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.
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 chunk 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 himself, 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)
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.
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.
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.
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, email@example.com, Phone: +353-1-442 8234.
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!!
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting St. Patrick’s Boys National School in Drumcondra to talk about the fun of getting healthy and getting active. They are wonderful lads who know lots about sport and mountains and what happens at altitude. They are great at science and geography, they know the height of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil. They are polite, enthusiastic, intelligent and very talented. They had lots of hints for me, and explained that I’ll enjoy running more if I run with a friend, and if I run as much as I can and then run a little bit more. They also told me it’s good to have a reason or a goal to run for. I’ve taken their advice and accepted their challenge to run a 10k in the Phoenix Park by the end of the Summer. They tell me that I can do it – and I believe them. The boys also had a surprise presentation for me, and performed a couple of rap songs that they had written for me, about food and healthy eating. Their work is so good that I just had to share the lyrics with you. It’s a pity I didn’t bring my GoPro camera along to video them – because they were great. Maybe next time 🙂
What does the sugar say? I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m obese.
What does the sugar say? I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m obese. x3
Carrots are good
Potatoes are too. Song
Sugar is bad
Salt will kill you!!
I wanna eat some cake
Which I’m not allowed
So let’s eat some rhubarb
Which I am allowed
We’ll go into the kitchen Rap
And take out all the junk
Get a bit of rhubarb
Add some cheese
Go into the sitting-room
And eat with ease.
Every night at tea-time
I eat bread
It is brown
Then I add some flora
Not butter song to the tune of Titanic
It is bad.
Sometimes I have white bread
But it’s full of sugar
And salt and faaat.
I live with an apple beside my bed
I can’t get this junk food out of my head. Tune of ‘Monster’
I’m going for runs but I keep losing my breath.
I’m trying to get fit, I’m to get fit, because I care.
Heyyyyy brother, there’s a KFC around the corner
OOOOhhhh we can share a mighty bucket for 2 Tune of ‘Brother’ Avicii
Then there’s nothing in this World we couldn’t do.
Put your hands in the air if you don’t care
Eat KFC and squash your chair (Tune of ‘Put your hands in the air’)
Do a dance, do a dance
Lose your breath AHHHH!!!
It’s a little bit spicy
And a little bit hot
I might need another penny to get a cookie
But then I realised you had a cookie so I ate it instead.
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I ate you cookie
But it tastes so wonderful that it’s in my belly.
Now I quit junk food I put it in the thrash
I feel a lot healthier that I’m not eating hash-browns
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I threw out your cookie
But it looked so tempting I couldn’t control me.
We came, we ate, we did not wait
For our calories to burn
Don’t you ever say that I’m overweight
I will always crush you.
I’m the same size as a wrecking ball
I’ve never been so fat before
All I ever ate is KFC
I pretty own the company.
Someone told me about broccoli
I finally can see my knees
And I’ll be as fit as Muhammad Ali.
I have low cholesterol
I can now run to Donegal
I can now get up when I fall
I can now kick a ball.
Last year wailing in despair over ‘just being brutal at running’ – I accepted the advice of amazing Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan and joined Le Chéile AC in Leixlip, to learn to run properly. I’d already been told my knees were too weak to run, but to my regret, I just wasn’t content to leave it at that! Many times I wished I had, as I moaned and grumbled my way down to the track during the dark months of late winter and early spring, until finally the complaining eased up, and the pace picked up, and I finally realised I could kick a sprint at the end of a 5k with a grin on my face. I was dangerously close to reaching that holy grail of ‘enjoying a run’.
In fairness, I didn’t slack off, but other challenges got in the way. I needed to pick up my kayaking skills for the Liffey Descent challenge that I was doing with Kayak champ Kipper Magure for the LauraLynn childrens’ hospice, and I needed to learn how to use a roadbike, after signing up for the KAR13 Killarney Adventure Race. I had a great year, but the running just got put on the back burner – until the dark evenings started creeping in again, and the urge to hit the road returned from some dark recess of my mind….
