Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Really Can Say, "NO!" by Angela

December 16, 2011                                         Angela Madsen
  I really can say No!

Many would say that I would never turn down a rowing project but I have indeed done just that. I did consider it for a short time and came to the realization that now is not a good time for me to row across the Atlantic again. A race occurs every 2 years that begins on January 29, 2012 known as THE GUYANA BOUVET 2012. It is a race from Dakar, Senegal, 2600 Nautical miles or 4700 kilometers to Saint Laurent de Maroni, Guyana allowing only solo rowers in identical boats that are 8 meters in length. It takes an estimated 40 to 60 days. Ocean rowing is an open ended sport.  Sta rts could be delayed by weather and you really never know how long it will take to get across. In a single handed or solo boat it could take as much as 60-90 days. Bouvet Guyane 2012

I am chomping at the bit to do a solo row & I like interesting projects. I have never really had the opportunity to row a French ocean rowing boat. One of the entrants broke his arm and an opportunity to take his place presented itself. That is usually how it starts. Between now and January 29 is not enough time to raise funds and find sponsors. I go to Florida for in January to see my father and am scheduled to go to Hawaii in April/May. It would take away from and jeopardize my financial capabilities to do my Trans Pacific solo row.  This will be my first year without a major rowing project since 2006.

I think it is absolutely astonishing that organizers of ocean rowing races invite me to participate. I love it!

So you see I can say no to the row!

Friday, October 21, 2011

coaches clinic

Our USRowing level 1 coaches education clinic had 8 attending and 2 who already had their level 1 stayed after for the hands on adaptive clinic. So 10 coaches now know more about adaptive rowing than they did before.
With so few programs nation wide and so few adaptive rowing coaches who have experience working currently with diverse population of disabilities that we see now, I want to encourage all of you who are working in current programs to share your knowledge and experience by organizing future coaches education clinics. Do stand alone adaptive or combine it with USRowing the way we did ours. Certificates of training in adaptive will be given to those who participated in our clinic that will look good on any coaches resume!
I always welcome coaches to visit our program and do one on one coaches education clinics on a regular basis year round here in Southern California. I also am happy to not only encourage but assist rowing clubs who want to start adaptive rowing programs.

Angela Madsen

Founder, Director, California Adaptive Rowing Programs, USRowing level III coach, High Performance Rowing Coach, Adaptive Rowing Specialist. 2008 Paralympian and Guinness World Record Rower. cell (562) 505-4157 website: ROWOFLIFE.COM

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 10 02--Six month recap by Angela

10/2/11—Six month recap by Angela

It is now October and it has been nearly 6 months since completion of the latest rowing project. Things are just starting to get back to normal physically. Weight gain and starvation mode cancelled and am now balancing out. Seems like the more I put my body through it the longer it takes.

I have been following Roz Savage rowing across the Indian Ocean and as she is near to complete her row she talks of retirement. I don’t know how many times I have talked about that same thing and I believe she will take some time off; I can’t seem to see her retiring any more than I can see myself retiring. I wish her all the best and will encourage Debs new web based re habilitation support program for those who chronically follow ocean rowers or dot watchers as they are known , you know who you are LOL. Roz retiring will leave a flood of people who have become addicted to watching Satellite tracking beacons who will be left to wonder about like zombies because this is the time they are used to routinely checking the tracking websites. I will definitely stay tuned to Roz and whatever she decides to do in the future.

My life has been a whirlwind of activities and events since getting off the boat. The Paralympics 2012 is coming up. I have not officially retired in the sport and have kept the door open and remained in the USADA drug testing program to retain eligibility just in case things changed. I though it would be great to go again if the opportunity presented, on different terms as a rower. My Paralympic experience was amazing but not personally complete. I have been continuing to train and pull amazing erg scores but I don’t have the passion to compete in the sport the way I used to. I focus more on coaching and starting programs and on developing adaptive equipment for the sport. There are a shortage of both experienced coaches and programs nationwide to provide the opportunities in the sport.

From Rowing to Throwing! I took up Track & Field because one of the coaches at the Veterans Wheelchair Games showed an interest in my throwing so I decided to give it a shot. Who knew I would be good enough to make the Paralympic team? I will have another opportunity to have the Paralympic experience I would have liked to have had in 2008. It is working out to be just that way with the Amazing support from the governing body of the sport, experienced coaches in Track and Field and the positivity of the other athletes. When I was growing up in Ohio, my participation in sports was my saving grace. The positive relationship I had with my coach, Joan Dautel, was by far the most important part of my survival and development as a person. The support, encouragement and leadership she had shown her athletes were exemplary. I cherished every moment of extra time she invested in me and as a competing athlete, have always longed for that kind of coach athlete relationship. That positive relationship is a key ingredient in every athlete’s success and development. If I never make it to London 2012, this 5 months working in Track and Field has qualified to restore and make complete, the athlete experience that I was trying to achieve. 

