Autumn Glory

Outward Bound

Heading out onto the Irish Sea at Skerries Harbour

I snatched a piece of glory for myself on a long, slow, Sunday run by the coast. It was one of those very bright October mornings with the moon a finger-painted smudge in clear blue skies over the bobbing boats of Skerries harbour.

returning

Skerries Harbour

White sails dazzled in the clear, calm waters, as the members of Skerries Sailing Club busied themselves with their yachts.

And there were plenty of land lubbers about delighting in the crisp clear air or, like myself, taking pictures of the pretty scene…

Long shadow..

…and silly shadow selfies…

Oh, I could feel my old enemy, Procrastination, setting in. It was time to go.

The Skerries-Balbriggan route is very popular with runners and walkers. No doubt, it’s spectacular views have a lot to do with that. And of course, hugging the sea as it does, it is entirely flat. Always a plus for a plodder like me.

The downside though is that the footpath is very narrow, and its surface is dangerously rough. Three miles in, loose gravel got the better of me. I stumble. Almost saved myself. Then, horror of horrors, slam onto the ground.

It’s the classic little-kid fall, featuring two grazed knees, two skint hands and lost pride. I hobble to a nearby gateway to assess the damage and recover my composure. And, apart from a hole in my leggings (damn, my last good pair) I am good to go.

As it turned out, this wasn’t the worst of my pathway woes…

I had to step off it several times to let pedestrians by, always, of course, with an eye out for a car careening round a bend. And, worse still, there is a patch just outside Skerries where the path runs out entirely.  Possibly to encourage runners to up their tempo a tad.

It had that effect on me, anyway.

It would be really good to see this pathway widened and resurfaced. A lot of people enjoy it and, with a truckload of health problems festering in our overfed and depressed population, this investment would do the world of good for both Skerries, Balbriggan and their visitors.

But otherwise, the mild autumn temperatures and sea air made for perfect running conditions. And, even though I love to listen to talk radio during these long slow runs, I took frequent earphone breaks just to enjoy the sound of the sea and its accompanying birdlife.

Here and there I’d catch a glimpse of redshank, oystercatcher or snipe, while the gulls, announced their abundance with raucous cries.

Soon, I was heading into Balbriggan. A solitary red bricked chimney declared it’s industrial heritage. This was the ancient chimney of Smyths’ textile factory.

The town was built on tights, balbriggan being a term used to describe a fine knit textile which was once manufactured in that town and turned into hosiery and underwear.

Lighthouse

Balbriggan Harbour

 

Balbriggan hides its glories well.  One of the joys of running, of course, is that it tends to sniff out these charms, and so brighten even the most tedious of trots with sparkling gems.

The harbour glistened in the morning light. After the hideous railway perimeter and ugly jumble of buildings, it seems all the more surprising. And, a little further along there is a Martello tower, yes, another one to match the ones I’d seen in Dalkey,Sandymount, Donabate, Portrane, Loughshinney and in Skerries itself.

Winding back through the town, there is the interesting court house building, and a beautiful Carnegie library opposite.  But little else to delight the eye.

I was homeward bound at this point, however, looping back to Skerries and already looking forward to the return journey, trotting along between the railway line and the sea, and enjoying ever second of it.

I met more friendly runners on that route than any other I had encountered. I figured that was because they were as happy as I was, enjoying the scenery and the glorious autumn day.

Ten miles done. I barely felt them. Not, I hasten to add, because I am super fit, or even fit.

But, because some runs just are sheer joy.

Giro D`Italia

Why are we waiting

Last Sunday, along the East Coast of Ireland, was Giro D’Italia Day.

Yes, that’s right,  the Giro d’Italia descended upon our shores last weekend to complete Stage Three of that prestigious cycling event. And no, it’s not an annual event here in the Emerald Isle. We just got lucky this year.

Much though I love to take my bike out for a spin, I am pretty clear that this is biking of a very different sort. Beyond that, my knowledge is limited. But it didn’t stop me from getting out there to see what all the fuss was about.

The publicity machine behind the Giro have been doing their best to educate us for the past few months. Full and half page advertisements have been running in the newspapers for months and advance warnings were posted about traffic restrictions in all the towns along the route.

The Discover Ireland people produced this very attractive promotional video.

And lots of homeowners went to great trouble to decorate their homes in with Giro pink balloons, and bunting.

Some even went to the trouble of dyeing their sheep!

Sheep pink

Sheep in Giro Pink Fleece

(Image from theirishpost.co.uk)

And, over the weekend people from all over Northern Ireland and the Republic, turned out, in their droves to cheer the riders on.

Or perhaps, like me, find out a little bit more about this cycle racing lark.

I certainly found out what it was to be part of the crowd at a bike race.