Enter ParkRun. This is an absolute gem of an idea. Parkrun is a non-profit organisation which sees volunteers running 5k’s in parks all over the world, including here in Dublin, at 0930 on a Saturday morning. You register once and get a barcode, which you can then produce to run at any of the parkruns at any of the parks, at any of the venues in Europe or the US. You get a time too…. it’s free and it’s all great fun, with mixed levels; experts and novices and a welcome for all. I registered a while ago, but yesterday was the first day I had the courage to show my face. I turned up at Grifeen Valley Parkrun and set off, crawling home a tragic 44 minutes later which is the slowest I’ve been all year – but the encouragement and enthusiasm was brilliant, and as one of my mates pointed out – I couldn’t have even finished it at a walk a couple of years ago.
The incredibly patient John O’Regan turned up on my last lap with some coaching tips. The man’s patience is astounding. I’m slightly embarrassed but enormously grateful that talented people like John can still make time to show me the ropes AGAIN.
Ok as everyone keeps telling me, you haven’t failed if you’re still trying. You know, I said that to someone about 2 years ago, and the expression keeps following me around since then.
I suppose there’s no excuse now – I’ll simply have to go ahead with the Run In The Dark for Mark now on November 13th… and I guess that means I’ll be showing my face at Le Chéile for training on Wednesday night 🙂
*Thanks for the wonderful welcome at Griffeen Valley Parkrun on Saturday – and thanks for the coffee! Check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/griffeenvalleyparkrun?hc_location=timeline
Well this evening was lovely. Bracing, but lovely. Very choppy, and the air was cold, but when you were swimming for a while the burning bands of ice around your chest relaxed a little and allowed you to breath… the slap of being dropped from the top of the waves to the sea below as you tried to breath under your armpit kind’ve helped to keep you warm too…. yes. Bracing.
I picked up the text from ‘Get Off The Couch’ swimming mentor and Eastern Bay swimming club Chanimal (for swimming channels) Fergal Somerville, just as I finished a 45 minute sweaty weight-lifting work-out with gym guru David Dunne. Feeling nice and warm, I headed over to Malahide in bright sunshine, and persuaded myself to ‘just get in for a dip’. I wanted to brave the sea without a wet-suit, just for the hell of it. As it turned out, the camaraderie from the other swimmers at High Rock was so encouraging that I ended up swimming for 30 minutes which is a bit of a record for me. I made it from High Rock to ‘The Wall’ (for those in the know).
Climbing up on the rocks afterwards and reaching hungrily for Mag’s famous Eastern Bay energy biscuits, I pondered that leaving the Irish Sea at sunset is getting to be a bit of a habit.
Last week I was getting an introduction to scuba diving at Sandycove with the dream team of Brendan Homan and Martin Durcan – diving instructors to the stars… 😉 I’m winding them up a bit, but if you heard the slagging they gave each other, you’d know I have to! Seriously though, Brendan literally took me by the hand and brought me fin over fin into the depths of Dublin Bay and as experiences go, this was really special.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved it – from bursting into giggles as the lads quite literally bounced me into the very heavy and awkward gear – (and thanks to the girls for the loan) – to the moment of inching into the water, when the clumsiness disappears, the sandy bottom falls away beneath you, and all of sudden you feel you’re flying. Pushing out from the shore, the depth of the water increases sharply and you find you’re floating over craters and rocks, and it looks like you’re sweeping over canyons and cliffs – like a somewhat ungainly heavy, rubber-suited bird. Perhaps a penguin, clumsy and heavy on land, but transformed into a graceful work of art in the right environment.
