Riddle me this…


The week’s training came to an end, and it was only when I was filling in the diary that I realised we had actually done something each day. I say ‘we’ when of course I mean, generally speaking, I.

Never mind.

The week continued with some speed work on Thursday. The events had, as per normal, conspired against a swim, so I took out the frustration with some heavy duty running in the park.


This is what speed work looks like on the GPS: waves in a blue ocean of pace. Well, needless to say, bobbing up and down on the sea would have been far more pleasant. But needs must. I have not been doing much by of quality work when out running. ‘Need to throw in at least one of these sessions a week from here on in.

Friday was an early start with multiple car fires, so the chance to roll the 7.15am swim into the next one, and get a seriously decent amount of lengths in evaporated. But I still managed 2k in the shorter 45 minutes session, so happy enough with that.

Saturday’s run started out with no clear plan, but I was well-fuelled and felt in reasonable shape, so once I had clocked up about 12 or 13 k, I decided I may as well keep going. With so many loop options available in the park, it was easy enough to tailor the run to the point where I was cresting the brow of the last hill (about 1 minute from home) when the watch ticked over into 21k. Or a half-marathon, if that’s your bag. The weather was warm and muggy, and we had some rain throughout to help cool down. A cool bath helped ease the muscles, and then to really help with the healing, Connacht won the Pro-12 rugby tournament with a great display of all those words that pundits like to throw around, such as bravura, panache, and flair… who cares, save perhaps a few Irish Times readers? I may be a Leinster man but first and foremost I’m a rugby fan, and I was rooting for the men in green from the off.

We had some old friends over the evening, and a few beers were had.

The following morning, and an early(ish) start for a 5k run with Mark, and our customary hot chocolate and chat. Finished up in time to hop on the bike and head out around lunchtime into what was shaping up to be a cracking day. My thoughts during the week were to drive up to Blessington and tackle Sally Gap, but with a half-marathon in the legs from the day before, I opted for the inland route, which is largely flat. (As any Irish school kid can tell you, geography lessons about Ireland began with “Ireland is shaped like a saucer…” or, to be a little more descriptive, there are numerous mountain ranges around the edges, with flat expanses of bogland in the middle. With apologies to my friends who live in the middle…)


I headed out the old Galway road through Maynooth and Kilcock and stopped off at a garage near Moyvalley to pick up a few things for a small picnic. I knew the canal was off to my right somewhere, and my plan was to find a grassy spot near the water and have a break.

As I doubled back towards Longwood, I found the canal alright, but to my surprise, it went over my head. Literally. It was the Boyne Aqueduct. I passed under the bridge (read more here) and found a ramp leading up to the canal. There is a harbour here, and that day, some local youngsters were swimming in the clean waters. I headed down towards to the aqueduct to take in the view.

The Boyne Aqueduct from above.
The Boyne from above.

The noise was actually the first thing to grab my attention. A low chugging. And then the disturbance in the water. As I neared the aqueduct, I realised they were pumping water from the Boyne below up into the canal. The lifeblood of any canal is its water, but the continuous source of this water is its beating heart. Most people, if they think about canals at all, just assume they are flat, and that the water is just there. It doesn’t flow like a river, they rationalise, and therefore there doesn’t need to be a source. As it happens, all canals rise and fall with the topography, and each has its summit level (or levels), which is its highest point, and no locks are absolutely watertight, so eventually, water will find its way to the lowest point. And if the canal is navigable, and used regularly by barge traffic, each lock opening can use about 50,000 gallons of water. This water must be replaced somehow, and so the canal engineers made sure their waterways were topped up with feeders, usually by diverting a local stream, and sometimes by constructing smaller canals and channels to make use of nearby lakes and fens (such as the Milltown Feeder from Pollardstown Fen for the Grand Canal).

The outfall into the Royal Canal from the Boyne.

Well, the Boyne is harnessed, it would seem, when demand is there which other supplies cannot meet. Such is the nature of built heritage.

A selfie taken after the impromptu dip, proving little other than Irish men tend not to tan well, other than get their heads scalded…

I had a quick dip in the lovely cool water, and then had my thrown-together picnic. After a short spell in the hot sun, I gathered my bits and pieces and wheeled the bike back to the road, stopping to take a few pics and nodding at passers-by. It was one of these who came running after me along the tow-path, shouting ‘sir, sir’. I had dropped my iPhone case which also doubles as a wallet with all my cards. That would have been a right pain to lose all those. I don’t think I’ve ever warranted that monicker, but you sir, are a gent. Thank you.

Flag Iris on the canal bank. Always a pleasure to see these in flower.

I also realised why I had made such good headway on the outward leg once I had turned for home. That gentle ‘hardly there at all’ breeze was suddenly in my face and my wonderful 35-40km/h speeds plummeted to mid-twenties.

I pushed on through Rathmolyon and Summerhill; mostly deserted bar the cluster of folk outside the pubs, enjoying the sunshine. There would appear to be a few hills coming out of Summerhill too, on the way to Kilcock! Who knew? I have done this road a few times before, but always on four wheels, where gradient is an irrelevance.

I was happy enough to make it back home. Just over 81k in about 3:09. Given the week’s work, a good way to finish up.

Monday is yet another cracking day, though I have not had a chance to think about doing any training. Maybe a run later when it’s cooler. As I took a break around lunchtime, the female Blackbird who has made her nest in my folks’ garden next door flew around my head. She gets on with her business regardless of who is sitting in the garden, and rightly so. She has mouths to feed. I threw her a few bits of the oat bars that S cooked up during the week (they’re better than any energy bar you can buy in the shops) and she swooped down and devoured them.

Mouths to feed!

So, yes, the answer to the conundrum is not hard to fathom (groan!). As I bobbed along in the canal, I realised I was in the water in an aqueduct, over a river, and that the river water from below was being pumped into the canal above. So I was, technically, swimming in the Boyne (water) whilst swimming over the Boyne Water.

And if you don’t like that puzzle, too bad. Get your own…

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