Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Irish road trip

Old pal Sarah and I met up in Dublin a week ago for a road trip over to the west coast of Ireland. We sort of made up our itinerary as we went along. It's easier to cross from one side of the country to the other than to navigate some of the smaller roads where there's not much (or confusing) signposting, but we managed to stay basically on course. There's an old Irish joke about someone asking for directions and being told, "Oh, you can't get there from here..." It makes perfect sense when you're going around a roundabout for the second or third time and still can't see which exit to take... Ireland is also liberally garnished with castles and abbeys, but we managed to see only one or two.

Sligo and Galway were points of departure for many of the famine ships that left Ireland in the mid-1800s. The towns are pretty, with lots of flower baskets and colourful buildings. I had three runs: from Sligo out along the river in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Isle of Innisfree (which we later spent over an hour trying to find in the car); and, in Galway, along the seafront at Salthill and beside the canal path in the centre of town.

Benbulben is a very beautiful mountain that dominates the skyline near Sligo. It must be stunning when frosted with snow. We checked out some megalithic tombs that predate the Egyptian pyramids by a thousand years, but were unable to appreciate them in any real way. It's difficult to imagine them as anything other than a few mounds of rocks in a green field. Sligo is Yeats country; we visited his grave, which he shares with his wife, George.

One day we drove around the Connemara peninsula, which is bleak and stony. It's quite beautiful.

I would like to spend some time out on the Aran Islands one day...

We couldn't be within cooee of Tipperary and not go there. We had lunch in a bit of a dive of a pub on the main street (all the cafes were closed down) before heading back towards Dublin to spend the night with old friends of Sarah's in their rambling country cottage that has its own 500-year-old castle ruin and two gorgeous dogs, Shadow and Holly.

Thanks, Ireland. It's a grand place, as the locals say...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's a long way 'til you can stop when you run a rock 'n' roll half marathon...

A half marathon is always 21.1 kilometres, but some of them seem longer than others. The inaugural Dublin Rock 'n' Roll half marathon, held yesterday around Dublin city and Phoenix Park, was one of my better races in recent years. The event was also the Irish National Half Marathon Championships, so  I was running against some of the best in the country in my age group. I placed seventh out of about 23 with a time of 1:53:56. (The first four place-getters all had times under 1:50.) This race and the Reykjavik half marathon of last August (1:53:38) are my best efforts since the Brooklyn half in May 2009, when I ran 1:50:09. It was terrific to run the race with my mate Marc, who had only ever run around 10K. He finished in an excellent time of just under 1:56, which had been our goal time. Marc and I met in Santiago, Chile, in 2011 and caught up in Limerick last November and again this year. After the race we went out for brunch at the very funky Foam and then to see "Only God Forgives" at my favourite cinema in Dublin, the Irish Film Institute.

On Saturday morning I ran a 5K race up at Malahide, a half-hour train ride north of Dublin, in the grounds of a castle. The race was across fields and through woods, all on paved paths, and I was pleased with my 26:26 finish and first place (out of five) in my AG.

My challenge now will be to do enough training to retain the fitness I've built up over the past two months in New York.

In Dublin I'm staying in the apartment on the Liffey, right by Ha'penny Bridge, where I stayed last year. I like the location, if not the noisy crowds that hang about at night on the street below my windows. But I'm just across the river from Temple Bar, the nightlife area, so what do I expect?

I've been tying up some work loose ends before I head off for a bit of a holiday with my old friend Sarah, who arrives in Dublin tomorrow. We last caught up in May 2012, when I visited her in Canada and ran the Vancouver half marathon.

Readers of this blog will find me very predictable: in my spare time I've been seeing films at IFI ("Breathe In", with Guy Pearce; and "Paradise: Hope") and eating gelato. It's true...

I also went to see the musical "Hairspray", which was fantastic. Tonight I'm taking the culture up a notch and going to the Gate Theatre to see "A Streetcar Named Desire".

I like Dublin a lot. It was nice to run through parts of the city and Phoenix Park where I hadn't been before. I need more free days so that I can explore it more widely, but that will have to wait for another visit.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer in the city

For the past couple of weeks I've been following Maria's marathon training program. I have one of my own, but I haven't looked at it...! I really value the social aspects of running and training, and improved fitness is a by-product of that. Having said that, I'm quite competitive! Hopefully, I'm fit enough to run reasonably well in a couple of races later this week in Ireland. I'm flying out tonight. The only reason I'm not throwing a huge tantrum about leaving New York is that I'm planning to be back at the start of October for another ten weeks.

Highlights of the past few weeks include walking and talking the length of Fifth Avenue with Jonathan, a friend from Brisbane; seeing "The Trip to Bountiful" (Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Vanessa Williams) on Broadway with Diane; catching up again with Dominic (from Tokyo), Joe (from Babylon, NY and Bali), Selena (we both spoke at a school careers day in Brooklyn last spring) and Tavia (my teammate from the 2009 Green Mountain Relay in Vermont); attending a runners party at Joanne's home in Pelham, NY; and regular meetups with other friends who live in my neighbourhood. More films: "Terms and Conditions May Apply"; "Fruitvale Station"; "Museum Hours" (set in Vienna, which I hope to visit in September); "Blue Jasmine"; "First Comes Love" and "Nicky's Family" (about the rescue of Jewish children from Prague by Nicky Walton in the months leading up to the start of the Second World War, and the ripple effect his actions have had).