Monday, December 14, 2009

The End

So that's the end of my little Irish adventure. Almost two years after arriving in Ireland I flew out of Cork yesterday (Thursday 10th Dec) to spend some brief time in Birmingham with Mum before heading off back to Jersey where I landed today (Friday 11th Dec).

I had every intention of staying in Ireland permanently but the combined effect of the wretched economy and personal financial circumstances mean that I am returning to the Channel Islands where I lived for over 30 years and where there is always a need for accountant-type people. I hope.

In due course I'll maybe write a proper retrospective. But for now, things I'll miss about Ireland.

• My many friends at Crusaders AC in Dublin - I just can't believe that I'll never see many of them again
• The Irish people
• Ringsend and Sandymount Strand
• The Athletics/Running/Triathlon forum on - I will still contribute I suppose but now as a bit of an outsider
• Waterford, despite a short and ultimately painful spell there
• My friends and relatives in Cork, especially my beautiful cousin Mary, her sister Ann, husband Henry and their impressive daughter Eibhlin together with my great and longtime friends Deirdre and Joan
• Guinness
• Setanta Ireland and RTE2 for their sports coverage

But I won't miss

• The circumstances that led to the birth of the so-called Celtic Tiger that ultimately handed us the present basket-case economy
• The lack of runnable footpaths and rights of way across private land that are taken for granted in the UK (and Jersey)
• Not being able to listen to Radio 5Live

I guess I'll start a new blog shortly (check profile) but for Roy In Ireland this is a wrap.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bat Out Of Cork

The present lousy weather isn't, of course, confined to Cork. However yesterday (Saturday) in the city centre was one of the gloomiest, wettest and windiest days it is possible to have. Happily the city has places like the excellent English Market and the Crawford Art Gallery to dry out in whilst hoping that the River Lee remains where it is on the spring tide. The recent flooding was most unwelcome with the Mardyke, including the first class UCC sports complex, being particularly badly damaged.

Today (Sunday) was a distinct improvement with only a couple of drenchings as I made my way from Togher up Spur Hill and into the countryside beyond. At three miles I hit a nice rhythm and, with a little right and left, found myself on a proper country lane - the type with grass growing down the middle. It is not so easy to find these in modern Ireland - lanes which lead pretty much nowhere and where the only traffic consists of those who occupy farms or properties along the road in question. The sun even came out on a couple of occasions and showcased many of Ireland's forty shades of green.

Turning around at six miles my iPod selected Meat Loaf's quite brilliant live version of Bat Out Of Hell - he certainly sounds better on that than he did at the Marquee in Cork last year. I was on the third repeat of the 11-minute track when one side of my earphones decided to pack up. Why is it that those things have a working life of only about 12 months? But it was no bad thing as, for the last few miles, I was able to fully appreciated the sights and sounds of the Cork countryside.

12 miles in 2:08 for just 22.5 miles on the week. And, if as seems likely, this was one of my last runs in Ireland, it was a nice one to go out on.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1,000 Miles

I had resolved to do the final seven miles this morning and the weather gods weren't going to stop me. It was lashing down and the wind was howling as I set off from Togher up Spur Hill. Truly it was a day when the general populace is proved correct in regarding us runners as slightly insane.

Within 48 hours the wind had come around 180 degrees and was now blowing a gale from the south. I was instantly soaked through and quickly at that excellent point where I couldn't get any wetter. Glasses into pocket as being of little use in the circumstances I splashed through the puddles and streams and finally turned around at 3.5 miles.

At least it wasn't too cold. My thoughts turned back to the Jersey Half Marathon back in November 2007, the 9th and last that I organised. The conditions were similar to today but with a much lower chill factor. Three runners were hospitalised and many others treated by St John Ambulance for hypothermia. I consider that we were fortunate and still wonder if we ought to have cancelled the whole thing. A difficult decision as so many had travelled to Jersey especially for the race.

Whatever, I turned around today and with the contours and conditions now very much in my favour I scooted back at a fair old trot and fairly flew (for me) the last couple of miles in sub-8s.

In a year in which my running has been fairly aimless (since Connemara in the spring anyway) the 1,000 mile thread on has given me a bit of focus anyway and has got me on the road when I otherwise might not have laced up. So thanks guys.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Caution, Bowling In Progress

A sure sign that one is in the Rebel County is coming across a road bowling match. Peculiar to Cork, Armagh and very few other places, the contestants take turns in hurling a small iron ball along a country road. He (or indeed she) who completes the distance agreed upon in the least number of throws is declared the winner. Thought to have been brought to Armagh by the mill workers of the north of England, the game was in turn brought to Cork by those workers engaged in the linen industry. It was extremely popular for much of the 20c with hundreds of people turning out to cheer on their local heroes, and heavy betting would took place.

Today's match was a pretty low-key affair though with only a dozen or so spectators. I stopped to allow one chap to take his turn which proved a weak, off-target effort and I proceeded on my way.

I find myself in the Togher district of Cork City, about three miles to the south of the city centre. Heading further south into the country lanes one cannot escape the inevitability of hill climbs. Today I set off from Togher Cross up past the City Bounds pub along a road that appears to have no name on the OS map. It rises quite steeply for maybe 1.5 miles before levelling out, and you find yourself at the perimeter fence of Cork Airport, and indeed passing by the end of the western runway. Running along here the other night was a risky business what with being blinded by car headlights, but today it was fine. A little further on, leaving the airport behind, the road drops away steeply again and I found myself coming out onto the main Kinsale Road at the Five Mile Inn. Happily it was not necessary to follow the main road and I was able to hang a right in the direction of west Cork. At the outskirts of Ballinhassig the Garmin bleeped six miles, time for me to turn around.

Today for the first time I activated the Garmin's 'Return to Start' facility, which is quite neat. It shows the route you have travelled and you can follow this line home if you're lost. Although I didn't have to fall back on it today it would certainly come in useful under certain circumstances, as would the little compass pointer showing magnetic north.

Not for the first time I was struck by the consideration of Irish drivers towards pedestrians where no footpath exists. They always give a wide berth, or slow down/stop if traffic is coming in the opposite direction. In addition the indicator is often used and, if so, is acknowledged by me with a wave (as I hope it is by all walkers/runners, but maybe not). Compare with Jersey where drivers inevitably treat pedestrians with careless disregard, if indeed they happen to see them at all.

I'm running nicely today and I manage to negotiate the steep climb back up to airport level. But it's only now I fully realise that there is a damp and brisk northerly blowing that means I have to dig in along this flat section. Compensation for the climbs come in the form of the views to west and south. In the dark the city lights are quite stunning from this viewpoint. Through the bowling match and down the drop to Togher, now pretty tired and cold and ready for a hot shower.

So 12 miles in 2:07 making 27 on the week and 993 for the year to date. All things being equal I'll try to wrap up the 1,000 on Tuesday.

I feel guilty about leaving my Couch to 5k ladies group in Waterford. We were onto Week 5 and I think they were surprising themselves with their good progress. I left them the schedule for the remaining weeks and hope that they stick together as a group and complete the programme.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Congratulations... Bill Dowis, author of The Road to Philadelphia blog who completed his first ever marathon today at - of course, Philadelphia. Well done mate.

Still pretty aimless really

An interesting LSR today. After two SSRs during the week in which my legs were very heavy I again struggled initially today. Although the gales had abated somewhat it was still hard going as I set off uphill and westward around the city of Waterford. A couple of walk breaks were required as I gained the high ground and then descended to the Old Kilmeaden Road along a very watery Knockhouse Road. The country is basically under water at present though Waterford has escaped relatively lightly.

Battling into the wind and turning onto the ORR (Outer Ring Road) I was tempted to cut it short and hang a left along the Cork Road and a couple of miles back into town. But I persevered and was rewarded with a revival as the Garmin ticked through five miles. This isn't unknown for me by any means. Often in Dublin I'd struggle the four miles up the Royal Canal to Ashtown before finding some rhythm as I headed into the Phoenix Park. So today I perked up and speeded up a tad with the wind now behind, or side-on at worst. So much so that, coming to the Farranshoneen roundabout I resolved to add 3.5 miles by turning right and looping via Knockboy Village and the Dunmore Road.

A little way down towards Knockboy I passed the house bought as a newbuild 20 years or so ago by my friends Eleanor and Dave. Why not, I thought, and paused the Garmin and invited myself in for a coffee and a chat. Poor Elly has contracted successive exotic bugs from visits to Istanbul and Thailand and is a bit fragile at present. But we had a nice chat and I set off again refreshed.

That nice drop past Ballygunner Church with the Suir estuary in the background. Listen to Steve Runner, on his knees, begging us all to start producing running podcasts. Up a last testing little rise to Ardkeen and from there it's a nice drop of 1.5 miles down into town.

13.46 miles in 2:21 for 27.6 on the week and 966 for 2009 to date.

Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974

I was a trainee accountant in 1974, working for a small firm of Chartered Accountants in Birmingham city centre. Us articled clerks - four or five of us, would work away either in the office in Cornwall Street, or else out on site at a client's premises. We were all studying for exams at the time. And whereas the large auditing firms would send their trainees away on residential courses, at Ernest T Kerr & Co it was correspondence courses all the way. You'd be sent the course work, buy the recommended text books, send away the test papers and somehow get yourself in shape for Intermediate, Final Part 1 and Final Part 2.

Thirty five years ago today was a Thursday, a pretty ordinary day I guess. All that week I'd left work and gone with my fellow trainee Pete to the Reference Library with our papers and books. We'd work away for a couple of hours, often testing each other on case law and stuff. At closing time, 8 o'clock, we'd head off for a few pints. Quite often that meant the Tavern In The Town, a lively cellar bar in New Street, next door to the Odeon. But that Thursday I was knackered and we agreed that, with the weekend in sight, that an early night was a sensible idea.

Sure enough, once home in the city's eastern suburbs, I crashed out straight away. Only next morning did I find out as Mum pointed silently to the TV screen. The previous evening 21 people had been killed and 182 injured, many of them horrifically. Bombs had detonated without adequate warning at the Tavern In The Town and at the Mulberry Bush, just around the corner. Most of the victims were young.

