One week is not enough

A WEEK IN WHICH WE MAKE TRACKS, FIND NEW TRACKS, AND THEN TRY AND GET BACK ON TRACK…OKAY, MAYBE THAT’S ENOUGH TRACKS FOR NOW… ISN’T IT IRONIC? NO.


The problem with a week’s holidays is that it just isn’t enough. We split the week in two: a couple of days in Waterford, and a couple in Belfast. From a training point of view, the week away was always going to mess with the schedule, but then we are on holidays; sometimes training has to take a back seat. Having said that, I did get up early on Monday to get in the usual 10k recovery run before we set off for Waterford. We landed in the city, and had a wander around, though much of it was closed as it was a bank holiday. We earmarked a few spots to visit on our return and made our way to Dungarvan.

We mooched about the beach not far from the hotel in what is termed the Gold Coast. This is part of the wider Copper Coast, more of which later. Then we strolled around Dungarvan which is clearly reaping the benefits of the newly-opened cycle/walking Greenway. Here’s the official site. Dungarvan has plenty of history, and the story is nicely told in the visitor centre in the castle.

On the Tuesday, we took the shuttle bus into Waterford and hired a couple of bikes. If you’re not fussy about your steed, there’ll be something there of a hybrid nature to get you to your destination. Clearly, some folks were on their own racing bikes with clippies and all the trimmings, but in truth, the Greenway is not about speed; on the contrary, speed is discouraged, and in any case, you will want to tip along at an easy pace so you can soak up the surroundings. And in our case, stop every ten minutes to take pics.

There are plenty of wild flowers along the track, which encourages wildlife, such as these butterflies. I hope the Greenway maintenance crew aren’t too enthusiastic about trimming back the verges; on the day we were there, sections were getting a serious haircut with a flail on the back of a tractor; unnecessary to be so severe. And ultimately pointless, as the plants will always grow back. Best to let nature take its course, and just trim the excessive growth. Rant over.

As with the Achill/Westport Greenway,  I would recommend you start at the busy end and work your way back into the country. At the start of the Waterford Greenway, you are heading out of the city along the quays, and while you have the River Suir on your right for scenery, you also have the busy N25 on your left. At the outset, there is also a narrow gauge railway running alongside the greenway. After a few miles, you find your way into the station at Kilmeaden, and if you are lucky, you will see one of the trains passing by, as we did. The line is a short section, and here the Greenway heads west on its own.

In fairness to the organisers, every kilometre is marked clearly with a post (and near to towns and villages, every half a kilometre), and as I had set off the Garmin when we left Waterford, I was impressed that the watch beeped each time we passed one of these posts.

The halfway point is Kilmacthomas, and a fine, large coffee shop which was out-the-door busy, situated in an old workhouse. I have no doubt at times, the folk who work there make some gags about that. But despite the large crowds of hungry and thirsty travelers, the staff were lovely and matched that with efficiency, and we had a nice lunch before setting off on the second leg. At this point, we could see some heavy clouds on the way. By the time we had emerged from the Ballyvoyle Tunnel, it looked odds-on that we would get a good soaking. At one point, a flash of lightening streaked down directly ahead.

rainpano
A panoramic on the Greenway, with rain up ahead…

We rolled the dice and headed into the weather, and for a change, the weather gods were playing havoc somewhere else, and we avoided the rain.

rainclouds
Heading into Dungarvan, and you can see the rain sweeping in from the sea.

We arrived in Dungarvan and handed over our bikes. All told, a very pleasant way to spend a day. The 46 kilometre cycle took about 3 hours, and you can add in another hour for lunch. Recommended. We drove back the following day and whilst the road does not track the Greenway (thankfully), you see sections of it. There are three quite spectacular viaducts on the route which you don’t really appreciate when you are on the bikes; best seen from below.

We drove back along the famous Copper Coast towards Waterford city. Stunning scenery, and a chance for me to get into the sea at the Newtown Cove/Guillamene swimming spot; a well-known and popular choice for Waterford and Tramore swimmers for generations, and brought to my attention by Lone Swimmer.

We also did the tourist thing in the city on Wednesday, including a visit to Reginald’s Tower in the Viking triangle. And one of the best lunches ever in the Fat Angel in Cathedral Square. We finished our tour of the south-east with a visit to Mahon Falls, which is worth the drive. For now, at least, the scenery is free to enjoy.

We had a pit stop back home on Wednesday; a chance to refresh the luggage with some clean undies. And in my case, throw in a 10k tempo run as well. The cycle the previous day was very enjoyable, but not a workout for the legs. And then we were up and away again the next morning to Belfast. We headed straight to the Titanic Exhibition which is hugely impressive in every sense of the word. Admittedly, after several hours, you can experience a little ‘snow-blindness’ from all the material on offer, and I personally would prefer things to be more tactile; given that the whole shipyard, and by extension, much of the city, was built on steel and rivets, I would have enjoyed the chance to pick up a riveting hammer as used by the builders, and get a sense of the weight of it, and the size of the rivets, and the thickness and sheer enormity of the plates of steel. So in that sense, some of these modern exhibitions can be a little sterile. If you are going – and I would recommend it, despite those previous comments – then make sure to visit the SS Nomadic in the dry dock nearby, and also walk out onto the slips where they built the actual ships, behind the main building.