The sounds hit me first, my heart seemed to beat a noisy audible pulse; merging and moulding with the tide and the current swelling above and below. I could hear my breathing; short and fast at first, then longer, deeper and more regular as I began to relax. The light was muffled, softly dappling the shady sea around me, and piercing fingers through the forest of seaweed, no longer flat and brown, but reaching lazily upward, waving in the ebb and flow, with kaleidoscopic purples and greens, changing hues in the fading light. A moving, liquid, enchanted world where life looks so different and your own transient nature is so clearly felt with each pull on your air.
I’ve had lots of scary experiences in the past 3 years – some quite terrifying – but I’ve got through them, and even got to like some of the things that scared the pants off me at first. But here, 8 metres down, I felt no need for bravery. It might sound strange, but I wasn’t nervous here, I wasn’t scared, it felt calm and wonderful and absolutely natural. I can’t wait to go again. (hint hint).
So it’s September 10th now – and that’s just 18 days away from my big charity challenge for LauraLynn – the Liffey Descent and Cycle Challenge with Kipper Maguire. I’m strong, my kayak skills are improving, and I’ve spent hours in the water padding against the tide in my Sásta Fitness sponsored river boat. It’s looking good. Except I’ve let the running training slip a bit – (a lot actually) – and the realisation has just hit me this evening that I’ve got a forgotten challenge ahead this weekend. I’m signed up for WAR in Powerscourt. The cycle and kayak, I’m confident I can do – but how the heck do I clock a 6k run with the Sugar Loaf in the middle of it? Gulp! I’ll let you know how I get on….
As an adopted Dub I’ve always been thoroughly intrigued and inspired by the Liffey Swim – and I’ve always secretly longed that one day I’d be able to give it a go. This year, I got the opportunity to be part of the event by paddling ‘kayak cover’ for the swimmers. It’s a big responsibility and for me it was also an amazing thrill. I cannot tell you how it feels to be paddling alongside these gutsy swimmers, admiring their athleticism and thanking the universe for my own ability too. It’s only a couple of years ago since I was driving along the banks of the Liffey on my way home to Blanchardstown – looking at the coloured kayaks in the water near the Strawberry Beds, thinking how much fun it looked, and enviously wishing I could be part of that world. At 23 stone I never even dreamed that I could have a go, and joked to myself that I wouldn’t even fit in the boat, and would sink it if I did. If there’s anyone out there thinking the same, can I assure you that there is ALWAYS a boat to carry you, if you fancy having a go. Message me on Facebook if you want to find out more or check out the Irish Canoe Union or my own Wild Water Kayak Club.
It was an intensive weekend of kayaking for me. 4 hours in the water on Saturday (I went out to paddle in Bray after the Liffey Swim), and 6 hours in the water on Sunday when my club, WWKC went paddling at Castleconnell in Limerick. We navigated our way over more than a dozen natural features on the river; rocky waterfalls, rocks and drops. I swam a few times (fell out) but stayed in a lot of times, and it all helped my confidence as the weeks count down for my big challenge; the Liffey Descent on September 28th in aid of the LauraLynn Childrens’ Hospice in Leopardstown.
Back in Dublin on Monday I tried out a totally different type of kayak, than the river boat I’ve become used to. The Sprite pictured in the river shot here, cuts through the water cleanly, like a knife, and I felt a kind of speed that I hadn’t felt before. I wish I could explain how the river looked too. It was one of those stilly evenings when the world is perfectly reflected in the river below and I felt like I was paddling into a picture. It was my first proper training session with ‘Kipper’ AKA Ciaran Maguire, AKA ‘Mr Kayak’ – who I’m partnering for the ‘Pedals to Paddles’ challenge for the charity, when we cycle 40k from Dublin to the K-Club before getting on board for the Liffey Descent. We’re going to spend around 8 hours between cycling and kayaking – hence the ‘pedals to paddles’ tag. We’ve got a brilliant sponsor in Sasta Fitness, but we’ve also got a MyCharity page and appreciate any donations you can make. Check it out at: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/weirsnwheels/
Weds Aug 21st: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) – Running (ish) up Ticknock Mountain with the Irish Mountain Running Association
Thursday Aug 22nd: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C / Full Moon night hike on Kippure Mountain with mates.
