kayaking

Adventures of a Weightloss Warrior

TEENA 1
A MAN WITH A PLAN:

I lost a pound and a couple of inches off my hips last week, which was week 3 and my third weight loss in three weeks – which has a bit of a ‘Power of Three’ ring to it.

I could actually have done better, but I strayed off the plan midweek after losing the will to live while knocking out some 4am starts for work!

Still I’m heading in the right direction and that’s a good thing, because I don’t want to incur the wrath of  ‘the man with the plan’ –  Irish Defence Forces soldier and sniper, Peter O’Halloran.

My PPT Fitness & Nutrition plan for this week is simple… increase the water intake, keep eating the right food, and get some consistency into my exercise.  I had a tonne of exercise at the weekend, but I had a sore bum for my trouble…

BOTTOM’s UP:TEENA 5

I had a chance to join a bunch of gals cycling along the Greenway in Waterford at the weekend, which was brilliant and definitely something I’d recommend.  For some reason though, I rented a bike instead of bringing down my own and I paid for it with a bruised bum.  I’m sure if I wasn’t carrying an extra 8 stone it wouldn’t have mattered, but after 10k the unfamiliar saddle was making itself felt, at 20k I was no longer able to sit down, and at 25k, I was calling it quits at the halfway mark and promising to return again another day. In fairness to myself, I had actually woken up at 5am on the morning of the cycle with a tummy bug, so the universe had rather stacked the odds against me.

On this occasion I don’t regret bailing out. I’m not normally a quitter, but I was too uncomfortable to enjoy going any further. This way, I loved what I saw and I’ve got something to look forward to achieving in the future. It was really good to meet up with the girls too and it reminded me how much fun we lot had, hiking out in the hills together. That’s something else to start doing again.

HARBOURING A CHALLENGE:

The rest of the weekend was taken up with the world of swimming and kayaking. I was helping out with some social media for the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race, as part of the Leinster Open Sea swim series,. My Lough Erne wingman Stephen Turner was back out on the water doing rescue cover for the 2.2k swim course, which sweeps out across the mouth of the harbour.  It was a stunning day, flat calm, hardly a jellyfish in sight and even a burst of sunshine from time to time. It was lovely to bump into so many of my swimming friends and kayaking friends, and the atmosphere was really fun and uplifting.

Everyone kept asking me why I wasn’t swimming, and I confessed that I’ve always been quite nervous of the Harbour Swim. It’s a big swim, with big currents and frequently choppy swells out near the harbour mouth. I really am in awe of the swimmers who finish the course, not to mention the elites who carry handicaps of up to SIXTEEN MINUTES before setting out after the rest of the field.

I wouldn’t have to win it of course, I’d just have to complete it. As quite a few people pointed out to me yesterday, I can no longer use the excuse that the distance is too long, after managing the 5k Lough Erne solo in Eniskillen a couple of weeks ago.  So I guess I have just selected my first challenge for 2018!  TEENA 2

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!

DipInTheNipWrap

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.

Cranking Up The Kayaking….

LS1As 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 CastleconnellCastleconnell 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.

spriteBack 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/

IMG_8786Training Record:

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.

sasta ad 776 x 150

 

 

 

 

Walking A Line – To Errigal

Walk The Line 2I ‘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!).

Kayak DonegalA 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

 

  • Saturday June 22nd – 25kilometre hike ‘Walk The Line’ fundraiser for Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue
  • Sunday June 23rd – kayak boat cover for Get Off The Couch at Lough Sheelin long-distance swim event
  • Monday June 24th – Kayak training with Wild Water Kayak Club
  • Tuesday June 25th – 40″min gym ‘strength & conditioning’
  • Wednesday June 26th – paddling with adventure buddy Vera Baker in Donegal
  • Thursday June 27th – climbing Mount Errigal, Donegal’s highest mountain, and navigating through thick mist
  • Friday June 28th – 15k cycle with hill-climbs (or thereabouts) and paddling in a choppy sea :)
  • Saturday June 29th – rest day (Get Off The Couch finale and wrap party)
  • Sunday June 30th – sea swim in Malahide & climbing Spinc Mountain in Wicklow

A Nice Start to a Blustery Beginning…

Fergal and I having a chat after the 'Nice' swim - as you do! Saturday was a really ‘Nice’ day.  It should have been an ‘Ice’ day.   The Eastern Bay swimmers had been training for months for an ‘ice-swim’ off the Bull Wall, and after all the snow and storms, everything was shaping up nicely for a bitterly cold swim on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately for the lads, it wasn’t cold enough – they needed 5 degrees or less to make it official, and they got a tropical 7.2!

Despite the swim not being official, the hardy souls still got in, and swam a freezing mile, while onlookers wrapped their fleeces around them, pulled down their woolly hats over their ears, and clapped their glove-encased hands together in warm encouragment.

Boat cover was courtesy of the 5th Port Dollymount Sea Scouts, there was a whole host of medics and helpers at hand, and I got to get Saffron my kayak back into the water, to see if my stomach muscles were still working after my recent bout of surgery and immobility.  They were, and it was good for me to feel useful again after a month of inactivity.   My Channel-Swimmer buddy Fergal Somerville, has blogged magnificently about the passion that drives these swimmers to such extremes.  Check it out by clicking on the photo above.

On Sunday, I took a flying dash out to Wicklow in between the storms, and caught a blue skied but blustery morning that certainly blew away the cobwebs.  It took me 2.5 hrs to trek around the Spinc loop.  I used to be able to do that in 1.15.   I’ve a lot of work to do.  If I pay much attention to how much my fitness has slipped, I could feel fairly miserable.  So I’m not going to do that.  I’m back – and I know what I’ve got to do, and that I can do it.

Doc says I should be ok to exercise and return to the gym from Monday; and so we’re off. Here we go, here we go, here we go.

…Just Smile for the Camera, and Do It Again!

Filming in the hills with Athena Media

Well it’s a week to go to Uganda, so if I haven’t trained enough by now, I’ve just left it too late.  I’m excited, but I’ve got those pre-expedition ponders – when you just can’t help going over the last few months in your mind, and wonder… if only.  If only I’d tried hot-yoga, it would have helped me prepare for the heat.  If only I’d spent more time on the hills, more time on the bike, more time in the pool. But in fairness, I drafted a training plan several months ago, and I’ve pretty much stuck to my plan.  I’ve cycled 15k into work and back, most days – I’ve lifted weights in the gym twice a week, I’ve joined Wild Water Kayak Club and learned the basics of how to paddle, I’ve got my level 2 cert to prove it.  I’ve climbed Carrauntoohil twice, and Purple Mountain and Tomies – as well as several training runs up my beloved Spinc in Wicklow.I’ll know very soon if I’ve done enough to tackle the altitude on Mount Elgon, whether I’ve done enough to keep up with the rest of the group as we cycle over 200k through the African bush, and whether I’ll be able to Kayak well enough, when we get to the Nile and Hairy Lemon Island.

This was my very last weekend for training, and it’s been a howler.  A day’s climbing in Wicklow yesterday, followed by climbing at Awesome Walls last night – and a day out on the Liffey kayaking today – and all with a film crew shadowing every move in preperation for “Get Off the Couch”, a programme I’m presenting for Athena Media on Setanta next year, which aims to encourage people to get up and get active and get outdoors into our lovely countryside.  Thanks to Barry and Paula and Rob and Helen – you were all brilliant this weekend and I’ve learned so much already from you all.

I really don’t know whether I’ve done enough for Uganda on Saturday – I really hope I have, I hope I do Concern proud.  But at least after today, I feel a lot more confident about the paddling.  I’ve had a real mental block over paddling over weirs into white water and was gutted last weekend when what should have been my last training session didn’t come off the way I wanted it to.  I decided to have one last shot and the guys in the club pulled out all the stops for me and got me in the water again this weekend.  Last night I kept telling myself I could do it – even though I didn’t really believe it!  Today I told myself the same thing, and eventually when the time came, I popped over Wrens, and stayed upright….then did it again… and again.  Andy, my WWKC instructor was with another group downstream, and he told me later they all heard me screaming with jubilation and they laughed as he said “ah, Teena’s made it down Wrens!”

I’m so grateful to Wild Water Kayak Club.  To Andy, Aidan and Dave – who first showed me the ropes, to Andy again who never gave up on me, and to John Judge and Sean who took me out today.  Thank you to adventurer, friend and mentor Pat Falvey,  to Wicklow Mountain Rescue buddy Ronan Friel, ATI ‘City Kayak’ chief Donnchadh McCobb, to gym guru David Dunne, to my own fantastic radio station 98FM, to Howth Coast Guard and all our ‘forces’, to the most patient dad in Ireland, to my brother who’s prepared a detailed list of all the spiders I need to avoid in Africa, to the Albany Clinic who gave me millions of injections for a very tiny price and no bruises, to Great Outdoors who always support me and who are on P41 of my book!, to swimming ‘Chanimal’ Fergal Somerville, and to everyone who hiked and climbed and encouraged and motivated me over the past couple of months.  So many friends, including my FB & Twitter supporters, I’m so very, very lucky.   And thank you to whoever told me to fake-it till you make-it… ‘cos today I faked my way over Wrens until I suddenly made it!  If it turns out that I haven’t done enough for Uganda, I guess I know what I have to do.. 😉

 

 

Roll With the Punches

The heat is on.   September is nearly through – and that leaves just one full month of training left for the Concern/Uganda expedition in November.  

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!  

Has My Training Peaked….?

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……

‘Happy Feet’ Wing It…

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…..  😉

 

 

 

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