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….
Well an early start for the hills…. fumbling around in the dark, so that I don’t wake up my friends – in the bedroom at the Crowne Plaza where we all collapsed around 3am, after the Community Counts Fashion Show. I put on my bra, only to discover it’s Fiona’s. Ooops, sorry Fee. I put it back neatly on the floor beside your knickers. I hope you found it!
My head is not exactly healthy, although I don’t remember drinking that much wine – but perhaps that’s the problem. Down to breakfast and I bump into Vera and Andy, the hostess with the mostess, and our DJ and soundman from the night before. Cheery greetings and I grab a plate of beans and mushrooms, with a slice of black pudding, and deny myself the sausages! (I am supposed to be training after all.) It’s 8am and I’m pushing off shortly to join some of my old Mountain Rescue buddies on a mountain in Wicklow for a day’s hiking.
I’m climbing today with www.irishguidedwalks.ie and the target is ‘Lugalla’ or ‘Fancy’ Mountain. So good they named it twice. It’s a long, slog up – heading up past the old Guinness Estate and lake, then a climb along a ridge, a water crossing, and back down again to the cars. I start out on the upward climb to the ridge and I quickly realise the pace is fast, a bit too fast for me. Instead of huffing and puffing, I take off a layer of clothes, drink some water and drop back. Ronan’s a good guide and he’s going to stay with the slowest in the group, so I’m happy that I won’t find myself under ‘unreasonable’ pressure. As it happens, the fast pace killed some of the early starters and they dropped back – leaving me about 2/3rds of the way down the line by the time we reached our first summit.
I wonder if I will ever be fast? I never seem to have that pace that pulls ahead under a head of steam. Maybe that’s my short legs (I’m 5ft), or maybe I’m just not fit enough yet. But where I’m building confidence is with the conviction that I don’t generally get tired. I have a slow, but steady pace and I’ll just keep plugging along. My knees are dodgy, but I use walking poles to get me through the most difficult bits; and so far, I’ve been lucky. Everything’s held up.
The hike takes about 3.5 hours to cover just over 8-kilometres of mixed incline, at a pretty reasonable pace….a good little training walk, to keep me ticking over for that volcano we’ll be climbing in Uganda for Concern in less than a month’s time.
The sun was beaming, all traces of the night before evaporated quickly, and it was good to be back on a hill with friends. A girl finds a lot of answers on a mountain, and tripping over the heather was just what this girl needed this weekend! 🙂
I’ve been concentrating on weight-lifting and kayaking lately, mostly kayaking…. because I was training to get my level 2 kayak Cert. Well I got it last Thursday and that’s great. But the problem I’m facing now, is that I’ve got my first triathlon on Saturday and I suddenly feel very unprepared.
There’s no way I can train effectively for a triathlon in one week, so I’ll just have to hope that my existing fitness levels get me through. It’s a ‘baby-tri’ though, so hopefully I’ll get away with it, although it’s not the ideal way to prepare!
I’ve got to start with a 250 metre swim in the River Nore in Kilkenny, followed by 14k on the bike and ending with a 3.5k run.
The whole idea of the ‘Choose to Tri’ triathlon in Kilkenny next weekend, is to help raise awareness of the importance of exercise in fighting cancer. There’s a full triathlon taking place at the same time, but there’s a ‘beginners’ level race over shorter distances, for people like me who just want to ‘have a go’… It’s organised by a new charity which is trying to get the message across that exercise can help prevent and fight cancer. You can find out more here: http://www.choosetotri.com/
July 3rd 2012
But look – I’ve got a problem; the carrier’s bust on my lovely new lean, mean, fighting machine… and I don’t think it’s just a nut I need. I tried doing things with screws and screwdrivers, but can’t seem to find the right hole. Have a suspicion that the existing screw has shorn off. Hmmmm. Gonna have to find a bike-doctor, and I really don’t have time… I hope I’ll be able to cycle in with this tomorrow… and is that rust on the chain? couldn’t be, they don’t rust, do they?
David Dunne is my personal trainer at Ben Dunne Gym – no relation! He first came to my aid when I was training for Everest and he’s been helping me ever since. I probably know how to put together a decent weights programme on my own by now, but it’s great to have access to Dave’s knowledge, and I think walking in to an ‘unpredictable’ workout planned by someone else, helps keep my muscles and mind active. But the downside is that there’s no gain without pain – and this evening, he inflicted it in bagloads… whew. One thing is certain; I’ll sleep well tonight!