The guy on the desk at Awesome Walls in Finglas, looked rather bemused. It’s a fabulous facility; one of the largest climbing walls I’ve seen, and despite my cold, I was looking forward to meeting my mate Stephen and tying onto a rope. The chap’s confusion came from his polite appraisal of my 87 year old dad who was standing beside me in a day suit with a crisp shirt and tie and crombie overcoat. I couldn’t resist playing along: “I’ve got my own gear” I said, before adding “But I’ll need to rent a harness for dad”. A couple of minutes later, dad was safely parked on a sofa holding a mug of steaming coffee, the attendant looking relieved, while Steve and me roped up and started climbing up the walls. Ha ha – a fitting break from the turkey excess.
I quickly realised how much my chesty cold has drained me. I normally fly up the ‘4+’ routes, but today, everything I tried felt awkward and tough. It clearly wasn’t the wall, it was me. In a way, there was a kind of relief to see my lack of physical strength on the wall, it confirmed why I was feeling so rough the last few days. You kind’ve ignore a bad cold, but my muscles were clearly telling me I’m under pressure right now.
Earlier in the day I’d taken my first session back in the gym and I thought I would die! There was a group of 8 of us training with gym guru David Dunne at the Westpoint Gym in Blanchardstown. We did an hour of mixed weights and aerobic circuits, and while we were all groaning for mercy at the end, I definately felt I had zero fitness, and my chest was heaving.
Some part of me did admit that I probably shouldn’t have gone sea swimming yesterday, but it’s sometimes difficult to know if you just feel lazy or really are too sick to do stuff. Dad and the suit and crombie looked well on Malahide beach too – although he thought I was nutz, and probably I should have listened to him.
Well I’m not giving up. I’ve spent 2 weeks nursing this cold, and I’m not locking myself away in the house again for more. I’m back in the gym tomorrow morning and I’ve got a gym and swim treat with a friend tomorrow afternoon. I’ll keep exercising, but won’t push too hard, and hopefully the cough will go soon and I’ll get my strength back. It’s most annoying being on holiday and being sick! 🙁
Well it’s a week to go to Uganda, so if I haven’t trained enough by now, I’ve just left it too late. I’m excited, but I’ve got those pre-expedition ponders – when you just can’t help going over the last few months in your mind, and wonder… if only. If only I’d tried hot-yoga, it would have helped me prepare for the heat. If only I’d spent more time on the hills, more time on the bike, more time in the pool. But in fairness, I drafted a training plan several months ago, and I’ve pretty much stuck to my plan. I’ve cycled 15k into work and back, most days – I’ve lifted weights in the gym twice a week, I’ve joined Wild Water Kayak Club and learned the basics of how to paddle, I’ve got my level 2 cert to prove it. I’ve climbed Carrauntoohil twice, and Purple Mountain and Tomies – as well as several training runs up my beloved Spinc in Wicklow.I’ll know very soon if I’ve done enough to tackle the altitude on Mount Elgon, whether I’ve done enough to keep up with the rest of the group as we cycle over 200k through the African bush, and whether I’ll be able to Kayak well enough, when we get to the Nile and Hairy Lemon Island.
This was my very last weekend for training, and it’s been a howler. A day’s climbing in Wicklow yesterday, followed by climbing at Awesome Walls last night – and a day out on the Liffey kayaking today – and all with a film crew shadowing every move in preperation for “Get Off the Couch”, a programme I’m presenting for Athena Media on Setanta next year, which aims to encourage people to get up and get active and get outdoors into our lovely countryside. Thanks to Barry and Paula and Rob and Helen – you were all brilliant this weekend and I’ve learned so much already from you all.
I really don’t know whether I’ve done enough for Uganda on Saturday – I really hope I have, I hope I do Concern proud. But at least after today, I feel a lot more confident about the paddling. I’ve had a real mental block over paddling over weirs into white water and was gutted last weekend when what should have been my last training session didn’t come off the way I wanted it to. I decided to have one last shot and the guys in the club pulled out all the stops for me and got me in the water again this weekend. Last night I kept telling myself I could do it – even though I didn’t really believe it! Today I told myself the same thing, and eventually when the time came, I popped over Wrens, and stayed upright….then did it again… and again. Andy, my WWKC instructor was with another group downstream, and he told me later they all heard me screaming with jubilation and they laughed as he said “ah, Teena’s made it down Wrens!”
I’m so grateful to Wild Water Kayak Club. To Andy, Aidan and Dave – who first showed me the ropes, to Andy again who never gave up on me, and to John Judge and Sean who took me out today. Thank you to adventurer, friend and mentor Pat Falvey, to Wicklow Mountain Rescue buddy Ronan Friel, ATI ‘City Kayak’ chief Donnchadh McCobb, to gym guru David Dunne, to my own fantastic radio station 98FM, to Howth Coast Guard and all our ‘forces’, to the most patient dad in Ireland, to my brother who’s prepared a detailed list of all the spiders I need to avoid in Africa, to the Albany Clinic who gave me millions of injections for a very tiny price and no bruises, to Great Outdoors who always support me and who are on P41 of my book!, to swimming ‘Chanimal’ Fergal Somerville, and to everyone who hiked and climbed and encouraged and motivated me over the past couple of months. So many friends, including my FB & Twitter supporters, I’m so very, very lucky. And thank you to whoever told me to fake-it till you make-it… ‘cos today I faked my way over Wrens until I suddenly made it! If it turns out that I haven’t done enough for Uganda, I guess I know what I have to do.. 😉