Stay on track this Christmas

The festive season should be enjoyed, but with temptations all around we may need that extra bit of motivation to avoid overindulging.

Here are some ways to enjoy this holiday season while staying on track with your health goals.

 

Fill up with Fruit & Vegetables

Remember to enjoy the in season freshness of brussel sprouts, parsnips, sweet potato, satsumas, cranberries and other favourites. Bursting with a plentiful supply of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our bodies need to fend off the cold winter bugs and infections. They are also high in fibre helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer. You may even meet your 5 a day from your dinner plate alone!

 

Less Sugar & More Spice in All Things Nice

Replace some of the sugar you eat with traditional Christmas spices for fabulous flavour and some can even help soothe digestive upsets such as ginger & cinnamon.

 

Cut down on portion sizes

Many traditional foods at this time of year such as the lean meat in turkey, root vegetables like carrots and parsnips and cranberry sauce are actually low in fat but it is the trimmings, extra helpings and constant nibbling that piles on the pounds. So use a smaller plate and don’t feel you have to clear it. Also leave some time before going for more as it can take our bodies 20 minutes to realise that we are full.

 

Stay active

Festive gatherings are not all about food. If we are eating more food, then we need to move more to prevent weight gain. Meet up with friends/family for nice fresh walks or show some moves on the dance floor and do not forget that kids and animals need play time and the fresh air too!

 

Get a good night’s sleep

The party season can be exhausting and if we are tired and low in energy, it can be so much easier to be less active and indulge in the high sugar and high fat foods. Ensure you are getting enough sleep to enable your body to fully recharge so it is ready to rumble again the next day.

 

Healthier Food Swaps to keep you feeling Merry & Bright All Season Long…

Swap:

  • 50g creamy/cheesy dips for 50g salsa (Saving 13g fat, 111kcal)
  • 1 large (70g) chicken goujon for 2 mini chicken satay skewers (Saving 6g fat, 137kcal)
  • 2 small sausage rolls for 2 cocktail sausages (Saving 1g fat, 24kcal)
  • 1 (50g) vegetable samosa for 1 ball (17g) of falafel (Saving 2.5g fat, 61kcal)
  • 2 cheese straws for 1 large breadstick (Saving 6g fat, 75kcal)
  • 25g crackers for 25g of vegetable sticks (Saving 5g fat, 110kcal)
  • 30g Stilton cheese for 30g goat’s cheese (Saving 4g fat, 67kcal)
  • 100g sausage stuffing for 100g chestnut/fruit based stuffing (Saving 15.2g Fat, 90kcal)
  • 100g roast potatoes for 100g Boiled Potatoes (Saving 4.4g Fat, 40kcal)
  • 1tbsp brandy butter for 3tbsp low fat custard (Saving 5.2g fat, 54kcal)
  • 2tbsp double cream for 2tbsp Greek yoghurt (Saving 14.2g Fat, 117kcal)
  • Luxury bread sauce for bread sauce made with semi-skimmed milk (Saving 262kcal)
  • 1 tsp butter/oil on vegetables for herbs/spices/lemon zest to flavour vegetables (Saving 4.1g fat, 37kcal)
  • 150ml Bailey’s for 150ml white wine (Saving 19g fat, 340kcal)
  • 200ml hot chocolate with whole milk & cream for 200ml Hot Chocolate with semi-skimmed milk & mini marshmallows (Saving 9g fat, 42kcal)

 

Have a healthy and happy Christmas!

Niamh Arthurs, Student Dietitian

International Volunteer Day

Thank you, Team Croí

Charities change the world and people’s lives but they would not survive without their supporters!

Today is International Volunteer Day and we want to thank our wonderful volunteers and acknowledge the vital role our volunteers play in making sure Croí can continue to provide vital services to people who need them.

International Volunteer day was launched by the United Nations to celebrate the spirit of volunteering. It’s an opportunity for volunteers and organisations to raise awareness of and gain an understanding for the contribution they make to their communities.

