Saturday 30 June 2012

First post-race run

About 10 years ago I was feeling full of beans after a multi-day adventure race so I decided to head into the gym for a run on the treadmill. After about two minutes I got off and went home. Sometimes you feel A-ok walking around but when you turn up the dial then you realise that your body is still recovering. Ever since then I've always taken a good week to chill after a race and to let my body recover - like a thank you to it for working so hard. Only walking and yoga - no running.

Since the 24hr rogaine in Ireland a week ago I've done quite a bit of walking and then there was the 18hrs of plane sitting on Thursday and Thursday night to get home. Fortunately my post-race stiffness didn't last past Monday although the soles of my feet still felt worked over for a few days (the left is not 100% yet - almost).

With the weather warm, the sky blue and the sun shining it this afternoon was the perfect time for my first post-race run.

Arrggghhh... the first 20 minutes are never great. Seems to take a while to settle in, get the legs working nicely and to relax into the run. This was the case tonight. By the end - about 35 minutes total - I was feeling much better and a dash of yoga ironed out more kinks. I'll stick with light and easy runs over the next week as I ease back into regular running.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Ireland 9 - some other pics

Just a few other pics from around the race.
Our first stop on Friday morning was to the Avoca handweavers. What a fabulous place. 

Passing through Ashford, after Avoca, we spotted this 'yarn bombing', which led to the most amazing yarn store. And upstairs there were a bunch of women carding and spinning the most beautiful yarns. We spent quite a while with them chatting about their wonderful crafts.

Pumping my own fuel! ;)
Mom and I at Malahide Castle. This is the most amazing estate that is open to the public. Massive fields, playgrounds, sporting areas and tracks for running and biking. I didn't do well with getting the castle in the background in this photo...

We drove past this field of poppies and just had to stop. This is a massive field. I don't know what the deal is with this field but our cousin says that when fields are turned and old soil is uncovered poppies appear. With time they go again. This field was outside a castle estate - one used for functions and such. The colour is even more vibrant than in this photo.

Ireland 8 - 24hr Rogaine Ireland

One word. OMG!

We made our way on Thursday and Friday from the lower West of Ireland and through to County Wicklow via the town of Wicklow and into the Laragh area. Mom and I were kindly hosted by Chris, who I met at Abu Dhabi in 2010. He and Brian opened their home to us and we were made to feel most welcome. My rogaine teammate, Sean, lives 500 metres down the road.

I met up with Sean on Friday afternoon - we'd been chatting on email from about a month back. We headed to his home to meet his kittens (mom and I are missing our kitten) and met Sean's dog too. I hear Sean speaking to his dog and asked, "Is her name also Lisa?". He hadn't quite joined the dots before that and with this realisation admitted that she'd been named after the cartoon character Lisa Simpson.

Sean, Lisa and Lisa
This bunch all live in the beautiful Laken area. We drove from Laragh on the Wicklow Gap road to get there. It would turn out that the start location for the race was just off this road, in a forest clearing.

Looking back down the Wicklow Gap road towards the Glendalough National Park and town of Laragh (not visible). Sean and I would drop through these forests in the wee hours of Sunday morning during the race.
So. The rogaine.

My experience in Bangor on the trail was a good one because I had a half idea of what I could expect. At the race my education was expanded as I learned about bog, peat, heather, grass tussocks and baby heads - the latter being a kind of extreme form of grass tussocks. 

I did expect wet, I did expect rain. I did expect muddy and slippery.  I did expect temperatures to be cool to cold.

I didn't expect driving wind, rain, 30-meter visibility and bone chilling temperatures on mountain tops. I didn't expect to be dwarfed by peat 'cut-outs' that scar the landscape all over the place. I didn't expect to land on my bottom as many times as I did ;)

The race started at 14h00 on Saturday in a light drizzle. Sean and I spent about 25 minutes plotting the checkpoint locations from coordinates and planning our route. Sean suggested hitting the mountain area in the South first as the terrain was harder going. There was also a good points distribution down there.

Overall there were very few controls which meant that route choice between controls was reasonably open but also meant that the distances between controls was big and we were probably hitting controls every 90-minutes to 2.5 hours. Also, as there wasn't a large scattering, if you headed in an area you generally had to get what was there to make the effort worth while. I would have liked there to be more controls - the kick is finding the controls as much as planning a route between them and deciding what to get and what to leave.