Early arrival was essential, as the Giro signs had impressed upon the locals what road would be closed and when. With extra traffic anticipated, and rolling road closures, travelling and parking would be a little more challenging

Onlookers started to arrive some two hours before the predicted race arrives at my chosen hotspot. Most were dressed in an assortment of layers as befits our recent multiseasonal weather.  Pink clothing abounded too,of course, with the occasional pink umbrella and one brave soul even sporting pink hair.

There was the low hum of good-humoured conversation, punctuated by occasional laughter. Most folk were happy to wait for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Most people. Except Jessica.

But Dad, I don’t want to sit on a stone wall for two hours!

I’m telling ya, Jessica, this is the best spot. You will see the riders coming down that hill and up that one.

But Dad…

Jessica if ya don’t stop that moaning, you can hit the high road now an`start walking home

Gardaí (that’s what we call our police force) manned the barricades and were having their patience tested too.

“You can’t cycle across the road son, you have to walk”

“No Ma`am we can’t open the barrier til the race passes”

“It should be here in around fifteen minutes”

Of course thirty minutes pass before the first of the headlights come into view. The crowd turns their head in expectation. And the van flashes its lights obligingly. But it’s just a merchandise van. Still, with Giro emblazoned on the side it is surely a portent of the oncoming peloton.

A Garda traffic car zooms past and eventually a team van.

Then nothing for another age. The threatening rain now falls in heavy plops and umbrellas are raised in defence.

Suddenly, a siren…

Lead Car

A cavalcade of Garda motorbikes spans out along the route, one driving raising his arm to the crowd who cheer enthusiastically, the others a little closer to the crowd to encourage them to keep off the road. Next the lead car and then, and then….

My camera is in movie mode and the clustered pack of cyclists has disappeared as quickly as it has appeared. It barely registers on my screen.

The lead pack have gone in a blur.

Honestly, someone should’ve told those guys to slow down a sec so we could see them properly.

But the race is not done. More cars and then, cresting the hill, a line of blue and green helmets glisten as they hove into view. Big cheers from everyone. I think I am witnessing what people in the know, and wikipedia, call a peloton. But to my uneducated eye it looks more like some gargantuan alien has landed.  There isn’t a human in sight. Instead, it’s a blue and green multilegged speed machine writhing its way expertly around bends and over hill with fantastic speed and agility.

Zoom-gone.

More cyclists follow. The are threaded in little groups amid the caravan of accompanying team cars. These cars must be vital team support vehicles as each one bears racks of bikes on their roofs as they follow along the route.

All too soon, another car arrives, helpfully brandishing a sign reading Race End. The crowd laughs and starts to disperse.

Of course all this clashed with my allocated Long Slow Run, as per the Hal Higdon plan. But I figured a way to fit in the Giro and keep Hal happy. I’d arrived early to bag my car parking for the Giro and then ran three miles of the LSR.

That shortened the wait and kept me happy and warm as toast while waiting for my first Giro fix.

Afterwards, I travelled some of the Giro route along the coast and ran a very pleasant five miles around Skerries.

Lighthouse Martello

Delightful views of course added to the meditative pace. Here too, the Giro had left its mark as it tacked along the coast and on into Dublin city centre. Skerries had thrown a festival to celebrate the Italian invasion though, true to my missed-the-best-parties form, the festivities were well over by the time I arrived.

But my solo run more than compensated, as it was more tai-chi than taxing  amidst the ethereal scenery of a Skerries cool summer evening.

With the sun glowering over banks of charcoal cloud, my slow shoe shuffle came to an end. Beside my car, a piece of Giro pink balloon, lay burst and tattered in the roadside puddle, a symbol of the passing of Giro day.

The Giro D’ Italia brought a glow to the east coast and a glow to many a heart and for many a different reason.

May we live to see it again.

Ah, Go On, Go On, Go On.

Fr Jack Drink

I`m beginning to think Fr. Jack knows a thing or two about running.

I had no choice today but to attempt a long slow run. Hot on the heels of yesterday`s unpleasant hill run, I wasn`t keen to hit the road so soon. But an LSR can`t happen tomorrow. And Tuesday won`t shape up to be a whole pile better. So it had to be today.

Normally, I`m a happy Sunday runner, though. There`s something calm and meditative to the day, as it is, so an LSR generally ties in nicely with that mode. In the absence of anything else, it`s become my regular spiritual practice.

A perfect time and place to recall Fr. Ted, so.

The recollection kicked in at the half way mark. I`d arranged for mid-way point to be a shop, just so I could pop in and buy some water. Saves me lugging water along and well, you know I like an excuse to stop, anyway.

By this stage, I`d done four and half miles. My pace was leisurely, and I felt a whole lot better than on yesterday`s run. But, even so, I was flagging a little.

And here`s the thing. After downing 250 mls of water, I felt so much better. Refreshed, even. I didn`t sit around, just took in the passing traffic, sipped until I`d assuaged my thirst and got ready for take off again.