Volunteering is one of those good things that everyone loves! Charities love it because they believe in the power of doing good. And, according to all the research, the volunteers themselves love it because it makes them feel good. Researchers have identified something called “helper’s high”, and many studies have found that over 70% of volunteers feel better or healthier after helping out.

And it gets better… Did you know that some studies have found that volunteering for at least 200 hours per year (4 hours a week) dramatically lowers blood pressure in older adults? We are totally behind that!

Our wonderful volunteers support us in so many ways, including fundraising, event coordination, health promotion and public awareness. Thank you for taking the time to support Croí and helping us in the fight against heart disease and stroke.

#TeamCroí – we could not do it without you.[/vc_column_text]

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Top tips for healthy cooking

Below are some tips to help tweak your favourite recipes to make them healthier and still taste great!

  1. Watch the fats
    If frying, use a good non-stick pan and dry fry (e.g. in the case of mince). Leaving out the oil could cut 45 calories per teaspoon in your meal. If your food is drying out, don’t add more oil, add a little water. Use fats and oils that are high in good fats (poly- and mono-unsaturated fats), e.g. olive oil/rapeseed oil and try using less than the recipe suggests.
  2. Cut down on salt
    Most recipes indicate that you need to add salt or stock cubes.  Replace salt with alternative seasonings such as pepper, herbs, spices, lemon juice, vinegar or mustard. Use a reduced salt stock cube or half the amount stated in the recipe. Allow people to season their own food after tasting it – they are likely to add less.
  3. Cut down on sugar
    Experiment by using less sugar when you bake – most cakes will work even if the quantity of sugar in the recipe is halved. Items such as fruit cakes, fruit scones and tea breads can be made without adding sugar as the dried fruit will provide sweetness.
  4. Increase fibre
    Use brown alternatives of rice, pasta and bread to increase the fibre content of recipes which will help you feel fuller for longer. Instead of using all plain white flour in recipes, use a mix of wholemeal and plain flour when baking, e.g. when making apple crumble – you can also add porridge oats to make the top crunchy and add more fibre! Top dishes usually requiring pastry, such as chicken pie, with mashed potato instead.
  5. Soups and stews
    Allow your broth, stew or soup to cool and skim off the fat that gathers on top of the liquid. Replacing some of the traditional fatty meats in stews with pulses like peas, beans and lentils can save calories and fat as well as adding fibre.
  6. Sauces and dips
    Replace cream, whole milk and sour cream with semi-skimmed and skimmed milk, or low fat yoghurt. Low fat yoghurt and fromage frais can be used on hot or cold puddings and in dips instead of cream, double cream or Greek yoghurt. Fromage frais is fresh, skimmed cow’s milk cheese but is more like natural yoghurt. It is not suitable for use in cooking.
  7. Cheese
    Use strongly flavoured cheeses like mature cheddar or blue cheese in savoury dishes – you can use less and still get all the flavour. If you don’t like the strong taste of such cheeses simply use low fat alternatives of your favourites. Grate cheese instead of slicing as it will spread across a dish more easily and you can use less. Replace cream cheese with low fat cream cheese.
  8. Mayonnaise
    Replace mayonnaise in salads with natural yoghurt or low fat fromage frais. Better still, try using vinaigrette dressings and serving them on the side. When making sandwiches, choose low fat mayonnaise or butter, not both.
  9. Vegetables
    Flavour cooked vegetables with herbs instead of butter or oil. Replace some meat in dishes such as shepherd’s pie, casseroles and lasagne, with vegetables and pulses (peas, beans and lentils). It is a great way to disguise vegetables for those fussy eaters.
  10. Meat
    Trim the fat from meat and remove the skin from poultry before cooking. Then bake, grill, microwave, roast or poach instead of frying it. When roasting, place the meat on a grill rack – this allows the fat to drip away. If you are cooking minced meat, brown it and drain away the fat before adding other ingredients

Repost from safefood.eu. For more tips on healthy cooking and 30 minute meal ideas, check out the safefood.eu website.

