Very Long Way to Row: Roz Savage on 'Rowing the Atlantic'

October 12, 2009

ROZ SAVAGE’S LAST NAME seems especially fitting when you know her story: British woman bored of a career in management consulting abandons her cushy lifestyle in order to pursue true adventure. The chronicle of her first major feat, “Rowing the Atlantic” ($24, Simon & Schuster), describes her transformation as she rowed more than 3,000 miles alone across the ocean for a harrowing 102-day journey.

She’ll explain how she got the gumption to do such a thing — and how she’s currently conquering the Pacific in three legs — at National Geographic’s headquarters Oct. 19 ($18, 7:30 p.m., 1600 M St. NW; 202-857-7700, Events.national
geographic.com
).

» EXPRESS: How did you come up with the idea to do the race?
» SAVAGE: I was undergoing an intense personal transformation, and I was thinking about several ideas, including opening an organic coffee shop. I had heard people talking about rowing oceans before. There was a couple who did it and the husband had to be plucked out when he developed abject terror when he lost sight of land. I felt like a set of shiny tools, but I had no project. Then one day I was driving along and it popped in my head. It seemed perfect and impossible.

» EXPRESS: How do you set about tackling a challenge like that physically?
» SAVAGE: My strategy for the Atlantic was I wanted to know I could row for hours and hours a day. Each Sunday I would row for 16 hours. It was as much about the boredom threshold as getting in shape. But the general cardio and weight training strategy didn’t work well because early on I developed tendinitis. Now, I’ve taken a more laid-back approach of exercising. I find after a couple weeks in the boat, I’m ready. I’m not some uber-athlete. I’m perfectly happy sitting around all day and eating cookies.


» EXPRESS: It sounds like it was more challenging psychologically than physically.
» SAVAGE: I quite regularly give myself a bit of a talking-to. I think our internal dialogues shape our lives very much and the way you look at a situation. When I was preparing for the Atlantic, I met someone who said, “You must have a good relationship with the voices in your head.” I knew that there were these little demons, and to take them on was such a character-building experience.

» EXPRESS: Do you think of yourself as an adventurer now?
» SAVAGE: Definitely. I felt like I was faking it for a while. I’d done the row as part of the race, and it was so hard. I just scraped by. With the first Pacific row, I was happier and in my element when I arrived in Hawaii.

» EXPRESS: Have any advice for aspiring adventurers?
» SAVAGE: My approach has always been to make lists. Start with what skills do I need, who should I talk to, what supplies will I need to get. You’ll end up with a massive list of what to do, but if you break it down small enough into all of the parts, there is nothing on the list you can’t do.

» EXPRESS: What’s next for you?
» SAVAGE: There’s still the Indian Ocean. But I’ll see how I feel about the ocean-rowing thing after I finish the Pacific.

Photo courtesy Roz Savage

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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Vicky Hallett · October 12, 2009