Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Great Pacific Race: A girlfriend’s perspective

When an adventurer sets off on a five-week mission to row half-way across the world’s largest ocean, it is not just they who are affected. Families, friends and partners have to provide support where necessary. Guest blogger Melanie Roberts, girlfriend of crew member Colin Parker, offers her first thoughts on the Great Pacific Race.

fadsAmong the many character aspects I routinely mock Parker about; his penchant for taking up and dropping new hobbies at exceptionally high speed and at great financial cost is up there with the best of them.

His former flatmate, Vicki will pay testament to this. During their time sharing an abode, she dubbed a particularly unsustainable phase of his, ‘Crazy Sports Monday’; a day that would see him partake in football, kickboxing and platform-diving back to back from 6pm to 10pm, all in separate towns. By Tuesday, he was broken. It was therefore somewhat unsurprising that he only managed the complete programme of activity a grand total of four times, despite paying in advance for several weeks of platform-diving and kickboxing complete with all the associated kit, which was eventually sold at a car boot sale when he and Vicki both moved on to pastures new.

In our final weeks in England, Parker and I held another car boot sale together in Hampshire. You could almost hear Parker’s parents’ pasting table gallop toward the garage door the morning of the sale. Finally, it was being enlisted to do the job it was always meant to do; to bow beneath the collective weight of its owner’s fad paraphernalia and snag with its corners at the cheap outerwear of punters who jostle and strain to catch a glimpse of gold in a yet to be unpacked box.

As we set out our stall, Parker realised he’d unwittingly marked out a corner of the table that could visibly be identified as a graveyard for his fads. A shin pad here, a kick boxing belt there. Just this week he told me his podcast history quite accurately tracked the story of his fads.

Eggy bread with blood

But there are exceptions. Journalism is one. These past few weeks have seen Parker navigate his way through a decent stack of reads and multiple rounds of eggy Burgen bread – with blood, not mud – as he continued on his quest for gainful employment (now found with the Australian Financial Review) in our new home town of Auckland.

Throughout this process, we’ve discussed almost every aspect of any role he’s considered. We’ve talked about duties, teams, challenges, locations, hours, bosses, possible lunch dates, how to travel to and from work; it goes on. The one aspect that had not once come up is pay. In answer to one person’s question to him about the salary of one particular role, Parker replied: “I don’t know, I didn’t ask”.

Spoken like a true journalist. There are few professions where such an attitude is typical, but in the newsroom, it is commonplace. It’s only when the transition into PR comes into play that money begins to feature. After so long spent in a world where the letter ‘C’ is seen flirting with your bank balance for only the briefest of moments before ‘O’ trundles in to take its place, it’s quite a shock to surface above a level of pay that qualifies you for student loan repayments. O, with its depressing, empty centre resembling the hollow abyss that has been your finances since university.


A gratituous picture of the north Californian coastline. Beautiful.

There are certain markers that both Parker and I, were we to be concerned with aligning ourselves with societal norms and expectations, should have hit. Being 35, he should probably be married and own a house by now. Being 31, my ovaries should be in such a state of hysteria that I’m sent positively demonic if a child under five-years-old wanders within a suburb of me. Only none of those things are true, or have happened. We’re travelling, renting and between us, partially unemployed. New Zealand feels like the right place to be doing those things. The attitude here is easier, people’s minds are more open and best of all of those things, the inane and quite frankly numbing levels of judgement and cynicism that accompanies almost every aspect of everyday life in the UK is absent. It’s one of many liberating aspects of life in this country and one of the things I believe will help Parker train for one of the biggest challenges of his life, rowing with three others from California to Hawai’i as part of the first Great Pacific Race being held this time next year.

For all his fads, Parker has a proven ability to engage an exceptionally wilful mind. Sure, hundreds of thousands of people have completed the London Marathon just as he did the year before last, but far fewer will have the guts to put themselves forward for anything more challenging. The race will take training and dedication and sacrifice, all of which he is capable of in spades. If you’ve been keeping up with his blog, you’ll know he plans to row the same distance of the race on a rowing machine. Somewhere, in a gym in central Auckland, he’ll be tracking his progress in kms on the tiny eye level screen before him while in his mind he’ll be nudging away sea birds from his boat as the Hawai’i shore grows closer and closer.

