Monthly Archives: August 2013

Cranking Up The Kayaking….

LS1As an adopted Dub I’ve always been thoroughly intrigued and inspired by the Liffey Swim – and I’ve always secretly longed that one day I’d be able to give it a go.   This year, I got the opportunity to be part of the event by paddling ‘kayak cover’ for the swimmers.  It’s a big responsibility and for me it was also an amazing thrill.  I cannot tell you how it feels to be paddling alongside these gutsy swimmers, admiring their athleticism and thanking the universe for my own ability too.  It’s only a couple of years ago since I was driving along the banks of the Liffey on my way home to Blanchardstown – looking at the coloured kayaks in the water near the Strawberry Beds, thinking how much fun it looked, and enviously wishing I could be part of that world.  At 23 stone I never even dreamed that I could have a go, and joked to myself that I wouldn’t even fit in the boat, and would sink it if I did.  If there’s anyone out there thinking the same, can I assure you that there is ALWAYS a boat to carry you, if you fancy having a go.  Message me on Facebook if you want to find out more or check out the Irish Canoe Union or my own Wild Water Kayak Club.

It was an intensive weekend of kayaking for me.  4 hours in the water on Saturday (I went out to paddle in Bray after the Liffey Swim), and 6 hours in the water on Sunday when my club, WWKC went paddling at CastleconnellCastleconnell in Limerick.  We navigated our way over more than a dozen natural features on the river; rocky waterfalls, rocks and drops.  I swam a few times (fell out) but stayed in a lot of times, and it all helped my confidence as the weeks count down for my big challenge; the Liffey Descent on September 28th in aid of the LauraLynn Childrens’ Hospice in Leopardstown.

spriteBack in Dublin on Monday I tried out a totally different type of kayak, than the river boat I’ve become used to.  The Sprite pictured in the river shot here, cuts through the water cleanly, like a knife,  and I felt a kind of speed that I hadn’t felt before.  I wish I could explain how the river looked too.  It was one of those stilly evenings when the world is perfectly reflected in the river below and I felt like I was paddling into a picture.  It was my first proper training session with ‘Kipper’ AKA Ciaran Maguire, AKA ‘Mr Kayak’ – who I’m partnering for the ‘Pedals to Paddles’ challenge for the charity, when we cycle 40k from Dublin to the K-Club before getting on board for the Liffey Descent.  We’re going to spend around 8 hours between cycling and kayaking – hence the ‘pedals to paddles’ tag.  We’ve got a brilliant sponsor in Sasta Fitness, but we’ve also got a MyCharity page and appreciate any donations you can make.  Check it out at:

IMG_8786Training Record:

Weds Aug 21st:  15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) – Running (ish) up Ticknock Mountain with the Irish Mountain Running Association

Thursday Aug 22nd: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C / Full Moon night hike on Kippure Mountain with mates.

Friday Aug 23rd: 20 Minute jog from home.

Saturday Aug 24th: 4 hours kayaking (Liffey Swim and Bray with GOTC).

Sunday August 25th: 6 hours kayaking in Limerick & 4 hours dancing with Cannonball!

Monday Aug 26th: 1 hour kayaking in a Sprite with Kipper Maguire.

Tuesday Aug 27th: Rest Day (sore leg – not serious).

Wednesday August 28th: Rest Day (sore leg – not serious).

Thursday Aug 29th: 40 minute weight-lifting in gym.

sasta ad 776 x 150





I’m A 5ft-Nothing Diesel Engine… Is That Good?

Teena Fun RunThe latest stage in my prep for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race this October saw me drive Little Red off to Blessington in Wicklow after work today, to meet Brian Keogh from Total – and check out the difference between a mountain bike and a road bike. My own trusty hybrid sees me battle into work each day, fending off swans on the canal and deer in the Phoenix Park, before reaching the relative safety of rush-hour along the quays!  But today was a totally new experience.  I was getting a chance to try one of those light, slim, wobbly, FAST, roadbikes that so many of you have been talking about.

Thanks to I was about to have a go on a real thoroughbred, and thanks to Brian, I had a nice lake circuit to follow and company to show me the ropes, help me figure out gears and brakes, and pick me up if I fell flat on my face!

