Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hard day on the bog - too tired to run!

In the age of instant heat, there is something seriously ancient about a man spending a day on the bog, saving turf for winter fires.  But today, that man was me... We spent six solid hours wheeling bags of peat out to the road.  It was a beautiful day, with a slight breeze but not a cloud in sight.  

My father and mother were there too, working hard and having fun at the same time.  Around these parts the turf is still cut by hand and saved in the old fashioned way, and a lorry load will see a house through a cold winter.  We have an open fire at home and love to light up from October onwards.  I brought the camera to catch the bogcotton... a beautiful sight!  

Of course, after all this hardship, I had to give my scheduled run a miss.  We really have to take advantage of the good weather to save the turf - so this could take a few days out of the schedule.

Monday, August 30, 2010

12 miles, and the end of the Louth holiday.

Two lovely weeks in Louth have come to an end, so we're back home in Connemara.  While poor wifey has to go back to work tomorrow, I still have a week's holiday left (which will be spent working on the bog to bring the turf/peat home!).  While Louth was a lovely break, my running programme suffered a small bit.  I kept up the long runs but the interval sessions were dropped and the tempo sessions were reduced.  Holidays can drag you this way and that so it was difficult to commit to 'personal time'.  However, I did get out for a twelve mile run yesterday morning - heading from Stabannan to Louth Village.  It was a decent route, six miles straight in one direction and then turning back for home.  The scenery was beautiful and the day was clear - but with a slight wind that I had to face into on the way out.  Added to the wind on the way out was the ever so slight incline that seemed to run the entire way, with only a slight give here and there.  Of course this meant that I had the wind at my back and a slow downhill all the way home!
The picture here is of Knockabbey Gardens - a lovely open garden on the grounds of Knockabbey Castle, just outside Louth village.  The castle itself dates back to the 13th century, and many of the families that lived there since have added to the wonderful garden.  I called in here on Friday and met the owner briefly.  It's a lovely place and a great way to knock out an hour or so.
Distance:  12miles
Pace:  9.30mins
Satisfaction 7/10

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Walking Slieve Foy.

Carlingford is one of the most beautiful little towns in all of Ireland.  It's where D and I celebrated our marriage two years ago and a place for which we've always had a soft spot.  There are many attractive aspects to Carlingford: the lough, the medieval castle, the quirkly little streets... and of course the mountain (ok, hill).  I've been determined to walk Slieve Foy for some time but never really got a chance until now - us being on holidays here.  I parked beside the Tourist Office and set off past St. Michael's Church, where the tourist office woman assured me there was a path to pull me up! 

The Foy isn't the biggest of hills (it's certainly not a mountain!), but it's no joke either.  It took me an hour and forty minutes to reach the summit, with some 'mild climbing' at the very top.  It is, however, a fantastic walk.  Twenty minutes after heading off from the tourist office I was knee deep in peace and quiet, with nothing to be heard except for the odd baa-ing of the sheep, the sound of streams trickling, birds overhead and the ever so slight wind. 

I'm new to this hill walking lark, but it was fantastic and something I'll definitely do more of.  It's also a very good workout - I was sweating like a marathon runner on my way up and needed to stop for a break now and then (this wouldn't happen while running!).  The final push up to the summit was straining enough, but reaching the top gives you a great feeling - akin to finishing a good race. 

The descent is nice, but be careful with your step - I nearly turned my ankle once, which would have meant an awkward journey down. Thank God today was a beautiful, dry day - otherwise my choice of walking shoes were flimsy to say the least (an old pair of asics). 

I was tempted to add to my pints count for the year after coming down the hill, but a soup in PJ O'Hare's was good enough for me!

Monday, August 23, 2010

14 Miles and 17 Pints.

From here to Béal an Daingin (the mouth of the Daingean) with a strong wind in my face and the ever present threat of rainstorms, whilst feeling a little tired on the heels of two big family parties.  It all seemed a little daunting this morning, but one does what one must, and all that carry on.  I took it nice and easy - about a 9.40 minute pace, and plodded onwards to complete the longest run of my furman programme so far.  14 miles, and not one of them kind.  I'm still on my holidays - and will be until September 7th, but we are 'staycationing' this year, which means dividing our time between Connemara and my wife's home county of Louth.  On Friday night D and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary on the same day that her father and mother were celebrating their 40th.  So we had a big party.     

Saturday's party was a fancy dress, so no, I don't normally wear flashy red shirts and hats.  And yes, it is hard to say what I'm dressed up as, but it's meant to be a 70s theme.  The lovely D is, however, clearly making less of an effort!
Then on Saturday my brother celebrated his 40th birthday, so we drove back home to Connemara, where we had another big party!  I managed to stay away from all the liquer that was being thrown around at these two occasions, but I did drink two pints in Stabannan on Thursday night with Aidie and Benny.  So the tally for the year is 17 and counting!

Distance:  14 miles
Route:  From home to Béal an Daingin
Satisfaction:  6/10

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Holiday Runs in Louth.