Now water`s something I`m poor at tossing in there. Oh, I`ll sip a little before I head off but truthfully, –  and to compound matters-my drink of choice is coffee. I`m fully caffeinated before I hit the road and not at all as mindful of the H2O aspect as I should be. It`s only during these summer months that I`ve taken to bringing a small bottle of water around. I doubt it`s even enough.

I`d noticed the same thing yesterday on my hill run. Downed my little bottle of water and felt revived again. I know I shouldn`t wait for thirst to kick in before drinking but that`s exactly my habit. Instead, drink should be to the forefront of my mind. Much like the alcoholic Fr. Jack.

“Drink! Feck! Girls!” as Fr Jack says.

Well, I`ll take the drink anyway.

Squeezed nine miles out on my run today. Happy with that, in addition to yesterday`s six.

Tomorrow is definitely a rest day. Looks like I might fit a swim into the schedule if I can. And definitely build on that water habit. Make myself do it,even.

Mrs-Doyle12

And I`ll think of Mrs Doyle urging me on as I take a sup…

“Ah go on, go on, go on”

 

 

 

 

Credits:

Fr Jack pic from tumblr.com

Mrs Doyle pic from safefood.eu

 

Torture

Yesterday`s Long Slow Run became a Long Very Slow Hard Run. I made every mistake in the book.

 

I took the scenic route into town. Nothing wrong with that, except that it`s only a six mile round trip. If my two times tables served me correctly, that meant I`d have to double up to make the required twelve miles.

Which would be grand, but I know what I`m like when I see my car. The temptation to climb back in there and not turn around and repeat the torture is just huge.

 

I wore capris. You know, those lycra clingy below the knee things that sweat like hell when it`s hot. Only it wasn`t hot at all when I started out….

In fact it was cloudy. So danged cloudy I was thanking my lucky stars and didn`t even think of putting on sunscreen…

I brought my phone along just so I could tune into the radio. But I couldn`t get a signal down by the river except for some country music channel. I hate country music…

 

The first three miles were a doddle. A delight. There I am clipping along, almost whistling. I`ve even brought water along and I help myself to a whole heap of that at the end of the three miles because I need to improve at all the hydration business. It`s a small bottle. 250 ml. But I know I can refill it when I head back to the car after round one.

Heading back, the clouds suddenly lifted. By gum, did that heat hit. Tar melting stuff. Definitely lycra melting stuff. `

 

Now I`m not a comfortable little hen in the heat. I just squawk for shelter and die. Nothing for it though, but head towards the car and promise myself, promise, that I will turn back and do another loop to make up the twelve miles. Even if it kills me.

Anyway, I`d a change of gear in the car. That`s what I`d do. Change into shorts and another top so I`d feel all fresh again and ready for round two.

That cheered me up.

Isn`t running all about bargaining with oneself?

Got to the car in a blaze of melted lycra and pain. Opened the boot. Well, dang! Guess who`d made a really great job of clearing out her boot lately? Bloody hen had. Oh, there`s a swimsuit which I briefly considered, but dang I have my pride and the locals have enough drama in their lives anyhow.

The water was there, thankfully. I filled my little 250 ml tank and took a good scoop of it.

At this point, my back niggles and foot niggles were also beginning to make themselves felt. But a promise is a promise so I plodded back down the road again.

Told myself “Hey, you`re over half way there, and every step you take, gets you closer to the twelve”

Told myself “And if you run faster, it will all be over even sooner”

But speed wasn`t in the picture. By now, it was midday, the sun was high in the sky. I was glad of the shade as I plodded along by the towpath.

Got to the nine mile point. Somehow, miraculously. Reached in to get my little tank of water. It was almost empty. Yes, I`d filled it. But then I drank from that bottle instead of the one in the car. Obviously my birdbrain was fried at the time.

Time to phone a friend. No, not to throw in the towel, just to take a break and er, stretch and all that. But mainly to take a break. Yeah, I know. Weak.

Chat done, I hit the road for the last three miles.

Once I left the shade of the river bank, I hit the heat of the road. Suddenly, I started to shiver. Didn`t make any damn sense to be shivering in 26 degrees of heat, but there it was.

Last time I shivered like that it was in the marathon. Back then I figured, eventually, it was down to dehydration so I stopped at the next water station to recharge. This time there was no water station.

Another mile or so to go. I wasn`t too badly off. So I kept plodding on. Honestly it wasn`t a run. More of a fast trudge. And wondered if stubbornness really was the major cause of injury. And then I stopped. Half a mile short of the end.

 

I got home to lick my wounds. And savour the delights of a hot shower.

Emerged only to find I`d picked up another wound in the travels. Sunburn. A nice sport`s top shaped impression emblazoned on red flesh.

Pictures to follow. Maybe.

 

Now I`m wondering how Murray did all he did in the blaze of 40 degree centre court heat in Wimbledon yesterday?

I watched himself and Djokovic with a new admiration yesterday. Enjoy the celebrations, Britain!