The actuality was awful. The aftermath was chilling. For days people, myself included, avoided the bombing scenes and tried to deny what had happened. For a time there was a strong anti-Irish feeling in the city which faded with time. The Birmingham Six were arrested, charged, convicted and later released on appeal. The perpetrators, whoever they may be, are still amongst us today - living, working, socialising.

On the 35th anniversary of the bombings it is still chilling to flick through the photographs of the young victims, none of whom I knew personally but many of whom I would have regularly bumped into making my way to and from the bar of the Tavern. Their lives were too short.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Run Net Community

The Run Net Community. This is a concept that is being talked about by a small but growing group of running enthusiasts and podcasters. At the nucleus is Steve Runner of the podcast Phedippidations. Already there is a Facebook group and a Google group. I think that the rather fuzzy concept is to encourage more potential bloggers, podcasters and videocasters to join in the quest to get even more people to join us on the road. You can find the embryonic website devoted to this by clicking on the title.

I suppose I should be all in favour, as I appear to be part of this social network. (As are you, by reading this sorry blog). I enjoy everything to do with running - as well as having a wider interest in track & field and the coaching thereof. I fell upon my Athletics Weekly and Runner's World like an alchoholic seizes a can of strong cider, until the deliveries dried up here in the sunny south-east. I enjoy talking about the sport. I enjoy introducing others, young and old, to running and athletics. I enjoy reading running blogs and listening to running podcasts.

Some of them.

Those blogs listed on the left have a bit of quality about them and I enjoy reading the updates. There are others which I will make it my business to add. But there are many others that are very, very average, this one amongst them. And that is OK because most bloggers blog for their own enjoyment and are reasonably indifferent whether or not they get an audience. Some are outstanding and deserve a large readership.

Podcasts are different. No doubt podcasters enjoy producing their works but they are certainly unlikely to do so unless they think that they can attract listeners. I have listened with great enjoyment to virtually every episode of Phedippidations which rarely disappoints and then only where the producer drifts into areas in which I have no interest. A Mile With Me is a good English equivalent, laid back in delivery and usually holding the interest. But, in an effort to expand my listening habits I recently subscribed to another well regarded podcast. This consisted solely of spoken 'submissions' from miscellaneous runners - no editing, no pattern, no quality. I suppose one or two of the speakers were entertaining enough, but on the whole I'd heard enough to immediately unsubscribe.

So I am all for people blogging and podcasting about whatever they wish. But inviting everyone to do so is to inevitably drag the overall standards down. Or am I wrong, will it drive the standards up as more people learn how to use the new media? Overall I applaud the initiative and I'll do my bit by highlighting quality productions that I come across. Because by definition there will be those that are good, many that are average and those that are of marginal interest at best.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Darkness Into Light

The lack of any semblance of planning in my running is summed up in this last week - only two runs for a total of 22.8 miles. One of these fine days I'll target a race and set myself a programme based on some sort of logic. At the moment it's a case of setting off around the city when the fancy takes me.

Thursday was slightly unusual though as I headed out in the early evening after darkness had fallen. This involved a couple of miles of unlit country lanes in the early stages. Not kitted out with any sort of torch it became a bit of an adventure, taking my chances with conditions underfoot. However I made it out to the Old Kilmeaden Road unscathed. On the Outer Ring the darkness continued though with the streetlights out all the way along to the Tramore Road. Not a major problem though on the wide, light-coloured concrete sidewalk and with the passing car headlights. I trotted along quickly enough to Ardkeen at the hospital end of the road.

At which point I broke the run to take my Couch to 5k group - we are now on Week 3 and most of the ladies are doing very nicely. Week 4 will be a bit of a step up though and the mantra will be, more than ever, SLOWLY does it. Speed means nothing at all at the moment. If these new runners carry on beyond this programme then they will have a base from which they can consider speed as an element of their running if they so wish.

This morning was another circumnavigation of Waterford, this time more laboured. However I have reached 938.4 miles for the year and only if I do a Devon Loch can I fail to reach the 1,000 for 2009.

On other, personal levels things have gone somewhat pear-shaped and I need to hang on to some running metaphors and to remind myself that there is always light after darkness.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ancient and Modern

Two hours plodding through rural Kilkenny this morning was thought provoking. I have a fascination with local history, the micro picture of how things change over the years and centuries at an individual and community level. And Ireland presents the runner with unending echoes of the past as well as strange happenings in the present.

Until recently - the early 80s, Ireland remained an insular, agrarian society. Contact with the outside world was limited and resources were few. There was little by way of industry and it was commonplace for its young people to leave the country to seek employment elsewhere. Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. Outside the main population centres life was quiet, livings were made from the land, pubs were the social centres.

All that changed when Ireland entered the European Community, and also started attracting inward investment by offering generous grants and tax breaks to foreign companies. The Celtic Tiger was born and the economy boomed, but all that came to a shuddering halt a year or so back.

Today I passed by once more the mothballed Ross Abbey shopping centre, mocked across the road by a convenience store supplying all that the local population needs and can afford on a Sunday morning. Further on I came to a road junction. To the right was ostentatiously signposted a technology park. It was a lovely looking road, beautifully maintained with seemingly managed marshland off to the side. Off I set to explore. Eventually I came to barred gates which announced a construction site. Other than a few huts there seemed little construction going on. A lonely flag read Servier. I now read that this French pharmaceuticals concern announced in November 2006 an investment at this Belview site. To be fair they said that production will commence in 2010 but I'm not holding my breath.

Further on again and, in the corner of a field, an old tower and a tumbledown stone cottage, redolent of ancient Ireland. There are times and places in this country that one can almost see, feel and hear the ghosts of Ireland's past. A misty day on the Dingle Peninsula, Slievemore on Achill Island, Connemara (not on race weekend), the Beara Peninsula are examples.

But onto Belview Port, downriver from Waterford. I am almost surprised to see signs of life - this is an actual working port with boats and stuff. So many new or incomplete developments but the river trade is an ancient one, harking back down the mists of time. Nearby however a modern glassy office development, Marine Point, looks unoccupied. Another couple of exploratory detours before I headed back. As I neared home I wondered how many of these modern developments will become the ghosts of the future? At present Ireland is on its knees financially with a savage Budget coming up, without which the IMF would probably march in and make today seem like partytime.

Back to Waterford and 11.67 miles on the clock at a reasonable lick. But I was aiming for 13+ today and thought I was on course for that. Where did those two miles go? And thinking about it, I don't recall passing the road to the Servier site on the way back. Now that's spooky.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jennifer Alice in Wonderland

I commend to you this blog - link on the left. Nothing to do with running though. It's written by a Waterford lass living at present in Italy. One or two commentators say that she displays 'typical Waterford humour', whatever that is.

Whatever, Jennie has sharp observation for the mundane in life and - most importantly, has the gift for putting it in writing in a very humorous manner. If she cops on she may have a future as a very original novelist.

Give her a read.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Into Cats Country

On a bit of a wild Sunday morning I struck out across The Bridge for Kilkenny. In a country which is routinely scattered with the colours of the local GAA county team, Kilkenny has a profusion of yellow-and-black chequered flags mostly everywhere. With unprecedented recent hurling success the Cats pretty much lord it over their blue-and-white Waterford neighbours, who are no mugs themselves.

On beyond the point that I reached a few weeks ago and - here be quiet country lanes! A pleasant surprise to be able to trot along the roads without having to deal with traffic continually flying along, a feature of modern Ireland. But just before the lanes proper, another stark symbol of the times that we're in. Ross Abbey Shopping Centre - a modern, spacious mall in mothballs and fenced off, though still showing a list of shops and apparently 'opening early 2009'. A little further on the road was flooded for about 50 metres ahead necessitating a retreat and a diversion up another pleasant lane. Over a long-disused railway bridge - it would be nice to see these disused railway lines opened up, as in many places in England.

But I was not running well and I decided to turn around about five miles in. A shame as it was otherwise a pleasant outing despite the howling wind. Back into town with only 9.2 miles on the clock and 27 on the week.

I listened to a very good Fighting Talk episode, broadcast live from Hull. Three big hitters in John Rawling, Greg Brady and Martin Kellner, with local legend Dean Windass who could do no wrong. Canadian Brady won by audience acclaim. But a less than memorable Phedippidations for a change.

Earlier in the week I took a group of ladies from Energie Fitness out on Week 1 of a Couch to 5k programme. Happily most turned out on both Tuesday and Thursday and hopefully they will have done a third session over the weekend ahead of Week 2 when we step it up very slightly.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dog Bites Runner

Back in the not-so-sunny south east I eventually levered myself off the couch for my long run on this Irish Bank Holiday Monday. Back up the road the Dublin Marathon is taking place right now - last year I did my bit by stewarding and helping tidy up the start area afterwards. The weather will be OK with the high winds of the last two days having blown through.

Today I followed my familiar long run route - almost by default as I've yet to find a decent alternative. Maybe I'll soon explore one or two of those roads that seem to be dead ends, though there is something dispiriting about having to retrace ones steps.

I take back all I've said about the friendly nature of Irish dogs. Today as I turned onto Knockhouse Road a little brute took a bite out of my leg and drew blood. I yelled at a nearby bloke assuming the dog belonged to him, but he (the dog) scuttled off in the opposite direction leaving me to humbly apologise to the bloke I had shouted at.

After this the run was uneventful enough. Without feeling entirely comfortable I found I was dealing with the (minor) hills rather better and was holding a reasonable pace. Once again I played around with my running style - hips higher, land mid or forefoot, lift up don't push off, slightly quicker leg turnover. No other runners around - maybe they're all up the road racing. Will I train for another marathon next year? We'll see.

Certainly I am running better than for some time and I was pleased to see my average speed had significantly improved once again as I came back into town. Though I had to extrapolate for the 2.5 miles during which my Garmin was stopped. I'd stopped it after the dog incident and forgot to restart it.

Not good mileage last week. I need a target. Maybe the Waterford Half in mid-December is a good one to train for. And it would be nice to think I could have a pop at a PB at my advanced age.

