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GSK testing day

GSK HPL logo

As a team we want to be as best prepared as possible in all aspects of the row and so being able to work with expert practitioners in human performance, is an amazing opportunity to understand how we can get the best out of ourselves from a physiological and neurological perspective.  We say that this row is 85% psychological in how we cope and 15% physical, but our psychological state will be affected by being dehydrated, calorie deficient, sleep deprived, hormone imbalanced etc. so if we can optimise these variables and recognise them, then this in turn will help our mental state.

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With a science background, we recognise that our row is also an opportunity to gain some valuable data on 4 healthy females, who will be going through 6 months of sleep deprivation, hormonal control, change in diet, exposure to high temperatures and hours in the sun, plus 6 months of not walking on solid ground. With next to no opportunities of looking at 4 women doing a 6 month endurance event, we didn’t want it to be a wasted opportunity for research and development ideas that could aid the production of something that can affect the wider female community after the row. We therefore approached GSK (GlaxoSmithKline group) who are a science led global healthcare company with one of the leading research and development centres, who’s mission is to focus on ‘helping people to do more, feel better and live longer.’

The GSK Human Performance Lab (http://www.gskhpl.com/ ) is a world-class science facility focused on applying current methods to optimise performance in the elite (such as Jenson Button in Formula 1, the Brownlee Brothers – Olympic and World Champions in Triathlon, Harlequins Premiership Rugby club etc.). Alongside the elite athletes, they also like to pioneer new research into understanding the limits of human performance through assessment of extreme endurance, such as their support with Rich Parks for the fastest crossing by foot across the South Pole in extreme cold temperatures(http://www.richardparks.co.uk/ ) and Schu Pillinger in her attempt in Ride Across America ( http://www.gskhpl.com/news/shusanah-pillinger-raam.shtml ).

So last Thursday saw the first day of our team testing. It started with having to come in fasted (not having eaten since the night before) which I must confess, does not sit too well with me as I love my breakfast!

The first part of the testing was our anthropometric data and body mass.

bodpod

This involved going into the BODPOD which gives an estimated resting metabolic rate (calories required at rest without movement).

Then we had the usual height and weight taken, along with our girths (measurements of circumference of thighs/ calf/ forearms/ upper arms/ waist/ bum) and then skin folds to measure the amount of subcutaneous fat we have in different areas of the body. Normally in sport, you want to stay lean with minimal body fat %, however for us, we need to try and increase our fat mass and put some more muscle mass on so that we have room incase of loss of weight. In the Atlantic races some have shown anywhere up to 2 stone loss and as we are nearly 3 times the distance of the Atlantic and currently only weigh around 65kg, we have some way to go to ensure we don’t waste away!

Then we did our cognitive testing which was tested throughout the afternoon. This is a quick 2 min reactive test on an iPad and is something that Barry the Neuro Scientist has a keen interest in developing. It tests your cognitive function and reactivity whilst also creating focus on a task in hand. An example is hitting a light as quick as you can when it flashes up. I can imagine that a fighter pilot or a Formula 1 driver like Jenson would show a lot quicker reaction times than us (experience of reactions when travelling at 150mph versus 2knots, ummmm I wonder who would be more reactive?!). It is something we are keen to use when we’re on the boat though, with the theory of it giving us focus and mental preparation particularly when waking on our night time shifts.

HRsetup

The afternoon was then the more physical testing. We got prepped with our heart rate monitors and then sweat patches placed on our thigh, chest and shoulder blade.

lactatetesting

The ear lobes were pricked to draw blood for lactate testing (by-product of anaerobic activity) and a card was passed around to show us what ‘rate of perceived exertion’ we felt (how hard do you feel you are working 6-15 scale). Weight was rechecked as we’d now had some food & our water bottles were weighed to get our starting point of hydration. Once all our baseline measures were collected, it was Nat and I up for the start of a 2 hour erg and then Izzy and Emma.

