The alarm sounds at 0600 and I’m fresh out of my bed and off to make my porridge. It’s day one of my sásta bootcamp and I’m holding the tiniest paper sachet of oatmeal I’ve ever seen, but I’m determined to follow the rules. I’m here for a week and I want to see how my fitness levels improve and whether I lose weight when someone else is calling the shots. We’re training at 0800 and I need to have breakfast finished an hour before, to get the best value from all that carbohydrate. Looking around the kitchen I can’t see a microwave so I drag out a saucepan, and turn on the electric hob. I am used to gas, and the dull grey rings look uninspiring. Bored already, I add some water to the pot and leave the porridge to get on with it while I head for the shower. Twenty minutes later, I’m dressed for the gym and heading for the door – picking flakes of burned porridge from between my teeth as Continue reading
I’ve been on holiday, but I haven’t stopped being active and having fun.
I’m just back from Torremolinas in Spain, where I took my dad to celebrate his 88th birthday. We stayed in the Sol Aloah Puerto 4-star hotel with a deal from Clickandgo.com travel – and I’ve got to say we had a ball. it wasn’t a freebie or a sponsorship or anything, so I’ve no avaricious reason to promote or advertise the travel company or the hotel, other than to say how brilliant they were and how fantastic they were in tailoring the trip to myself and dad. They really delivered and I think that’s worth a shout-out. Thanks lads.
The hotel is situated right on the beach between two Irish bars, walking distance from the Marina, with plenty of shops and restaurants nearby, and the sea-front promenade that comes alive at night with a magical display of impromptu music, traders and entertainers. During the day we soaked up the sun, ate too much, enjoyed happy hour and spent ages in the sea Although the Med hadn’t quite warmed up to Summer temperatures, it was certainly warmer than my Sunday swims in Malahide. During the trip, Dad came kayaking with me, and body boarding and sailing – which is all pretty impressive, given the fact that he doesn’t swim!
The snorkelling was going well too, until the mouthpiece snagged in his false teeth….
Joking aside, what a fantastic spirit my dad has, and what an inspiration. Every day he shows me how life is a dream come true – you just have to wake up and live the dream. I’ve got 40 years of fun ahead of me, to get to where my dad is now, and he’s still open to new adventures. I just can’t wait until tomorrow to see what we both do next. xxx
Well it’s taken over 2 weeks to get myself back on the bike. I wimped out one morning during that heavy rain we had, and the bike’s been sitting forlorn and mud-caked in the hallway ever since.
I tried to cycle into work on Monday, but couldn’t bring myself to start off the week that way. I tried to cycle into work yesterday, but listened to the voices in my head telling me I was too tired (after a good night’s sleep too!)… Then finally this morning, when the alarm went off at 6am, I grudgingly dragged myself away from my pillow, struggled into my padded lycra shorts suit (this so wasn’t designed for my body) and after finding every reason not to leave the house, I eventually edged my silver dream machine (Les bike) out the hall door.
It was damned cold this morning, and I realised that as I wheeled off down the end of my cul-de-sac, my nose was already weeping, and my ears were cut to shreds with the breeze. I grumbled for the next 5 mins or so, and then I suddenly realised that I was in top gear, flying like the wind, and absolutely loving the freedom of whizzing down the road into the dark morning.
There’s a lesson here. I avoided cycling for 2 whole weeks and convinced myself I hated it. I don’t. I love it. I loved cycling in this morning, I felt really good and strong – and I got into work in 45 minutes flat – without pushing the pace. As it turns out, I hadn’t lost a minute on my time for the 15k cycle. I’m thrilled – and I’m back.
It’s 6 weeks now, to my Concern/Uganda challenge; and the training is stepping up in earnest for myself and my WeightWatchers’ buddy Vera Baker. We’re off to Kerry and Limerick this weekend to climb and hike. Personally, the plan from here on in, is an hour of heavy-lifting in the gym twice a week. Cycling the 30k round trip into work 5 days a week. At least one swim at the weekend, and as much kayaking and climbing as we can fit in, between now and the off-date.
