A Dip in the Ocean


This is the title of the first book written by the astonishingly brave adventurer Sarah Outen. The summary on Amazon reads as follows:

4,000 miles of unpredictable ocean
500 Chocolate bars
124 days of physical exertion
3 Guinness World Records set
1 incredible journey

I’ve just read Sarah’s book about her record-breaking crossing of the Indian Ocean, SOLO mind you, in a specially designed boat called Dippers. I was inspired to learn more about Sarah after seeing her present at the Night of Adventure organised by Alastair Humphries. (You can read more about this in my earlier post).My Night of Inspiration

I work in London and saved myself the treat of reading this great book as I travel to and from work. My goodness! what a courageous and inspirational lady Sarah is! I am full of admiration for her. Her story has so many moments of extraordinary bravery. Her journey started as she tried to deal with the overwhelming grief of losing her beloved father far too early from cruelly debilitating arthritis. Spurred on by wanting to do something in his memory and having begun rowing in earnest at uni, she planned her incredible journey.

Sarah’s journey was, as you would have expected, a monumental challenge and she survived capsize more than once. Her amazing little boat righted itself and bobbed upright and kept her safe. She must have been absolutely terrified and she doesn’t say that she cried, but I know I would have!

Sarah succeeded in her goal to cross the Indian Ocean landing in Mauritius. In doing so she became the first woman to do so, solo and became the youngest person as well.

When I think about Sarah and her astonishing achievement, the following quote crosses my mind because she was absolutely determined to succeed.

“A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done”

I am a hardened commuter, but Sarah’s beautifully written book had me smiling and laughing out loud and even holding back tears in public on many occasions. I was so touched by the bond that she built up with her lovely boat and the small fishes she nick-named the ‘Tweedles’ as they escorted her across the ocean. This challenge is one of the hardest journeys I have read about. Sarah has to deal with pushing her body beyond the limit of physical exertions coping with extreme tiredness, hunger and thirst as well as rowing injuries such as pulled muscles and horrible blisters and boils. She has to deal with the emotional exertions too: that of loneliness and fear and the uncertainties that accompany a challenge where, however well prepared you are, you are at the mercy of the incredible elements of the planet where the odds are more often than not, stacked against you. Sarah’s writing is so honest and heartfelt and as a reader you are drawn into her story so much so that, in my own case, I almost wanted her to quit so that she would be safely home. Of course she didn’t – she is way too strong and as a woman I’m so incredibly proud of the fact that she DIT IT.

I’ve been thinking about an adventure myself and rowing is something I’m rather keen on trying. I’m a fair bit older than Sarah, but having read Sarah’s book, I figure that there’s no reason not to give it a go. I feel inspired and encouraged to try, in my own small way. You can find the link to Sarah’s book on Amazon here.



Fit to Survive?

As part of sharing my journey, I want to share some books with you. I love reading and I’ve read some incredible books about the human body and human exploits that have informed me and more importantly have  inspired and moved me and have made me wish that my daily commute was two hours long. I have to read a lot for my work, so when I read for myself, I read to escape from the day. I read to escape to the places I want to be.  For those days when I can’t get out and do, I can read about it instead. I hope I can encourage you to dip into some of these amazing books too…

This is my first book review and its the book that, without a doubt, would come to a desert island with me. I bought it in 2011 and I’ve read it so many times the glue has broken on the spine and pages have come loose. The first time I read it I didn’t eat butter for a month after!

Survival of the Fittest (Understanding Health and Peak Physical Performance) by Dr Mike Stroud

This book is a real treasure. Dr Mike Stroud is the Polar explorer who has accompanied Sir Ranulph Fiennes on many of his Polar adventures and most lately his incredible Seven Marathons on Seven Continents in Seven Days challenge just after undergoing open heart surgery.

Dr Mike Stroud is an adventurer in his own right. Upon qualifying as a doctor, he decided he wanted to understand how the body works and so, not only was he a practicing hospital physician specialising in nutrition and metabolism, he undertook research into human performance and survival for the Ministry of Defence. Throughout his life he has taken part in some of the most epic journeys and challenges of our time including the iconic Marathon des Sables.

The reason I think this book is a real treasure is because not only does Mike Stroud start from the cradle of life explaining how and why the body was designed the way it is, moving though thousands of years of evolution, but because he breaks up the How and Why with real life stories recounting incidents where the human body has gone past the limits of its engineering. Stories include a runner who is lost in the Sahara and another telling how he and Sir Ranulf Fiennes survived their epic polar journey losing more body fat and muscle than should be possible and still live.

This book gave me a new level of respect and awe for the ingenious design of the human body and a realisation that nature doesn’t listen to the negative ramblings in your head. It never gives up. Its beautifully written and despite the amount of scientific ‘stuff’ its very easy to read and understand and the stories are written with great humour and feeling. Not only is this incredibly enjoyable to read, it is extremely informative if you want to know what goes on under your skin.

My much loved copy of the book


Survival of the Fittest is available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions.