I’m pretty much in the ‘lost and found’ category at the moment. When I decided to climb one of the Seven Summits, I was fighting fit and looking forward to training hard for six-months of mountain prep. The year started well, heading off to practice walking on snow and ice in Scotland in January, heading to Norway in February to play in the snow and check out my gear in some really freezing temperatures. I had a year-planner and Excel chart, all colour-coded, with gym, yoga, swimming, cycling, mountains… it was all going brilliantly and then I fell.
I cut my leg badly when I slipped on a rock, out running on Spinc in Wicklow. I got it stitched and thought I’d be back in a flash, but people wiser than me were proved right when I couldn’t really use my knee for the next 6 weeks. Even then it was a full two months before I could train properly.
In the meantime I was starting my own business which was great, but stressful and strangely lonely, because I am used to working in a big office environment and now I am based at home. They don’t tell you about that in ‘entrepreneur school!’ I was sitting at home; bored, sore, stressed and a bit scared – with a fridge sitting behind me and I’m sorry to say that I put on a couple of stone in as much time as it takes to pick up a sandwich! So with six weeks to go, I had to face loss of fitness coupled with carrying more weight.
I hope I’ve done enough. I kept practising my yoga while sitting on a chair and working out in the gym with my leg isolated from the routines, and I finally got back into the sea to start swimming again. I have worked really hard in the last month, balancing training against protecting my injured knee and losing weight. I also got a huge amount of help and advice from friends, colleagues and online through Facebook and Twitter. Not to mention Tony Nation from Pat Falvey Irish & Worldwide Adventures – who literally ‘walked the legs off me’ over the gorgeous Galtee Mountains in the last few weeks.
I’ve lost a stone, but I’m still overweight for my height. Training after an injury was a difficult dilemma to find myself in, with a whole range of advice, which came down to the same thing: “be patient and don’t overdo it”. It was deeply frustrating, and again, I hope I’ve done enough. I just do not know if there is enough in the tank to get me up that cold, icy, incline that will bring me to the top of Europe. I’ve lost fitness, my size 14 shape, and a bit of confidence. I’ve found friends, knowledge, insight, technique, and a new business.
The countdown is almost over. We fly from Dublin to London on Thursday, then fly to Moscow – and the big adventure kicks off on July 11th. I’ll be blogging whenever I have signal and power and I have a friend who has agreed to pass on messages if I don’t get to update Facebook or Twitter for a few days. I’ll report in full by July 25th.
This is the last time I am going to be thinking about fears or failure. Like Pandora’s box, I know I need to put doubt back under cover and lock down the lid. I am as good as I can be and that’s as good as it gets. I am off to climb Elbrus…. x
Allan Dixon is the last Irishman standing, in a race for the best job in the world (Outback Adventurer, Australia).
He’s made the shortlist and he’s got Mark Pollock and Bear Grylls behind him; but I’m not sure… so I’ve issued him a challenge to bring me hiking ‘off trail’ in the Dublin/Wicklow mountains this weekend.
If he doesn’t lose me – he has my recommendation for @TourismAus. If I come back in one piece… will you support him too?
Check out Allan Dixon on Facebook, and @daxon on Twitter.
It was a grey, misty start to my first trip to Greystones – but I didn’t mind, I was buzzing with excitement. I was joining the six participants of Setanta TV and Athena Media’s new programme ‘Get Off The Couch’ for a Triathlon Training session with fitness guru Eamon Tilley, followed by swim-coaching with Channel Swimmer and ‘ICEMAN’, Fergal Somerville. This was the first day of a two-day ‘festival of fitness’ for us, with our first GOTC hill-walk together planned for the Wicklow mountains on Sunday with John and Frank at Wilderness Tours.
We’ve only been filming for a few weeks, but already there’s a huge bond forming among the six participants of the show which follows their journey from Couch to 5k – and perhaps a lot further. If you don’t believe in magic, watch ‘Get Off The Couch’ this Autumn and I’ll guarantee you’ll change your mind. The growing confidence, the physical achievements, the dedication and discipline, the healthy bodies and healthy minds, growing stronger every day before my eyes. I’m already stunned by the power of the great outdoors as a life-changer and worker of miracles.
On a cold, wet and misty Greystones morning, the group’s enthusiasm was warming my heart… and if any of us held any doubts about what we were doing, a true sparkle of gold lit up the morning when our stunning Olympic champion Katie Taylor put her own training session on hold to come over to us on the track and wish us well. That young woman inspires in so many ways and every one of us visibly glowed after meeting her, the rain disappeared and the sun shone in our hearts as our souls soared with a growing belief in ourselves and our team. As Katie says, to achieve your goal you’ve got to “plan for success and then do the work to get the job done”. Easy isn’t it. 😉
Recently the good folk over at Run Kildare asked me to pen a guest-blog on preparations for this year’s event on the plains of Kildare…it just happened that they got in touch as I started the new ‘couch to 5k’ project over at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip. So I had plenty to write about….
I sit in the car with the engine running, the heater fan on ‘full’ and I shiver as I peer out through the foggy windscreen into the dark of the night beyond. It’s 7.50pm and in ten minutes I must head off into the cold and make my way to the club house, or rev the engine and spin wheels in the direction of home. I don’t have the words to tell you how much I want to head for home…
Half an hour later, I’m dragging off my windbreaker and wiping a bead of sweat from my brow as I turn to jog back to the clubhouse. I’m certainly warm now; in fact I’m glowing and grinning from ear to ear. I have company too… There are 30 of us ‘newbies’ out on the road – giving it sox on night one of the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip. I’ve signed up for the next 10 weeks because I’m on a mission; I’ve promised the folks at Run Kildare that I’ll join them again this year.
