This time last year a very good friend of mine and fellow ‘weight warrior’ completed a one-kilometre Reindeer Walk for the RNLI and kick started a life-changing year, in which her 50th birthday suit featured greatly and frequently! Get ready to raise your glass to my guest blogger -a lady who truly does ‘Dream, Dare and Do’ – Averil Larke.
Two days to go until the end of 2014 and I’m Continue reading
It’s our second day on the hills and I already know I’ve made new friends that will share plenty more adventures. What a bunch of super characters we’ve brought together in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountain and the soft, moist breezes from the Mediterranean Sea. We start with Continue reading
I’ve just had my 4th swimming lesson with Karl McEntegart at DCU and I really feel I’m making progress. In fact it’s not just a feeling – I can clearly see the difference – from 63 mins in the water for my 1st sea race in July, to 36 mins for my 4th race a month later!
I don’t remember not being able to swim. Like walking, it’s just something I always remember doing. My mum used to tell me that my dad left me sitting on a rock at the beach in Tramore and the tide came in and knocked me off. I don’t know if that’s true, but she claimed I was a toddler at the time, and I doggy paddled back to the shore before anyone could reach me. I love the mermaid feel to the story, so I’m going to claim it and refuse to forensically examine it too closely!
You’d imagine with my ‘mermaid-style’ start to life, that I’d be a strong swimmer. Well I’m not. I’m a comfortable swimmer. I have never struggled in water, never felt tired or sore while swimming, never felt afraid. In fact, when I was 23 stone, being in the water was a very happy place for me. I could hide my body under the surface of the waves and imagine I was beautiful. That mermaid thing again…
Have I Made A Huge Mistake?
It wasn’t until I tried my 1st sea-race this July that I realised how far out of my depth I really was. Struggling to breathe as the waves slapped me in the face, I really began to think I’d made a huge mistake. Everyone else was out of the water and gone home, all but the last of the big orange marker buoys had been taken out of the water, and to my embarrassment I was now on 1st name terms with the rescue boat, who kept asking if I needed a lift! They were probably hoping I’d give up, call it a day, and let everyone go home to their tea… I realised afterwards that race means, well, race! I had never swam against a clock before, never attempted to be fast before. I would happily swim all day, but I wasn’t actually going anywhere. Throw a choppy sea and a turning tide into the mix and you begin to see why I was twice the length of time in the water than the svelte creatures who had flown past me at the first marker.
I realised I had work to do and that was when I started my pool lessons with Karl. He is brilliant at correcting my technique without overwhelming me, and I go away enthusiastically anxious to try out each new trick. Joining the Eastern Bay Swimming Club pool nights has also been a revelation. An hour of swimming lengths against the clock. It’s tough and it’s slightly soul destroying because I’m at least a length behind everyone else in my lane. But I know the only way I can shorten that distance is to keep going.
Each of my 4 sea races have been an education too. Dealing with tides and currents, wind, cold and the dreaded jellyfish. It’s been a tough year to get involved with sea racing. It’s been really stormy, there have been water quality issues, and there have been a staggering amount of jellyfish, including the big bad boy sort, that you hear warnings about on the radio.
Will Curiosity Kill The Cat?
So why this year? Why keep pushing so hard? If I’m honest, it’s because I had a dream. I’ve always been fascinated with Dublin’s iconic
annual river race – the Liffey Swim. While doing ‘kayak rescue cover’ for the swimmers last year I had a sneaky curiosity about whether I would ever be able to swim it too. I swam in the sea all last winter with Eastern Bay, but I was staying close to shore and not pushing any distance. Then I came back to Dublin in July after climbing Elbrus and the thought of having a go at the Liffey just refused to go away.
Which brings me to today’s lesson. After race one, I didn’t think I’d have a chance. You need to complete 4 open-sea races to even qualify to join the starting line for the Liffey Swim. Well I’ve done that. Somewhat to my own surprise, I have my races in. I could have given up at race one, but I didn’t,
and it’s a lesson on the value of just staying on in there. I’m still slow, but I’m not as slow as I was, and I’m improving all the time.
Today I drove over to Dublin 4 to hand-deliver my entry form for the Liffey Swim. I’ve worked so hard to complete those qualifying races that I was afraid to trust the form to
the post. The funny thing is, I bumped into the postman along the way and he had a bunch of
envelopes that were clearly other forms headed for the same address. We ended up having a fine chat about sea swimming, the Liffey Swim, and me apologising for my unwarranted lack of faith in the postal system. Nice bloke and only in Ireland…
So now the race is on.
I’m not racing against the other swimmers – I’m racing against myself. The Liffey Swim on September 13th is 2,500 metres against the tide. That’s 1,000 metres more than I’ve swum so far, and there’s a one-hour cut off. I have qualified to enter, but I still have a lot of work to do to complete the swim within the given time.
I have two weeks, I have Karl, I have Eastern Bay and I have a stubborn desire to be a mermaid.
Wish me luck…
I was so angry with myself this week
In November and December last year, I ate my way through the stress of starting up a new business (www.teenagates.com), I ate my way through the sadness of saying goodbye to old colleagues, and I ate my way through the celebration of spending Christmas with my family and the excitement of my new start. Happiness or sadness, I turned to food. Result? I put on TWENTY pounds in two months (over 9kilograms).
