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
Oh my gosh – what have I done?
In 12 hours’ time I jump off O’Connell Bridge and into the Liffey! I’ve taken the leap from higher heights from that, but usually I’m attached to a rope. My poor head for heights is kicking my butt already over this one, and I haven’t even reached the bridge. For some reason the idea of stepping off into emptiness is freaking me out. Aggghhhhh….. it’s for Cystic Fibrosis though – so at least the fact that it’s such a good cause, should help stop me from running away.
It’s been such an intense couple of weeks, very busy at work and very busy with the camera crew for ‘Get Off The Couch’ the TV show that will broadcast on Setanta later this year. My gang of hardy participants have completely transformed themselves into athletes, and we all took part in their first Sprint Relay Triathlon last weekend in my hometown, Blanchardstown. They had a 750-metre pool to contend with, in our magnificent Olympic Distance pool at the National Aquatic Centre. I personally got a PB cycling the 15k – but pushed myself so hard, I could hardly walk afterwards, not to mind run the 250 metres in the transition back to rack my bike. We’re all competing in a Sprint Triathlon on June 1st, and I’ve learned my lesson – I’ll have to pace myself when I’m doing all three disciplines, so my time won’t be as good for each section, but my motivation will be to complete all three parts. So complete rather than compete will be in my mind – we’ll see how the times work out afterwards!
We’re coming to the end of filming for GOTC, but as usual, I’ve found this latest adventure is really only the beginning for something totally new. Joe, Maryanne, Cathy, Karen, Eamonn and Damien are the participants. When you watch the programme, you won’t believe how far they’ve come; not just in changing their physical fitness, but their entire lifestyles. It’s been a roller-coaster ride full of hard work, injuries, recoveries, bravery, camaraderie and craic. If these last 6 months had never made it to the screen at all, it would still have been a magnificent project to be part of, simply to see where we’ve all come from and gone to. Most important of all, I’ve made 6 new friends, which is such a heavenly gift from the world. Will everyone continue on their athletic journey? Well we’ve all discovered some sports that we liked more than others, and we’ve already made plans for getting together for sporty adventures in the future – without the cameras.
The best memories? Carrauntoohil is high up there (excuse the pun) I was hoping that people would like it, but was quite prepared for the likelihood that they wouldn’t. I’m not going to tell you who did and who didn’t – have to leave you SOMETHING to watch the programme for… lol. The Galtymores and the Mournes were both very special, running with Catherina McKiernan was extraordinary and probably life-changing for me. Running the Ballintotis 4-mile in Maryanne’s home town was incredibly memorable, including the fun and laughter before and after. Joe coming back to run alongside me on the track, training with Eamon Tilley in Greystones was pretty special, and Olympic Champion Katy Taylor coming over to help us train was extraordinary.
I’ve a feeling that Sunday’s gig will be another special moment – when Channel Swimmer Fergal Somerville takes the gang out to swim in the sea at Malahide. I’ll be doing boat-cover for that, paddling alongside in my kayak (Saffron). That brings my mind back around to tomorrow and O’Connell Bridge. It’s Fergal that’s talked me into making the ‘leap of faith’ off the bridge and into the Liffey. I walk the plank at 12-noon – but someone may need to give me a sharp push. No doubt Fergal will gladly oblige! OMG. :/
I got a shock today when I groaned to my gym guru Dave Dunne, about how quickly I lost my fitness (about 3 weeks) after being ill last month. As I strained to lift weights that wouldn’t have cost me a thought before Christmas, I asked if it was going to take 3 weeks to get my strength back. To my horror, Dave informed me that it would take double that. I asked if I could speed that up by exercising harder and more frequently, and he warned me that I’d only weaken myself, slow my recovery, and end up in a worse state than I am now. Now that all came as a suprise, although I vaguely heard my consultant saying something like that weeks ago… ahem. But I want my fitness back and I want it NOW. I’m prepared to work extra hard to do it, but according to Dave, I have to take it slow and just wait for it to happen. OK, I see some sense in that, but it seems very unfair. Six weeks to pay for 3, and that’s over two months gone out of the year. Grrrr….