2018 World Diabetes Day #FamilyandDiabetes

The 2018 World Diabetes Day is happening on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. The campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation, and the theme for 2018-19 is Family and Diabetes.

The primary aim of the 2018–19 campaign is to raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and to promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of the condition.

The number of people with diabetes in Ireland is growing rapidly, with the total number estimated to be 225,840.

Meet Nicola Delaney, a 38-year-old mum from Co. Tipperary. Nicola is a diabetic and a Croí programme participant. We asked Nicola to share her story in recognition of #WDD2018:

“Before, I didn’t take my health too seriously. I was borderline diabetic for years… then I was diagnosed with diabetes eight or nine years ago. I was referred to Croí for support and it really gave me a kick in the backside!”

“I finally took a stand for my health, and I feel so much better…better health, happier, overall improved. I am more mindful around my diet – why am I eating this? What are the benefits or the risks? I see it with my 12-year-old son, too. He wouldn’t eat fruit before, and now I can explain to him and educate him about food,” says Nicola.

Nicola’s words of support are “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get help – go to your GP or Croí. There are so many resources available online too.”

#FamilyandDiabetes

Diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. This is why the target levels for blood pressure and cholesterol are lower for people with diabetes than for other people.
Knowing the symptoms and risk factors for diabetes is important as non-diagnosis can seriously affect your quality of life. Undiagnosed or poor controlled diabetes can damage your heart, arteries, eyes, nerves and kidneys leading to serious health problems for you and your family to cope with.
You need to pay careful attention to keeping blood sugar levels in your target range and have regular check-ups for cholesterol and blood pressure. Take your medications as prescribed and try to get to and stay at a healthy weight. If you are having difficulty managing your diet, ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian for advice and support.

There is great potential to prevent type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals by lifestyle intervention. In order to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, it is recommended that all people have a healthy balanced diet, take regular physical activity and attain a weight appropriate to their height.

You are more at risk of getting Type 2 diabetes if you are:
• Over 40 years of age
• Have a parent or brother/sister with diabetes
• Had diabetes during a pregnancy
• Are overweight for your height
• Do not take 30 minutes of physical activity daily
• Have high blood pressure
• Have high cholesterol

And/or recognise any of these symptoms:
• Blurred vision
• Fatigue, lack of energy
• Extreme thirst
• Frequent trips to the bathroom (urination) especially at night
• Rapid and unexplained weight gain or loss
• Frequent infections
• Numbness, pain or tingling in your hands or feet

The more risk factors or symptoms that you have the more likely you are to have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Take the risk test now at www.diabetes.ie/risk

Continue reading at www.diabetes.ie

What’s the deal with carbohydrates?

Written by Croí Dietitian Aisling Harris. Extract taken from Aisling’s blog, The Superfit Foodie

Quite often when I hear a person say that they are going to try and lose weight or “the diet starts tomorrow” the first thing they say they’re going to do is “cut out the bread”.

But bread is not the enemy!*

*If you’re eating the recommended portion size.

Portion size is something that a lot of us struggle with. This is mainly because we’ve never really been told what an actual portion size should look like. I certainly got a shock when I found out! The massive portions of rice, potato and pasta or huge bread rolls that we get in restaurants or takeaways has probably distorted our idea of what we should be serving ourselves at home.

Before I explain what portion sizes should look like, I feel it would be helpful to give a quick explanation of what carbohydrates are and why we need them. Carbohydrates are our main source of energy. We need energy to keep our body running, similar to how a car needs petrol. But, like a car, we can only store a certain amount of energy or petrol at a time. Once the tank is full, petrol starts to leak out. Once our carbohydrate storage centres (muscle and liver) are full, any extra carbohydrate is converted to fat and stored in our fat tissue (our bodies are very resourceful and know that energy is a valuable resource. It doesn’t want to just dump it so it stores it where we have the most storage space – our fat tissue). However, like a car uses up petrol pretty fast, we used up our carbohydrate reserves (scientifically called glycogen) pretty fast which is why it is recommended we have a portion of carbohydrates at each meal.