Within minutes our feet were wet - as expected - and within 30-minutes we were quite wet. We did start out in our rain jackets anyway. We saw another two teams on the way to the first control, one of them on the way to the third (or second?) and then pretty much no one else for the rest of the race.

Sean approaching our first control. All controls were well placed and clearly visible on approach from at least 50-100 metres away, if not more.
At our first control (an orange corner peeking our behind Sean's back). The rain and wind started just after I took this and didn't let up until we descended the mountains after midnight. This may have been around 15h30.
From here it was up, up, up and my introduction to peat and baby heads. Nasty terrain for sure. Baby heads are rounded grass tussocks that have your feet working in all directions. It's hard work and good to get out of there.

About halfway up the mountain Sean and I were freezing. We stopped in the shelter of a peat cut-out to put our wind shells on over our thermal base layers and under our wind shells. That was a good move. We also put on gloves. Sean's hands were almost non-functional but improved quickly with gloves, which, even when wet kept out the wind and chill to keep our fingers warm.

By evening (as in time, not darkness) we were up on top of the mountains and the rain was coming down, the wind was crazy stuff and there was cloud all around. We couldn't see anything but the few metres ahead and occasionally a few shapes that turned out to be sheep looking quite ok in the nasty weather.

The descent from the first bunch of mountains was steep but took us from cold to forest-sheltered warmth. We'd been hoping to dry out our tights a bit before putting on rain pants but with no hope of dryness in sight we put them on. What a good decision and we really should have done so earlier (well, wouldn't have been possible in the wind and rain up top anyway). Despite the wet we were far warmer.

Up to another mountain top and more wind and rain but not as bad as that first, most southerly section. And then down into Glendalough. I'm not sure what time but would have been about 2am because first light wasn't that far off. We stopped under a shelter in a parking lot to change our soaked base layers for dry baselayers and that made a huge difference. We also needed to plan the next section of our route as we'd only planned the first half before setting off.

Warm and snug we hit the Wicklow Way, a hiking trail around this region. Halfway up I was cooking and needed to stop to remove a layer. Further up with daylight just starting to come through I needed to remove my wind shell from under my rain jacket. It looked to be a warmer day.

Locating another control on Sunday morning.
We only ran a little bit of the route overall - we trekked the rest. Sean said pre-race that he was quick on the downhills but not much good on the uphills. Well, he's good on all inclinations and really good over the terrain. I'm glad he was walking in front of me so he didn't see the number of times I slipped, slid, fell and plunged into the bog - immersed thigh-deep at times! I took a lot of strain on the ups, especially on Sunday morning. My thighs really got hammered by the cold on Saturday night and at one stage I started to feel my inner thighs cramping. Really weird as I very, very rarely get cramped muscles of any sort. I just kept steady putting one foot in front of the other. Luckily I didn't cramp but this definitely affected my muscles. Fine on the flats and downs but lethargic on the ups.

Beautiful light on Sunday morning. The sun peeked through and brought with it a dash of blue sky. Good news was little drizzle and mostly just wind. The control was a bit further down the stream from here.
Yay! Another control. 
We finished the rogaine in 23 hours, finishing comfortably and without pressure with an hour to go.

Sean left me to the map but as he knows most of the area pretty well I did defer to his experience and didn't have to focus on each and every route. He kept tabs on me; I kept tabs on him. It was a good balance.

We made a few bloopses that could have been a bit better but as Sean put it at the finish, "Well, I couldn't have done any better" to which I responded, "I couldn't have done any better either". We walked hard, we found most controls with little difficulty and our routes were fairly solid.

Our points tally was around 2700. Winning tally was just over 4000. This was a difference perhaps of four or five controls. Goodness! I have no idea how they got those controls too. Even if we'd been able to get another one we wouldn't have been able to get another two or more. Well done winners!

The terrain out here is totally challenging. Every step on or off a path. Paths are wet and sloshy and can be ankle or calf deep mud too so they're not always easy going. Off the paths... I cannot even begin to describe bog, peat and the peat cut-outs. And the heather - stepping over it and working through it is really tiring. The baby's heads... wicked on the feet and ankles. Lots of stumbling if you lose focus for a second.

