Operation Transformation 2015 - Review
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On the night of January 7th there were a lot of husbands sitting quietly by the fire waiting for their wives to come home. They had popped out for an hour, down to Gurteen Hall to register for Eastern Harps’ Operation Transformation (OT). The husbands, little smiles on their faces, were silently contemplating many more quiet evenings over the following seven weeks, when the women would be out doing something or other...fixing transformers, maybe. These husbands shouldn't have been so complacent. Because the wives heard other wives talking about some new deal for couples taking part in OT this year, and "sure couldn't he do with the exercise". So the unsuspecting husbands got signed up. With little or no say in the matter our menfolk were sent rummaging in the back of wardrobes from where they emerged clutching circa 1994 Nike's in their hands and "eye of the tiger" swirling in their heads - they'd been told about the Thumpboxing.


But, with a sense of humour and determination that's characteristic of the ‘Harps Man’ they rose to the challenge. Many an evening Bernard Hunt could be found leading his Rump-Dumpers on circuits of the pitch in Gurteen, if you listened closely you could hear them muttering abuse at him. Along dark Cloonloo roads you couldn't be sure if a will-o'-the-wisp was about, the flash lamps were in such abundance. And there was a contingent from the Keash/Ballinafad area acting like men possessed...Ye know who ye are lads! I'd swear that John Lavin sold out of shiny new trainers over those initial weeks...

The night after launch night we hit the streets of Gurteen, and we couldn't have picked worse conditions in which to introduce our new ‘Couch to 5K’ idea. As the name suggests, you start off nice and snug on the couch, and within weeks you're out running 5k at every possible opportunity, no effort required. Or did we get that last bit wrong?? We met up in Gurteen, and got pelted with monsoon-like rain, hailstones maybe even snow and nearly got blown away with the gales, there were dangerous looking puddles to navigate, and sure we couldn't breathe! "I can't do this", "I'm too unfit" and "I could never run and never will" were all phrases that were spat out during our first warm-down. What a sight we must have been in our fresh-out-of-the-wrapper RSA hi-vis vests.... we literally stopped the traffic! Surely we'd never put ourselves through such torture again?? But we're no quitters!

 

Over to Ballinafad we headed on the following Saturday morning, and took refuge in the lobby of the fantastic Field Study Center that had generously been opened up to us. We shuffled our feet and in last second panic tried looking for the back door, but too late, Karl and Eamonn bounced in, made soothing noises at us and lured us outside for the warm-up. The jog took us by lovely Lough Arrow, it did us no harm. Bernadine encouraged us on Thursday evenings and we even had a guest appearance from Ollie who came all the way from Syria to check in on us! The weeks passed, the breathing became a little easier, and we wondered at ourselves, we were becoming runners! Some people shone and set a blistering pace, and we even had 10 people attend a training course in order to be able to assist in running C25K programs locally in the future. This course was facilitated by Sligo Sports and Recreation Partnership (SSRP). This is the third year SSRP have being involved with OT, providing financial support and they are always at the end of the line if we need help or advice. We owe them a big thank you, Deirdre Lavin in particular.

 

Finale day dawned and we met bright and early in the Forest Park for our final 5K. As usual the Monasteraden women were out in force, smiling and encouraging all around them. Sean Scott did the warm-up that some people thought was the 5k.!! We covered a pre-measured route and were timed by Shaun Dorrian. We were all well proud of ourselves as we crossed the finish line, and rightly so, well done all.

We won't talk about one of our committee getting lost in the Forest Park some days earlier when he went to recce the route..

 

Sundays were family walk days and we traipsed the roads within the club area and farther afield. Children were pulled from in front of a screen and told to dress warmly. We had a beautiful walk on the beach in Strandhill, all the while telling each other how good the sea air was for us, and patting ourselves on the back for braving the bad roads so we'd get our walk in. Then we went into Mammy Johnsons and had ice-cream and pancakes.

 

We frightened ourselves talking about the hill in Cloonloo, but consoled ourselves with thoughts of the scenery from Wynne's view. "Don't heed the hill" they said. "It'll be worth it" they said. They never said it might be so misty that you wouldn't be able to spot the hi-vis struggling up the hill two feet in front of you.

The hills around Keash and Culfadda got climbed, and we had to be careful not to get trampled on by a few very determined teams from down that neck of the woods. No quarter was given - "move fast or move out of the way, we have weight to be losing".

 

One morning a very alluring text arrived telling us of the beauty of Union Wood, it waxed lyrical about the pretty forest and the meandering river. We couldn't resist and off we went, the heavens opened and the terrain became muddy, slippy and wet. Hills appeared out of the mist, and the 6k felt like 12. But no matter how difficult any walk or jog was, our band of warriors kept smiling, joking and encouraging each other, and nobody ever said "I wish I'd stayed at home today". When we got a soaking and arrived back at base covered in muck and wringing wet we felt like Bear Grylls and headed home feeling just a little bit smug.

 

Alan Williams got us to do things on Monday nights that we didn't think we'd be able to do, and Ray took care of us on Wednesdays, leaving us with aches in muscles we didn’t know we had. Wednesday was also D-Day with the scales. As in the previous 2 years the ever-empathetic Aisling was waiting by the scales to bear the good and sometimes bad news. The story with the weigh-in followed the gender difference pattern of past years. Women gathered around if one of their own had bad news at the scales, they sympathized, cooed words of advice, and pulled inspirational quotes out of the ether. And they praised and congratulated if things went well.

