I’m just back from a shopping trip with new runners and leggings. Everyone knows if you Continue reading
The challenge is on. One minute I am sitting nice and cosy on the TV3 Midday panel with Elaine Crowley and the next thing I know, we have talked ourselves into running a 10k before Christmas.
As we sat, discussing the benefits of running for both your physical and mental health, Elaine had a Continue reading
I was so angry with myself this week
In November and December last year, I ate my way through the stress of starting up a new business (www.teenagates.com), I ate my way through the sadness of saying goodbye to old colleagues, and I ate my way through the celebration of spending Christmas with my family and the excitement of my new start. Happiness or sadness, I turned to food. Result? I put on TWENTY pounds in two months (over 9kilograms).
It wasn’t really about being lazy or inactive either. I was tearing around the place and doing lots of cycling and swimming; although I probably wasn’t putting as much effort into it as I usually would. Looking back at the last few months, it was definitely food that was the problem. I easily returned to my old 23-stone lifestyle of skipping breakfast, not bothering to plan my day’s food, grabbing a roll at lunch, eating out, trying to starve for a couple of hours as guilt set in, and then caving into food cravings and ordering a take-away just before bed – the worse time of the day to be eating.
Amazingly I didn’t notice the weight-gain for a while. It’s incredible how easy it is to slip back into denial. I noticed a couple of tops and dresses getting tighter, but thought they’d shrunk in the wash!
It wasn’t until I went kayaking before Christmas and had to get my mate Fiona to prise me into my buoyancy aid, that I noticed something was wrong. Even then, I stayed off the scales for a couple of weeks, telling myself I’d get the weight off first before taking the acid test. How dumb is that? Of course that didn’t happen, and I didn’t brave the scales until December 28th to measure the shocking extent of the damage done. I reached that point once before, on my way to morbid obesity. Back then I put my head down, right into a chicken snackbox and munched my way to oblivion. At least this time I’m facing the truth.
I’ve reintroduced the word ‘diet’ into my vocabulary.
In today’s world, it’s not polite to say ‘diet’ and it’s virtually unforgivable to say ‘fat’. But for me, I need to face both words and deal with them. The alternative is to slip back into the void that leads to obesity, depression, diabetes, fatty liver, high cholesterol, heart disease, increased risk of cancer and stroke, and inevitably, if I don’t put the brakes on, death. Being badly overweight really is that serious. I’ve been there before, I’ve faced death in the face and walked away from it, taking a different road that brought me to a whole new journey of adventure of discovery, and I’m not giving that up. I’m not giving up my mountains either, and the particularly large one that I plan to climb later this year… (Mount Elbrus in Russia with Irish Adventurer Pat Falvey of ‘The Summit’ film and book.)
The anger came when I went back running with my athletic club. In 2013 I started the Le Chéile ‘Couch to 5K’ programme and went on to run 10k and take part in adventure races in Wicklow and Killarney. Now here I was on a dark, rainy, winter night – back where I started – huffing and puffing over my boobs, as I heaved my way around the track, gasping for breath and limping over my sore knees. There was embarrassment too, as everyone else streaked ahead of me. I hated every second of it. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that next week will be easier, and the week after will be easier still. Not easy, just easier!
I was angry too over all my pretty dresses. It is not the washing machine that is to blame, I just don’t fit into a size 12 anymore, and no matter how I rant at the designers, it’s not their fault. I used to fit into dresses that I don’t fit into now. How the heck did that happen? Subconsciously I must have been grabbing the stretchy, looser stuff, without noticing what was happening to my waistline.
No more denial. I’ve bagged up all my pretty dresses and tailored suits and stashed them up in the attic until I’m fit to wear them again. In the meantime, I’m looking at empty hangers as a reminder of where I want to be – and I am NOT buying new, bigger clothes. So apologies in advance if I turn up at your event in running pants!
Since January 1st I have been eating well. Porridge, chicken, eggs, brown rice, brown pasta, a little olive and coconut oil, some oily fish, nuts, fruit and lots of vegetables and salad. I have also been drinking at least 2 litres of water each day. Most importantly, I am facing up to the fact that I need to eat slightly less than my body requires, because I have a storehouse of energy stored around my belly that needs to be unleashed! That means I don’t give in to cravings, and sometimes it’s ok to feel a little hungry.
I’m back in the gym, back on the hill, swimming, cycling, and hiking to my heart’s content. I’m back running with Parkrun on Saturdays, I’ve rejoined Le Chéile AC, and I’ve joined up with a global event on Facebook to run ‘100 days of miles’ in 2014.
There are absolutely no food ‘treats’ in my diet, instead I’ve set targets with much better treats in store. I collect the first tomorrow. I promised myself that if I lost 10lb across January I’d get a mountain bike. Well I’ve lost 9lb in 9 days – so tomorrow I’m off to the Giant Bike Store to pick up my new baby; and my new baby will help improve my fitness as I work to target number two…
I’ve realised writing this, that I’m not angry with myself any more. I am determined….I’m getting back on track, healthy and fit, and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.
