exercise

Final Countdown to Elbrus…

Have you ever wondered “What have I got myself into?”

elbrus 2I’m pretty much in the ‘lost and found’ category at the moment.  When I decided to climb one of the Seven Summits, I was fighting fit and looking forward to training hard for six-months of mountain prep. The year started well, heading off to practice walking on snow and ice in Scotland in January, heading to Norway in February to play in the snow and check out my gear in some really freezing temperatures. I had a year-planner and Excel chart, all colour-coded, with gym, yoga, swimming, cycling, mountains… it was all going brilliantly and then I fell.

I cut my leg badly when I slipped on a rock, out running on Spinc in Wicklow. I got it stitched and thought I’d be back in a flash, but people wiser than me were proved right when I couldn’t really use my knee for the next 6 weeks. Even then it was a full two months before I could train properly.

In the meantime I was starting my own business which was great, but stressful and strangely lonely, because I am used to working in a big office environment and now I am based at home.  They don’t tell you about that in ‘entrepreneur school!’  I was sitting at home; bored, sore, stressed and a bit scared – with a fridge sitting behind me and I’m sorry to say that I put on a couple of stone in as much time as it takes to pick up a sandwich! So with six weeks to go, I had to face loss of fitness coupled with carrying more weight.

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I hope I’ve done enough.  I kept practising my yoga while sitting on a chair and working out in the gym with my leg isolated from the routines, and I finally got back into the sea to start swimming again. I have worked really hard in the last month, balancing training against protecting my injured knee and losing weight. I also got a huge amount of help and advice from friends, colleagues and online through Facebook and Twitter. Not to mention Tony Nation from Pat Falvey Irish & Worldwide Adventures – who literally ‘walked the legs off me’ over the gorgeous Galtee Mountains in the last few weeks.

I’ve lost a stone, but I’m still overweight for my height. Training after an injury was a difficult dilemma to find myself in, with a whole range of advice, which came down to the same thing: “be patient and don’t overdo it”. It was deeply frustrating, and again, I hope I’ve done enough. I just do not know if there is enough in the tank to get me up that cold, icy, incline that will bring me to the top of Europe.  I’ve lost fitness, my size 14 shape, and a bit of confidence.  I’ve found friends, knowledge, insight, technique, and a new business.

The countdown is almost over.  We fly from Dublin to London on Thursday, then fly  to Moscow – and the big adventure kicks off on July 11th.  I’ll be blogging whenever I have signal and power and I have a friend who has agreed to pass on messages if I don’t get to update Facebook or Twitter for a few days.  I’ll report in full by July 25th.

This is the last time I am going to be thinking about fears or failure.  Like Pandora’s box, I know I need to put doubt back under cover and lock down the lid.  I am as good as I can be and that’s as good as it gets.  I am off to climb Elbrus….  x

JuJu Jay Runs Away With My BLOG….

It’s Easy to Get Swept Away With Today’s Guest Blogger

JuJu Jay has promised to take me running… his Mud, Sweat and Runners group has already brought me on a navigation course; and I keep bumping into Juju when I’m out hiking in the mountains.  Last time, he jumped off his mountain-bike to give me a hug as all his mates disappeared over a nearby hill.  Another time it was my turn to rescue him, when his dog got bitten by a tick.  ‘JuJu moments’ just seem to happen when he’s around and everyone I know thinks he’s just great.  When I think ‘Juju Jay’ – I think of sunshine, laughter and mountain air. So I’m delighted to invite this breath of fresh air to share his magic with you as today’s ‘guest blogger’.  As Juju would say…. ‘Peace’ (Teena G)

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Juju Jay says….

msr group 1As most of you know I am very passionate about Mountain running and other outdoor sports like mountain biking; hiking, power kiting, cycling and much more…. My love for running and sharing great trails with people resulted in my starting up some group runs, which proved so popular that the M.S.R Facebook Page and Website followed.  That’s Mud, Sweat and Runners folks!

My runs can be from 5k to 50k, and I am hoping to do longer distances in future.  Our group runs are not just great adventures but also happy times; sharing new friendships along with new challenges – as you can see from the gallery photos on the M.S.R. website.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

We are a casual group with no fees and no commitments. The group gives the opportunity for like-minded runners to meet up and run together.  Whether you are going for a 5k or a 5 day race, or just training for a particular event, you will meet people in the same boat. There is no need for ego or elitist mentality in our group. We are all equals, no matter what the ability.

