A mixed bag of stuff…


Well it’s been an odd week. We are well into Week 7 of the programme, and it promises to be a tough building week (or ‘the biggest 14 day training block’… something about that word ‘block’ that’s not very appealing…)

Technically I am on holiday. This means a week off from the fire service, but not always a traditional week away on a sun holiday, lounging by the pool. Normally, it means a few days here, a few days there, and normally down to see friends, or take in the sites somewhere. Nothing that involves a passport.

Fish kill in our local stream. These are all Brown Trout...
Fish kill in our local stream. These are all Brown Trout…

The week had a bad start (on the Sunday) when, on returning from a fire call, one of the crew noticed some dead trout in the stream behind the station. After the call, I went back over and fished out a good few, took a water sample and rang the fisheries people. To my surprise, they were out in jig time, and we went exploring upstream to see if we could find anymore fish, or the source of the problem. We didn’t find either but came to the conclusion that the pollution was just upstream of the fish kill. I also stumbled upon a mini jungle of Giant Hogweed. These are monsters from a foreign land, and can cause some serious problems if you tangle with them. They are considered a noxious weed and are usually eradicated once reported. I have to admit, I find them mildly creepy but somewhat fascinating. Live and let live, I say, but the Council would disagree.

Giant Hogweed. A true giant of a plant. This one is about nine feet tall.
Giant Hogweed. A true giant of a plant. I’m about 6 foot, and I’m standing beside this plant. This one must be about nine or ten feet tall.

On Tuesday, we packed up a few things and headed to Wexford to see Ciaran, him of Dublin 70.3 IronMan fame. We chose to go up over Sally Gap in the Dublin Mountains and managed to hit a rock on the side of the road. Tyre wall damaged. Spare tyre required. Clip and bolt holding in spare tyre seized up. Much guntering and hacking later, and freed up the tyre. Put it on. Soft. Found the mini pump that plugs into the lighter socket. Much fiddling. Coughed into life and squirted enough air in to limp to nearest car workshop in Roundwood. As the mechanic topped it up, Saoirse pulled a filling out of her teeth with a chocolate toffee.

There are times like this when you think you are jinxed and perhaps it would be best to just turn around and go home.

In the event, we pushed on, and the weather picked up. We detoured to Morriscastle Beach in Wexford, and squeezed into our wetsuits. My hands were still oil-stained and mucky from the Great Tyre Debacle. Getting into the sea was a tonic. Later that evening we had a cracking barbecue with our friends, although being South African, they would insist on calling it a braai. A few bottles of beer later, and then a few more in the local pub, and the memory of the trip down was fading away.

Loftus Hall. Ireland's most haunted house. (And no, I won't make any jokes about ghost estates).
Loftus Hall. Ireland’s most haunted house. (And no, I won’t make any jokes about ghost estates).

The plan was to jump out of bed the next morning and impress everyone with my athletic prowess and vitality. The weather had taken a nasty turn, and the rain was down, and visibility was very poor. Discretion and valour aside, I didn’t fancy ending up as roadkill on the front of a tractor.

We paid a visit to Loftus Hall on the Hook Peninsula, and then stopped off at Tintern Abbey. A glorious place, and well worth a proper visit another day.

I waited ’til we returned home that evening and I made my way into a rather gloomy park and managed about 8kms. I wasn’t wearing sunglasses (obviously; it was dark enough) but late evenings by the river equals eyes and mouths full of midges. Must try and avoid that in the future!

Tomorrow we head to Clare. I rang our good friend Jenny to warn her of our imminent arrival.

‘Perfect timing’, she said.

‘Oh? And why’s that?’ I replied, not a little nervously.

Turns out Fanore is hosting a 5k, 10k and half-marathon. Alas, my programme tells me I must do a 2 hour run at the weekend. And that’s a half-marathon. So bike today, hopefully another sea swim tomorrow, and then a half-marathon on Saturday morning.

Tintern Abbey, Wexford.
Tintern Abbey, Wexford.

First up though, a quick spin. It’s a warm but breezy day, so I headed into the wind on the way out, to get the benefit on the home leg. Out a well-travelled route towards Ardclough, and up Boston Hill. The fresh breeze was now rather stiff, and at the top of the hill, I practically came to a standstill. Pushed on down, and around by Athgoe which has another cunning little hill that I had almost forgotten about.

Victory was mine though, as I climbed the third and last hill past Athgoe, and we managed a neat 62km/h down towards Newcastle. The last time Old Bessie went that fast, I reckon she was in the back of the car heading down to Athy for the Olympic triathlon. Still, Irish legend Sean Kelly clocked 124km/h in 1984 descending the Col du Joux Plane, during the Tour de France. Now, I’m no skilled mathematician, but I can easily tell you he was going TWICE as fast as I was today.

As the road leveled out, the wind was now pushing me along nicely and for a brief moment we were tipping along at about 40km/h on the flat. Wow. So this is what it feels like to be a real cyclist! In a Tour. But then the moment passed…

Home, and packing for Clare tomorrow. Hopefully a swim, and then the gentle jog around the Caher Valley or wherever the route takes us. There’ll be hills, that’s all I can say for certain. Hills, and some pain. And hopefully at the end of it all, some beer. I am, after all, on holidays! With any luck, I won’t end up looking like a mini I saw today as I was getting two new front tyres for the car.

Old banger!
Old banger!

And in an odd coincidence of nothing in particular, the cost of the tyres was 110 Euro; exactly the same as what it cost for Saoirse to have her filling fixed at the dentist.

postscript: I have been nominated to answer some questions on jogging by another blogger, and I promise I will do so when I return from trip to Clare (replete with stories of half-marathons, we hope).

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