Training2 Training3

heatchamber

The first hour was in ambient room temperature and the second was in the heat chamber at 40degrees heat and 40% humidity.

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Tests were repeated every 30minutes, where we had blood lactate taken from the ear immediately, given an ipad to do our cognitive assessments, heart rate noted and perceived effort recorded. Then it was straight back on to continue rowing.

physiology setup

The sweat patches were to stay throughout the 2hours and later got removed at the very end after having soaked up our sweat (nice thought!). These patches can then be analysed after, to look at exactly what concentrations of salts/ nitrates etc. we sweat out, combined with weighing our bottles and weighing us at the end of the session, it can be calculated how much fluid we lost during a 2 hour row. Combine this with knowing the concentration of salt loss, the aim is for GSK HPL team to develop specific hydration strategies for each of us. So as an example, l might sweat more than say Nat, so we may need to account for me needing say 5 litres of fluid minimum compared to Nat may only need 3 litres as a minimum, also another example is that Emma may loose more salts in her sweat so she would need to drink a more concentrated rehydration salts drink for replenishment.

At the end of the testing, there was an opportunity to jump into a fresh 10deg plunge pool, seeing as I make the athletes I work with do this all the time, I figured I should practice what I preach…

plungepool

So that was our first day with GSK, for me it was the first time to being on the other side of testing and for the other girls it was the first time to experience a professional sports environment with a great team from GSK.

Over the coming months we will continue to collect further results in order for the GSK team to calculate things such as our calorie expenditure during the row so we can minimise our risk of weight loss, our bone density so we can monitor it during and immediately post the row to see the affect of 6 months at sea, along with our cognitive preparation/ readiness when we’re sleep deprived. Hopefully we will have some good data by the end of the row to help inform others of how to ‘do more, feel better and live longer’.

Huge thanks to the GSK HPL team who all put up with us for the day and the hours they’re putting in to research and gather the results; Mark Langley, Anna Anton, Tess Morris, Barry O’Neill, Matt Furber, Josh Jackman, Sarah Browne, Lee Eddens.

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A day out in Henley

This week we were lucky enough to be invited by fst to attend the Henley VIP day, an exclusive travel industry day at Henley Royal Regatta and bring Doris along to show her off to a new audience.
Laura pulled off a master class in logistical organisation in the 2 days prior to the event, bouncing between Loughborough, London, Portsmouth and Christchurch to ensure that we were able to get the boat up to Henley on Wednesday morning. Huge thanks have to go to our equipment sponsors Lewmar for lending us a trailer and to the guys at Rossiters who got up early on Wednesday to show us how to get an ocean rowing boat off the water, onto a trailer and secured properly for a trip up the motorway. With Laura at the wheel we set off through Christchurch, getting a lot of attention from people on their way to work and off on our first towing adventure.

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Once Doris was installed outside the very swanky marquee we were invited in to talk to all the attendees of the day about our Pacific row. Huge thanks to fst who not only let us talk peoples ears off all day while feeding and watering us, but also kindly donated the takings from their regatta accumulator competition to our challenge. The interest we had from everyone we spoke to was an inspiration in itself and it was really great to share our story so far with more people. There was even time to watch a rowing race or two and get a bit jealous of everyone racing.

In the enclosure

In the enclosure

Showing off Doris

Showing off Doris

Some rowing!

Some rowing!

At the end of a successful day of networking we hitched up the trailer and headed back to Christchurch. Another long day finished – we’re certainly getting plenty of sleep deprivation practice at the moment but I for one am loving the craziness of being part of the Coxless Crew.

Enjoying being by the river

Enjoying being by the river

Looking smart in our Crew Clothing kit

Looking smart in our Crew Clothing kit

Finally another huge thank you to:
fst http://www.fstthegroup.com/ for inviting us for a great day in Henley.
Lewmar http://www.lewmar.com/ for the loan of the trailer.
Rossiters http://www.rossiteryachts.co.uk/ for all their help manoeuvring the boat onto the trailer.
We couldn’t have done it without all of you!

