I said from the start that I want to be one of those people who wakes up and wants to Continue reading
We deserve a medal. 8am on Saturday morning and we’re pouring ourselves out of bed and into leggings and trainers. Elaine tumbled down the steps and across the road towards where I was parked and her expression mirrored my own. I burst into giggles as I caught her eye. ‘Water’. She greets me. ‘There’s a bottle in the back’ I said. Gunning the engine as she drank deeply, I laugh out loud ‘Oh Lord, what are we like? I was so tired this morning I couldn’t even face brushing my teeth’. ‘I’ve just drunk your water’ she replies. ‘That’s ok.’ ‘No, all your water’ she adds sheepishly, as we pull out into the light, early morning, weekend, Dublin traffic.
I’m bringing Elaine along to her first ever parkrun. I’ve been preaching proudly about parkruns for the past 6 weeks, ever since we first began our #Couch2Christmas challenge to run 10k for Aware. The parkrun is such a clever idea. You register online for free, print off your barcode, and are then welcome to participate in a timed 5k run in parks all over the world, every Saturday morning at 0930. It’s all organised by volunteers and the runners are a varied mix, ranging from walkers and joggers, right up to elite athletes. I’ve dipped in and out of parkruns for a year now, according to my fitness levels and I’ve always found a warm welcome, whether I’m running or walking.
We cut down along the Grand Canal and out onto the motorway heading for Celbridge, then turn off at Junction 6, in search of Castletown House. This is a new Parkrun and I haven’t been here before, but our coach, Irish Ultra runner John O’Regan had mentioned how beautiful the trail was. Heading up the drive towards the main house, I could see he hadn’t exaggerated. The stunning Autumn weather is amplified here, where the heavy woodland sweeps down towards the river. Gloriously green fields glow emerald against the copper gold of the trees that weep drifts of brightly coloured leaves at our feet. We park in front of the big house and as we walk away from the car, I feel guilty as if I am trespassing. We pass a groundsman who salutes us with a cheery smile and I stop to talk, surprised, because I had half expected a reprimand. It is the first of many welcomes.
Down to the start and a hug from run director Sharon Ashmore who explained the course and then announced our presence to the group of assembled runners; as Elaine and me stood mortified and wishing we’d stood behind a tree!
You don’t have to win to succeed..
To be honest I didn’t feel much like a winner as I plodded on towards the river. The trail was slightly downhill which helped, but I felt every ounce of the extra weight that I’m currently carrying.
As I watched Elaine’s long legs disappearing around the bend ahead, I felt a flash of envy. Then looking down at my stumpy little tree trunks, I decided that they’d have to do, and I grinned, as I ever so slightly extended my shuffle. The sound of the river renewed my interest. I looked off to my left and considered if I could get my kayak in there, and was still pondering the silver, gurgling, eddies of the river when I got to a bridge, and took a cheerful word of guidance from a Marshal to ‘look out for surface leaves’. I didn’t exactly need to slow down… but I tore my gaze from the shiny river to concentrate on the trail. It took a bit of concentration too, because there was a hill here. Focus, breath, step. A cheery Halloween scarecrow shouted encouragement as I headed into the hill. No I wasn’t hallucinating. This was the Marshal who had believed that instruction to wear fancy dress….
As I prepared to head out into my second loop, I swung out of the way of the flying feet of finishers, coming quickly up behind me. Their 5k was over while I was less than half way through mine. They were pushing hard for good times or PB’s (personal bests). I could hear their breathing, hard and heavy; but still they took the energy and time to call out to me ‘you’re doing great, keep going’. That’s the generosity of spirit that I’ve come to expect at parkrun, and I so admire it. It still quickens my heart to hear real athletes call encouragement to this huffing, puffing, red-faced steam engine, chugging up a hill. If they can believe in me, it’s so much easier to believe in myself.
What’s 45 seconds? For me, it’s the length of a news report or soundbite, the length of time it takes to Continue reading
I’m just back from a shopping trip with new runners and leggings. Everyone knows if you Continue reading
The challenge is on. One minute I am sitting nice and cosy on the TV3 Midday panel with Elaine Crowley and the next thing I know, we have talked ourselves into running a 10k before Christmas.
