I keep remembering the shy smiling faces of children peeking out from behind their mother’s skirts as my group trekked through their villages on the way to Everest Base Camp in 2010. Fragile timber dwellings pinned precariously to the side of the mountain. I can’t stop my mind imagining what happened when the earthquake struck. Did these buildings collapse torn from their fragile moorings? or did entire villages actually slide off the face of the earth? and what has happened to the smiling children? Where are the monks? what happened to the colourful prayer wheels that I spun for luck and safety on my way through the mountains? What has happened to the monastery at Tengboche where I kneeled for hours, caught up in a heady mix of chanting and altitude, feeling moved by emotion I couldn’t quite understand. Back in Kathmandu where the rubble of 2,000 years is still trapping bodies in the chaos of seconds; where is the Kamari? The ‘Living Goddess’ the child confined to a silken palace until she comes of age or bleeds. Has the Goddess survived? My memories have become the stuff of nightmares and I feel so helpless and somehow guilty. Just like the hours of meditation that passed in a flash at the monastery in Tengboche, I feel moved by emotion I cannot quite understand. The horror of what has happened to Nepal this week is too big to understand.
The UN is estimating that Continue reading
Earlier this year a friend remarked that she was celebrating her 50th birthday by stepping up to the plate, and participating in all five of this year’s ‘Dip in The Nips’ for Irish Cancer Charities. Inspired by her bravery, I decided I’d also take the plunge, but because I had a very busy year of engagements that hadn’t been fully finalised, I registered for all of the swims in the hope that I would be free for at least one. That decision’s come home to roost this weekend and I’ve been told my ‘Dip in the Nip’ will be in Cork.
When I say my friend is brave, I really mean it. Because dropping your clothes to the ground and making your way into the ocean in front of lots of other people is a daunting experience – for me at least. I swim all-year-round at Malahide in Dublin, so it’s not the cold or the water that’s making me shiver in my flip-flops. It’s the thought of bearing my bits. I used to be 23 stone and I’m still overweight for my height, so I don’t have the best body image. The thought of putting it on display, gives me the creeps.
This is not the first time I’ve dropped my knickers for charity (in the best possible way). When I was fundraising for Concern in 2012, I agreed to pose for a nude art exhibition to raise money for the cause. It was all tastefully done and the eventual artwork that resulted from the session was pretty stunning. That’s a compliment to the artists, not to my lumps and bumps. You see I’m still apologising for my curves, even though I’ve come a long way when it comes to embracing them. The quirky thing, is that the art exhibition – my first dip into the world of the nude – was also in Cork – which I think is a bit of a coincidence. Or maybe I’m just a bit more free-spirited when I move outside The Pale!
The picture above is one of several completed for the ‘Nude’ exhibit at Gallery Frida, by artists: Andrea Cashell, Lora Murphy and Eileen Mc’Goldrick.
So I’m back at full circle and taking my clothes off for charity again. Why am I doing it? Obviously it’s good to raise money for cancer charities; we have all felt Cancer’s chilling touch in some way. Mothers, Fathers, Aunts, Husbands, Daughters, Best friends; Cancer doesn’t discriminate
But like the other women, men and couples taking part, I also believe that I’m ringing a bell for all those survivors who have fought the brave fight and come out shining. Hair loss, operation scars, all beautiful trophies to having tackled the odds and won. Shining and strong and fair play to every one. That’s what I’ll be thinking of in the early hours of Sunday morning, when I bare my boobs and head to the water’s edge, thankful and proud to have legs that carry me, and lungs to breathe and eyes to see.
If you want to join in this wave of love and support – register for the next ‘Dip in the Nip’. Come and Skinny-Dip for loved ones, or for those you’ve lost, or for you. Whatever your reason, join thousands of others who have peeled off for the cause. Or help me fundraise this weekend. You can make a donation of any amount on the PayPal button below.