Mud, Sweat and Runners is a great way for runners to partner up, stay motivated and stay fit.  All running is done at a pace that is suitable to your own level of fitness.  You are not obligated to stay or even show up every time and you can turn back at any point on the runs.msr bye

We teach navigation skills and pool information about training, nutrition, inspiration, adventures, and swimming; along with sharing knowledge about races and challenges and beautiful places to run, cycle or hike.  If you are into pushing out even further into the great outdoors, we also have weekend mini-bus tours to beautiful places around the country.

The structure consists of a choice of two runs; 10 – 20k & 20-50k. We schedule Day & Night runs, and route suggestions are also very welcome.

Mud, Sweat and Runners is based in Laragh, Glendalough in County Wicklow, which is where we meet.  So check out details for the next meet on FB or the M.S.R. Website, and let’s all motivate each other & stay fit!

Peace…. juju peace

Getting Nude – Again…

Celebrating in her Birthday Suit

dipI’m really proud of this friend of mine.  She’s celebrating her 50th birthday this year by chucking off her clothes – for charity.  Some people find nudity a breeze, others don’t and for my mate Averil Larke, this is an emotional journey which is a real challenge and a real tribute to both her, and the charities she supports.  She’s doing all five of this year’s ‘Dip in The Nips’ for Irish Cancer Charities. Bathrobes - Undress the Nation!Teena Gates -author of 'One Foot in Front of the other' at the Dip in the Nip, Dunmoran Strand, Sligo. Frances Muldoon PhoInspired by her bravery, I decided I’d also take the plunge, in Cork. But blow me, being starkers must have gone to my head, ‘cos I just did it again in Sligo!

Baring is Daring

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 can be a daunting experience. I swim all-year-round at Malahide in Dublin, so it’s not the thought of the cold that made me shiver in my flip-flops at my first ‘Dip’ in Cork. It was 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 made me quite uncomfortable, and not for the first time. I posed for a nude art exhibition for Concern in 2012 and although I was pleased to do it and had no regrets, it was a really big challenge for me.

No Beach Barbies, just Gorgeous Babes

Surprisingly; I found the Cork Dip In The Nip absolutely empowering.  We were very much protected from prying eyes as we ran to the sea, we got a countdown to the big ‘reveal’ and then scarpered into the surf as fast as long and short legs could go.  There was an official photographer on the beach, the lads were up one end and the girls and couples in other separate spots, so it felt like a relatively safe environment. Once ‘under-cover’ in the water we splashed and laughed and swam through the gorgeous, fresh, salty, sun-kissed waves and felt almost high with the happiness in the air. Then I noticed the bodies. I wasn’t being voyeuristic in any way, but as we all left the water, we all seemed much more relaxed as we made our way back to our clothes. The startling revelation for me was that every single body on the beach was beautiful. I don’t say that lightly, and I don’t just mean that the emotion of the moment had got to me.  I mean genuinely, that every body looked wonderful.  Sun kissed and salt splashed – big and little, gravity pulled at everyone’s bits and their bodies swung around as they moved in a ballet of form, totally natural and totally ‘right’.  Even the slenderest of ladies showed the effects of gravity; big or little, our bodies all ‘moved’.  I suddenly realised, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to match my appearance to the flat, one-dimensional images, that we gaze at on TV Ready for takeoff! Author, Journalist, Broadcaster and Adventurer  at the Charity Dip int the Nip , Dunmoran Strand, Sligo. Frances Muldoon Photography.and in print. But our bodies are so much more than that, we move, and sway and our muscles ripple and our bone structure shows and guides our form.  We are so much more beautiful that what we can see on screen.  You know when you try to photograph a beautiful sunset and you just can’t capture it – that’s the way these bodies seemed. It is a realisation that will hopefully last me a lifetime. Ladies we are beautiful.

Ring a Bell for Life, for the Shining and the Strong

Sligo saw both Averil and me back at full circle and taking our clothes off for charity again. It’s so important to raise money for cancer charities. We have all felt Cancer’s chilling touch in some way; our Mothers, Fathers, Aunts, Husbands, Daughters, Best friends; Cancer doesn’t discriminate. But I also believe that the men, women and couples taking part in the ‘Dip’ are 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.  This crusade to the water’s edge is a celebration of life; a gift of thanks and pride for the legs that carry us, and lungs that breathe and eyes that see.