As we sat, discussing the benefits of running for both your physical and mental health, Elaine had a Continue reading
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
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.
My antlers twitched and I kicked up a bunch of golden leaves, as I strolled across Marlay Park this morning for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…
It’s a special day. A friend of mine has been training hard for the 1K. It’s been a while since they did anything like this, and the amount of effort and perseverance they’ve put in for today’s one kilometre Santa Saunter, far outshines the amount of training I’ve been doing for my 5k. That brings with it two inescapable facts – I’m very proud of my friend for being here, and I’m not so sure about my own running ability later in the day!
Bumping into the organisers we share grins and congratulations as hundreds of people pour into the park, which is rapidly filling up with reindeer cladded men, women and children of all shapes, sizes and physical abilities. At this point we’ve just heard that there are over a thousand registrations. This is one of the things I love about fun runs – everyone feels welcome, and you get lots of runners, trotters and walkers who might not usually turn out for a run in the park. I’m always saying to just get out there and run; you don’t have to be an athlete to start – get active and the fitness follows. But days like this are such a wonderful encouragement for getting started. The cause is pretty special too, and one close to my heart. The RNLI save so many lives as their brave volunteer crews negotiate some of the roughest sea conditions around Europe.
I’m actually a bit nervous, because I’ve been asked to handle the warm-up for the first race and I haven’t done that before – not in public. I helped our teams warm up on the set of Setanta TV’s ‘Get Off The Couch’ – and I’ve been part of plenty of warm-ups with my own running club, LeCheile AC but I’m suddenly feel out of my comfort zone.
As I line up with my Megaphone on the grass in front of the start line, I take stock. I’m surrounded by a ‘sea’ of red-shirted reindeer – and I’m wearing furry ears and a pair of antlers. I stand for a moment looking at the front row of tiny runners, standing knee high to their parents and looking back expectantly. I glance nervously sideways at my trusty sidekick, the 6ft tall RNLI Reindeer ‘Rookie’ – and finding my voice I ask my reindeer runners to lift their left arm and wave to Santa. We raise our knees and ‘step in and out of Santa’s Sleigh’, we roll our shoulders – because it’s Santa’s favourite after carrying his magic sack with all those presents, we see how well Rookie can balance on one leg… and finish running on the spot in the ‘Santa Stampede’ before wrapping up with a round of applause for Rookie who now knows which side is right and left.
Walking over to my friends who are cracking up laughing, I sigh with relief thankful my 5 minutes of fame are over, when Niamh Stephenson from the RNLI dashes over to ask me to do it all again for the next race. Erm – judging from the comments later it appears I may have inadvertently changed warm-up tradition forever for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…..
*Disclaimer No.1 – sorry Santa if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
*Disclaimer No.2 – sorry Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
Last year wailing in despair over ‘just being brutal at running’ – I accepted the advice of amazing Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan and joined Le Chéile AC in Leixlip, to learn to run properly. I’d already been told my knees were too weak to run, but to my regret, I just wasn’t content to leave it at that! Many times I wished I had, as I moaned and grumbled my way down to the track during the dark months of late winter and early spring, until finally the complaining eased up, and the pace picked up, and I finally realised I could kick a sprint at the end of a 5k with a grin on my face. I was dangerously close to reaching that holy grail of ‘enjoying a run’.
In fairness, I didn’t slack off, but other challenges got in the way. I needed to pick up my kayaking skills for the Liffey Descent challenge that I was doing with Kayak champ Kipper Magure for the LauraLynn childrens’ hospice, and I needed to learn how to use a roadbike, after signing up for the KAR13 Killarney Adventure Race. I had a great year, but the running just got put on the back burner – until the dark evenings started creeping in again, and the urge to hit the road returned from some dark recess of my mind….
Enter ParkRun. This is an absolute gem of an idea. Parkrun is a non-profit organisation which sees volunteers running 5k’s in parks all over the world, including here in Dublin, at 0930 on a Saturday morning. You register once and get a barcode, which you can then produce to run at any of the parkruns at any of the parks, at any of the venues in Europe or the US. You get a time too…. it’s free and it’s all great fun, with mixed levels; experts and novices and a welcome for all. I registered a while ago, but yesterday was the first day I had the courage to show my face. I turned up at Grifeen Valley Parkrun and set off, crawling home a tragic 44 minutes later which is the slowest I’ve been all year – but the encouragement and enthusiasm was brilliant, and as one of my mates pointed out – I couldn’t have even finished it at a walk a couple of years ago.