I’m starting from scratch because I’ve been sick and it’s amazing what a difference sitting at home for 6 weeks can do to a body. My chest heaves and I wonder how 90 secs could ever last so long. 4, 3, 2, 1… the final seconds drag past and we can walk again. That’s the routine for now, run and walk, run and walk, and it’s hard – but it’s very ‘doable’. I have a mental advantage too, because I know how to do this. I’ve done it before. I’ve been 23 stone and I’ve learned how to walk, then to trot, then to run, to climb a mountain, to paddle a kayak, to ride a bike and to live. If I can get fit, anyone can – and if I can get fit twice there’s hope for us all.
The passion and support of other people has helped me to get out there and get active over the past couple of years, and my previously undiscovered love of the outdoors and adventure has brought me all the way to Everest Base Camp, The Alps, and most recently a tri-adventure challenge that saw me climbing an extinct volcano and cycling hundreds of kilometres across Africa to kayak in the Nile. It’s a message in turn that I’m passionate to pass on. The outdoors is for us all, and all you need to do is open the door and walk out into it. It’s waiting for you, and there are so many clubs and organisations that will give you advice and support along the way. Sport is not just for the sporty!
“Get Off The Couch” is a new TV programme that I’m presenting this year, which is built entirely around that message. Screening on Setanta TV this autumn, Athena Media’s GOTC follows the adventures of six participants doing just that, getting off the couch and getting active and healthy. It’s a great team and you can already check them out on Facebook or Twitter (#GetOffTheCouch), or on the programme’s website. You can get involved too and offer us support as we all support each other through a whole range of activities from running and walking to climbing mountains, swimming in the sea and kayaking on the Liffey.
I’m looking longingly at the heels of the other runners as they head off towards the hill-run that we face on the way home. I thought I’d have a gentle night tonight, it being the first session. But the eagle eyes of Irish Ultra Runner John O Regan spotted me walking out; and coaching us for the night, he snaked in like a collie after a herd of sheep, nipping a few of us out of the pack, and putting us through some slightly harder paces. I’m huffing and puffing, but I’m laughing to myself to. It’s a quiet, internal sort of laugh, because I don’t have the breath to laugh out loud. It’s just that he spotted me dossing and he was right, because I’m keeping up with the new pace, even though I didn’t think I could.
Last year I was afflicted with ‘dodgy knees’ but I made it to Run Kildare and thanks to advice and tips from the same John O’Regan on the day, I not only finished, but I enjoyed every second of the run. I’m looking forward to the winds of the Curragh in my face again. Le Cheile’s Couch to 5K will definitely do its job, and I know that if I can run 5k, I can run 8k, and I can make it around the 10k at this years ‘Run Kildare’ on May 12th.
I’ve promised I’ll make it and I’m determined to be there. Those beautiful plains that are normally the reserve of racehorses will open up to us runners this summer, and that’s an opportunity not to be missed. There are three races; a marathon, half marathon and my 10k. So dust off your runners, and ignore the biting cold of these dark winter evenings. Spring is coming and your playground awaits. Open your -door, step out and join me….. c’mon –‘Get Off The Couch’
Well it’s been an interesting few years. In 2009 I was 23 stone and dangerously ill. By 2010 I was heading to Everest Base Camp to raise money for kids in India, after losing half my own body weight. A year later I was climbing Grand Paradiso in the Alps for Chernobyl kids, and this year (2012) I took part in the first charity multi-adventure challenge in Uganda for the Irish charity Concern, climbing a volcano at altitude before cycling 200k to the Nile where the team took turns in kayaking down a grade 3 rapid. I kept a training blog here for my African Adventure, and now I’m back in training for a whole new challenge.
Throughout these adventures I learned to love our beautiful mountains and stunning seas, and to forge an ever-growing respect for our bodies, which can do so much more than our minds believe.
In 2013 I want you to come with me.
I’m inviting those of you who secretly dream of being adventurous to leave the TV remote behind, and come out to explore the great outdoors. I know how scary that can be, but I want to share how wonderful it is to break down those walls and find the inner you, the inner explorer. So if you’re looking for a life-changing New Year resolution – come and join me – and “Get Off The Couch”.
Updates from the Uganda Challenge…
My big brother Raymond knows how to fly – a real-life pilot. He did some gliding too and once when I was a little girl, he talked to me about turbulence. He explained it was like driving a car fast along a bumpy bog road. Even though you bounce up and down, you’re not going anywhere, just bumping up and down on pockets of air. I was really glad we’d had that chat, as with my eyes closed tight, my stomach lurched again, as the plane bucked and plunged, ploughing through pockets of air somewhere between Frankfurt and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia
Several hours of snatched sleep and three movies later, my climbing buddy Vera grabbed my arm excitedly to show me the dawn through the window. Such a pity I couldn’t see it from my seat! Yawning and putting the seat back up for arrivals, I stretched out cramped legs and thanked the universe for making me a shorty.
The boys looked like their knees were wrapped around their ears. Off the plane into a cold, crisp, but sunny morning. No rain here in Ethiopia, that’s waiting for us in Uganda. Two buses later, we piled out onto the Tarmac a five minute walk away from the plane we just left….and minus one member of the team.
Subsequent inquiries suggested James, or ‘Jam’ as we call him, was on a different bus. It’s been 20 minutes now and we’re still waiting for the bus to transport Jam the five-minute walk from the plane, which has now taxied away. But it’s pleasant sitting here on the runway in the early morning sun. Can’t really go much further without him really. After all, Jam’s leading the expedition….