Fleetwood Mac at the O2 Dublin

My first exposure to Fleetwood Mac was in the 6th Form Centre at St Philip's GS. A schoolmate was gamely plucking away at Albatross, the bluesy, dreamy instrumental that charted for the band in 1969.

Last night (Saturday) at the O2 in Dublin two of the original members of that band, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were still laying down the rhythm for the band forty years later. It's gobsmacking isn't it?

Not so for some of those in the audience, each of whom had paid upwards of €80 to see these legends, arguably the greatest band still on the road. Quite probably never to tour again. A steady stream of punters only intent on travelling to and from the bars for a steady supply of fizzy shite lager. Like it was being discontinued tomorrow. And resulting in further disruption as this resulted in the drinkers having to regularly leave their seats for a piss. Turning their backs on some of the most sublime music ever made. Truly it is very sad, the need to have an alchoholic drink before it is considered that one has a night out. Now, I'm no stranger to alchohol but last night made me ashamed.

But that spoilt my evening only slightly. The gig will remain memorable for howevermuch time I have left. The O2 Arena is a magnificent venue and the atmosphere was electric - the audience comprising younger ones who were only stars in the sky in 1969 as well as us greybeards.

They could have performed anything and we would have been pleased. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham said that, with no album to promote, they had decided just to have fun on this tour and play what the audience wanted. Early on they sung The Chain, long adopted by the BBC for their Formula 1 coverage and happily reinstated now that they have bought back the rights from ITV.

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise
Run in the shadows, damn your love damn your lies

The first of many from the mega-selling Rumours album. Was it just me or did Buckingham appear to falter and compose himself briefly as he spoke about the personal turmoil that the band members were going through at the time and which resulted in such a creative body of work? Go Insane was the first opportunity for Buckingham to really get into the gig and he took it.

Lindsey Buckingham is the focal point of the band. The solid rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie has been the cornerstone of the band for over forty years. But Buckingham is the elemental force and the band would be nowhere without him. His vocals are raw, his guitar work falls short of virtuoso, but by God does he give it his every ounce of energy. And tonight he carried the audience with him and it was fantastic.

Next up was Rhiannon, one from way back and the unutterably lovely Stevie Nicks started to come into her own. Along with Elkie Brooks and Carol Decker, Nicks has long given me the shivers with her voice. Quite incredibly she is now 61 and she still takes the breath away. She has never had a powerful voice (unlike Brooks and Decker) and her contralto now lacks the edge of old. But she is wonderful and no one was going to nitpick on a night such as this.

Nicks performed Sara beautifully, before Buckingham launched into Big Love. Mercifully there was no attempt to replicate the male/female grunting and gasping fadeaway of the original recording - it was all one-sided!

Never Going Back Again, Storms and Say You Love Me followed. Then Nicks picked up Gold Dust Woman from the Rumours album and gave it the full treatment, with a lovely, drawn out ending led by Mick with Nicks bathed in a golden glow from the lights. And immediately followed on by Oh Well - back to the Green/Kirwan days and a faithful rendition by Buckingham.

Now when I talked to God I knew he'd understand
He said 'stick by me and I'll be your guiding hand'
But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me

Now, the Mac are not a band that necessarily have the audience on their feet. They produce well-crafted work and don't go in for rabble-rousing. But as they closed their set everyone was up singing, dancing and rocking along to Go Your Own Way.

You can go your own way
You can call it another lonely day
(+ brilliant Buckingham guitar break).

And then a surprise. For an encore, rather than belt out another favourite as the audience expected, Mick Fleetwood suddenly took the limelight. The drum solo is a lost art but during World Turning Mick involved us, the rabble, and had us on our feet again. Then a sign-off with another singalong Don't Stop

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop it'll soon be here
It'll be here better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone
(+ brilliant Buckingham guitar break)

At which point the O2 audience, totally wrecked, headed for the exits. But amazingly there was a second encore as the set approached three hours in length and Silver Springs was played to a half-empty auditorium.

Truly the formers lovers and clearly still soulmates Buckingham and Nicks, and the rocks that are Fleetwood and McVie, comprise one of the best blues/rock bands of all time. Their Dublin gig will never be forgotten and the Mac put in a huge effort as if they suspected that they are on borrowed time. We, the audience, had much more than our money's worth. Just a nagging regret that Christine McVie wasn't around with her old mates.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Return to the Capital

Running has taken a bit of a back seat this week. However, what I have run I have run well. There's a nice enough 4-mile loop from the Club, coming back along the last stretch of my old friend the Outer Ring.

Last night I was trotting along very well when I caught up with the slowest of a group who were out in front. It transpired from the lady in question that they were from Waterford AC and were out for a 5-miler out and back to the Regional Sports Centre - this being where both Waterford and Ferrybank train. We had a nice chat, and I wondered why one or two of her clubmates could not maybe double back to the slower ones in the group occasionally - maybe show a bit of bonding. But as we neared Ardkeen I bade my farewell and showed my new pal a clean pair of heels. Not often I'm able to say that.

My forced monastic lifestyle is undoubtedly resulting in weight loss, though I never actually weigh myself. As long as I keep eating sufficiently and properly this might show up in my running performances, which have drifted between good and dreadful this year.

But it's the long weekend! After a morning stint at the Club I'm up the road to the O2 to see Fleetwood Mac tomorrow night, accompanied by my old and dear pal Deirdre from Cork City. I absolutely can't wait.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


That blew the cobwebs away. Waterford dawned rather chillier and damper than of late. I plodded up through the old town, Lady Lane and Patrick Street to Ballybricken Green, scene of last night's revelries. On along Gracedieu Road and left onto Knockhouse Road, climbing gradually all the time. John Rawling on Fighting Talk in unbeatable form as usual - it's no contest when this bloke is on and he actually seems to enjoy the winning whereas most of the panellists are just happy with the knockabout of the show.

Onto the Outer Ring which is now becoming familiar. The early climbs have sorted out a little leg stiffness left over from the fast tready sessions earlier in the week. If I was in specific training mode I'd probably slip in some faster miles but today I remain in lazy mode and I'm happy enough just to progress along well within my comfort zone. Waterford is a quiet place of a Sunday and even along the dual carriageway it's a peaceful run. As I'm comfortable I decide to put in an extra few miles. Turning right I run towards Knockboy Village. I remember years ago that the properties down this way were new, bleak and somewhat isolated from Waterford proper. They now form a rather select suburb well served by new roads. A left at the village school and a nice drop down to the Dunmore Road with the river forming a pretty backdrop. Finally turning towards town and past Ardkeen and the Hospital into familiar territory. By now there are race marshals everywhere - there's apparently a Race For Life on today though I've not noticed any build up to it.

Back home in 2:18 and 13.4 miles for 25.2 miles on the week. And 860.9 for the year so far. This leaves me still on target for 1,000 miles for 2009. There is a mega-thread on where people are logging their miles up to 1,000. Bazman completed his 1,000 on 29th March and is probably on his fourth 1,000 by now. A further 33 runners have also reached this mark and currently I am in 40th place.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Raving Fan

Late in life I'm being convinced of the desirability of winning Raving Fans if you're in the business of attracting paying customers. This is an ethos within Energie Fitness where we try to go the extra mile and exceed expectation.

Tonight I set off on a little bar crawl around Waterford, which ultimately consisted of just two pubs. Both had been recommended to me by one of my fitness club trainers.

First up was Katty Barry's, about three minutes stroll from my flat. What a gem - a real blokey pub with a darts board, open fire, discrete juke box, sport on the telly, a cheap (€3.95) pint and regular OK guys sat up at the bar. No frills, just a straightforward Irish boozer, very much in the country tradition.

Then a climb up to Alfie Hale's on Ballybricken Green. This may be where I want to spend the rest of my days. On entering, the bar is warm and welcoming. It is (as are many Irish bars) much bigger than would appear from the exterior. Subdued lighting, dark furniture and fittings, it nevertheless is obvious that the proprietor has tricked it out at some expense. Everything about it is quality, but at once giving a relaxing ambience.

I order my pint and a packet of Dry Roasted Nuts. The little barmaid says she'll check in the back for the Dry Roasted but I say Salted will be fine. Five minutes later a complimentary packet of Dry Roasted is plonked on my table. The walls of this first section of the bar are covered with classy black-and-white photos of film stars - Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, James Stewart, John Wayne, Micky Rooney and dozens of others. There is seating suitable for both large groups and lone drinkers in this well-designed bar. The gents is uber-hygienic and fresh-smelling and has framed posters publicising long-ago films. The far end of the bar is devoted to sporting photos and memorabilia, harking back to Alfie's professional soccer playing days.

As I leave the place is filling up - I'm not surprised.

Put me down as a Raving Fan.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Set your sights high

These 69-hour weeks are proving interesting. One consequence is that - to get any running at all in, I've been heading for the treadmill at 8pm when my fitness club closes. The last two evenings I've bashed out four miles in 30 minutes, with the tready on a 2% incline. Which to me is a rate of knots I can tell you.

Maybe this is the forced opportunity I need to get my legs turning over and get back to something like the form I am capable of on my good days. But my lifestyle change has had other effects. Gone are the lazy office days with coffee and sandwiches at lunchtime and pints and/or a bottle of wine in the evening - not always but reasonably often. Now it's a cereal breakfast, a natural juice and something healthy to eat in mid-afternoon, and simple carbs (pasta, spuds, veg etc) in the evening. Though there are a couple of nice takeaways nearby so I occasionally falter.

Weirdest of all are my dream patterns. I've always had odd dreams but...last night I reached the Olympic 400m final! I had easy draws into the final. There I was due to run against Asafa Powell (yes I know) and others. I harboured some optimism in that I would have home crowd support on my side (I guess the Olympics were in Ireland) though I still figured that a medal might be out of reach.

Fortunately, I suppose, I woke up before the race.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Never Too Old to Learn

Being your own boss is great. Arrive at Energie Fitness for Women, Dunmore Road at 7am on my first day (Friday). Leave at 8pm having seemingly accomplished little apart from meeting and greeting the members, curious about the new guy who has taken over from Sandra. Chaos on Saturday morning as my trainer Kersty calls in sick leaving me to cope. I can't get the music machine to go; I can't open the windows; the man arrives with my two new cardio machines; a prospective member arrives for her 9am appointment with Kersty and I wing the paperwork and club tour, pretending I've been doing this for ever. Close the club at 1pm and spend an hour hoovering and wiping down machines and places where dirt and dust has been quietly accumulating. And get the feeling that again I've done little but fire fight. But there's a new week and much better things ahead.

Today (Sunday) dawns and I need to run. Not feeling particularly up for it after last night. I met my old friends Dave & Eleanor at the Three Shippes and shipped many pints of Guinness. The place goes mad as St Ledger puts Ireland 2-1 up against Italy in the 87th minute, only for familiar gloom to descend as the visitors nick an equaliser after sloppy defending. It's gone midnight as I lurch home. I decide to replicate last Sunday's run anti-clockwise around the city. The first three miles are gradually uphill but as I hit the ring road my running settles down. Today I make a special effort with my 'form', making a conscious effort to run taller, to land on the front part of my feet and to lift straight up off the ground rather than toe-off. Strangely I find that I have no trouble landing on my right forefoot but the best I can do consistently with my left is flatfoot. As to the 'lean forward from the ankles' promoted by Chi, Pose and Alexandre teachers, I can't get that. I don't think my core is strong enough.

Whatever, I spin along the ring road nicely enough and, whether or not it's all in the mind, I do feel as if I'm running more easily and efficiently today. Back into town a good few minutes quicker than last Sunday as well. My problem now is going to be finding time for running in the week. In the short term at least I will be working 13-hour days. I will possibly be starting a little running club out of Energie Fitness so that will give me some miles, though maybe not of the quality that I would want. We'll see.

And a shout out for the new Fighting Talk series, every bit as good as ever. And in Phedippidations #208 Steve made a good, intelligent programme about the remarkable similarities between the people of all nations. He and other podcasters are promoting the Worldwide Festival of Races to celebrate the running brotherhood while simultaneously ripping the piss out of the Nike's appalling and self-promoting Human Race.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Checking out the roads

The best part of 11 miles on Sunday, following the outer ring road. Heading anti-clockwise I avoided the deathtrap for pedestrians that is Grattan Quay/Bilberry Road and instead climbed up to Ballybricken Green and out along Gracedieu Road, turning left along Knockhouse Road. As this road doesn't go anywhere much it was quiet and by far the nicest part of my run.

But soon enough you have to come out onto the Old Kilmeaden Road and then turn east along the outer ring. This is effectively the city bypass with frequent roundabouts at which you can either turn in towards town or turn right and head off to Tramore and points beyond. Although primarily a fast dual carriageway to hurry along the traffic it is good to see that ample provision has been made along its length for walkers, runners, cyclists etc. A good, wide surface with plenty of separation from the traffic.

Not my best run ever but I plodded on steadily until I hit the Dunmore Road which, hanging a left, took me back to town in just shy of two hours - my first Waterford LSR.

This morning we had rain for the first time in weeks, and plenty of it. I decided on a four-miler but stepping up the pace on miles two and four. This time I headed straight up the busy Cork Road, past Waterford Crystal and WIT. Actually not too bad for running though you need to be careful at the many road junctions. My Garmin showed my 'tempo' miles at 9.16 and 8.49 which, recalling how I struggled to hold back my cruising pace to 8.45 at Connemara in the spring, just shows how much I need to work on speed.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Last Day at Crusaders

With Rosin McGuill, Clodagh Ferry, Laura Ferry, Niamh Ferry, Grainne McGuill, Alix Hughes and Lorna Groves

Waterford - Early Days

So here I am in the sunny south-east. During brief visits in years gone by I've always considered Waterford as a bit of a grim, grey place. With Waterford Crystal the only reason to visit, why would anyone bother now that production has ceased leaving only the Visitors' Centre?

How wrong I was. I'm loving it after only a few short days. I'm holed up in the old part of the city at the east end of the quays. I can almost reach out and touch the old city walls. I am two doors away from The Munster, an historical old bar with tons of character. Though my first few pints have been in a basic, friendly place on the quays (Jordan's) that shows the footy. The town is much more like the Ireland I know and love. You try in vain to buy a coffee before 8am and after 6pm the town centre is virtually deserted. But in between times it is a bustling little place with modernity (John Roberts Square) muscling in alongside the older town. There is a definite lack of the big-name retailers with a pleasant emphasis on the smaller shop which enables the town to retain its character. Plenty of nice-looking restaurants await exploring in due course.

Up a bit of a hill just above the town there is a gem of a village green, Ballybricken, which served as a market place in former times. On one side I spot Alfie Hale's Bar. Alfie Hale was a former soccer professional and often featured in those collections of footballer cards that you got way back then. I will no doubt be checking this place out in due course and also the sports shop of the same name downtown.

My first runs have been along the quay and over The Bridge. There is no mistaking The Bridge, unlike in Dublin where you might be referring to any one of 20-plus. With all traffic from east and north-east to south being funnelled through here it is a very busy affair as well. Once across to the Ferrybank side of the River Suir I turn right to face the heavy goods traffic either barrelling or crawling down towards The Bridge, depending on the time of day. Fortunately it is then possible to hang a right and get off down a comparatively quiet road towards the quaintly named district of Christendom. A 4-miler and a 5-miler so far with a longer one planned for tomorrow (Sunday).

And then next week the final in-house training and preparation prior to me stepping into my gym on Friday, my first day as owner.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finishing on a good note

With all the travelling and general disruption my running has been non-existent this week. This morning, my last day in Dublin, I was disinclined once again to lace up my runners. Eventually I told myself that I'd just trot down to Ringsend to deliver something, and after that I'd see. So without firing up the Garmin amd iPod I set off for my last Dublin run on yet another gorgeous morning.

At Ringsend I felt good and decided to press on for a bit. And rather than follow my familiar route along Sandymount Strand I took a dogleg inland and picked up Tritonville Road and Merrion Road. Busy roads usually but nice and peaceful early-ish on a Sunday. The district of Merrion is typical D4 country - nice big properties within a 20-30 minute walk of Dublin city centre. And a pleasant diversion it was until I eventually picked up the coast again at the level crossing between Sydney Parade and Booterstown. Once at that point I decided to continue on to the far end of Blackrock Park.

This was turning in to one of those rare, enjoyable runs where the legs and body feel under no stress and the mind can drift away. This morning I found myself, inevitably, thinking about the days and weeks to come in my new business venture. I am taking over ownership of a gym - part of a franchise, in Waterford. This represents a considered risk for me and, though I fully expect to make a success of it, the downside of the risk is pretty scary. Especially in the first, vital few weeks I will be depending on my running to act as a de-stressor.

Touching the barrier at the station end of Blackrock Park I turned for home and this time turned onto the sand for the last time. Up along the strand, through Sean Moore Park, along Pigeon House Road, over the East Link. Picking my heels up along the north quay I actually felt like a proper runner for the first time in a while. Over the Sean O'Casey footbridge and home in 1:53 for, let's say, 10 miles. A great last memory of my running in Dublin.

So I'm packed, the hire car sits outside waiting to go. Tomorrow morning I hit the road for Waterford. I'll catch up with this blog once I'm all wired up down the country. Up the Deise!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Irish Pubs

One of the joys of Ireland is their pubs. I confess here and now that I have a weakness for pubs and I have to ruthlessly ration my visits on the grounds of health and expense. Not all pubs though - there are those whose doorsteps I darken only at the point of a gun, or under duress because of a leaving party or suchlike. But show me a good pub and I am in my element.

In Britain and the Channel Islands it is getting more and more difficult to seek out a good pub. Times past each community, urban or rural, had a good selection of bars. These all had their own character, and variety. Many were urban 'locals' catering for the working man, others were larger roadhouses with a passing trade and perhaps offering food. The gems were often to be found in rural villages. Fast forward to 2009 and so many are gone and continue to go. With de-industrialisation and changing lifestyles many of the smaller 'locals' have disappeared. Others have been gutted and opened up to cater for a younger crowd and boast loud music and large screens for the football - the 'superpub'. The large roadhouses, where they remain, have become 'community' pubs or semi-restaurants. The rural pubs are fast disappearing where they are not able to reinvent themselves in the face of draconian drink-driving laws. Yes a good pub can still be found but it is getting harder. But strangely the variety of beers and ales on offer has never been wider.

Irish pubs have always been different and intriguing. They all used to be dark and smoky, nooks and crannies. Often a bar was run in conjunction with another business, especially in the smaller towns. There were many of them strung along a town street and they sold red lemonade! They were inhabited by men dressed in dark clothing and flat caps who smoked and who often used to offer the small boy with his Dad a sixpence. Late at night the outer doors might be closed and the lights dimmed - perhaps the clientele were moved to a back room. This was the 'lock-in', and the Guards would know full well what was going on but would turn a blind eye. Often, and for no apparent reason, some old fella in the corner would start crooning a traditional song or playing a mouth organ. And maybe others would join in.

Times of course move on, but in Ireland they move more slowly. There are less pubs around, but a huge amount thankfully remain. They have had to smarten up thanks to modern health, safety and hygiene regulations. The smoking ban has removed much of the element of intrigue that bars once held. Women are comfortable in these surroundings and no one turns a hair. What has remained in many instances is the dark wood of the furniture and fittings, the nooks and crannies and the quality of the pint that is served in the slow, time-honoured way.

In the capital things are rather different of course. The Celtic Tiger led to a hug rise in the superpub where the newly affluent cared nothing for the ripoff prices. The Cafe En Seine in Dawson Street is typical and is the sort of place you couldn't drag me in kicking and screaming. Temple Bar is the nightlife capital of Dublin with its bars catering for the young and for the tourist. A place to be avoided by night unless you are in the same stupid, singing, vomiting state as everyone else.

