'We'll make a rower of you yet!' - Ian Gaughran's Liffey lessons ahead of big challenge
With his training ramped up in intensity, Ian Gaughran is improving at a rate of knots — but there's been one or two spills
Lesson one: Drink plenty of Coca-Cola if you take a big gulp of water from the River Liffey.
I wasn't questioning the method or the madness (something to do with the acids), but I sure as hell didn't fancy picking up Weil's disease after swallowing a mouthful or two, so I gladly drank from my can of Coke.
Lesson two: Never get cocky with water sports, but we'll return to that.
The real hard work began last Tuesday morning at Neptune Rowing Club as I attempted to finish well-placed in October's Dublin Sculling Ladder.
It was always going to be a big ask, but by the end of the first session, I was soaked to the skin and had a bellyful of river water.
And that was after falling from the training boat. Pride dented, it turns out I'm not the only person to ever tip out of it — just the second!
However, if anything, something like that will only ever spur me on, and with my coach Eunan encouraging me on from the bank at Islandbridge, things started to look up come Wednesday and Thursday.
Neptune captain Eunan has the patience of a saint and has nursed my bruised ego back to full health in the training boat.
It's all about mechanics and, as I've written before, having the balance of a ballerina coupled with the strength of a powerlifter.
I'm plenty strong, but the balance didn't come immediately. It did come eventually, and despite mangled fingers and palms (inset) it's been a fantastic week of progression.
The course is around 1,800m and runs up the Liffey, with a couple of bends thrown in.
Ensuring to stay out of the firing line of other scullers, the steering and balance have improved and, come Saturday, Eunan seemed happy.
"You might be outgrowing the training boat, we might make a rower of you yet!”
The satisfaction to be gained from improving at the rate I have since last Tuesday cannot be put into words.
Delighted with my progress and after another couple of smashing runs on Sunday, I began to really feel that I could end up somewhere in the middle of the pack come October.
With friendly advice coming from all angles as Neptune members offer their help, I'm really getting the hang of things and am ready to move into my new slimline race boat.
And that's where I came crashing — or splashing — back to earth.
For the first time since my first tip into the water, I don't bring a change of clothes — huge mistake! It's the first thing Eunan asked when I arrived.
He knew I was going to be changing boats, you see. I didn't.
Slowly and softly does it for a while until confidence grows. This boat requires a lot more poise though, and I'm not even a full, continuous week into the gig.
You can probably see where this is going. After a progressive run, I quickly find that turning this boat isn't the same as turning the training boat and in I go again.
A couple of women on their morning walk come to my aid but to no avail and it's Gar Herbert from the Dublin Municipal Rowing Club who rescues me and gets me back in my boat.
Gar, like Eunan, is the kind of coach everyone needs. Calm and insightful, he instils confidence back into me as we scull back to base and it's little wonder the Municipal Club is so popular.
Catering for all ages and tied in with DEIS schools, they coach disadvantaged kids, elderly rowers and those with physical and mental disabilities through their Adaptive Rowing program.
If this sounds like a shameless plug, it's not — I'm grateful for the rescue and the help and will be back in the boat this morning because of them.
Fingers crossed the progress will resume and I'll be writing a dry column next time. Until then...