If you want to join in this wave of love and support – register for the next ‘Dip in the Nip’ – there’s just one left this year, in September. 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. You can make a donation of any amount on the PayPal button below.

*Frances Muldoon Photography




Turning the Galtees Upside Down

Galtee Ferns“New Zealand?” “Nah, Australia mate”. I heard the soft Cork accent of my guide, Tony Nation, chatting to the tanned tourists as I bent down behind the car, to lace up my hiking boots, following the drive down to Mitchelstown from Dublin. “Damn, I always get that wrong” commented Tony “it’s like me going to Nepal and someone calling me English instead of Irish” he added. Strolling around from the back of the car I glanced at the walkers, taking in the scene.  Greetings were exchanged and I casually faced our antipodean friends.  “Australia?” I asked, with a glint in my eye. “Yep, that’s right” they replied in unison. “Ah, well I couldn’t miss that fine, distinct Australian accent.”  A slight pause and the couple burst out laughing.  “You were listening” they accused. Tony reaches to give me a clatter, falling just short of my ear. It’s the craic and easy friendship among walkers that helps make these adventures so special.

Wherever You Hang Your Map, that’s my Hill

The Australian walkers checked a few local routes with us before heading for the hillsme and karen and we were left alone, a group of three. Tony my friend and guide for the day, Karen Hill a fellow walker and Facebook buddy and myself.  We head for Lough Muskry and hike begins. We’re chatting and catching up, and we set out at a fast clip on fresh legs. By the time we caught sight of the lake I was already feeling the pull. The sun was splitting rocks, I’m not used to walking in our rare Irish sun and I’d set off far too fast. Fortunately today was going to be a long day rather than a short sprint, so I don’t think the others minded when I slowed the pace a little.

I wasn’t sure of the route and Tony was being a bit mysterious, he was hanging onto his map and all I knew was I’d never seen this section of the Galtees before and I really wasn’t having much luck identifying the peaks around me.  Look hard he said, what’s in front of you, what’s over to the right?  I felt disorientated spotting what seemed to be Galtymore, with Galtybeg in front of it and on the left. From where I was standing they were the wrong way around, being used to climbing the Galtee’s ‘highest hill’ from the common ‘tourist route’ which is up the Black Road from the M8.  Suddenly I realise I’m standing on the other side of the range. Tony had turned his mountain on its head.  I grab the map and stare as I realise we are standing to the North of the Galtees looking across to the South. I’m a bit nervous about the distance we’re planning, it’s clearly going to be a loop because we’ve parked all the cars in one spot – but I can see from Tony’s chuckle that he’s planning another long one.  Last week he took me from Temple Hill; across Lyracappu, Carraig na Binne, Sliabh Chois na Binne to Galtymore in a massive sweep across the range from West to East. I could hardly imagine what was on the menu for today and I was tired already after the quick march in to the start.

Castles in the Sky Can Be Beguiling

Castle Rock 1Off we go, veering to our left and heading to Fear Bréige our first summit at 724m – it was a steep pull up, but the warm weather had left the ground dry and easy underfoot. You could clearly see from the dried mossy soup, how boggy it can be under normal conditions. As we reached the top, I was feeling the heat and sweating hard, but we had a sloping recovery before pushing up to neighbouring An Grianán at 802m.  From views of the lake, I was now captivated by the conglomerate ‘castle’ I could clearly see in the distance.  Descending to O’Lochlainn’s Castle, both Karen and I were hungry for explanations and folklore from Tony – just as the midges descended hungry for all of us. Eaten alive is the best expression, as we battled to steal lunch while beating away the swarms of vicious little flies that were intent on defending their fortress and forcing us on. The ‘castle’ is a natural rock formation near the summit. A conglomerate of sedimentary sand and pebbles, formed long ago, in the same waves and ice that formed the corries and cliffs, carved out of this rich, red, sandstone range.  The formation looks for the entire world like a cathedral or castle from a distance, and still looks eerie and out of place when you arrive at its weather beaten ledges. The temptation for a little bouldering on the rough rocks was too hard to resist, and we played for a while like kids in the sun, before moving on our way.