There are also some great old historical bars. On Baggot Street there are Toner's, O'Donohue's, Doheny & Nesbit etc. Fabulous places, all part of the history and fabric of old Dublin. But now they have a newly-acquired cult status and are to be avoided unless you like mayhem with your pint.

But look just outside the city centre and there are some gems, and many good, solid boozers. I am a creature of habit and when I find somewhere I feel comfortable with a good pint where I can read a paper or Athletics Weekly I am happy. In my early days in Dublin on the northside I often frequented Kavanagh's or Findlater's on Dorset Street. On moving south of the river I looked forward to my Sunday evenings at Mulligan's - another historical, unspoit bar just far enough off the beaten track to be usually quiet. Unfortunately for me, it becomes a haven for GAA fans on summer Sunday evenings after big matches at Croker. In Ringsend I have shared my favours equally between the excellent Oarsman and Yacht. The latter is a haven for locals and it is rare to see a visitor or a young wan. It's like walking into someone's living room and the barstaff insist on delivering your pint to your table. I'll miss the place and its genial regulars though I rarely spoke to any of them. My final pint in Dublin will probably be at Doolan's in Hogan Place - a forbidding-looking place from the outside but a friendly local inside with a good pint and a cosy back bar away from the main bustle.

And now in Waterford I've found a flat two doors away from The Munster, a 100-year old bar hard by the old city wall. I think I've already died and gone to Heaven.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Full Circles and Green, Gold and Red Trams

It was at a misty Phoenix Park in late 2008 that our young Crusaders made their debut, in the Dublin Cross Country League. There were raised eyebrows at the appearance of this 'new' club - indeed Crusaders had only operated meaningfully at senior level since their formation in 1942. Twelve months later here we were again this morning, with a few of the original athletes and some newer faces. Again it was no surprise that the specialist running clubs (DSD, Rathfarnham, MSB, Celtics etc) led the way. Our best placing was Kevin Woods - 5th in the U14s, but it was enough for me to see our kids out there doing their best for the white and red singlet. The youngest of the Ferry girls, Laura, just seven years old, insisted on running in the U10 race and we were all proud of her.

So on they'll go to Newbridge House for the next match next Sunday, though without me I think. On probably my last Sunday in the capital I set off on foot up the Royal Canal to the Ashtown entrance of Phoenix Park. It turned out to be a bad run but, with no targets or races in mind, I deternined to enjoy my walk/jog in the late summer sun. It is All-Ireland footy final day and, even at just gone nine in the morning there are plenty of Cork and Kerry fans about and the street vendors of flags and favours are open for business at Drumcondra. The canal runs under Croke Park which, during its reconstruction, had to buy the 'air rights' above the canal and railway to extend the stadium outwards beyond the footprint of the ground itself. Past the Brendan Behan sculpture and on to Phibsboro and beyond, Mountjoy Gaol over to the left. Through the pretty grim suburb of Cabra and on to the yuppier Ashtown. Though many pretensions to yuppiedom have been dashed over the last couple of years or so. The oft-repeated expression here is that 'we lost the run of ourselves'. There is an admittance that even the ordinary man and woman in the street bought into the improbable Celtic Tiger and they accept their share of the blame, together with the bankers and politicians who built the house of cards.

So after the last of the races over by the Magazine Fort I headed for the shortest way back to town via the Parkgate Street entrance. Had the Heuston Luas stop been quiet I'd have jumped on the tram back to Connolly. But, as I had somehow expected, it was mad with football supporters off the trains looking to get to Croker. So, with kick-off still a couple of hours away I sighed and shuffled off townwards. Grabbing a Coke on the way I watched out for the townbound Luas with interest. Now the Luas (from the Irish word for 'speed') is a tram on which you can board without formality. And without a ticket, as many do. Ticket inspections are infrequent and easily avoided so there are plenty of the population that treat it as a free service. Here it came, and what a sight! Packed, rammed to the limit with the green and gold of Kerry and the red and white of Cork. Contorted limbs, faces. People sitting on each others laps, squeezed into every inch of available space. The faces of a few bewildered Sunday shoppers in there wondering what new Hell this was. And still more people would somehow squash on at the various stops! Truly the Luas makes the Black Hole of Calcutta look like a luxury hospitality lounge.

Tracking the groaning Luas I arrived in town and Abbey Street where the bars were overflowing with Cork supporters having a scoop or two before making their way over to Croker. And as always with GAA (as with rugby) supporters of opposing sides bear no ill will to each other and the banter flows between them without the slightest animosity. Today however the Kerry lads and lasses must have been drinking elsewhere.

But sadly Kerry still hold the Indian sign over Cork at Croker - they'll be dancing in the streets of Killarney tonight.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Farewell to Crusaders

Well I half-expected some sort of surprise prior to my departure from Crusaders. I didn't expect it quite so soon though. At the end of the regular session yesterday morning my javelin group for the morning wandered off for what I assumed was to form teams for the usual 4 x 100m relay. It seemed to be taking some time but I wasn't taking any particular notice, when Jim O'Neill came over to me and ushered me towards the large group of young athletes, parents and coaches. And the penny dropped.

A very nice speech from Moira and I was presented with a bottle of wine (already gone, very nice) and a bottle of champagne (to await a special occasion). And much more importantly a card signed by everyone - and there are some beautiful comments there. And finally a photo montage of our young Crusaders taken over the last 12 months since we started up. I'll keep and treasure these things.

Caught somewhat on the hop I'm sure my speech contained all the wrong things and none of the right things. But I'll wrap up my thoughts properly in a couple of weeks once I've gone. And then it was back to the throwers on an idyllic Dublin day and it was gone 1pm when we finally packed up. That's where I really like to be, out amongst the young athletes helping them to improve where I can.

As Moya said afterwards, the new youngsters must think Crusaders is a great place - sunshine all the way and a party with crisps and pop afterwards!

This morning I plodded 13.7 miles down along Dublin Bay on another sunny day, for 30.9 on the week. Slow as usual though, 2:24. I'd have struggled to break two hours in Blarney today even in race mode, and my PB of 1:50 is far away right now.

A dagger through all Birmingham City fans' hearts this lunchtime as the Villa nab the winner in the 85th minute. But the Rebelettes are edging Kilkenny at half-time in the camogie and five-in-a-row might cheer me up slightly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Doggy Encounter

A slightly alarming encounter today on sunny Sandymount beach. Inevitably the sand was full of dogs and their owners. Now I’m far from a dog lover but I have to say that I’ve never had a problem with them in Ireland.

So there I was, plodding sweatily along southwards. A greyhound/whippet type raced in my general direction – not directly towards me in any sort of dog attack. Even I know that a whippet can tell a runner from a stuffed rabbit. But then the stupid mutt swerved across me and bash! Into my left knee. It was some collision and it felt like I’d done its nose some real damage. And off it flew down the beach, howling in fright or pain or both. Then mercifully it stopped and turned around, so I guess that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

Then along came the woman who admitted to being the owner. I was obviously the baddy in all this. I was either going to have a go at her for not having control of her dog, or else she thought I’d kicked the thing. (I’ve often been tempted but would never actually do it). However I was only concerned with the dog, and I suggested a vet might be required. Not seeming too concerned it has to be said, she coolly went off to examine the dog.

There was no sign of either a few minutes later as I headed home. I hope the dog was OK.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Running From The Reaper

Most of us keep a running diary. I keep two, both very simple. Buckeye Outdoors is a site where you can, if you are so inclined, record just about everything about yourself and a lot more besides. I content myself with popping in my daily distance and time. Though I am also in intermittent message contact with a housewife from Fort Lauderdale!

I also maintain a simple pocket diary where I total my miles by week and year. I'm also now keeping track of miles run in my current shoes. I don't go into further detail, with one exception. If I have a bad run - I mean a shocker where my body refuses to go anywhere, I draw an unsmiley face. Last week I had three unsmiley faces in a row. This is bad and, as I have written before, without any explanation that I can decipher. However a steady 13.7 miles on Sunday was a relief and enabled me to draw a rare smiley instead, and this was followed with a comfortable 6.6 miler earlier today.

But all in all I've decided I'm not in good shape to turn up at Blarney this weekend, though I received my race number (154) today. Even if I were to run comfortably I've done very little by way of tempo or speedwork in the last few months. I don't really want to be struggling in beyond the two-hour mark when I know I am capable of much better.

Yesterday I revisited Prospect (Glasnevin) Cemetery where many of Ireland's revolutionaries, writers and assorted notables are buried, along with the general hoi polloi. It is a vast place and I would have done well to purchase a guide. However I do enjoy just wandering in cemeteries (weird) so that's what I did. At the main entrance you are confronted by the O'Connell monument, a tribute to The Liberator, Daniel O'Connell. This is the cemetery's set piece and around it are set the tombs of many important people. You nearly trip over that of Roger Casement, one of Ireland's many martyrs for freedom. He is further immortalised in song in Lonely Banna Strand. A couple of years ago I was driving near to Banna in North Kerry and decided to detour down to the famed Strand. Instead I spent an interesting half-hour watching efforts to clear an articulated lorry which had ended up across the narrow road having made an unwise attempt to turn around using the grass verges. After the tractor had snapped the second tow rope I decided I had to leave Banna Strand for another day.

Hopes of a peaceful wander through Glasnevin were rather thwarted, as they had been on my previous visit, by building and digging activity, vehicles etc. Well-meaning efforts are being made to restore many of the older headstones, and there is arising what might be a Visitors' Centre. The contractors seem to me to have a job for the forseeable future. The peace of the place is being jarred in the meantime, not least by the self-satisfied blue and white 'Monument Restored' signs hung around hundreds of headstones. Why the heck must they do that?

In strategic positions around the perimeter walls are sited watchtowers. These were erected to thwart body-snatchers who would sell on their grisly goods to medical schools. With extreme black humour, within a very few years of their completion the Great Famine was upon Ireland rendering the body-snatching profession redundant for ever.