I’ve also started my injections and have Hep A and the first of THREE Rabies shots done. They warned me it would hurt – it didn’t. Hope that continues, and I hope I don’t start howling at the full moon…. wuff wuff folks…
So the challenge was to climb the beautiful but often brooding Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain at 1.039Mtrs/3,123Ft. But in fact, my climbing and Concern/Uganda buddy, Vera Baker and I were to summit two of the highest peaks in Ireland, in just one day.
Along with a group of close to 60 walkers we approached this weekend’s Concern training walk with a certain amount of trepidation. Both Vera and myself were aware that we were a little deficient in training times for this big climb. It wasn’t due to any laziness or lack of organisation on our part, but we had needed to devote time to learning to Kayak and building up miles on the bikes for our multi-challenge adventure in Uganda for Concern this November, and getting out on the hills had suffered as a result.
Today we would find out exactly how much work we had to do. The route chosen for the climb is considered to be one of the easier, or at least ‘safest’ ascents to Carrauntoohil. We were staying on a completely different side of the mountain to the much talked about ‘Ladder’ route, which was badly eroded, and had been turned into a virtual river of mud and rock in the recent rains. With such a large group, a solid route was vital.
This was Vera’s first attempt at Carrauntoohil, and though I am a familiar visitor here, this approach from the West side of the mountain, was a first for me too. We drove up in pouring rain, resigned to a long, wet and misty hike – well wrapped up for the weather and determined to enjoy ourselves despite the wet and damp and the lack of views. Our walk began by following The Hydro Road, presumably named for the resevoir that we shortly passed by, and after a while we realised that the heavy rain had been replaced my a light mist. I joked to Vera that my iPhone App which had defiantly been declaring sun all morning, might in fact be right. I didn’t for a moment believe my own humour, as the long range forecast had confirmed the rain was down for the day.
After an initial sharp climb on road, we made our way for close to an hour across steaming bog and took a break and food, before bracing ourselves for the sharp ascent to summit Caher Mountain, we were about 45 mins away from the top of Ireland’s second highest peak at (1001 m/3000 ft). Reaching the Summit and congratulating Vera, we discovered we needed to wait on top for the group to catch up, I hurriedly fleeced up as the gusting wind whipped around my gortex shell, chilling me extremely quickly.
Caher Ridge was the next challenge. The spiny, winding, dinosaur tail that stretched beyond into the wildness of the Kerry landscape before sweeping up to our most majestic peak – our final destination – Carrauntoohil. Stepping down the exposed narrow descent from Caher Mountain to the ridge was not for the faint hearted, with severe drops falling away to our left. However the mist which had spoiled our views up to now, proved to be our friend – masking the depth of the fall on either side, and allowing those with a less than even head for heights (me) to make our way through, in blissful ignorance of what lay below. Although I’d been in these hills long enough to know instinctively that careful footwork was a wise precaution! As we gained the more level passage of the ridge itself the wind magically gusted the mist away and we grasped an emerald flash of green – swept away in seconds, before other climbers just seconds behind us, had a chance to raise their heads. This ‘peek-a-boo’ through the mist continued as we made our way along the ridge, gasps of amazement, foiled by almost instant sighs of regret as the views disappeared – cloaked again by the cloud, as it played out its burlesque peep-show for the climbers making their way to the summit.
And then we were there. We’d been speeding up for the last 15 mins with the huge iron cross that marks the highest peak in Ireland ever-present as conditions continued to clear, drawing us closer to it, faster and more confident. We’re laughing and congratulating each other, as our group of 40 climbers pass through a descending group of around 20, as we embrace the summit in bright sunshine, with superb views in all directions. I’ve been up here often enough to know how lucky we were to see conditions clear like this, and I congratulated Vera on her first, highly successful Carrauntoohil summit.
