New Year, New Adventures!

Well, it’s getting to be that time of year again, you know the time, when you reflect on what has passed, what and who you’re grateful for, and when you start to think and dream about what might be in store for you in the next year. I’ve got Christmas music blasting and Teddy and I are curled up in front of the fireplace reflecting on our last year.

I for one had a really amazing year, did you? Not only was I able to start working on our food company, Native Life, to bring healthy, grain free foods with no-added sugar to the market (please sign up on our website if you're interested), I was able to have a life changing experience- rowing the pacific with my amazing husband, an experience that brought us closer as a couple and as a team. One experience that I am most grateful for is the interaction that I was able to have with all of YOU. It was so inspiring to hear all of your personal experiences and struggles with sugar, and giving sugar up, and we're still hearing them! We also may not have gotten through the row without the supportive emails and comments you provided us, especially Fred Lincoln and Will Muecke, who both wrote us daily to keep our spirits up. Given that the row was one of the biggest life experiences either of us have had so far, we want to thank you, really, for being on that journey with us.

One question we hear from most people is “What’s next??”. Just living a ‘normal’ life is pretty awesome, especially after our summer vacation rowing across an ocean in a dirty, wet torture chamber... and especially given that I now have virtually unlimited access to amazing soaps and bath oils…but you know how it is, there's always something bigger out there and we do have some awesome plans coming up for 2015.

On the boat we had ‘white space’ to think... and think, and think. We didn’t have the stresses of work or unlimited distraction of emails, Internet and phone. We discovered that we work incredibly well together; especially under stressful conditions- this gave us more confidence in our relationship. We started to think seriously about starting a family when we were out there, and in fact, we started trying to build that family (if you know what I mean). Sounds like a fun distraction, I know, but don’t be fooled. We were so dirty and tired that we were both thanking the universe when our ‘family building’ sessions were over. We weren’t successful on the boat, but we were committed, and when we came back we discovered that it would be highly unlikely that I’d be able to get pregnant without professional help. Like all other goals, we started planning and executing the steps to get us there, but the universe stepped in and just days before I was scheduled to start my first round of IVF, we conceived! Now I’m 5 months and if all goes well, we’ll have a girl arriving in late spring. How lucky are we?!? I’m still eating the same way I was before, although I eat a lot more and have become obsessed with soup, which I lovingly refer to as 'Soupy-doupy' (yes, the funny naming conventions still exist on land). Surprisingly, I have less cravings for Susie Cakes than I had before, but I do have other cravings that make both shock and disgust me (rotisserie chicken, for example, which I eat in the car, with Sami looking worriedly at my from the corner of his eye as he drives away, hoping no one sees us). My six-pack is now a two-pack and well on it’s way to becoming a keg.

Rowing the Pacific was really Sami’s idea, obviously, I mean, who else would pick something so un-fun? We agreed that I’d be able to pick the next adventure, which I’ve been thinking of for the last year since we decided to do the row, and trust me, it’s way more fun. I don't want to go on record just yet, but I can tell you it will be a 50-60 day expedition, it's totally grueling, and of course, there will be no sugar or processed carbs eaten! I hope we have you along for the ride!

We hope you all are in good health and that, if you haven’t kicked the sugar yet, that you’ll consider committing to a New Years 30 day sugar detox- I guarantee you, it will be a great way to start your year!

With much appreciation,

Meredith & Sami

ZERO miles to go - divorce papers still untouched!

"This too shall pass" said one of our remote supporters in a blog comment. It became our mantra to enjoy the moment, the pain, the joy, the unique life offshore while rowing as hard as we could. 

We thought of that mantra a lot last week, when we were in a breaking point during our up to 21hrs of rowing each day (by each). We wanted to finish badly, yet we were sad to think about giving away what we had. On Saturday Aug 2, around 7:30AM Hawaii time, after a stormy and windy night and 2,765 miles of rowing, we finally landed in Honolulu, at Waikiki beach. I had barely slept at all in the last 24hrs and Meredith even less so. We did two of our fastest (about 80nautical miles per day!) days at the end to give it all. We were spent, but happy. We exceeded all our goals and consider the journey, which would not have been possible without the support of strangers, friends and many ocean/rowing experts - a huge success:

1. Still married at finish! (Divorce papers are untouched in a waterproof container and Divorce-o-meter at zero at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean) 

2. Raised well over $200,000 for the fight against sugar and inspired strangers to change diet based on today's science. (Those stories were hugely inspirational during our row - thank you!)

3. New rowing speed world record from CA to HI as a pair. Our goal was 60 days, we finished in 45.  

4.  We finished healthy, strong and safe. And hopefully set an example that life and endurance sports without sugar (and processed carbs) is possible, probably even better so.