So basically, you need enough energy from carbohydrates to keep your body running but you don’t want too much. But I like carbohydrates you say? I want to eat more you say? Well, thankfully there is a way you can do this…

Exercise!! Yes, just like a car uses up petrol and has to be refilled after a journey, your muscles use up carbohydrate when you exercise meaning that in order to refill them you need to eat more carbohydrates! If you aren’t very active then you’re carbohydrate needs are lower. If you eat more than you need then you will put on weight.

So, now that we, hopefully, know why we need carbohydrates, the next question is what are carbohydrates?

Well, basically they are foods that once eaten and digested are broken down into sugars (don’t panic, sugar isn’t evil either, we need it for energy).

The most common examples include bread, potato, rice, pasta, oats, cereals, grains, beans, peas and lentils. These are often called complex carbohydrates. Other foods that contain carbohydrate are fruits and dairy products. The other group of foods that contain carbohydrates are foods like sugary drinks, cakes, biscuits, bars, scones, buns, sweets etc. These are the only carbohydrate foods that you should avoid or limit.

“But I heard low-carbohydrate diets are good for weight loss?”. Technically this is true. If you don’t eat carbohydrates then your body will break down your fat stores for energy. However, long term this can have unwanted side effects. The main reason is because carbohydrates are our main source of fibre. Fibre is needed to keep things running smoothly through our digestive tract. If you don’t eat enough fibre you’re likely to become constipated and long-term it can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer.

How much carbohydrates do you need? Here I’m specifically talking about cereals, bread, potato, pasta rice and other grains. Even though fruits, dairy products and plant proteins contain carbohydrates, they have their own recommended intakes which I’ll cover in a later blog post.

Using the guide above, you can work out how many servings of carbohydrates you need per day. An inactive person would be someone with an office job who does little to no exercise. Even someone with a job that requires them to be on their feet for the most of the day can still be considered inactive as standing and walking, unless it’s at a brisk pace, does not raise your heart-rate enough to give you benefits (I know this will be disappointing to hear for anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet!).

The minimum amount of exercise adults need to do to maintain a healthy weight is 30 minutes on 5 days of the week. This exercise can be as basic as a brisk walk. If you’re just starting out then it can even be split up into shorter bouts of 10 minutes three times a day (e.g. a longer walk to work, lunchtime lap of the office building and brisk walk back to the car (maybe with a bit of a detour). You just want to get your heart-rate up a bit and your breathing to become slightly heavier.

Continue reading here: http://thesuperfitfoodie.com/2018/02/whats-the-deal-with-carbohydrates.html

 

Stroke Support Group Summer Outing

Day tripping along the Wild Atlantic Way – the best medicine!

By Annie Costelloe, Croí Health Programmes Coordinator

‘Breathe deeply of the sea air as you enter Rosmuc!’ Peter O’Malley proclaimed as Donoghue’s Bus rolled into Pearses Cultural Centre in Rosmuc, ‘There is nothing like it anywhere in the world’ beamed the proud Connemara man!

And he was right, we were on the Croí Stroke Support Group Summer Outing 2018, it was a stunning  day in the month of June, the sun shone brightly as we took his advice.  You can take the man out of Connemara but you can’t take Connemara out of the man! Peter knew every bump and hillock, he knew who owned every house and piece of land along the road from Maam Cross to Rosmuc and regaled us with stories to match, of weddings and wakes from bygone days and in between gave us a few bars of his favourite tunes as Gaeilge!

