“Ninja Midges” – that’s what we dubbed them, as the dying throes of the soon-to-be infamous ‘Summer of 2013 Heatwave’ burned deep into the reddening Roscommon skyline. As we gathered around the citronella flares that marked the heart of our Wild Water Kayak Club tent village, dodging dive-bombing beasties with fangs – I scratched lazily at the rising bumps on my legs and arms – and pondered that my weekend in Cootehall would be memorable to me for a host of reasons.
I’ve had two days of open canoe fun with old and new friends which has come as a timely kick-start to training for my next adventure – a Liffey Descent and Cycle challenge for LauraLynn Hospice (which you can read about by clicking HERE). I’ve also randomly found myself back near Ballyfarnon, where my dad owned a pub when I was 8. We moved around a lot when I was a kid and I’d nearly forgotten about living here – so a weekend of driving and paddling through this old familiar territory has stirred up a whole bunch of memories. The surprises continued when I met with one of my LauraLynn challenge SASTA sponsors who lives down here – only to find she was also an old school-mate back in the day!
The club’s canoe weekend saw us out on the Shannon and paddling from Cootehall to Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday, which was around 12k of water covered – more if you include the messin! Sunday saw us move the boats to Lough Key Forest Park where we paddled the whole way out to the island with the castle on it, that I used to stare out at as a kid. Then we paddled further again, to picnic on yet another island even further out in the lake. I just love the way canoes open up the waterways to allow for a whole new range of adventures. Someone had camped on the island, or had at least lit a massive bonfire and I stared in envy – wishing dad had brought me here when I was 8. But maybe I’ll bring him, now he’s 88.
I tore myself away from Roscommon with a heavy heart and a whole heap of new questions about how life could have turned out if we’d stayed in the pub. It was known as the Cosy Inn – in case you’ve ever raised a glass there. It’s closed now I’m told. All those laughing voices and clinking glasses faded into memory.
Back in Dublin, Monday brought no muscle soreness, which is a good sign that I’m off to a flying start for my Liffey Descent training. I need to get my cycling legs back now, build on my current fitness, and lose a stone in the next two months. Then I’ll be ready. No problem – Gulp!
These fun-filled, action-packed weekends can only help. Exercising is so much better when you’re having fun with friends. It’s my secret weapon for getting fit and keeping fit. Last weekend I climbed Carrauntoohil for Concern to support climbing buddy Vera Baker who’s heading to Kenya with the charity this year. We followed the hike on Saturday with an adventure on Sunday which saw us in Tomies Wood in the Gap of Dunloe – with legendary Irish adventurer Pat Falvey and Eamon Waldron from ‘Get Off The Couch’, the adventure programme that I’m presenting on Setanta TV this September.
We spent about an hour hiking through some of the country’s oldest oak woodland, breathing in the earthy tones and feasting our eyes on the 40-shades of green mosses, herbs and ferns of this magical ‘Alice in Wonderland’ trek. Thank’s to Pat’s excellent stage-management, we suddenly stumbled with gasps of delight into a shady glade that thundered with the sound of O’Sullivan’s Cascade – 1.5kilometres of waterfall tumbling through the woodland and down to the lakes of Killarney National Park. We girls couldn’t resist taking a dip in one of the ice-cold plunge pools; feeling like wood-nymphs in a fairytale, or maybe the girls in a Tomotei advert. It’s easy to let your imagination run away with you in a magical place like this…
Folklore tells us that O’Sullivan’s Cascade is where the chief of the Fianna, Fionn MacCumhal stashed his personal whiskey store, before a row with invaders saw the precious drop turn back to water. Later, we turned the water back into wine, over a bowl of chowder at Kate Kearney’s Cottage.. 😉
Can’t wait for next week’s adventure.
Well I have a whole new adventure on the way, with a massive physical challenge, 2 months of perfecting new skills, 2 months of building strength, flexibility and muscle, and 2 months to get over my terror of weirs and white water!
White Water Kayaker and Former National Freestyle Champion, Kipper Maguire has challenged me to join him in tackling this year’s Liffey Descent in aid of LauraLynn the country’s ONLY Hospice for Children.
Taking place on Saturday September 28th, the annual kayak event will attract paddlers from all over the world, with the ESB releasing 30-million tons of water to feed the 28km course that will combine long flat water sections, swift currents, ten weirs and numerous rapids. To make the daunting challenge even more interesting, we’ve agreed to cycle from LauraLynn’s Leopardstown base to the start of the descent at the K-Club in County Kildare…a mere 40k or so, with a few hill climbs thrown in to keep us warm!
Tragically there are over 1,400 children living in Ireland with life-limiting conditions and 350 of these children pass away each year, most within the first year of life. With no government funding to build or run LauraLynn House, the hospice needs over €2.4M each year to keep the service going.
The Pedals and Paddles challenge this autumn, will raise funds and awareness for the hospice. Will you help? Check out our MyCharity page and follow our extensive summer training through their ‘Pedal 2 Paddle’ blog here – on Facebook or on Twitter.