So the plan is 2012 Paralympics in London throwing Shot put and Javelin

And a 2013 solo rowing crossing (no motor, no sail no support boat) from California to Hawaii.

2011 08 08 Whirlwind Field, Rowing Seat and New Wheelchair

Whirlwind Field, Rowing Seat & New Wheelchair
August 8, 2011 

It has been a whirlwind Track & Field Odyssey since completing my 2nd rowing crossing of the Atlantic Ocean (no motor, sail, or support boat). 

I took a bit of physical time off for recovery after the row just doing speaking engagements and coaching rowing at our Adaptive Rowing Program. I decided to try my hand at throwing things and yelling as I received some positive feedback at a previous Veterans Wheelchair Games for my performances in Shot put, Javelin and Discus. After rowing in the Paralympics and meeting some of the coaching staff and athletes/throwers in Track and Field I decided to go to a track and field meet and see what I could do. I went to Irvine and met Cathy Sellers and got signed up for the Desert Challenge. I got to Arizona, was classified as a 55 and broke America’s records in all three of my events. I then went to Florida to the Dixie games and threw farther. Shot put seems to be my better event. I then went to Nationals in Mira Mar, Florida where I would be internationally classified as 56. I made a rookie mistake throwing the 4k shot instead of the 3k so I was just short of the qualifying standard in shot ( 2.2 pound heavier implement) but made the qualifying standard for Jav. I then was invited to go to the Twilight & Boiling Point meet in Canada where I threw National A team standard shot at Twilight and took 1st place in shot put for the meet. I was handed an envelope saying 1st place that contained 8 Canadian one hundred dollar bills. My first prize money! So I purchased some implements and a throwing chair so I can practice. I am thinking it is something I can be good at if I train, practice and get some local coaching. I went to the last 2 weeks of the field program at Cerritos College and received some coaching before going to the Veterans Wheelchair Games in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately that program has ended so I am back in limbo.

I had to get a new wheelchair since the airlines lost and never recovered mine so I chose Colours. I also designed a seat for the indoor rowing machine and since I was going to Colours anyway I decided to pitch to them my ideas for manufacture of adaptive rowing equipment. Colours and I are now partners and they have built my first prototype seat and the folks at Three Rivers Rowing in Pittsburgh were the first to see it. It’s quite impressive and really exciting! No pictures we have moved beyond the prototype. 

Just returned from Pittsburgh and I am going to my 5th Track and Field Meet in the Czech Republic next week. TG I have some reliable people at the rowing program who are doing a fabulous job running things in my absence!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My second rowing crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by Angela

 My second rowing crossing of the Atlantic Ocean
By Angela Madsen 2011

I always say Situation and circumstance should never be allowed to dictate who we are and what we will be able to achieve in our lifetime. Allowing situation and circumstance to oppress us is a choice. I dream big and set goals for myself realizing possibilities and potential for success, being hopeful and willing to do what is necessary to achieve those goals. When I first learned of the sport of Ocean Rowing I was drawn to it. I knew I was going to row an ocean. I did not allow the situation of being a woman and a paraplegic stop me. I just had to work harder and work differently to achieve my goals.

This was the First Ocean Rowing Catamaran with crew of 16 to row 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to break the Atlantic world rowing record. It was my second time to row across the Atlantic non stop and unsupported. I rowed with Franck Festor, a single amputee from France in 2007. Highlights of all of my adventures can be found on my website

My becoming involved with the Big Blue project and crew was the result of taking a visually impaired rower from Canada, Franck Polari, ocean rowing in one of my introduction to ocean rowing classes at the Long Beach  Rowing Association. It is not advertised any place, people generally contact me via e-mail interested in trying the sport. I took him out on a coastal row from Long Beach to Dana Point. His Sea Sickness changed his mind about ocean rowing. The project that he was part of had lost their skipper so he told them about me. I began receiving e-mails from Steve asking me to skipper their boat. I looked at what horrible financial shape I am in from ocean rowing without sponsors, gave much thought to my solo ocean rowing project and decided what the Hell! First thing was to jump right in and organize sea trials for the project. To make sure it happened as this crew had been let down and abandoned before. They were not prepared, much of the critical information they needed to ensure success of their project was missing. I signed on late in the game with some big challenges ahead. We started a Google group and a mass of e-mail correspondence began. I organized a sea trial and some sea survival training for the crew on Shelter Island New York. I traveled there and met the crew and David for the first time. After sea trials I returned to Long Beach. David worked frantically to prepare the boat and make arrangements to ship the boat. I continued preparing the crew and myself for the crossing.

