“Pedal, pedal, pedal – good girl”
A few words of self-encouragement as me and some mates go on a beginner spin with the Godfather of Irish Mountain Biking, Richie Byrne – and the amazing Carol Farrell – at Ballinastoe Mountain Bike Park in County Wicklow.
I’ll say one thing: “Keep an eye out for the tree trunk”…
Thanks to Richie, Carol, everyone that turned out on a very, very, wintry day – and to all the lads at www.biking.ie
For more adventures check out the January archive: http://www.teenagates.com/2014/01/
I had an enforced ‘rest’ week between my active Paddy’s Day weekend and The Easter Bank Holiday. Close family visiting, a deluge that flooded and blocked the N11 to Wicklow, a truly unseasonal avalanche warning in the snow laden Mournes and a rather nasty tummy bug, all combined to keep me off the hills and out of the gym. Then an invite came to get out on Spinc Mountain on Good Friday with Concern/Uganda buddy Vera Baker, and I decided to push all thoughts of weakness aside and ‘just do it’. I was so pleased afterwards. It was a beautiful day in Wicklow with blue skies and bright sunshine, despite snow and ice underfoot; and it really stopped me feeling miserable and sorry for myself! Vera and her mate Lisa were just starting a new round of training for their latest charity appeal in Kenya later this year, and it was good to be out with them, as they bubbled and planned, all full with the sense of a new adventure.
When invite number 2 came to join Mountain Rescue volunteer Grainne Ryan on a trek up the Galtees on Saturday, again it was hard to refuse. I was probably quite weak after my tummy bug and I decided to take the train to Thurles rather than drive; the guys agreed to pick me up and drop me back afterwards to the station, which I felt was much easier than driving when I was feeling tired. It took the pressure off a bit, but I was still feeling a little nervous. I hadn’t climbed with Grainne or her mate Kevin before, and I wasn’t sure about my hill-fitness or strength. I just hate the thought of getting in ‘over my head’ and slowing people down. It’s always about picking your pace – but it doesn’t stop me getting a bit apprehensive first time out. Grainne reassured me they weren’t planning any hill-running…and off we went!
We headed first for Galtee Beag; intending to then skim the ridge and move on up to climb Galtee More 919m (3018ft) snow, ice and wind permitting. The pace was manageable, the company good, and the scenery stunning. Again another perfect climbing day, with snow underfoot and blue skies above; made all the more special by a natural phenomenon which I hadn’t seen before. As we left lunch and Galtee Beag behind and pushed on for Galtee More, we came out of the lee and the force of the wind hit us. Pushing onwards and upwards the cold was biting and it felt like being in a wind tunnel. I was using walking poles and could actually feel the wind tearing them from me as I walked. But I walked with care, staring in amazement at each footfall. I was nearly crying as I stepped on and smashed through these lovely snow crystals on the way up. Rime, Grainne called them. It was like walking through a bed of brittle diamonds… I’d never seen that before, the delicacy of the wind-blown ice formations on the frozen bog; I felt like an elephant in a china shop…
The last few measured steep steps to the summit; then walking across the flattened top to the cross, straining against the wind, leaning forward into it at an angle and pulling my fleecy buff up around my nose and mouth to try and help me breathe through the frosty air. We scrambled down a foot or two among the rocks and suddenly the wind stopped and I realised it had been roaring in my ears. Suddenly as if someone flicked a switch, we found ourselves in stark silence as we snuggled in to sit down among the frost-sparkled rocks, like ice-thrones in a winter wonderland at the top of the world. Swiftly turned to Ice Princess – I surveyed the 360 views of Tipperary, Limerick and perhaps Cork far off in the distance, with bright sunshine cutting through the bitter cold, now sheltered from the wind and feeling so incredibly grateful to be here.
My perfect Easter weekend didn’t end on the hills. I splashed my way through large waves in Malahide in bright sunshine on Sunday morning with Fergal Somerville and the Low Rock swimmers. I’d actually turned up with a wet-suit, but I was shamed when I saw them all getting into the surf in their swimming suits, so I decided to leave it in my bag and take the plunge – literally. It was icy cold. 4 degrees apparently, but it was beautiful being bounced around by the icy waves in bright sunshine. I didn’t last long; getting through about three swells before turning around and swimming like the clappers for the shore. But as my skin burned with fire afterwards and I drank hot coffee and pinched someone’s chocolate biscuits, there was no doubting I was alive.