Kipper Maguire is a White Water Kayaker, Former National Freestyle champion, level 4 ICU Instructor and, in his spare time, an enthusiastic SUP surfer. Kipper represented Ireland in 4 World Championships and was National Freestyle Champion for 3. He continued his involvement with the World Championships through coaching of the National Team as well as commentating at the events. His kayaking trips have taken him all over world. One of his most memorable experiences was paddling Zanskar Gorge in India. This charity event co-organised by Kipper raised €10K for charity. A close second was his winter trip down the Grand Canyon. You can find him on the flat water teaching, getting new people involved in the sport and when it rains you will find him teaching advanced techniques or just out having a blast on the water with his friends.
20 years a journalist with Dublin’s 98FM, in recent years, Head of News Teena Gates has also earned a reputation as an author and adventurer. As well as a busy brief with the capital’s top radio station, she writes a column for Outsider Magazine, her 1st book ‘One Foot in Front Of The Other’ was a sell-out success, and she takes to the small screen later this September with a 6-part show for Setanta TV. She’s also worked up a massive track record for charity fundraising. “In the past three years I’ve lost 12 stone – leaving my 23 stone bulk behind and taking up a number of physical challenges for charity. I’ve climbed to Everest Base Camp and have recently returned from a multi-trip adventure to Uganda for Concern, but this could be my toughest challenge yet.”
Make a donation here: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/weirsnwheels
I feel a bit tired just reading that myself, but it wasn’t planned, it all sort of ‘happened’. I hadn’t been on the bike since the Triathlon on Saturday, for all sorts of reasons – most of them connected with laziness, but then I saw on the weather forecast that Thursday was going to be a good day in Dublin, so I decided to roll out the wheels and start cycling into work again. I’m not saying I’m fast (I’m not) but I really felt the benefits of the ‘work cycle’ when I did the 18k in Kilkenny; and cycling into work means I HAVE to time myself and cycle to time. As it happens, I do seem to have knocked a few minutes off – I left the house at 620am and found myself on Pearse Street at 7 – with time for a quick cup of coffee, sitting in the sun, beside the bike, beside the canal… before I went into the office. What a lovely way to start the day.
After work I cycled back home – via the gym. I wasn’t looking forward to that. It’s a time-trial too, because I’m reading the news at 3pm, and have to make the gym by 4pm, which is a bit tight. Whenever I’m late, Dave my trainer, makes me suffer by stepping up the intensity of the session, to make up for the minutes I lost. This time I was on time, but he still creamed me! We did kettleweights and quite a lot of squat-lifts with fairly decent weights. My shoulders feel a bit sore after that today.
By the time I’d finished the gym, there was just enough time left to grill some chicken, dress some salad – wolf it down, and throw on a swim cossie and wetsuit, before belting out the door for the river. I really didn’t feel like kayaking – I had 6 training weeks of being forced to capsize for hours on end, and I just wanted to sit in the boat and be dry for once. It was unlikely to be tonight – I was having my first go at water polo and the boats are a lot more unstable than the learner kayaks I’d been using up to now. They’re tiny and light and overbalance in a heartbeat. Well to my suprise and my club-mates’ amusement – I left the river with dry hair. I was so damned determined not to fall out, that I remembered every trick in the book that they’d taught me the last few weeks. Blocks and brace turns, and balance and leaning forward. The works – there was NO WAY that I was getting wet this time, and I walked away a dry kayaker. lol…
PS. Loved the water polo.
PSS. You know, I started off dreading everything this Thursday and ended up enjoying the lot. Says something, doesn’t it…..?
What a stunningly special day.
Started with a bang – a 15k cycle into work, and planned 15k home. A 30k round-trip, but much needed as I’ve got my first triathlon on Saturday in Kilkenny and I don’t think I’ve prepared well enough.
The best fun was after work, when I cycled down to ATI City Kayaks near the IFSC for my Monday paddle. I had two special treats. I was joined by my Concern/Uganda buddy Vera Baker – and I got to try out my new kayak. A loan from the fantastic marathon swimmer, Fergal Sommerville, who heads off to swim the North Channel on Thursday. Best of luck Fergal.
My new kayak is yellow, and I’ve decided to call my mellow yellow craft ‘Saffron’. she ripped through the water like a shark (well, maybe a goldfish)…. and I love her already.
Good friends, good equipment, good weather and good waves…. what more could a girl need to start the week?
OK folks. Kayaking White Water is not going to come easy to me. I actually cried on the river tonight, with sheer terror and annoyance at myself, and frustration at my fear. My sprained wrist hurt, but it was only an excuse… I actually wanted to chuck it all in, and climb up the bank, and walk away…..
Luckily I stayed – and I finally made it down a weir without falling in! Chuffed, but still terrified.
This isn’t coming naturally, and I’m going to have to work REALLY hard to get better. But I reckon if I made it down once without falling in, I can do it again… and again… and again. Practice huh?