Sunday, September 29, 2019

So good, so hard, so done!

29 Sept
What a crazy, long day yesterday! Must have had the luck of the Irish because the weather was decent until an hour before the finish when it started to pour. I did walk quite a bit and made a fair amount of pathetic little gulpy noises throughout the run.
I wish I had my camera because it was so beautiful. We ran past the tallest waterfall in Ireland and over every hill in the area. The boardwalk stretched for miles over boggy water holes, through forests filled with fog machines for a movie shoot, and along the windy coast line.
11 hours and 11 minutes after the start, I crossed the finish line. Not fast, not petty, but I made it!
Today my walk looks a little more gimpy and someone asked if I was ok as I came down the stairs. Overall I'm feeling pretty satisfied, not ready to run anytime soon, but happy I made it.
Tomorrow morning I fly home and back to the real world.  Ireland I would do again in a heartbeat, 50 miles, nope!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Questionable travel plans

27 Sept
For some reason I wanted to make my trip more memorable. I figured signing up for a 50 mile trail run with 8700 feet of elevation gain and a 12 hour time limit would do the trick.
The race starts tomorrow morning straight up Bray's head and just keeps climbing. Forecast is for heavy rain and potential flooding. Sweet.

I think I wanted to try something that I would have to work hard for and still wouldn't be sure if I would succeed. Hopefully my over confidence and stubborn nature, aided by ibuprofen, will get me to the finish!

Glendalough (rhymes with rock)

26 Sept
My goal for the day was Glendalough, home of St Kevin and his 6th century monastic city tucked into the Wicklow mountains. I was nearly thwarted when the only bus of the day zoomed right past me. With no other way options I stuck out my thumb and was picked up by a dad and his son. They took me within 7 miles and a taxi took me the rest of the way.
The taxi driver asked if I thought traveling alone was a good idea. Without pausing for an answer he launched into his opinion. "If you were me daughter, I'd be worried about ya. Don't you know there's bad sorts around?!" He proceeded to tell me about every person that's ever been killed in a 100 mile radius. Reaching the visitor center he told me, "alright now, yous have a grand time, and don't be worried about da bus driver, I knows the lad, I'll give him a talking to. He won't be leaving young ladies in the rain now."
 Back in my precarious solo state,I wandered around the buildings of Glendalough.  The first thing though see is the iconic round tower. It stands over 30 metres tall and was used as a beacon, a storehouse, and a refuge from attacks.

The building is still sound and original, except for the cone shaped roof, from over 1000 years ago.

The grave yard is consecrated and still very much active. The oldest stones that were still legible were from the 1770s. Only 100 years after the last person is buried are archeologists allowed to do any digging.
 The Wicklow way passes through this valley and three are tons of trails that lead off invitingly. Trying to keep my walking a little in check, I only went up to the large lake and back, well worth it.
While waiting for the bus, I wandered back through the cemetery and was thrilled to see a little Sika buck taking a rest on someone's grave. I've been hearing them bugle in the evenings since its their rutting season and they are trying to impress the ladies.

 The bus driver did pick me up for the return ride and even stopped me off 2 miles before the official stop so I wouldn't have to walk back so far from my camp.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Whisky and gardens everywhere I look

25 Sept
 Lucky for me the Jameson Distillery is in between the two train stations in Dublin. No whisky flights were available so I tried 2 different, delicious varieties and then caught my next train a little more rosy in the cheeks.
 I biked just out of Bray to a campsite that is more of the lady's backyard than anything else. Although it's not the most exciting place to stay, in is more or less in the middle of where I need to be.

Fortunately, just a quick hike up the hill gives fantastic 360 views of the surrounding mountains and a view of my tiny green tent below.

I woke up early and cycled to Powerscourt Gardens, rated 3rd best garden in the world by national geographic. It did not disappoint. Even this late on the year there were hundreds of flowers in bloom and the trees were truly impressive. The actual house was a private residence until the 1970s when a fire destroyed the entire interior. It was a burned out shell until the current Powerscourt descendents revitalized the gardens, rebuilt the ballroom for events, and turned the rest of the house into retail space for artists, weaver's, irish foods, and other fun stuff.
Recently they added a distillery on site. Only 1 year old, they are a long way off from producing their whisky on site, but their master distiller brought his whisky to Powerscourt and I was able to try a delicious 14 year.
On the way back to my little campground, I got lost on the twisty, numerous side roads and found myself a quick hike away from views that stretched all the way from the ocean to 25 miles inland. It just so happened that my vantage point gave me a glimpse of the terrain I will be running on Saturday (painful details later) and I was actually excited about the run. With such beautiful scenery and light, I did the only natural thing and took selfies and read my book before zipping back down to familiar roads below.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Moving at a Slower Pace

23 Sept
 After the Ring of Kerry, I decided to back of the cycling and save my legs for my upcoming race (more about that poor choice later). I tootled around Killarney for one more day, visiting the fantastic Muckross House. The estate has been preserved to its mid 1800 state and walking through the insides was like having a Downton Abby moment, especially walking through the kitchen hallways with a huge row of bells to call the servants.
 Queen Victoria visited here just before Albert died, and her visit was a large part why the owner went into debt and lost the house.