Unutterably sad is the lawned garden under which they say some fifty thousand babies are buried - those stillborn, very young or abandoned or unidentified. This spot is a social comment on the appalling conditions prevalent in Dublin City in the 19th century and the unregulated breeding in Catholic Ireland at that time which produced a population incapable of feeding itself during the Famine years, never mind the ignorance and neglect of those in London that could have acted to alleviate the position. Indeed one of my morbid fascinations in reading old gravestones is the frequency of children pre-deceasing their parents. Death is sad though so much sadder when one's child goes.

In more modern times the practice has arisen of popping a photo of the deceased on a headstone. I'm not sure if I approve. Over in the newer, western section are interesting parts such as one devoted to members of Dublin's Italian community.

So hopefully I'll return to Glasnevin one day when the builders have departed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Forty Foot

Into tourist mode now and off to find the Forty Foot. This is a 'gentleman's bathing place' at Sandycove, at the southern end of Dun Laoghaire. It has a long history indeed but has been embedded in the fabric of Dublin life via the James Joyce classic Ulysses. (I must get round to tackling that again, it's been many years since I read it).

I have plodded by there a few times, but to find it you need to abandon the streets and hug the sea wall. Just before you arrive there you pass a couple of child-friendly beaches the size of a postage stamp. Indeed the beaches on Ireland's east coast are - as far as I've seen, pretty poor as regards family outing material. By far the best beaches are the deserted ones on the west coast. Inch Strand springs to mind. It's just as well the Irish climate has never encouraged a beach-going culture. Indeed the odd (very odd) hot summer's day just encourages the white-skinned natives to throw caution to the winds and lie in the sun for hours, necessitating a week's painful recuperation with AfterSun at best, or a trip to A&E at worst.

But I digress. One soon arrives at the Forty Foot. It is a rocky inlet with steps cut to give access to a deep-looking Irish Sea. Child friendly it is not. Although it is sheltered from the prevailing winds there was a swell running, and a child might easily end up dashed against the rocks. There appears to be however a more calm pool area away to the right that might be OK.

On the way down to the steps are al fresco changing areas. Until fairly recently the Forty Foot was gentlemen only. In fact it became gentlemen-with-no-togs only! But apparently those damn women's libbers in the 1970s invaded the place, since when it has become a mixed bathing place. Today there were a dozen or so hardy souls of mixed gender taking the waters. (Well, one was a wimp who had to be pushed in so that the others on the steps could enter). With one or two old-looking signs up, it was a scene that cannot have altered that much in 250 years or so.

So, glad that I'd ticked that box, I headed around the corner to the James Joyce Museum. To be greeted by a notice that said the museum had 'closed for the season' on 31 August. Words fail me - even Jersey's beach concessions remain open thru September, with most historical attractions being open all year round.

Whatever, I was cheered up by a fabulous pannini and coffee at Poppies on Upper Georges Street before heading back to town.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Well that was good. My 'test' run back to town from Howth ended at Sutton DART station after an appalling few miles around Howth peninsula. After struggling up the hill from the harbour I reckoned I'd find a rhythm coming off the summit. But it went from bad to worse and I simply couldn't continue.

I'm neither proud about that, nor embarrassed. I've had too many runs like it where my body just won't respond. For example, both my marathon starts in Cork in 2007 and 2008 where I bailed out at around halfway. A lot of runners would say that I ought to 'man up' or 'HTFU' - a great triathlon acronym that I've recently come across! But in Cork, wouldn't you think that I would have battled on if I could have? Especially on the second occasion where I was distraught to realise I was failing for the second consecutive time. The tank was simply empty.

Conversley, it was a year ago today that I completed my one and only marathon in Longford. On that occasion my body gave the thumbs-up and I completed the 26.2 miles without a single walk break. However much I've tried to analyse the peaks and troughs of my running I've come to no conclusions as to why I can float along some days - seven days ago for example, and why the handbrake stays firmly on like it did today. What I'm not going to do is struggle on when my body is not responding at all. This is a different scenario from battling fatigue where you expect it to occur - during track sessions, tempo efforts, during the latter miles of long runs. If it is clear from early on that there's nothing there then I'm not going to fight it.

So unless I have a really good week then I can't see me toeing the line in Blarney on 12 September.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Final weeks in Baile Atha Cliath

The die is cast. I have struck a deal to buy a gym business down the country. I'll not go into further details until the legals and financing are all tied up. But - assuming these all go through properly, then there's no turning back. 37 years as a working accountant, now a leisure business proprietor!

Which means of course I'll be leaving Baile Atha Cliath within the next few weeks, or sooner. Will I miss living in the capital? Not really. When I came to Ireland I knew that the work was to be found in the capital otherwise I'd have headed for Cork or Kerry. All my life I'd only really passed through Dublin and the little time I'd spent here did not really impress me. At least I've now lived here for the guts of two years and have got to know the city a bit. I've been happy enough knocking around the place and I've found the natives friendly and welcoming - of this I never had any doubt anyway. The city has many rough edges of course. Initially the sheer number of non-nationals now living in Dublin surprised me - it is a very cosmopolitan place these days. I've also been surprised by the overt begging that goes on, often as an occupation though sometimes by those genuinely troubled. Dublin city centre has a major problem with junkies, alkies and general scumbags. However I have to say that these have hardly affected me at all. At the most worrying end of things are the drug gangs for whom life is cheap, but again you would need to be very unlucky if you were to be caught up in all of that.

I've enjoyed pub life and the Guinness, and will no doubt continue to do this in the future! Dublin's historic streets, buildings, parks and canals are full of character and I've enjoyed mooching around exploring these. I've got to know some parts very well indeed via my running, particular the Royal Canal, the Phoenix Park, Docklands and Dublin Bay.

I'm going to make a point of seeing a few places that have escaped me, before I leave. These include the Iveagh Gardens, the Forty Foot at Sandycove, the Botanic Gardens. I also want to pay another visit to Glasnevin Cemetery.

But no, I won't miss Dublin and I won't look back. But I am truly dreading leaving the crowd at Crusaders who have made me so welcome over the past year or so. I can't believe this is happening again so soon after my very emotional parting from Jersey Spartan AC. But these things happen and I hope I can still nip up and take the occasional Saturday session in the future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Nike Evil?

Yow. My legs have reacted badly to my long run on Sunday, and what was probably an unwise long walk on Monday. On Tuesday I did no more than walk/jog a 4-mile circuit and, whilst today was better than that, it was still a bit of a painful affair. It all goes to show how poorly conditioned I am really. Once my working life settles down again I'm going to consider how I might incorporate some of those things I coach every winter (weights, plyometrics, circuits etc) into my running schedule.

I've been listening to Steve Chopper's 'A Mile With Me' podcast recently, the four most recent episodes. Steve is based on the English south coast and produces a show that, although less polished and produced than Phedippidations, nevertheless has its merits. Steve has an interest in local history, a subject that always grabs my attention. He has recently covered industrial construction history in the Potteries, as well as an excellent portrayal of the wartime glider raid to capture Pegasus Bridge, via an ultra run to commemorate the event. Less successful was a well-intentioned run out to Stonehenge to witness the summer solstice, only to impose on us too many minutes of typical English revelry which can only take place with the assistance of cheap lager and whatever choice of drug is de rigeur these days. If I want to listen to garbled drivel I can open my apartment window any night of the week after the pubs shut. Nevertheless I'll be continuing to tune in as I'm sure there will be better to come.

And Steve Runner has now decided to take on Nike. He says that he pondered for a long time whether or not to include the Nike Is Evil piece but, in the end, he went for it with all guns blazing. The cause of his ire of course is of course far Eastern sweatshops where workers earn something stupid like USD2.50 per day, barely enough to keep them alive, while the Nike Corporation report profits in the billions. Tiger Woods endorses Nike products for annual sums in the many, many millions. This crusade has been led for a number of years by Jim Keady in the US. Now. I'm too old to accept only one side of an argument and I'm sure Nike have plenty of answers. But if you are interested in the whole subject a good place to start is by watching the video Behind The Swoosh that you can find at

Down at Irishtown the young athletes are starting to drift back after the school holidays. And in a flippin' holiday mood they still are with the sloppiest set of drills imaginable last night. However this is always the case at any club and once they get a bit of hard work under their belts they will be sharp again. I hesitate to call it winter training when it's still August but the athletes now need to get fit for cross country. We started late last year but this time they will be fine for the first of the competitions.

And the gang were back from the World Championships with tales of Berlino the Bear as well as all the top-class athletics they had seen. The atmosphere in the stadium was, apparently, wonderful. And I got a little present as well. If, as seems likely, I leave Crusaders shortly it will hurt a great deal.

Monday, August 24, 2009

World T&F Champs - 3

Well, Gilly gave it a good shot and went off fast before fading to 6th in the home straight. Never mind, he is in good shape and Ireland will be hoping that he brings home a medal in the Euros next year.

In fact it was an improved Worlds performance all round for the Irish. They finished 11th European nation on the placings table compared with 26th last time round. There is plenty that is wrong with the athletics setup here but plenty that is right too.

As for the Brits the bonus medal came from Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m, a bronze upgraded to silver after a DQ. Then the relay boys did the business - a well-worked sprint bronze, albeit in the absence of the USA. Then an excellent silver in the 4 x 400m behind the USA having struggled a bit in the semis.

Of course there were many other highlights during a fantastic week of athletics and I was able to watch a good deal of it. The field events provided much excitement, not always the case. The men's shot early in proceedings set the tone, and it helped that the home crowd had plenty to cheer about. The Beeb's coverage was excellent and indeed Irish viewers had to rely on this or Eurosport. The national broadcaster RTE is essentially bust and, to much indignation, could not see its way to even showing a highlights programme.

I had a juggling act to do yesterday as the Cork v Tyrone senior football semi-final clashed with the athletics, but I managed to access the latter via the 'Net. And what a result as Cork, a man short from midway through the first half, held off the All-Ireland champions. But they were incredibly fortunate not to lose a second as Miskella, in full view of the cameras, felled his marker with a cowardly punch from behind. Whatever the umpire told the ref it resulted only in a yellow. But how do Gaelic footy players, knowing that it will be picked up 95% of the time, persist in off-the-ball assaults? It's a mystery to me and should certainly have cost Cork the match yesterday.