A crisp, fresh, winter morning saw the ‘Get Off The Couch’ crew piling out of their cars at McDonalds – but it wasn’t to share a mac – it was to park across the road and share a raft on the River Liffey for our first ever competitive raft race with www.rafting.ie. The day’s sport was arranged to raise funds for Concern’s Philippines’ relief effort. A good cause, a beautiful day, fun on the water…. all reasons for me to smile deeply. But I also had a warming glow at seeing my new adventure friends getting active in the great outdoors, long after the TV cameras have stopped rolling. Yes, we made a television programme, but more importantly, the team and all our participants, have made a difference. They and I have both experienced the benefits of stepping outside the door into the beautiful, stunning, inspiring country that we live in – and now they continue to spread the word, about the joy of nature and the joy of being healthy. Rock on Ireland, or roll, or climb, or or or… well you get it. Here’s how some of our clever friends captured a little bit of the day….
There were winners in the all male, all female, and mixed crew categories, while GOTC came ahem, 4th last. You’ll get all the results and a whole host of pictures on rafting.ie’s facebook page. It was also great to welcome Santa and his helpers along on the day.
Saturday’s rafting was merely a warm-up for what I had planned on Sunday. I huffed & puffed & made it up, only to plunge down the rough rocks into the forest. Do I really want a mountain bike aged 48? Mountain Biking rock star, the legendary Richie Byrne and his angelic partner in hardcore biking, Carol, took me out for a beginner spin on Ticknock. All I can say is that this sport doesn’t let you hide for a second. It’s intense from the moment you start spinning those pedals, and it’s a rush right to the very end of the ride. I was soooo slow and sooooo clumsy, but I loved it. In fact I loved it enough to get fitter enough, so that I can judge how I like it when I’m not completely annihilated by the hill climbs. Mind you in fairness, I kept spinning, so there’s hope for me. If I have a word with Santa, I wonder if I’ve room for another bike….?
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.
Thanks 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….
I had an enforced ‘rest’ week between my active Paddy’s Day weekend and The Easter Bank Holiday. Close family visiting, a deluge that flooded and blocked the N11 to Wicklow, a truly unseasonal avalanche warning in the snow laden Mournes and a rather nasty tummy bug, all combined to keep me off the hills and out of the gym. Then an invite came to get out on Spinc Mountain on Good Friday with Concern/Uganda buddy Vera Baker, and I decided to push all thoughts of weakness aside and ‘just do it’. I was so pleased afterwards. It was a beautiful day in Wicklow with blue skies and bright sunshine, despite snow and ice underfoot; and it really stopped me feeling miserable and sorry for myself! Vera and her mate Lisa were just starting a new round of training for their latest charity appeal in Kenya later this year, and it was good to be out with them, as they bubbled and planned, all full with the sense of a new adventure.
When invite number 2 came to join Mountain Rescue volunteer Grainne Ryan on a trek up the Galtees on Saturday, again it was hard to refuse. I was probably quite weak after my tummy bug and I decided to take the train to Thurles rather than drive; the guys agreed to pick me up and drop me back afterwards to the station, which I felt was much easier than driving when I was feeling tired. It took the pressure off a bit, but I was still feeling a little nervous. I hadn’t climbed with Grainne or her mate Kevin before, and I wasn’t sure about my hill-fitness or strength. I just hate the thought of getting in ‘over my head’ and slowing people down. It’s always about picking your pace – but it doesn’t stop me getting a bit apprehensive first time out. Grainne reassured me they weren’t planning any hill-running…and off we went!
We headed first for Galtee Beag; intending to then skim the ridge and move on up to climb Galtee More 919m (3018ft) snow, ice and wind permitting. The pace was manageable, the company good, and the scenery stunning. Again another perfect climbing day, with snow underfoot and blue skies above; made all the more special by a natural phenomenon which I hadn’t seen before. As we left lunch and Galtee Beag behind and pushed on for Galtee More, we came out of the lee and the force of the wind hit us. Pushing onwards and upwards the cold was biting and it felt like being in a wind tunnel. I was using walking poles and could actually feel the wind tearing them from me as I walked. But I walked with care, staring in amazement at each footfall. I was nearly crying as I stepped on and smashed through these lovely snow crystals on the way up. Rime, Grainne called them. It was like walking through a bed of brittle diamonds… I’d never seen that before, the delicacy of the wind-blown ice formations on the frozen bog; I felt like an elephant in a china shop…
The last few measured steep steps to the summit; then walking across the flattened top to the cross, straining against the wind, leaning forward into it at an angle and pulling my fleecy buff up around my nose and mouth to try and help me breathe through the frosty air. We scrambled down a foot or two among the rocks and suddenly the wind stopped and I realised it had been roaring in my ears. Suddenly as if someone flicked a switch, we found ourselves in stark silence as we snuggled in to sit down among the frost-sparkled rocks, like ice-thrones in a winter wonderland at the top of the world. Swiftly turned to Ice Princess – I surveyed the 360 views of Tipperary, Limerick and perhaps Cork far off in the distance, with bright sunshine cutting through the bitter cold, now sheltered from the wind and feeling so incredibly grateful to be here.