And now? Day in life 24hrs after 45 days offshore:

- first walking: wobbly still. I lost 26pounds and lots of certain leg muscles and can barely walk up stairs.

- first breakfast: eggs with scrambled eggs with some boiled eggs

- first dinner: giant fresh vegetable salad with butterfish, ahi poke, crab cakes, butter and mayo

- first treat upon landing: huge glass of sparkling water with ice

- first shock: too many people everywhere....I need my own space please! 

 - first workout: next morning on the bike. Got to get the muscle strength back!

 Thanks to you all who have supported us in spirit, donated to our chosen charity or just decided to consider what sugar might be doing to your body and health. All the comments, emails and little cheers were hugely powerful to lift up our spirits and push us forward in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You inspired us, not the other way!

And what's next? Easy - we both need to catch up on sleep. 

 

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FatChanceRow Update July 30

Quick update: we are making great progress to the south and we think we will get far enough south before the high winds hit us from the remnants of the tropical storm that is south of Hawaii. Sami's golden rule of travel #571: everything has at least 2 uses. Example- I've started using my sports bra for an eye cover when I have my sleep break during daylight, it works really well! Second example, duct tape has yet another use- in boat 'waxing' which I tried today on my legs. Seriously, this boat is full of glamour and glitz!

FatChanceRow Update July 28

Hello there! Well, like Fred said, "it ain't over till it's over". We are roughly 300 miles from Hawaii now, but as we were dreaming of our finish, the massages and full body waxes we would have and the soaps we would use, the wind changed against us. We thought we could possibly land on Saturday afternoon, but that doesn't look like it will be possible any more. I guess we didn't really learn our lesson, despite all the meditation and introspection, as we were really bummed to have our daily miles towards Hawaii drop from above 60 to 45! We are in the part of the expedition when you are so close to the finish, but it feels like there is nothing left to give. The part when you check your time at least once per minute, if not more. The goods thing is, both of us have raced enough to know that there is almost always something left in the tank, no matter how bad you feel, so we keep pushing. It is fair to say that We were in a bit of a mental slump earlier, but we've decided to pick up the rowing from 14 hours each (which we are currently doing) to 18 hours each per day- so we each rest (some of which is sleep) 6 hours per day and we row for 12 hours or so together + 6 hours alone each. Hopefully that will get us through the final headwinds and to Hawaii. Wish us luck! We are already downing the cacao nibs for a pick-me-up! Here's a pre-slump pic of me in our cabin, this is where we sleep...though, not too much at this point. Our personal items are stowed behind, guess who has the neater side ;)? Sami's golden rule #545: when in doubt, it's likely Sami (the Salmon's) armpit you are smelling, not a dead fish. No story needed for this one! Enjoy your day and blow a little to the south west for us!

FatChanceRow Update July 27

Angkor Wat - My body is my wrecked temple

It's late Saturday July 26 and my handheld GPS is showing 399 nautical miles to go to Hawaii as I write this. Close. (Btw we setup our web tracker to show miles, not nautical miles, so those of you who wondered about number discrepancies that's why!) Sort of close, sort of loooong home stretch, since based on my geometry and calculations here, we won't see land until the day of rowing in. Unless my Pythagoras, earth's radius and circle formulas are messed up in my mushy brain by now.

I'm feeling like the Angkor Wat - the glory days are over. I'm wrecked - at least relatively speaking. Last summer a doctor said "this thing under your tendon is a cyst. But don't worry, at 37 you're just reaching the point when your warranty is running out and these things start to happen." Demoralizing. I'm wondering if my warranty is running out big time now. I exercise about 540hours each year, all type of workouts included. It's a lot from a sofa potato perspective, but nothing for most endurance sports enthusiasts. I'm on the very low volume end of the spectrum and focus on recovery and variety and intensity. Yet now we are just finishing our 39th day offshore and I've rowed almost that 540hours in that short month and a change. Based on my heart rate monitor my rowing intensity has dropped a bit, but I'm still working up to 5,500 - 6,000kcal of rowing work per day. How much is that? It's about the same as a 70kg (155pounds) person running two marathons each day (=42km * 70kg * kcal/kg km = 2940kcal per marathon). This CANT be healthy. High volume endurance training with no rest, among other things, is a way to reduce testosterone levels, which is a way to start a downward spiral in a lot of things.