Muckross Abbey was built in the 1400s by the Franciscan monks. Not soon after, Henry VIII dissolved the monastery, they started up again after his death but the monastery fell into complete ruin when Cromwell came through in the 1640s.
 I threw my bike into a train, easy, and rode up to Thurles. I almost didn't make it off the train because the platform was on the other side. Someone outside the train had to take 3 bikes out before mine could get unloaded. With the quick stop it was a little frantic, but as always, things worked out fine. 

A 12 mile, thankfully flat, cycle brought me to the Rock of Cashel, seat of the ancient irish kings. Once a castle site, it became purely religious in the 11th century and now is made up of St Patrick's cathedral and Cormac's chapel.

 Cormac's chapel was built in 1130 out of beautifully carved sandstone. Unlike most of the pointy gothic style of Ireland's medieval buildings, the chapel was built with the rounded romanesque archways and geometric designs.
Inside is the oldest intact stone stairway in all of Ireland.
The most notable thing about the chapel is the remnants of frescoes that used vermilion from Spain for the red colors and very expensive lapis lazuli (blue) from Afghanistan to depict biblical scenes.

There was also a sarcophagus predating the chapel that had Nordic dragons, figure eights, and what looked like mermaids all over it. Important bodies were put in there, covered in lime, and they decomposed in about 5 weeks. The bones were taken out, put someplace special, and someone else important got to take their turn.

The chapel has only been open for a few years and to limit the humidity and bacteria inside, only a few people get to go in each day. I got lucky because it was pouring rain and not many people were motivated to be outside.
Tomorrow, I'll take advantage of any break in the rain to cycle for an hour back to Thurles, squeeze my bike into a train, and make it through to Dublin.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Running Out of Sunscreen

20 Sept
 Sometimes the popular places are popular for very good reason. I was hesitant to bike the Ring of Kerry because everyone goes there, but it was spectacular, not too busy, and well worth the sweaty, steep climbs.
 I went clockwise starting through the Gap of Dunloe where there are so many road hazards that they just mark them all in the beginning and call it good. This was a lucky direction to go as all the tour buses go counter clockwise so they never came up behind me to pass.
 My early morning start got sidetracked by the amount of cheery people I stopped to talk to. Besides donkies in the road, bikers stop to chat, people who used to bike stop to chat, and people who cannot believe you are biking stop to chat. I took a slight detour to a recommended pancake house, Stawberry Field's, and had a salmon leek pancake that I will dream about for years to come.
 The road zig Zags up unexpectedly high roads, passes through villages full of ice cream flavors like gin, elderflower, and brown bread, then throws view after sparkling view in your face.
 Crumbly ruins dot the hillsides and castles guard every bay. I spent the night tucked into a little sandy beach watching surfers catch the last waves of the day. Then drank with them until the stars and milky way lit up the night because the whole peninsula is a dark sky zone.
 It got windy throughout the night, thank god for earplugs so I could sleep over the flapping of my tent.  The wind meant that my tent was bone dry the next morning, a rarity in this country.
 I expected the wind would make cycling brutal, but even the 35mph gusts rarely seemed to hit head on and I often got a boost as I pedaled along. Stopping for a sandwich and a beer, I found out that out had been rainy and cold all summer long. All the locals were a bit giddy with the change in weather.
 This has to be one of the top cycle routes I've ever taken even though it was much harder than I expected. I was feeling pretty lucky as I left the view over looking the Dingle peninsula and headed back inland toward Killarney.
Back I town I actually paid to camp as I was I desperate need of a shower and some greasy dinner.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Biking, whiskey, biking, Guinness.

17 Sept
 Since I was "stealth camping," a much edgier way of saying sleeping in the bushes, I was up early and on my way. Hours of biking later, and at a much more appropriate time than I would have chosen, I found myself at the Bushmills Distillery.  Quite possibly the oldest distillery in the world, it was guaranteed a liscense to distill in 1608 by James I.
Properly fortified, I headed to the northern coast and the much anticipated Giant's Causeway. An uplift of columnar basalt that looks like gigantic cobblestones.
 One of the most popular sites in Ireland, it was crawling with people. Not everyone seemed to be impressed, some of the best things I overheard:
     "Oh, it must be underwater right now." (It was low tide)
     "What is everybody looking at?!"
     "We should have gone to the distillery instead."
I thought it was well worth the 2 day bike ride and achy legs it took too get here. Especially when I could get bird's eye view of the causeway.
There is a trail that follows 167 stone steps up the side of the sea cliff, taking you along the pastures on top. You could see the island of Scotland in the distance and for such a busy attraction, I had the trail to myself.
I jumped on my bike and added 10 more miles to my day In order tho sleep in a real bed for the first time on this trip. My day finished with a fantastic burger, my first Guinness in Ireland, and a sunset walk around the peninsula.