There are certain shots you will see of Belfast and especially the Titanic. All I have done here is add to the many millions of these from pretty much the same angle. What is interesting about the city is that, like all great cities around the world, they have their own iconic structure, such as Tower Bridge in London or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Fittingly, and despite the award-winning architectural merits of the Titanic Centre, the thing that catches the eye from nearly every vista in Belfast is one of the two towering gantry cranes on the Harland and Wolff site; Samson and Goliath.

There are other eye-catching things too, and some of these, like the Big Fish, are on every brochure you will ever see for the city, whilst others are lesser-known gems.

We enjoyed some great hospitality in the city, and ate some great food. In fact, we pigged out every night, which is a rarity for us. But you have to eat, so you may as well enjoy it. Highlight was Stix and Stones on Upper Queen Street, where we both had steak on the stone… just delicious.

einstock

Foodies will find a lot to like in Belfast. And lovers of craft beer will not be disappointed either. The Woodworkers is a great pub, not far from the city centre, with a great range of beers and ales from all over the world. And of course, the famous Crown Bar is a must. We even managed to get one of the snugs. This of course is great for me; not so much for S who doesn’t partake, but she is a generous soul on that score. And in fairness, pubs are a small part of our social life.

We had hoped to do the Gobbins tour north of Belfast, at Islandmagee, but it was booked out, so on a recommendation of a tour guide, we went further north towards the Glens of Antrim along the coast road. Beautiful drive, with a lovely stop off at Glenariff near Cushendall.

As you can see by the photos it should come as no surprise that we opted for the Waterfall Walk! I gather some of these beauty spots have featured in Game of Thrones, but I admit we haven’t been watching, so this would all be lost on me. We could have spent the entire week visiting various locations from that series, and no doubt some do. All grist to the tourist mill.

And then we were southbound again, and our holiday was coming to an end. I had missed a few runs, of course, so despite Sunday being a day of rest on the schedule, I needed at least one decent run out of the week. The weather was fine; in fact, quite warm, and as I had planned to venture further afield than my usual haunts of St. Catherine’s, I carried a half bottle of Lucozade with me (not something I normally drink, and not something I normally do on a long run either).

I began with a short trip through the park, then out onto the Clonee Road and left along the Royal Canal towpath. The banks are rich with flowers and insects at this time of year, not least when the sun is out. I took a right at Carton and into the estate before exiting into Maynooth town and back on to the canal. I took three gels as well, as part of the plan to get used to them on the long runs each week. Whilst I don’t see myself consuming one every 20 minutes as the makers suggest, I think not getting those ready carbs in to you on a regular basis is going to cause you to suffer in the latter stages. And as you no doubt have been told many times on this topic, by the time you realise you are out of juice, it’s probably too late to salvage anything other than a limping finish. I haven’t nailed down a fueling strategy yet for Dublin, but it will certainly involve gels which I will carry with me. Plus some form of electrolyte fluid. It’s just a case of working out how and where to take these on board. We’re no elites; we don’t have our own feed stations and special bottles; we just have to make do as we potter around. And yes, before you say it, this was my idea!

painted-cottage
A lock-keeper’s cottage on the Royal Canal at Leixlip. It has been decorated in this way as an attempt to prevent graffiti and vandalism. An interesting approach. I hope it works.

The long runs are all about miles in the legs, and an easy pace of 6.05. All told, I clocked up just over 25k in two and a half hours, bringing the pace down to just under 6 minutes per kilometre. Happy enough with that for a day’s work.

Monday brought a change in the weather with torrential rain later in the day. I had 10k of a recovery run to do, which was interesting on tired legs. I got soaked but that’s okay; job done. And with fire service drill later that evening, after a busy day catching up in the office, it was pretty much business as usual, with a call-out shortly after. Life certainly has a way of cooling that holiday glow!

And so, to finish, as most of our holidays are essentially road trips of a sort, we tend to adopt a soundtrack for each one. This time I guess the honours must go to Jagged Little Pill from Alanis Morrissette. Say what you like about the artist in question, but that album was a classic of its time. Zeitgeist springs to mind, though of course, there are rules to using clever words like that, so I will skirt around that particular danger zone.

Suffice to say, we all know that the song Ironic is not in anyway ironic, other than the fact that it’s not, as the singer would suggest, ironic. If you know what I mean. I’m not sure that’s what she meant.

Altogether now: “It’s like raaaaaaaaaiiiin… on your wedding day…”

carpool
S trying to get a photo of me singing my head off as we drove past Tramore.
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