No Cushy Number for ‘Bear Gates’

I’m midge bitten, glad of my sunscreen, amazed by the heat, and well aware that I’ve come close to the end of my two litres of water – so it was a relief to skip over Galtybeg (799m) and into the saddle before facing into Cush at 640m.  I slowed to a crawl as I pulled up here, lifting my face fractionally to pick up the slightest breeze as I neared the summit.  I am hoping to climb Mount Elbrus in Russia with Irish adventurer Pat Falvey next month, and Tony reminded me that a slog like this is something similar to the incline I’ll be facing there. I dug in and kept moving, although I felt it, and was painfully aware of how slowly I was moving behind Tony and Karen. My fitness still leaves a lot to be desired.stream

Cush is a gorgeous mountain and the panorama from the summit was worth the effort of the climb. Tony was working from his map now, as he navigated a route down a spur to get us off the mountain and through a wooded valley to bring us back to our cars. This is where my navigation falls apart and where I’m so impressed by those who are handier with a map than me.  Tony predicted a hill, a river, a crossing, and a woodland trail; and they all appeared like clockwork on demand. I was furiously thirsty now and turned Bear Grylls when we reached the river; wading into the faster flow to fill my water bottle and drink hungrily, if somewhat nervously, thinking of the old, but still identifiable, sheep remains we’d seen littered across the mountain. Tony remarked that the water probably wouldn’t kill me before I had time to get to a doctor for an antibiotic!  Comforting words indeed, but I’ll be adding a couple of sterilising tablets to my emergency kit in future.

We spent 8hrs on the mountain and it was absolutely beautiful, but my feet were glad to see the cars emerging from the trail, precisely as Tony predicted.  Lessons learned?  I was glad I wore sunblock and midge-spray, glad I wore my lighter boots, wish I’d brought more water, will definitely bring sterilising tablets in future on long, hot hikes… and I really want to practice navigating so that I can lead to a point like Tony.

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Galloping Across the Galtees

IMG_3704Climbing The ‘Big Hill’

Swinging off the M8, we park ‘Blondie’ my dad’s car on the ‘Black Road’ near the village of Skeheenarinky. This is the starting point for the normal route up Galtymore. In Irish, Cnoc Mor a nGaibhlte is the appropriately named ‘Big Hill of the Galtys’. This is Ireland’s 14th highest peak, the tallest inland mountain in Ireland and the only inland peak to exceed 3,000ft (919m).

Slamming the car door and grabbing my kit and boots, I turn my back on Galtymore and jumping into my climbing buddy Tony Nation’s car, we drive away in the opposite direction. My heart is a missing a few beats as I wonder just how tough this day is going to be. We are not heading up the Black Road to climb Galtymore, instead we’re going to climb 4 other mountains first, hiking our way around in a sweeping crescent, to finish on the ‘big hill’ and reclaim our 1st car. woodland1

Dreamtime meets Denial

Tony, my long-time friend and climbing guide is chuckling a little as we drive towards a glen nestled beneath Temple Hill. As we leave his car and start to boot up, tie on gaiters and check our packs, he comments again that we have a long, day ahead.  I don’t really need the reminder. I’ve climbed Galtymore several times before. It’s not difficult, but it’s steep and a good hike. I can see the length of the ridge ahead of us, and I can hardly comprehend that we will be covering all that ground on foot before the day is out. I remind myself that biting off too large a chunkCottage is the easiest way for my mind to give up. So I break it down and put the knowledge of what lies ahead on hold. Being in denial can have its advantages!

On our approach to Temple Hill, we drop down through a small patch of woodland, into a lush, long-grassed pasture. Within minutes of leaving the road, I’m walking through a hidden copse, stepping into a snapshot of lives gone before.  A stone-wall cottage, long abandoned, and sunken deep into the earth, buried in memories and pine needles. I stand in the sunken portal where the doorway once welcomed guests and I feel like a giant, dwarfed beside the disappearing house. The light is green and still, the air sharp with pine and moss, and in the distance the crystal noise of falling water. Here stories are made, and written. I want to return with a pad and pen and dream about who lived here and how their lives played out.

Signing the Visitor’s Log Tony

We take a few pictures and wander downhill to meet a small river that marks a start to the climb up Temple Hill. The climb ahead is grassy but steep, to reach 785m. We start off slowly, ‘expedition pace’ comments Tony as we start to ascend.  It’s a truly beautiful day and I know I’m blessed, imagining how different this would be in the mist and rain.  The views are already gorgeous and climbing here is no penance, every step takes me higher and shows me better views. I feel alive and strong and happy and grateful to be out on the hill.