Saturday's weather really wasn't pleasant but this is the kind of place where the dash of sunlight on Sunday morning and when the mist/cloud shifted to reveal spectacular valleys and scenery makes up for 12 hours of cold and lashings. 

In the last few hours of the race the undersides of my feet were tired from the multi-directional movement they'd been subjected to and my quads were tired but for the rest I was doing ok. I asked Sean, who plays on this terrain, whether his feet got tired after 24hrs out there or whether his feet were adapted to the vigours. I was delighted to hear that his feet also took strain after this long period of time out there - not just me!

At the finish we were warmly welcomed and there were hot drinks and we could make our own rolls with a variety of toppings on offer. Super to chat to other rogainers as they came in and sat around. I've found them all to be so warm and welcoming. Mom met us at the finish, catching us just after we got in.

Sunday night my legs were stiff already and I expected today (Monday) to be really bad. Self massages in the afternoon and before bed definitely helped and it is only when I get up after sitting for a while that I look in bad shape. I'm descending stairs backwards. Going up is fine. I don't think my legs are quite as stiff as after the HURT 100 in Hawaii a few years ago, so that's a good thing ;) I'll rub my legs down again tonight before bed.

This rogaine was a really great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed being out there with Sean. He came highly recommended and he was indeed worth this recommendation. We made a good team.

Although I wonder why anyone would knowingly subject themselves to this terrain, I'd probably do it again. Sure it is tough. Sure it is nasty. But it is also fun and one helluva experience. Conditions were unseasonable and the worst we could have had but being out there on Saturday night was a first for me in those conditions so it was pretty exciting too. I wouldn't wish peat cut-outs and baby heads on my worst enemy but I'd probably voluntarily slip and slide through them again. The overall experience was a very good one.

I'll post bits of map and our routes when I get back home (arriving home on Friday).

We're now visiting with mom's cousins just North of Dublin and will head through to the city tomorrow to look around and for an AR meet-up on Tuesday night in the city, kindly arranged by Ronan. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Ireland 7 - Cliffs, scenery and farms

Tuesday's trip took us to the Cliffs of Moher, a popular tourist stop. The cliffs are indeed quite cool to see and the spot really caters to visitors with paved walkways to viewpoints and a visitor's centre. We're really glad that we're here in Ireland now and not next month when the real tourist flood begins.

From the cliffs we headed to Limerick and then along the coast, ending up in the town of Ballyheige. I saw it on the map and thought it looked like a good location - and it was. My run yesterday was past dairy farms and with a lovely view of the Ballyheige Bay and beach.

Today, Wednesday, we went through Tralee and on to the Dingle Peninsula. We'd been told that the town of Dingle was a realy tourist trap but worth visiting, which it was. But the drive to Dingle and over the Connor Pass - wow! That was a big highlight. Also the drive from Dingle was superb - lots and lots of farms and sheep and dairy cows. The other two peninsulas South of Dingle (Iveragh and Beara) are probably just as awesome with their mountains and valleys but with time getting short, we were back on the road and heading through to Mallow, which is where we are tonight.

Tomorrow we'll head towards the East coast to be within close distance of Wicklow, which is where I'll meet up with Sean and Chris on Friday afternoon. Rogaine on Saturday!

At the Cliffs of Moher
Big tourist infrastructure with the paths here at the Cliffs.
We were curious about this so mom asked a chap in the visitor centre. Sadly the cliffs have people jumping off them - and not BASE jumping.
My first run in short sleeves! Kerryhead, near Ballyheige.
No guessing what kinda farming is happening here...
Lots of bend warnings in other Provinces - not as many in Cork. I liked this one.. naughty, naughty bends. Ahead is the town of Ballyheige with Ballyheige beach visible
Needed to pee while out running so I crawled under a fence into a field... had a close encounter with stinging nettles as I crawled under the fence.
Mom in Dingle. She couldn't resist this dolphin.
This evening in Mallow mom and I were walking across the Blackwater River bridge when we spot an orienteering control (#5). Then, we see a guy going down to the control, as if to collect it. So, I ran down and chatted to the chap, Ted. He says he's probably one of the longest standing orienteers in Ireland - started at the age of 12. He is involved in various school coaching projects and other orienteering activities. He said he made this handdrawn map for this evening's event in an hour or so. To do it on OCAD (orienteering map-drawing software) would have taken him days, which I can attest to! I love this map - he gave me a copy and I've got his contact details to chat about school O stuff as this is what I'm involved in. Looks like the colours are done in koki pen. Stunning! Simple and effective.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Ireland 6 - Birthday day

