The Journey To Race Start

I can hardly believe that it has finally arrived… this time next week I will have been offshore for 2 days, racing towards the UK. I signed up to the Clipper Race nearly 3 years ago. And what a journey it has been since signing up. As I sit here, just a few days away from ‘The race of my life’ I can’t help but reflect on this tumultuous journey.

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How it all began…

It was nearly three years ago, that a commuter friend mentioned to me that there is an amateur yacht race in town – ‘the racing boats are in St Kat’s about to set sail round the world’. Intrigued and curious, I ventured down to the dock a few days later. The boats were incredible, dressed in flags and bunting, colourful and basking in the glory. I went aboard a boat for a tour, the crew member that showed me around explained more about the race. Her enthusiasm was infectious. The environment on the boat looked harsh, claustrophobic, and challenging. A wave of excitement hit me immediately.

At the time, I was married. That evening I discussed it with my husband and he encouraged me to ‘just do it’. I signed up for legs 7 and 8 a few days later. A couple of months after that I completed my level 1 training. Meeting some wonderful people, who I’m lucky to have become close friends with.

Training crewmates (from L-R: Me, Dave, Chris, Simon, Carol, Claire, Martin, Yarna, Philip, Moxey, Lyndsey, and Ian)


Not long after that, my marriage broke down. Leaving me in a very different position. Suddenly a single mum, with what felt like a world of responsibility. A very difficult few months would follow. With a lot of stress and strain. So many times, I thought of the race, my dream, and it just didn’t seem possible. I spoke to Clipper and made the decision to cut leg 7. This would leave me with just leg 8, a much shorter leg, and one which would allow me to incorporate the children more – with them being involved in both Derry and Liverpool.

Level 2 and 3 training came and went. There were good days, and bad days, good weeks, and bad weeks. Moments when yet again, I felt there was no way that I could take part in the race. I had friends from Clipper who said ‘I won’t be surprised if you don’t do your leg’, I was aware that a few people thought that I shouldn’t do the race’. But all of that just made me more determined. Everything was against me. A single mum, working full time, trying to do the best for my children, but also trying to do something for me – a personal challenge, living my own dream. But the world continued to be against me. I couldn’t see me reaching my goal, through the fog of life that I was living in.


Setting sail at sunrise after anchor watch… it does have it’s perks after all

The end of the road…

After a particularly bad few weeks, I emailed Clipper and told them that it was not going to be possible to do leg 8. I officially pulled out of the race. The race recruitment director, whom I’m friends with called. He was already vaguely aware of the hell that had been my life for the last 18 months, but he also knew what passion I had for crossing the Atlantic. He explained that I would lose every penny I’d paid anyway, so suggested I may as well keep my options open. So I did. And he was right.

I went to crew allocation. I completed my level 4. And I focused intently on the race, on the sailing and on improving myself. But all the while in the back of my head, I knew I may have to pull out.


Time to train…

On Boxing Day I commenced my fitness journey. Training and improving my stamina, so that I would hopefully be a valuable member of the team. And then somehow, my life finally calmed down. After 2 years of hell, it actually felt like I would make it to New York, that I would be on-board Garmin for leg 8.

They are coming!… hahaha

I was running a couple of times a week, taking part in various running races. Lifting weights and doing HIIT workouts several times a week. But al the while, I was becoming more and more aware of a crunching noise in my knees. More so in my right knee. I choose to ignore it. If I felt it was getting worse, I just took a days rest. But over the last few months it did get worse. Until in early May, I ran a 5k race, and it felt very ‘crunchy’ afterwards. I decided to rest it for a few days, and then ‘Bam!’ Out of nowhere it swelled up like a melon! With just 7 weeks until race start, I couldn’t believe that this was happening.


(Acupuncture on my patella tendonitis – no pain, no gain!)

Over the next few days, I reflected on what he’d said, and committed to myself that I would do everything I could to make it to race start. Icing and elevating three times a day. Performing specific stretches and exercises 3 times a day. And resting, like I’ve never rested before. This continued for 4 weeks. Along with acupuncture, foam rolling and a plethora of other acts of desperation which saw me get up at 5.30am every day. My physio was impressed with my progress, but wanted a 2nd opinion. I was referred to a top knee surgeon.

I explained to him that I needed to be on the boat, at this point I have just 3 weeks until I fly, and I need to know that I’m ok. I have x-rays, and MRI and more prodding and poking. As I lay in the tunnel of doom with the MRI machine whirring away, I can’t help but think ‘This is it! If this machine says I’ve got a problem, then it’s game over.’ Knowing that I am about to learn my fate, I reluctantly go back to the consultant, grateful for the private medical care afforded to me through my work.

He has the images on his screen, and asks me to take a seat. Going through each image one by one, he tells me ‘that looks normal… this is normal… that looks good’ and then ‘I don’t like the look of this’. I push him ‘what is it? Is it bad?’ – ‘it’s an overuse injury, but it’s in repair, you need to carry on doing what you’re doing and you will be fine to do your race’. Music to my ears! I don’t think I have ever been so ecstatically happy in all my life. A weight has been lifted. I had the green light, and I’m going to be on the boat.

‘Never put your body where your mind hasn’t been’

The only thing that niggles in the back of my mind, is how much I will miss my children, and I know that they will miss me too. But I’ve done everything possible to make sure that they’re going to have a great time while I’m racing. They’re proud of what I’m embarking on, and can’t wait for me to be on-board and to see me arrive in to Londonderry.

In life, I’m keen to show my children that the world is their oyster, and this is just one example of that. I don’t believe that barriers exist in life, we make our own barriers, just as we have the ability to knock them down.

So here goes. Thanks for all of the support to date, wish us luck.

– Life is a journey, and you hold the map.

Sam Out.

4 thoughts on “The Journey To Race Start”

  1. Well done, Sam! Glad to hear all is well with your knee and you’ll be crossing the Atlantic! Your story is an inspiring account of relentless determination. I wish you luck on your leg and hope to meet you before you set sail as I’ve just finished leg 7 on Visit Seattle!

  2. Wow, it’s been quite a journey by the sounds of it, but you’ve made it! Congratulations, have a fantastic race and I’ll be following you all the way xx

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