Punching the clock

Yesterday was another run in the Park. And now that I type it, it sounds rather pleasant indeed. It wasn’t a 5k Park Run though, but a long run of 1 hour and 45 mins. You can’t run around our local park for that amount of time without looping back on yourself a few times, and you inevitably cross paths with a few of the same folk.

A fiver. Can't go wrong!
A fiver. Can’t go wrong!

I felt rather self-conscious this time out. Knowing I was in for a long spell, I had strapped a few water bottles on board. I also had treated myself to a little cheapie radio from Lidl, and that went in the pouch.

My fire service alerter was clipped to my shorts, I had a watch around my wrist, and for the final piece of gadgetry, I strapped the iPhone to my arm, so I could record progress. On the plus side, I was able to listen to some great documentaries on RTE Radio 1, so didn’t have to listen to the old cow from Smart(arse)Runner moaning in my ear, even if did look like a bit of a twat.

It was a warm day, so I was glad to have the water on board. I took a gel too, and that helped when the energy started to flag. Managed 18.7 kms in 1 hour 49 mins. That’s an average speed of 10.2 km/h. Doesn’t matter how peppy you are at the off, or how strong you finish. That little symbol (ø) means it’s all about the average.

Chamois Butt'r. Could be a lifesaver! No buts, it has to be butt'r...
Chamois Butt’r. Could be a lifesaver! No buts, it has to be butt’r…

Happy enough with that, and in an odd coincidence, that was the same time I did the Dublin half-marathon in last year, and I was wearing that very same T shirt. Oddly enough, the inner thighs were showing signs of chafing. Not normally an issue. Chalking it down to weather conditions. A few dabs of butt’r and we’re good to go. Many thanks to one of my Dad’s oldest mates for sending this stuff over, along with a really rather posh pair of cycling shorts. The last time he was over in Ireland, he, along with some family and friends, completed a rather magnificent journey from one end of Ireland to the other: the Mizen to Malin Head cycle. And this gent won’t mind me saying that he is no spring chicken. Kindest regards to you, JC, if you are ever reading this.

The following day was a cycle. Having been out with some seasoned pros a few weeks ago, I checked the weather beforehand, to get a sense of the wind direction in order to cycle into it on the way out, and get some benefit of a tailwind on the return leg.

I took the Celbridge Road out to Young’s Cross and turned left into Stacumny, and then the Lord’s Road. A brief glimpse online reveals that this wonderful straight stretch was built in 1880 by the 4th Baron Cloncurry, Valentine Lawless. He was a landlord, fond of chucking tenants out of his properties. Such was his fear of assassination that he had this road built for him, to whisk him away to Hazelhatch train station from his luxurious abode of Lyons House. Those were the days.

Along this road, the threatened rain finally arrived and I pulled in to retrieve a mac from my backpack. A farmer pulled in too, and we had a brief chat about the poor weather. I said I didn’t mind the rain as long as I got back in time for the kick off between Kildare and Kerry at 2 o’clock. He was less sanguine about the match, and more interested in getting a week’s fine weather to get the hay in. And we both agreed that was unlikely. He blamed El Niño! I set off on my way, with an altogether less troubling day ahead.

The road took me out to Ardclough, and I passed on the dubious pleasures of Boston Hill, and instead headed out to the Kill Road and towards the Blue Door. Left back towards Castlewarden, and there at the junction I spied my favourite summer wildflower, Field Scabious. I like to keep an eye out for wild things when I’m out walking, running or cycling. It’s a rare day you don’t spot something of interest. A rabbit scuttling under a gate; a kestrel hovering by the road. Quite a few of the verges had had a trim, but the wild ones were thick with grasses, vetches, Yarrow, Lady’s Bedstraw, Black Medick and Meadowsweet.

Field Scabious flowers.
Field Scabious flowers.

The road took me out the roundabout at Steelstown where I turned back towards Athgoe. A small bunch of flag-waving Kildare supporters were there, obviously waiting for a lift into Croke Park to watch the match. Alas, with the benefit of hindsight, I could have saved them a journey. We were overpowered by a Kerry team who look like title contenders again.

A little later on I stopped for a pee in a deserted gateway. It was one of those annoying pees when you’re out training. Almost a guaranteed malfunction with more than a dribble finding its way down my left leg. Yes, the unvarnished truth here at Unironedman. A splash and dash from the drinks bottle and back into the saddle.

The wind was not behaving itself at all, and seemed to be veering all over the place. Only the most neurotic of cyclists would suspect this was a deliberate plot by the weather. In truth, the breeze was stiff enough, but it was the pair of heavy legs from yesterday’s run that were not performing.

The road swung back towards Ardclough past Lyons Hill, and this time, I had the joy of descending Boston Hill. Over the humpback canal bridge and into Ardclough village. I recalled, as I passed the small shop, a nice moment of kindness a few months ago, when out training for the Olympic Triathlon. I hadn’t eaten enough, and was starting to crash by the time I pulled into Ardclough. I stopped by the shop and called in to pick up some chocolate. I had all the cards in the world, but no cash, and they had no card machines there. The dear old lady insisted I take a bar anyway, but as I had a gel hidden away somewhere in the pouch, I figured I’d survive. I wasn’t far from home so didn’t take her up on her generous offer. But it was nice moment, and it reminded me of a really lovely phone call I had made before I set out.

I have been trying to book some accommodation for the Half Ironman next month, but was having no success. Of the five enquiries made, two came back with a negative, and two didn’t come back at all. But one lady suggested I gave her a ring, which I did, and she offered to put my wife and I up for free in her own home, as her own self-catering option was also booked out. What a fantastic gesture, and one we are going to take up. Augurs well for the weekend of the race, even if I can’t hold up my end of the bargain.

Buzzard, out hunting.
Buzzard, out hunting.

Nearly home now, and battling along the Celbridge Road with a headwind that should have been a tailwind. A Buzzard was hovering over a hedge as I passed, making full use of the breeze to stay aloft. No doubt something was looking like lunch. Buzzards are carrion birds, and for a brief moment, I wondered if it was waiting for me to drop off the bike. Keeping both hands on the bars, I gave a metaphorical shake of the fist and pushed on.

Home, and the phone tells me it was 46.1 kms in 1 hour and 55 minutes. As I pulled up to the gate, I heard Moaning Myrtle tell me the average speed was 24 km/h, but when I check the actual stats, it reads 23.9. Dang. I’m going with the first option! No matter. As Kay would say, in Men in Black: “Minutiae. Details…” Today was all about punching the clock.

The phone bings, and it’s a text from my wife to say that Cilla Black has died. ‘Surprise, surprise’ the texts starts. S has a wicked sense of humour!

This time next week, my good mate Ciaran is doing the Dublin Half Ironman, so best of luck, Lotzy. We’ll be somewhere along the route, cheering you on.

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