I’ve been on holiday, but I haven’t stopped being active and having fun.
I’m just back from Torremolinas in Spain, where I took my dad to celebrate his 88th birthday. We stayed in the Sol Aloah Puerto 4-star hotel with a deal from Clickandgo.com travel – and I’ve got to say we had a ball. it wasn’t a freebie or a sponsorship or anything, so I’ve no avaricious reason to promote or advertise the travel company or the hotel, other than to say how brilliant they were and how fantastic they were in tailoring the trip to myself and dad. They really delivered and I think that’s worth a shout-out. Thanks lads.
The hotel is situated right on the beach between two Irish bars, walking distance from the Marina, with plenty of shops and restaurants nearby, and the sea-front promenade that comes alive at night with a magical display of impromptu music, traders and entertainers. During the day we soaked up the sun, ate too much, enjoyed happy hour and spent ages in the sea Although the Med hadn’t quite warmed up to Summer temperatures, it was certainly warmer than my Sunday swims in Malahide. During the trip, Dad came kayaking with me, and body boarding and sailing – which is all pretty impressive, given the fact that he doesn’t swim!
The snorkelling was going well too, until the mouthpiece snagged in his false teeth….
Joking aside, what a fantastic spirit my dad has, and what an inspiration. Every day he shows me how life is a dream come true – you just have to wake up and live the dream. I’ve got 40 years of fun ahead of me, to get to where my dad is now, and he’s still open to new adventures. I just can’t wait until tomorrow to see what we both do next. xxx
The guy on the desk at Awesome Walls in Finglas, looked rather bemused. It’s a fabulous facility; one of the largest climbing walls I’ve seen, and despite my cold, I was looking forward to meeting my mate Stephen and tying onto a rope. The chap’s confusion came from his polite appraisal of my 87 year old dad who was standing beside me in a day suit with a crisp shirt and tie and crombie overcoat. I couldn’t resist playing along: “I’ve got my own gear” I said, before adding “But I’ll need to rent a harness for dad”. A couple of minutes later, dad was safely parked on a sofa holding a mug of steaming coffee, the attendant looking relieved, while Steve and me roped up and started climbing up the walls. Ha ha – a fitting break from the turkey excess.
I quickly realised how much my chesty cold has drained me. I normally fly up the ‘4+’ routes, but today, everything I tried felt awkward and tough. It clearly wasn’t the wall, it was me. In a way, there was a kind of relief to see my lack of physical strength on the wall, it confirmed why I was feeling so rough the last few days. You kind’ve ignore a bad cold, but my muscles were clearly telling me I’m under pressure right now.
Earlier in the day I’d taken my first session back in the gym and I thought I would die! There was a group of 8 of us training with gym guru David Dunne at the Westpoint Gym in Blanchardstown. We did an hour of mixed weights and aerobic circuits, and while we were all groaning for mercy at the end, I definately felt I had zero fitness, and my chest was heaving.
Some part of me did admit that I probably shouldn’t have gone sea swimming yesterday, but it’s sometimes difficult to know if you just feel lazy or really are too sick to do stuff. Dad and the suit and crombie looked well on Malahide beach too – although he thought I was nutz, and probably I should have listened to him.
Well I’m not giving up. I’ve spent 2 weeks nursing this cold, and I’m not locking myself away in the house again for more. I’m back in the gym tomorrow morning and I’ve got a gym and swim treat with a friend tomorrow afternoon. I’ll keep exercising, but won’t push too hard, and hopefully the cough will go soon and I’ll get my strength back. It’s most annoying being on holiday and being sick! 🙁
Well it’s 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…
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….. 😉
Day two at Malahide. A solo swim with ‘Chanimal’ Fergal Somerville, my long-distance swimmer angel who’s taken me under his considerable wing, to give me tips on how to make a 750m open water swim in Roscommon this Sunday – in 30 minutes.
You’ll know from yesterday’s training blog that the pressure is on with a vengeance. I agreed to do the ‘swim’ section of a relay triathlon in Lough Key Forest Park, but didn’t realise until last week that there was a disqualification time; which means I’m now at risk of getting my whole team chucked out, if I don’t get my speed up! *gulp*
Tonight we arrived at Middle Rock beach in Malahide as the tide was ‘filling’ or ‘coming in’. There were no other swimmers and despite the sunny evening, I shivered at the thought of getting into the cold water. I’ve dipped into the sea a couple of times now, but that first couple of minutes when I’m getting used to the cold, still doesn’t seem to be getting any easier!
As soon as I stopped gasping for breath, I reached out and pulled off in the direction of High Rock, the plan being to swim for 30 minutes again tonight, but try and cover a bit more ground. I was anxious to try out some tips that my friends on FB had been suggesting over the past 24 hours. I shortened my breathing periods, breathing on every fourth stroke instead of every 6th. I pushed my legs deeper into the water and tried to avoid losing energy by letting them splash, and I continued with Fergal’s advice and made long, steady strokes, concentrating on making my arms enter and leave the water cleanly.