Deb and I left for Morocco the day before Christmas. We changed planes to a Royal Air Moroc flight at JFK bound for Agadir. We were boarded on the plane and everything was going well. Then it began snowing and they took us off the airplane. They refused to bring me my wheelchair. I sat on the plane till the last possible minute even breaking down in tears begging them to bring me my own wheelchair but they would not. They forced me into one of the airport chairs and the worker commented after much protest as I began to comply and surrender “now that’s a good girl” It was miserable. Airport wheelchairs are not made to be self ambulatory and don’t work well even when pushed. They kept moving us from terminal to terminal and jerking us around. Everyone was upset and it nearly broke out into a riot many times through out the ordeal. Eventually they got us on the plane and on our way.  We arrived at our final destination however my wheelchair did not.

In Morocco while preparing the boat and food I opened my box to find rats had ravaged it and I had lost 20 days of my food supply. I lost forty meals at about $5.00 a pop. Liz lost about six meals. I was so angry I had to go outside the gate of the boat yard and let out a big yell. What a waste. Deb and I paid a great deal of money to have a space big enough to sort the food at the house but the authorities would not allow us to move food from the boat to the house so our grand plan was offended and extra costs incurred to us by customs and port authorities. Expedition food is not replaceable in Morocco.

They clearly did not see past our pocketbooks and into the future where ocean rowers can contribute greatly to their economy. It would be better for them in the long run to welcome us and ensure our safety and success of our rowing projects. There are other places in the world to row from. I know I do not want to go back there. Cabbies did not want to give me rides and wanted to charge me more money.  I had to use cabs because I could not possibly push the airport loaner chair where I needed to go. One of the days I had to take a cab by myself so one of our French speaking crew negotiated my cost with the driver and I got in the cab. My crew loaded the wheelchair on the cab and Deb was to unload it on the other end. It was not to cost me more money. He drove just out of eyesight and earshot of my crew, he pulled the cab over and I was terrified. I thought I was going to have to fight off a rapist but instead he just made me give him all the money I had in my hand and then he drove me to the house. Had I refused he probably would have pushed me out of the cab and drove off with the wheelchair. It sucks being victimized. The ride that was supposed to be 10 rnb (8 rnb with 2 rnb for tip) cost me 60. I had been robbed! I quit going in cabs after that. I just walked with my crew. The negative symptoms of life without my own personal wheelchair had become evident with more back, shoulder and wrist pain. The crew tried to help me out as much as possible and did not mind pushing me around nearly as much as I did. We would leave the boathouse at dark so avoiding all of the obstacles became more difficult.  Abrupt stopping when hitting an obstacle nearly injured the person pushing me and nearly ejected me from the wheelchair numerous times. The wheelchair footplates kept falling off and the wheel had fallen off once. It was quite risky and dangerous to contend with before the crossing. I am always reminded that most of the time it is far more difficult just getting to the starting line than it is to row across.

To balance out the bad with the good I had contacted one of my friends from the Moroccan National Adaptive Rowing team Kalifa Monume. He drove down from Sale Morocco with his uncle and one of his friends. We had quite a memorable pre row party. They were there to help us put the boat in the water. It was great to see him again. Once the boat was in the water we rowed it around to the marina in Agadir where we would load it with our food and personal kit and then wait for the right weather to leave.

We got underway the next morning at first light. It wasn’t long before one of the members of our crew became violently ill. Food poisoning was suspect. I too had contracted some kind of viral infection that combined with stress and physical exertion triggered my myasthenia Gravis. Myasthenia gravis is an auto immune disease that is ocular or affects the muscles in the eyes. I have bouts of temporary blindness or double vision. The eyes will cross or eye lids droop or not open at all. The crew may have been concerned about it at first but then saw that I could manage rowing and getting around on the boat without my vision. We had to change our route and head down the coast to Tarfya, Morocco. We then called the Ocean Rowing Society and changed our port of record departure to Tarfya. We had some medical tests done and spoke with a medic there about Tom. He seemed to have recovered enough to continue. My physical condition had improved also and I was managing my Myasthenia with medication. When the tide came up at 7:25 PM we resumed our row.

