Back in February, six ordinary people from around the country met with myself and a production crew from Athena Media. We went for a short walk in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, while we discussed our plans to get out and get active in the great outdoors. It was our first day of filming for a six-part television show that will be broadcast on Setanta TV this September. In the months that followed, we ran and trained, climbed mountains, cycled bikes, learned to swim, took part in triathlons and became firm friends.
When I started this project, I was widely enthusiastic, exhilarated by the opportunity to preach my message once again – that if I could lose 13 stone and get healthy, anybody could. For me, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle have exploded into a life full of passion and colour and I can’t help but get carried away when I talk about the joy of waking up each day with my new-found health. I hoped my group of six ‘Get Off The Couch’ participants would have a similar experience; but I could hardly have imagined the outcome.
I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re not just talking about six people who got fit and healthy, we’re talking about new jobs, a return to college, a major sports deal, giving up smoking and whole families changing the way they spend their leisure time together.
Strictly speaking, we finished filming back in June. But on Saturday we met again, to catch up, and because I wanted to show them my lovely Spinc Mountain that I had been bragging about throughout our months of training together. They were invited to bring friends and family, but I was a little concerned when I saw the youthful bunch that turned up – our youngest walker was just 4-years-old, and I confess I didn’t think they’d last 5 minutes. To my amazement, they hopped around the mountain covering a 9km hill-walk with a climb of 380m in just under 4 hours; and 4-year-old Charlie was the most energetic of all of us. It just goes to show that sometimes our kids can be limited, not by their lack of strength or maturity but by the preconceived and erroneous notions of us boring old adults.
Thanks to my GOTC gang for a fabulous day – to the kids for the life lesson – and to Joan Kavanagh (local historian and member of the Glens of Lead Project) who met us on the trail along the way to introduce us all to ‘Paddy Byrne’ (wooden miner model) and to tell us about the history of the old lead workings and mines at Glendalough.
After a ‘Last Supper’ with the team, several of us went back out on the hill again for a night climb on Spinc – as part of my climbing mate Vera Baker’s preparations for a Concern hike to Kenya later this year. Staying in Wicklow overnight, the Concern trainees were back out on their bikes for some cycling exercise on the Sallygap on Sunday, and then I was back up on Spinc for a 3rd and final climb on Sunday afternoon, before I returned to the city and prepared for work and the gym on Monday.
My own training intensifies next week. I’m preparing for the Liffey Descent kayak and cycle challenge that I’m doing this September with ‘Mr Kayak’ Kipper Maguire, to raise funds and awareness for LauraLynn Hospice – Irelands ONLY childrens’ hospice. If you have a few bob, please drop it into our MyCharity page here – and please pass it on….
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