It’s three years now since I realised that you don’t have to be ‘sporty’ to enjoy sport – and I’m still blown away by the passion and generosity of the people I meet – who throw open the doors to their world and share their adventures with an enthusiastic beginner.  They are nothing short of brilliant and I enjoy the people as much as I enjoy the sport, and the beautiful countryside I get to see when I’m out running, or swimming, or hiking, or climbing, or kayaking… or – well you get the idea.   The fun I’m having is an open invitation to us all to get out there and try something new.  You don’t have to be fit to start, you start first and the fitness sneaks up on you when you’re not looking! I felt that way today.  I’d had a busy weekend; with 4 hours of kayaking on Saturday followed by a 10k cycle up and down part of the Wicklow Gap, followed by a bit of a jog up the steps at Spinc Mountain.  On Sunday, I’d ‘relaxed’ with a couple of hours splashing and paddling with Dave Mason at the Wild Water Kayak Club on the Strawberry Beds.  There would have been no surprise if I was stiff and tired today – but I wasn’t.  Which shows my recovery rate is improving and the endurance training I’m doing is paying off.

Taking the dainty little road-bike from Brian, I felt a bit clumsy and heavy climbing up onto the very thin, very pointy, very hard and very tiny saddle.  I pushed away all thoughts of ‘does my bum look big in this’ – as I pushed away from the kerb, and soon I was too busy figuring out how to get my feet into the pedal cages to worry about how I looked.  Up and moving, it took a few minutes of careful explaining about the gears from Brian, and then we were flying.  Those things move.  I mean those things really move!  I just loved the feeling from within 5 seconds of sitting in the saddle and I know I’m going to have to start saving again, because one of those machines is going to have to follow me home, and the sooner the better.

As for the fitness creeping up on you.  We clocked up around 22k spinning around Blessington Lake this afternoon and despite my weekend exertions,  I never felt a bit of it. Brian commented that I was a bit like a diesel engine, before he tried to backtrack and apologise for the less than girly reference.  Ha .. this formerly weak and wobbly 23-stone female is taking that as a serious compliment.  A 5ft nothing diesel engine eh?  I’ll settle for that.

Something else has just dawned on me.  If the 22k spin today felt so good – it takes some of the fear out of the 40k cycle which lies ahead of me in ‘Pedals 2 Paddles’ the Liffey Descent challenge that Kipper Maguire and I are planning in September, in aid of the LauraLynn Childrens’ Hospice in Leopardstown.  If you get a minute, read about that here and pass on the request to all your friends to give us a few bob!

I may not be a Ferrari (yet) but I’m chuffed to be able to climb on a bike and go for a spin, flying past lakes, and castles, and purple and orange flowers tangled in a blaze in the hedgerow.   I may not come first in the Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th – but I’ve learned that not only do you not have to be sporty to enjoy sport – you don’t have to come first to be a winner. 😉




I DID Dance All Night…

flapperOn Wednesday, I blogged that I could dance all night.  That was when I danced back to my running club and gate-crashed a fartlek training session, which I began by hating and ended up loving.

Well last night I really DID dance all night.  I was dressed as a flapper, in sequins and pearls from head to toe in aid of Concern.  The weight of the outfit, and the hours of intense flapper is definitely going down in my training log.  I must have burned HUNDREDS of calories. 🙂

killarney trainingAfter getting to bed at 3am, I was groaning just hours later at 7am, when I woke with sore feet and aching muscles, and the memory that I had volunteered as a paddler for a ‘wild swimming’ event on Lough Dan in Roundwood, in Wicklow.   I made it there for the 9am start and after 4 hours of constant paddling and 5 trips up and down the lake (total paddling 11k). I drove up the road for lunch at Lynams in Laragh, before meeting up with hiking buddy Vera Baker, for some training for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th.   We parked up, got the bikes out, and cycled 10k up and down the Wicklow Gap, before packing the bikes, and heading off on foot for a walk/jog up the steps at Spinc Mountain.


Click here for MyCharity page

It was a pretty intense day as training goes and I was tired afterwards, but that really good tired, rather than the bored and fed up at home tired that can be so mentally exhausting!  I’ll take it easy tomorrow though and let the body recover a bit.  I’ve planned to drop down to the Wild Water Kayak Club for a couple of hours, to keep the skills up on Sasta Sage – my SASTA FITNESS sponsored kayak, which I’m using to get in shape for the Liffey Descent in aid of LauraLynn Childrens Hospice, with ‘Mr Kayak’, Kipper Maguire.

You can check out our MyCharity page by clicking on the Sasta Kayak pic here – or try – and please pass on the word.  LauraLynn Hospice is such a vital, worthy cause and Kipper and I really want to raise a few bob for them this year.  So even a fiver would be a massive result.  Cheers.