Monday the holiday continues and I’m still off work, so I’m hitting the gym in the morning – then meeting the ‘Get Off The Couch‘crew as the six participants in our new TV series on Setanta go through their paces on the track at the prestigious Morton Stadium with Triathlon trainer, Eamonn Tilley. It’s our second session and I’m dying to see if we’ve made any progress. Last time we were training with Eamonn, the wonderful Katie Taylor gave us a pep talk and that really fired us up. The show’s taking 6 men and women from around the country and encouraging them to get out and active in the great outdoors. After my exciting ‘holiday’ break, I’ll have plenty to talk about!
I’ve just finished my last procedure at Dubin’s Beacon Hospital after my Kidney Stone drama over the New Year… and now another ‘beacon’ is calling me. The lure of my mountains is proving almost irrisistable. I sometimes can’t understand how I spent over 40 years on this planet without realising how much I love the hills and how good and strong they make my spirit feel. I may not be physically at my peak right now, but I know that a day out there – regardless of weather – will renew my heart and mind and shape me up for the weeks ahead. I’d hoped to head up Lugnaquilla tomorrow (Leinster’s highest peak), but the roads are icy and as the rescue services are busy enough the hike’s been changed to the more easily accessible Glendalough, climbing Camaderry and Turlough Hill. It’s still a 5/6 hour hike, and will probably push me a bit after weeks on drips and painkillers etc.. but I know in advance, that however hard it is, it will be good to be back. 🙂
No better way to wind down the year than a mulled pie darkness hike from Pine Forest/Tibradden to the Blue Light pub. After last night’s storm, today dawned dry and bright and it was a pleasure to get out into the woods. We had lots of layers squashed into our rucksacks, in preperation for the cold windy bits we’d find at the top, and we needed them – it was like being in a wind-tunnel up there. We all brought head-torches too, and spare batteries; because we knew we’d be walking from daylight into the dark. Thanks to Brian O’d and a score of hardy hikers for a great day (& night) out…
Got to say, when we all set off from Rathfarnham I felt a little grim – that was a hot pace, and there were lots of big people with long legs! I’m just 5″ and those long legged yokes are the bane of my life. 😉
Actually, if the truth be known, I haven’t been on a hill since coming back from Uganda and I simply wasn’t hill-fit. The first 30 minutes were tough, I was sweating like a dog and panting like a cart-horse. I couldn’t understand why I was so over-heating so much. But after a while, I had enough ‘cop’ to take the Santa hat off – and I cooled down a bit. Doh!!!
I’m feeling quite good and I know that I’m strong, uninjured and pretty fit. The only concern is that with so many different disciplines to tackle, I seem to peak at one sport, at the expense of another.
Myself and my Uganda team-mate Vera Baker have been concentrating on the hills for the last couple of weeks, with Carrauntoohil summited once, and due again on October 6th. Vera’s also been putting the hours in on the bike – finishing a 40-kilometre cycle at the weekend as ‘the first woman home’ which was quite an achievement.
I’ve been pulling out the stops with swimming, but my bike work has slipped this week, simply because I’ve wimped out of cycling 15k into work in this heavy rain. On Saturday morning I had a charity 5k for 3rd Age, and I was a bit worried about that, because my running practice had slipped off the radar for the last couple of months, and with my dodgey knees, if I don’t keep practicing, I end up getting sore when I run. The picture here sees me anxiously looking for the timer display as I head towards the finish. My final time was 38.20 – which for me – isn’t bad. The following day myself and Vera climbed Spink in 2hrs-15, which knocked over an hour off our previous time – so we’re definately progressing.
But you know, it’s happened again. While we were running, cycling, hiking and swimming – we’ve taken our eye of the kayaking!!! So now we’re playing catch-up again. These evenings are getting too dark for river-work, so this Thursday – we’ll be taking our kayaks to the swimming pool…. and learning to roll!
I’m climbing the beautiful Carrauntoohil in Kerry, on September 16th, with the Concern team that are heading out to Uganda for their tri-adventure challenge this November.
The charity has said we can invite some friends along to climb Carrauntoohil with us – if they fill out a sponsorship form and raise some squids for Concern.
It’s the highest mountain in Ireland, so it’s definately worth raising a bit of sponsorship – it also requires anyone tackling it, to be hill-fit with decent gear, boots, waterproofs etc.
There probably won’t be that many spaces available, because we’ll need to match numbers to guides etc… so if you have your boots greased, and you fancy joining me, don’t hesitate, email now and let me know on: firstname.lastname@example.org