We topped out and then followed a gentle moorland sweep towards a stony area and the summit cairn and trig pillar. Sheltering at the cairn, Tony pointed out something I’ve never seen before on an Irish Hill.  From the rocks, he pulled out a ‘visitors’ book and pen, wrapped carefully in plastic, inviting hikers to leave a note and date their climb. I wrote down my thoughts and returned the book to Tony who careful replaced it for the next walkers to sign.

A Bit of Ducking and Diving

I got here

We pushed down into the saddle and turned our sights on our next target, Lyracappul. Careful not to lose too much ground we ducked the dive-bombing Swifts, who were clearly unimpressed to have their silence disturbed. They puzzled me a little, I don’t know a lot about them, but I know they spend much of their life in the air and don’t like nesting on the ground, so where are they basing themselves? In the cairns?

We began to climb again, and Tony reminded me about taking small steps and keeping my centre of gravity as neutral as possible. I’m training for climbing Elbrus with Irish adventurer, Pat Falvey, later this year; and these steep grassy slopes are ideal for mimicking the gradient of the long climb up the twin-peaked volcanic domes in Russia. I imagine climbing through the heather also gives me an idea of how it will feel to climb for hours, lifting my feet to push through several feet of snow.view galtymore

We summit Lyracappul and take a breather at another stone cairn, higher than Temple Hill, at 825m. We’re sitting in the sun, munching on energy bars, when another party of climbers arrive. There was conversation, craic, and discussion about expeditions and foreign trips, before we all said our goodbyes and pushed off in different directions, leaving the Swifts behind.

We head along the ridge, dropping down and up between Carraig na Binne 822m and Slieve Chois na Binne 766m.  The views of the valley below are stunning and we pick up the 4km Galty Wall as we head up again towards ‘The Big Hill of the Galtys’ for our final ascent to 919m.  I know I’m blessed with these views and I drink in the green sloping valley on our right; while soaking in the corry lakes and cliffs on our left, pondering on the potential danger of stumbling around up here in the mist. You could easily get yourself into difficulty if you strayed too close to some of those sharp edges.view of galtymore

Meeting a Man on a Mission

It is a long walk, but it is very beautiful and I slug into the final stretch, tired but confident. I know we are nearly at the final summit and I’m familiar with the long trek ahead down the Black Road; and every step is worth it. I want everyone to see what I see, but no picture or photograph can recreate this view, you just have to get your boots on and come and discover it for yourself.  360 degrees, with mountains and counties in all directions; on this clear day it is simply stunning. Tony points out the Glen of Aherlow to the north, the Knockmealdowns to the south, and he claims the faint blue line in the distance is my beloved Kerry Reeks.

With a burst of energy, I gallop up the final few steps to the iron cross that marks the summit of Galtymore. We are not alone. I meet a fellow Dub who has just finished his own personal pilgrimage to climb the highest peak in every county. He did it for galtymore crosshimself, to get fit, to stop getting old and just for the sheer hell of it.  He’s here eating a sandwich, enjoying a lonely celebration and totally at peace with himself and his world. We chat for ages and wish him well before we all prepare to say goodbye to our day’s final challenge.

The county boundary for Limerick and Tipperary runs across this summit.  I’m not exactly sure where the line is – but I fancifully step astride where I imagine it might be.  I am here, standing on the border, with one foot on each of the highest points in two counties. It’s enough for one day.  I take a final sweep around at the view, before following Tony down the ‘big hill’ to the Black Road and home to Dublin. (7.5hrs)

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Walking The Line From Donegal…

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Knee Deep in Pressies, Boots, Sunscreen and Midge Spray….

Tomorrow I’m in the gym at 0730 before catching a lift to Donegal for a special birthday celebration for a really good friend.  A bunch of mates are marking the occasion with a meal tomorrow night, followed by climbing the iconic, volcanic, and mysterious looking Mount Errigal. What a way to celebrate a friendship, which for me covers 4 years of extraordinary change. My friend and I both discovered hills and walking around the same time, and this weekend will be really special.

Will You Walk The Line?