Back to my running club, Le Chéile AC tonight, for the first time in months. Parking the car in the dark of the night was a sharp change from the lovely warm evenings when I was here last. Heading down to the new running track to say hello to old friends and new, I remembered coming here last Feb – again braving the dark cold night and spits of rain to get started on the club’s Couch-to-5k programme.
It felt a bit like deja-vu walking across the carpark tonight; out of the night and into the lights, and I briefly gave myself a mental kick for not keeping it up after reaching my 5k. But then I realised I was smiling, I realised I wasn’t grumbling away to myself, as I had been back in February when I made this walk. So something has clearly changed. I may have lost my running fitness a bit, but at least now I know that I’ve done this before and I feel more confident about doing it again.
Meeting running buddy Sharon Ashmore, and our coach – the talented Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan – on the track, it’s grins all around as the warm-ups begin.
I’m 5 mins jumping up and down and I realise that the ‘girls are loose’. Gentlemen, just tune out now, while girls, appreciate that good harnessing is vital for this kind of lark, especially when there are ample assets to contain! Enough of that. John announces that we are going to have a bash at sprint-relays; there were a couple of groans and a couple of grins, while I remained neutral, unsure of what that entailed.
We split into teams and took up positions on the track, got our briefings and the whistle blew. I was the 2nd runner in my group. Sharon was my ‘number one’ and she was sprinting the first 100 metres to me, while I got ready to grab the baton and dash for the 2nd 100.
As I saw Sharon’s 100 metres disappearing, the cold of the night disappeared, and despite myself, I felt a burst of adrenaline. I’d been telling myself I was going to slow down the team and be a disappointment, but then I suddenly realised, I hadn’t tried this sprinting stuff before and for all I knew, I could be nursing a secret talent; there could be a burst of speed under the hood after all.
Sharon approaches, I start to run, we join hands over the baton, I’ve got it and I’m away. Speed’s up, chest up, breathing deep and pushing towards the track. I’m 50 metres gone and feeling good, when something odd happens. I feel my running pants loosen around my hips, and as they continue to slip, my petrified mind freezes; ‘they can’t go any further’ I think to myself, they’re lycra! There’s only 40 metres to go…. just keep running. But as my hips roll, my pants slip further, and then to my horror, my belly pops out over the waistband – the point of no return. I look ahead, 30 metres. I grab my belly, still firmly hanging onto my baton, I grab onto my pants, and I keep running. Catherine’s number 3, and blinded by the spotlights, clearly can’t see my predicament. ‘C’mon – run Teena, run’ she shouts. I’m running and shouting back and laughing and just about holding it altogether as I fall towards her and she grabs the baton and runs off into the night. Collapsing in a giggling heap as I sort myself out. Now that’s a belly laugh…
Standing stretching and checking my harness, modesty restored, I try and figure out what went wrong. I’ve run in these pants before, although not this sprinting business. Before long the wave is returned back around the track and Sharon is running back down towards me, baton outstretched. I start to run, we switch possession of the baton, and I’m off again. Confident this time – having discovered what the string in my waistband is for!
Running down the track I concentrate on being fast, until the wave of other runners sweep past me and I’m back running into Catherine’s screams of ‘C’mon, run Teena, Run’. Ah well, maybe not the Olympics then.
A friend of mine once told me I have the head of a racehorse and the body of a mule, because I always want to be fast, although I’m not really constructed that way. But I think I’d prefer to think of myself as a Shetland pony, because in fairness, it’s not that I have a mule-like stubbornness against running, it’s just that I don’t do it very well, although that John O’Regan fella is determined that I develop a decent little trot.
The main thing about tonight is that I’m back. Back at Le Chéile and back running, and even if I can’t run fast, I can always run faster! So I’ll be turning up for my Parkrun 5k on Saturday morning, and I’ll be turning up for the Run in the Dark on November 13th, and I’ll be back for my next Le Cheile training session with John and Sharon and the gang. But next time, this particular Shetland Pony will have her harness and tackle checked and ready to go, and her girth tightened beforehand…
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….
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 wish they weren’t so nude down on the Royal Canal…. I cycle along the muddy track most days on my way in and out from Blanchardstown to work in town – it’s a good length of a cycle (around 15k). It irons out the kinks, especially after a weekend spent hiking or running. But they’re all stripped bare and it’s beginning to get to me. Holly’s different and Ivy too, in fairness… but then they’re always game and ready to show off their best colours all year around. But it’s more than halfway through April and you’d think the rest of the trees and shrubs would be wearing leaves by now! Never mind, the Met today said the winter was gone and the worst of the cold is over for 2013, so pretty soon, those small buds that started appearing today, will burst into a flood of life and I’ll have a ‘greeny’ canal back again. Like the trees, flooding with energy and ready to burst into life – I’m feeling strong and energetic for the first time since my surgery in January. It’s been a tough start to this year, but like the forecaster said today about the weather – I feel I’m over the worst.
