The delightful Katie Spotz who rowed the Atlantic solo from Benin to South America wrote up the experience as a “life skills” book rather than an adventure. This approach made the book very readable – each chapter is short and covers one thing she learnt during the crossing.
My personal favourite is the barnacle cleaning story.
Katie generously gave us an exclusive interview.
What made you decide to do ocean rowing?
My background is endurance – I didn’t even know how to row before deciding to row the Atlantic. A lot of rowing experience makes ocean rowing quite frustrating, apparently. It’s not graceful and definitely a different beast.
Which challenge was the hardest?
In terms of emotion and physique – the one I spent the most time training for was 2011 Race across America. I did 30 hours a week. Now I’m doing Ironman which is a balance and allows you to have a life outside of it. For the ocean row the physical preps took second place to the logistics – website, community, media, learning celestial navigation, learning from other ocean rowers. If there was a choice between making sure I could fund it versus training – I needed to get to the start line.
Spending time on the bench in team sports makes you believe that you belong there. I was never a star athlete in school – there was a lot I had to get through to do the marathon – questioning what it took and understanding “who am I who can do that”? The people who can do marathons are the Kenyans – none of my friends and family had done a marathon before. I built it up in my mind. There were challenges just believing that I could.
70 days along bring you mental challenges. Did you know that there is no follow boat?
Your story is one personal self-discovery – can others copy this?
I’ve always felt the need to give back in some capacity and it’s a strong force in muy life. It wasn’t till I was 19 cycling across America that I found I could combine that mission with cause-based endurance. The combination means so muich more. That excites me and to be able to use it as a platform for good.
What can our readers learn from the process?
I feel like meditation has played a big role in my experiences in endurance. One of the biggest ah-ha moments was questioning and then asking whether that meant I would quit… I could accept it’s a feeling and not give it the power. You could see it rise and fall just like meditation.
What helps me get through and may help others – being OK to be weak. The acceptance of weakness makes you strong. I’m not one of those “I’m never afraid” people. I have all those feelings.
The Barnacles story is a good example. There are so many things that can hold us back. Letting go of those things and being able to focus on whatever you focus on expands. If I’d focused on all the negatives (there were many more people who told me I was crazy and I’d never do it)…. the New York Times were saying that I didn’t look fit enough one week before I left.
If I’d focused on the things that drag you down I might have quit….. I had people to push me through those moments.
The People I met supported me
Friends I’ve met through endurance challenges – my sister and a friend from the Cycle Across America supported me through it. My sister is 8 years younger an it could be that she gets compared…. people ask if I felt lonely. Even being out there without friends I still felt their presence.
I couldn’t have done the journey without sponsors.