Of the things I initially worried about, none have materialized badly: skin burns(except my lower lip got badly burnt first week), skin or nerve damage in butt(nothing! My formula of daily new pair of tight synthetic Calvin Klein underwear + 2xu compression shorts + hygiene has worked perfectly even if Meredith claims to see almonds in wrong places), hands (they look like I lift heavy objects for living not MacBook airs, but otherwise just fine) and lower back, which has been my Achilles heel even in cycling.

Two things are really worrisome though. My right lat muscle and it's low connection point is both hurting when pulling unevenly and making funny sounds. I can still pull, but have tried to move all power to legs and just follow up with arms and back muscles. That's easier said than done in ocean rowing as we have to make sudden pulls between waves all day. I think what happened is we had side winds from left side of the boat since the start and the boat flips to the opposite side where we pull extra hard. In addition we entertain ourselves with 10minute time trials and givin TEN BIG ONES all day to people and causes we care about. That'd probably work in an hour workout but 12h each day and you get an Angkor Wat. But I'm confident we will get home with the broken wing without long term damage. I've also stayed totally out of pain killers, as a matter of principle. It's probably suboptimal from performance perspective but I like to know what my body is and isn't capable of without masking it. Reducing overall inflammation with ibuprofen would probably be smart too, but I've decided to stay out of it, even though it looks many parts of my body are inflamed and retaining some water (fingers!).

The other thing is overall fatigue. I can tell my mood is spiraling down, not badly, but gradually. If we had two more months to go, we'd likely have two rest days and an easy week now, but from experience I know that once you are about to go over the edge, you can not take one day off....you'd start a recovery process and the body would shut down and continuing 1-2 days later would be even harder I'm the absence of all sorts of stress hormones. So...we are pressing on!! I'm however very curious to have comprehensive blood work done once we finish to see what kind of hormonal imbalances and inflammation is happening under the skin. Or, Maybe Meredith can already smell my testosterone levels dropping since she constantly complains about a fishy smell these days. I'm serious.

This whining and moaning is of course totally relative. Of course I should be wrecked!? Sort of two marathon runs a day for 39 days nonstop. What should I expect? And I'm eating no sugar and less than 50kcal of ANY kinds of carbohydrates per rowing hour each day. The diet part seems to be working very well and I've proven (to myself) that all the sugary crap that we are marketed is not necessary for ultra endurance performance. In fact, maybe I'm doing way better without them. I'm guessing (relative to ocean rowing stories I've read before) that on relative basis we are doing fantastic. Our work rate is up, we are moving fast, we haven't filed for a divorce yet and we remember our names when asked, as well as today's date. So we must have a long way to go until we reach the real limits of our endurance and capabilities. We will see whether Hawaii or that limit comes first.

ETA? We get that question from many. We have been hesitant to predict anything yet. Ocean rowing is to flat water rowing what mountain biking is to road cycling. Total concentration, using your core, balancing and weight shifting to dodge huge rocks or giant waves and to try to apply power when you can. And predicting speed and times is like knowing that you have to mountain bike 399 miles, climb some mountains along the way, hit some single track, but nobody gave you the elevation chart or told whether the singletrack is old fire roads or a mud pit. We do get weather forecasts, but as we learned again today, with each dark cloud, which was all day, came 17knot winds and growing swells from south east - contrary to forecast. That would be great if we were on our way to Japan, but not so great for Hawaii. Our illusion of steady tradewinds that would carry us to Hawai after leaving California coast hasn't materialized yet and we are 1700++ nautical miles in and 399 to rock. So, ETA? We will share some thoughts by early next week. But with no accidents or last minute tropical storms, we will go well below/faster than our set goal of "60 days and no divorce", which would be a great bonus for the expedition.

Back to oars...to catch more flying fish!

