On Saturday I got to join the Roving Soles Hill Walking Club for part of their Glenmalure Challenge. I got to finish 6 summits and around 24k in 7hrs – they went on to complete 10 summits and 33k. We started from the Glenmalure Lodge, Drumgoff and headed south on the Wicklow Way, taking a forest road for our assent of Carrawaystick Mountain to Corrigasleggaun, to the Saddle of Lugcoolmeen, and up to the summit of Lugnaquilla, Leinster’s highest peak at 931 metres. We descended via Cannow Mountain to Camenabolologue, and I cut out at Table Track for Glenmalure, as the group continued on their way. Thanks to everyone for such a warm welcome on the hill, especially with me hobbling along with my knee braces and sticks. Extremely lovely group… and the bubbles were a bonus!
From Wicklow, I drove to Cork city, catching dinner with a friend before heading on to Youghal where I camped near the sea, ahead of an early 6am start for the DipInTheNip. Close to 200 people joined on a beach near the town to drop their kit and run for the waves, in aid of cancer charities. Old radio buddy PJ Coogan from Cork 96FM led the charge. After a breakfast roll on the beach, I headed for Kerry, pitched my tent in view of the mountains, met briefly with friends, took a two hour stroll in Tomies Wood and finished off a perfect rest-and-recovery day with a plunge into the beautiful ice-cold O’Sullivan’s Cascade, a stunning series of waterfalls and grade 5 kayak route plunging down through the mountains to the lakes of Killarney. Always a magical place for me.
On to the Galtees on Monday, for a tough 8.5hr training hike over 5 mountains with Tony Nation, in preparation for my challenge to climb Elbrus in Russia next month with Pat Falvey’s Irish and Worldwide Adventures. Tony had warned me in advance that today would be tough and he certainly delivered. It was an arduous route, but so incredibly beautiful that it was hard to feel anything other than joy to be out on the hill. We made our way up on to the mountain with a tough climb onto Temple Hill, and climbed up and down around the horseshoe across Ladhar an Chapaill, Carraig na Binne, and Sliabh Chois na Binne, over to Galtymore and exiting down the BlackRoad. Later we heard on the news that a couple of climbers had been rescued after getting caught in a Rhododendron forest, not too far away on the Knockmealdown Mountains. It was a cautionary tale, as I’d been admiring the purple flowered shrubs all day, but Tony had been warning me about their rampant, vigorous growth across the mountains.
Tuesday brought another adventure, when myself and a friend provided kayak-cover for a group of swimmers who were making a crossing from Malahide to Lambay Island, as part of a top-secret art project. We had kind permission to land briefly on the island, which is a nature reserve, and it was a wonderful privilege to have just a fleeting glance at this wonderful, magical place. It was a beautiful day as we headed off into a clear, calm sea, and the crossing was delightfully uneventful until moments before we reached the island. A sea-mist sprung up in seconds, shrouding our landing point in mist. Our approach was marked by dozens of curious seals who heralded our arrival and followed us in to the star-fish spangled beach. We stayed just moments before slipping back into the sea and leaving the peaceful island to it’s misty mystery. A magical experience to add to my list of special memories of Ireland.
A good weekend of training, celebrating friendship and being glad to be alive. Reality returns when I visit the physio tomorrow and get some advice on my injured knee. The Elbrus Clock continues to tick.
Earlier this year a friend remarked that she was celebrating her 50th birthday by stepping up to the plate, and participating in all five of this year’s ‘Dip in The Nips’ for Irish Cancer Charities. Inspired by her bravery, I decided I’d also take the plunge, but because I had a very busy year of engagements that hadn’t been fully finalised, I registered for all of the swims in the hope that I would be free for at least one. That decision’s come home to roost this weekend and I’ve been told my ‘Dip in the Nip’ will be in Cork.
When I say my friend is brave, I really mean it. Because dropping your clothes to the ground and making your way into the ocean in front of lots of other people is a daunting experience – for me at least. I swim all-year-round at Malahide in Dublin, so it’s not the cold or the water that’s making me shiver in my flip-flops. It’s the thought of bearing my bits. I used to be 23 stone and I’m still overweight for my height, so I don’t have the best body image. The thought of putting it on display, gives me the creeps.
This is not the first time I’ve dropped my knickers for charity (in the best possible way). When I was fundraising for Concern in 2012, I agreed to pose for a nude art exhibition to raise money for the cause. It was all tastefully done and the eventual artwork that resulted from the session was pretty stunning. That’s a compliment to the artists, not to my lumps and bumps. You see I’m still apologising for my curves, even though I’ve come a long way when it comes to embracing them. The quirky thing, is that the art exhibition – my first dip into the world of the nude – was also in Cork – which I think is a bit of a coincidence. Or maybe I’m just a bit more free-spirited when I move outside The Pale!
The picture above is one of several completed for the ‘Nude’ exhibit at Gallery Frida, by artists: Andrea Cashell, Lora Murphy and Eileen Mc’Goldrick.
So I’m back at full circle and taking my clothes off for charity again. Why am I doing it? Obviously it’s good to raise money for cancer charities; we have all felt Cancer’s chilling touch in some way. Mothers, Fathers, Aunts, Husbands, Daughters, Best friends; Cancer doesn’t discriminate
But like the other women, men and couples taking part, I also believe that I’m ringing a bell for all those survivors who have fought the brave fight and come out shining. Hair loss, operation scars, all beautiful trophies to having tackled the odds and won. Shining and strong and fair play to every one. That’s what I’ll be thinking of in the early hours of Sunday morning, when I bare my boobs and head to the water’s edge, thankful and proud to have legs that carry me, and lungs to breathe and eyes to see.
If you want to join in this wave of love and support – register for the next ‘Dip in the Nip’. Come and Skinny-Dip for loved ones, or for those you’ve lost, or for you. Whatever your reason, join thousands of others who have peeled off for the cause. Or help me fundraise this weekend. You can make a donation of any amount on the PayPal button below.
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/