The pasting table knows it need not breathe a sigh of relief. Like me, it’s confident there’ll be no need to accommodate an ocean rowing boat anytime soon.

Melanie RobertsFollow Melanie Roberts on Twitter @melanienadine

Stationary row from New Zealand to Hawai’i – update


FINISH: 5KM past the Coromandel Peninsula



I HAVE been ‘out at sea’ for about 10 days and have managed to complete a few dozen kilometres, but a new job and a distant gym have proved to be obstacles.

This will change come Monday. My 14-days-for-one-dollar pass at Les Mills gym in Auckland has run aground, so I plan to set sail at the 24-hour Jetts gym in Grey Lynn, which is perfectly placed between work and home - and within 100 metres of Hell Pizza.

Below I have run through my rowing sessions, including time and distances completed, along with supplementary work. Each session is started with a five-minute march up a 3% incline on the treadmill followed by a 10-minute stretch and thigh massage on the foam roller.

After each row I complete what I call an opposite weights set, where I exercise the muscles opposite to the ones used in rowing: so triceps, chest, hamstrings, and stomach.

I have also discovered an amazing instructional video on YouTube presented by some dude who teaches rowing near the Thames in the UK. It has helped me reduce my strokes per minute considerably, but also increase the distance covered.

In addition I discovered a 12-step ‘weights-for-rowing’ programme, which I have done once but on the four or five subsequent days found walking a right issue. I will blog about the video and weights programme shortly.

So below is the rowing I have completed since arriving on Waiheke Island. The next (imaginary) stop according to my route (devised on google maps and a pencil) would be the tip of New Zealand’s Coromandel peninsula.

So according to my summary, I arrived and departed from the Coromandel and therefore mainland New Zealand, and am now 5km out into yonder.

SUMMARY: Time: 211 minutes; Distance: 45.602km


Date: June 17; Time: 30 minutes; Distance: 6.5km; Supplementary: Opposite weights.


Date: June 18; Time: 60 minutes; Distance: 13.055km; Supplementary: Opposite weights.


Date: June 19; Time: 10 minutes; Distance: 2km; Supplementary: 12 step ‘weights for rowing’.


Date: June 22; Time: 71 minutes; Distance: 15km; Supplementary: Opposite weights


Date: June 27; Time: 40 minutes; Distance: 9.047km; Supplementary: Opposite weights



Fraser’s 30hr, 100km London to Brighton Trek 2013

This weekend, I took part in the British Heart Foundation’s London to Brighton Trek, an annual fundraising event put on by the charity which is a 100km (62 mile) Trek from, unsurprisingly, London to Brighton.

After being asked by my friend Danny a few months back if I fancied taking part, I signed up under the mindset of “it’ll be easy, It’ll be challenging but it’s only walking and it’ll be fun to spend some time with the lads doing something a little different”. Up until this point, the longest walk I’d ever been on was in the region of 15 miles.

The first time I mentioned the walk to my Dad, an avid hiker, while hugely supportive, expressed concern and called me bonkers for signing up and repeatedly told me over the next few months that I should be training more (not too dissimilar to his reaction to my signing up to the Great Pacific Race). This should have caused alarm bells, but, despite being in the best shape of my life from all the cycle and gym training, I flippantly went into the walk with only 2 training walks under my belt, the longest of which was 17 miles and neither of those 2 walks were within a month of the start of the event.