Lunch with Vera has to get a mention here – this is the only time I’ve had a multi-grain salad with a chocolate mousse on top of this mountain – and Vera can take care of the lunches for ever into the future! We were the envy of the mountain, and I apologise to all those who salivated at our fare! Food played a huge role in our climb. There was more stopping and more eating than I’m used to – because of the size of the group and the need to keep us all together. I found it difficult, because I’m used to plodding off and up and getting there, without breaks – and I found that halting my progress and getting cold was more difficult for me. But I’d never climbed in a group this large, and I learned a lot about managing a large number of people in uncertain territory. The leaders were skilled, confident and cheerful, and I’m hugely impressed at how they kept us all moving as one. We made it up in 4hrs 15 and heading back across the ridge the way we had come, it was close to the same to come down.
8hrs is a long time on the mountain, but apart from a few stiff ankles and general tiredness, we were in pretty good condition. It was a good day, we tested ourselves well, and we learned a lot. Not least, we learned that we haven’t done nearly enough to prepare us for climbing the extinct Volcano, Mount Elgon, in Uganda this November. So it’s back to the hills and back to our lovely Spink Mountain in Glendalough to step up the hiking part of our training regime. We’ve got about 6 weeks left. It’s enough. Perhaps we’ll see you out on the hills this weekend?…
My ‘Happy Feet’ relay team for the Lough Key triathlon was waiting for me at registration when I turned up, shoulders shrugged high, to stop the torrential rain running down my neck, realising the futility of keeping dry – when I was just about to jump in a lake!
As I walked up to the girls, I couldn’t help gawping at the big yellow markers on the water, that were clearly marking the swim. To my eye, the markers seemed far too distant from the shore; surely they’d made a mistake? It looked so much further than I thought 740metres would look like. There were shrieks and hugs as we met up and shared training disaster stories from the past week; but all the time I felt butterflies the size of bats in my gut. I shouldn’t have eaten breakfast, I knew I shouldn’t. The egg and ham and goats’ cheese and spinach soufle that my host had made me, was now hanging heavily on my mind.
I was doing the swim, Teresa the cycle and Anna had been roped in at the last minute with a dodgy knee and very little notice, to cover the final 5k run. It had all seemed so simple to offer to swim the 750m for team Happy Feet, until I read the briefing notes with just a week and a half to go, and realised there was a 30 min elimination time on the swim! Pressure, and not enough time to train. If you followed my training blog here, you’ll know I tried to short-cut my lack of speed-work by swimming without a wet-suit, against the tide at Malahide Beach in North Dublin. I suppose I thought that if I made myself suffer as much hardship and discomfort as possible, I might feel more comfortable, and swim faster, when I had to get in the lake. Well it was a theory at the time, and the only one I had! My big problem was that although I was comfortable doing the distance, I had no speed and was planning to complete the distance in 40mins. The briefing notes blew that out of the water – if you’ll excuse the pun.
Well I put my shoulder to the wheel – or tide – and soaked up all the tips I could drag from my Hi-Rock swimming friends in Malahide, and in particular ‘Chanimal’ – Channel Swimmer, Fergal Somerville. Deep, even breaths – long, measured strokes, no panic. Now today was the day.
As the other athletes gathered in the holding pen, adjusting swim caps and goggles, stretching to warm up arms and legs and shoulders; they looked sleek and professional, I sneakily looked around comparing the size of my belly with everyone elses. I thought mine looked much bigger, and I grimaced. A throwback to my days of being 23stone. These days I’m just under 12 stone and still a bit on the curvy size, but despite no longer being morbidly obese, I still have body-image flashbacks, especially when I’m standing on the shore in a screamingly tight wet suit along with 300 taller, slimmer, fitter looking people. I just had to remind myself that I was strong and healthy and capable of taking them all on. (I just didn’t really believe it).