The annual fundraiser for Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue.  It’ll be tight getting to the start in time, but I’ve a fireman driving me, so hopefully we’ll make it 😉

The 25k hike kicks off at 9pm and continues through the longest day/night of the year, to finish well after dawn on Sunday morning. This is a chance for the hiking and climbing community to give something back to the volunteers who are on call 24/7, 365 days a year – ready to pull us out of trouble when we discover our map-reading skills aren’t as good as we thought they were! If you fancy it, the starting point is the Brockagh Centre in Glendalough. Registration opens at 6pm and you can be join a group with a navigator or navigate yourself. Click on the picture below for details.

Walk The Line 2

Presuming I finish up in time, it’s another dash – over to Swords this time, to meet up with my buddies from Get Off The Couch, the TV show we recorded last year. This bunch of adventurers from all over the country got out there and got active, and inspired a whole load of other people to do the same thing. They kept up their adventures, even when the cameras stopped rolling – and we also kept up our friendship, which is wonderful.  They’re having a get-together in Dublin this weekend and I’m dropping in for breakfast to survey the damage….

From Swords it’s back to Lucan for another friendly get together with a mate who’s planned a bit of a spa-break to help me recover from all of the above. It’s certainly going to be a busy weekend – but it all counts as training too; because my trip to Mount Elbrus looms ever closer.  I picked up my Russian Visa earlier this week, and it’s all looking very real..

Expedition Training for #Elbrus14

Expedition Wrap1Soles Were Roving All Over Wicklow

On Saturday I got to join the Roving Soles Hill Walking Club for part of their Glenmalure Challenge. I got to finish 6 summits and around 24k in 7hrs –  they went on to complete 10 summits and 33k.  We started from the Glenmalure Lodge, Drumgoff and headed south on the Wicklow Way, taking a forest road for our assent of Carrawaystick Mountain to Corrigasleggaun, to the Saddle of Lugcoolmeen, and up to the summit of Lugnaquilla, Leinster’s highest peak at 931 metres.  We descended via Cannow Mountain to Camenabolologue, and I cut out at Table Track for Glenmalure, as the group continued on their way.  Thanks to everyone for such a warm welcome on the hill, especially with me hobbling along with my knee braces and sticks.  Extremely lovely group… and the bubbles were a bonus!

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Sunday’s Rest n’Recovery with a Dip in Cork and a Plunge in Kerry

From Wicklow, I drove to Cork city, catching dinner with a friend before heading on to Youghal where I camped near the sea, ahead of an early 6am start for the DipInTheNip.  Close to 200 people joined on a beach near the town to drop their kit and run for the waves, in aid of cancer charities.  Old radio buddy PJ Coogan from Cork 96FM led the charge. After a breakfast roll on the beach, I headed for Kerry, pitched my tent in view of the mountains, met briefly with friends, took a two hour stroll in Tomies Wood and finished off a perfect rest-and-recovery day with a plunge into the beautiful ice-cold O’Sullivan’s Cascade, a stunning series of waterfalls and grade 5 kayak route plunging down through the mountains to the lakes of Killarney. Always a magical place for me.

Tony Nation Kept Me Safe from the Rhododendrons

On to the Galtees on Monday, for a tough 8.5hr training hike over 5 mountains with Tony Nation, in preparation for my challenge to climb Elbrus in Russia next month with Pat Falvey’s Irish and Worldwide Adventures. Tony had warned me in advance that today would be tough and he certainly delivered. It was an arduous route, but so incredibly beautiful that it was hard to feel anything other than joy to be out on the hill. We made our way up on to the mountain with a tough climb onto Temple Hill, and climbed up and down around the horseshoe across Ladhar an Chapaill, Carraig na Binne, and Sliabh Chois na Binne, over to Galtymore and exiting down the BlackRoad. Later we heard on the news that a couple of climbers had been rescued after getting caught in a Rhododendron forest, not too far away on the Knockmealdown Mountains. It was a cautionary tale, as I’d been admiring the purple flowered shrubs all day, but Tony had been warning me about their rampant, vigorous growth across the mountains.

Lambay wrap

A Misty-Eyed Surprise on A Magical Island

Tuesday brought another adventure, when myself and a friend provided kayak-cover for a group of swimmers who were making a crossing from Malahide to Lambay Island, as part of a top-secret art project. We had kind permission to land briefly on the island, which is a nature reserve, and it was a wonderful privilege to have just a fleeting glance at this wonderful, magical place.  It was a beautiful day as we headed off into a clear, calm sea, and the crossing was delightfully uneventful until moments before we reached the island. A sea-mist sprung up in seconds, shrouding our landing point in mist.  Our approach was marked by dozens of curious seals who heralded our arrival and followed us in to the star-fish spangled beach.  We stayed just moments before slipping back into the sea and leaving the peaceful island to it’s misty mystery. A magical experience to add to my list of special memories of Ireland.

