Thursday, March 4, 2010

Loneliness and Exhaustion, Patience and Perseverence

Photo from Katie's Website:Row for Water)

If you ever wondered what true exhaustion feels like, or claustrophobia, or utter loneliness for human companionship, Katie Spotz can enlighten you. And if you wonder whether these things can indeed be overcome, then this young endurance athlete can answer that too. Among many other feats to her credit, she's rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. Alone.

As Endurance, is her strong suit, she's run 150 miles across the Mojave Desert
and Biked 3,300 across the US (Averaging 85 miles per day).
Not to mention an impressive swim-the full 325 mile length of the Allegheny River.
Then there was the Half-Iron Man,
and that 62 Mile Marathon too.

But this time, she's rowing the Atlantic Ocean-
A 2,500 mile row from Dakar, in Senegal to Cayenne French Guiana, and

she's only 22 years old.

She's also responsible for inspiring and enthralling many of us land-lubbing coach potatoes along the way and raising awareness, for let's not forget, Her Cause: Water.
That is, Clean, viable drinking water.

Water is very likely, the number one thing we, in developed parts of the world, all take for granted. But the Truth is, 1 in 6 of us on God's green and mostly blue Earth, don't have access to this most basic of human necessities. This should, at the very least, make us think twice about leaving the water running when brushing our teeth.

Katie's quest to raise awareness for Water issues in the developing world, is no question being realized as she rows across the Atlantic, solo. Aside from raising awareness, another important goal was to raise $30,000. But that's long been been surpassed.Her efforts have amounted now to well over $50,000 and growing. But this will only cover a small portion of our fellow men, women and children who live, on a daily basis without the access to clean, safe drinking and bathing water.

Check out her website Row for Water and watch her progress which is being charted by GPS. See her location in real time, cheer her on by leaving a note of encouragement, and by all means donate what you can. For $30 you can offer someone a lifetime of safe drinking Water, as we in the comfort of the developed world recognize how good we have it, when we turn on the faucet every morning to wash our face and brush out teeth.

Katie has teamed up with a non-profit organization which, since 2002 has been funding and providing safe drinking water projects in over 18 countries of the world.

But what must it be like to row, for 10 hours a day, rain or shine, with only music and audio books to entertain? I think I can safely say, it could be one of the ultimate tests. What about rain, what about storms, what about the possibility of capsizing? What about the power of the human mind to lead you into terrible, terrible territory? Katie relates that the boat is "self righting" and capable of taking on 30 ft. waves, and Hurricanes. Says Katie,

"Fears are a heavy burden that I am too lazy to carry around! Although my fears are not my source of motivation, my greatest fear would be to let my fears make my decisions for me and not row across the Atlantic Ocean. I tend to be more excited than fearful about facing the unknown."

And there is of course, lots of unknown. Around 5PM on her daily schedule, if need be, she jumps overboard (yes,overboard) to scrub down the bottom of the boat. Maybe, We, much like Katie's highly advanced boat, would also find ourselves to be "self-righting" when taken to the extremes of our design.

But should something go wrong that would require immediate attention, the boat is equipped with an EPIRB, an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which would essentially contact the Coast Guard for Rescue when activated.
Surviving on dehydrated foods, and energy bars, and only so much fresh fruit and vegetables, one could easily feel deprived. But only for a while. After a while, I presume, things like a warm soft bed that isn't moving, a hot shower, and the embrace of family and friends, would be tops on your list list of important. But she has been blessed with company. Birds and fish and Dolphins. And oh, how welcome they must be, when all she's seen for over two months time, is sea and sky. There have been occasional freighters in the distance, and a sailboat within radio distance, but attempts to communicate with them were to no avail. There have been interviews, too. Over her Satellite phone. And blog posts and tweets. These creature comforts, are comforting to us, from home, who, if we have at least a stitch of empathy in our bones, are beside ourselves with curiosity, wonder, fear and awe. But it must only be a pittance in relation to what Katie has known, out there in the endless blue of the day, and the endless black of night.

With Solar panels fueling her desalination unit, which accounts for the majority of her energy needs, she's equipped with fresh water for her drinking and bathing. They also power her jet boil stove which she uses to cook her dehydrated food, and her electronics and cell phone, and GPS.
One of the interviewers asked her what she'd learned thus far, half way into her odyssey.
She said:

*the difference between “need” and “want”
*How little we actually need

When asked about Perseverance, Katie, responded:

"I have had my moments. Around day 30 I was feeling particularly down but, looking back, I’m not really sure what it was about. I was experiencing exhaustion due to poor sleep and it must have played with the emotions. Pushing through is the easy part. There is nowhere else to go or nothing else to do but face it. Accept it, experience it, grow from it. And keep rowing."
Such, in Fact, is Life.

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