This weekend was amazing. All those horrid nights out running in the cold and dark with my ‘Couch-to-5k’ buddies at Le Chéile Athletics Club in Leixlip, finally paid off. I’d signed up weeks ago for the Spar Great Ireland Run in the Phoenix Park here in Dublin, and although I was nowhere near ready to run 10k I was happy to have a bash and walk and jog the distance. My plan was to walk 1 min and run 4 the whole way round. That’s what I did and I came back in just over 1 hour and 18 minutes – which was ten minutes faster than my best time for a 10k last year. So I’ve definitely bounced back and now I can start to build on my new fitness. The running techniques I’ve been getting at Le Chéile really helped get me around the course, as did the brilliant coaching session with Catherina McKiernan that I was fortunate to have the benefit of, while filming a couple of weeks ago with my ‘Get Off The Couch’ TV project. You can’t get fit without some hard work, but technique really goes a long way to getting there safely and efficiently. Le Chéile’s Sharon Ashmore has been nagging me for weeks to run the club’s 5k on May 4th – I suppose I really don’t have any excuse now. It would be great if you joined us – you can register on Facebook or on this link: http://www.lecheile5k.milanet.biz/
The 10k wasn’t the only burst of activity for the weekend. On Saturday I got some pre-race preparation in, with a 5.5hr hike up Lugnaquilla for Concern. ‘Lug’ as it’s affectionately or sometimes painfully referred to, can be a bit of a slog. Saturday was no exception. A coachload of climbers poured out at Fenton’s pub in bright sunshine at 10am – and within a couple of hours, we were knee-deep in snow, and slogging our way up the mountain against an increasingly violent headwind, freezing cold, driving rain and almost zero visibility. The leaders turned us all back down the mountain within shouting distance of the summit – deeply frustrating, but the right decision – in light of the dreadful and worsening conditions. It was an excellent exercise for seeing how well or how badly our equipment, clothing and boots all worked – and a reminder that you must always be prepared in the mountains.
Well that’s an Irish spring for you – but the weather’s definitely turned the corner. A couple of weeks ago, my TV gang and I were out on the Liffey rafting and kayaking with Irish kayaking legend Kipper Maguire and rafting.ie which is based at an old mill in Palmerstown. The sun was beaming down and you just felt that powerhouse of energy that comes from having the sun on your face in the great outdoors. We were out on the river from 7am to sundown, and I ended up in that well known and gorgous watering hole The Anglers’ Rest – the perfect end to a perfect day and one which I’ll be writing about in detail for Outsider Magazine later this Summer. I’ll be taking a look at the river from the Strawberry Beds right down to the Jeannie Johnson at the IFCS where City Kayaks are based. I’ll be finding out what adventures are going on there, right under our feet – in particular, right under O’Connell Bridge.
So welcome Spring, welcome Summer, and welcome to a whole new year of adventure. 🙂
I had a pretty amazing Paddy’s Day weekend. Thanks to the amazing hospitality of mountaineer Tony Nation and the incredible cooking skills of his wife Mary…. I climbed Carrauntoohil in snow on Saturday, and I climbed the Coumshingaun Horseshoe in Waterford the following day – I ate loads of homebaked cakes and bread – with cream – and sank a couple of glasses of red wine… but even the scales gave me a break and I only registered a half a pound increase for all my indulgence.
Then tonight the good times continued at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip.
We are just about half way through their ‘Couch to 5k’ programme and they told us during our warm-up tonight that we’d be running for a full 20 mins without walking. My jaw dropped and to be honest, I wondered if anyone would notice if I grabbed my keys and slipped out the back door! I’d run 20 mins with them last week, but that was running 5 min intervals with a 2 minute break in-between; and I’d thought that was tough!
Setting off into the cold, dark, night, I had a face like a glum trout…. but I concentrated on picking my own SLOW pace and keeping my breathing even. I ended up sort of jogging between two groups, out on my own, but still a part of the gang. I could feel the group ahead pulling me forward and the group behind pushing me on – like I was on an invisible cord.
I realised that if I kept thinking I couldn’t do it, I’d have a mini panic attack and end up walking off. So I started telling myself that of course I could. I told myself I was enjoying it, and matched the words to my pace as I ran slowly along the dark tarmac, occasionally glancing up to see the moon and stars above. At first the moon was ahead but after a while it fell behind and I grinned into the frosty night, thinking I’d just outrun a moonbeam. Do you know, after a while, I really began to believe it. I’m genuinely unsure whether the running became easier, or whether I just convinced myself that it had. All I know is that when the 20mins were up – I didn’t want to stop – and when I saw the lights of the clubhouse up ahead in the distance, I just kept on running – all the way home – on a cloud.
