Transvulcania 2018

Andree Walkin – Transvulcania 2018 Half Marathon Race Report

I’m sure we all have a friend or friends who rope you into interesting things at particularly vulnerable moments in your life right? Well, I’m glad to say I’ve got a few of these types of friends.  On a car journey following an epic Art O’ Neill 2018 event my buddy and our go-tri adventure founder and guru Paul Tierney mentioned about a group travelling out to Transvulcania Ultra race in Spain in May.   

At that point in time, with my feet still feeling like blocks of ice I could think of nothing better than some sunshine on my bones and a run up a volcano!  So I thought, ‘yes why not? I’ll tag along, support you guys and maybe do the half distance while I’m out there.’

Definitely a little bit delirious from the long night in the hills I really couldn’t think of anything nicer than running up a volcano on a sunny day!  Hmmm note to self don’t agree to anything when you’ve been out running in hail, wind and sleet for the night.

The run-up to May involved a lot of broken training sessions. I did get some quality snow days in the hills with the other Go Tri Adventure loonies but not much consistency, however, I decided to head out, get a taste for the race, soak up the atmosphere and some sun and see what the legs could do on the day.

Four of us travelled in the end. Our travel agent Alan Webb managed to sort flights for the four of us in and out of Shannon which was just ideal.  So off we went early Thursday morning from Shannon. After a nice flight to Tenerife and then joining forces with some other Irish guys we hopped on another short flight to the beautiful little volcanic island of La Palma. I immediately liked the feel of the island. Very Spanish and not at all touristy. After a few detours and tight street car manoeuvres, excellently performed by Loren, we eventually found our way to our air bnb home for the weekend and then hit on to watch the first big event of the weekend – the vertical KM. This was a fun event to see but let’s just say we were happier to watch and cheer for this one – I’m not sure the plane legs would have tackled that climb!  

 

The lead up to race day was very relaxed. For our usual pre-race routine on Friday morning we went for a little trot to stretch and loosen the legs followed by a nice stretching/yoga session on the pier.   Our short run ended up being a little longer due to a slight Tierney exploration but it was so much fun and I got to see some of the gorge route which I wouldn’t get to run and wow it was pretty spectacular. I then took the lads through some improvised yoga moves overlooking the water which they were very open tnd I think I may have converted them:) 

A relaxing day was followed by an early night.

Race morning

At 3am I stuck my sleepy head out the door to wish the boys well and then back to snoozey land for another hour for this chica.  Then at 5am Loren my lovely chauffeur arrived to take me to the bus station. I felt pretty good considering the early hour and I even ended up snoozing again a little on the way to the start line (yes over the years I have learned to take every available opportunity to sleep and luckily I am particularly prone to sleeping on buses) So 50 mins or so later still in darkness we arrived at a very windy Faro de Fuencaliente.  A few moans and groans before the bus was vacated and we all made our way to the spectacular Fuencaliente lighthouse.  

I could feel the buzz of the Ultra which kicked off an hour prior still in the air.  The usual pre-race milling around took place but I managed to just enjoy the atmosphere and find a nice spot inside the lighthouse to stay warm and stay off my feet for an hour.  Then before I knew it was time to hit the start line. The feeling was simply electric there with music pumping and everyone dancing and jumping up and down most likely to keep warm as there was still a crisp chill in the air.  So exactly on time at 7.30am off the hooter went and we began the first climb up the volcanic sand of Malpais.  

After a good slog on volcanic sand the first aid station was 7k in and I think this was my most favourite experience of the . What seemed like the entire population of Fuencaliente had come out at this early hour of the morning and lined the streets to cheer on the runners up the hill to the aid stations.  I couldn’t help but think of the Tour de France as people were so close they almost were touching me. It was some feeling. I think the shouts of “Vamos” and “Go Chica” will stay with me forever.    It certainly carried me onwards – that and the friendly cola bottle guy I met at 15k☺  Before I knew it I was at the highest point Las Desedas and the views! Well I just had to stop for a pic or two.  Again the aid station was perfectly placed and manned and the marshals were so helpful. So onwards again to the final stage and the forest area which reminded me of my local run at Ballycuggaran, every twist and turn was manned with friendly marshals or first aid people and I have to say it was so nice to see their smiling faces.  Before I knew it I was descending (for once) into the finish straight and the area of El Pilar and that was it – my first half marathon-up-a-volcano done! I really can’t recommend this race highly enough.

 

Thanks to everyone for the support especially my travel companions, Ultra men and support crew Paul, Alan and Loren.  Now all I can say is roll on Transvulcania 2019, though maybe with a little extra training and added distance;) Oh and hopefully a few more brave Irish soles/souls☺ to join in the fun!