It wasn’t really about being lazy or inactive either. I was tearing around the place and doing lots of cycling and swimming; although I probably wasn’t putting as much effort into it as I usually would. Looking back at the last few months, it was definitely food that was the problem. I easily returned to my old 23-stone lifestyle of skipping breakfast, not bothering to plan my day’s food, grabbing a roll at lunch, eating out, trying to starve for a couple of hours as guilt set in, and then caving into food cravings and ordering a take-away just before bed – the worse time of the day to be eating.
Amazingly I didn’t notice the weight-gain for a while. It’s incredible how easy it is to slip back into denial. I noticed a couple of tops and dresses getting tighter, but thought they’d shrunk in the wash!
It wasn’t until I went kayaking before Christmas and had to get my mate Fiona to prise me into my buoyancy aid, that I noticed something was wrong. Even then, I stayed off the scales for a couple of weeks, telling myself I’d get the weight off first before taking the acid test. How dumb is that? Of course that didn’t happen, and I didn’t brave the scales until December 28th to measure the shocking extent of the damage done. I reached that point once before, on my way to morbid obesity. Back then I put my head down, right into a chicken snackbox and munched my way to oblivion. At least this time I’m facing the truth.
I’ve reintroduced the word ‘diet’ into my vocabulary.
In today’s world, it’s not polite to say ‘diet’ and it’s virtually unforgivable to say ‘fat’. But for me, I need to face both words and deal with them. The alternative is to slip back into the void that leads to obesity, depression, diabetes, fatty liver, high cholesterol, heart disease, increased risk of cancer and stroke, and inevitably, if I don’t put the brakes on, death. Being badly overweight really is that serious. I’ve been there before, I’ve faced death in the face and walked away from it, taking a different road that brought me to a whole new journey of adventure of discovery, and I’m not giving that up. I’m not giving up my mountains either, and the particularly large one that I plan to climb later this year… (Mount Elbrus in Russia with Irish Adventurer Pat Falvey of ‘The Summit’ film and book.)
The anger came when I went back running with my athletic club. In 2013 I started the Le Chéile ‘Couch to 5K’ programme and went on to run 10k and take part in adventure races in Wicklow and Killarney. Now here I was on a dark, rainy, winter night – back where I started – huffing and puffing over my boobs, as I heaved my way around the track, gasping for breath and limping over my sore knees. There was embarrassment too, as everyone else streaked ahead of me. I hated every second of it. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that next week will be easier, and the week after will be easier still. Not easy, just easier!
I was angry too over all my pretty dresses. It is not the washing machine that is to blame, I just don’t fit into a size 12 anymore, and no matter how I rant at the designers, it’s not their fault. I used to fit into dresses that I don’t fit into now. How the heck did that happen? Subconsciously I must have been grabbing the stretchy, looser stuff, without noticing what was happening to my waistline.
No more denial. I’ve bagged up all my pretty dresses and tailored suits and stashed them up in the attic until I’m fit to wear them again. In the meantime, I’m looking at empty hangers as a reminder of where I want to be – and I am NOT buying new, bigger clothes. So apologies in advance if I turn up at your event in running pants!
Since January 1st I have been eating well. Porridge, chicken, eggs, brown rice, brown pasta, a little olive and coconut oil, some oily fish, nuts, fruit and lots of vegetables and salad. I have also been drinking at least 2 litres of water each day. Most importantly, I am facing up to the fact that I need to eat slightly less than my body requires, because I have a storehouse of energy stored around my belly that needs to be unleashed! That means I don’t give in to cravings, and sometimes it’s ok to feel a little hungry.
I’m back in the gym, back on the hill, swimming, cycling, and hiking to my heart’s content. I’m back running with Parkrun on Saturdays, I’ve rejoined Le Chéile AC, and I’ve joined up with a global event on Facebook to run ‘100 days of miles’ in 2014.
There are absolutely no food ‘treats’ in my diet, instead I’ve set targets with much better treats in store. I collect the first tomorrow. I promised myself that if I lost 10lb across January I’d get a mountain bike. Well I’ve lost 9lb in 9 days – so tomorrow I’m off to the Giant Bike Store to pick up my new baby; and my new baby will help improve my fitness as I work to target number two…
I’ve realised writing this, that I’m not angry with myself any more. I am determined….I’m getting back on track, healthy and fit, and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.
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.
Today I ran for 10 mins. Not much, but I haven’t been on road for months and with my dodgy knees I reckon I’m going to start doing this slowly. A year ago I could hardly walk, after mucking up my knees on a glacier, training for Mont Blanc – my doctor told me I probably wouldn’t run again… so I got myself a new consultant… and a couple of months later I finished in a not to bad time at ‘Run Kildare’ thanks to some helpful advice from Ultra Runner John O’Regan… and a course of experimental hyaluronic acid injections in my knees. I’ve just committed to ‘Run Kildare’ in 2013, so it’s time to get the knees working again!
After my run, I hit the home gym (AKA the 3 kettle bells in the conservatory) and did 20 mins with free weights.
Yesterday I had a fab 3 hours; gym, swim and sauna with a friend. That was luxurious, I don’t normally have the time to luxuriate with the nice stuff like that.
Tomorrow I’m climbing a mountain – Christmas style! Mulled wine and mince pies in a pub in Rathfarnham, walking over the mountains for 4-hours to Stepaside, and more mulled wine and mince pies at the Blue Light.
I’m determined to have fun and relax this Christmas – but I’m also determined to exercise every day. The most amazing thing is that my attitude to exercise has changed so much in the last year. I’m not looking at my resolution as a chore, I’m looking forward to it as a celebration. My body allows me to move – and man, am I enjoying that. 🙂