IN WHICH WE REMIND OURSELVES, YET AGAIN, THAT MY AGEING, CREAKING BODY CAN RUN A MILLION MILES* BUT 90 MINUTES OF FIVE-A-SIDE IS TOTAL MADNESS AND MUST BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS…
Today marks the end of Week Five of the Programme, and so far, the wheels have not come off. Mind you, the long session of footie on Friday was a really bad idea. I always know it will be, but I do it anyway. It’s like that round of tequila shots at 3am. It’s never going to end well. But down the hatch it goes. Along with the Flaming Sambucas. In my defence (such as it is), this was a game between two neighbouring fire stations, so there was a degree of honour at stake, and a small dollop of male bravado in the fuel tank.
As it happens, their age profile is probably 10-20 years younger than ours, so we got hammered. But so did the legs and various joints, and my left foot was trampled on at one point in the game. Seemed fine at the time and I played on, and it was only later that day when we were at a car crash and I was making my way down the road to one of the cars that I realised it was sore. By the time I went to bed, it was quite painful, and I figured the morning would see me either shrug it off and get back out for a run, or I’d be heading to the hospital for an x-ray.
Saturday came, and it seemed a lot better, so I arranged a short run with Mark. As it happened, we only managed a few k before his calf went ‘boing’ again and we were back to a walk. In truth, this suited me fine; I had fulfilled my duties to the spirit of the Programme, even if I hadn’t followed it to the letter.
So today, Week Five finished up with a long run. 24k was called for, and at 4 hour marathon pace. Luckily enough, Gary jumped in to ride shotgun on this particular rodeo (I am not sure this wild west metaphor works. Ed.) and kept the pace honest. As he had also kindly agreed to come to Leixlip for the start, I suggested we head east along the canal, instead of west. It’s not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but generally, the canal gets more ‘urban’ the further east it goes, towards Dublin, and understandably enough, takes you into some very pleasant rural scenery as it meanders west into the midlands. Broad brush-strokes, I admit, and the beauty of the canal is that it maintains an aura of ‘nature’ even as it plunges into some of the most built-up areas of the capital. (By ‘nature’, I scatter a ragtag of words at your feet: water, sylvan, stillness, floating, barges, reflections, reeds, leaves, gliding, lily pads, ducks, swans, perch, coots, dragonflies, coolness, bubbles, aquatic… I think you get the idea. From this selection, you can create your own montage, and you would probably find its doppelgänger somewhere along the length of the Royal Canal.)
In ecological terms, the popular phrase you might see on information boards is ‘wildlife corridor’ and it’s fair to say that canals and their towpaths and lines of grassy margins, hedges and trees represent some of the best wildlife corridors in the country.
So, I hear you mumble to yourself as you pause at this point to sip your coffee. Why, then, would you head east? Well, I am glad you asked, dear reader. Mainly because Gary lives about 8k west along the canal from me, and it seemed churlish to drag him down to Leixlip (on his bike, mind you!) only to force march him past his humble abode not once but twice.
Also, I hadn’t been along the Deep Sinking for a while. So there was that.
In the image gallery above, I included a screen grab of the spaghetti junction of routes that occurs around Blanchardstown (© Google Maps). Here, the busy M3 intersects with the even busier M50 and both of these ‘sit atop’ older roads that they essentially replaced, plus a variety of other offshoots. And to complicate things, there is the small matter of the Tolka River and valley to negotiate, and the Royal Canal and rail line. The solution is lots of engineering, and even more concrete. It means you can take your barge over Ireland’s busiest motorway, if that, eh, floats your boat (NO, NO, NO! ed.).
The little pair of bronze shoes we have mentioned here before on the blog, but for those with the attention span of a goldfish (I include myself in that), it commemorates darker times in the country’s history when famine forced about 1,500 starving people to walk 165 kilometres to Dublin from the midlands to board ships to Canada in 1847.
The close-up of the lock gates is at the 10th Lock, where you can find these life-size child’s shoes, and the more distant shot of the locks is at the 11th. (Some of these pics are incorrectly labelled, by me, so ignore the photo tags if you are clicking on the images to enlarge them. Which I recommend you do!)
On the way back through St. Catherine’s Park, we caught a glimpse of what will be a really nice piece of work when it’s unveiled. Along the avenue heading into the park from the Lucan end, one of the row of mature Beech trees was in some distress. Rather than fell it entirely, someone had the vision (and I suppose, access to funding) to get someone in to do some carving. And it’s looking good!
It’s not finished yet, and no doubt there will be a grand ceremony when the assorted poobahs from the numerous agencies involved will be out in their finery to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ in front of the cameras. Cynical? Moi? Never!
Gary reckons it’s Cú Chulainn and that’s a good shout. For those who don’t know the history of Setanta and how he got his name… well, Google is your friend. I can’t be doing everything for you! Risa; you’re already way ahead of the posse…
Our run finished up back at the station, and we clocked in at about 24k and bits in under 2 hours and 20 minutes, with a pace of 5:42 min/km (my old friend; four-hour marathon pace). This was, give or take, what the Programme demanded as sacrifice, and I was glad, after the potential derailment on Friday, and the aborted run yesterday, to be able to fulfil my obligations. And I was in good company, and it helped with the pace too.
In other news, football is back (in the UK). It’s odd to watch a full house at Old Trafford. That’s 76,000 heaving, sweating, screaming fans. This in a country with upwards of 30,000 new cases per day. Each to their own. It’s great to have the fans back (even if a small cohort will insist on smashing up town centres each match day) but at what cost? Anyway, not my fight. Here in Ireland, we are keeping things a little more under control. Having said that, I think there were 24,000 at Croke Park yesterday, but that’s out of an 82,300 capacity. So it was visibly ‘not full’, if you pardon the language butchery here.
On the plus side, Mayo finally cast off the hoodoo and beat the seemingly unbeatable Dublin in a fantastic semi-final. Hopefully for them it’s not their peak. So many teams have shot their bolt at the penultimate stage; sport is littered with such teams, and their names don’t get etched on trophies. But if they play Kerry in the final (as it looks like now), then I suspect it will be Kerry against every other county in the land on All-Ireland Final day.
* Terms and conditions apply. Most definitely.
P.S. As predicted, my monthly total for August is at 130k, so already over the last two month’s totals. And we’re only halfway through. Nobody tell my knees… deal?