The NE wind and weather kept us from going west and we found ourselves going SW down the coast a bit before the winds changed and we could finally go west. The winds did not favor us on this trip and I almost always find myself rowing against the wind. We had some 30-35 knot winds and made over 106 miles in one day. If that would have continued we would have had a chance at the record but that was only one day. The rest of the days we averaged about 65-70.

We had a solar water boiler (pictured above) made by the students of an engineering class at Cal State Los Angeles. The instructor Sam Landsberger was a contact I had made at the Abilities Expo in LA. I had tested it at the dock and found it to be working but it had stopped working when we were at sea. We just assumed that it was the wind that prevented it from heating up. Wind was not blowing at the dock. We set it aside and forgot about it till our fuel shortage made it necessary to try and repair the boiler. The intake pump was broken and not sealing so it did not have the suction to move the water and there was a blockage not letting the full amount of water to release from the boiler. I was able to clear the blockage and David fixed the pump for me. After that it worked great. The solar water boiler allowed us to heat water without using the precious little stove fuel we had left. I also built a solar oven out of a dry bag, and an emergency blanket. The solar boiler only makes enough water to rehydrate two meals at a time. This solar oven allowed us to keep the meals warm whilst waiting for the other meals to rehydrate. I also experimented with food in the last week as we had run out of regular rations. I made some pizzas from assorted left over bits in the solar oven that were pretty tasty. With the exception of 50 cliff bars there was not one scrap of food left when we got to port. Everyone had snack packs through the last day. We began rationing regular meals at 7 days out, cutting one meal and having breakfast and whatever meal pack happened to be pulled for the day, a lunch or a dinner. The Sat phone battery charging port broke on the satellite phone so I also had to fabricate an external Sat Phone battery charger. Debs called Iridium and found out what contacts were positive and what ones were negative. Then I cut the plug off and David and I put some wire connecters on the ends of the wire. I then used a piece of plastic and a rubber band to keep the connecters against the contact points. Is all about finding solutions!

 On the ocean there are amazing sunrises and sun sets, there are panoramic ocean views, sky can be brilliantly specked with stars or can be so dark and cloud covered you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Extreme gratitude is what you feel when you get any amount of light to see at night. There is only a certain amount of serenity at night as it is mostly tempered with anxiety as the walls of water that are crashing down on you are highly anticipated yet invisible in the darkness. There is no way of knowing when, where or how, just that it will repeatedly beat you and knock you off your seat till you change watch. It can feel like the longest 2 hours of your life. See it coming or not, it will still knock you off your seat. Being that low to the water everyone gets soaked and everyone gets pelted with flying fish. There are fish around the boat constantly. Dolphins, whales, Dorado, tuna, sea turtles, sharks, jelly fish, even saw a few Portuguese man of war on this one. We witnessed nature, the food chain or big fish eat little fish many times when the Dorado would hunt the flying fish and the shark would then hunt the Dorado. We nearly participated by trying to catch a wounded Dorado that was swimming at the back of our boat for protection from the shark that had injured it. We thought it much too risky since the shark was following closely waiting for the kill and the inevitable demise of that beautiful fish.

When the sky has shades of magenta in it at sunset the reflection of the water will be like a liquid silver and when it is yellowish the water looks like molten gold. You are like the wind and the water, always moving. The water changes color and salinity or level of salt content changes and with it changes the smell of the sea. There is no smell of land, no pollution, only humidity. Even the water you drink is desalinated ocean water with no chemicals or chlorine in it. I look out over the ocean and at the GPS and think how privileged I am to be able to be at this place and at this time where no human being has been or may ever be again and I am thankful for my life! Then back to reality, a piece of plastic trash floats by and I am, once again, disgusted by the human race.

 We rowed into port in Port St. Charles Barbados 47 days later to our awaiting friends and families.  Barbados is amazing and the people there are extremely hospitable and courteous. The specialty at most restaurants is flying fish. I was surprised to find out how tasty they are.

Deb went to the Veterans hospital and got a better loaner chair for me to use in Barbados. Much better than an airport chair and I was grateful to have it but again, not my personal wheelchair. When I got home to Long Beach I discovered that it would not go through my bathroom doorway so I called Ernie at Colours Wheelchair and they set up a chair for me that will do the job till I get my new custom wheelchair. Colours Wheelchair saves the day! Royal Air Moroc and JFK are still not responding and my wheelchair is still missing.

Angela Madsen,
             (562)434-8334       cell             (562)505-4157      

RowofLife Journey-YouTube Video by Sageweb