Dave did say that I could cross-train. So I’m going to the gym 2/3 times a week, going to hot yoga 2/3 times a week, cycling to work, and tomorrow I start running at Le Cheile in Leixlip. Wish me luck – I’m not sure about the running….
PS…I bought a new bicycle jacket today. It’s hi-vis and it’s PINK…. Growing up with two big brothers, I never admitted this girly side of me before, it’s only emerged since I hit my 40’s… I don’t really need a new jacket, but if I’m honest I put on a few pounds when I was off sick, and my old bike-jacket feels a bit snug when I wear a fleece under it. After 10 mins cycling I’m sweating like a thoroughbred winning the national (I wish) but the first 10 minutes have been painfully cold these dark winter mornings. I think I’d be willing to put up with the nuisance of stopping to layer down, if I got to be nice and snug heading out. That’s the plan anyhow. I also bought a nice, light, silk balaclava, to slip under my cycle-helmet. So now I can prevent ear-chill as I head out to work in the morning – and rob a bank on the way home, to pay for all this new gear and training… 😉
Sometimes friends and family are not your best allies in the battle to get fit and healthy. Suprisingly, I don’t always NEED encouragement to take the easy option and sit on the couch. Instead I need encouragement to get moving, or even a friendly boot up the bum…and I would have been a long time waiting last year, if I’d hung on ‘for better weather’. I would never have trained and would never have made it to Africa to cycle and hike and kayak and do all the exciting things I got to do last November.
After 2013 kicked off with the doc banning all exercise for close to a month, I got on my bike, literally, this morning and battled the storms and the darkeness to cycle 15k into work. As I pushed my pedals through the Phoenix Park, I was cynical enough to ponder whether the wind blasting me in the face would refuse to play fair, and be mean enough to swing around and crucify me again on the return. I was right. It took 50 minutes to cycle into work this morning, which is 10 mins longer than usual. But eight hours later it took me a whole hour to cycle home…
It wasn’t quite home either, I was hitting the gym on the way. With the doctor also ordering lighter weights for the next week or two, I had somehow told myself I was in for an easy session. I don’t understand why I keep believing that gym guru David Dunne will go easy on me – ever! Instead, he doubled the reps and extended the circuits. Ignoring my groans and heavy breathing (behave), he grinned wickedly as I crawled away after an hour, to wriggle back into my wet cycle shorts and return to the rain.
Finally I made it home and parked the bike in the hall to a chorus of sympathy and recommendations about taking it easy, minding myself, and taking the car tomorrow. I settled for a hot bath and a steamed chicken dinner. I’m eternally grateful that this body of mine lets me do stuff like cycling and hiking, after all the abuse I’ve chucked at it over the years. But I’ve learned I’ve got to do my bit too. It may not always be pleasant, but you can’t cycle in the heat of Africa, if you’re not prepared to cycle through the brunt of a dying Irish winter. When it feels too tough, you’ve got to remember the goals and the rewards.
Tonight I’m definately ‘On the Couch’ – but tomorrow, the car will stay on the driveway….. 😉
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….
My ‘Happy Feet’ relay team for the Lough Key triathlon was waiting for me at registration when I turned up, shoulders shrugged high, to stop the torrential rain running down my neck, realising the futility of keeping dry – when I was just about to jump in a lake!
As I walked up to the girls, I couldn’t help gawping at the big yellow markers on the water, that were clearly marking the swim. To my eye, the markers seemed far too distant from the shore; surely they’d made a mistake? It looked so much further than I thought 740metres would look like. There were shrieks and hugs as we met up and shared training disaster stories from the past week; but all the time I felt butterflies the size of bats in my gut. I shouldn’t have eaten breakfast, I knew I shouldn’t. The egg and ham and goats’ cheese and spinach soufle that my host had made me, was now hanging heavily on my mind.
