Wild and Free

Grey Wagtail Source: crowboroughcommon.org

Grey Wagtail Pic source: crowboroughcommon.org

Jettisoned. Hmmmm, I like that word. And I’ve been wondering for some time how to work it into a post. Well, it’s moment of glory is here:

Yesterday, I jettisoned my Garmin, and my iPhone, and headed off for a most enjoyable five mile romp along by the river.

The thing about these little additions is that they often prove to be just another thing to get anxious about. I fret when the Garmin bleeps.

“Oops, my virtual partner has caught up with me.”

And fret when it does not

“Gosh, I hope that battery hasn’t run out.”

And the iPhone can be a proper nuisance. On my runs, I use it for its camera and radio. For my long slow runs, it’s nice to have both. Talk radio keeps me entertained and the camera is an excuse to stop.

But suddenly, the radio reception can time out, or I’ll spot something and have to wrestle the phone from my armband. Or a text will bleep in or a call will come through and, if I don’t stop to check, I’m left wondering who on earth it could be until I do stop, oh, maybe five minutes later, and discover it’s one of the kids looking to be picked up now and I shouldn’t have stopped at all.

Well, yesterday I was having none of that. I stowed both Garmin and iPhone in the car, along with the armrest, the earphones and all my anxieties and trotted off to enjoy glorious September sunlight down by the river.

It wasn’t long before I spotted my first surprise. I recall very clearly my first sighting of one as a little girl, holding onto my mother’s hand. “That’s a yellow willy wag” said Mother. Years later, I could confirm she was almost right. Grey Wagtails are indeed yellow, but his continental cousin is decidedly more yellow and bagged the name before poor Mr Grey came along. A yellow rump doesn’t quite qualify and, as he is mostly grey otherwise, grey wagtail it is.

But, he is still beautiful, despite his dull name.

Like their pied wagtail cousin, greys have the constantly moving long tail. If anything it seems a little longer and more mobile. They’re mostly seen along fast flowing rivers and streams. favouring canal locks and river weirs, in particular. I had last seen one seven years ago in a stream in Glendalough and prior to that, along the Boyne in Drogheda. So this was my fourth sighting ever of this bird. Oh, he’s fairly common apparently, in Ireland. It’s just that I am not always paying attention.

That’s why I need more runs like yesterday. Attentive ones.

I pay more attention to my fellow runners when I am not deafened by my earphones. Some-the really serious elite runners-just whizz past without noticing me, or anything else. You can just read their minds from the severity of their expressions and the efficiency of their gait “ I will break sub-3 in the marathon” Then Zoom, they’re gone.

Or the couples who are out together, one egging the other on. It seems to me that there is always one of the pair that’s really into running and trying to convince the other one that they should be. One who is deliberately slowing their pace, looking cool and refreshed while the other is plainly less fit and struggling just to hit jogging pace. I sometimes wonder if the delights of running are best discovered on one’s own, in one’s own time and pace. That first phase into running is a battle with oneself that too quickly, in accompanied circumstances, can turn into a battle with the well meaning, but sickeningly fitter, other party.

But I trot on, glad of solo runs.

And then a girl whizzes past. Yes, whizz. The draft from her passing like a tornado, almost knocking me off my feet. But-get this- she is carrying a litre bottle. One litre bottle in one hand. Now that’s awkward. Awkward size. Why not cart a 500ml, if you must? Or two 500 ml bottles in either hand? Or, carry a couple of euro, take the short trot into town and buy water there. Awkward hold. An average sized woman’s hand just won’t go around a litre bottle and hold it comfortably at speed. It’s a distraction.

Well it certainly was a distraction for me. I did a double take when I saw that almost almost missing an oncoming pothole in the process. Sure, it would have served me right if I’d tripped: I am constantly slagging my fellow runners off, if only in my head.

I hate holding anything when I run. I will never, for instance, be part of a couple that holds hands throughout their entire run, or,as I spotted in one half marathon, holding a piece of string between them. Well, snigger to that one. I mean they actually had to put a bit of forethought in there. It’s not like one caught up with the other and held their hand to encourage them along. Even cynical me can get that can happen. Nope, in the case of the string holding couple, one of them-or maybe both of them-have engaged in a little forethought the night before the run. They’ve thought about it long enough to think (a) it’s a great idea and (b) where on earth will I find a piece of string?

I don’t know about you, but here in the Chook House, there isn’t a suitable piece of string to be had.  No, I’d have to head to the stationery shop for some proper string. More forethought, more effort and for what? To show the world what a great couple you are. Blah, to that then.