A good weekend of training, celebrating friendship and being glad to be alive. Reality returns when I visit the physio tomorrow and get some advice on my injured knee.  The Elbrus Clock continues to tick.

GUEST BLOG: City Kayaking with Donnchadh McCobb

Donnchadh indoA ‘City Break’ on the Wild Side…

Hi Iʼm Donnchadh from City Kayaking. Weʼre based at Dublin City Moorings, by the IFSC on the River Liffey right in the heart of Dublin City Centre. We opened our doors in May 2012 and are heading into our third Summer full of plans and excitement. From here we run our watersports company in one of the most unique surroundings in the country!

City Kayaking offers the ultimate ʻUrban Adventureʼ to both locals and tourists alike running 2-Hour City River Trips from our base and heading up river exploring underneath Dublinʼs most famous bridges. Our trips give you the opportunity to experience Dublin like never before and see the city from a whole new angle.

The Ultimate Adventure…

We also run 3-Hour Island Bridge Escape tours where we take people upstream right through the city and into the wilderness once you get beyond Heuston Station. This is a seriously cool trip and gives people the chance to experience the lesser seen side of Dublin. With all sorts of wildlife surrounding the river up there you really donʼt feel like youʼre anywhere near the city.Photo 05-05-2014 12 53 12

We regularly get seals in the Liffey and they explore right up towards Islandbrige when the tide is good and high, which is the time we schedule these trips at. Thereʼs also plenty of herons, lots of fish about and weʼve even seen several kingfishers which are an amazingly colourful bird. Itʼs hard to believe that youʼre right in the middle of Dublin with all that going on. Itʼs a real escape from things!

One thing that so many people comment on is how quiet it is when youʼre on the river. The quay walls act like a barrier for the sound and even when youʼre up between OʼConnell Bridge and the Haʼpenny bridge right in the middle of all the city madness, itʼs nice and quiet on the river. Hard to believe I know, but itʼs worth experiencing it.

Happy Days for Youth Groups and Fitness Fans

We also run lessons and cater for youth groups too. Thanks to the generous sponsorship from Dublin Port Company weʼre running a €5 Kayaking rate for Youth Groups which is seriously good value. We heavily discounted these sessions and Dublin Port provided us with some funding to allow us to be able to offer such great value activities for youth groups. Weʼve still got some sessions available to book over the summer and have all the details up on our site for anyone interested (or drop us a line) www.citykayaking.com, info@citykayaking.com, Phone: +353-1-442 8234.donnchadh fittest

Our Lessons and Fitness Paddling Classes are starting to pick up now and are run by Emily, our top class Canadian Kayaking Instructor. Emily is an extremely accomplished kayaker and instructor and has competed as part of the Canadian team for the past 7 years. Fitness paddling is geared towards beginners looking to have a fun fitness experience on the water. Our lessons are ideal for those looking to pick up a new hobby or for the adventure racers looking to get some training in before the next event. These run both midweek in the mornings and evenings and at the weekend too.

City Kayaking featured on Ireland’s Fittest Family on RTÉ this year, when competing families raced against each other over a one kilometre kayaking course across the main shipping channel in Dublin Port.  You can check it out on the RTÉ player if you missed it!

We’ve come a long way since opening our doors 2 years ago and we owe a lot of thanks to family and friends for helping us along the way. Weʼve got some big plans going forward and are very excited to be heading into our third summer season on the water! Hopefully weʼll see you out joining us on the water soon too. Who knows, you might even see Teena there too!!kayak

 

 

 

 

 

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Cooking Up A Storm in Kerry

GapPhoto1My thighs hurt, my calves hurt, my shoulders hurt, my ankles hurt, my fingers hurt….   what’s wrong with me?   Oh yes, I’m back from training in Kerry’s high peaks. My neck hurts too..  in fact, the only thing that doesn’t hurt is my knee – which is great news, because that’s supposed to be my weakest bit. So I’ve kept my dodgy knee safe, and worked everything else. Result.

