Hell and Back for Cystic Fibrosis

Hell and BackWhen Emer first came to me for help she was carrying an extra  25lbs, but in her head she was carrying 250lbs! She had no confidence, was tired all the time and was very unhappy with herself and she had no idea how to change or even where to start. Emer put all of the advice I gave her into action and turned herself around. She embraced the ethos of Vera’s 5 and not only achieved fat loss, she has also improved her fitness, become a much stronger person, she is more confident, has self-belief and she says herself that she is a much happier person. Emer went from doing no exercise at all, to working out in the gym three or four times a week, and running in between. When we were goal setting together I suggested that rather than training for trainings sake that she choose an event to train for, and whatever event she picked I would do it too, to encourage and support her. I expected Emer would choose a 5k or 10k, or at the most an short adventure race, so when she excitedly told me that the event she chose to do was ‘HELL AND BACK’ I was a little shocked, and not very happy.

I have been asked to take part in Hell and Back many times over the past few years, and my answer was always the same ‘no way, never, it’s not for me.’ I don’t like getting mucky or dirty, I have a fear of water, a fear of crawling through tunnels and no desire to be shot at or electrocuted. But there was no getting out of it this time, after all I had told Emer to choose an event and I would support her, I couldn’t possibly back down. We registered and I decided if I was going to put myself through this terrifying event then I may as well get sponsored to do it, and raise some money for a charity.

Cystic Fibrosis #SongForTri

Our charity is Cystic Fibrosis, in honour of Triona Priestley, the most inspiring and brave fifteen year old, who lost her battle against CF, as Ed Sheeran sang her to sleep, in April of this year. Her mother Bernie said: “Triona wanted to get a message out about cystic fibrosis. She really felt strongly that Irish people should know about it and take responsibility,” Triona was a writer and a poet, she left many messages, notes and letters behind but the one that really got me simply read ‘Some Day CF will stand for Cure Found.’

On hearing me talk about taking part in Hell and Back my friend Mark decided that he would like to take part too. Mark has taken control of his  life, turning a medical issue into a positive, by changing the way he eats and working on his fitness. He wanted a challenge and also wanted to raise money for our charity.

Hell and Back Triton 2014

Before we knew it September 13th had arrived and our little team of three set of for Kilruddery estate, Wicklow. It was a beautiful September morning and we could tell that the haze would soon lift and that we were in for a warm, sunny day. The atmosphere was highly charged as we made our way to the starting point. The announcer heightened our energy and enthusiasm. He encouraged us to repeat ‘Winners never quit, and quitters never win’. This quickly became our mantra as we began the challenge by lowering ourselves into a bath of ice water, dipped our heads under the wall, and quickly came out the other side. It must have been the adrenalin charging through my body, because I can honestly say I did not feel cold when I emerged from the -53 degrees ice bath. We charged to the next obstacle, the mud trenches. We lowered ourselves into 10f deep, muddy water filled trenches and clawed our way back up the other side. There must have been ten of these trenches in a row, it was difficult, but there was always someone with a helping hand pushing me up from behind, and catching my hand to help me out of the trench. Such was the case with every obstacle and the reason why, no matter how challenging the obstacles were it never really got to the hellish stage, just because of the camaraderie and team spirit shown by everyone.

Best Bits: Scrambling our way up ‘Little Sugar Loaf’ even though there were some tricky obstacles thrown in along the way, this was my homeHell and Back 2014 ground, and the views from the top were spectacular. Wipe Out, the water slide, somehow I managed to complete Wipe Out without ending up with a mucky face, unlike Emer and Mark. Worst Bits: The never ending swamps, just when we thought we had finished with them, become a little dryer and shaken off some of the disgustingly, smelly swamp mud, we rounded a corner, or entered another wood where another swamp awaited us. The river waded though was freezing, and kept getting deeper, I really thought it would sweep me away, but with Emer in front encouraging me and Mark behind supporting me I got through my scariest obstacle. My face says it all in the photo and while I can’t say I have conquered my fear of water, I can say I will never let it get the better of me. Funniest Bit: Mark losing his shoe in the first swamp, and then making a shoe from a piece of wood, a plastic strip and an ankle support donated by a Hell and Back Hero.

With every bit of energy long zapped, an injured finger, a shattered knee, pellet shot wounds, nettle stings, a missing shoe, weighed down by the mud and smelling like……, we crossed that finish line with gusto, smiling and feeling proud. Emotions running high as our families cheered on, reluctant to hug us at the end!!

Hell and Back 8Would I have done Hell and Back where it not for the wager with Emer, not in a million years! Will I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!                                                                                                 I want to give a huge thanks to Emer Madigan and Mark Kinsella who encouraged and supported me though out this event, all of the Hell and Back contestants, especially the guy who pulled me up Mount Olympus, and everyone who encouraged me to do this. Thank you also for your sponsorship. http://www.mycharity.ie/events/runfortriona

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