I was doing the swim, Teresa the cycle and Anna had been roped in at the last minute with a dodgy knee and very little notice, to cover the final 5k run. It had all seemed so simple to offer to swim the 750m for team Happy Feet, until I read the briefing notes with just a week and a half to go, and realised there was a 30 min elimination time on the swim! Pressure, and not enough time to train. If you followed my training blog here, you’ll know I tried to short-cut my lack of speed-work by swimming without a wet-suit, against the tide at Malahide Beach in North Dublin. I suppose I thought that if I made myself suffer as much hardship and discomfort as possible, I might feel more comfortable, and swim faster, when I had to get in the lake. Well it was a theory at the time, and the only one I had! My big problem was that although I was comfortable doing the distance, I had no speed and was planning to complete the distance in 40mins. The briefing notes blew that out of the water – if you’ll excuse the pun.
Well I put my shoulder to the wheel – or tide – and soaked up all the tips I could drag from my Hi-Rock swimming friends in Malahide, and in particular ‘Chanimal’ – Channel Swimmer, Fergal Somerville. Deep, even breaths – long, measured strokes, no panic. Now today was the day.
As the other athletes gathered in the holding pen, adjusting swim caps and goggles, stretching to warm up arms and legs and shoulders; they looked sleek and professional, I sneakily looked around comparing the size of my belly with everyone elses. I thought mine looked much bigger, and I grimaced. A throwback to my days of being 23stone. These days I’m just under 12 stone and still a bit on the curvy size, but despite no longer being morbidly obese, I still have body-image flashbacks, especially when I’m standing on the shore in a screamingly tight wet suit along with 300 taller, slimmer, fitter looking people. I just had to remind myself that I was strong and healthy and capable of taking them all on. (I just didn’t really believe it).
The Public Address speakers crackled into life and there were speeches and applause as the rain continued to fall and we stood, shuffling our bare feet in the wet grass, wishing for the start. Eventually we got the nod and as one, we swimmers moved towards the water. It was all new to me, we were to get into the lake and swim to warm up, before the start was called. I followed the leaders and reached the water’s edge, noting the lack of reaction from the other swimmers and imitating their composure as I stepped calmly into the lake, biting down a gasp at the cold. Up to my ankles, my knees, my chest and finally I’m swimming, then finding some space to keep treading until the race ‘got the off’. This part was unexpected, and I felt a tremor of adrenalin or something close to fear. I was out of my depth, I couldn’t swim out with a proper stroke or I’d crash into the swimmers ahead. I was just bobbing about getting cold, and I didn’t like it. I determinedly removed my mind from the lake and imagined I was going through my yoga routines in the sun, and felt the warmth and the calm flood through my legs and up through my body to my arms. I relaxed. We’d go when we’d go – and finally the human wave washed back towards me, as the race began.
I reached out into the dark waters of the lake, pushing my head under water and noticing the pink hue of the feet in front, dyed red by the peaty flood waters. I had taken the other swimmers’ advice and kept out of the crush at the start, for fear of being dragged or accidentally thumped in the fury of the moment. I took my line against the yellow marker out near an island in the lake and just swam. I didn’t try to go fast, hearing Fergal’s comments a week before, telling me that trying to go fast was the fastest way to slow down. I wasn’t sure if he was right, but I was taking his comments on board. After about 250 metres, the 1st marker was drawing close and I realised there was a crush emerging as the swimmers tried to get a tight line around it. I didn’t. I pulled left and gave it – and them – a wide berth. I think I actually gained time instead of losing time, as I swung wide arount the buoy and the human soup, and took my line to the next marker.