Another trend I am noticing lately, is a more recent one: people running in old clothes. Now I love this one. Often it’s older people -that wonderful post-fifties age group-that indulge in this practice. And the rationale is pretty easy to make out: post fifty you don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about the way you look. But you may not be sure about this running lark. Is if for you? Well, no point in investing in all the high tech gear, just throw a pair of runners, a loose pair of bottoms, and old T and run.

Or at least try to.

Like the old guy I saw yesterday, who shuffled by in a white vest and white cargo shorts. The guy was sixty, if he was a day. He was quite a sight with long white flowing hair, white vest-an actual cotton vest, now, not a vesty type t shirt -and the aforementioned shorts. The whole all over white look was great. The beer belly, not so much. But if he gets the hang of the running lark, that will disappear and the guy will have added quality years to his life. Cheering him on, or slagging him off? Cheering him on, of course.

Once he gets a taste of progress, he can ditch the old gear and slip into something cooler and more comfortable. I hope he gets to that point. Discomfort can be a good thing in running, but only when it spells progress. Your only discomfort should come from pushing into a better fitness zone.

But that’s not even always. Some runs I like to feel free. I like to jettison all non essential items, all my cares, feel the wind in my hair, the sun on my back and just be glad I can be out there. I am not looking to get fitter. I am not looking for negative splits, or more intervals, or personal bests. I am just looking to enjoy.

The French call it joie de vivre. For me it’s just-and in every sense of these words-feeling wild and free.

Caveat Auriga-Let the Driver Beware

Do Not Leave Valuables 1

It must be a sign of the times. Literally. But, as we swirl around in the midst of this economic recession, it seems there`s more and more of these signs springing up around the place here in Ireland. It`s a response, of course, to the apparent increase in the amount of thieving from cars.

Luckily, I haven`t fallen foul of the car thieves recently. But, I did fall foul a couple of years ago.

I love to trot around any place of wild beauty. And, of course, the thieves alight on these places too, like wasps to a jampot.  Abandoning my car for a nice little trail run a couple of winter`s ago, I returned to find the side window smashed and my handbag, and other contents gone.

Note, I had taken the precaution of hiding my bag. On the back seat. Under a tennis racquet. (Now, where`s that flaming embarrassment icon?)  So yeah, I deserved ever bit of thievery I attracted.

But it was maddening, all the same.

There was the darned nuisance of all that glass to clear up. Clingfilming the window frame, til the window experts could come and fix it. Reporting to the Gardaí(our police force). Reporting to the insurance company. Putting up with missing items for weeks after. Rummaging for vouchers to discover they`re gone. Looking for a notebook that I know I left somewhere…. and later remembering. Rooting around for a favourite lipstick…yep, gone too.

It made me acutely aware of where I park my car.

And acutely aware of watching out for tell tale pieces of car glass.

More often than not, I`d fine glass scattered at a beach car park, or at a forest entrance. And there would frequently be two or more such pools.

Actually, in my trip to Glendalough this year, I noticed four piles of car glass in the free car park there at the Visitor Centre. It is, it seems, the clichéd magnet for thieves.

Parkrun in Malahide last Saturday, started with a warning from the organizers not to leave valuables in parked cars, especially in the carpark adjoining the Castle Entrance. Much favoured my tourists, it seems it is therefore, much favoured by thieves too.

How sickening that must be for the poor tourists, high on excitement with their trip to our emerald shores, only to return to their rental car and find passports, money, suitcases gone. Cead mile fáilte, indeed.

But runners and walkers are victims too and would do well to heed the warnings.Thieves at work

This is one instance in which I appreciate graffiti. The sign reads

Thieves@work.(Braking(sic) into cars)

Yep, I imagine it was one very annoyed driver who wrote that, returning as I did to discover his car damaged and, more than likely, contents missing.

CCTV cameras and extra security personnel help. But they`re costly and not ever tourist hot spot has the resources to invest in them.

Police presence helps too but yes, it`s a recession and I am assuming there are bigger fish to be caught.

I`d love to know the statistics though, on this kind of crime. I suspect, from my reading of newspaper reports and online forums that it is increasing but of course, anecdotal evidence can`t compare to hard facts. Anyway, having fallen victim to the crime, I am more likely to be aware of it`s occurrence.

Precautions such as, of course, not storing valuables in one`s car and certainly not leaving valuables on display are common sense.

And much though you love that beauty spot, or want to soak up some scenery, or run in the wilds, maybe it`s wiser to drive on.