I'm up here on my hols in my wife's home County of Louth.  I've managed to keep my furman programme on schedule, with the one difference being that I opted for road running rather than park running for my interval day.  The scenery here is beautiful, and a world of difference from the ruggedness of Connemara - us being on the east coast now, rather than hugging the Atlantic coast of the west.  There are corn fields and maize fields everywhere in this country that is rich in farmland and richer farmers!  For my holiday bits I have visited all the old monastic ruins from the 12th and 13th centuries - this place is littered with them!  Round towers and old churches are scattered here and there and stories of monks who held out against the vikings but crumbled under the reign of Henry VIII.  I've had a good running partner in Benny, who is just starting back to some training but has a serious residue of natural fitness.  D and I are heading back west again this evening for my brother's 40th party.  I'll do my long run in Seanféistín on Sunday, but we'll be back to the Wee County of Louth again on Tuesday to resume the hols. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010


There's Conor, often mentioned but first time pictured in this blog of mine.  While I'm going on about doing a marathon in October, this man is running one nearly every week!  By the end of this year he will have clocked up 37 or 38 and aims to get a full 100 done over the next few years!  We set off on a 13 mile run of Seanféistín this morning, on what was a beautiful day - and the first of my holidays.  I was not in good knick.  For starters I only had about 4.5 hours sleep due to the fact that the group of teenage boys who have been staying in our house for the past three weeks (learning Irish), were not home until late, at which time I had to feed them and make sure they eventually got to bed, and then they were to be woken up again just after 6am to catch an early bus.  The first half of the run was fine - I felt a bit weary but ok.  The conversation was good and the weather was warm.  Conor ran two miles further than I did - running a mile past my turning point and still catching me on the way back!  The day got pretty hot as we were entering the last five miles and I began to gasp for water.  Being a man of fair complexion, I can find any bit of heat to be tough.  I struggled on and finished with an average of about 9.30min.  Just ok.
Distance:  13miles
Route:  Seanféistín with Conor
Satisfaction:  5(I was suffering too much to go wild about this one!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It started with a Hooker.

One mile easy this evening and seven miles at tempo pace.  I lashed into the tempo - again no watch but I was well under the 8minute mile mark.  I felt great throughout - the strongest I've been since starting the furman marathon programme.  Why so good today?  Perhaps the change of route - I've heard it said that bringing variation into a running programme can work wonders.  I usually do my midweek tempo around our village but decided to drive to the neighbouring village this evening.  They call this place 'the Islands', it being a series of small isles connected by bridges.  The scenery here is beautiful...I was all set to take some lovely photos for the blog but got so carried away with the run that all I managed to take was this picture of a hooker!  Around these parts of course the term 'hooker' doesn't refer to a street walker or lady of the night, but rather to the traditional sailing craft of Connemara - and this quaint little pub, which was my starting point for the run, is named after said vessel.  I ran the last bit of the run with laces open, running on a narrow bridge, with busy traffic whizzing by.  I had the choice of breaking my momentum by stopping to tie my shoelaces, or else risk tripping on my lace, being hit by a passing car and dumped into the Atlantic ocean.  Of course I risked life and limp to get back to my hooker in record time!!!
Distance:  8miles (1 easy, 7 tempo)
Route:  Back the Islands
Satisfaction:  9/10

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


On arrival for my regular Tuesday interval training, I noticed this old sign on the way into the the football pitch.  'NO HAWKERS'.  'Why?', thought I, 'would a local football pitch, in a little village on the rugged far flung shores of the west of Ireland, that hosts nothing but small GAA matches between parishes from Galway, whose main language is Irish and not English - why on earth would this place be worried about anyone coming to flog merchandise and why would they refer to said floggers as 'hawkers'!'  And then of course, I remembered... that magnificent day in 1986 when a MAJOR EUROPEAN SOCCER TIE came to our village!!!  I have recounted the story here before - the city team had qualified for European soccer but no ground met the UEFA size and standard - save this newly built pitch in the middle of Connemara!  That sign must have been up on the wall since then (and it looks it too!).  I must get in touch with the park committee so that they can take it down before it totally disintegrates and store it for a local museum in years to come!
As for my running - the interval training was tough as usual, but this time it really exposed the idiocy of me not having a watch... My routine was: 2 minutes fast, followed by two easy, five times.  I figured that 2mins fast would equal 2.5 laps of the park and that two easy would be just two laps.  However, for the final leg I decided to count the seconds in my head as I ran - turns out I should have only been running a lap and a half instead of 2.5 half!  As they say, it'll stand to me...
Distance:  Intervals (about 30 laps)
Route:  The Park
Satisfaction:  5/10

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Twelve, again.