8 Bananas, 8 chocolate bars, pack of beef jerky, 3 packs of sugary sweets, tube of hydration tabs, 2 water bottles, paracetamol, anti blister spray, blister plasters, 4 changes of socks, adhesive padding, nut and raisin mix, head torch, walking poles, batteries, laser pointer, rain jacket, running shoes (which I decided to leave behind), camera

8 Bananas, 8 chocolate bars, pack of beef jerky, 3 packs of sugary sweets, tube of hydration tabs, 2 water bottles, paracetamol, anti blister spray, blister plasters, 4 changes of socks, adhesive padding, nut and raisin mix, head torch, walking poles, batteries, laser pointer, rain jacket, running shoes (which I decided to leave behind), camera

On Friday night after work, with my bag in which I’d packed with everything for the walk, I headed to Sevenoaks train station bound for Sunbury where I was to meet up with Danny, Mike, Tom, Stuart and James in the hotel we had booked for the night before the start. We had a low key evening and had all retired by around 9.30 to get an early night for the following morning.

After convening in the hotel lobby just before 7am, we headed over to Kempton Park Racecourse to register with around 500 other walkers and get ready for the off. In traditional English fashion, the weather was overcast and there was light, sporadic rain.

After registration, we found ourselves in the first group, scheduled to leave at 8am. At just after 8, at the gates to the racecourse, we joined in the countdown for the most anti climatic start to any event ever – the start of a walk is never going to be an explosive event – and headed off towards Brighton.

The first part of the course headed out through the suburbs towards the river Thames which we flanked for a few miles before meeting the river Wey(?), along which we walked til Guildford. Our first checkpoint was at a pub on the river 15km from the start which we reached in around 3 uneventful hours. By the time we reached the first checkpoint, I’d noticed my left heel was starting to get quite sore, I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining it as I spent the majority of the time walking looking for sore points as I was petrified of getting any blisters which would end my challenge. At the checkpoint we grabbed a coffee, ate some snacks, aired our feet and I reapplied anti blister spray and we headed off towards checkpoint 2 at a pub Guildford, another 15km away.

We arrived in Guildford after another uneventful stretch, both feet had some pain but nothing too bad. A couple of the guys in particular were having quite severe problems with blisters at this stage so they did what they could in terms of foot care. I aired my feet, ate a burger and had my first sock change. We had friends come out to meet us in Guildford as well as Mike’s mum, dad and sister who walked with us for a couple of miles after the checkpoint.

From Guildford, we set off headed for the halfway point. A few miles before we go to the checkpoint it had started getting dark and I was getting a lot of discomfort in my right knee, right behind my knee cap, which sent shooting pains down my leg when putting weight on it on even the slightest decline. The back of my left knee was also causing me some grief. This prompted me to crack out the poles.

By the time we made it to the halfway checkpoint around 9pm, we were all noticeably fatigued and in pain and by the faces and body language of the other walkers, they were too. We spent about half an hour here. Socks were changed and snacks were eaten before we reluctantly got to our feet to start the 12km to the next checkpoint where we were to get a meal.

Almost immediately after leaving the halfway mark, my left knee decided it wanted join in with my right knee and I got the exact same pain but much more severe. I was now using the poles as hand held crutches, putting as much of my weight onto them as I could. Things looked pretty bleak for me at this stage but I took a couple of pain killers and forced myself along. Around 3 miles from the next checkpoint, where we were to be fed, I had got a burst of energy and with Danny, we pressed on ahead of the others – both Danny and James seemed much less affected than the rest of us at this stage – it didn’t last long though; the pain in my knees heightened and forced me to slow down to barely a snails pace after a couple of miles of charging, leaving Danny up ahead on his own. Before I reached the checkpoint the others had caught and passed me.

When I arrived at the checkpoint, I found the others in the dinner hall tucking into their food. I queued for my lasagne and took a seat with them. The second I sat down I started to feel feint and I was very hot and started sweating profusely. I took my jumper off and had to put my head on the table as I felt I was going to pass out. A worker in the dining hall took notice of my condition and called a medic over who advised me to eat some food. Seeing as I hadn’t eaten anything other than energy gels and chocolate for the last 10hrs I was likely just running on sugar and it was running out, he said. I very forcefully took a couple of bites of garlic bread down and very quickly started to come round.