My perfect Easter weekend didn’t end on the hills. I splashed my way through large waves in Malahide in bright sunshine on Sunday morning with Fergal Somerville and the Low Rock swimmers. I’d actually turned up with a wet-suit, but I was shamed when I saw them all getting into the surf in their swimming suits, so I decided to leave it in my bag and take the plunge – literally. It was icy cold. 4 degrees apparently, but it was beautiful being bounced around by the icy waves in bright sunshine. I didn’t last long; getting through about three swells before turning around and swimming like the clappers for the shore. But as my skin burned with fire afterwards and I drank hot coffee and pinched someone’s chocolate biscuits, there was no doubting I was alive.
Monday the holiday continues and I’m still off work, so I’m hitting the gym in the morning – then meeting the ‘Get Off The Couch‘crew as the six participants in our new TV series on Setanta go through their paces on the track at the prestigious Morton Stadium with Triathlon trainer, Eamonn Tilley. It’s our second session and I’m dying to see if we’ve made any progress. Last time we were training with Eamonn, the wonderful Katie Taylor gave us a pep talk and that really fired us up. The show’s taking 6 men and women from around the country and encouraging them to get out and active in the great outdoors. After my exciting ‘holiday’ break, I’ll have plenty to talk about!
Well it’s been an interesting few years. In 2009 I was 23 stone and dangerously ill. By 2010 I was heading to Everest Base Camp to raise money for kids in India, after losing half my own body weight. A year later I was climbing Grand Paradiso in the Alps for Chernobyl kids, and this year (2012) I took part in the first charity multi-adventure challenge in Uganda for the Irish charity Concern, climbing a volcano at altitude before cycling 200k to the Nile where the team took turns in kayaking down a grade 3 rapid. I kept a training blog here for my African Adventure, and now I’m back in training for a whole new challenge.
Throughout these adventures I learned to love our beautiful mountains and stunning seas, and to forge an ever-growing respect for our bodies, which can do so much more than our minds believe.
In 2013 I want you to come with me.
I’m inviting those of you who secretly dream of being adventurous to leave the TV remote behind, and come out to explore the great outdoors. I know how scary that can be, but I want to share how wonderful it is to break down those walls and find the inner you, the inner explorer. So if you’re looking for a life-changing New Year resolution – come and join me – and “Get Off The Couch”.
Updates from the Uganda Challenge…
My big brother Raymond knows how to fly – a real-life pilot. He did some gliding too and once when I was a little girl, he talked to me about turbulence. He explained it was like driving a car fast along a bumpy bog road. Even though you bounce up and down, you’re not going anywhere, just bumping up and down on pockets of air. I was really glad we’d had that chat, as with my eyes closed tight, my stomach lurched again, as the plane bucked and plunged, ploughing through pockets of air somewhere between Frankfurt and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia
Several hours of snatched sleep and three movies later, my climbing buddy Vera grabbed my arm excitedly to show me the dawn through the window. Such a pity I couldn’t see it from my seat! Yawning and putting the seat back up for arrivals, I stretched out cramped legs and thanked the universe for making me a shorty.
The boys looked like their knees were wrapped around their ears. Off the plane into a cold, crisp, but sunny morning. No rain here in Ethiopia, that’s waiting for us in Uganda. Two buses later, we piled out onto the Tarmac a five minute walk away from the plane we just left….and minus one member of the team.
Subsequent inquiries suggested James, or ‘Jam’ as we call him, was on a different bus. It’s been 20 minutes now and we’re still waiting for the bus to transport Jam the five-minute walk from the plane, which has now taxied away. But it’s pleasant sitting here on the runway in the early morning sun. Can’t really go much further without him really. After all, Jam’s leading the expedition….