My birthday morning dawned with clouds and drizzle but then turned into the most fabulously beautiful day. We'd spent the night at a hostel in Killary. We've been staying in B&Bs because most of the little towns off the main routes just don't have hostels, which we'd been aiming to stay in. Most of the B&Bs have been fabulous (only one had a really tiny room and silly staircase I could barely fit in!). The rooms generally have a tv (fun to see what is on Irish telly) and rooms are nice with good breakfasts in the morning. Nice thing about a good breakfast is that we then just do fruit or a soup later in the afternoon, which works well. B&B rates are usually 30 or 35 Euros each.

So, we drive through Leenane and into Killary and see a sign for this hostel with budget accommodation. We think, "Lekker". Location is great, place is decent, room is roomy and it has a bathroom. Price? 26 Euros each. And that's budget accommodation? We're back to B&Bs. Stayed at a lovely place in Ballyvaughn last night - 25 Euro.

We liked Ballyvaughn. Sweet, cheerful town in The Burren. Mom and I took a birthday walk in the evening and had the most AWESOME view of Galway Bay. Weather was perfect. As for the stone walls typical of The Burren region... Crazy Irish! Sure, the creation of the walls results from clearing the ground for farming but there are a helluva lot of walls - totally incredible!

We've been on the road a lot today, with a quick stop in Limerick and some other towns. I'll save those pics for tomorrow or the next day - still have to look through them.

So, back to photos from my birthday day...

The Connemara Giant. It is good luck to touch his hand, which we did.
I fell in love this with hare. Only thing I didn't like was that he is from a moulded resin. If he'd been ceramic or such he would be coming home with me. Instead, I took this photo.
I think this was in Oughterard... We have seen many, many signs for marathons and other distance runs - some this coming weekend and others at later dates. Amazing how much is happening in these small villages. There are also cycle races around too.
A school project in Galway. We met the teacher and she said she'd had the idea and then the children all knitted squares, which were stitched together. They were in the process of covering this sculpture. She said the children would all be coming through today (Tuesday). We just caught a bit of this story on the news - it looks so colourful. What fun!
Mom sitting with the 'Wildes' in Galway. Her hand is on Eduardo Wilde's knee as Oscar Wilde looks on.
My birthday yarn. This pic doesn't really do this lovely colour any justice - it is absolutely divine. And the yarn... I buy 100% bamboo in SA and thought it was THE yarn... but this is just a little more delicious.
We didn't go into the tower - just into the courtyard. Nice. They do medieval banquet evenings here, which is probably good fun.
The Burren Walking Trails are AWESOME! We just did a little bit of one but there are a bunch of them. We're really impressed with the trails in the regions. You can walk/run for days.
We first went up this hill to get a view of the route we would walk - this is it in orange.
Mom on the trail.
We took a walk on the Ballyvaughn walking route to the Gleninagh Pass (between the Cappannawalla and Gleninagh mountains). Stunning! This was our view.
On top of the Gleninagh Pass.
Looking across the Galway Bay to Galway.
Walls, walls, walls! Amazing. You can see a area going higher up the hill where they've created more pasture.

Monday 18 June 2012

'36 Days of Running' - completed

Today is my 36th birthday - and very cool to be spending it in Ireland. It also brings to the end my '36 Days of Running' game. Yes, 36 consecutive days of running. I definitely found it easier than last year - probably because the weather was lovely through May and into June. My last seven days of running have been here in Ireland and I've had different towns and terrain every day. I'll work out distance tally and such when I get home.

Thanks for your sweet birthday messages on email and FB - lovely to read them and to think of you.

