Well rowing the channel is firmly ticked off my 'Bucket List' list now.
In March of this year Oliver Dudley (who owns Think Possible) asked me if I wanted to do a channel row. My first reaction was err no way. I had seen John Bishop do it for Sport Relief and I really did want to put myself through that (especially the hallucination's of dolphins...). The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. Then I thought what the hell. So I agreed.
Panic then set in as I had not been training for a while and the idea of trying to get fit was a little bit daunting. I got my backside to the gym and was walking and running etc. Luckily David Jarvis from Think Possible had worked his magic on my knee so all was good.
We had the first training session in April and I was not good. In fact it was awful. I could not get the hang of locking my wrists and keeping my oar straight. All I could hear was the cox saying 'Hen, square your oar'. I really hit an all time low after that and was very close to quitting and saying forget it. I also did not really know the people on the row and that felt a bit strange. There was only one other woman doing this with me and the rest were all men.
The other thing that was really worrying me was how do we eat and drink whilst rowing. There were other questions but I was sure that these would be answered.
I hit the gym and worked on my core strength and was on the rowing machine for up to an hour and was getting the hang of it.
By the time our second training session came around, I felt a lot more confident. I got it. I felt so much better and there was not one shout of 'Hen, keep your oar square'. We leant what we should be eating coming up to the row and how to eat and drink whilst we were rowing. I felt much calmer. We had also practiced going between the boats so that if we needed to come off the boat for any reason we could.
I came home that evening on such a high and knew that I could do it. I felt I bonded with the team more the second time around and this was the team that would be rowing together.
The night before we left for Dover I was staying with John who was on the row and his girlfriend. It was a bottle of wine and a curry the night before we left. Not the most athletic thing to do but hey!!
We hit the road at 5:45am and when we got to Dover, we went over a hill and saw the channel in front of us. That was the stomach churner and we both looked at each other saying 'what the hell are we doing...'. I have to admit as much as I was scared I was exciting and really running on adrenalin.
Everyone gathered at Dover Marina. It was great to see Reg, Wendy, Hugh, Guy, Chris, Richard, Anwar, Oli, John and Jason. Hugh (from Running Events who was organising the event with Oli) told us that we were going to head off earlier than we had been told. This was due to a weather window. So that was that and as usual, I had to make one last visit to the bathroom....... Yes that did make me the last one into the boat.
So we were off, out of Dover Marina and heading into the busiest shipping lane in the world. That did fill me with slight dread. We hit pretty choppy water when we came out of the marina and that was a huge wake up call to what we were doing. It was tough going. I did feel a little bit scared.
|WE ARE OFF|
We had worked out a rota for rowing as we were 9 people in the boat. It would be 6 rowing, 1 cox and 2 passengers. We worked it out that John, Chris, Richard and Jason would rotate being the cox and rowing. Then between Anwar, Reg, Guy, Wendy and myself we would take it in shifts to row. These were 40 minute shifts and then a break. It worked perfectly and gave you time to eat and drink.
Oli was in the support boat making sure that we were all ok and safe etc. Oli also took some great shots of us all in the boat and you will see those below.
The other thing that kept me going was the fact that this was all team work and we had to all keep going to make it work. As we all know there is no 'I' in team. The other thing that was always on my mind was that my friends and family had donated to my charities for this row and I was not about to let them down.
We were all talking to each other and making sure that we were all ok and happy. No one got sea sickness and we were all in great spirits. There would be quiet times and then lots of laughter. Seeing the tankers and passenger ferries around us was something else.
Before I knew it we could see land and that was France.. (don't worry we had not gone around in circles and were looking at Dover!). Suddenly we were getting very close to the beach and the RIB boat suddenly came up next to us with Oli in it shouting at us that we had done it. Shouts and laughter then happened and a slight panic as we were about to hit the beach. John coxed us very well to get out of that situation.
The RIB boat then took us into the port of Calais. By that time I was beginning to get a very sore behind. Climbing up the steps at Calais Harbour was the most emotional point for me. Hugh was there waiting for us with champagne and pizza. The perfect way to end our incredible journey.
As I looked out to the channel all I could hear was my grandfathers voice saying to me when I was little, 'I wonder what it is like to row the channel' as we stood on the beach in Hythe. My answer to him now is amazing and life changing.
We had a real celebration on Thursday night and poor Calais did not know what hit it!! We were all trying our school french but as ever we knew the word for wine and lots of it. There were gifts given out for everyone on the boat and I am not putting up on here what I received. Still makes me laugh. If you ask me at an event, I will tell you...
|THE END IN CALAIS. CHAMPERS AND PIZZA TIME|
There is something magical about getting in a rowing boat and crossing the channel just the way so many of our ancestors did.
All I can say now is a HUGE THANK YOU to Hugh from Running Events and Oli from Think Possible who made all of this happen.
You see, if you think it is possible, then it is.
Lots of love
Miss Jones xxxx
P:s If you would like to do this challenge, then please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.