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Round the Island Race Cowes 2014

What a weekend!! Doris went for her first proper outing on the sea, we tried out all our Raymarine electronics and Crewsaver safety equipment for the first time, some of the girls who have applied to join our team came along for a row and we spent some happy hours running an ergo competition in the Raymarine tent.

Doris hits the sea!

Doris hits the sea!

The weekend started bright and early on Friday morning when Laura, Lizanne and I set off from Christchurch for our first venture out of the run. It was awesome, the sun was shining, the water was flat and our fusion radio was blasting out the tunes. With Matt advising us via the VHF radio we made it safely to Cowes (just about after slightly overshooting the entrance) after a 9 hour row and Doris settled into her home for the weekend at Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club who kindly hosted us.

At sea for the first time!!

At sea for the first time!!

 

 

Learning to use the autopilot

Learning to use the autopilot

 

Our super comfy Crewsaver lifejackets

Our super comfy Crewsaver lifejackets

On Saturday we were joined by Ali, Naomi and Natalia and we spent the day with Raymarine getting people on the ergs to try their hand at a 500m rowing competition. We were also joined by fellow Raymarine ambassadors and ocean rowers James Ketchall and Ash Wilson who will be rowing the Indian Ocean next year. We shared stories of sponsorship hunting and got some advice from James who has rowed the Atlantic. The poor sailing boats made almost painfully slow progress around the island in conditions far better suited to rowing but very well suited to a day in the sunshine at the yacht haven. When the sailors finally started arriving back we were even treated to a visit from Ben Ainsley and team!

 

The competition hots up in the Raymarine tent

The competition hots up in the Raymarine tent

Everyone got involved

Everyone got involved

We meet Ben Ainslie and team

We meet Ben Ainslie and team

Sunday morning we were up early again, breakfasted on Expedition Foods oats and muesli meals and were off rowing at 6.30am. Shortly after leaving Cowes we were joined by Hamish on our support boat for the day. Hamish kindly followed us back to Christchurch providing steering advice, a video camera, a ride in the RIB to get some good shots of Doris and even some oar power when he came aboard for a row. We were also joined by Simon Shaw who came out on his RIB to meet us and have a row. Lots of singing, dancing and laughing in the beautiful weather occurred and we made it to Christchurch in such good time that we had to hitch a lift from Hamish to get back through the run against the tide.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Happy days on Doris

Happy days on Doris

Simon joins us for a row

Simon joins us for a row

All in all a pretty fantastic weekend and we loved every minute of it. After all the hard work it takes doing the admin and planning for an ocean row it was great to get the chance to enjoy being out on Doris for a proper adventure. And as for what’s next, we have our final team selection weekend in the Brecons and then Henley Royal Regatta to look forward to in the next week. Stay posted for more updates!

Thanks to Raymarine for inviting us for a great weekend

Thanks to Raymarine for inviting us for a great weekend

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Team Selection Day 1

 

On Saturday we finally got to meet with the girls who have applied to join our Coxless Crew team. It was exciting and inspiring to find 14 girls who get what our row is about and who took the time to fill in the application. It’s also good to know that there are people out there who think that rowing the Pacific is a good idea!

Laura briefs everyone on the day ahead

Laura briefs everyone on the day ahead

We held the day’s activities at Bisham Abbey with Laura masterminding a full day of activities and managing to include girls in three different continents. The 11 girls who came along to Bisham were taken on a whistle-stop tour of activities with myself, Laura, Keith (sports psych), Alex (strength and conditioning) and Dale (cameraman).

Keith does his thing!

Keith does his thing!

Exercise to identify the ways to get the best out of each other – very important for 6 months on a boat the size of Doris!

Exercise to identify the ways to get the best out of each other – very important for 6 months on a boat the size of Doris!

We were also treated to a first person account of what it is like to row an ocean from Fergus of the Atlantic Polo team who is just back from his own ocean adventure.

