“…When first we practise to deceive! (…ourselves we can train for a triathlon when we’re working).”
Sir Walter Scott, ‘Marmion’ (with addendum by Unironedman).
‘Twas a funny week, training-wise. We’ve just started into Week 9, and it’s billed as a recovery week. Just as well. The holiday break shook the schedule a little, and added in the half-marathon, which wasn’t entirely planned for. I couldn’t recall this week how many times I had run, but I figured, by the time I hit the Park again last Saturday, that I hadn’t run at all since the race. This showed in the rather ghastly pace I managed. I was dragging myself around for 90 minutes. An unedifying spectacle, if you had seen it.
In between, I had managed a couple of swims, 1.5kms each, plus a good session on the bike in the gym. Between the jigs and the reels and the roster, I couldn’t escape the clutches of Leixlip.
This meant some static torture on the gym bike. I was sticking to the warm-up/20 minute pace/5 minute easy routine, and this worked out quite well. I think I can see a small improvement on previous attempts. Certainly if the overall pace is anything to go by (and it should be). 50 kms in 90 minutes.
Yesterday was supposed to be another long cycle day, but a chance conversation with my cousin Derek meant a rather more enjoyable trip out to Dún Laoghaire and a day out on his 8 metre yacht.
There was little wind, but we made the best of what there was, and after motoring out of the harbour we sailed gently past the Muglins at Dalkey and out into Killiney Bay, passing a Grey Seal on the way, who refused, at the last minute, to be photographed. We also saw a pod of porpoises. We dropped a set of feathers for mackerel and didn’t get a sniff. Maybe the porpoises scared them all away…
It was a cracking end to the week, though of course, from a training point of view, not ideal. I was hoping to get out today for a spin on the bike, but work got in the way (I was already in my cycling bib and top when I got a reminder about a business meeting…)
By the time I returned, the only choice was a twilight run in the Park. Up the Avenue and into the gloom. As I passed the old farm buildings, a bat flew overhead, passing, unknownst, from Dublin into Kildare, in search of an evening meal. I’d love to tell you what species it was but I don’t know my Daubenton’s from my Pipistrelle (either kind); certainly not from a shape flitting in the late evening light. But the run was worth it: the wet meadow down near the river was coated in two layers of fine mist; the dark shapes of the highland cattle just about visible in the wet grass. To paraphrase the great Seamus Heaney: ‘useless to think you’ll capture it more thoroughly…’ Certainly my old iPhone wouldn’t have come close to doing it justice. And in any case, I had left it at home.
On towards the woods and more bats come out to join the mad jogger. I don’t meet anyone as the darkness closes around me, and I enter the canopy of beech and wych elm alone, with just my thoughts for company, and the quiet murmur of the river that grows ever so slightly as we approach the sluice and weir at Lucan.
On down to the hairpin turn back into the woods and the top path, and my only real fear is that I happen upon a badger. In the old days, when I used to enjoy a late night smoke, I was out in the back garden in our old house which was on the edge of open country. I was standing in the small orchard we had convinced our landlord we should plant. As I was puffing away, oblivious to both the surroundings outside, and the damage inside, a badger ambled out of the bushes towards me. He literally stopped at my feet, and we both came to the conclusion, simultaneously, that this was a badger track, and someone was standing smack bang in the middle of it.
Before I could make my apologies and leave, the badger huffed, turned tail, and snuffled back to the bushes and the chance encounter was over.
Out in the woods this evening, I was obviously making too much noise (or, as Haldir said to Gimli: ‘The Dwarf breathes so loud, we could have shot him in the dark’). Probably no bad thing. My mate was out late night jogging (and I do mean jogging) and he was bitten by a Doberman. He had to have stitches. I’d say if you stood on a badger, you would lose your leg. As it happens, I was called out soon after I got home, and by the time I got back from the station, it was too late to grab a shower, so I do smell a bit like a badger’s armpit. Just so you know.
It was a better run than the earlier effort. I finished off doing a wide loop around the back of the Park around by the ranger’s station and the pitches. The home leg was down past St. Catherine’s Well, and by now it was quite dark under the canopy. I was on the lookout for the ramps on this section. One bogey step at this point, and you could twist your ankle. As each one approached, there was a slightly darker line on the already dark tarmac and I was able to negotiate my way around to the Avenue, unscathed.
Here, they have installed a traffic light system, and Balor of the Evil Eye stares you down on the last half a kilometre or so. It’s quite unnerving. A long, straight, dark tree-lined road, and at the end, a bright, red light which transfixes you and pulls you into its beam. The little flashing red lights on my Lidl-special armband were rather feeble in comparison. Not much use for finding one’s way. Probably handy for the search party, though. If you accidentally stumbled into a cete* of angry badgers, they could find the remaining body parts, still flashing away in the undergrowth.
* a cete of badgers is the correct collective noun, though I freely admit I had to look that one up… Colony or clan would probably have done the job just as well.