Happy May Day to you all. As I sit in my office in Leixlip, the rain is spilling down, and it’s seriously thinking about doing this for the whole day. As it did yesterday. The first of May is traditionally one of the four ‘festivals’. These are Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa. Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-un’) survives to this day as Hallowe’en. The other three have largely vanished, though there are plenty of folk who still celebrate what were essentially Iron Age farming ‘markers’: time to harvest, time for the lambing season to begin, time to plant crops… all critical points in the farming calendar. In a time when we didn’t have calendars, per se.
Many of Bealtaine’s rituals revolved around fire, and its restorative and cleansing power. And it’s that cold and miserable today, I’d consider lighting one, to be honest. Anyway, another small note of interest is that whilst the internet is still full of ‘Celtic’ references, some sources are now happy drop the ‘C’ word in favour of ‘Gaelic’. That’s somewhat problematic too, but I would see it as progress. Of a sort. As this is a blog about running (sometimes), and less about history, we’ll move on…
So, firstly, training is progressing. As predicted, April topped out at just over 200k of running, building on 158k for March, and 128k for February. I haven’t been sticking religiously to the programme; partially because life gets in the way (when your Dad is in hospital, and you get stuck into a large renovation project which gobbles up your days), and also because, well… damn, it’s my programme, so if things slide a little, it’s not the end of the world. Given that there are only five runs per week, it averages out at just over 10k per run. So that’s not too bad.
Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t some background anxiety about the ultra as each week passes. I feel I should be doing other things apart from just training. Those things could and should include more gym work, collecting and collating of video footage, planning out the route in detail… there’s plenty to be doing. But overall, the main thing is to keep training and stay injury-free. And plan a long run next month with all the gear. For example, I took the GoPro (on its hand grip) last week during a sunny canal run, intending to get some footage, but the camera seemed to be dead (despite charging it for a bit beforehand). Bad planning. And more to the point, it was an awkward thing to cart around. And that was on a relatively short run. I’ll need to find a smarter way to hawk this thing over 115k in such a way that it’s handy to use but not a pain in the ass to carry. Luxury problems, I guess.
A full-kit long run should point out any other glitches too, and give me a fair idea of the sort of weight I will be carrying. Anyway, that’s for May or possibly June, so no panic. In the meantime, I have decided to do a little local fundraiser for the splendid RNLI (The Royal National Lifeboat Institution). Someone had posted up a mention of their May fundraiser called The MayDay Mile. The idea is to raise funds (and awareness) during the month of May by walking a mile. Or running. Or skating. Or rowing… it’s entirely up to you. Just try and raise a few quid for a great cause, and highlight the great work done by RNLI volunteers, and also raise awareness about water safety.
It caught my eye, and before I have a chance to talk myself out of it, I registered to join the campaign. And now I have committed to swimming a mile in my local canal. Here is the link, if you find a couple of quid down the back of the couch, and all the shops are closed…
The main reason for the swim is, as mentioned, to raise some money, and get people talking about water safety. I also would like to highlight the fact there are NO official outdoor swimming locations in the county of Kildare. Other counties have them, and maintain them, and during Summer, even have lifeguards. But overall, we have a poor attitude to outdoor swimming in this country, unless it’s at the sea. I find this odd, because in truth, your average sea, accessed from the beach or rocks, is probably more dangerous than your average lake or canal. Inland waterways get a bad rap. This, I suspect, stems from an unholy trinity of health and safety, litigation and antipathy. To explain: I have had conversations with people in the council about this, and there is a general overall anxiety about providing any kind of facility that has the council’s name on it. It opens them up to liability and litigation. And additional expense, I suppose. Then there is the matter of water quality. Some counties fare better than others on this score, but in general, I don’t think Ireland’s green credentials survive scrutiny when you scratch the surface. So in order to provide safe outdoor swimming, you would have to provide safe water quality too.
And then there is the general ‘feeling’ that inland water is just not ‘safe’. All of which is a vicious cycle, feeding on itself: canals and rivers are dangerous and dirty – don’t swim there – ignore them – make no attempt to make them safe for a swim – somebody goes for a swim and gets into trouble… well, this sadly does happen a lot in this country, and you won’t be surprised to learn that of the over one hundred drownings that happen each year, the majority are inland, and not out at sea, and young men make up a large proportion of these. And alcohol is a factor recorded in a third of deaths.
But I would argue this is precisely why we need more awareness and more places to swim, and not less (or in most cases, as we have now, none). Young men will continue to die by misadventure (as the coroners like to state), and it doesn’t necessarily follow that provision of safe and clean places to swim inland will prevent these tragedies, in the same way you can build the safest roads in the world, but young lads are still going to act the maggot in their cars and end up as statistics.
But it might help.
Anyway, that’s my May Day diatribe, over and out. And now for some lovely pictures. These were taken last weekend, by and large, when I did a 25k run, taking in the park, the canal, and Carton House grounds, which are all rather splendid. Ruined by not one but two large golf courses, but hey-ho.
It was a perfect morning for a run. And I made sure to replace any lost calories on my return. As you do.
Also, May marks the start of Summer, for many, and for amateur botanists like me, it’s the ‘dawn chorus’ for wildflowers. A few peeps during March and April, and then suddenly a riot of noisy colour and growth takes over the woodland margins and hedgerows.
By the way, a little note on the Garmin watch I own – the Forerunner 55. It has an accident detection function which I set up when I bought it. It detects sudden decelerations and stops, and possibly altitude changes too, though I am not sure how sensitive it could be to detect a fall. It’s more likely to do with a sudden change in speed, which would be a classic indicator that you’ve landed in a heap in a ditch off your bike.
I was out last week running along the canal when I took a detour down a little track for a wee in the bushes. This did involve a change in altitude and direction, and I did come to a stop, but I was more than a little surprised when the watch went into alarm mode and began sending messages to all my family. As it was all new to me, I couldn’t figure out how to cancel this event, and so my family all received notifications. (Just a side note: my son has moved up in the will, my daughter still loves me, and Saoirse still reckons my life insurance policy is worth a punt…)
And as I mentioned the cottage, I will add a couple of images of the garden. I don’t have any interiors of how it looks now, but then, my son and his girlfriend have moved in, so it’s not my business to show you their nascent home 🙂
I’m looking forward to showing my Dad the work when he gets home. That’s still a movable feast, though. He’s in good spirits, and largely bored. But there’s a bit to go yet, to get him back on his feet.
The other wee project I managed to finish this week was an upgrade to my Fender Strat. This changes the pickup configuration from the traditional three single coil pick-ups to a more beefier humbucker, single, single set-up, and it has a nifty push-pot on the tone (there is only one volume and one tone pot now) which taps the pick-ups, meaning you can switch between single and double-coil on the bridge pick-up. Did you catch all of that? No? That’s okay. It’s a bit of a techie thing, even for some guitarists. Anyway, here’s the aftermath…
And just by way of acknowledging the war crime that is the illegal invasion of Ukraine, here is a Rapeseed field in full bloom on the edge of the park here.
And to finish. Dogs. Beautiful Bonnie and the way she might look at you. And Odi, who also has a way of looking at you, though I have yet to decide if they are unfathomable depths of introspection, or he’s just a little bit special.