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. :/
I had an enforced ‘rest’ week between my active Paddy’s Day weekend and The Easter Bank Holiday. Close family visiting, a deluge that flooded and blocked the N11 to Wicklow, a truly unseasonal avalanche warning in the snow laden Mournes and a rather nasty tummy bug, all combined to keep me off the hills and out of the gym. Then an invite came to get out on Spinc Mountain on Good Friday with Concern/Uganda buddy Vera Baker, and I decided to push all thoughts of weakness aside and ‘just do it’. I was so pleased afterwards. It was a beautiful day in Wicklow with blue skies and bright sunshine, despite snow and ice underfoot; and it really stopped me feeling miserable and sorry for myself! Vera and her mate Lisa were just starting a new round of training for their latest charity appeal in Kenya later this year, and it was good to be out with them, as they bubbled and planned, all full with the sense of a new adventure.
When invite number 2 came to join Mountain Rescue volunteer Grainne Ryan on a trek up the Galtees on Saturday, again it was hard to refuse. I was probably quite weak after my tummy bug and I decided to take the train to Thurles rather than drive; the guys agreed to pick me up and drop me back afterwards to the station, which I felt was much easier than driving when I was feeling tired. It took the pressure off a bit, but I was still feeling a little nervous. I hadn’t climbed with Grainne or her mate Kevin before, and I wasn’t sure about my hill-fitness or strength. I just hate the thought of getting in ‘over my head’ and slowing people down. It’s always about picking your pace – but it doesn’t stop me getting a bit apprehensive first time out. Grainne reassured me they weren’t planning any hill-running…and off we went!
We headed first for Galtee Beag; intending to then skim the ridge and move on up to climb Galtee More 919m (3018ft) snow, ice and wind permitting. The pace was manageable, the company good, and the scenery stunning. Again another perfect climbing day, with snow underfoot and blue skies above; made all the more special by a natural phenomenon which I hadn’t seen before. As we left lunch and Galtee Beag behind and pushed on for Galtee More, we came out of the lee and the force of the wind hit us. Pushing onwards and upwards the cold was biting and it felt like being in a wind tunnel. I was using walking poles and could actually feel the wind tearing them from me as I walked. But I walked with care, staring in amazement at each footfall. I was nearly crying as I stepped on and smashed through these lovely snow crystals on the way up. Rime, Grainne called them. It was like walking through a bed of brittle diamonds… I’d never seen that before, the delicacy of the wind-blown ice formations on the frozen bog; I felt like an elephant in a china shop…
The last few measured steep steps to the summit; then walking across the flattened top to the cross, straining against the wind, leaning forward into it at an angle and pulling my fleecy buff up around my nose and mouth to try and help me breathe through the frosty air. We scrambled down a foot or two among the rocks and suddenly the wind stopped and I realised it had been roaring in my ears. Suddenly as if someone flicked a switch, we found ourselves in stark silence as we snuggled in to sit down among the frost-sparkled rocks, like ice-thrones in a winter wonderland at the top of the world. Swiftly turned to Ice Princess – I surveyed the 360 views of Tipperary, Limerick and perhaps Cork far off in the distance, with bright sunshine cutting through the bitter cold, now sheltered from the wind and feeling so incredibly grateful to be here.
My perfect Easter weekend didn’t end on the hills. I splashed my way through large waves in Malahide in bright sunshine on Sunday morning with Fergal Somerville and the Low Rock swimmers. I’d actually turned up with a wet-suit, but I was shamed when I saw them all getting into the surf in their swimming suits, so I decided to leave it in my bag and take the plunge – literally. It was icy cold. 4 degrees apparently, but it was beautiful being bounced around by the icy waves in bright sunshine. I didn’t last long; getting through about three swells before turning around and swimming like the clappers for the shore. But as my skin burned with fire afterwards and I drank hot coffee and pinched someone’s chocolate biscuits, there was no doubting I was alive.
Monday the holiday continues and I’m still off work, so I’m hitting the gym in the morning – then meeting the ‘Get Off The Couch‘crew as the six participants in our new TV series on Setanta go through their paces on the track at the prestigious Morton Stadium with Triathlon trainer, Eamonn Tilley. It’s our second session and I’m dying to see if we’ve made any progress. Last time we were training with Eamonn, the wonderful Katie Taylor gave us a pep talk and that really fired us up. The show’s taking 6 men and women from around the country and encouraging them to get out and active in the great outdoors. After my exciting ‘holiday’ break, I’ll have plenty to talk about!
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. 😉