Finally, well done to Channel Islands AC men in avoiding relegation from Div 4 of the British Athletics League. That's two years survived in the BAL now. It would be an easy matter if they were to get their full team out regularly, but that is rarely possible.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ian Hunter - Man Overboard

A gentle 13.7 miles today in 2h 30m. Still with lingering doubts over my ability to run for any length of time it was slow but satisfying. Now, over the next couple of weeks, I need to add some up-tempo work to ensure that I'm going to start the Blarney Half with a bit more speed in my legs than I've showed recently.

A curious incident occurred as I made my way back down Pigeon House Road, about 11 miles in. I was running on the road as it was a better option at that point than the rutted pavement. A cyclist, a slow fat one, approached and I moved in to run between the double yellow lines to allow him the right of way. To my astonishment, instead of moving out into the otherwise empty road he lined up his bike along the yellow lines. He was not going to change direction and I had to hop onto the pavement at the very last moment to avoid an RTA. And as the fat twonk continued on his way no amount of shouted insults or waved arms was going to make him turn around, never mind return to face the music.

Ian Hunter would have made a song about it. It is 35 years since Hunter fronted Mott the Hoople, during which time he has remained plying his trade as a singer/songwriter. Even in his youthful days he refused to compromise his principles (that good ol' rock 'n roll phrase) and at no time has he put popularity and fame ahead of the way he wants to produce his music. He connects regularly with his many fans by answering emails via his website.

At the age of 70 he has produced another excellent album, 'Man Overboard'. The voice is struggling, but he never exactly had a voice like a skylark in the first place. Here he has generally slowed the pace and sings some heartfelt, meaningful but often humorous songs. In the humorous category is the opening upbeat number The Great Escape.

When you gotta get away you gotta get away
When you gotta get away it's true
When you gotta get away you gotta get away
Especially when the other guy's bigger than you

Girl From The Office is a wry and funny ditty reflecting on young love (lust) that we have all experienced in our working lives.

What's she like, what's she like, what's she like, what's she like
Everbody says
What's she like, what's she like, what's she like, what's she like
What's she like in bed

Hunter has been married to Trudi for many more years than is fashionable for a rock 'n roll star. Over the years he has dedicated several songs to her, a couple of albums back the sublime Knees of my Heart. Here he continues the practice with These Feelings, which celebrates what Van Morrison might call 'warm love'.

The final track is Hunter's take on an old Red Indian legend River of Tears. A simple enough story and narration but surprisingly moving for anyone blessed with a daughter. There again I think I'm the only male alive that gets teary-eyed seeing the balloon fly off without Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz so she can't go back to Kansas.

Go to iTunes or click on the title line for the website link - do yourself a favour and buy this album.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Having done little or no running for a week I did a tentative and slow 6.6 miles this morning. But however tentative it was a mighty relief that I was able to complete the run after a bit of a scare on Tuesday. The next couple of weeks will tell me whether or not I have a chance of lining up for the Blarney Half Marathon on 12th September. Like Paula Radcliffe I'm not turning out if I think I can't do myself justice.

So here I am at a crossroads - not in my running but in my working life. I am a 56-year old chartered accountant and finished up my previous contract at the end of July. Job offers are not exactly flooding in, though I suppose I'd pick up something in due course. But I have an opportunity to buy into a fitness/leisure franchise and therefore be able to combine my business skills with my love and passion for sport and fitness generally. There are significant risks in so doing. I have no marketing skills and I will need to learn quickly. I will be risking my small savings and, in addition, taking on a business loan. This of course is the risk/reward pattern of running a business. The upside of course is that I am my own boss and am answerable only to myself. I will be involved in a business I have a lot of empathy with and, in this sense, it will be hardly like work. And if it really works out I could become pretty successful.

The obvious alternative is that I fall back on my old trade of accountancy and work away for another few years. At the end of which I might still have my small savings but no private pension. A safe but unexciting prospect.

So the crossroads decision consists of (1) turning back and plodding the same road once again, (2) taking one of several mysterious side roads, the destinations of which are not yet signposted or (3) taking the road ahead which promises to be a rocky, exciting, insecure roller-coaster with no guarantee of not crashing and burning on the way.

And though I have a terrible sense of direction I think I'm pretty sure where I'm going.

World T&F Champs - 2

It's nice to see that at least two sets of Crusaders' parents and their young athletes are in Berlin for the athletics. This time last year they were just starting out, and now they are enthused enough to be wanting to see the best in action. In turn they will come back to Ireland with a new perspective on the sport. I received three texts yesterday, the last of which followed the 200m final.

'Hi roy..we here!!unbelievable exceted.got2ourseats jst as t chamney's heat started.sch a pty he didnt get thru.webehindHj 2 the rghtFu standwithback2hjbar.xm'

'Hussain bolt just down below us! Start of 200m mens final. Amazing. Kids hysterical. Jean.'

'Feckin amazing'

The pick of the Irish performances since Loughnane's silver has been Cork girl Derval O'Rourke's 4th place in the 100m hurdles with a new Irish record. That was a blistering perfomance coming after several years in the wilderness. The Hesh didn't quite make that remarkable 200m final, finishing 10th. Chamney went out in the first heat of the 800m, a disappointing championships for him after his big season to date. David Gillick is our last contender, going in the 400m final tonight.

Meanwhile Phillips Idowu grabbed triple jump gold, and Jenny Meadows battled down the home straight for a medal in the 800m. This was a just reward to an athlete that has worked hard over the years but has always been on the fringes, until now. Amazingly William Sharman (who he) blasts into the 110mH final and then finished fourth. Both Rutherford and Tomlinson are safely through to the long jump final, the former with a new British record of 8.30m. Steve Lewis makes the pole vault final as does Mo Farah (5000m) and Emily Freeman (200m).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

World T&F Champs - 1

So who's watching the athletics? I'm fortunate to have a foot in both the Irish and Brit camps of course. And as I'm presently resting between careers I'm able to catch some of the morning coverage from Berlin on the Beeb as well.

Far and away the Irish highlight so far is Olive Loughnane's silver medal in the 20k walk. Far and few are Irish medals at global championships and this one was greeted with great delight. After her 7th placing in the Beijing Olympics Olive was Ireland's best medal bet going into these championships, but still only an outside chance. The result was announced at Tullamore on Sunday in the middle of the race walking and I heard it said it gave all the competitors a lift.

The other Irish hopes are Paul Hession (200m) and David Gillick (400m). The Hesh was agonisingly just one place off taking part in the final in Beijing and, after negotiating the first round safely and with several no-shows (including Gay and Chambers) he has high hopes of making the last eight this time. Gillick, another outside bet for a medal, looked laboured to me in qualifying - though others say he looked comfortable. Meanwhile Thomas Chamney of Crusaders ran a less than clever 1500m qualifying round to finish 7th. Easy for me sitting here I know but I suspect Thomas would agree. However I'm backing our boy to do far better at his favoured distance of 800m later.

Meanwhile the Brits are having a mixed time of it. Jessica Ennis has quickly replaced Steph Twell as the golden girl with her astonishing win in the heptathlon. This morning Twell had a disastrous run in the 1500m which may just be beneficial for her in the long run as she can adjust to senior athletics with rather less media pressure on her shoulders. Goldie Sayers and Carl Myerscough disappointed again though at least Sayers had the excuse of coming back off a significant injury. Lisa Dobriskey looked class in qualifying.

All three Brits are through to the semis of the 400m with Michael Bingham looking the pick of these. Marilyn Okoro and the lovely Jenny Meadows are in the final of the 800m. I wonder if either can find an inspired PB and grab a medal - the event is wide open with Jelimo crashing out.

David Greene is a definite good bet in the 400mH though Marlon Devonish - who I saw win the 2003 world indoor title in Birmingham, will be happy just to reach the semis of the 200m.

In the meantime I had a worrying non-run this morning. Not having been 100% well for a couple of days I had no longer set off on an easy run than my legs turned to rubber. This does not bode well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Irish National Masters Track & Field Championships

A break from running as I headed for Tullamore to try my luck against some other old gits. Just for the craic really - I have never competed before in my life. An inauspicious start as, having bought my train ticket at Heuston the 8.40 for Galway seemed disinclined to leave the station. Fortunately I was able to intercept Jim O'Neill and jump in his car. Jim is a Crusader, a very good former athlete and ex-President of the club. These days he is as active as ever in all sorts of ways, notably taking the lead in maintaining the track and equipment down at Irishtown. Today he would spend the day officiating.

First up for me was shot. The competition encompassed M35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 with me being in the oldest category, throwing a 6k shot. (The really old fellas, 60+, constituted a further and seperate group). The throws lads turned out to be a great bunch, full of fun and wisecracks and not an ego between them. And there was some good throwing in amongst the more mediocre offerings. Following my own advice to young throwers I put a safe one in to the muddy grass - 8.89m with a standing throw. Then a passable glide and 9.56m - which was as good as it got. Slightly vexed not to hit 10m but, as the only entry in the M55 category I accepted my gold medal!

After which the day went downhill rather. I'd entered the high jump having coached it for years and occasionally having popped over low heights at the FB Fields and Irishtown. With some foreboding I checked in for the event - all around me were proper-looking jumpers, professionally marking out their run-ups and casually hopping over the practice bar. Two desperately embarrassing practice attempts later and I scuttled away from the scene having got the official to scratch my name out.

Meanwhile I have to confess to being impressed by the events unfolding as I sat on the bleachers with a coffee. The track stuff was pretty competitive with men and women giving it their best efforts. I have never been a fan of Masters' athletics, having thought it somewhat sad. Too many vets swan about with their cheap medals and GB tracksuits imagining they are God's gift. But here at Tullamore I was admiring the competitiveness, the athleticism and the good humour of everyone involved.