The Public Address speakers crackled into life and there were speeches and applause as the rain continued to fall and we stood, shuffling our bare feet in the wet grass, wishing for the start. Eventually we got the nod and as one, we swimmers moved towards the water. It was all new to me, we were to get into the lake and swim to warm up, before the start was called. I followed the leaders and reached the water’s edge, noting the lack of reaction from the other swimmers and imitating their composure as I stepped calmly into the lake, biting down a gasp at the cold. Up to my ankles, my knees, my chest and finally I’m swimming, then finding some space to keep treading until the race ‘got the off’. This part was unexpected, and I felt a tremor of adrenalin or something close to fear. I was out of my depth, I couldn’t swim out with a proper stroke or I’d crash into the swimmers ahead. I was just bobbing about getting cold, and I didn’t like it. I determinedly removed my mind from the lake and imagined I was going through my yoga routines in the sun, and felt the warmth and the calm flood through my legs and up through my body to my arms. I relaxed. We’d go when we’d go – and finally the human wave washed back towards me, as the race began.
I reached out into the dark waters of the lake, pushing my head under water and noticing the pink hue of the feet in front, dyed red by the peaty flood waters. I had taken the other swimmers’ advice and kept out of the crush at the start, for fear of being dragged or accidentally thumped in the fury of the moment. I took my line against the yellow marker out near an island in the lake and just swam. I didn’t try to go fast, hearing Fergal’s comments a week before, telling me that trying to go fast was the fastest way to slow down. I wasn’t sure if he was right, but I was taking his comments on board. After about 250 metres, the 1st marker was drawing close and I realised there was a crush emerging as the swimmers tried to get a tight line around it. I didn’t. I pulled left and gave it – and them – a wide berth. I think I actually gained time instead of losing time, as I swung wide arount the buoy and the human soup, and took my line to the next marker.
I had told myself that if I was comfortable after the first 250, I would step up the speed on the 2nd leg. It worked fine, I stretched out and increased my speed, breathing deeper into my lungs and concentrating on rolling smoothly to catch my breath, keeping my face down between strokes and pulling my arms smoothly through the water. Quicker than I expected, I reached the second marker, and swept around to face back into the shore. I looked up, and saw swimmers far ahead and far behind. At my right was an orange kayak, on hand to help if I needed it. I didn’t need it. I saw the last marker, saw the shore, put my head down – and bombed it. I gave the last 250 every last bit of energy and strength and felt excitement well up inside me. I’m not sure why, I just felt powerful and thrilled because whatever the time on the clock, I wasn’t the last person in the lake, and I knew I had the energy to get me back to shore. Stumbling out of the water, I took the waiting helping hand eagerly and pulled myself free of the lake, then sprinted to the holding paddock and my teammates. Pulling the electronic tag from my left ankle and passing it to Teresa, I recognised she was excitedly shouting at me about the time. I felt tears well up as I realised I’d made the 30 minutes…. and more.
Later, with the time confirmed at 22 minutes. I joked that it was the egg and spinich ‘Pop-Eye’ breakfast after all (thanks Mary) but I was humbled. This body of mine, that I have so abused in my lifetime, again pulled out a blinder for me. With less than 2 weeks to prepare, it had delivered all I asked, and I had smashed my own time. I felt like one of our Olympians, I could proudly say I had a PB and I’d smashed it! It was hard work getting here; swimming in cold, choppy, waters off Malahide, hours of weight training in the gym on our few sunny days, and a lot of self doubt. But the help I got, the support from my friends, from FB and Twitter, and all the generous tips and training swims I got from Fergal and his Hi-Rock mates, had paid off. I’d made it – and Team Happy feet could run and cycle the rest of the way, without being disqualified by the swimmer!
