I love my body. Not in a vain, narcissistic way – but with amazement at the body’s ability to cope with everything life throws at it, and just keep on giving. This moment of introspection doesn’t follow any mad achievement or record-breaking feat. It follows a trip to the physio and the news that I’ve strained my Continue reading
My thighs hurt, my calves hurt, my shoulders hurt, my ankles hurt, my fingers hurt…. what’s wrong with me? Oh yes, I’m back from training in Kerry’s high peaks. My neck hurts too.. in fact, the only thing that doesn’t hurt is my knee – which is great news, because that’s supposed to be my weakest bit. So I’ve kept my dodgy knee safe, and worked everything else. Result.
I have 31 days left, before I head off to Russia to climb Mount Elbrus with Pat Falvey Irish & Worldwide Adventures, and after getting injured earlier this year, I’m really running out of time. I’m back in the gym, doing yoga, cycling, using weights, running and swimming – I’m doing everything I can to be fit in time. I’m fairly confident that I’m fit enough to train properly now, but I’m running out of time to get hill-fit, and every day counts. All my friends have been called into action, to give me company out on the hill. It’s all to play for, and I’m not giving up.
This is the second weekend I’ve spent in Kerry. Last weekend, Pat Falvey and Alpinist John Higgs, invited me to Carrauntoohil for a ropes and crevasse rescue course. This weekend Pat and instructor Tony Nation had me back out on the hills – this time at 2am, beating back the rain and mist to find sunrise over the Kerry Reeks, after many hours of climbing and ploughing through bog. I was piggy-backing with a gang of girls who are training for a trip to Kilimanjaro. It was tough going, and when we reached the summit of Cnoc Na Braca, all I was fit for was huddling into the rocks and feasting on a tuna-wrap, which tasted a bit like mana from heaven.
Six hours of hiking through darkness into a relentless Kerry rainstorm was enough to test the best of gear and spirits, but as we got to the top, the rain eased, a brief shimmer of sunlight emerged and the mist lifted just long enough for a few photos while we ate lunch, giving us a tantalising glimpse of the beautiful view over the Black Valley, before closing in again, shutting down, and punishing us the whole way back down the hill. Kerry can be a bit like that at times. I found going down harder than going up, and was relieved to reach the valley floor and head back to Pat’s Mountain Lodge for a full Irish cooked by the boys, which was a truly unexpected treat!
For a while I thought I’d made a mistake going out with the group. I’ve been letting my leg heal for a few months now and I was worried that perhaps the long haul over the uneven, soggy, bog, would have caused new damage. But I woke up this morning, stiff everywhere else, but ‘sound of knee’, so I’m relieved, and ready to keep stepping up the pressure.
It could have been a lot worse of course. Pat had ‘threatened me’ with his ‘Survival on Carrauntoohil Bootcamp’ to help with my fitness. I got to see how that looked when the Adrigole GAA team turned up on Saturday morning at Cronin’s Yard. The guys were faced with Pat Falvey, Tony Nation and two Military Instructors who put them through their paces. I watched as they carried ‘casualties’ across the mountain, using shovels and pick-axe to dig out channels, dragging under camouflage canopies, and struggling through icy mountain streams, as the mist and rain beat them back into the bog. Those lads were WICKED.
Parting shot from Pat as I left the lodge? “Goodbye now girl, and you know, you could try climbing a few mountains…” I guess I’m heading back to Kerry next weekend.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting St. Patrick’s Boys National School in Drumcondra to talk about the fun of getting healthy and getting active. They are wonderful lads who know lots about sport and mountains and what happens at altitude. They are great at science and geography, they know the height of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil. They are polite, enthusiastic, intelligent and very talented. They had lots of hints for me, and explained that I’ll enjoy running more if I run with a friend, and if I run as much as I can and then run a little bit more. They also told me it’s good to have a reason or a goal to run for. I’ve taken their advice and accepted their challenge to run a 10k in the Phoenix Park by the end of the Summer. They tell me that I can do it – and I believe them. The boys also had a surprise presentation for me, and performed a couple of rap songs that they had written for me, about food and healthy eating. Their work is so good that I just had to share the lyrics with you. It’s a pity I didn’t bring my GoPro camera along to video them – because they were great. Maybe next time 🙂
What does the sugar say? I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m obese.