We're across the bay from Galway in a town called Ballyvaughn - the northern part of The Burren region. LOVE IT! Heading more South tomorrow. We'll be back near Dublin (a bit South of, in the Wicklow area) on Friday to hook up with Chris and Sean. 24hr Rogaine Ireland starts on Saturday afternoon. 

More photos in the next day or so. Got some great ones this afternoon ;)

Ireland 5 - sun and more trail

We woke up in Bangor to... sun... and blue sky. A glorious day. We'd been told that it was worth a visit to The Mullet, an island nearby. There's a little bridge from the mainland. This place really is a holiday-home island. Not very remarkable but nice for a little look. Then, back through Bangor and South on the R59 towards Newport and Eastport and then into the Connemara region.

We're staying in Killary, which is a nondescript area next to Leenane. This is big time sheep area (wool) and the little critters can be seen on the roadsides - sometimes crossing the road too. I got in a nice-nice run this afternoon. Didn't know how long the section would be. I got back three hours later ;)

This is one of a series of sculptures in this region. All are different and they're all big - not just a little head and shoulders. Some are shapes / designs. I think this is the only 'people'-type work. Bangor. The river is to my left here - this are is very popular for salomon fishing from May and through to September. Salomon numbers are picking up now.
Mom on the island. A good number of cows and baby cows - all parking off, lying on the grass (not in this photo tho - but you can see the nice greenery). I guess that when you've got yummy green, lush grass to eat then you don't have to spend the whole day eating and you can just lie down in the sun. Glorious!
Most of the houses look new and they seem to be holiday homes perhaps. Area is popular for golf, walking, biking and sight seeing. We saw a few old building -  a few run down. And then I saw this one. So, I got out to take a photo. Could smell the residents. Why build a chicken coop / run when you can just use an old house? These chickens really wanted to get out and seemed quite restless. Don't blame them really as it was a beautiful day outside.

This is our little car, a Nissan Micra.

Mom and the spiral sculpture - one of a number of big installations in the region. This is on the southern end of the island near a place called Blacksod. We were intrigued by the name, which is more intriguing than the place. A few houses, a little dock for fishing boats. 
The spiral sculpture. It said on the info board that the stones were raised to vertical from where they lay and arranged to make this spiral pattern (probably looks to you like a circle, but it is a spiral). In the background are some islands and the sea. Next stop, North America!
In Leenane in North-West Connemara. That's a fjord behind us.

Lazy bugger! A sheep just parking off - head resting on a rock. I like sheep. I've got loads of photos of sheep now and I'm sure to take many more ;)
Looking back, up the fjord (I was running towards the sun). Sea farming in the fjord. The chap told us that they farm mussels, oysters and also salmon. 
I thought there were tufts of wool from the sheep caught on grass. Turns out this is a plant and the 'wool' would be its seed dispersal mechanism.Feels quite wool-like.

The Killary Fjord trail, heading towards the open end.Looking forwards.

Looking back, up the fjord, from the Killary Fjord trail.

Off the trail and on to a little road. Dogs aren't allowed around here for obvious reasons - sheep.
Uphill on the road leading out from where the trail ended. The section of trail that I ran is one of a number of bits that form the 'Connemara Loop'. 

...must come down. Wasn't really that steep on foot.
This is sheep and peat farming area. I climbed down off the road to give you (and me) and idea of how deep they're cutting into the ground. I'm standing level with the ground you can see. Mom says that she read up online about peat while I was running. It forms at about 1 millimetre a year. It's used for heating (fires at home) and can also be used in agriculture to retain water in a more porous soil. Luckily there are organisations in Ireland who aim to protect the peat areas from being destroyed and farmed completely. Other big peat areas are places like Finland (certainly many other Scandinavian countries), UK probably too and Patagonia. Seems like 2% of earth's surface is peat. Wouldn't have guessed. This is second-hand info from mom's quick online look. No wonder this North-West region reminds me of Patagonia. Similar landscape (post-glacial) and vegetation.
A pile of peat. Dry as a bone.

Leenane at 20h30 - bright as day. And look at how still the water is! The earlier pic of me and mom, taken where that building is to the right, the wind was blowing. This evening - picture postcard still.
So... today also wraps up Day 35 of running. Tomorrow... day 36 ;)