 

The Stroke Support Group summer outing has been a constant in the Croí calendar for many years now, recently the group have visited the Cliffs of Moher and the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar.  This year they opted for Pearse Cottage, now the Pearse Cultural Centre (Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh)  located in Ros Muc, in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht, on the Wild Atlantic Way. The Visitor Centre houses a fascinating interactive exhibition dealing with Pearse’s legacy and exploring the things that drew Pearse to Connemara: the area’s unique landscape and history, and the ancient Gaelic culture and language which is still alive in the area today. The building itself is truly a 21st century structure but respectful of its location and the landscape in which it resides. Inside we were treated to a mouth-watering array of pastries and cakes and the welcome aroma of freshly brewed tea and coffee provided by Martin and his staff in the café @maiziegourmet.  After we had enjoyed our repast, the group took some time to take in the interactive exhibition at the centre before taking a short stroll through the bog path to visit Pearse’s Cottage, which is just as he left it in 1915.

Then it was back onto the bus and off to the Coral Strand (Trá an Dóilín ) one of Connemara’s finest blue flag beaches. Sitting at the mouth Galway Bay, the strand is a series of small coves nestled between rocky outcrops. We eagerly hopped off the bus, pulled off our shoes and socks and spent a very enjoyable hour walking along the water’s edge, breathing in the Connemara air that Peter spoke of so highly.  Our very patient bus driver Joe eventually indicated that we had better get going if we were going to be in time for  lunch at the Connemara Coast Hotel!  Peter and Gerry led the sing song on the way to Furbo where we were warmly greeted by the staff at the Connemara Coast Hotel (@connmearacoast) and  served a scrumptious lunch with all the trimmings as we sat back and enjoyed the vista from the dining room and the serenity of the Wild Atlantic Way. Nessa Heaney captured the sentiment of the day as she toasted ‘good friends, camaraderie and beautiful Connemara…. the best medicine’

  

“It is the the little things that make a big impression and the Croí Stroke Support Group would like to say a big thank you to all who paid such attention to detail in ensuring that the group got maximum enjoyment from the day. Some of us do not move as quickly as we would like any more and living a life after stroke can mean that things take a little longer to do and in that regard Joe, our driver, at Donoghue’s Bus, deserves special mention,  he  is truly a gem, he was so kind and caring to the group.  Thank you also to Dáire and Martin and the staff at Pearses Cultural Centre and Café and to the staff and management at the Connemara Coast Hotel who looked after us a so very well.”
– Feedback from a member of the Croí Stroke Support Group.

 

The Croí Stroke Support Group meet at Croí House on the second Thursday of every month and new members are always warmly welcomed, call Jessica on 091 544310 for further information. 

2018 World Stroke Day

In recognition of 2018 World Stroke Day, we held a lovely tea party for our Stroke Yoga participants, Stroke Support Group and Stroke Communication Group. Thank you to everyone who attended and shared words of advice to help other survivors get #UpAgainAfterStroke.

Monica, a member of the Croí Stroke Support Group.

Monica’s husband Pat suffered a stroke on April Fool’s Day, 2014. “He has plenty jokes about that,” says Monica of her husband of 48 years.

“It was very difficult in the beginning after the stroke, but Pat was so determined. He had such a good attitude, but often took risks and that scared me. I was trying to keep him safe, but he was so used to his independence.”

Pat was told he wouldn’t be able to walk after the stroke, but following relentless therapy sessions, Pat got back on his feet and is doing really well. “While he was hospitalised, I would go for my daily visit after his physiotherapy session, and discover he had gone for a second session, sometimes a third!” says Monica.

Monica and Pat are members of the Croí Stroke Support Group, who meet every month at Croí House to chat and offer support to one another. “The group meetings are fantastic for both of us, for different reasons. Pat connects with other stroke survivors, learns from them, and offers advice from his experience. As well as the group meetings, Croí also arrange support meetings for the carers, or loved ones of stroke survivors, where we can chat about difficulties we encounter without upsetting our loved ones. The whole group also have different get-togethers outside of Croí, such as coffee mornings, craft sessions, knitting, etc., the main purpose being to chat… about anything other than stroke!” says Monica.

I meet with fellow stroke carers and we chat, knit or go for coffee, and Pat connects with other stroke survivors to learn from them and offer advice.”