Training Record:

Monday Aug 12th:  15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 20 mins lunchtime running in Stephens’ Green / couple of lengths in the pool with dad :)

Tuesday Aug 13th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C

Wednesday Aug 14th: 40″  running session (Fartlek) with Le Cheile AC

Thursday Aug 15th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k)

Friday August 16th: 45″ Gym session  – 2hrs’ dancing

Saturday Aug 17th: 11k, 4-hour kayak / 10k cycle up and down the Wicklow Gap/ run up the steps at Spinc mountain in Glendalough.




I Could Have Danced All Night…

Leixlip5k with JOR

John O’Regan at my ‘graduation 5k’ earlier this year

I hadn’t heard of a fartlek session before tonight. In fact, one of my sporty friends on Facebook had to tell me how to spell it! But that’s what I ran headlong into tonight, when I decided to return to Le Chéile AC.  Extreme Ultra Runner John O’Regan was taking the session – what about that for running royalty? as we started off, he reassured me that I’d be running ‘within and outside’ my comfort zone. While my brain was trying to process that, I tried to explain that just turning up was outside my comfort zone!

Growing up, I always felt the definition of being fit was being able to run, and it was something that always eluded me.  But this February I turned up at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip, determined to finally give it a proper shot.  I joined their Couch to 5k programme and with persistence, patient trainers, and the support of the other ‘Fit 4 Life’ runners, I finally made it to my ‘graduation 5k’ just as the evenings were turning long and bright.   Chuffed with myself… I threw my running shoes in a corner and left them there for a couple of days, which turned to a couple of weeks, which turned to a couple of months.  Eventually I knew I’d lost my run-fitness but kept thinking that I’d start running again myself on my own, before facing the embarrassment of huffing and puffing my way back to the club.  Well you can guess how well that worked for me!

Finally this week I decided to bite the bullet.  I need to be fit for the Liffey Descent challenge for LauraLynn Children’s Hospice  in September, I’ve got to keep my weight down to fit into my Sásta fitness training kayak, and I’ve signed up for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th – so it’s time to get my running shoes back on and face the music. I didn’t exactly grumble on Twitter, but I did suggest I might have to drive home when I found the car-park was full…. The Tweet said I wondered “if this would be the day when I realised I loved running”;  well it didn’t quite work out that way – but…

We started with stretching exercises led by John who defies gravity with his balance.  When jokingly challenged about his dance-like ability, the running supremo grabbed a girl out of the line and waltzed his way across the track in a decidedly accomplished fashion, to the collective squeals and delight of the group gathered along the start-line.  Ice-breakers over, we moved to the main event.

The session involved a couple of warm-up laps on the track and then intervals of jogging separated by fast ‘pick-ups’ … running fast for 90, 60, 45, 30, 20 second bursts – something like that. To be honest, the numbers were swimming around in my head, I just concentrated on John’s whistle bursts to tell me when to run fast and when I could slow down.  At first I tried counting the seconds to myself, pacing out the beats with my footsteps and breathing.  I struggled to the end of each burst, running out of breath and begging in my mind for the whistle to blow.  Then my mind settled down.   Instead of counting and hoping for the sprint bit to end, I told myself I was relaxed and this was easy and I could run like this all night.  I kept the pace slow and steady on the recovery stretches, running more slowly than anyone else, but running fast enough for me.  I kept telling myself that I was comfortable instead of convincing myself I was struggling; and do you know, something happened.  I began to believe.  I began to believe I could run like that all night.  I watched the sky turning dark, I watched the trees in the distance above the track, I looked at the runners ahead and their form and the beauty of how they moved, and I felt my joints moving easily, fluidly, almost like a dance.  I think I almost meditated.  I thought about warm days and felt the cool breeze on my face, I felt the sweat trickle down my back.  I heard the whistle and I slowed, I heard the whistle and I picked up, and in the background I heard an encouraging voice telling me I was running faster than when I started.  Finally we got the final whistle and sprinted to the end; and to my amazement I was sad to pull up.

I’m not quite ready to say I enjoyed the running… but I could have danced all night….

Training Record:

Monday Aug 12th:  15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 20 mins lunchtime running in Stephens’ Green / couple of lengths in the pool with dad 🙂

Tuesday Aug 13th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C

Wednesday Aug 14th: 40″  running session (Fartlek) with Le Cheile AC

I’ve Stopped Running Away From Running…

I can cycle, I can kayak, but I’m still having a problem running.Teena Fun Run

I wimped out a bit this year to be honest.  I did my Couch to 5k with LeCheile AC at the start of the year and finally got confident running 5k and started improving my times.  Then I missed a few sessions, and lost a bit of fitness.  So, instead of going back to get fit again, I told myself I’d get back running on my own first, get my fitness up again, and then go back.  Bad idea!