By now everyone was suffering with blisters. 2 of our team moreso than the others and after an hour or so and a lot of attention from paramedics, they were unable to continue due to their pain. The checkpoint was like a military hospital during war time, there were people being carried into the back of ambulances and medics treating people everywhere. We heard an unofficial statistic from one of the marshalls that less than half the people who started the race made it past the checkpoint.

James and Danny who were faring better than the rest of us decided to push on ahead. After we had filled our water bottles, taken our complimentary massages and stocked up on as many pain killers as the medics would allow us, Stuart and I crawled out of the checkpoint fully expecting the following 38km to be too much for us.

We stumbled on through the night in the rain through fields and woods as quick as our damaged legs and feet would carry us – Not very fast. We spent the night talking about how much we were looking forward to the sunrise and the morale boost it would give us, convincing ourselves that seeing the natural light would trick our tired bodies into waking up and giving us the energy we so very much needed to get ourselves to Brighton racecourse. We tried to calculate what time we would finish the walk. Each time we made the calculation, the ETA was later: 11am, 11.30am, 12pm, 12.30pm…….. By the time the sky started to lighten – around 4am we were both getting very delirious. I recall after every sentence that came out of my mouth thinking “what you just said was a load of [rubbish]”.

I remember earlier in the walk thinking something along the lines of “it’ll be amazing when we get to the 70km mark. It’ll be the home stretch. Getting to the end will be a piece of [cake] from there”. When we actually got to the 70km mark, the sun was coming up and I remembered that thought from the day before. It initially perked me up but then I started doing the calculations that had been my way of passing the time during the night: 30km remaining. We were walking at an absolute maximum of 4km/h. This equals 7.5 hours. 7.5 hours is still a whole working day. And that was without taking into account any breaks and any inevitable further drop in speed.

Along with the sunrise I discovered that my hopes of my circadian rhythm kicking in and bringing me back to life were dashed. This was the start of the lowest point for me on the walk; The pain in my knees and feet was excruciating and I could have very easily just curled up on the gravel path and fallen asleep – I was having to stop very regularly to sit on anything that could be turned into a makeshift chair and I told Stuart numerous times that I’d had it and couldn’t go on any further but each time he gently talked me into “just the next checkpoint” so on I trudged, forcing myself to eat and drink as I went.

I finally got the second wind I was hoping for and out of nowhere sprang back to life. I was still delirious, I was still in excruciating pain and I was still very tired but I suddenly got the drive I was hoping for and was feeling a lot more positive about making it to the end. It was around this time that Stuart started to go through what I had been suffering with and as he had done for me, I did all I could to talk him through it and persuaded him to stay on and he did good and was able to keep going.

We pressed on to the South Downs with heightened spirits knowing that foot of the hill marked 10 miles to the end… We tried to shut out the fact that this meant, at our slow pace, 5 more hours.

Heading up the South Downs was much less of a hardship than I had been anticipating, the poles allowing me the luxury of palming a good amount of the strain from my feet and legs to my upper body which was faring much better than my lower extremities. It was coming down the other side into Hove that was the tough bit, the pain in my knees not letting up and reminding me with every step that they didn’t want me to be doing this. I was this close to the end though and they were being ignored.

We made it down the other side into the narrow alley ways of Hove, littered with broken bottles and cigarette butts, which were to be our path to the checkpoint on the sea front. From there it was to be a short walk to the racecourse for the finish. When we arrived at the checkpoint we found out we still had another 7km to go to the racecourse. This was like a kick in the stomach, we were practically in Brighton and we still had another 2hrs of walking to endure.

We dragged our feet along the coastal path with the wind at our back. I was trying to make the poles carry as much of my weight as I could, eyeing up the pier and constantly trying to work out how long it would take us to make it there. There were motivating moments when passing members of the public (who were going the opposite direction – at this stage there was zero chance of us overtaking even the most casual of coastal strollers) cheered us on or we heard comments from behind us along the lines of “they’ve been walking all night”. I also got a very motivating call from my dad who was, at the time, in the midst of a leg of his coast to coast walk up north.

