Patience, Energy and Passion: Katie Spotz on her Solo Atlantic Ocean Row

katie rowing

By: MAGGIE YOUNG

Sometimes we don’t necessarily seek the great adventure, but instead, it finds us. For Katie Spotz, 24, who rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, that was the case. Spotz was studying in Australia in 2007 when she talked with someone on a bus who gave her the idea to do the row. That one conversation eventually led her to her Atlantic adventure.

Spotz started out with the celebrating of a 5-mile run when she was 18, then moved to a half-Ironman triathlon, an ultramarathon in Australia, a 325-mile swim across the Allegheny River, and runs across desserts. These adventures led up to her solo row across the Atlantic, which was followed by cycling across the USA. Spotz says that each adventure flowed into the next one because it gave her the feeling that she could do it, and that was just the buzz she needed.

As much as the row was a physical feat, it was also one deeply rooted in her passion for clean drinking water. While Spotz was traveling, she saw that so many people grew up without something as simple and vital as clean water. It didn’t seem right to her, so she decided to channel her endurance efforts to support a community that provides safe drinking water called Blue Planet Network.

“You just need something more and focusing efforts on a charity or issue you care about is much more gratifying,” says Spotz. “You need to know and feel that you are part of something bigger and grow your passion from that.”

The challenge encompassed tough physical and mental conditions. Spotz says that you just can’t prepare yourself for a solo row across the ocean. Nothing in everyday life can warm you up for that kind of an adventure. Keeping this in mind, she put together a plan to get herself ready to the best of her ability.

Spotz trained for the event by focusing on injury prevention and overall fitness. Her regimen included rowing (not every day), sprints, jump rope, running and weight training. Spotz focused on her lower back and core because those muscles would give her power and strength while rowing. In essence, she cross-trained for whatever came her way out in the ocean.

“I felt strong enough because I was getting enough food and I didn’t get seasick or get blisters,” says Spotz. “I was physically pretty well with no serious injuries.”

Sometimes it’s our minds that hold us back. Spotz knows about this issue all too well, and she decided to overcome it in a big way. An achievement like the Atlantic Ocean row is an incredible hurdle for the mind to get over. Writing a few letters to herself was a way that she could bottle her passion up for when she needed it most.

Spotz emphasized that it is necessary to write down the goals you want to achieve and why you are striving to complete them. Your true thoughts will come out on paper, and the raw words will hit the message home. Spotz even printed some quotes to hang up around her boat so that she could find inspiration during the tough times.

“It comes down to accepting and embracing that there will be challenges,” says Spotz. “Challenges and great accomplishments take patience, energy and passion.”

Spotz rowed for 70 days, 5 hours and 22 minutes and became the youngest, and first woman, to row solo across the Atlantic ocean. Her daily routine consisted of eating, rowing and sleeping. A typical day of eats would include 4-5 dehydrated meals, energy bars, some fresh foods from a sprouting kit and energy gels. She would usually start her day off with some oatmeal at sunrise and end the day with a pasta dish while listening to comedy on her iPod at sunset.

It was a basic existence in some ways, but a complex one in others. Her daily life consisted of rowing, but her world of simplicity offered a new insight and outlook on the world. Spotz says it was indescribable because she was so far away from any other human being, but as close to the environment as she could possibly be.

“When I returned to land it was so surreal when I looked off into the horizon,” says Spotz. “Even normal sounds were overwhelming in the best possible way.”

Spotz says that after each adventure she evaluates the aspects of her life, barriers of her own potential and reminds herself of what it takes. She carries everything she learns with her to the next challenge.

Achievement opens doors to more opportunities and Spotz believes that everyone has the ability and opportunity to open those doors in their own life. It doesn’t have to be a solo row across the Atlantic ocean; it can be a 3-mile race, or winning a tennis match. The point is to face adversity, and overcome it. No other feeling can match that of rising above your own standards.

“If you feel like you can, you should,” says Spotz. “I’m all for anyone believing what they want and going after it.”

Q and A with Katie Spotz:

Get Fit Get Life: What is your favorite healthy snack?

Katie Spotz: Any fruit, but I would have to say a banana.

GFGL: What are your favorite types of exercises?

KS: I like to run and cycle, lift weights, and do yoga about once a week.

GFGL: What is your healthy living tip for young women?

KS: Physically, girls should strive to hydrate more. Don’t overlook it. Athlete or not, it’s important and it’s the easiest thing to do. Mentally, don’t be afraid to fail. That’s what held me back at first because I waited to take the risk (to row the Atlantic). If the worst you can do is fail, is it really that bad? For example, if you try to run a marathon and only make it 22 miles, that’s 22 more miles than you would have gone.

GFGL: What was the best moment during your Atlantic adventure?

KS: Half of the people that have attempted the row don’t make it to the fourth way mark, so when I got there I wanted to celebrate. I wasn’t sure what to do, but that was taken care of for me. About 15 dolphins surrounded the boat and it was like they were celebrating with me. In that moment, I was so appreciative and felt incredibly connected.

Watch a video about Katie’s cycling adventure across the USA. Stay tuned for her next adventure!

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