You know, when I started training for our Concern/Uganda: hiking, cycling & kayaking challenge in November, I never thought I’d end up long-distance swimming too. But I suppose it all helps with general fitness. What’s next? Well, the whole Concern group is due to climb Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain this Sunday; and that’s going to hurt – because with all the time I’ve spent cycling, swimming, working-out in the gym and learning to kayak, I’ve somewhat neglected my hill climbing. There is a reckoning a-coming on Sunday. And do you know? there’s a 750m sea swim in Killiney on Saturday….. 😉
Well, I’m hoping to have a matching photo for this shot – by the end of the day. This is Fergal Sommerville or ‘Chanimal’ to his friends. Fergal swam the English Channel last November in a super time, and he’s taking me out swimming today at Malahide. I’ve swum with Fergal and the High-Rock swimmers before, quite a few times. Fergal had dared me to swim in the Irish Sea, and I said I would, if he swam the channel.. at the time I didn’t know that was exactly what he was training to do!!! You could say, he snookered me!
Anyway, I may have swam with them before, but never like today. I’m a in a different frame of mind and I’m ready to change the stakes. I’m probably motivated by the prospect of my triathlon swim in Roscommon on Sunday, when I have to swim 750m in a lake in under 30-mins or risk disqualifying the rest of my relay team from the cycle and running laps. Today in Malahide I want to push the envelope a bit.
The pressure’s on, and for the first time I want to put myself to a bit of a test. On previous swims, I just swam out with the pack for about 10 minutes and then struck back for home. Today I want to try and put a bit of distance under my belt. I’ve never swam long enough to get tired, so I have no idea what will happen if I swim a decent distance – but run out of steam on the way back.
There’s lots of questions in my mind; will I get cold, will I get tired, will I make a fool of myself, should I try it without a wetsuit?
Should have a few answers for you by tomorrow! Fingers crossed……
Enjoyed a lovely weekend in Sligo when the most adventurous thing I did was walk past the pool to the restaurant! I did eat well across the Bank Holiday though and drank lots of water, because I’m determined to get back on my weight loss plan.
Today – I was back on the bike and back in the gym. I did a 30k round trip cycle in and out to work and I spent an hour weight-training in the gym. Lots of my ‘gal pals’ are nervous about using weights, in case it builds up too much bulk, but seriously – that’s not going to happen. Small weights with high repetitions won’t turn you into hulk-ella… and I think they’re a really fast way to burn weight and work out, while building strength and stamina.
I spent an hour with various weight-lifting drills, including some core-work and a reasonable session with kettlebells, like this one here. I did 4 sets of 10 reps on ‘snatch and grab’ with one of these 16kg bells, followed by the same number of sets and reps – on ‘squat presses’ with a couple of 12kg bells.
I cycled too and from the gym, and did some stretches, so I warmed up and cooled down pretty well, and hopefully won’t be walking too carefully tomorrow. Ouch…
15k on the bike into work today, the bike that was held together with cable-ties and WD40 (or whatever you call that stuff in the blue can)…. anyhow, it bust at the last bend, so it’s now with the bike doctor, where it should have been since last week, if I’d had my priorities right! Anyhow, I had wet cycling shorts and top and jacket from cycling in, the waterproof bike panier failed it’s shop-bought promises and delivered up damp clothes for wearing in the office, and pretty soggy gym clothes for later. Never mind, they all steamed up nicely once I started lifting weights. Hadn’t been in the gym for a week because of pulling a ligament in my thumb – and isn’t it amazing how loathesome the gym is, when you’ve had a break away from it?
I walked home from the gym (because the bike is at the bike doctor) got wet, changed again, had dinner, then jogged to a meeting in the local village. It was dry when I started, but coming back was a different matter. I will in future know what I’m talking about when I read on the news about ‘surface water on the road’. It means there’s a 4-foot pond on either side that you need to wade across when crossing the road. It also means there’s a sunami heading your way, whenever the lights change and the city-slicker 4-wheel drives hit 1st gear… ah well. I’m warm and dry now, and satisfied after eating a salad and resisting the urge for a dirty big curry that would have made me feel better, but ruined all the work I put into training today. Polish the halo and tune into the weather forecast. Quack, Quack, Quack….