Course details:  24.28 km 2,097 meters of positive cumulative gain and 689 meters of negative cumulative gain

Surf holiday 2018 Part Deux

When does a holiday become not-a-holiday?

 

I have been receiving messages from my fans about maybe writing part two of my Surf Holiday blog 2018 and have been inundated with PMs asking me what happened to puppy Linda… So here it is!  Part Deux.

I would just like to say one thing about the flight on Arabica Air.  You start off your journey with a televised prayer, which I quite enjoyed however, the voice of the prayer came across as quite sinister, the type of voice that would be in the intro to a film about a plane crash… #justsayin.

After hugging and kissing everyone on my arrival to Taghazout thanking the Lord Jesus for this interesting and diverse cultural hot spot,  I couldn’t wait for my surf adventure to begin.

 

Day two: The married men folk surfed ‘Mysteries’ (the beach round the corner from the house where we stayed) and they went out first thing in the morning.  The house where we resided for the week was on Anchor Point peninsula.  I was told when the tide was high the water came right up to the front step and the only way out was to go over the neighbour’s side wall!  I was saving myself for the afternoon surf.  We loaded all the boards up on two motors and went up the coast looking for waves.  Where we were staying was surrounded by amazing surf beaches.  We passed ‘Killers’ (a Surf point where Killer Whales come to mate) and then went on to Budha beach.  We stopped at the top of the beach to look at the amazing/not amazing waves.  Decided to surf anyways…got dragged, rolled and washed down the beach.

Got out before anyone else and met a man selling Morocco mint tea sweetened with loads of white sugar. He stopped to chat to me.

 

“Do you have child?”

“No.” says I.

“Next time” says he, smiling. “Are you married?” He goes.

“No.” says I.

“Next time” grins he.

 

 

I was thinking ‘next time’ I would be trying to surf better for longer, be with Henry the XIII and have my own baby camel, rather than being married or getting ‘up the cream puff’.

 

The lads finally came out of the water. I had dried myself off with my huge T-towel (which I used all week!)  Yes I know, I am SUCH high maintenance) and got changed.  That evening one of the surfing ladies who I was sharing a room with got sick and was in bed all the next day, the following day the other lady in the room got sick and took to her bed too.  The married menfolk in the next room jested at me for sleeping in the hospital room and said I would be the next to become ill. I never get ill and there is no way I would become sick, no drugs, no insurance, I am invincible!!

But then…That night I woke with stomach cramps at about 2 in the morning, and then proceeded to throw up 5 times in a row.  Excellent. One bathroom, five people, and three of them sick as dogs!  And the lady who looked after the house told us to mind our usage of water as when the tank ran out we would have to wait for the truck to come into the village to fill it up.

“When will that be??” I asked. She just shrugged her shoulders, laughed, smiled threw her arms in the air and shook her head!  Insert shocked emoji here…

Next day I woke up (thank God).  My face was full of fluid under my skin and I wasn’t able to open my eyes properly because of my swollen eyelids.  I then threw up again.  Nice.

 

A storm was coming in and all the guys went out to surf.  I got up and showered, ‘mind over matter’ I thought to myself and read my book.  The water from the high tide and storm started to lap around the house steps and continued to rise.  At the same time it was raining and the roof started to leak. Rain was coming in through the ceiling and rising up towards the front door…

I started to feel sick and scared at the same time.  Then I thought to myself, if I started to clean, everything would be okay!  As cleaning is calming.  After a while, I started to feel even worse so decided that I wasn’t bovvered. If I wasn’t drowned or got barricaded in by the rising water I was just going to go to bed.  So I trudged up the water-soaked and soggy landing to bed.

Spent the next few days being obsessed with the open sewage system that was Taghazout and Anchor Point.  Where we live we had to go through an alleyway in between houses to get to the cars.  The alleyway always smelt of raw sewage and made me gag.  I am so not hard.  I looked up and tried to work out the plumbing system of the three storey buildings in the stench of the morning light.  I am not a plumber but I could clearly see what looked like the plumbing from the toilets being linked up to a downpipe which stopped at the pavement to flow into the alleyway which ran into the sea. Insert green gag emoji here.

The beaches around Anchor Point had amazing, fun and exotic names.  Paradise Beach was one that stood out.  For its idealistic name however, when we got there it was a swirling mess of rock, sand, glass, plastic and shite.  With dilapidated buildings adjacent to it and no sick peeps facilities.  The surf was big and messy.  It was all too much for my stomach I had to go home and lay down whilst the others surfed.