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.. 😉
Well an early start for the hills…. fumbling around in the dark, so that I don’t wake up my friends – in the bedroom at the Crowne Plaza where we all collapsed around 3am, after the Community Counts Fashion Show. I put on my bra, only to discover it’s Fiona’s. Ooops, sorry Fee. I put it back neatly on the floor beside your knickers. I hope you found it!
My head is not exactly healthy, although I don’t remember drinking that much wine – but perhaps that’s the problem. Down to breakfast and I bump into Vera and Andy, the hostess with the mostess, and our DJ and soundman from the night before. Cheery greetings and I grab a plate of beans and mushrooms, with a slice of black pudding, and deny myself the sausages! (I am supposed to be training after all.) It’s 8am and I’m pushing off shortly to join some of my old Mountain Rescue buddies on a mountain in Wicklow for a day’s hiking.
I’m climbing today with www.irishguidedwalks.ie and the target is ‘Lugalla’ or ‘Fancy’ Mountain. So good they named it twice. It’s a long, slog up – heading up past the old Guinness Estate and lake, then a climb along a ridge, a water crossing, and back down again to the cars. I start out on the upward climb to the ridge and I quickly realise the pace is fast, a bit too fast for me. Instead of huffing and puffing, I take off a layer of clothes, drink some water and drop back. Ronan’s a good guide and he’s going to stay with the slowest in the group, so I’m happy that I won’t find myself under ‘unreasonable’ pressure. As it happens, the fast pace killed some of the early starters and they dropped back – leaving me about 2/3rds of the way down the line by the time we reached our first summit.
I wonder if I will ever be fast? I never seem to have that pace that pulls ahead under a head of steam. Maybe that’s my short legs (I’m 5ft), or maybe I’m just not fit enough yet. But where I’m building confidence is with the conviction that I don’t generally get tired. I have a slow, but steady pace and I’ll just keep plugging along. My knees are dodgy, but I use walking poles to get me through the most difficult bits; and so far, I’ve been lucky. Everything’s held up.
The hike takes about 3.5 hours to cover just over 8-kilometres of mixed incline, at a pretty reasonable pace….a good little training walk, to keep me ticking over for that volcano we’ll be climbing in Uganda for Concern in less than a month’s time.
The sun was beaming, all traces of the night before evaporated quickly, and it was good to be back on a hill with friends. A girl finds a lot of answers on a mountain, and tripping over the heather was just what this girl needed this weekend! 🙂
Well it’s taken over 2 weeks to get myself back on the bike. I wimped out one morning during that heavy rain we had, and the bike’s been sitting forlorn and mud-caked in the hallway ever since.
I tried to cycle into work on Monday, but couldn’t bring myself to start off the week that way. I tried to cycle into work yesterday, but listened to the voices in my head telling me I was too tired (after a good night’s sleep too!)… Then finally this morning, when the alarm went off at 6am, I grudgingly dragged myself away from my pillow, struggled into my padded lycra shorts suit (this so wasn’t designed for my body) and after finding every reason not to leave the house, I eventually edged my silver dream machine (Les bike) out the hall door.
It was damned cold this morning, and I realised that as I wheeled off down the end of my cul-de-sac, my nose was already weeping, and my ears were cut to shreds with the breeze. I grumbled for the next 5 mins or so, and then I suddenly realised that I was in top gear, flying like the wind, and absolutely loving the freedom of whizzing down the road into the dark morning.
There’s a lesson here. I avoided cycling for 2 whole weeks and convinced myself I hated it. I don’t. I love it. I loved cycling in this morning, I felt really good and strong – and I got into work in 45 minutes flat – without pushing the pace. As it turns out, I hadn’t lost a minute on my time for the 15k cycle. I’m thrilled – and I’m back.
It’s 6 weeks now, to my Concern/Uganda challenge; and the training is stepping up in earnest for myself and my WeightWatchers’ buddy Vera Baker. We’re off to Kerry and Limerick this weekend to climb and hike. Personally, the plan from here on in, is an hour of heavy-lifting in the gym twice a week. Cycling the 30k round trip into work 5 days a week. At least one swim at the weekend, and as much kayaking and climbing as we can fit in, between now and the off-date.
I’ve also started my injections and have Hep A and the first of THREE Rabies shots done. They warned me it would hurt – it didn’t. Hope that continues, and I hope I don’t start howling at the full moon…. wuff wuff folks…