What a difference a year makes. I spent the month of January climbing across the hills and mountains of Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary on my Beara to Breifne adventure and here I found myself at the foot of a hill, dreading the prospect of taking on a physical challenge on a minuscule scale compared to that.
During 2017, while speaking on a panel in Sligo, I made a commitment to climbing Knocknarea, a local historic hill that sits opposite Benbulben on either side of Sligo Bay. That never happened, although I did make an attempt with a friend, Claire, later in the year. But a combination of my lack of fitness, the steep climb up the path from Strandhill and the closing daylight saw us abandon the climb about half way up the hill.
I didn’t want to set off on a new year’s list of physical challenges without first ticking this, relatively small challenge of the list. I say relatively small as it’s not really difficult, a 40 minute climb of less than a mile along a generally well developed path shouldn’t have anyone out of breath, although I embarrassingly was in exactly that situation many times before pulling the plug.
Yesterday morning, finding myself in Sligo after an early morning errand I decided to climb to the top of Medb’s (Maeve) mountain and the enormous stone cairn at the top which marks her burial place.
The weather, although promised bad later in the day was reasonably bright starting off from the car park on the opposite side of the hill. There wasn’t another soul around apart from the dozens of sheep dotted around the fields who stared interested at me as I passed along the path up the hill.
I still needed a few breaks and the well placed information signs and strategically placed benches gave regular respite to my forced breathing and tired limbs. About half way up the mountain I hit the end of the path and with the wet weather the grass had turned to mud. I really struggled to get through the short, but steep, muddy section having to pick myself up from the wet ground no less than three times.
When the heavens opened and the rain and hail combined to reduce the temperature, soak me to the bone and completely destroy the grass underfoot, I contemplated the prospect of simply returning back to the path below and heading back for the car. I spent a few minutes battling with this decision, weighing up the consequences of each decision.
I finally thought back to some similar moments on my cycle and decided I hadn’t come this far to turn around and let the mountain beat me for the second time in six months. I simply wrapped the scarf tighter, pulled down the wooly hat around my ears and set off again up the mountain.
From the second I reached the plateau at the top of the climb and the cairn came into view the weather turned even worse than it had been before. I circled the base of the cairn, trying to make out the Atlantic Ocean raging below, before trying to find some shelter from the elements on the land side of the hill.
Eventually I decided I would just have to make my way down the hill and back to the car. As soon as the cairn dropped out of my line of sight, the wind eased up, the rain stopped and the views out over South Sligo and the valleys below were majestic. I met one solitary woman starting off as I neared the car along the animal path which had more or less become a small river with the amount of water that had fallen.
Reaching the car and as I got out of my destroyed clothes and shoes I was delighted to finally have buried the regrets and embarrassment of 2017, it might have been small in the grand scheme of things, but finishing a challenge that I had failed so miserably just a few months ago felt fantastic. The added realisation that I’d done it in the worst imaginable weather compared to the lovely summer’s evening of the previous time certainly wasn’t lost on me. It might be early in my 2018 challenges but the sense of satisfaction was real.
Challenge Ten Update
Thanks to everyone for their support and advice since I published the list of my challenges for 2018 on January 1st. This evening I attended my first Slimming World class of the year, I’ve tried it before but for a few reasons I didn’t have any success. One of the main ones was a lack of commitment from me towards the plan. This time around I’m all-in on the programme. My health is just too important to me not to be.
As expected from the last time around most people seem to be interested in the dating aspect of the challenge. I’ve even been asked out by two lovely ladies. You’ll have to watch this space to see how that progresses.
I had planned to go back to yoga classes, but with the storm picking up and the loss of power around the whole north west of Ireland, the class itself was cancelled. Meanwhile the editing of my audiobook continues and as one storm leaves our shores there is positive news about another storm coming in 2018, Sligo Storm.