 

 

Evening meals (when everyone was well) was an experience in itself.  You would sit on tables on the main street in the balmy, dusky evening.  The road and paths had been dug up in Taghazout to allow pipes to be laid but they hadn’t got round to put the tarmac back so the street was made of sand, dust, rubble, and pipes.  Insurance companies ‘where there’s a blame there’s a claim’ would have had a field day here. Always eat hot food, no salads, no ice.  The food was actually very tasty (my stomach is churning just thinking about it and writing it). Tagines were the main dishes, which were super hot and came with no germs or alcohol FYI. Or alternatively, you could sit by the water’s edge and watch the waves. Hash Point was a stunning location to watch the sun set and to see amazing surfers wading out through raw sewage outlets…

“Every now and then a waft of ploppsies would rise up from the sea and lodge in one’s nostril hair.”

You would sit there mesmerised by the surf, the waves and the skill of the surfers whilst ordering food and every now and then a waft of ploppsies would rise up from the sea and lodge in one’s nostril hair (of which I don’t have).  The smell would get too much and one would have to retract to an inside location to eat one’s food.  Which by now consisted of anything which had been burnt to f*ck or in a sealed jar. All served to you and prepared by men.

Where are the women?  Ummmm…not sure how I am feeling about this diverse culture.

Last day of ‘holiday’ whhhhhoopooopppppiiiieeeee…and the snow starts piling into Dubbers airport.  Holy Mary Mother of God just please get me home!  This is soooo unlike me I never wanna go home.  The ‘cultural experience’ has been too much on my immune and nasal system.

The last night the ‘duirty’ ladies myself included decided to go to a Hamman this was situated in Banana village along from Banana Beach, where they sold bananas near a beach which also was covered in shite, plastic, glass and more human waste as the river had been high the night before.  The Hammam was an amazing OCD, clean, cleaning dream!  Take all your clothes off apart from you bikini bottoms, and you are given a big bucket and inside that is a small bucket.

 

I asked the sensible, normal, factual question.

‘Will my contact lenses steam up?’

 

 

You go through a door and end up in two big, white tiled, hot steamy rooms filled with ladies laying about, sitting down and washing.  You can purchase a mitten and exfoliation products along with what only can be described as fabric softener for the skin.  All the ladies washed themselves, each other and small children.  There was also a massive squidgy to clean your area (I mean where you sat down not the lady garden).  I was in cleanliness heaven.  Why didn’t we go here at the beginning of the holiday and every night?  The entrance fee was only 12 dirham €1.2.  We came out smelling and looking amazing like clean, soft, slightly paler (scrubbed off some of my tan/dirt) ladies.

Went to bed happy then had to be up at 2 am to (hopefully) get flight back home.  Thank Alluh Akbar flight was the first flight into Dubbers after a massive snow storm.  And another thing!! I so want the call to prayer as a ringtone for my phone.

 

The lessons to be learned from this experience are:

 

  1. Don’t try and self-cure with Diet Coke.

  2. Sometimes you need to get over a ‘holiday’ by booking another holiday.

  3. That I am truly grateful for covered sewage systems.

 

My stomach is still gurgling but every drink, yoghurt and live good bacteria tablet is now my new bestie.  Back to teaching yoga…sitting in swatstikasana (cross leg) and jumping back into (chaturanga) plank; you trying doing that with diarrhoea 💗

Namaste,

 

 

BitchMittens Ellen

NB Linda the puppy was fine she didn’t get left on the shelf and her owner appeared to be minding her well.

Surf holiday 2018 Day Fecking One

Or…

How important is it to have a towel/correct towel on holidays/in life.