What does the sugar say? I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m obese. x3
Carrots are good
Potatoes are too. Song
Sugar is bad
Salt will kill you!!
I wanna eat some cake
Which I’m not allowed
So let’s eat some rhubarb
Which I am allowed
We’ll go into the kitchen Rap
And take out all the junk
Get a bit of rhubarb
Add some cheese
Go into the sitting-room
And eat with ease.
Every night at tea-time
I eat bread
It is brown
Then I add some flora
Not butter song to the tune of Titanic
It is bad.
Sometimes I have white bread
But it’s full of sugar
And salt and faaat.
I live with an apple beside my bed
I can’t get this junk food out of my head. Tune of ‘Monster’
I’m going for runs but I keep losing my breath.
I’m trying to get fit, I’m to get fit, because I care.
Heyyyyy brother, there’s a KFC around the corner
OOOOhhhh we can share a mighty bucket for 2 Tune of ‘Brother’ Avicii
Then there’s nothing in this World we couldn’t do.
Put your hands in the air if you don’t care
Eat KFC and squash your chair (Tune of ‘Put your hands in the air’)
Do a dance, do a dance
Lose your breath AHHHH!!!
It’s a little bit spicy
And a little bit hot
I might need another penny to get a cookie
But then I realised you had a cookie so I ate it instead.
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I ate you cookie
But it tastes so wonderful that it’s in my belly.
Now I quit junk food I put it in the thrash
I feel a lot healthier that I’m not eating hash-browns
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I threw out your cookie
But it looked so tempting I couldn’t control me.
We came, we ate, we did not wait
For our calories to burn
Don’t you ever say that I’m overweight
I will always crush you.
I’m the same size as a wrecking ball
I’ve never been so fat before
All I ever ate is KFC
I pretty own the company.
Someone told me about broccoli
I finally can see my knees
And I’ll be as fit as Muhammad Ali.
I have low cholesterol
I can now run to Donegal
I can now get up when I fall
I can now kick a ball.
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.
Around this time last year I took my brand new bike on the road and I blogged about how slow I was, how it took an hour and a half to get into work, how I was overtaken by an octogenerian riding a rusty Raleigh, and how I expected to be overtaken by a mum pushing a pram!
Today I felt just like that again. I huffed and I puffed as I slogged into work against the wind – and the rain caught me just before I reached the quays. As my mind drifted, I suddenly realised I was headed for my old radio building near the mouth of the Liffey, and not our new offices near Stephen’s Green. Cursing into my soggy buff, I swung around against the traffic, trying to figure out how I’d just managed to put another 10 minutes on my journey. Later, after finishing work for the weekend, I growled again, when a perfectly dry and bright day disappeared into a snarling storm just as I pushed my trusty steed out into the evening rush-hour.
As I heaved against the uphill homeward haul through the Phoenix Park, I reminded myself that I’ve been here before, and today doesn’t feel quite as bad as yesterday, and Monday won’t feel quite as bad as today. I’ll get there.
The rain eased and so did my mood. I didn’t even curse when my chain jammed as I switched down gears on Castleknock Hill. So nice of the Prince Charming who came to rescue me. The poor chap abandoned his own bike to help me in the fading light, and when he failed to free the pesky mechanism, he left with good advice to bring it to the experts, and try using oil in future! He was right of course, as I looked at my once shiny chain looking sadly back at me – but you know that female thing, where you just can’t give up and you just have to have one more bash… 5 minutes later I’m cycling down the hill at Castleknock with a sneaky, self satisfied grin.