When we finally reached the pier after just over an hour we’d lost sight of the direction signs so I got my phone out and plotted the shortest route to the racetrack for the finish line. 1.2 miles remaining. We’d be finished within an hour… we followed the blue line on my phone inland and uphill using the last of our energy. Looking down at the phone every couple of seconds to confirm that we were in fact getting closer to our target. Eventually, the racecourse came into view and we saw the red jumper of a BHF marshal coming towards us to tell us that we’d missed a turning and were approaching the racecourse from the wrong direction. Expecting to be sent back to join the “correct” path we were happy to hear that we had covered the same distance and just needed to go round to another entrance to the stadium so we could walk the official route to the finish line where our friends and my sister were waiting to cheer us in. It was 3pm, 30hrs after we had started. I grabbed the nearest chair I could find and sat down.

l-r James, Mike, Tom, Danny, Me (Fraser), Stuart

l-r James, Mike, Tom, Danny, Me (Fraser), Stuart

Team Pacific Rowers is now on Facebook

Picture 1

Click on the picture to go to our Facebook page.

WE are on Facebook, which means we are a 100% bonafide legitimate official team.

Crew member Colin ‘between jobs’ Parker managed to fudge together a page on Monday June 17 while waiting for a phone call from potential employers.

It is very much the ‘f’ in fledgling at the moment with just three likes, which is concerning as there are four of us in this team.

I borrowed a wonderful photograph of a seascape for our header, thinking this will be our horizon for about five weeks so we may as well get used to it, and the first wall post is a funny poster of race organiser Chris Martin.

Our Facebook page will be supplementing this website and our Twitter account (@pacificrowers), so please, click on the like and help us build up a support base.

You can head straight to our page and write something pleasant by clicking here.

Arriving on the north shore of Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island.





THIS will be the last daily blog on my attempt to row the South Pacific on a indoor rowing machine, otherwise these will get tedious.

Today was the longest time I have ever spent on a rowing machine, a whopping 50 minutes, and good God did my arse tell me, almost non stop for the last quarter of an hour.

But like a cyclist and his saddle or human being and a new pair of shoes, a comfortable relationship between rower and seat is one that is forged over time.

So anyway, I have made it onto the north side of Waiheke Island after today completing 10.5km on the Concept2 machine in Les Mills gym, rowing one-minute sprint intervals followed by a standard pace.

I am about one third of the distance to the Coromandel Peninsula, which I hope to have reached and left by the time I upload this blog next Sunday. There’s a long way until I complete the first leg of this trip, Auckland to Tonga.

Welcoming James on board and meeting Team Atlantic Splash

Last weekend we officially welcomed on board our 4th crew member for the Great Pacific Race, James Wight. We’d been put in touch with James about a month ago by Chris from New Ocean Wave as he’d been looking for a crew to join. After a few weeks of Skype meet ups and phone calls, Sam, Colin and I (Fraser) had pretty much already made our mind up that he was the perfect man to complete the team.

As Sam currently lives on the Channel Islands, we’d arranged our meetup with James to coincide with meeting the Team Atlantic Splash ( twitter: @atlanticsplash) guys who we’d been chatting with over Twitter, email and phone for a few weeks.

The team t-shirts. iPhone cameras could be better

The team t-shirts. iPhone cameras need to stop being so lazy and put some more effort in.

Sam and James made their way to my house in Tunbridge Wells – Sam bringing with him the team t-shirts he had arranged getting printed – where the plan was to head down to the Folkestone Regatta in Sandgate to grab a beer and meet the Atlantic Splash guys.

Just prior to the guys making it to my house, we received a text from Atlantic Splash’s Bastien that they were having issues with their trailer. One of their wheel bearings had gone so were unable to make it to Folkestone and were sat on the side of the road waiting for the AA to come and recover them.

It just so happened that the road they were on the side of was in Tunbridge Wells. Less than a mile from my front door! We hopped in my car (lazy I know – but it was cloudy…. don’t judge me) and headed over. Despite the circumstances they were a very chirpy and an incredibly friendly and welcoming bunch, though that could have partly been due to the Big Macs that had arrived just before us. We spent a couple of hours with them chatting at the side of the road and they kindly gave us a look around their boat which, judging by all the looks it was getting from passing cars, was as interesting to the general population of T.Wells as it was to us.

