more concerned it making it to Kinsale by morning time, so it was a case of row as much possible. By first light I was within a few miles of Old Kinsale Head. But i was fighting the tide and reduced to 1 knot. The whole night i was averaging 2.3 knots which was slower than i had predicted for the force 4 following wind. But just then Beoga appeared to give a helping hand and tow me the rest of the way into Kinsale. We were treated to a visit from whales and dolphins so it was the perfect end to a great nights rowing.

We then came alongside in Kinsale and spent the night there. I got Doireann back on the trailer and came back to Galway the following day. What next ? Well more planning rows around the weather. Currently looking at rowing to the Aran Islands and back. If the wind doesn't play ball on that one i'll head south again.

I've got a talk coming up next week with some graduates from DIT and i've been thinking about some of topics i'd like to cover. One I get asked about a lot is mental toughness and how to become more mentally tough. It's kind of a broad term and to me it means how we can become more mentally resilient to deal with whatever it is we have in front of us in our lives. Most people think of it as who can suffer the most and overcome the cries from the body to stop during a endurance event or something along those lines. But to me of late being mentally tough is learning how to manage stress in life. A lot of stress is created in the mind and nowadays words like anxiety, fear and doubt are big problems for people. So it's my ability to get a better picture of what is going on and my main tool for that is writing. It's really interesting to reflect and write these blogs and other bits then take a step back and evaluate. Getting things out of my head and onto paper is a powerful tool. It helps me become less reactionary and therefore less stressed about what i'm doing and have to get done. What I love about the preparation for this row is that i'm re-learning some real basics about daily living.

I have multiple tattoos on my body, not once did I ask someone whether they liked them or should I get one. I got them because i wanted them. It's important to listen to others and feedback but take action selectively. To me this is mental toughness and i keep that toughness by surrounding myself with people who don't cast doubt over my decisions. 

 

Nutrition

Nutrition

I met during the week with 2 doctors with a keen interest in sport and extreme environments for an informal chat about the nutrition and factors surrounding it for the row. It a tough topic for a lot of reasons. My current plan is for 5,000 a day but I'll be burning a lot more than that, meaning I'll be in a deficit so I need additional weight to use as fuel, the question was how to proportion that weight, exactly how much muscle versus fat?. Fat is sedentary and can be used as a fuel but muscle is costly to fuel and maintain metabolically, so I've to watch how bulky I get and where. The other problem is I'm an endurance athlete and i'm burning like crazy in training. The other thing is I know my own body and from previous exploits, fat is very easy to put on and even easier to burn off in an extreme environment day after day.

But I am happy with my body at the moment. I am back upto 80kg with about 10% body fat. I weighed 75kg with 12% BF 3 months ago. Next step is to continue the weight training over the summer to get that lean mass up over 83kg then add the fat a couple of months before off. For me muscle is very hard to put on, the heaviest I've ever been is 84kg as I'm a mesomorph body type. Also when it comes to adding the additional fat I'm going to do it through weight gainer and as healthy as I can find carb loading. As apposed to eating crap stuff. So step in Platinum and Diamond Clean Gain+

During my Siberia expedition I added butter to boost calorie and fat intake 50 cal per sachet.

During my Siberia expedition I added butter to boost calorie and fat intake 50 cal per sachet.

As for my nutrition for the row I've been lucky to get a great deal from Extreme Adventure Food, they've supplied me with 72 days of dried meals consisting of nearly 4,000 calories a day. A 800 cal porridge breakfast with added whey. A lunch meal of 1,000 Cals like a bolognese or chicken korma ,same for dinner and a 750 cal dessert. I've used this food in the past and it's my favourite also they go easy on the sugar content with a good spread of macros across all meals. The only addition to these meals will be extra fat I plan to bring with me. I'm still working on getting some sponsorship from an MCT oil company, (medium chain triclyeride) which is derived from coconut oil but it's more potent as well as being odourless and tasteless, a couple of table spoons of this in each meal will jack up my calories and increase my overall fat intake which I want to keep high. These meals are super easy to prepare, I will have a Jet Boil Flash stove which can boil water in about a minute, then just add to the packet, it rehydrates and is ready to eat in minutes.

Extreme Adventure Food that i've used during the Yukon Arctic Ultra 300 mile race.

Extreme Adventure Food that i've used during the Yukon Arctic Ultra 300 mile race.

The remainder of my daily calorie intake will come from snacks such as bars,biltong and sour squirms! I will make up a really varied load of snack packs and break out a new one each day, the key here is variance, I've done identical packs of 2,000 calories for the Likeys 6633 Ultra filled with fancy bullshit like dark chocolate covered Goji Berries and I was sick of it after a day.

The other 18 days of food comes in the form of wet meals. In case things go very wrong and I can't even add cold water to my dried meals. Which could mean water maker and hand pump broken,no means of heating water (both jet boil broken) and emergency water of 50l not available! These are ready to wet meals in a pack, the only thing is they are heavy and not as calorie dense as the dried meals. But the plan with these is to start to eat them well into the crossing. When I'm getting closer to the other side. The other advantage to having 90 days of food onboard is that day for example I finish in around 50 days then I will have a lot of extra food to eat toward the end of the voyage. Which will be the perfect time to need additional calories as I could be fairly skinny at that stage. 