Apart from showing off my technical expertise with a jammed chain and a handy rock, I’ve just remembered another reason why I keep on doing this. In the dark hours this morning, just before the rain got me. I pedalled out of my estate, gazing in disbelief at the frosty brightness of the moon and stars; and as I headed towards the park my arrival was heralded by the dawn chorus. The birdsong swept out of the darkness with it’s cheerful embrace, the first time I’d heard them singing this year.
Early morning commuters may not have noticed it as they drove into town or listened to their iPod on the bus or Dart – but today, February 1st, Spring arrived in Dublin – and I was there…. 🙂
Day two at Malahide. A solo swim with ‘Chanimal’ Fergal Somerville, my long-distance swimmer angel who’s taken me under his considerable wing, to give me tips on how to make a 750m open water swim in Roscommon this Sunday – in 30 minutes.
You’ll know from yesterday’s training blog that the pressure is on with a vengeance. I agreed to do the ‘swim’ section of a relay triathlon in Lough Key Forest Park, but didn’t realise until last week that there was a disqualification time; which means I’m now at risk of getting my whole team chucked out, if I don’t get my speed up! *gulp*
Tonight we arrived at Middle Rock beach in Malahide as the tide was ‘filling’ or ‘coming in’. There were no other swimmers and despite the sunny evening, I shivered at the thought of getting into the cold water. I’ve dipped into the sea a couple of times now, but that first couple of minutes when I’m getting used to the cold, still doesn’t seem to be getting any easier!
As soon as I stopped gasping for breath, I reached out and pulled off in the direction of High Rock, the plan being to swim for 30 minutes again tonight, but try and cover a bit more ground. I was anxious to try out some tips that my friends on FB had been suggesting over the past 24 hours. I shortened my breathing periods, breathing on every fourth stroke instead of every 6th. I pushed my legs deeper into the water and tried to avoid losing energy by letting them splash, and I continued with Fergal’s advice and made long, steady strokes, concentrating on making my arms enter and leave the water cleanly.
I got into a really fast rhythm and swam and swam, until Fergal swam up for a check and chat again and told me I’d been swimming 10 minutes. I felt amazing, I felt I was flying tonight. I looked up and looked around in anticipation. I reckoned I had gone way past High Rock and was on my way to the next point, the Tower. I looked hard, searching out recognisable landmarks, trying to make my eyes cut through the setting sun to make sense of the dark silhouette of the shore. I pulled my goggles off in amazement. I was nowhere close! I had got twice this distance in the same time last night. I wasn’t gutted, but I was a bit browned off. Was I tired, were the different strokes slowing me down? How could I have felt so fast and swam so short a distance. After a quick chat with Fergal I decided I wanted to keep going – so we ended up swimming out for 20 minutes. I actually made it past High Rock and halfway to the tower before deciding to turn back – prepared for another 20 minute swim back. That would give me a swim of 40 mins instead of 30, so even if I’d missed out on speed, it would help my fitness and endurance, and that can’t hurt on Sunday.
We turned, and the sun sparkled on the drops running down my arm as I stretched out and swam back into the dying gold of the day. I kept my head out of the water for a couple of minutes as I swam. I didn’t feel tired. I wasn’t scared about the 20 minute return trip, and I took a few moments to simply enjoy the swim and the sea and the low flying birds that seemed to skate along the surface of the surrounding sea. Head down I pushed on again and 10 minutes later, I got a tap on the shoulder from a laughing Fergal. We were back at Middle Rock. 20-minutes to swim out and just 10 to get back. He explained we’d had a tougher current than we thought running against us on the trip out, and it helped us on the return. I ended up doing a slightly longer swim than last night, in about the same time. And that folks, means I probably did the 750m in 30 mins!!! Okay, difficult to judge what role the tides played, and I’ll have to wear a wetsuit under the rules on Sunday, which might either help or hinder me…but mentally – I feel more confident. I think I can do it. I’m not convinced I will – but I’m confident that I can.
Now all I can do is continue to train gently up to about Friday and have a rest day on Saturday and then give it sox on Sunday. Fingers and fins crossed! lol… and if you have any more tips for me, feel free to add a comment down below.