Fergus tells us what ocean life is really like

Fergus tells us what ocean life is really like

Three girls also joined us over skype from abroad and were taken on their own journey around the different activities via iPad – the wonders of technology!

The wonders of modern technology!

The wonders of modern technology!

The day ended with a summary of the row from our fab applicants themselves. All of the  fantastic and it’s funny to think that we’ve now probably met the rest of the team who will be joining us on Doris for 6 months out at sea.

The next stage of team selection will involve a weekend of army training in the Brecons to test out our resilience under pressure, a bit of sleep deprivation and help us to figure out how to get the best team dynamic. Massive thanks have to go to our awesome support team Keith, Alex, Dale and Fergus who all gave up their Saturday to help us out and share their wealth of experience. Left to ourselves I think we might end up with a Coxless Crew team too big to fit on the boat!

The end of a good day

The end of a good day

Watch this space to see the final Coxless Crew team take shape!

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Pimms O’Clock

This weekend was a pretty exciting one! Doris was finally back on the water, fully kitted out with batteries, electronics, hatches and a rudder. The weather was beautiful and perfectly befitting our first proper outing.

Doris

We went for a paddle up the Solent, successfully navigating our way out of Christchurch and up to Mudeford without hitting any other boats or any trees and with only a small run in with one of the mud flats. To celebrate we moored ourselves up to a buoy (using proper knots and everything!) and enjoyed pimms and chocolate cake in the sunshine. Since Doris isn’t the most inconspicuous boat on the water we also made a lot of new friends with everyone wanting to know where we were off to. She is definitely a favourite with the kids.

DCIM100DRIFT DCIM100DRIFT

On Saturday night we set up camp in the cabin for the first time. It was surprisingly cosy in there and was a good introduction to our living space for the 6 months we’ll be out on the Pacific. We played some games and had some dinner before settling down to sleep. Next step will be to spend the night properly out on the water rather than moored up on the pontoon to give us a proper feeling of what it’ll be like to not be able to get off the boat.

games sleep

Sunday saw us back out for some more rowing followed by some plotting and planning for the week ahead. There’s a lot going on in the Coxless Crew at the moment. Most excitingly, next Saturday we are meeting with the amazing women who have applied to join our team. Exciting times ahead! Stay posted to hear how it goes. x

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The Boat Race

This weekend saw some team building with the wonderful Keith Goddard, our ever patient and helpful sports psych and some team rivalry while watching the boat race in Putney. We spent Saturday in Bath with Keith and put in some solid time working on how to get the best out of each other. This will be vital when we are out at sea when we will be each other’s main support for a successful ocean crossing.

On Sunday we headed to the river bank in Putney to watch the boat race action. With myself an ex Cambridge blues rower and Laura an ex Oxford Brookes student the competition was on.
L and E

The atmosphere in Putney was great and a huge number of people had shown up in plenty of time to see the coin toss to see which crew would get which station on the river.

coin toss

When each crew member was announced as they got into the boat I have to admit I was mainly jealous. These crews have been training all year for the challenge of this one race, a feeling I remember well from my boat race and the reason why if I could relive any race I’ve ever done it would be that 6 minutes at Henley. We’re looking forward to getting into our lovely boat Doris in California and getting a similar feeling of nerves and excitement when we set off next year (although we’ll be on the water for a little more than 20 minutes!). Sadly the race was a little less exciting than we might have hoped for after the Cambridge 2 man was almost ejected from the boat after a blade crash in the first 5 minutes. However all credit to him for continuing the race and to Oxford (although I hate to admit it) for some classy rowing and the biggest winning margin since 1973. Next year!

