Spin cycle

Oughterard cemetery from the roof the church.

Last week was a so-so week, training-wise. After the long run with Gary along the canal, I managed one mid-week run before hitting the canal with Gary once more, for a more modest 16.5k. It was a broken up run too, because we are pitching an idea about the Greenway and it necessitated multiple stops along the way. The saving grace was when the battery ran out on the GoPro and I think we both felt a little relief that we could put the thing away and actually get some running done.

This week, I did the needful on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with a few of the lads from the station. These are new recruits, mostly, and we have been trying to encourage them out into the park to do a little exercise. It’s all jogging at modest pace mostly, for about 5k, but lately we have been throwing in some pace runs to start putting some pressure on. It’s a positive experience, but as far as running goes, it doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot for me. So yesterday evening, I took myself out for a pace run of my own and knocked out about 8.5k at 5:24 pace, which was a little more taxing than the station runs. Pleased to see that the legs are responding after what has felt at times like a sluggish start to the year.

On Saturday, I cycled the 30k loop out to Oughterard to pay my respects to Arthur Guinness. Needless to say, he’s still there. Nor will there be any tasteless jokes about grave slabs and slabs of beer. Nope. Not on my watch. I admit the cycle almost didn’t happen. I was tired enough after the week, and I knew the weather was going to be unappetising at best. When the alarm sounded at 6.30am I didn’t exactly leap out of the bed. Squinting through the blinds I could tell the forecast had been, sadly, quite accurate.

As I munched on a bowl of cereal, the rain was spitting down, and I didn’t need a measuring tape to figure out that the walk back to the warm bed was a lot shorter than the trip out to the cold shed to retrieve the bike. My motto (such as it is) would be that ‘any run is better than no run’. And that should apply equally to the bike. So I threw on my bike gear and headed out the gate. It was only a few k into the journey, with the rain still falling, that I realised I had not put the little lights back on the bike since the refit. They are very small LEDs but certainly the rear one would have made sense given the gloominess of the conditions.

I followed up this cheery thought with the realisation that I had also forgotten to pack the pump and spare tubes. The little pack that hangs from the back of the saddle was in another backpack, and not the similar one I had hastily slung over my shoulders. In truth, this double dose of daftness should really have been rewarded with a puncture about 15k from home in the pissings of rain, but I am either in credit with the Cycling Gods, or, more likely, they had taken the smarter option than I had on this foul morning and stayed in bed. I dodged a bullet there. Or a lightning bolt.

The final resting place of Arthur Guinness.
As my Dad is fond saying, he brought so much pleasure to so many husbands, and so much misery to so many wives…

The cemetery at Oughterard is always meticulously maintained by locals. That’s not to say there aren’t a few bits of litter here and there; the result of a few visitors that are not here to put flowers on graves, but rather, I suspect, to have a few drinks in the presence of the man who did more to establish Ireland’s reputation as a nation of drinkers than anyone else. No issue with the homage – just bring your bloody rubbish home with you.

A pilgrimage to this site is not complete without a climb up the leaning stairs to the rooftop. On a clear day, the view over the Plains of Kildare is wonderful. This was not a clear day. Still, I could make out the three ‘peaks’ of Dunmurry Hill, Grange Hill and Redhills, about 30kms away, and the slowly vanishing Hill of Allen (it is being quarried away by a large Irish cement and gravel company).

I could also make out, to the left of the Hill of Lyons, the multitudinous cranes on the Intel site in my home town of Leixlip. It’s probably the largest construction project in the country at the moment. I can’t imagine what the builders of this church would have made of the Intel site. I suppose builders from any century would no doubt recognise most of the tools of the trade. Indeed, they may have benefited from a few modern techniques. The original church dates back to the Norman times of the late 12th century, but I think much of what we see today is 16th century. In any case, the outer staircase didn’t get the foundations it needed and today remains in place largely due to two unsightly but necessary concrete props.