Packing is a good way to start any holiday!  Automatically assuming that there would be a towel/serval towels at surf holiday accommodation.  I always travel light with as much inappropriate, non-practical clothing as I can fit into my hand (job) luggage…aka NO towel EVER required, Jah will provide.  High five myself for fitting everything into my hand luggage case and in my friend’s massive suitcase which can carry two whole huge bags of toiletries. I was told in the departures queue that there were a couple of towels knocking about (let’s face it there always are a couple) in the holiday house. Boom! Sorted.
We arrived at our location in Anchor Point, Morocco at about five pm  that evening, after getting boards and a FREE medium ladies, cool Capri pant, 3/4 sleeved wetsuit for myself… Obvs everyone else had checked in massive luggage with warm wetsuits!  The sun was out, the boards were on the roof and too excited about practicalities, I changed into my tiny FREE wetsuit (no booties or flip-flops). Hey, it was warm and there were only a token amount of rocks, boulders, dog shite and broken glass to overcome on the way to the beach. Be GRAND. Totally ignoring all instructions about lockboxes (something you can put keys in with a four-digit combination code); there were two apparently; one attached to the car for the car keys and one attached to the balcony table for the house keys with different number codes. So that is 2 two sets of codes, with 4 numbers each in random orders…
Given it took me SIX YEARS to memorise my own mobile phone number there was no chance of me trying to remember any of these, obvs.
Whooooooo weeeeeee there are camels on the beach (OK one camel) the sun is setting and the water is, well coolish actually…So I jump into the sea with my 9 foot Bic, (which is a make of board not a large lady razor/pen).  As normal, everyone paddles out far further than myself as I am too excited looking at the camel, squealing at the jumping fish and getting dragged out by the current, with my now drafty backless Barbie sized wetsuit (bearing in mind I am six foot one with average size boobaloobas, which are amazing.)
After getting dragged around in the sea catching a few junior waves as the sun was setting over the Atlantic Ocean, I decided to get out, to make my way across the pebbly, bouldery beach to the cars where one of the lock boxes is dangling from the back undercarriage. I remembered where one of the boxes are! How great am I!  Unable to recall from my imaginary imagination what the code was for the first lockbox, I just started yanking it.  One of the locals came up to me thinking I was breaking into the car! Moroccan carpark neighbourhood watch?
He started to ask me what I was doing!  By now it was getting dark, I was freezing cold and my fingers had started to go white. He then managed to convince me to look after his tiny puppy called Linda, who would be asleep ‘on the shelf’ (I know how that feels luv), whilst he goes into Taghazout town centre for the night!  Okay I reply.
I cannot get into the car, however, I know where the second lockbox is, right?  So I make the journey from the car down and across the rocks with my white fingers, backless wetsuit, carrying a nine-foot board.  Barefoot. I find the second lock box locked under the table. I can barely make out the numbers (that I don’t know the code to) in the failing light. So my next super great idea was to go back to the car, minus the board and somehow the first lockbox would have magically opened!
Errrrr it hadn’t.
And what about Linda the puppy what time were my puppy sitting duties due to commence? Did she have a blanket? Food? What would I do if she started to cry, what would Linda do if I started to cry!
Oh it was all too much responsibility…
Eventually, the rest of the lads came back with stories of lockbox codes which involved their ages and a blow job (69) and ages of women they would like to be with! Totes sense! I cannot believe I didn’t think of that!
By now I am totally freezing and damp! And I didn’t even have a towel!  In the kitchen, there was this stiff piece of blue and white fabric which had the texture of a wall hanging and the look of a tea towel. I instantly fell in like with it!  This 4 by 4 centimetre square of cloth was going to save me!
Panic!  No hot water!  Just get changed before hyperthermia sets in!!!! Apparently, the blue tap is hot and the red is cold, and breathe… I finally warm up  and dry my non ‘medium’ self off with the 4 by 4 square, (who I have now named ‘towel’) He is totally a fully functioning drying implement and does truly deserve a proper name.  Note to self must buy a ‘proper towel’ and discard ‘towel’ I don’t say this to myself out loud as I don’t want to offend ‘towel’ who has pride of place drying of the back of my plastic bedroom furniture chair.
Two days later I am still using ‘towel’ and some of the stains are looking a bit dodgy; I do hope he has not been doubled up as an actual tea towel by my fellow surf buds and I will probs keep quiet if he has! But I truly love him!  Maybe the life lesson is this; Just get any old towel and just maybe he will work for you? But until that day I will keep not looking for the super deluxe, fluffy, well rounded/squared/rectangled, fat, age-appropriate towel!
Yours,
#Bitchmittens Ellen
Morocco.

New State of Consciousness

Ellen Baggs: Facebook age 29. Real age 12…

(Please read the following bearing in mind I am not an emotional person.)

Recently I embarked on ‘a travel journey’ as a 45 year old backpacker! Did you know insurance companies only do backpacker insurance up to 35 years? (And yes there is my first mental stumbling block!)

A younger friend suggested backpacking. Okay; I thought about it for a whole minute.

‘I’ll go with you….’

So of we went to Brazil, via New York and Atlanta. #cheapflight

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Rio is a massive city of 9 million people of which 1.9 million live in favelas (slums).  Huge expensive apartment blocks and hotels back on the favelas that cover most of Rio and other cities of Brazil.  The opposites of this place are extreme.  Did I really need to expose myself to all this?  I had forgotten how scared, how intimidated and overwhelmed I could be.