In other news our little pink boat should be back on the water in the next couple of weeks so that we can start putting in the hours at the oars instead of on the rowing machine. We are also still looking to complete our team. If you think that you are woman enough to join us then click here! http://coxlesscrew.com/join-us/

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This is why it’s called a Challenge!

contact-sunset

Currently being the 30th March, we technically should be packing our bags, spending time with our loving family and friends, stuffing our faces with endless amounts of food and drink in a last ditch attempt to pile on the kg’s in the final few weeks before departure. However, as many of you know, we have been on the hunt for a sponsor over the last few months and although we now have some amazing product sponsors, we unfortunately have yet to raise the funds that we need to get Doris shipped out to America. So our timeline dictated and our advisors kindly pointed us to the decision that we had to make, so we have postponed the row to 2015.

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We have a tight weather window between April-June, in order to leave America outside of the typhoon season and ensure we arrive into Australia before the weather again gets unpredictable in December. So not having the funds we need, moving it a month will have little affect, so we had to postpone it a year. As much as this was extremely difficult to come to terms with, especially after 2 years in the making so far and writing it in black and white isn’t easy, once the decision was actually made, everything became a lot clearer. We can get fully up to speed with becoming electricians/ mechanics/ DIY experts on our Doris over the next year, we can take Doris around the Isle of Wight, across the Channel and into the North Sea like we had planned for 2014. This will all test our sea skills and get to know Doris inside out and hopefully through some rough weather in order to give us an insight of things to come.  It means we can work further on team dynamics, psychological preparations, fitness and doing things in our training that we enjoy!

The most important thing, is that extra time gives us more time to prepare and with this challenge we have no intention of ‘attempting’ to row the Pacific, but to successfully achieve rowing the Pacific & preparation is key to that success.

The commitment and dedication that this row takes is hard for anyone to take on, you have to make a number of sacrifices to your work, family and friends and your life can feel like it’s on ‘hold’ for that period of time. Having to push the row to 2015 is asking for everyone to commit a further 2 years of their life to it, so understandably this has been a decision that not everyone has been able to make. All the girls that have been involved in the row to date, have fully contributed and made the row what it is today. Although some people may no longer be involved within the rowing team, they will always be a valued member of the crew, and it is all their combined hard work and efforts that have made it happen, and that will never be forgotten.

Andrew Brown - Atlantic Solo winner 2012 Andrew Brown – Project Manager

Lucy Vaughan-Griffith - PR LeadLucy Vaughan-Griffith – PR Manager

With a year to go, we are going into 2014-2015 with an esteemed advisory board behind us, a Project Manager now in place with Andrew Brown who rowed the Atlantic in 2012 as a Solo and a PR Manager Lucy who has a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Doris our boat, is fully equipped and on the water for the next year of practice thanks to Rossiters and we have huge thanks to our ongoing support from our current sponsors; Raymarine, Victron, CrewSaver, Crew Clothing, Azo Print, Solbian, Lewmar, Marlow, McMurdo, Fusion electronics, Barden, International Paint, SOSrehydrate, iCom, IMP, Marine Bedding, Vivobarefoot, Drift & The Rowing Company. Not to mention the support that we’ve gained from those of you that are a part of our journey through Buying A Mile http://coxlesscrew.com/buy-a-mile/ and for Saucy Horse, Berry Asset Management, Will It Make the Boat Go Faster, William Towers and Salt-Away for being a part of our Company Raffle http://coxlesscrew.com/coxless-company-raffle/.

So the up and coming couple of months will see a more structured team recruitment process involving interviews and team testing which you will all get a chance to follow and be part of if you’re interested http://coxlesscrew.com/join-us/! Team training which will involve a couple of us taking part in the Ride 24 London to Cornwall 310 miles in 24 hours ride, outings in Doris and her first encounter with the Isle of Wight in June prior to the Round The Island Race and plenty more events that we look forward to sharing with you.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support, we’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead!

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All things Crew….

crewsavercoxless-crew-logocrew-clothing

 

victron

So this last week has been an eclectic mix, from lifejackets to batteries, to clothing and training, with a few meetings thrown in for good measure!