Friday Aug 23rd: 20 Minute jog from home.
Saturday Aug 24th: 4 hours kayaking (Liffey Swim and Bray with GOTC).
Sunday August 25th: 6 hours kayaking in Limerick & 4 hours dancing with Cannonball!
Monday Aug 26th: 1 hour kayaking in a Sprite with Kipper Maguire.
Tuesday Aug 27th: Rest Day (sore leg – not serious).
Wednesday August 28th: Rest Day (sore leg – not serious).
Thursday Aug 29th: 40 minute weight-lifting in gym.
I ‘Walked The Line’ and I proudly get to wear the T-shirt, and raise the mug – thanks for a brilliant workout from Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue. Their mega annual fundraiser had two challenges, a navigational chase and a straightforward 25k hike for those who were willing to follow the signs! I chose the latter, but the physical demands were no joke. It was a tough, long day out and I came home delighted in just over 6 hours. To be honest, I had a secret weapon, the latter part of the hike was down through Spinc – my favourite mountain. I was actually heard to say ‘this is my patch’ as I trotted down the stones towards the Miners’ Village – and you know I meant it. Yep I guess I’m declaring it. Spinc is MY mountain – so there! (I’m not actually being facetious – that mountain rescued me from being 23 stone and stuck in a cell of my own skin, and my own making. I owe a lot to that mountain). The other benefit from ‘Walk the Line’ was accidentally turning up just 2-minutes before registration closed, and ending up ‘walking the line’ on my own, which I hadn’t really planned. It left me picking out way-paths and finding my way around the hills in a way I hadn’t done before – and I learned a lot – lessons that came in handy later in the week….
A trip to Lough Sheelin cooled my heels after Wicklow – when I turned up to provide boat cover for my brave ‘Get Off The Couch’ colleague Karen Bowers, who swam her first 1k ‘wild swim’ in the beautiful County Cavan lake, surrounded by master swimmers and the fantastic long-distance swimmer, Fergal Somerville, who turned up to coach her, after recently adding an elusive North Channel Crossing to his previous English Channel crossing. That man is inspiration in a set of speedos, and I have permission from his wonderful wife Margaret to say so. (Incidentally that woman is the best power-bar chef this side of either channel!).
A couple of days later I was back in the water again – this time in Donegal. In bright sunshine, myself and buddy Vera Baker ‘Girls on Tour’ headed north with kayaks strapped to the roof of her heroic Jaguar and two bikes jammed inside, along with wetsuits, paddles, running gear, hiking gear, and high heels. What other way to travel? Well as Vera’s son commented wryly as he saw us reverse out – “it wasn’t that we couldn’t do it – but probably that we shouldn’t“!
We hit the ground running when we arrived in Donegal in bright sunshine and instead of heading for shelter and our lovely home for the next three days, we made straight for the beach and launched the boats. It was a good call too; we woke up to winter conditions the following morning, with the mist so thick we could hardly see our boots as we made our way towards Errigal. That solo-navigation stuff in Wicklow helped with my confidence, as we strolled back down the mountain on a bearing and walked straight into the car park to our absolute delight. Boasting to my Mountain Rescue buddies may have been a calculated error however – I’ve been told I’m navigating next time out!
Lots of thanks are due to lots of people after my last set of adventures. Love you all and hugs will be distributed in due course. x
I’m standing on the shore and the old guys coming out of the water are telling me it’s the best it’s been all year, and much warmer than yesterday. Now yesterday was bloody cold, so any improvement is welcome. But the sun is shining and looking at their open, friendly faces, I believe them. Idiot!