FatChanceRow Update July 24

Good morning! I'm writing late on the 24th, but you won't see this post until tomorrow, and by that time we will have passed the 500 MTG mark. Wow, we are almost home! Attached you can see our 'countdown wall' where we track our bigger goals and collect junk and reminders of home. In the past few days we were convinced that the boat was moving slower, it felt heavy and compared to earlier days, we seemed to be having a harder time rowing. During the first few hours if rowing today we came up with several reasons why that might be the case, including weight/balance difference in the boat (which we corrected by shifting ballast water from the bow to the aft) and the potential sea life growth, like barnacles and seaweed) on the bottom of the boat like we had heard so much about from other rowers. My mind thought of the tire that floated by several days ago, resting on a platform of green tentacles made from sea vegetation that fanned out over the waves. If that was what the bottom of our boat looked like, we would be in for a long final stretch. I thought and thought about the growth on the bottom of the boat and by lunch time I was really aggravated with it. "Damn it", I thought, "that sea weed was really slowing us down! How were we going to row in this heat with all that drag!?" Even thought the waves were still on the large size, for my taste, and even though we had been marveling at schools of large yellow tailed fish that have been following our boat (perhaps as a result of us feeding them salmon and nuts every day), I knew I had to go in to check on the bottom of the boat or I would not have a moments peace. I got the goggles and jumped in, clutching the rope tied to the side of the boat with Sami hovering overhead ready to scoop me out. My head went under. "Anything there?" Asked Sami. "Not a thing". I sat down back at my oars and turned on my audiobook. Soon I fell into the now familiar rhythm of rowing, matching Sami's stroke unconsciously and observing my surroundings. I notice my legs. They are hairy and I hate the feel of slathering sunscreen on over hair, it might be the thing I hate most about being out here. You see, I've got a thing against hair, I guess it's a good thing I married a triathlete. Up to my knees. As I pull forward on my seat, my knees came apart, revealing the white patch of sunscreen on their inside that has been driving me crazy trying to remove. Every night I scrub and scrub this patch,trying to get the white zinc off my skin. Once I'm in the cabin I see it again and try scraping it off frantically with wet-wipes. I spend a lot of time thinking about the sunscreen when I'm in bed, hot and uncomfortable. I notice, as I drag the oars back, that my knees float back together. That's funny, I think and watch again. It occurs to me then that the sunscreen I've been desperately trying to rid myself of is actually a tan line from my knees being pressed together as I row. Hmmmm, ok, I'm starting to get it. I think about how many other worries that have likely disturbed my peace, needlessly. I mean, I'm literally spending limited time worrying about non issues when I could just relax. It isn't that you learn lessons out here, i mean, new ones. The thing about rowing an ocean is that you have the time and space to really think about and dissect the meaning of life's ironies as they happen, which takes an incredible amount of discipline to do in the real world. Out here there is literally nothing more interesting or pressing to do. Not a single thing. Sami's golden rule of travel #527: no lanyard, no deck. Everything here is tied down so it won't get washed off deck, but because we have so little space, everything is crammed in next to some thing else. This is ok in the beginning, but the more you use something, the more tangled up it gets. Eventually, the items you use most, like say the bucket, are tied and tangled into 5 or 6 different unrelated items. When you desperately pull if out just in the nick of time, you likely swear as the bleach bottle, Toiletries bags, sunscreen and flares come crashing out with Itami d right into your way. See you soon.

FatChanceRow Update July 23

Today marks the start of our sixth week out here! Now, though we are resigned to what happens, we are excitedly counting the days until we land. We had quite a fun day with wind speeds around 15 knots and gusting above 20. Unlike our fist couple of weeks when the winds were also high, we now take them (and the waves) at 45 or 50 degrees, rather than from the side. This makes it much less dangerous (for me especially) and we are getting good enough at predicting waves that we can surf speedily down the big ones if we time it just right- super fun! We have a patent-pending anti-flip system that we use when the waves are higher than 25ft and crashing near the back of the boat; we both quickly scoot all the way forward on our seats and crouch with the oars up and our bodies low over the foot bed in order to weight down the back of the boat so she doesn't flip,as, Unlike me, Roosevelt is not heavier in the backside :). Riding these rodeo waves is funnier than rowing on calm days, it's like mountain biking vs road cycling- the variety and obstacles distract you from the work. The downside is that you are wet all day, and beat up by the end of it. Our legs get absolutely battered by the oar handles when the waves suck the blade in, and our shoulders get pulled in all directions and strained when we hook our arms over the rail (to latch on when the waves break sideways over us). I got my first sunburn today as a result of the constant sea wash, which I'm not happy about. I promised myself that I would have less sun damage by the end of this vs the start. I cover every freckle on my face using a large hat, sunglasses and a bandana, and any body skin exposed is absolutely painted white with chalky sunscreen. Today the hat was soggy and pulling from my head like a parachute in the gusts, all the sunscreen just washed off. Sami vowed to look like an explorer by the end of this, so he has the exact opposite strategy as me and is starting to resemble the Marlboro man. We also saw schools of flying fish today,as big as finches, schools of them would sail over and into waves in tight formation It seemed like you could look in many direction and see them. The smaller ones seem to have a thing for me and I get hit by them all day! They must have some predator sensing to know that Sami, lover of small fish, might open his rather large mouth for an afternoon snack if they came his way. Last, Brownie, the fighter-pilot bird, showed up today with two of his friends. They sped by over and over diving to the waves with wing tips seemingly just above the white caps. I managed, finally, to get them on video (go pro). Here's a picture of one of the more tame waves today. I'm too scared of ruining the iPad, our only connection to you, that I toss it in the cabin whenever a large wave looks like it could splash or crash. Sami's golden rule of travel #547: Always dump downwind. Yes, he is a poet.