The weather did not improve on the return leg, and the final indignity is that the clip-on flap I have as a cheap alternative to mudguards was also still sitting back in the shed. So my arse was soaked with a steady steam of gritty spray. The rest of me under my ‘waterproof’ jacket was a ball of sweat. All told, it was drier in the shower…

Our local woods continue to be a boon and a balm. May is my favourite month, and much of that is down to the woods. The Wood Anemone have cleared the way for the Wild Garlic to take over, so there is continuous display of white flowers from April to June, not forgetting the aromatic Cow Parsley on the margins. The light is also something you cannot describe. In Japan, they call it shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing. As with all wonderful things these days, there is the obligatory scientific study that proves how beneficial something is for your health. And so I give you this. Similar pages exist extolling the virtues of petting dogs and eating ice cream (okay, I made up that second one, but you never know…) and that’s fine, really. I’m not being sarcastic here. But sometimes it’s nice to do stuff just because it’s, well, you know… nice. We have a serious problem in the world today because, despite the plethora of science all around us, most of which makes the planet tick, there has never been a more worrying trend towards scepticism towards science. I am not sure that websites like this necessarily help the cause. But hey-ho. It would seem time in the woods is indeed good for us all. Perhaps it’s just simply time away from the all the nonsense of the modern world. But I wasn’t part of the study group, or on the team, so I cannot say what their parameters were. But I will say that Japan tends to ‘do science’ well, much of the time, so it’s getting a thumbs up from me.

Perhaps, as a suggestion though, don’t go wandering into your local woods in your Speedos…

So that tangent aside, what makes this time of year so special in our local woods is the newly emerging beech leaves and the delicate green light that streams through to the woodland floor on a sunny day. Everything beneath the canopy, from the understorey to the bottom-dwelling plants, is suffused with a soft viridescence that cheers the soul. And whilst we can put a man on the moon, I think science has perhaps so far failed to capture this sylvan splendour on camera. Which is fine by me. Get out there, is my motto (well, it’s the corollary to my other motto, above, in case any sharp-eyed readers want to pull me up).

Sunday morning was another early start. Another 6.30am arousal from my slumber. But at least the weather was kind. Gary arrived just before 7am and we headed out onto the canal. With 20 miles to do, we had options. But with the canal, your choices are binary. East or west. So we did both. Gary wanted to check out an unusual feature along the Deep Sinking of the Royal Canal, and it meant heading east towards Dublin for a few miles. No doubt the story will appear shortly on his blog. We did indeed locate a pair or arches tucked away under the towpath as Gary had predicted, though as of yet, we are not sure what purpose they would have served.

We turned west and headed out towards Maynooth, and then turned once more for home, and made a detour around by the lake and back through the park again, all to clock up the 20 miles. We measured it out fairly well, and came home tired but in one piece. I think, in fairness, the training is paying off. I have been doing about three or four gym sessions each morning lately too. My gym is my shed, and I have fairly basic kit: a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, an inclined bench for sit-ups, a kettle bell and an assortment of resistance bands. That will get you a good ways towards fitness if you use them well. Coupled with the increase in running and some bike, I can feel an overall improvement.

A field of oilseed rape near the canal.

As an aside, astounding work from Garmin, as per usual. More bugs than a July picnic. They really don’t seem to have cracked the basics of getting results from your watch to your computer. I always get them uploaded in the end, but every now and then, it decides not to play ball. It’s just your regular reminder that luxury problems are exactly that, and not get too worked up about them. I say that, but I do occasionally frighten Bonnie if she’s lying on the rug behind me in the office, and I turn the air blue after several ‘failed to load’ messages pop up on the screen in garish and rather ominous bright red.

But I have done my good deed for the day. I found a student ID card and travel card on the towpath this morning, and with a bit of social media sleuthing prompted by S, we messaged the owner who got back to us with a big thanks, and I dropped the cards down to the nearest Garda station for her to collect. I was pleased she wasn’t the victim of a mugging, or possibly something worse.

And so, we leave you, dear reader, with the world still heading in the general direction of hell, in a handcart, but on the plus side, things are starting to open up again here in Ireland. Many shops are opening up again tomorrow, and that means S will be able to return to work. The hospitality sector will begin to open up in the second week of June, and if all goes well, we may have the rest of the Summer in some form of normality. Here’s hoping.

Odi and Bonnie don’t care much for Covid. You brought it on yourselves, foolish humans

10 thoughts on “Spin cycle

  1. I do love the woods. Since the beginning of March every day is slightly different in terms of foliage, plants and the light. Next time I go I’m bringing an ice cream as well as the dog. I’ll call it a scientific experiment but I may be chancing a sensory overload!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These photos both delight me and break my heart. So beautiful … so far away.
    Arthur brought substantial pleasure to many wives as well, btw. Just sayin’.

    Liked by 1 person

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