I had told myself that if I was comfortable after the first 250, I would step up the speed on the 2nd leg. It worked fine, I stretched out and increased my speed, breathing deeper into my lungs and concentrating on rolling smoothly to catch my breath, keeping my face down between strokes and pulling my arms smoothly through the water. Quicker than I expected, I reached the second marker, and swept around to face back into the shore. I looked up, and saw swimmers far ahead and far behind. At my right was an orange kayak, on hand to help if I needed it. I didn’t need it. I saw the last marker, saw the shore, put my head down – and bombed it. I gave the last 250 every last bit of energy and strength and felt excitement well up inside me. I’m not sure why, I just felt powerful and thrilled because whatever the time on the clock, I wasn’t the last person in the lake, and I knew I had the energy to get me back to shore. Stumbling out of the water, I took the waiting helping hand eagerly and pulled myself free of the lake, then sprinted to the holding paddock and my teammates. Pulling the electronic tag from my left ankle and passing it to Teresa, I recognised she was excitedly shouting at me about the time. I felt tears well up as I realised I’d made the 30 minutes…. and more.
Later, with the time confirmed at 22 minutes. I joked that it was the egg and spinich ‘Pop-Eye’ breakfast after all (thanks Mary) but I was humbled. This body of mine, that I have so abused in my lifetime, again pulled out a blinder for me. With less than 2 weeks to prepare, it had delivered all I asked, and I had smashed my own time. I felt like one of our Olympians, I could proudly say I had a PB and I’d smashed it! It was hard work getting here; swimming in cold, choppy, waters off Malahide, hours of weight training in the gym on our few sunny days, and a lot of self doubt. But the help I got, the support from my friends, from FB and Twitter, and all the generous tips and training swims I got from Fergal and his Hi-Rock mates, had paid off. I’d made it – and Team Happy feet could run and cycle the rest of the way, without being disqualified by the swimmer!
You know, when I started training for our Concern/Uganda: hiking, cycling & kayaking challenge in November, I never thought I’d end up long-distance swimming too. But I suppose it all helps with general fitness. What’s next? Well, the whole Concern group is due to climb Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain this Sunday; and that’s going to hurt – because with all the time I’ve spent cycling, swimming, working-out in the gym and learning to kayak, I’ve somewhat neglected my hill climbing. There is a reckoning a-coming on Sunday. And do you know? there’s a 750m sea swim in Killiney on Saturday….. 😉
What an exciting week. Watching Katie storm to victory has inspired a nation – and a few ladies I’m sure, like me, have been moved to embrace their own, secret, inner Olympian; the suprise ‘you’ who occasionally pulls out all the stops to exceed expectations – your own and others! It could be running a mile, swimming that little bit faster, or achieving something unexpected at the office or with your kids. You don’t have to ‘climb a mountain, to climb a mountain’ – if you know what I mean!
It’s been a week of PB’s, or ‘personal bests’. I’m getting very familiar with the expression now after watching Team Ireland in the Olympics. I pulled my own PB, cycling home to Blanchardstown, to catch Katie’s fight on TV with my dad, who’s 87 and was watching the bout ‘home alone’. I got delayed at work, and dashed desperately for the bike with 15k to cycle and not enough minutes on the clock. My current best time for the ‘race’ home was 40″mins, and it just wasn’t enough, but I had to try; at least I’d catch the end… maybe.
As I huffed and puffed across the Phoenix Park and down the canal, the Irish summer arrived, and as the hour ran out of minutes, the sun beamed and I began to melt. I looked at the roads and the park emptying around me – and considered stopping off at a pub along the way – sure of a welcome and a cheering Irish crowd. Then I thought of dad and pushed a bit harder, putting the minutes out of my mind and licking the salty drops dripping from the end of my nose.
I swung up the path to the house with 5.03pm on my wrist, sure I was too late. Then I saw the big-screen TV flickering through the lounge window and realised they were still standing in the ring. I jumped from the pedals and dashed to the red-front door grappling with the key, and bursting into the room as the judge thrust Katie’s fist into the air – along with dad’s – and my own, as we all joined in jubilation…..together.
I’d made it home in 35 minutes – 5 minutes faster than expected. A town, a city and a nation cheered. Mna Na hEireann. It was Katie’s day….. and mine. 🙂