lugnaquilla

The Photo of a Thousand Knives….  

Before and After…

If you’ve been big, like me, you probably have whole years of your life without a single photo reference.  When I was writing my book, after escaping from the prison of my 23 stone body, I had to beg for ‘big’ photos from my friends and relations to document the ‘before’.  I’d cleansed them you see, completely erased every large unflattering print of myself, to complete my denial that I was obese and getting bigger.  

The Power Within…

Lately I’ve been bouncing out of my skin with delight at my growing fitness and strength. After a dodgy winter with the weight piling back on, I’ve been back out on the wilderness trail, climbing mountains and running; working hard to reverse the damage. Finally this week, the results began to show. I felt the power building in me, my lungs burning less when I run, my calves burning less when I climb. On Friday I joined a night-hike on the Sugarloaf with the Oldtown Road IMG_9218.JPGTrailbreakers. On Saturday myself and some old mountain buddies climbed Leinster’s highest peak, Lugnaquilla, with Ronan Friel from Irish Guided Walks, surprising ourselves by finding snow at the summit. I stayed overnight in Wicklow to join the mighty JuJu Jay from ‘Mud, Sweat and Runners’ for a beginner trail run on Sunday, and accepted an invitation to go sea-swimming at the 40ft in Dublin for St Patrick’s Day.

Then came the photo of a thousand knives. Casually taken and innocently posted on Facebook, it was a photo like the photos that had haunted my past. Caught at a vulnerable moment, legs akimbo, muscles slack, crudely placed limbs facing into the camera, and worst of all, a glimpse of pain and discomfort in my eyes as my rusty old joints complained at their treatment. A horrible image that burned into my heart and soul and poked open the scars on wounds considered long healed.

Lycra or Bust…

I am often asked how I exercise when I’m heavy, if I am embarrassed, or how can I bring myself to wear Lycra or a swimsuit? Yes of course there is an element of ‘cringe’. If I am out running and kids jeer me, it hurts; but I’m usually too out of breath to answer back! Besides, the best response is to just keep running.

Juju Jay Hugz

Juju Jay Hugz

Mostly I just breathe deeply and get on with it. Knowing the freedom of being strong enough to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, is worth the effort. But occasionally there are setbacks when it all seems pointless, when I see defeat looming and feel the temptation to lie down in front of that wave of sadness and just give up. This was one of those moments. In the middle of a busy, active, fun weekend; my heart leapt and my breathing caught as I fought to keep my eyes from watering. My personal ‘pity-party’ gathered pace as looking at this horrid image, my confidence disintegrated around me. Is this how I look in my unguarded moments? A ridiculous caricature of the person I see in the mirror. Chewing on my upset, a timely call from a good friend gives me a chance to vent my sadness. Heading to bed somewhat earlier than expected, I suddenly feel tired and old and foolish.

Waking up this morning in Wicklow where my soul usually soars, I started out for my run with JuJu Jay with a stubborn reluctance in my step.  It felt pointless. ‘Fat people can’t run’ I told myself. Except a sneaky voice in my head insisted that if I ran, I’d feel better.

I got JuJu’d…

JuJu’s chirpy greeting and jokey instructions have me loosening up my joints and my mind, before I have a chance toIMG_9224.JPG bolt. Within minutes we’re running.  Beginners trotting out into the woods, at different levels and stages. When my breathing gets heavy, JuJu’s practical advice cuts through my embarrassment, and before long my head is up, my pace has slowed and I’ve found my rhythm.  Not fast, not slow, but just right. Like Goldilocks, I’ve found what works for me.

Sometimes life knocks you out of rhythm, and like trail-running up a hill through a forest, you need to tune out the confusion, focus on the stillness, give yourself a hug and learn to breathe again. Thank you for today Juju Jay, and for helping me to breathe again.

 

From Beacon to Beacon..

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. 🙂

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