How many times do we do that?  sign up for a gym membership and don’t go, or put off going swimming until we’ve got a bikini body?  Or, if you’re dieting, do you skip a weigh-in, until you have a chance to get rid of a few sneaky pounds that went on unexpectedly.  I’ve been down this road before and ‘behind the scenes fixes’ NEVER work. Grrr…  you just keep sliding in the wrong direction, getting deeper into the red.

This time I’ve copped on to myself and I’m heading back to my running club on Wednesday to make use of my membership and get the encouragement of my peers. Ok, so I still hate running and think I’m rubbish at it.  But I am determined that one day I will wake up and think “I’d love to go for a run today”.  I’m convinced I can be that person….. and I’ll let you know when I get there!IMG_8786

I’ve got some extra motivation now too…    as you (hopefully) know I’m cycling and kayaking the Liffey Descent challenge with Kipper Maguire to raise funds and awareness for LauraLynn Childrens’ Hospice.  Sasta Fitness are kindly sponsoring my training boat ‘Sasta Sage’.  So I’ve got to be fit both for the charity, for the challenge, and for the sponsors who are putting their faith in me, and for everyone who’s already donated to our MyCharity page:  Click HERE.

…..and I’ve been made an Ambassador for the Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th, which has already introduced me to a whole new type of running since last weekend.   Adventure Racers get dirty! and they combine my passion for mountains and nature with the challenge of getting fit.  I was down in Killarney last weekend on a training day for the event and I was blown away.

I’ve been running on the flat over the last 12 months and had a bash at a few short-sprint Triathlons… and I’ve hiked mountains with a vengeance over the past 3 years.     Now I’ve suddenly found a way to combine both – and I think I might like it….

Which is another reason why I ran twice around Stephens’ Green on my lunch break today, and why I’m going back to my running class on Wednesday…  Don’t wish me luck – ‘cos luck doesn’t really make things happen.  Just don’t listen to me if I’m grumbling about running, on Twitter on Wednesday evening.  😉

Training Record:

Monday Aug 12th:  15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 20 mins lunchtime running in Stephens’ Green / couple of lengths in the pool with dad 🙂

Tuesday Aug 13th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C

Wednesday Aug 14th: 40″  running session (Fartlek) with Le Cheile AC






How Did The Black Valley Get Its Name?


Nestled beyond Kerry’s beautiful Gap of Dunloe, perhaps it is the dark and brooding look when the rainclouds hang low over the Black Lake that earns the Black Valley its formidable title?  Perhaps the black name was uttered during bleak famine days that ripped the valley of its tenants?  Perhaps it is the more recent account of it being the last place in Ireland to be connected to power and phone networks, because of its remoteness?  I’m not really sure how the Black Valley got its name.  But this Bank Holiday weekend there was little ‘black’ about the valley that saw my exercise regime bring me walking 3k to the first of the lakes, with my 88 year old dad stepping out by my side.  We dodged the showers under heavy bushes and overhanging crags, giggling like kids as we studied the clouds that brushed over Purple Mountain – timing our dashes between the dry spots – and watching with delight as drenched walkers passed us by, after displaying worse timing or worse luck than us.  Heather glowed pink and purple, ferns and mosses were multi-hued, green and glowing in their post-shower celebration, sunshine sparkled on rain-washed rocks and roads, and everywhere the sound of water, gushing from the mountains to the lakes and rivers at our feet. The mountains and valleys, living and breathing all around us, playing with the music of sunshine and showers.  Enjoying all this with my energetic, healthy, octogenarian dad.  A little black magic perhaps?

BobDadFollowing our walk in the Black Valley, dad’s taxi to Kate Kearney’s Cottage was of the four-legged variety.  The pony and trap turning up to surprise him, just before lunch.  Thanks to Bob Ferris for the ride and the craic about his ‘one-horse-power’ cab. King of the Mountains, Pat Falvey, also had a great welcome for dad at his Beaufort Mountain Lodge; and the Malton Hotel rounded off the weekend in style, with swimming in the pool and a lounge in the hot tub.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my weekend in Killarney with dad; sharing with him my love of mountains and listening to his tales of growing up in Cavan and Belfast.  It is great to exercise and have a passion for hobbies, health and fitness, but it is great to be able to share your passions with your friends and family too.  I am thankful that with all my training and running around the country, I haven’t sped up so much that I walk too fast for my lovely dad.