It’s all in the head isn’t it? I said ‘I can’ – and I did. 🙂
Despite illness, wonky knees, cartiledge problems, and consultants telling my I wouldn’t…… I’m running again. Well, if you call putting one foot in front of the other at a slightly more animated pace than walking, then I’m running again.
It’s all coming together rather nicely. I’ve had a couple of sessions at Le Cheile AC and each session felt better than the last, the lovely folk at Run Kildare have invited me back again this year, and I’m off to Limerick this weekend with ‘Get Off The Couch’ participants, Karen and Cathy to take part in a triathlon workshop.
I really believe in learning about technique. When I started getting out into the great outdoors and trying out new, activity based hobbies, I was on my way back down from 23 stone. I really didn’t think I’d be able to do anything, and as soon as I discovered that I could, my whole world changed. Training helped though, and I’ve a huge amount of people to thank, for sharing their knowledge and passion for sport and the outdoors. I will be thanking people for the rest of my life, and whenever I catch up with the thanking bit… I have a whole new wave of people and blessings to be thankful to and for.
One of those people who helped me then and is helping me now, is the hugely generous Irish ulra runner John O’Regan. We’re pictured here at Run Kildare last year, when he spotted me about to jog out – knowing darned well that I’d just been told I shouldn’t. Thanks to John’s advice on the day, I got around the course without further damaging my knees – and he’s been giving me great advice ever since.
Starting back running again 2 weeks ago wasn’t easy. It hurt, my chest heaved, I couldn’t breath and I really wondered if I’d just imagined being able to run. But this week felt better. I know it will take many more weeks to get back to anything like the fitness I had before. But something wonderful happened this week, as I ran I remembered that I like it. I got that feeling that runners get, where your body does what you ask, you find a rhythm and you’re suddenly confident that you can run for ever.
Even on a rainy day, you feel the sun on your face in those moments.
What has HAPPENED to me?
I’m planning to camp out and go Kayaking in the rain, this weekend in Galway; and I’m stunned to discover that I’m excitedly looking forward to it. Where has girly Gates gone?
Anyway, great event this weekend. It’s the ‘big splash’ Inishbofin swim. Half a dozen hardy souls are planning to swim from Cleggan Harbour to Inishbofin Island – that’s 8 miles in tough conditions. I used to keep a horse on the Island and I’ve spent many an afternoon getting sick on the ferry over, so I know how choppy those Atlantic waters can be.
I’m not swimming – but I’ve offered to Kayak to help with the ‘boat cover’ for the swimmers. I reckon it will be great experience and a hard work-out in preperation for my ‘Concern’ kayak challenge in Uganda this November. I have absolutely no idea whether I can ‘go the distance’. My new Kayak friends say it’s not likely; I’m not experienced enough, and my kayak is a very short ‘sit-on’ which means I’ll have a wet ass and very little stability in big waves!
The organisers have promised to pull me out of the water if it’s not working though, and I’ve got all the safety gear, so I’m not worried about that end of things. They’ve also told me they don’t mind if I wimp out and they promise I won’t be causing a problem if they have to fish me out. So all bases seem to be covered. Now all I need to do is get wet and work up some blisters. (I think I’d better bring gloves). Wish me luck – and I’ll let you know on Monday how I got on.
I’ll also let you know how the swimmers did – they’re heroes already for even thinking of doing it, and they’re all swimming for various charities too. Can’t wait to meet them all.
Have a great weekend, whatever you’re doing. And remember , if you’re thinking of getting active – stop thinking about it, just get up and do it. If I can, anyone can. 🙂
I’ve been concentrating on weight-lifting and kayaking lately, mostly kayaking…. because I was training to get my level 2 kayak Cert. Well I got it last Thursday and that’s great. But the problem I’m facing now, is that I’ve got my first triathlon on Saturday and I suddenly feel very unprepared.
There’s no way I can train effectively for a triathlon in one week, so I’ll just have to hope that my existing fitness levels get me through. It’s a ‘baby-tri’ though, so hopefully I’ll get away with it, although it’s not the ideal way to prepare!
I’ve got to start with a 250 metre swim in the River Nore in Kilkenny, followed by 14k on the bike and ending with a 3.5k run.
The whole idea of the ‘Choose to Tri’ triathlon in Kilkenny next weekend, is to help raise awareness of the importance of exercise in fighting cancer. There’s a full triathlon taking place at the same time, but there’s a ‘beginners’ level race over shorter distances, for people like me who just want to ‘have a go’… It’s organised by a new charity which is trying to get the message across that exercise can help prevent and fight cancer. You can find out more here: http://www.choosetotri.com/