Plunging into the waves, the shock almost takes my breathe away. I come up for air (and to scream), only to get a face full of salty water, as the next strong roller nearly knocks me on my back. Struggling to right myself and grasp a breath, I come up again and sneak a glance at the girls on either side. We’ve got a couple of channel swimmers out tonight and their long limbs sweep palely ahead into the torn and angry sea as they pull ahead, aiming for High Rock or maybe even the Tower – far out of my league. There’s Jessica from last night, who’s been ‘minding’ me for a couple of swims now, and is fast becoming a life-line. Either I get quicker, or I’ll soon become a nuisance, but for the moment I’m happy to accept the help and the company out here.
The high breakers are new to me and it’s a case of head down and push to get out beyond the break-water, then on a choppy but less violent sea, I get back into my stroke and my rhythmn and swim out parallel to the shore in the direction of High Rock. I’m not used to this choppy water, but after a while I start to enjoy the slap and battle of pushing through. It seems faster than last night when I spot the red bars of the High Rock bathing spot ahead… and it probably was faster, because when I turn to head back, the tide hits me in the face – lifting me up out of the water and slapping me down through air onto the green sloping waves below. I realised too that I’d managed to get myself seperated from the rest of the swimmers who had broken into groups. I could see a couple of caps heading off in the distance, presumably aiming for The Tower and for a moment I hesitated and thought I should follow. But it was cold, and rough, and I hadn’t swum in sea this rough before, so I gather myself and head for home.
It was much rougher swimming into the diagonal surf and I felt I was being battered as I pushed on, but once I got used to the rough and tumble I began to enjoy it, and with the sun piercing through the greeny light of the water, I felt a grin working its way between my ears. After about 20 minutes I see the yellow blaze of the clubhouse up ahead and relax a little. I take my bearing between a type of castle silloutted against the setting sun and a dark blip somewhere in the distance towards Malahide, and push ahead, checking my landmarks every 15 or 20 strokes. My swimming colleagues caught up and checked me out before bolting off ahead. I so wish I had their speed, but maybe in time. Approaching the swim-in to Low Rock, my buddy Vanessa pops up beside me like a seal, but wearing a pink swimming cap. Laughing she commented on the waves and advised me to ‘dig in’ for the shore and dig-in I did! It was a tough swim in, for me the toughest of the 43 minutes I spent in the water tonight. I felt the waves pulling me back away from the beach despite my best efforts, but gradually I could see the shore coming towards me, and before long I chanced a toe down, and with relief gripped the sandy bottom below. I’d made it. Pulling myself from the water, I hesitated and took a few steps slowly back into the surf. It felt warmer than the air around me, and felt welcoming. Maybe it’s true. Maybe you do finally begin to acclimatise to this lark…. hmmmmm…
PS. I made the WeightWatchers’ weigh-in on the way home. I lost a half a pound this week. I’ll take it! 🙂
There’s a reckoning a coming, I reckon….
If I’ve had a difficulty with training this year, it’s about balancing multi-discipline sports. Our Concern challenge in Uganda this November requires me to climb a volcano, cycle for several hundred kilometres and kayak the source of the Nile. Well I bought a bike and started clocking up hours earlier this year, and I signed up with the Wild Water Kayak Club on Dublin’s Strawberry Beds and learned the basics of how to fall in the river! (…and of course, more importantly – how to get out).
Now, as you can imagine, this all takes time – hours of time, and the one thing that has suffered is the activity I had previously been very familiar with – climbing mountains. To get hill-fit, you need to be walking up inclines for between 4 to 6 hours, at least once a week….and I haven’t been doing that. I simply haven’t had time for much more than a quick spin up and around Spink in Wicklow, which is a beautiful mountain, but not the most challenging – particularly when you’re only doing it intermittently at best.
So this Sunday, I’m facing the Goddess. Carrauntoohil in Kerry, at 1,038 metres (3,406 ft) is Ireland’s largest mountain, and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I’m heading there this weekend, feeling a bit like a fool – because I know I haven’t prepared, and I know I’m going to suffer. I love this mountain and know her well, but I also know it’s not clever to take her for granted. I’m also pretty certain she’ll be wet and cold and windy. Mountains have a way of letting you know……
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.