Pat and Monica also took part in Croí programmes, including Croí MyAction, an intensive programme focused on healthy lifestyle changes. “We did everything together, and I found the programmes really helped me too! I needed to be well to be able to help him,” says Monica.

Pat and Monica’s words of advice for #WorldStrokeDay are that there is life after stroke. Every stroke is different, but it’s amazing what goals can be reached. Try reaching the best according to yourself to get #UpAgainAfterStroke.

Paddy, practicing yoga at Croí House.

Paddy suffered a stroke three and a half years ago, and since then has been very involved with the work and activities at Croí House. “It really changed my life. I come to Croí every Wednesday for the stroke survivor’s yoga class, and then every month for the support group. I can link with people who understand, and I feel comfortable in their company,” says Paddy.

Paddy’s recovery from stroke was not smooth. One year after his stroke, Paddy ended up in intensive care after an operation to remove a cancerous tumour. The operation almost re-activated his previous stroke symptoms and Paddy had to relearn how to walk again. “I worked hard to get back to where I am today. My mission is that I can walk into a room and no one would ever know I’ve had a stroke.”

Paddy is a regular at the Croí stroke yoga sessions, where Vicky Harkin volunteers her time as the stroke yoga instructor. “Vicky was born for this job. She’s the most enthusiastic person.” Vicky’s stroke survivor yoga classes are very popular and numbers have grown to over 30 per class.

Paddy’s words of wisdom for #WorldStrokeDay are to get involved with a network, like the Croí Stroke Support Group. There are facilities available. Even activities like going to the library or for a walk are forms of self-therapy. Get out and meet people – it will help you get #UpAgainAfterStroke.

  • Gerry, a stroke survivor from Co. Clare: “A positive attitude, watch your diet and regular exercise will help you get #UpAgainAfterStroke. Croí has been a great support for me and my family. ”
  • Christina, a stroke survivor from Galway: “Keep positive, keep busy and stay motivated. Plenty of physio / hydrotherapy and yoga will help you get #UpAgainAfterStroke. I found Croí’s neck exercises and meditation very good.”
  • Margaret, a stroke survivor: “Yoga and exercise classed will help you get #UpAgainAfterStroke.”
  • Frank, a stroke survivor from Galway: “Keep active if you can. Croí is a great facility. It helped me with yoga and having human contact helped with my recovery. Support is always needed.”
  • Delia, a stroke survivor from Mayo: “Plan your day with goals. Exercise and rest is so important. Croí has helped me physically, mentally and socially. I look forward to having more services in Ballinrobe, Mayo.”
  • Brian, a stroke survivor from Galway: “Do what you are told from the start. Croí yoga classes helped me get #UpAgainAfterStroke.”
  • Gwen, a stroke survivor from Galway: “Keep going. Croí has been just wonderful for my recovery.”
  • Eithne, a stroke survivor from Galway: “Get up, get dressed and go out.”
  • Andy, a stroke survivor from Galway: “Get up and
    about and be social. Croí’s exercise and yoga classes
    helped me get #UpAgainAfterStroke.”

Thank you everyone who shared their story for World Stroke Day.

The Croí Stroke Support Group meet at Croí House on the second Thursday of every month and new members are always warmly welcomed. Please call Jessica on 091 544310 for further information.

Yeats College Bake Sale

A huge thank you to the 5th year students at Yeats College, Galway, who organised a lovely bake sale on October 5 in support of Croí services! Over €350 was raised through the bake sale and coffee morning. Thank you to all the students, staff and parents who contributed and helped out on the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you interested in organising an event in support of Croí? Learn more here – https://croi.ie/organise-a-fundraiser/

David’s fundraising adventure for Croí!

 

So I had one hell of an adventure cycling to Paris in aid of Croí Heart & Stroke Charity!

David and Luigi, Croí
David and Luigi, Croí

The story of my cycle reads like one of lemony Snicket’s books! However, the more challenges overcome along the way the more rewarding the goal!😁 I managed to cycling just shy of 700km and raise just over €800! A big thanks to everyone who supported me! Especially Amy Joyce for the moral support along the way. Also, I’d like to thank West Side Cycles who were very helpful in the preparation for this trip!