I’m back in Killarney again this weekend.  I am a little stunned to announce that I am proud to be an Event Ambassador for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race 2013.   I will be taking part in an Adventure Race Training Day this Saturday in Killarney and preparing for the race itself on October 5th.  I watched these adventurous mud-spattered warriors stampeding past me in The Gap last year and I promised I’d find out more about it.  I never thought I’d end up being involved to this level, but life can be funny like that.  In case you are thinking that it is not for you, let me insist; there are three different routes for all levels of fitness, so you have no excuse.  Join me and register here: and I’ll see you in Killarney in October!  🙂


Do Our Fears Limit Our Children?

final photoSix months of training and filming culminated in a sunny climb on Spinc Mountain in Wicklow on Saturday with the Get Off The Couch team and their friends and families.

Back in February, six ordinary people from around the country met with myself and a production crew from Athena Media.  We went for a short walk in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, while we discussed our plans to get out and get active in the great outdoors.  It was our first day of filming for a six-part television show that will be broadcast on Setanta TV this September.  In the months that followed, we ran and trained, climbed mountains, cycled bikes, learned to swim, took part in triathlons and became firm friends.

When I started this project, I was widely enthusiastic, exhilarated by the opportunity to preach my message once again – that if I could lose 13 stone and get healthy, anybody could. For me,  the benefits of a healthy lifestyle have exploded into a life full of passion and colour and I can’t help but get carried away when I talk about the joy of waking up each day with my new-found health.  I hoped my group of six ‘Get Off The Couch’ participants would have a similar experience; but I could hardly have imagined the outcome.

I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re not just talking about six people who got fit and healthy, we’re talking about new jobs, a return to college, a major sports deal, giving up smoking and whole families changing the way they spend their leisure time together.

Strictly speaking, we finished filming back in June.  But on Saturday we met again, to catch up, and because I wanted to show them my lovely Spinc Mountain that I had been bragging about throughout our months of training together.  They were invited to bring friends and family, but I was a little concerned when I saw the youthful bunch that turned up – our youngest walker was just 4-years-old, and I confess  I didn’t think they’d last 5 minutes.   To my amazement, they hopped around the mountain covering a 9km hill-walk with a climb of 380m in just under 4 hours; and 4-year-old Charlie was the most energetic of all of us.   It just goes to show that sometimes our kids can be limited, not by their lack of strength or maturity but by the preconceived and erroneous notions of  us boring old adults.

MinesThanks to my GOTC gang for a fabulous day – to the kids for the life lesson – and to Joan Kavanagh (local historian and member of the Glens of Lead Project) who met us on the trail along the way to introduce us all to ‘Paddy Byrne’ (wooden miner model) and to tell us about the history of the old lead workings and mines at Glendalough.

After a ‘Last Supper’ with the team, several of us went back out on the hill again for a night climb on Spinc – as part of my climbing mate Vera Baker’s preparations for a Concern hike to Kenya later this year.  Staying in Wicklow overnight, the Concern trainees were back out on their bikes for some cycling exercise on the Sallygap on Sunday, and then I was back up on Spinc for a 3rd and final climb on Sunday afternoon, before I returned to the city and prepared for work and the gym on Monday.

My own training intensifies next week.  I’m preparing for the Liffey Descent kayak and cycle challenge that I’m doing this September with ‘Mr Kayak’ Kipper Maguire, to raise funds and awareness for LauraLynn Hospice – Irelands ONLY childrens’ hospice.  If you have a few bob, please drop it into our MyCharity page here – and please pass it on….



  • Communicorp
  • Danone
  • Irish Farmers’ Journal
  • Dublin Airport Authority
  • WeightWatchers, Ireland
  • Limerick City & County Enterprise Board
  • ‘Foot In The Door’ Media Trainer for Independent Commercial Radio, Ireland
  • Clare County Enterprise Board
  • Carlow County Enterprise Board
  • Great Outdoors
  • Adrian Hendroff ‘From High Places’
  • Chernobyl Children International
  • Concern Ireland
  • The Hope Foundation
  • LauraLynn Childrens’ Hospice
  • Travel Department
  • Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race
  • 98FM Dublin
  • Newstalk
  • TodayFM Radio
  • Learning Waves Skillnet
  • BCFE, Ballyfermot
  • Pat Falvey, 'The Summit Book'