Last week we visited one of our latest sponsors CrewSaver, heading down to their offices in Portsmouth and being fortunate enough to get a tour of the warehouse where all the magic happens.

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There’s  a big design room where all the illustrations and cadcam systems are laid out, which obviously for confidentiality I didn’t take a photo, but trust me when I say it’s an awesome big playroom for designers alike.

Then the templates get made and it’s in here that the magic happens, from stitching….. to testing the canisters and that there’s no leaks in the system…… to the final product of our jackets, the Ergofit! (Aptly named).

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We went from this, up to Nottingham to learn about all things lithium and battery related.

Johannes from Victron is an amazing sponsor and has the patience of a saint! Coming into this row and setting up the boat, I knew diddly squat about electronics and never thought we’d become electricians, love the skills you learn through this row! Anyway, after learning from past Ocean rowers experiences that the electrics always have a blip or two, we soon realised that we need to know the electrical system inside and out, so we booked onto a battery course hosted by Johannes himself from Victron.

 

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It took me back to physics days, watt=volt x amps and talking cathodes/ anodes and movement of positive and negative ions, who’d have thought! But it was a great day, that has got us on the road to understanding the lithium system and building our confidence in how to use it and fix it if/ when needed, onboard our boat Doris. Charlie Pitcher who has used the batteries regularly himself and installed them on other boats, is a wealth of knowledge who has also kindly gone out of his way to help us with advice which has been invaluable, thanks Charlie!

 

Then finally the fun bit of being a Coxless Crew member, having recently joined forces with Crew clothing, we had the great experience of going into the store to try on different clothes! Loved it! Then topped off today to receive a big parcel delivery which was like Christmas and birthdays rolled into one. Thanks to them, we now have some smart presentation wear for our meetings and there’s nothing better than a good outfit to feel professional in.

 

GetAttachmentcrew-clothingcrew clothing

 

So a great past couple of weeks, even with a few hurdles to overcome along the way,  it’s great to reflect on the positive things that make this an amazing journey and to highlight the awesome support we have behind us. Thanks to everyone and happy weekend to all! xx

 

 

 

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SOS UK Launch

sosrehydrate_sweatshop

Last week saw the launch of SOS rehydrate at the popular Sweatshop store on Trump Street and we were fortunate enough to be kindly invited along by the co-owner himself James Mayo.

SOSrehydrate

SOS is a new brand that was launched in America and Australia in April of last year. It caught our attention, because it is based off of medical grade oral rehydration therapy inline with the World Health Organisation strategy. For us, having a replacement that optimises fluid uptake is key, particularly when rowing for 12hours a day, whilst being exposed out in the sun and sea in heats of over 40deg, alongside times of sea sickness when hydration is fundamental.

Success has already been shown in the America’s Cup winners, Team Oracle, who used it during training and during the competition last year. Sir Ben Ainslie (fellow Cornishman I might add!) spoke very highly of SOS and how he felt it made a difference to his performance and alertness. He was so impressed that he has since bought into the company.

Fortunately for us, this meant we got to meet Sir Ben himself at the Launch

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Along with his crewmates of Team Oracle last year Freddie and Kyle
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For the coming couple of months, SOS and sweatshop are running a ‘grinder’ challenge, ( note: this is a piece of equipment used in sailing that applies the power to winch the sails, it’s not a type of intimate dance move!) whilst at the launch, myself and Nat set the leading female time for women to aim to beat across the country. Currently Nat is the leading female (only by 0.2 second I might add!).

Sir Ben Ainslie launches SOS Rehydrate, a new and cutting-edge electrolyte replacement drink.
(Photography courtesy of © OnEdition)

Sir Ben Ainslie launches SOS Rehydrate, a new and cutting-edge electrolyte replacement drink.
(Photography courtesy of © OnEdition)

The competition is being run across the country throughout February https://www.sweatshop.co.uk/sos-challenge so check out the link to see if it’s coming near you, to win a chance to go for a sail on Ben Ainslie’s boat!

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