 

I just wasn’t prepared mentally for the culture shock!  We hit Copacabana beach, (cried) jewellery off, carrying hardly any monies (whatever happened to travellers cheques?) and old clothes on.

This put my ‘I only have one bar and 0.5 of a meg on my internet’ life into perspective. (By the way the internet connection was soooo much better all over Brazil, even in the remote areas, than where I live in Ireland.) #justsayin.

First two days in Brazil: non stop rain and fifteen degrees, just like the West coast of Ireland.  Boom!

img_0769I didn’t realise how big Brazil actually was. What looks like a thumb and a finger distance away on the map is actually a 24 hour bus journey in real hours.  Internal flights became a must-have luxury, to spontaneously see what we wanted.  Salvador, the slaves, (cried) the multi-culture society, again the vast favelas that stretch from the airport to where we were staying… four days in and still in shock.  We stayed in very cheap Airbnbs which was great, but because of the language barrier (we didn’t know Portuguese) we decided to stay in guest houses/hostels for the latter part of the trip, which proved to be much more sociable.

 

img_0252he rain started to follow us again so instead of going further north we went back to Rio and to the stunningly beautiful island of Ilha Grande. No transport, no bank machines and about four street lights.  It was perfect and amazingly super fast broadband.  The days that followed were made up of speed boat tours, snorkelling, trekking through jungle (with real life monkeys screeching from the tree tops, half wild dogs, and melodic crickets), and of course, idealistic beaches.  Lopes Mendes beach (cried), my died-and-gone-to-beach-heaven beach where the sand was as fine as dust and actually crunched like virgin snow when you walked on it.

 

 

 

 

img_0435

Then on to Paraty; this national historic site has amazing colonial buildings, rich on history, the Slave trade (cried), with gigantic cobblestone streets set on the waters edge.  No vehicles were allowed into the town.  Met a couple of very nice French guys reassuring me that my social skills (even in French) were not completely dead.  Social skill point to myself!  Who as it happens were going to the same destination as ourselves, Iguacu Falls.  We also became locals in the local Samba Forro (type of dance) bar.  Boom number 2 social skill!

 

Drove back to Rio via Angra dos Reis, where an English tourist was shot the day before, the family had taken a wrong turn into the favelas whilst trying to look for a place to buy water.

img_0634Took a two hour plane journey to Iguacu Falls; one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  An expansive (to say the least) waterfall stretching across two countries. We went to the dramatic Argentina side the first day and then what felt like the more subdued Brazilian side the following day, getting right up close and nearly into the Falls themselves. Then, flew back to Rio and spent the last part of the holiday in Ipanema which was totally different and more upmarket that Copacabana.

 

 

 

img_0818Rio: Went up in two James Bond cable cars (Dr No.) to Sugar Loaf mountain where we saw Christ the Redeemer (cried), Rio, the mountains, the bays and the favelas start to light up as we watched the sun set.

  • Saw amazing 4 meter surf on Ipanema beach.
  • Went to a Samba Forro class and then on to a club till 3am (5 hours past my bed time).
  • Went up Christ the Redeemer (cried) and saw him in all his majesty (with free wifi at the top)…
  • Went on a favela tour (cried), where the monies from the tour go to the peeps of the favelas. Words cannot describe how they live and we went to the middle part of the favelas where they live in open sewers..(I cried a bit more).
  • One of the absolute highlights for me being a 2 Fast 2 Furious fan (don’t dis the franchise) was seeing the actual favela where they filmed 2 Fast 2 Furious 5!!

The people of Brazil are so friendly, smiley, warm people it is hard not to fall in love with the place. I felt like they really opened me up and let me in.

Then, a two day journey back from Copacabana beach to Rio GIG airport, to Atlanta, to JFK to Shannon.

map-of-world

 

 

 

 

In summary; I don’t know quite where I am at. My brain and eyes are in Brazil/Atlanta/New York and my body is in Mountshannon.  I feel a sense of personal growth  – the realisation that I am not a complete fuck-up and I am able to actually get from A to B. I do have actual social skills despite living in a rural place and ‘staying in’.

I am able to emotional connect with my body and feelings #cry.

My brain is still not with my body,  but I think I am liking my new state ofconsciousness/unconsciousness.

P.S yoga classes start next week, let’s see where we all end up…

 

XXX

 

Bitchmittens Ellen

 

*************************

Notes from the Ed. 

Ellen’s Yoga classes recommence this week. If you’d like to check out her classes you can find her on

https://www.facebook.com/EllenBaggsYoga/

 

 

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