So to my final event, the discus. I had thrown a couple of practice sessions at Irishtown with the 1k discs and had been throwing comfortably in the low 30s. I was surprised to see the M55s were only expected to throw this girly 1k weight. To my consternation then it appeared that the entry paperwork had contained an error and it was 1.5k implements that were to be used! Now there is a big difference between the two weights and I just hadn't had time to adjust my throwing accordingly. In I went to the circle and hooked my first 'safe' standing throw outside the left sector line. Ah well, with four throws in all I went for another safety in the second round, with the identical result! I reckoned I couldn't do worse on a full turn and my third round throw at least found legal ground, albeit a paltry 24m something. But then, keyed up to bang a big one out with my final throw I snatched at it and instead banged it into the cage. However, my second medal, a bronze, though I still hadn't beaten anyone.

So I'm glad I tried out the Masters. It was a good experience amongst some nice guys and gals. And it's not every day you can claim to be a national champion.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Roy In England

The old family homestead is an inter-war semi-detached and rather solid and compact building set on the main Coventry to Birmingham Road. The district of Sheldon forms a sort of a bridgehead between the brassy Second City and the sophisticated and aloof Solihull. Falling between the two it totally fails to have any defining character of its own; it is completely unremarkable other than for the fact that its nondescript pubs between them can't offer a pint of Real Ale. That said, the old family local The Three Horse Shoes is presently serving a refreshing pint of mild for a recession-busting £1.49 which means that one can afford a proper bag of Walsall pork scratchings with each pint.

There is the option of running through the well-appointed Sheldon Country Park but the grass is pretty soggy right now. Instead I head in the opposite direction. This takes one through quiet suburban roads and a pleasant park, over the railway line and the Grand Union Canal to the Warwick Road. Beyond this is the seriously posh district of Olton which is within Solihull Borough. Nice leafy lanes and roads, speed bumps everywhere to slow down oiks that might be passing through, expensive residences set back in grassy and well-tended gardens. Solihull has been this posh for as long as I can remember. It has a feel of 'old money' and therefore doesn't offend in the least. Fellow pedestrians are pleasant, cars are courteous to the visiting plodder, dogs are as well brought up as their owners.

Six miles is the target and the outrun takes me through to the Stratford Road where the Garmin says three miles. I turn for home and try to pick it up a little. Less than an hour, average pace 9.48m/m. OK for a training run though of course I'd want to be down below 9m/m in race mode. A couple of days later I repeat the run in 9.38 m/m.

On Thursday I was in Milton Keynes. Having arrived ridiculously early for my appointment I repaired to nearby Willen Lake, an impressive man-made affair which is a great leisure facility for the area. It is also (I remembered) a regular running ground for Charlotte Dutch - see bloglist for Following Charlie. Although there were several runners around none of them was in fact Charlie, who seems to have disappeared off the running/blogging scene again - I hope only temporarily.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Irish Bank Holiday

Bank Holiday Monday here in Ireland, inevitably a showery, breezy one. Off I go down the river for my long run, 12 miles planned. My only companion is Steve Runner, this week broadasting from the Allagash River in North Maine and reading pieces from a book by the 19c environmentalist HD Thoreau. Pleasant listening, and no shocks such as in last week's episode where he took everybody's favourite running guru Hal Higdon to task for what he believes is excessive and injury-inducing mileage programmes. I expect some incoming flak for this and I'm surprised he chose Higdon, someone who has so many satisfied devotees, as a target. Not that Steve is ever shy of tilting against established windmills.

There are a few brave families on Sandymount Strand despite the weather - bracing is how Skegness used to describe itself as a selling point to Britishers wondering where to go for their fortnight's holiday. At six miles I'm trotting along comfortably enough to add a mile, taking me to the salubrious edge of Dun Laoghaire at Salthill, across the railway bridge and heading for home on the far side of the tracks. I purchase a Lucozade Sport from the little shop, the owner possibly happy to give it for free to see his premises rid of this sweaty person. Back through Blackrock Park and onto the beach where I 'bonk' rather suddenly at 10.3 miles. Whatever, I'm in no hurry and I'm able to trot at an even slower pace and keep the run going to finish up 13.97 miles in a little over 2h30m.

There's no doubt I'm getting a lot of base miles done right now, but nothing much else. I need to do some shorter, faster stuff - maybe some hill reps, a bit of gym work perhaps. Maybe I'll get the chance now my latest work contract has run out and I've a little time on my hands! But tomorrow it's off to England for a few days, back at the weekend.

Things I forgot about yesterday

Probably the most dramatic bit. Mark Kirwan of Raheny had the 'chase in his pocket, maybe 25m clear of defending champion Rory Chesser at the final water barrier. Trip, in he went! By the time he'd clambered out Chesser was on his shoulder and, unable to regain rhythm, he was then passed for the silver by Emmet Dunleavy.

Which reminds me, I don't think I've seen an athlete hurdling the water barrier before as Ireland's no.1 Fionnuala Britton does.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

National T&F Champs Day 2

Well I was like a young kid in a toyshop today, scuttling around the Morton Stadium to catch whatever was happening next. A great day of athletics, much of it top-class, and all of it just excellent sport.

I caught the latter part of the men's hammer and was startled when one of the big lads lost control of the implement which went crashing into the cage just by where the foot fault judge was standing - fortunately not near enough to the netting to be killed. Young Killian Barry of Crusaders picked up a bronze.

Next up was Olympian Robert Heffernan in the 10000mW. He sped around the early laps in about 94s; I reckon I could have beaten him running - just, over two laps but he kept the pace up for 25 laps with Colin Griffin a creditable second. There was a 'sprint' finish for third place, and anyone with doubts over the energy expended by good race walkers would have noted that both of these guys lay on the track totally done in at the end. And the lad that finished in third place got cruelly DQ'd. Back down the field one young lad dropped out with a few laps to go, wandered off to the side, had a little rest and then, feeling better, found his way back to the inside lane and carried on to finish. And epitomising the spirit of grassroots athletics, one old fella from Mullingar determinedly plodded around his last few laps oblivious of the officials who were anxious to get on with the next event.

I missed the men's pole vault but it looked like there was a very good competition there with the bar at a fair old height by the finish. The women's shot was not good, and a fit Sarah Fleming (Crusaders) wouldn't have been out of place. Colin Quirke, the laid-back son of Olympian Paul and living in the USA, added to his shot title with one of his few half-decent discus throws. Colin just looks unfocused to me, as if he'd rather be somewhere else, but what a talent that I hope is fulfilled.

But the real excitement came on the track. Regrettably for the fair-sized crowd, Paul Hession (9th in Beijing) withdrew from the 100m after strolling through his heat. This however left the competition wide open and it was Paralympian Jason Smyth who came through the rounds to win. New boy on the block Steven Colvert (Crusaders) grabbed bronze, as he did in the 200m yesterday. The lad hasn't got an ounce of muscle on him and will need to get stronger to compete with the best in the first 30m of his races. The women's 100m produced its own drama. For some reason the nine entrants ran a semi-final to eliminate one athlete (there are 10 lanes). There was a bit of a kerfuffle with the second semi when the girls were stood up three times at the start, with the marksman saying that the spikes of Kelly Proper and Niamh Whelan were not engaging the blocks properly - odd for international athletes. Kelly argued that they only needed to be engaged in the 'set' position. After Niamh received a yellow card they finally got away. Later, in the final, Ailish McSweeney got away to a brilliant and legal start and nicked the win from Proper by 1/100s.

The showpiece final saw Thomas Chamney (Crusaders) hold off David Campbell in the 800m. Remarkably Campbell came back later in the day to win the 1500m. Over in the corner the big boys were doing their thing in front of no spectators, this time throwing the 56lb/35lb weight for distance. I couldn't get excited about that one.

So a great day. In many ways it was like a village fete. The top athletes were wandering around the stadium chatting to their mates. The likes of Sonia O'Sullivan was leaning against the fence with the rest of us watching the competition. Any number of former champions, now spectators, were pointed out to me.

I was lucky to have been there.

National T&F Champs Day 1

At the various national juvenile championships this summer I've been stung for a tenner entrance fee for each day of competition. Whilst I know there are costs involved, the only spectators by and large are parents and coaches who already contribute their fair share to athletics. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to be able to waltz into the Morton Stadium for nothing to watch Day 1 of the national track & field championships yesterday (Sat). And excellent value it would have been at twice the price.

The first two events involved Olympic athletes. Eileen O'Keefe, returning to something like her best form after major injury, put a couple of hammer throws just a touch short of 70 metres. Next, an excellent PB in the 5000mW for Olive Loughnane, a solo effort with the three other women long since set adrift. Strangely the women's triple jump and long jump were scheduled back-to-back. The day really came to life in the long jump with the excellent Kelly Proper twice jumping 6.68m, well in advance of her own national record but assisted illegally by the strong wind. After her fifth jump she hurried off to win the 200m title. A great competitor, crowd pleaser and a stunner to boot is Ms Proper.

The throwing events were pretty desultory affairs and showed up Ireland's lack of strength. O'Keefe had no difficulty winning the discus with some ragged throwing. Colin Quirke (Crusaders) threw poorly but well enough to win the shot in a little over 16m. The women's javelin, without Anita White, is best having a veil drawn over it.

But there was some spanking action on the track and this is where Ireland's real strength currently lies. The most fiercely contested event is the men's 800m, for which there were several heats, and Thomas Chamney and David Campbell set up today's showpiece final at 2.15. The men's 1500 was even more cuthroat with only the winner from each of the heats getting automatic entry to today's final, the last event of the day. The men's 200m saw David Gillick stepping down a distance to win a good race in 21.78 from Darragh Graham and Steven Colvert (Crusaders) who was left in the blocks. The men's 400m saw an impressive qualification run from Brian Gregan. In a two-horse race Deirdre Byrne finally saw off the challenge of Rosemary Ryan in the 5000m.

Late in the day there was a very Celtic affair with the big guys chucking a 56lb weight (35lb for the junior men) over a bar. The technique is to stand with your back to the bar, get the weight swinging perilously between your legs before flipping it upwards and backwards. A guy that looked like he'd swallowed a beach ball was eliminated early doors but a young chap from Leevale (Cork) had the crowd on his side as he continued to push the bar upwards after he'd won the contest.