The incredibly patient John O’Regan turned up on my last lap with some coaching tips. The man’s patience is astounding. I’m slightly embarrassed but enormously grateful that talented people like John can still make time to show me the ropes AGAIN.
Ok as everyone keeps telling me, you haven’t failed if you’re still trying. You know, I said that to someone about 2 years ago, and the expression keeps following me around since then.
I suppose there’s no excuse now – I’ll simply have to go ahead with the Run In The Dark for Mark now on November 13th… and I guess that means I’ll be showing my face at Le Chéile for training on Wednesday night 🙂
*Thanks for the wonderful welcome at Griffeen Valley Parkrun on Saturday – and thanks for the coffee! Check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/griffeenvalleyparkrun?hc_location=timeline
Oh my gosh – what have I done?
In 12 hours’ time I jump off O’Connell Bridge and into the Liffey! I’ve taken the leap from higher heights from that, but usually I’m attached to a rope. My poor head for heights is kicking my butt already over this one, and I haven’t even reached the bridge. For some reason the idea of stepping off into emptiness is freaking me out. Aggghhhhh….. it’s for Cystic Fibrosis though – so at least the fact that it’s such a good cause, should help stop me from running away.
It’s been such an intense couple of weeks, very busy at work and very busy with the camera crew for ‘Get Off The Couch’ the TV show that will broadcast on Setanta later this year. My gang of hardy participants have completely transformed themselves into athletes, and we all took part in their first Sprint Relay Triathlon last weekend in my hometown, Blanchardstown. They had a 750-metre pool to contend with, in our magnificent Olympic Distance pool at the National Aquatic Centre. I personally got a PB cycling the 15k – but pushed myself so hard, I could hardly walk afterwards, not to mind run the 250 metres in the transition back to rack my bike. We’re all competing in a Sprint Triathlon on June 1st, and I’ve learned my lesson – I’ll have to pace myself when I’m doing all three disciplines, so my time won’t be as good for each section, but my motivation will be to complete all three parts. So complete rather than compete will be in my mind – we’ll see how the times work out afterwards!
We’re coming to the end of filming for GOTC, but as usual, I’ve found this latest adventure is really only the beginning for something totally new. Joe, Maryanne, Cathy, Karen, Eamonn and Damien are the participants. When you watch the programme, you won’t believe how far they’ve come; not just in changing their physical fitness, but their entire lifestyles. It’s been a roller-coaster ride full of hard work, injuries, recoveries, bravery, camaraderie and craic. If these last 6 months had never made it to the screen at all, it would still have been a magnificent project to be part of, simply to see where we’ve all come from and gone to. Most important of all, I’ve made 6 new friends, which is such a heavenly gift from the world. Will everyone continue on their athletic journey? Well we’ve all discovered some sports that we liked more than others, and we’ve already made plans for getting together for sporty adventures in the future – without the cameras.
The best memories? Carrauntoohil is high up there (excuse the pun) I was hoping that people would like it, but was quite prepared for the likelihood that they wouldn’t. I’m not going to tell you who did and who didn’t – have to leave you SOMETHING to watch the programme for… lol. The Galtymores and the Mournes were both very special, running with Catherina McKiernan was extraordinary and probably life-changing for me. Running the Ballintotis 4-mile in Maryanne’s home town was incredibly memorable, including the fun and laughter before and after. Joe coming back to run alongside me on the track, training with Eamon Tilley in Greystones was pretty special, and Olympic Champion Katy Taylor coming over to help us train was extraordinary.
I’ve a feeling that Sunday’s gig will be another special moment – when Channel Swimmer Fergal Somerville takes the gang out to swim in the sea at Malahide. I’ll be doing boat-cover for that, paddling alongside in my kayak (Saffron). That brings my mind back around to tomorrow and O’Connell Bridge. It’s Fergal that’s talked me into making the ‘leap of faith’ off the bridge and into the Liffey. I walk the plank at 12-noon – but someone may need to give me a sharp push. No doubt Fergal will gladly oblige! OMG. :/