Not the men. If a man excelled he was treated with suspicion, then ignored for a few minutes to teach him not to be doing so well next week please. If the poor lad gained weight and was foolhardy enough to let his audience know, he was told exactly how he'd done damage, and anything he'd been spotted eating or drinking in the past week was dredged up just so he could be reminded exactly why he didn't lose weight.

 

We had some spectacular weight losses right from week one. People faded away before our eyes, and their shapes started to change due to their dedication to getting fit and toning up, as well as moving away from the table. But our two ultimate winners, Aneta Holub and Michael Higgins Jnr were dark horses. Quietly and without pomp and ceremony they worked away, consistently dropping the pounds every week, but a trait they share with most of our other participants is determination! Snow and ice hampered our progress this year, with a few events getting cancelled. Everyone had wanted to lose a few pounds and/or get a little fitter, and as the winter finally lost its grip and the first promises of spring arrived that's what had happened. Our winning team also stepped quietly into the limelight, and it was a family affair. We don't know who was doing the background threatening but it worked, and a slim, healthy “Curves Away” took the silverware in the end, by the narrowest of margins.

 

Seven weeks had looked daunting back on January 7th - except for the unsuspecting husbands twiddling their thumbs and dreaming of long winter evenings watching Top Gear - but the weeks flew in and soon we were all dressed up and settling in at Drury's. The band was SMILE and had been booked way back in September/October after our first planning lunch. Speaking of food, a team leader was mentioned at the start of this article, and it would be remiss not to mention his other half, Liz Hunt, under who's name a photo of the OT Ctte appeared on social media, namely Damien Mc Govern, Shaun Dorrian, and Aisling Stephenson. In it we're undoubtedly having a stressful and difficult meeting in the hours after launch night. It has been ALLEGED that we are tucking into chips, burgers and chicken nuggets. Nothing has ever been proven, and no admissions have been made. Liz, sleep with one eye open.

I'm straying off topic (a regular problem during OT meetings), SMILE took to the stage, and poor Damien, not drinking, did his best to keep manners on the rest of his committee, as well as Seán Scott, our wonderful MC for the night. Damien guided us through the formalities and only once or twice got exasperated and pleaded with us to "try and focus for just a second PLEASE", a patient man, he got the job done. Seán thanked our event sponsors, Lavins Outfitters, The Coach House Hotel, Ballymote and Tansey's Centra Gurteen. Sean also had good news for one of our participants, when he announced Des Horan as the lucky winner of a weekend away in The Tower Hotel in Waterford, kindly sponsored by Geraldine Clarke of Gleeson, Mc Grath, Baldwin Solicitors in Dublin.

Chairman Padraig Henry took the mike and announced the raffle sponsors - Joe Simons Boyle, Cryans Carrick on Shannon, Rogers Ballymote, Boda Borg Forest Park, Mammy Johnston's Strandhill, Currid's, Henry's Casey's and Johnsons Furniture Ballymote, and the hairdressers, Gemma Crossan, Hair and More, Ethna's, Siobhans, and Lisa Johnson. The committee wish to thank AnnMarie Healy and Ronan Higgins for sourcing all the raffle prizes. Also thanks to Gurteen Hall Committee for the use of their facilities again this year.

Liz Coyle swept in, looking amazing after all her hard work, and presented us with beautiful pieces of O' Riain Pottery to mark our time involved with OT, thanks herself and the participants for these gifts. We've been presented with unexpected gifts every year, and appreciate it. Liz had also baked a cake in year one, but maybe it was felt by all we didn't need it this year, what with the chips and nuggets we were caught with early on. Allegedly.  

The party spirit grabbed us all and we danced the night away, followed by a sing song led by some current and former committee members..!!!

 

Operation Transformation has just finished its third year, and has gone from strength to strength. When we began planning for this year, we were worried, had the idea run its course, would interest levels have dropped, would you the people come out and join us for another whirl? We were taken aback yet again by the enthusiasm. OT has ingrained itself on the community calendar, and not just as a fitness event, but as a social one. Set aside all the health benefits, we as a community have together developed something special in OT. Where else would you get such an unlikely mix of people coming together up to five times per week? On walks people fell in with others they didn't know, or half knew to nod at, or had known in school half a lifetime ago and had no reason to speak to in twenty years.

 

We can measure some aspects of OT - how much weight was lost, how much was raised for the Club's development fund, how much on average the men lost compared to the women, etc. But it's impossible to measure the impact it has had on peoples lives, because getting out there and doing something with friends new and old is good for the heart and soul. We the present OT committee are stepping aside to let fresh faces and fresh ideas take the lead in 2016. We sincerely hope you will all turn up again in January ‘16, I know we will, to support OT once more. Our Club and community has a new tradition - coming together for some fun and games in the darkest months of the year.

 

Back in the autumn of 2012 we started off as a committee of four, and Seán Scott was one of the four amigos. Other commitments robbed us of his full attention for the last two years, but he never escaped a full OT season unscathed, and would potter away in the background when needed, as did Eamonn Clarke in 2015. Though I don't think it dawned on Eamonn what he was getting coaxed into until it was too late.

 

As for the three of us, we've bickered, squabbled, laughed, and whinged (only a little, because it was banned) our way through the last three years. But overall we’ve had a ball, and it couldn't have happened without all of you. Thank you.

Shaun, Damien & Aisling


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