So I suppose he best place to start with the summary story is at the beginning!

I left Galway on Friday the 16th of march from the Croí offices at around 4pm. I cycled approximately 40km that evening back to my parents place which is in the general direction of Rosslare. The weather was lovely and spirits were high! I enjoyed the cycle and I was home before to late. The following day however was a harrowing physical challenge and by far the hardest day of the whole trip. I cycled 140km to Kilkenny, which in of itself wasn’t much further than I cycled any other day of the trip. What I hadn’t accounted for was the sheer strength of the wind! It was blowing in my face the whole way. Progress was slow and I had to cut my breaks short to try and keep on schedule, it didn’t work, I was late and it got dark very quickly. Then it started snowing. Not heavily or anything, but visibility was VERY poor! Luckily I had invested in an extremely high vis jacket so I was still visible to motorists, however I couldn’t see very well by the light of my bike. (Which is designed to let others see me, not to see by) Due to the uncomfortable situation I found myself in I dug deep and pushed hard to get there as soon as possible. As a result I was utterly exhausted when I did get there! Being my 1st proper day of cycling and being so tired already I started questioning if I was really ready to do such a trip.

The next morning I woke up to a scene from Lapland or something. Overnight several inches of snow had built up and the roads were icy. I probably could have made it to Rosslare but I never would have managed to cycle there in time for my ferry. Also, it would have been needlessly dangerous! I made the hard call that I needed to resort to public transport! I got the train to Waterford and then a bus to Rosslare, where I got my ferry.

The ferry trip was very enjoyable and was just the rest I needed to raise my spirits and feel like I could complete the challenge after all!

However, Murphy’s law was far from done with me!😅

Without going into to much slanderous detail about what phone company and why, my phone was rendered useless as I couldn’t avail of roaming or internet. I was limited to WiFi. Additionally, when I arrived in Cherbourg I arrived to blizzard conditions!

Without internet to update my Google maps I navigated the 20km to my airbnb mostly by memory! Which wasn’t easy as everything looked different in the snow. At one point I tried to connect to WiFi, it was a pay x amount for 30mins deal. However it had to send you a verification code by text and by email.

Now I wasn’t receiving texts and he reason I was trying to connect to the WiFi was because I’d no internet. For approximately 1 minute after paying my phone appears to stay connected to he WiFi before it realised that I hadn’t inputted my verification code, so I paid 3 times hoping the email would come through and I’d be able to connect. This was unfortunately not the case! Regardless, I found my way to the airbnb and I connected to the WiFi just to receive an email saying my bank account had been blocked due to multiple small transactions in a small space of time (Fraud prevention)! So to sum up,  my phone wasn’t working, my bank account was blocked and I had been almost lost in a blizzard in the middle of the French countryside!

I was fit to give up at this point but thanks to encouragement from Amy and the fact that it only took a quick email to unblock my bank account I decided to stay going.

The following day the snow cleared almost immediately. However Google maps decided that roads were for tourists! The routes that it brought me down were almost impassable. I had to dismount and walk my bike up a “trail” that was to overgrown to cycle and then later a road gradually changed from road to dirt track to trail to RIVER! I actually cycled up a stream for a few metres, the alternative being turn around and go back about 8km! The water was about 8″ deep and my shoes got thoroughly soaked despite being on my pedals! I meant to head down to Omaha beach for a look but at Carentan I got my first puncture of the trip. Combined with the delay from the “trails” in the morning I had to take a short cut to stay on schedule. The rest of that day went smoothly and I actually felt quite well rested upon my arrival in Caen!

The following morning was yet another challenge, Google maps insisted on bringing me down some more “cycling trails” and at one point one “trail’ became completely impassable for someone with a bike. The trail had changed into a gully between two fields and someone had dumped huge piles of cobbles into it! I was forced to climb out dragging my bike and go through the field to the nearest road. Trespassing unintentionally!