These cows were resting on the six mile patch of Seanféistín Road, where I decided to park up for my twelve miler.  Whenever I run long distances on my own my mind wanders in all sorts of directions.  Today I solved Ireland's education and health issues and I also mapped out a road plan for cultural tourism!  I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment that I picked up for €1 in Charlie Byrne's called 'Human Nature in Politics' (boring you may think but wait...).  It's a very old book, written in 1908, and the edition I have is from 1919. I find it interesting to get the perspective of another age on all kinds of issues and the author of this book, a man called Graham Wallas, covers everything from political morality to human instinct (ok, still boring you say...).  Personally, I think our political system turns good men into mugs and attracts mugs to rule good men (as for women - there are none in Irish politics!).  Anyway - my mind was wandering all over old Wallas' book as I ran my twelve miles today...
And for the second time in two months I traveled without my running shoes... this time around though I was wearing some kind of runner, so instead of turning back I decided to carry on regardless.  Thankfully they didn't seem to do any damage!  Running conditions were grand - a slight swirling wind against me on the first six, but then it gave me a little backing on the way home.  I ran slowly enough (my programme calls for long runs to be 45 secs slower than target marathon time but methinks I was slower still).  Although I do think I can run faster than this particular pace, I am now of the opinion that breaking the four mile mark could be a bit harder than I thought!
My final pic here is of eleven cups in a row, with teabags at the ready.  The house is full of teenage boys at the moment, here to learn Irish in the local summer college, and after mowing the lawn this evening I returned to the house to find that they had meticulously laid out their cups for when they would return to the house after tonight's big disco!
Distance:  12
Pace:  Slow
Satisfaction Rating: 7/10 (enjoyed the run but a little disappointed with pace)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Four Kings

Just posted a new book review, of 'Four Kings' - the tale of boxing legends Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Marvellous Marvin Hagler, written by George Kimball.  Review on right column of blog (scroll down).

Friday, August 6, 2010

If you don't want to go out there, just make yourself regardless.

There he is, Robbie the dog, after a hard day's work building a traditional Connemara stone wall.  The fields around this area are a patchwork quilt of rocky and heathery ground, all sown together by these granite stone walls.  Most of these walls are hundreds of years old and divide the land into small sections that would have been owned by different members of the one family.  Today's pic, however, hasn't a thing to do with my run.  I did bring the camera out with me and took what I thought were decent snaps, only to find that I had no card in the camera.  So this pic of Robbie, our canine visitor from weeks ago, is simply to say that our furry friend actually found his way back to our house again yesterday... this time around, I had the owners' number and he promptly came to collect.  My scheduled run was a six miler, with two miles easy and four miles tempo sandwiched between. It was raining cats and dogs (not Robbie) before I went out, so that, coupled with a late night (not drinking, just watching a film until 1.30am) and an early morning (6.15am) meant that I was in NO mood for a run this evening.  But getting out there always works wonders.  I felt pretty good after the warm-up mile and kept my four mile tempo at a good pace.  The route was up the village and back towards Loch an Mhuillinn.  Funnily enough the torrential rain stayed away for the duration of my run, though I wouldn't have minded once I warmed up a bit.  
Distance:  6 miles (4 at tempo)
Pace:  Not bad at all
Route:  Village, and Loch an Mhuillinn
Satisfaction:  8/10

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pint 15, Interval Training and Ladies Gaelic Football...

I managed to get up to the football pitch a little earlier than usual yesterday so the lads weren't there training.  However, I wasn't alone, as the local ladies Gaelic team were being put through their paces by legendary ex Galway footballer and local publican, Aodán.  Like women's soccer in the USA, Ladies Gaelic Football is now the fastest growing sport in Ireland.  The skill level was very high amongst a young enough team so the future is bright for An Cheathrú Rua's female team for sure.  I didn't want to take a picture of the team training, (for fear of being accused of perversion!), so I waited until I could get the view of the football pitch from down our own road!
My interval run consisted of a mile of easy running followed by 1k hard five times, with a 400 mtr rest interval in between.  To finish I had to run another mile easy.  I found it tough enough and was very glad to have been able to finish the last few laps of the hard bit!
On the pints front:  I had my fifteenth up in Churchtown in County Louth on Sunday afternoon for Brian's funeral.  It was a good send off for the man - one of those rare funerals with a happy atmosphere.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ten miles and the coral strand.

Inspired by the men on my TV set running the European Championships Marathon this morning, I lept out into the great big sunshine and took on a full ten miles.  I usually do my long runs out in Seanféistín but for the sake of saving some car driving time I opted for a run up the village.  I went as far as the coral strand and then on to Loch an Mhuillinn.  The coral strand is known locally as 'Trá an Dóilín' - 'trá' meaning beach and 'dóilín' a 'gathering of coral shell'.  The beach itself is very unusual - there are only three coral strands in all of Ireland, and not many throughout Europe either.  For those who don't know what a 'coral strand' is I will try to explain:  most beaches have sand at the end of the watery part (you know the area where all the pretty girls lie down for a tan and where all the Irish men play football topless and nearly blind everyone with their ridiculously milk white skin?), but a coral strand doesn't have sand at that part, but rather it has tiny bits of broken sea shells and little sand coloured stony-type things. I know, I know, I've still not explained that too well... just google it and stop annoying me...
Anyway, this week was meant to be a 'step back', with only a ten mile long run, however, I found it tough enough.  The furman training programme must be bang on because I really could not have done another meter, not mind another mile.  Felt good afterwards and ready for whatever the day would bring (which turned out to be a lawnmowing session).  I am heading to Louth tomorrow for D's uncle's funeral so I was glad to have gotten my long run in beforehand.
Distance:  10 miles
Route:  Village, Dóilín route
Satisfaction rating:  7/10