In one of the passing cars was Scott Gilcrest who rowed the Atlantic in 2002. Scott is originally from Newcastle but now living in Tunbridge Wells.

l-r: James Wight, Fraser Hart, Sam Collins, Scott Gilcrest, Neal Marsh, Bastien Leclair, Tom Hyland

l-r: James Wight, Fraser Hart, Sam Collins, Scott Gilcrest, Neal Marsh, Bastien Leclair, Tom Hyland

We said our farewells to Atlantic Splash and James, Sam and I headed over to a town centre watering hole for a pint and a sunday roast where we officially offered him the 4th spot on the team, to our delight we hadn’t put him off and he accepted.

Welcome aboard James!

Auckland to Tonga – Day 2

motuihe island

Motuihe Island. Technically I am here and not in a gym.





I LEFT Auckland Harbour bound for Tonga on Thursday June 13 on my stationary row across the South Pacific, and rowed for little more than 30 minutes on subsequent days.

A goal of 19km per day has been set to get me to Hawai’i before the start of the Great Pacific Race, which is due to start in June 2014. The first leg ends in Tonga, 1996km from Auckland.

It will be ridiculously tough to accomplish this, but if I can, it should set me in good stead for next year’s race.

So I currently sit on the other side of Motuihe Island, some 13km from Auckland Harbour. On Thursday I rowed 6100 metres in 30 minutes, on Friday I completed 6900 metres in 32 minutes.

On the Friday session I used the interval function on the machine, sprinting for one minute and rowing at a more maintainable pace for the following nine minutes, with a peak stroke rate of 42/min.

A row across the South Pacific without leaving a Les Mills gym


The beautiful islands of the South Pacific.

IT’S Thursday June 13 2013; there are precisely 359 days to go before the scheduled start of the Great Pacific Race in Monterey, USA.

The race is 2100 miles long, which I have covered by airplane within a day; by car in a couple of months; and through walking, cycling and running combined in around two years.

The task next year is to row that distance, which will end up being a few clicks more as we get pushed back by currents and probably take a wrong turn somewhere, in about five weeks.

Apart from the inflatable dinghy with the orange plastic oars you get while on holiday in France, I have never rowed a moveable vessel of any kind, yet Team Pacific Rowers plans to win the inaugural race.

There is a trinity of reasons we will be at the start line in California next year: adventure, to raise awareness of a particular cause (as yet to be confirmed), and to lift the still to be named trophy presented to the first team of four to cross the line in Honolulu.

So, with less than a year to go training has now started. I have been in contact with West End Rowing Club in Auckland who have said will contact me when their next ‘learn to row’ sessions start, hopefully sometime in August, and sea kayaking will be another way of building fitness.

But plenty of training will be taking part in the gym, on the lesser used rowing machine. Let’s be frank, rowing machines, like most cardiovascular fitness machines, are flipping dull. Motivation will be needed.

To keep this up, as it were, I have decided to spend the next year rowing 7052km from Auckland to Hawai’i, from the discomfort of a rowing machine. That’s little more than 19km every day, for the next 12 months.

In fact it will be more. Although I do not have currents or navigation problems to deal with, I do plan to visit a few islands on the way to Honolulu, which takes me a little bit adrift from a direct route.

As I leave the isthmus of Auckland land will be visited often on the first few days, but the sea to Tonga is rarely punctuated after that.

From Tonga it is onto Samoa, then Christmas Island, and then Hawai’i. In this perverse fantasy I will cross the Tropic of Capricorn, the Equator, and the International Date Line.

The feat will take place in the gym, with any mileage covered while kayaking taken into consideration. Currently I use the Les Mills gym on Victoria Street West in Auckland.

I am blogging about this to prevent me failing, knowing it is on record and therefore must keep going.

So leg one, from Auckland to Tonga, is 1996 kilometres, which means I should make it by the end of September. Keep following and spread the word.

Colin Parker