I have 31 days left, before I head off to Russia to climb Mount Elbrus with Pat Falvey Irish & Worldwide Adventures, and after getting injured earlier this year, I’m really running out of time.  I’m back in the gym, doing yoga, cycling, using weights, running and swimming – I’m doing everything I can to be fit in time. I’m fairly confident that I’m fit enough to train properly now, but I’m running out of time to get hill-fit, and every day counts. All my friends have been called into action, to give me company out on the hill. It’s all to play for, and I’m not giving up.

A Heaven Sent Tuna Wrap

This is the second weekend I’ve spent in Kerry.  Last weekend, Pat Falvey and Alpinist John Higgs, invited me to Carrauntoohil for a ropes and crevasse rescue course.  This weekend Pat and instructor Tony Nation had me back out on the hills – this time at 2am, beating back the rain and mist to find sunrise over the Kerry Reeks, after many hours of climbing and ploughing through bog. I was piggy-backing with a gang of girls who are training for a trip to Kilimanjaro. It was tough going, and when we reached the summit of Cnoc Na Braca, all I was fit for was huddling into the rocks and feasting on a tuna-wrap, which tasted a bit like mana from heaven.brekkie

Six hours of hiking through darkness into a relentless Kerry rainstorm was enough to test the best of gear and spirits, but as we got to the top, the rain eased, a brief shimmer of sunlight emerged and the mist lifted just long enough for a few photos while we ate lunch, giving us a tantalising glimpse of the beautiful view over the Black Valley, before closing in again, shutting down, and punishing us the whole way back down the hill. Kerry can be a bit like that at times. I found going down harder than going up, and was relieved to reach the valley floor and head back to Pat’s Mountain Lodge for a full Irish cooked by the boys, which was a truly unexpected treat!

 

Bagging Some Peaks

For a while I thought I’d made a mistake going out with the group. I’ve been letting my leg heal for a few months now and I was worried that perhaps the long haul over the uneven, soggy, bog, would have caused new damage. But I woke up this morning, stiff everywhere else, but ‘sound of knee’, so I’m relieved, and ready to keep stepping up the pressure. bootcamp

It could have been a lot worse of course. Pat had ‘threatened me’ with his ‘Survival on Carrauntoohil Bootcamp’ to help with my fitness. I got to see how that looked when the Adrigole GAA team turned up on Saturday morning at Cronin’s Yard. The guys were faced with Pat Falvey, Tony Nation and two Military Instructors who put them through their paces.  I watched as they carried ‘casualties’ across the mountain, using shovels and pick-axe to dig out channels, dragging under camouflage canopies, and struggling through icy mountain streams, as the mist and rain beat them back into the bog. Those lads were WICKED.

Parting shot from Pat as I left the lodge?  “Goodbye now girl, and you know, you could try climbing a few mountains…”  I guess I’m heading back to Kerry next weekend.

 

 

Testing Times Tomorrow…

7. Training Carrauntoohil (2)Ireland’s Highest Mountain

I’m getting up in a few hours to drive to Kerry to climb Carrauntoohil and undergo a fitness test with Pat Falvey Worldwide Adventures.  It’s a training weekend to see how my fitness is shaping up for climbing Mount Elbrus in July.

A bit ‘hot and bothered’

Already things have not gone  smoothly. The plan was to drive down from Dublin this afternoon and get up early tomorrow, fresh and well-rested to tackle the challenge ahead.  However, heading out on the N7 in the height of rush-hour, my 23-year-old car ‘Little Red’ got a bit hot and bothered and I ended up stranded in Dublin for the night.

So tomorrow I get up at the crack of dawn, drive to Kerry in a borrowed car, and climb a mountain – then on Sunday I climb it again ‘against the clock’ – and then head back to Dublin, to run the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon on Monday.

If I sound a bit sorry for myself….  I’m not, but I do feel a bit nervous.

I’ve been dogged by injury since February and I’m carrying extra weight, and I haven’t got enough training under my belt to tackle Ireland’s highest mountain.  This has not been an ideal preparation; so I know tomorrow will hurt, and Sunday will hurt. I don’t mind if I find it tough – as long as I can do it.

Ok, scrap that. Rewind, change the record.  Let’s put all this in an entirely different way.  Tomorrow I WILL climb a mountain.

Countdown to Elbrus

 

 

 

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