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….?
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. 🙂