FatChanceRow Update July 22

Discount beer and whack-a-mole --- observations from my summer Office

I've been busy at the office, that is, the rowing seat (picture) for the last few days. I'm taking a break and trying to get some serious sleep, but before Zzzzz, a few recent observation from behind the desk.

-- Naked lady in my rear view mirror Before we launched off, many asked about the rear view mirror on top of our wind vane. "What do you need that for? I guess rowers have back towards where you're going". I wasn't sure either. I mean there's ZERO traffic in the middle of the Pacific. Now the mirror has become my secret daily inspiration. Weather has gotten warmer, and warmer, and Meredith has started rowing totally naked (position 2, just behind my seat). Salty water has made the mirror almost useless, but it's enough to get a view of my hot wife rowing naked. Little is needed to cheer me up, although, she is hot. I'm a lucky man.

-- Ocean is boring if you look for the pink unicorn - so is life We start most of our days by asking each other: do you think today we'll see the whale(s) jumping!? It could be today, it's looking a bit (sunny/rainy/windy/clear/gray...). The truth is, 34 days offshore, and we've seen next to nothing special. The same day in, day out, no dolphins, no groups of whales or great whites circling around the boat. Only one flock of cool flying fish speeding by us (and a few on deck each night/morning). I honestly expected more spectacles, big stuff, killer whale eating a great white. I did. Yet....every moment is so special and unique. Ocean changes every second, new waves, new clouds (we've seen most animal figures by now, giraffe included), cooling storms with a rain (this am!), a little ocean turtle, scary mr flusher waves, stunning colors, sunsets, silence, wind and freedom. It's funny how so many of our experiences and observations come back to everyday life at home. It's up to me (and you) to chase the pink unicorn and fly by every day without noticing anything, or find excitement from every moment and experience, all of which are unique and priceless in some way.

-- Discount beer (Finnish: Siwan kassista bissea) I like to think that my home is where my (laptop)bag and Meredith are and that by now (almost 11 years of living in the U.S.) I'm about as American, Finnish or just a person of the world. But as I was fighting fatigue in the oars and listening to my last working iPod (I brought 4 just in case!) and random songs, as well as audio books, I noticed how some of the songs hit so hard and deep. I almost cried. I'm talking about old Finnish rock/pop (for Finns: Popeda, etc) . That's the stuff I was listening when I was 16, 17.... And drinking discount beer from a plastic bag and dreaming about the future with a few friends. The same thing when listening to the audio book "tuntematon sotilas", World war time story abt Finnish soldiers defending the country ... Brought all the memories from my own military service, especially SissiRUK 1995. It surprised me how deep these early formational experiences run in my mind and body. All good ... Yet, I don't miss that beer at all, as golden as those memories are!

-- Nightly game of whack-a-mole I'd say 00am-4am is when we both try to get deep, uninterrupted, solid, deep sleep. I'm a pretty good sleeper (anytime, anywhere, immediately), but Meredith's sleep and sleep routine is more like the story of a princess who could feel a pea through hundred mattresses. She wakes up for any unexpected noise (waves crashing are by now part of the white noise in the background). Last several nights, especially 00am-4am have turned into a game of whack-a-mole. First it was the radar detector beeping, then a random clicking noise that I found to be my fishing kit and a plastic lure clicking against the plastic container. I figured it by 6am. Last night a new one, she first eliminated a dozen sound sources until I found out that it was actually her Suunto Ambit smart watch (btw awesome watch!) at her rowing position, the titanium frame hitting the carbon hull of the boat when a wave hit the side. And as anyone owning a carbon bike frame knows, the sound travels and echos well! That was 2am-5am. I've come to like this game, but can't say that aloud. Meredith's at a breaking point...

Many more observations, but got to rest now. My body is holding well, no more lower back issues either, after I cut my cushions half and came down 2 inches from the double decker sandwich seat.

Lastly, we don't read each other's posts (and can't access internet, as we post via email only), but Meredith told she's embarrassing me by sharing some of my "golden rules of traveling - row boat edition". So here's one, rule #535: always fill your water bottles and gut when you can, not when you have to. (For reference, the non-boat counterpart traveling rule is "always pee when you can, not when you have to")

PS Thx again for all support, letters and comments. They're our every day treat. Many of you we've never met, but feel like we have made distant new friends. I could mention many, but one of my favorites is Fred from Oakland (77yr). Thanks Fred for the thoughtful emails!