Even though i've tried a lot of different diets in the past, Paleo and Ketogenic for example. I generally do these as a sort of system reset or dare I say detox. I think heavy carb and calorific loading can be a bit much, so i'll go through phases of eating a bit more sparingly. I used to juice a lot, but i've eased off on that in the last while, again i'll go through phases with it. I hate cleaning up so i have a Hurom slow masticating jucier and make it in bulk then drink over a few days. Allegedly a slow jucier doesn't break down the enzymes and can last a bit longer. But i did get to try some great cold pressed jucies during the week and thanks to Juicy Lucy

Bit by bit...

Bit by bit...

Set up on the prom. Copyright Wonky Eye Photography

Set up on the prom. Copyright Wonky Eye Photography

When are you off? How long is it going to take? What will you do when you want to go to sleep?  These are just some of the questions I was asked over and over again last Saturday week on the prom in Salthill.

I set up my rowing machine on the prom and began rowing for around 5 hours while 101 swimmers made there way across Galway bay as part of the Frances Thornton memorial swim. Doireann was on show again and more people came by to marvel at her, It was a great day, I managed about 50km in the end but more importantly I raised a few hundred euros for Cancer Care West. The bucket was just an after thought, as the swimmers themselves have to raise €500 just to do the swim. So i was pleasantly surprised as many people stuffed notes and coins in there all day.

The last couple of weeks have been up and down. Some days feeling nowhere nearer being ready to row the Atlantic and other days I'm so excited I can barely contain myself. In fairness I'm starting to sound like broken record with the same answers from mostly the same questions. To so many people especially the older generation, this whole idea seems like utter madness. But to me It really makes perfect sense! I'm also beginning to sound like a real expert in ocean rowing despite not having rowed anything near an ocean. But thats my life, part ignorance and part confidence the perfect recipe for success.

Henry in the aft cabin where the autopilot lives.

Henry in the aft cabin where the autopilot lives.

I feel very fortunate in having the right people come into my life and give me the help I need to row the Atlantic. I met a chatty bloke by the name of Henry at the slip in Renville a few weeks back. As a boat owner himself and having sailed the Atlantic, his knowledge has proved invaluable. He has sent me long emails with the different ideas and tips as well as helping me figure out all the tech in my boat. From programming the AIS (Automatic Identification System) to calibrating the autopilots. Luckily we figured out how to calibrate the autopilot compass very easily on dry land instead of trying to do figure of eights in Galway bay. I have 3 autopilots as they can break easily. They have been a headache so far. But they'll be worth it to have sorted as I can rest easy knowing it will be steering me the right way especially when not on the seat.

Looking at the weather last week, it's been tough to get out on the boat as much as i'd like. I've realised Galway bay isn't the best location for all of my training. Predominant onshore means I can't get far and my Doireann is very much a down wind vessel. So when Henry suggested taking her down to Baltimore where he has his yacht moored I jumped at the chance. Straight off Baltimore in West Cork I have access to the deepwater of the Atlantic and can get a good push along the coast line with the South West and West winds. 

I took off for the weekend just gone to a part of the world I've never been to properly and man was I amazed at how long it took to drive from Galway to Schull in West Cork on a bank holiday friday evening with an ocean rowing boat in tow. I stopped off a my good friend Rob's place who I know from years of offshore commercial diving. The next day we headed over to meet Henry and his wife Marina to get Doireann on the water. We were inundated with people on arrival at Baltimore harbour with more questions and queries about the row. We got her safely on the water and Henry towed me out to Fastnet rock. Then I went for a 10nm row back toward Baltimore while they went off and did some sailing in and out of some of the bays along the coast. It was a great day and I slept alongside their yacht on a mooring just off the hustle and bustle of Baltimore on a bank holiday weekend. On Sunday we did more of the same but I got in 18nm of rowing downwind. It was great to spend more time on my own in the boat figuring out little bits like building a route and navigating to waypoints. I've left Doireann in Cork and hopefully I'll be getting in some overnighters and a long row along the south coast in the coming weeks. Watch this space!

Doireann on the Atlantic Ocean where she belongs...

Doireann on the Atlantic Ocean where she belongs...

Monday Musings... a week in review

6 days after my first half Ironman I woke up at 3.30am on a rainy Saturday morning in Westport for the RAW Ultra 50 Mile Western Way. During the week I wasn't sure if I was going to race as my left leg had been bothering me. I injured it in the lead up to the Challenge Galway tri and running a 1:38 half marathon at the end of that didn't help. But I really wanted to be involved in this inaugural ultra that I'm sure will be held again and again.

My first blog..

My first blog..

Finally after some world class procrastination i've gotten around to getting a website together and starting a regular blog.Here i can hopefully share with you some of the madness the surrounds my life right now as i prepare for the the ultimate challenge of rowing the atlantic solo in 6 months time. 

At this point i'm really happy with the website and a massive shout out goes to Patrick Kavanagh for helping out with,i just wanted a very simple but visual engaging site to highlight some of the stuff i've gotten upto over the years.I hope you enjoy.