Monday, September 16, 2019

A soggy, boggy day

15 Sept
With a forecast of rain, I was eager to make some miles. However, when there are so many things to look at, multiple stops are inevitable. I took an out and back detour of Carlingford, a medieval village with a lot of great cafes. Properly fueled, I hopped the ferry to northern Ireland.

Just across the Lough was a beautiful little castle, I though I would just cycle up to it for a better look. The only people there were the keeper and an archeologist. My quick stop turned into over an hour of crawling up, over, and around Green Castle with the archeologist where I learned that this was a vastly important place in the 14th century.
He pointed out histories of every evolving use of the castle, we slid thru narrow passage ways to see the adjacent farm and how the owner's house is 3 feet thick, meaning one side is the original castle wall from 1350. We got all excited and nerdy about history and I stumped him by asking if there were any true Irish castles or if they were all Anglo Norman. He stopped in his tracks in order to ponder a little better. He thought not, probably only ring forts and such. 
It was attacked by Edward the Bruce even though his brother Robert the Bruce (who became king of Scotland) married the daughter of the family of the castle. And, the road leading up too the castle was a WW2 airplane runway for a short time.
 In search of a camp for the night I headed up into the Mourne Mountains. It wad a bit more climbing than I expected, but beautiful.
 Campsite found I the back posture of a lodge, I decided to take advantage of the shower I could take later and go for a jog. I ran into the mountains since that's where people seemed to be going. It was a little boggy to say the least. My run was more of a hike through sheep pastures without a trail. At one point I thought I was developing a gnarly case of athletes foot as my toes were burning and itchy. Then I remembered I spilt boiling coffee all over my foot this morning so that was kind of positive.
 My shower was everything I hopped it would be and I slept like a rock listening to rain patter on my tent.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A break from the old to visit the ancient

14 Sept- Saturday
 Spent yesterday at Knowth and Newgrange sites. Older than the Pyramids by 1000 years and Stonehenge by 500years.
The entrances to the mounds at Knowth line up with the autumn and spring equinoxes and the mound is 1.5 acres. The Newgrange entrances line up with winter and summer equinoxes.
These mounds hold over 50% of all the Neolithic art in western Europe. You can walk into the burial chamber at Newgrange and the passage is 19 meters long. Inside are alters and granite basins too large to fit through the stones, so the entire structure was built around them. 
Time to head to the coast, sit bones protesting the bike seat, I managed to go about 50 miles to Carlingford and a beautiful camp on the beach.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Castle Seen, Whisky Found. Ah, Ireland!

13 Sept 2919
 I woke up next to my donkey and goat, plus about one hundred dairy cows. Little morning surprises when you camp on a working farm.

I gave my legs a took a bus south to Trim to see the impressive Yellow Tower-  the remaining ruins of St Mary's, and Castle Trim which featured as the castle of York in the movie Braveheart.
The castle is the oldest Anglo Norman one in Ireland, built in the mid 1100's because the Irish were getting too wild and crazy for the English liking.

Later that evening I went for a quick taste of whisky, it was delicious, from the Slane distillery and a jog (more about that choice of activity later) around:-) the village Slane and ended on Slane Hill topped with ruins and a 360 view of the valley. Supposedly St. Patrick built a large fire on it when he wasn't suppose to and the Slane Abby was built in commemoration.

I learned that castles were built with a sloping stone base so attackers couldn't set fire under the corner stones, crack them with heat, and undermine the entire structure, and that it is very difficult to put socks on while zipped up in a mummy sleeping bag.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Beautiful Weather and Numb Buns

12 Sept 2019
There is something so satisfying about assembling my bike in the airport and then just riding out the front doors to start my trip.

I felt like I skimped a little on the things I packed in an effort to cut weight. Fortunately I found a light puffy coat (only mildly grubby) on the side of the road as I was riding out of Dublin. I risked life and limb to run across the narrow, shoulderless road to grab it so I was extra pleased that it turned out to be my size!
I biked 50km north to Slane to pitch my tent next to a donkey and a goat. The combo of jetlag and not biking at all this summer is making my tent seem like a feather bed. Tomorrow I'll be up to my ears in castles, scones, and ancient sites but for now it's time to get horizontal.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Here I go again on my own

11 Sept 2019
Off again, the cleanest and driest I'll  be for the rest of the month!