IN WHICH WE RETURN TO THE PROGRAMME, BECAUSE, WELL, IT’S THE PROGRAMME, DUMMY, AND WE SEE HOW THE LEGS ARE AFTER THE WILD WEST…
The week draws to a close, and as is the way with Sunday mornings, they often find me out somewhere, running. And I’m nothing if not predictable, so yes, I had arranged to meet Gary in Maynooth and we were going to knock out a nifty half-marathon along the canal. As you do.
But before we catch up on the exciting athletic endeavours of unironedman, I’ll just fill you in on the week that was. It was a smörgåsbord of history, heritage and culture. And shopping.
On Monday, Saoirse and I finally got around to visiting the Indian Sculpture Gardens in Wicklow. There is much to say about this place, and as it represents one man’s life-long vision, I suspect it would make a half-decent book on its own. We drove up through Sally Gap to get there, and along the way, pulled in to have a quick look at Lough Tay as it emerged from the mist. If you look carefully, you can see Kattegat on the edge of the lake, which is the seaside village from the very successful TV show Vikings, with the swaggering Ragnar Lothbrok. We enjoyed the first few seasons, and then like most shows, it ran its course but the money was still coming in, so nobody had the urge to step up and wring the goose’s neck.
Even getting into the sculpture gardens itself requires you to pass through what I can only describe as a massive and intimidating imagining of vagina dentata. Careful googling that one. Once inside, you have a gentle stroll around the woods, lawns and lakes, and at regular intervals, there are various sculptures of either solid polished granite or cast bronze.
They are all accompanied by an explanatory text, which may or may not ease your mind as to the aim of the artist. The theme is Hindu deities, mostly, and the collection took twenty years to assemble.
There is the obligatory gift shop at the end but true to form, it’s clearly not the driving force of the park. It is essentially a shed with piles of trinkets and incense at wholesale prices and he runs an honesty box. For a tenner, you could genuinely buy a lifetime’s supply of patchouli or sandalwood sticks for the house.
On Tuesday, still sated on Hindu mysticism, we thought we had best balance out affairs with a little culture closer to home. So we headed up to visit Lough Crew (or Cairn T, if you are an archaeologist, or Sliabh na Cailliagh, if you prefer the more intriguing Gaelic version). It’s an ancient set of burial sites on a high ridge, and dates back to the 4th millennium BC. The main cairn is a passage tomb and aligns with the Autumnal equinox.
We’ve been here before a few times, but it was unnaturally warm and still, considering this is the highest point in Meath. It was bizarre. Not a breath of wind. Views for miles and miles. 18 counties are visible on a clear day, though how this has been verified is anyone’s guess.
In one of the satellite tombs, Saoirse wanted to get a feel for the place. I can imagine a Trip Advisor review along the lines of: “Quite the hike to get to my room. Bed very hard. No windows or doors, but the view was spectacular. 2 stars (one of these for the wall art).”
In case there is any concern at this point that I have been neglecting my duties as a retail junkie to the behemoths of excess, I did pay Decathlon a visit. As is the way with these gigantic outlets, you go for one thing and come away with something else. The bike computer I wanted wasn’t in stock, so I bought a pair of runners. They are Kiprun Long Run 2, and whilst they are a little heavy at about 320 grams (compared to the svelte 255 grams of the Boston 8s from Adidas), they are plush. Well, okay, ‘plush’ is real marketing guff, I admit. Let’s just say they are a comfy couch for your feet, and leave it at that? I needed another pair, because the 8s are getting a hammering and I want to keep some bounce left for the marathon next month.
I am not sure if homemade pizza falls into the ‘rampant consumption’ category, or perhaps there is an element of culture? The ingredients all came from Sheridans Cheesemongers in their new shop and café out near Virginia, and they certainly espouse a homegrown philosophy when they can. As far as I can remember, the bases, sauce and cheese are all Irish made. They were delicious!
And so, dear reader, Saoirse and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary tomorrow with a luxury trip away to Castle Leslie. I gather this was where Paul McCartney got hitched. A full report next week, no doubt, as I lounge around in my house in the bath robe I am contractually obliged to take home with me. (Sadly, we cannot crouch down in the passage tomb of Cairn T to catch the sunrise. Life is not fair…)
And finally, congratulations to Omil, a fine cyclist and runner who has recently and successfully dipped his toe into the triathlon waters. You can read his exploits here. I am looking forward to seeing how this virulent bug catches hold and claims another victim. There is already talk of an Olympic. This is how it starts. The gateway drug of the Sprint is rarely enough 😉
So, where were we? Oh yes, belting along the Royal Canal towpath. I should add that the programme was calling for a new PB for me at 1:37. This was never an option, with the ongoing training and last week’s miles and hills still in the legs (and in particular, the lower quads). But we made it to halfway in decent time where I stopped to try one of the Decathlon gels (Salted Caramel, I think, and by god, if it’s poured on to my ice cream tomorrow after dinner, I’ll be a happy man!). We turned for home, and we spurred each other on, and ended up with a negative split (which is not as painful as it sounds, if you are not familiar with the terminology). This means we did the second half faster than the first, and is a goal of many runners on long runs. I clocked it at bang on 1:45, though Gary runs his own ‘honesty system’ and lets his watch tick when he’s having a quick toilet break whereas I tend to stop the clock.
The above picture was snapped in my local Aldi store this week. German efficiency dictates that Winter is officially coming. Thankfully I have a decent store of logs outside. But always a little melancholy to see the end of September.
Be safe out there people.
Odd to read Carl Dempsey’s last tweet. It was the day before the race and he had a similar picture to mine at the bike drop. Bike racked, ready to go. Killary Fjord in the background, and another pic of Búcán Mountain.
He was laid to rest on Friday.