I got into a really fast rhythm and swam and swam, until Fergal swam up for a check and chat again and told me I’d been swimming 10 minutes. I felt amazing, I felt I was flying tonight. I looked up and looked around in anticipation. I reckoned I had gone way past High Rock and was on my way to the next point, the Tower. I looked hard, searching out recognisable landmarks, trying to make my eyes cut through the setting sun to make sense of the dark silhouette of the shore. I pulled my goggles off in amazement. I was nowhere close! I had got twice this distance in the same time last night. I wasn’t gutted, but I was a bit browned off. Was I tired, were the different strokes slowing me down? How could I have felt so fast and swam so short a distance. After a quick chat with Fergal I decided I wanted to keep going – so we ended up swimming out for 20 minutes. I actually made it past High Rock and halfway to the tower before deciding to turn back – prepared for another 20 minute swim back. That would give me a swim of 40 mins instead of 30, so even if I’d missed out on speed, it would help my fitness and endurance, and that can’t hurt on Sunday.
We turned, and the sun sparkled on the drops running down my arm as I stretched out and swam back into the dying gold of the day. I kept my head out of the water for a couple of minutes as I swam. I didn’t feel tired. I wasn’t scared about the 20 minute return trip, and I took a few moments to simply enjoy the swim and the sea and the low flying birds that seemed to skate along the surface of the surrounding sea. Head down I pushed on again and 10 minutes later, I got a tap on the shoulder from a laughing Fergal. We were back at Middle Rock. 20-minutes to swim out and just 10 to get back. He explained we’d had a tougher current than we thought running against us on the trip out, and it helped us on the return. I ended up doing a slightly longer swim than last night, in about the same time. And that folks, means I probably did the 750m in 30 mins!!! Okay, difficult to judge what role the tides played, and I’ll have to wear a wetsuit under the rules on Sunday, which might either help or hinder me…but mentally – I feel more confident. I think I can do it. I’m not convinced I will – but I’m confident that I can.
Now all I can do is continue to train gently up to about Friday and have a rest day on Saturday and then give it sox on Sunday. Fingers and fins crossed! lol… and if you have any more tips for me, feel free to add a comment down below.
Enjoyed a lovely weekend in Sligo when the most adventurous thing I did was walk past the pool to the restaurant! I did eat well across the Bank Holiday though and drank lots of water, because I’m determined to get back on my weight loss plan.
Today – I was back on the bike and back in the gym. I did a 30k round trip cycle in and out to work and I spent an hour weight-training in the gym. Lots of my ‘gal pals’ are nervous about using weights, in case it builds up too much bulk, but seriously – that’s not going to happen. Small weights with high repetitions won’t turn you into hulk-ella… and I think they’re a really fast way to burn weight and work out, while building strength and stamina.
I spent an hour with various weight-lifting drills, including some core-work and a reasonable session with kettlebells, like this one here. I did 4 sets of 10 reps on ‘snatch and grab’ with one of these 16kg bells, followed by the same number of sets and reps – on ‘squat presses’ with a couple of 12kg bells.
I cycled too and from the gym, and did some stretches, so I warmed up and cooled down pretty well, and hopefully won’t be walking too carefully tomorrow. Ouch…
15k on the bike into work today, the bike that was held together with cable-ties and WD40 (or whatever you call that stuff in the blue can)…. anyhow, it bust at the last bend, so it’s now with the bike doctor, where it should have been since last week, if I’d had my priorities right! Anyhow, I had wet cycling shorts and top and jacket from cycling in, the waterproof bike panier failed it’s shop-bought promises and delivered up damp clothes for wearing in the office, and pretty soggy gym clothes for later. Never mind, they all steamed up nicely once I started lifting weights. Hadn’t been in the gym for a week because of pulling a ligament in my thumb – and isn’t it amazing how loathesome the gym is, when you’ve had a break away from it?
I walked home from the gym (because the bike is at the bike doctor) got wet, changed again, had dinner, then jogged to a meeting in the local village. It was dry when I started, but coming back was a different matter. I will in future know what I’m talking about when I read on the news about ‘surface water on the road’. It means there’s a 4-foot pond on either side that you need to wade across when crossing the road. It also means there’s a sunami heading your way, whenever the lights change and the city-slicker 4-wheel drives hit 1st gear… ah well. I’m warm and dry now, and satisfied after eating a salad and resisting the urge for a dirty big curry that would have made me feel better, but ruined all the work I put into training today. Polish the halo and tune into the weather forecast. Quack, Quack, Quack….
To Train or Not to Train? I suppose that’s the question that leads to damnation? and I suppose the only way to get back on the horse is just do it!
The combination of a sprained wrist, a tummy bug and a broken bike saw me slack off training for the last couple of days. Monday I was just too sick and my wrist couldn’t hold weight, Tuesday wasn’t much better, so the body demanded – and got – a couple of ‘rest’ days, with cancelled gym sessions, cancelled kayaking and cancelled biking in and out to work. BUT… the rot continued yesterday, when visiting friends and sheer laziness combined to see me cancelling rock-climbing and yoga.
ENOUGH. The sun is out, and I hate going to the gym when it’s bright and shiny outside – but gym it is, and then I’m back on the river for kayaking lesson number 5 tonight with the gang from Wild Water Kayak Club. I’m refusing to let myself think of all the reasons why I don’t want to go to the gym… and I’ll let you know how I feel afterwards, when I know I’ll be thrilled that I went.
Onwards and upwards, one foot in front of the other…. etc.