From that point I ignored Google maps and just checked the map myself at every junction. This slowed me down severally! At the next break town I found WiFi and recalculated my route but told Google maps I was in a car but to avoid motorways. Which it did, mostly…..

I started to make great headway as the roads were really good and were slightly downhill! So at my next break point instead of stopping for a while I just had a quick sip of water and threw my bottle into my waterproof bag along with all my electronics. Two hours later I found a 2L puddle in my bag along with all my electronics! I’d been making to much headway to be brought down by this so I tried things as best I could, flipped my bag inside out, threw everything back in (except the water) and continued on my way!

Again I was making huge headway and spirits were high! Until a car pulled up beside me and yelled “c’est une autoroute! Quittez la route!”

“It’s a motorway! Get off the road!” The road had started off as a regular road and had gradually changed into a motorway, I’d been making such good headway I hadn’t noticed! Nor apparently had Google maps!

Anyway, this added about 10km to find another route but all in all it had been a good day and I had made it all the way to Alençon!

The following day was the 2nd most challenging day. It was day 3 in a row of 120km distance. What I knew about it was that the city I started in and the city I was to arrive in were at approximately the same altitude. So despite the morning of cycling up and down hills, when I was far behind schedule I couldn’t figure it out.

I kept asking myself, “You are going downhill here as much as you are going uphill, why is this taking you so long?” I’d no answer so I just kept plugging along, barely taking breaks in an effort to catch up. It was in vain and with only 2 hours left of sunlight I arrived at the two thirds mark. I was seriously doubting myself again. Was I really so tired that the 88km or so had taken me all day? What time am I going to arrive at my hotel? Am I going to get enough sleep tonight to be ready for tomorrow? Am I really up for cycling in the dark again like I did outside Kilkenny?

Anyway, I had a quick break and then forced myself to stay going. I was only cycling for 5 minutes when I found out the truth. The entire morning I had been cycling gradually further and further uphill and the whole evening was a nice even slope downhill for 40km! I flew most of the remaining kilometres to Chartres! I even had to stop for puncture number 2 and I still made great time! Upon my arrival I was extremely happy because I was literally and metaphorically over the hill! The vast majority of my cycling was completed and I had only 80km to do the following day to where I’d be staying for a week to do a bit of rock climbing!

The following days cycle went smoothly and I arrived at my destination without any further problems!

I’d left Croí at 4pm on Friday and arrived in Fontainebleau at 3:30pm the following Friday! I’d essentially made it! I only had a short distance to cycle to Paris a week later and I now had some time to relax in the sunshine and climb with some Friends!

The sunshine lasted until Tuesday and then the rain came. I spent 2 days doing nothing in a hostel before deciding to return home early. I moved my ferry 2 days forward and prepared to cycle to Paris…  The problem was I didn’t have time to cycle the whole way there and still catch my train back to Cherbourg. I cycled about 20km Then got a train the rest of the way. I’d (almost) completed what I’d set out to do! I had cycled most of the way to Paris and I think the adverse conditions that I did it in makes up for the few kilometers that I skipped out on!

In conclusion, it was a great challenge and all the things that went wrong just added to the sense of adventure! The physical part of the challenge wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be, but there were mental aspects I hadn’t even considered. Such as the almost agoraphobia that sets in when you are cycling on a road from horizon to horizon bound on either side by endless fields that don’t even have hedges! The only thing breaking the endless land is the odd tree or wind turbine! It makes you feel like you’ll never get anywhere! 😅

Or just the fact that every evening is haunted by the knowledge that you have to do the same the following day!

It was all well worth it and it was good to learn that I had the mental fortitude to keep going!😁

I am sure I will be doing something similar again VERY soon!😁 Of course the fact that I was doing the whole thing for a good cause was a major source of motivation for me! I recommend to everyone to check out Croí for their information and services in regards to heart health!

 

If you would like to support Croí and organise your own adventure for Croí please contact Luigi@croi.ie we will support you all the way!