Caveat Auriga! Driver beware!


Glendalough Lite

Information Centre Glendalough

Glendalough Information Centre

Glendalough has a magnetic pull for hikers, walkers and all sorts of tourists. They were all there the day we visited last week. Yes, all of them. And all properly attired with backpacks and hiking boots.

And then there was us. Three ladies of assorted ages and fitness.

My Unsuitable footwear, Glendalough

My Unsuitable footwear, Glendalough

And imminently unsuitable footwear. Sigh.

Only one thing for it: the Glendalough Lite Tour.

No, it`s not an official tour per say. Just our lazy version of how to do Glendalough.

We ambled slowly to the Visitor Centre. But, on the basis that too much information can actually be a bad thing, we ambled past it and on to the Upper Lake.

Tourists at Glendalough

There we got our first glimpse of the excited multitudes as they preened and posed for their facebook friends in glorious surroundings.

Off to Luggduff brook with us then, where two of our party actually managed to ascend the path adjoining the waterfall.

Lugduff Brook

We returned to our waiting companion to show her the our waterfall snaps.

Poulanass waterfall running into Lugduff Brook

That pleased her no end and revived her sufficiently to diverge towards the ruins of St. Kevin`s monastery.

Tourists at St Kevin`s Monastery

St Kevin himself rambled around these parts in the sixth century. He and his monks developed one of the great seats of learning in Ireland at that time, with this monastery.

Much of it lies in ruins. Including this cathedral. Though what`s remains gives us a clue to the skills and craftsmanship available in medieval Ireland.

Cathedral at Glendalough

St Kevin`s Toer Glendalough

The round tower itself is a particular delight. It functioned as the bell tower for the abbey. It was also a shelter for the monks to which they retreated with their precious books, chalices and other treasures when the Viking invaders were snooping around.

Note the entrance to the tower is raised high off the ground. The monks scaled a ladder to enter the tower, hauled the up the ladder, and bolted the door to exclude the Scandanavian marauders. Clever, eh?

I have visions of bewildered Viking monks clambering around the hillsides seeking out those darned monks.

Whistle stop tour over, we strolled back to our waiting car and sped past exhausted hikers on our way out of the valley. We stopped briefly at the Miner`s Village.

Miner`s Village Glendalough

Lead, zinc and silver were mined here from the 1790s for around 150 years.  In this photo you`ll spot the piles of stone which are a legacy from the mining days alongside ruins of the miners`dwellings.

Another View of Glendalough Valley

The view from the mining village is wonderful, though no doubt, in those more straitened times, the miners had more to concern themselves with than admiring their surroundings.

View of Glendalough Valley from Miners`Village

That marked the end of our whistle stop trip to Glendalough as we repaired for the delights of our hotel spa and a long massage to ease our aching muscles!

It should is a marvellous place for a strenuous hike. Or maybe even consider the Glendalough Trail Run on November 9th.

For me, at any rate, Glendalough deserves a return trip. Next time, I`ll wear hiking boots or runners.

And leave my two lazy companions at behind!

Hey! You know who you are! 😉

How Not To Go MIA

My sincere apologies…

Apparently, there`s a way to go missing from one`s blog. And a way not to do it.

Yep, I chose the latter.

What I should have done was to bank blog posts. That means building up enough posts to last the duration of my holiday, and schedule them to post at my usual intervals.

Or I could have scheduled some of my archived blog posts to reblog at those certain intervals. Advising my readers, naturally, that these posts were reblogged.

I just heard all that on a Michael Hyatt podcast today.

What I did was, of course, to leave you all with NOTHING for the past week.

And, to compound my mistake, I slipped off into the night without a word.

Of course, I have an excuse. I was too busy enjoying myself. Sure, I wanted to blog, but my trip took me to the wilds of Wicklow and there just was so many other things to do. Like eat in my favourite café, take pics in lush gardens, and scramble around ancient hillsides.

Yes, it sorta played havoc with my runnning. But still, I logged five miles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a ten miler today. Hopefully enough to keep my fitness up.

And I`ve returned bearing gifts. I had some of you in mind as I took these photos. There are greenfingers, and artists, and historians and cooks and writers among you. And runners too, who just might love to pick a trail or two among Wicklow`s wilder parts.

I`ve numbered the pictures, so choose one that appeals most to you and your interests, and, if you get the chance, I`d love if you let me know in a comment.

Oh, and the cakes at the end? They`re from Avoca Café and there`s one for everyone.

Off to catch up on all of you now. I`ll be reading for the week! 🙂