2013 went out with a hike up Djouce with good friends Vera Baker and Lisa Moriarty – and 2014 entered with a stormy splasharound with friends from the Eastern Bay Swimming Club, in the sea at Portmarnock Beach. What a way to wave away the old and celebrate the new.
December 27th I flew back to Dublin after spending a lovely Christmas with family in London – which included scaring a Sussex turkey farmer half to death when I loomed up out of the darkness as I jogged by his farm puffing frosty breath into the cold dark air at 7am on a dark English morning. The 28th saw me back with Le Chéile running buddies at Griffeen Parkrun near Lucan, where my pre-Christmas party belly resulted in my worst ever time for a 5k (it was 40+ minutes but that did include a disappearance to study the shady side of a bush around 2.5kilometres in…). Then the 29th saw me visit Djouce mountain, back in my beloved Wicklow Hills, feeling fat as a fool and struggling to tie my bootlaces.
The hike was brilliant – if a little painful. I went up with two girly friends of mine who have long legs – damn them! We made an early start and it was a beautiful frosty, sunny morning. Went up Djouce from Crone’s Wood, past Powerscourt Waterfall. It’s not a difficult hike, the trail is very well defined and very pretty. But my fitness left me struggling to keep up, and I had complicated life by wearing a pair of rigid boots that I need to break in before I head to Scotland in 2 week’s time. Of course the idea of breaking in boots is rubbish – it’s your own feet that you break in…. I had fallen back and I was hobbling along on my own when I bumped into one of my cycling friends JuJu Jay from Mud Sweat & Runners, who was flying down the mountain on his bike – as you do! What an extraordinary life I lead these days, bumping into friends on mountains. The delight and subsequent grins and Happy New Year hugs and ‘peace’ put a smile on my face as I pressed ahead and caught up with the girls at the summit. I galloped back down the mountain – but in total, it was a 4 hour hike, and by the time I was back at the car-park, my feet were little molten pools of pain. Still, getting used to pain is probably a useful part of training for Elbrus, the mountain in Russia that I’m planning to climb with Irish Adventurer Pat Falvey this Summer. My biggest immediate problem is stupidly putting on 20 pounds during Nov and Dec and now needing to drop it in a couple of months. I’ve made life a bit more difficult for myself and there’s a lot of work to do.
As experiences go, it’s shaping up already to be a pretty enormous year – and I’m already fizzing with the excitement of next month’s trip to Norway. I’m heading off to chase the Northern Lights with a husky team in the Nordic Arctic Circle, and I’ll be camping out on a frozen lake. We’re going to Kirkenes in a province called Finnmark in the most northerly part of Norway. It is in the middle of the Arctic Circle and very close to the border of Russia. Along with the husky safari, there is ice-fishing, a king crab safari and a visit to the snow hotel. What’s not to be excited about? I’m heading out with an old hiking buddy of mine, Keith from www.extremeireland.ie and there are still spaces left on the plane!
I have big challenges ahead of me this year, and I’m not willing to let that lapse into weight-gain get in the way. I’m back on a healthy eating regime and 5 days into the New Year I’m back running, hiking, cycling and swimming…..
The start back to swimming was bracing to say the least. Here’s how we got on at Portmarnock Beach on New Year’s Day: