A crisp, fresh, winter morning saw the ‘Get Off The Couch’ crew piling out of their cars at McDonalds – but it wasn’t to share a mac – it was to park across the road and share a raft on the River Liffey for our first ever competitive raft race with www.rafting.ie. The day’s sport was arranged to raise funds for Concern’s Philippines’ relief effort. A good cause, a beautiful day, fun on the water…. all reasons for me to smile deeply. But I also had a warming glow at seeing my new adventure friends getting active in the great outdoors, long after the TV cameras have stopped rolling. Yes, we made a television programme, but more importantly, the team and all our participants, have made a difference. They and I have both experienced the benefits of stepping outside the door into the beautiful, stunning, inspiring country that we live in – and now they continue to spread the word, about the joy of nature and the joy of being healthy. Rock on Ireland, or roll, or climb, or or or… well you get it. Here’s how some of our clever friends captured a little bit of the day….
There were winners in the all male, all female, and mixed crew categories, while GOTC came ahem, 4th last. You’ll get all the results and a whole host of pictures on rafting.ie’s facebook page. It was also great to welcome Santa and his helpers along on the day.
Saturday’s rafting was merely a warm-up for what I had planned on Sunday. I huffed & puffed & made it up, only to plunge down the rough rocks into the forest. Do I really want a mountain bike aged 48? Mountain Biking rock star, the legendary Richie Byrne and his angelic partner in hardcore biking, Carol, took me out for a beginner spin on Ticknock. All I can say is that this sport doesn’t let you hide for a second. It’s intense from the moment you start spinning those pedals, and it’s a rush right to the very end of the ride. I was soooo slow and sooooo clumsy, but I loved it. In fact I loved it enough to get fitter enough, so that I can judge how I like it when I’m not completely annihilated by the hill climbs. Mind you in fairness, I kept spinning, so there’s hope for me. If I have a word with Santa, I wonder if I’ve room for another bike….?
Tonight we’re on TV – our hardy band of six adventurers take to the small screen for the first time after a year where they pushed outside their comfort zone and took on a whole heap of challenges that they never thought possible.
Here’s how the idea began:
Get Off The Couch! follows six people as they seek to change their lives and take on active challenges that they never thought possible. This series captures the triumph of the human spirit through determination and the desire to better oneself by capturing the personal stories, achievements, and courage of these six ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Get Off The Couch – by Athena Media for Setanta Sports is made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Sound & Vision scheme. The six part series is free to air on Setanta Ireland from October 24th 2013 at 10:05pm.
For more information on Get Off The Couch! please contact Rob Hope at (01) 4883352 or at email@example.com or visit www.getoffthecouch.ie
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.
Well last night I really DID dance all night. I was dressed as a flapper, in sequins and pearls from head to toe in aid of Concern. The weight of the outfit, and the hours of intense flapper is definitely going down in my training log. I must have burned HUNDREDS of calories. 🙂
After getting to bed at 3am, I was groaning just hours later at 7am, when I woke with sore feet and aching muscles, and the memory that I had volunteered as a paddler for a ‘wild swimming’ event on Lough Dan in Roundwood, in Wicklow. I made it there for the 9am start and after 4 hours of constant paddling and 5 trips up and down the lake (total paddling 11k). I drove up the road for lunch at Lynams in Laragh, before meeting up with hiking buddy Vera Baker, for some training for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th. We parked up, got the bikes out, and cycled 10k up and down the Wicklow Gap, before packing the bikes, and heading off on foot for a walk/jog up the steps at Spinc Mountain.
It was a pretty intense day as training goes and I was tired afterwards, but that really good tired, rather than the bored and fed up at home tired that can be so mentally exhausting! I’ll take it easy tomorrow though and let the body recover a bit. I’ve planned to drop down to the Wild Water Kayak Club for a couple of hours, to keep the skills up on Sasta Sage – my SASTA FITNESS sponsored kayak, which I’m using to get in shape for the Liffey Descent in aid of LauraLynn Childrens Hospice, with ‘Mr Kayak’, Kipper Maguire.
You can check out our MyCharity page by clicking on the Sasta Kayak pic here – or try http://www.mycharity.ie/event/weirsnwheels/ – and please pass on the word. LauraLynn Hospice is such a vital, worthy cause and Kipper and I really want to raise a few bob for them this year. So even a fiver would be a massive result. Cheers.
Monday Aug 12th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 20 mins lunchtime running in Stephens’ Green / couple of lengths in the pool with dad
Tuesday Aug 13th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k) / 45″ Gym session – S&C
Wednesday Aug 14th: 40″ running session (Fartlek) with Le Cheile AC
Thursday Aug 15th: 15k cycle in and out of work (total 30k)
Friday August 16th: 45″ Gym session – 2hrs’ dancing
Saturday Aug 17th: 11k, 4-hour kayak / 10k cycle up and down the Wicklow Gap/ run up the steps at Spinc mountain in Glendalough.
“Ninja Midges” – that’s what we dubbed them, as the dying throes of the soon-to-be infamous ‘Summer of 2013 Heatwave’ burned deep into the reddening Roscommon skyline. As we gathered around the citronella flares that marked the heart of our Wild Water Kayak Club tent village, dodging dive-bombing beasties with fangs – I scratched lazily at the rising bumps on my legs and arms – and pondered that my weekend in Cootehall would be memorable to me for a host of reasons.
I’ve had two days of open canoe fun with old and new friends which has come as a timely kick-start to training for my next adventure – a Liffey Descent and Cycle challenge for LauraLynn Hospice (which you can read about by clicking HERE). I’ve also randomly found myself back near Ballyfarnon, where my dad owned a pub when I was 8. We moved around a lot when I was a kid and I’d nearly forgotten about living here – so a weekend of driving and paddling through this old familiar territory has stirred up a whole bunch of memories. The surprises continued when I met with one of my LauraLynn challenge SASTA sponsors who lives down here – only to find she was also an old school-mate back in the day!
The club’s canoe weekend saw us out on the Shannon and paddling from Cootehall to Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday, which was around 12k of water covered – more if you include the messin! Sunday saw us move the boats to Lough Key Forest Park where we paddled the whole way out to the island with the castle on it, that I used to stare out at as a kid. Then we paddled further again, to picnic on yet another island even further out in the lake. I just love the way canoes open up the waterways to allow for a whole new range of adventures. Someone had camped on the island, or had at least lit a massive bonfire and I stared in envy – wishing dad had brought me here when I was 8. But maybe I’ll bring him, now he’s 88.
I tore myself away from Roscommon with a heavy heart and a whole heap of new questions about how life could have turned out if we’d stayed in the pub. It was known as the Cosy Inn – in case you’ve ever raised a glass there. It’s closed now I’m told. All those laughing voices and clinking glasses faded into memory.
Back in Dublin, Monday brought no muscle soreness, which is a good sign that I’m off to a flying start for my Liffey Descent training. I need to get my cycling legs back now, build on my current fitness, and lose a stone in the next two months. Then I’ll be ready. No problem – Gulp!
These fun-filled, action-packed weekends can only help. Exercising is so much better when you’re having fun with friends. It’s my secret weapon for getting fit and keeping fit. Last weekend I climbed Carrauntoohil for Concern to support climbing buddy Vera Baker who’s heading to Kenya with the charity this year. We followed the hike on Saturday with an adventure on Sunday which saw us in Tomies Wood in the Gap of Dunloe – with legendary Irish adventurer Pat Falvey and Eamon Waldron from ‘Get Off The Couch’, the adventure programme that I’m presenting on Setanta TV this September.
We spent about an hour hiking through some of the country’s oldest oak woodland, breathing in the earthy tones and feasting our eyes on the 40-shades of green mosses, herbs and ferns of this magical ‘Alice in Wonderland’ trek. Thank’s to Pat’s excellent stage-management, we suddenly stumbled with gasps of delight into a shady glade that thundered with the sound of O’Sullivan’s Cascade – 1.5kilometres of waterfall tumbling through the woodland and down to the lakes of Killarney National Park. We girls couldn’t resist taking a dip in one of the ice-cold plunge pools; feeling like wood-nymphs in a fairytale, or maybe the girls in a Tomotei advert. It’s easy to let your imagination run away with you in a magical place like this…
Folklore tells us that O’Sullivan’s Cascade is where the chief of the Fianna, Fionn MacCumhal stashed his personal whiskey store, before a row with invaders saw the precious drop turn back to water. Later, we turned the water back into wine, over a bowl of chowder at Kate Kearney’s Cottage.. 😉
Can’t wait for next week’s adventure.
Well I have a whole new adventure on the way, with a massive physical challenge, 2 months of perfecting new skills, 2 months of building strength, flexibility and muscle, and 2 months to get over my terror of weirs and white water!
White Water Kayaker and Former National Freestyle Champion, Kipper Maguire has challenged me to join him in tackling this year’s Liffey Descent in aid of LauraLynn the country’s ONLY Hospice for Children.
Taking place on Saturday September 28th, the annual kayak event will attract paddlers from all over the world, with the ESB releasing 30-million tons of water to feed the 28km course that will combine long flat water sections, swift currents, ten weirs and numerous rapids. To make the daunting challenge even more interesting, we’ve agreed to cycle from LauraLynn’s Leopardstown base to the start of the descent at the K-Club in County Kildare…a mere 40k or so, with a few hill climbs thrown in to keep us warm!
Tragically there are over 1,400 children living in Ireland with life-limiting conditions and 350 of these children pass away each year, most within the first year of life. With no government funding to build or run LauraLynn House, the hospice needs over €2.4M each year to keep the service going.
The Pedals and Paddles challenge this autumn, will raise funds and awareness for the hospice. Will you help? Check out our MyCharity page and follow our extensive summer training through their ‘Pedal 2 Paddle’ blog here – on Facebook or on Twitter.
Kipper Maguire is a White Water Kayaker, Former National Freestyle champion, level 4 ICU Instructor and, in his spare time, an enthusiastic SUP surfer. Kipper represented Ireland in 4 World Championships and was National Freestyle Champion for 3. He continued his involvement with the World Championships through coaching of the National Team as well as commentating at the events. His kayaking trips have taken him all over world. One of his most memorable experiences was paddling Zanskar Gorge in India. This charity event co-organised by Kipper raised €10K for charity. A close second was his winter trip down the Grand Canyon. You can find him on the flat water teaching, getting new people involved in the sport and when it rains you will find him teaching advanced techniques or just out having a blast on the water with his friends.
20 years a journalist with Dublin’s 98FM, in recent years, Head of News Teena Gates has also earned a reputation as an author and adventurer. As well as a busy brief with the capital’s top radio station, she writes a column for Outsider Magazine, her 1st book ‘One Foot in Front Of The Other’ was a sell-out success, and she takes to the small screen later this September with a 6-part show for Setanta TV. She’s also worked up a massive track record for charity fundraising. “In the past three years I’ve lost 12 stone – leaving my 23 stone bulk behind and taking up a number of physical challenges for charity. I’ve climbed to Everest Base Camp and have recently returned from a multi-trip adventure to Uganda for Concern, but this could be my toughest challenge yet.”
Make a donation here: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/weirsnwheels
I wish they weren’t so nude down on the Royal Canal…. I cycle along the muddy track most days on my way in and out from Blanchardstown to work in town – it’s a good length of a cycle (around 15k). It irons out the kinks, especially after a weekend spent hiking or running. But they’re all stripped bare and it’s beginning to get to me. Holly’s different and Ivy too, in fairness… but then they’re always game and ready to show off their best colours all year around. But it’s more than halfway through April and you’d think the rest of the trees and shrubs would be wearing leaves by now! Never mind, the Met today said the winter was gone and the worst of the cold is over for 2013, so pretty soon, those small buds that started appearing today, will burst into a flood of life and I’ll have a ‘greeny’ canal back again. Like the trees, flooding with energy and ready to burst into life – I’m feeling strong and energetic for the first time since my surgery in January. It’s been a tough start to this year, but like the forecaster said today about the weather – I feel I’m over the worst.
This weekend was amazing. All those horrid nights out running in the cold and dark with my ‘Couch-to-5k’ buddies at Le Chéile Athletics Club in Leixlip, finally paid off. I’d signed up weeks ago for the Spar Great Ireland Run in the Phoenix Park here in Dublin, and although I was nowhere near ready to run 10k I was happy to have a bash and walk and jog the distance. My plan was to walk 1 min and run 4 the whole way round. That’s what I did and I came back in just over 1 hour and 18 minutes – which was ten minutes faster than my best time for a 10k last year. So I’ve definitely bounced back and now I can start to build on my new fitness. The running techniques I’ve been getting at Le Chéile really helped get me around the course, as did the brilliant coaching session with Catherina McKiernan that I was fortunate to have the benefit of, while filming a couple of weeks ago with my ‘Get Off The Couch’ TV project. You can’t get fit without some hard work, but technique really goes a long way to getting there safely and efficiently. Le Chéile’s Sharon Ashmore has been nagging me for weeks to run the club’s 5k on May 4th – I suppose I really don’t have any excuse now. It would be great if you joined us – you can register on Facebook or on this link: http://www.lecheile5k.milanet.biz/
The 10k wasn’t the only burst of activity for the weekend. On Saturday I got some pre-race preparation in, with a 5.5hr hike up Lugnaquilla for Concern. ‘Lug’ as it’s affectionately or sometimes painfully referred to, can be a bit of a slog. Saturday was no exception. A coachload of climbers poured out at Fenton’s pub in bright sunshine at 10am – and within a couple of hours, we were knee-deep in snow, and slogging our way up the mountain against an increasingly violent headwind, freezing cold, driving rain and almost zero visibility. The leaders turned us all back down the mountain within shouting distance of the summit – deeply frustrating, but the right decision – in light of the dreadful and worsening conditions. It was an excellent exercise for seeing how well or how badly our equipment, clothing and boots all worked – and a reminder that you must always be prepared in the mountains.
Well that’s an Irish spring for you – but the weather’s definitely turned the corner. A couple of weeks ago, my TV gang and I were out on the Liffey rafting and kayaking with Irish kayaking legend Kipper Maguire and rafting.ie which is based at an old mill in Palmerstown. The sun was beaming down and you just felt that powerhouse of energy that comes from having the sun on your face in the great outdoors. We were out on the river from 7am to sundown, and I ended up in that well known and gorgous watering hole The Anglers’ Rest – the perfect end to a perfect day and one which I’ll be writing about in detail for Outsider Magazine later this Summer. I’ll be taking a look at the river from the Strawberry Beds right down to the Jeannie Johnson at the IFCS where City Kayaks are based. I’ll be finding out what adventures are going on there, right under our feet – in particular, right under O’Connell Bridge.
So welcome Spring, welcome Summer, and welcome to a whole new year of adventure. 🙂