Midnight Sun Odyssey: Day 1

June 23rd, 2012 No comments

United KingdomIrelandMy phone vibrated in the distance, quickly followed by the ear-piercing screech of its alarm. It’s 4am and far too early for this, I can’t ignore the noise but somehow manage to pick out a rhythm and follow it in my head, this works… I even manage to loosely stick words from a Bob Dylan song onto the previously unbearable din, yes this works… I repeat the same string of words in my head, I’m not even sure if they make any sense but still, this works. My escape is dashed when the back up alarm opens up with competing tone and in the confusion I have a moment of clarity… I have got a ferry to catch in 4 hours! I’ve got to load my motorcycle, check my gear, secure the house and get to a ferry port in 4 hours to start my long journey to the Arctic Circle and back, now that is worth getting up for!

While running the Madrid marathon a few weeks back I thought I damaged my hamstring and subsequent training proved that to be right. A lot of physio later and I am not entirely convinced that I have fixed the problem but I reckon that I’ll be OK for a marathon, provided I observe my physios’ advice and stretch while travelling. I double checked my running gear, enough for 2 training runs and my race-day gear. I always plan for a few training runs when travelling but never seem to get the time, opportunity, or perhaps the inclination to get one in. There always seems to be something much more interesting to do.

Throwing my leg over a fully laden motorcycle that morning was something quite special, I would do it a hundred times over the next three weeks but that morning it was such an exciting feeling, knowing that I would see places I would never otherwise be able to see and meet people I would be unlikely to meet had I traveled any other way.

It’s a heavy machine unladen, but with all my gear secured on-board it’s extremely heavy and takes some getting used to. The first few miles that morning were a little shaky to say the least. My camping gear was strapped to my passenger seat directly behind me. Tent, ground sheet, sleeping bag, mosquito net and a range of miscellaneous items took up a significant amount of space but I felt it was worth it even if I only used them once to get out of a jam. Another essential, but unsure if I’ll actually need it, was wet weather gear in addition to the Goretex gear I was wearing. The forecast was good but experience has taught me to expect any weather at any time and having an extra layer of waterproofing could come in very useful if I experience consecutive days of wet weather.

I made it to Dublin Port and boarded the ferry almost immediately. I drew up alongside another motorcycle as its rider was lashing his machine to the deck. It was a cruiser with a couple of mall soft panniers straddling the rear seat. Once I dismounted we got talking, he proudly announced that he was taking the long way to Italy. I immediately announced I was taking the long way to Norway. I think I won round 1. I asked him if he was travelling with others, where was the rest of his luggage? He said he never travels with more than two days essentials… it was man, machine and the open road. We left it at a draw.

Arriving in Holyhead port was a little nostalgic for me. My old ship, the Stena Explorer, was moored alongside the inner harbour wall and I rode past the lynkspan that I knew so well from countless arrivals with passengers from Dún Laoghaire harbour in Ireland. Memories of working on that ship were crammed with happy thoughts and wonderful people, the days were long and the work demanding but there was something about the people who made it a remarkable place to be. Despite the low pay, hard work and bearable conditions I look back at the job as one of the best I have ever had.


Dublin Port to Harwich Port

I pushed on, around Holyhead and through Bangor, home to my Alma Mater and fond memories of student life. I had a long ride ahead but before I crossed the Welsh-English border I had just enough time to visit my friend Katie and her family. Her children enjoy speaking Welsh and as I only got as far as swear words while living in Wales I avoided showing off. After much coffee and catching up I hit the road again and headed straight for Harwich.

I got there early and had time to visit a supermarket to stock up on some non-essentials that I thought I’d miss while in Scandinavia. The ships’ car deck was a welcome sight and once my motorcycle was safely lashed to the deck I made a beeline for my cabin to get out of my heavy gear and then straight to the bar for a long-awaited, and well deserved, pint before foraging for food in one of the classy restaurants on-board. Back in my cabin I climbed into bed, giddy with excitement at what lay ahead… Arctic Circle here I come!!!

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Madrid Marathon

April 22nd, 2012 No comments

I didn’t have the best start to my day. Our flight from Dublin to Madrid was very early and we needed to be at the airport by 5am… I was still working a 2am and hadn’t packed. After 2 hours sleep I was on the road to pick up Joe and with two heavy sighs we stared through a foggy windshield and headed for the airport.

After the minor drama of an oversized bag that was quickly overcome by a little sharing, we boarded the flight and I slept all the way to Madrid. A taxi into the city left us at our hotel and we took what we could only describe as a comedy elevator up to reception. It was triangular inside, as if they were making the absolute most out of the space the had, and all they had available was a wedge-shaped elevator shaft. The other elevator was a more usual rectangular shape that provided more space but sadly less giggles.

Having checked in we took the comedy elevator to our floor to drop our bags into our rooms before heading to the marathon Expo. With shirts, chips and a million leaflets and goodies in hand our next task was dinner and of course it had to be pasta.

Next day was race day. Warm, dry, sunny but not hot, yet. I bought a new water bottle and belt for the race but the damn bottle kept slipping out. After many adjustments to its position and tightness, almost 2 miles of them, I finally got it right and the bottle dutifully stayed put. I was very close to throwing it away, very glad I didn’t when I got past 20 miles and the pain really started to kick in.

The temperature slowly rose during the race and I really found the last 6 miles grueling but finish I did, and in a decent time of 4.42.17. I did feel like I had done some damage to my hamstring but after lashing on plenty of biofreeze it seemingly healed itself.   For the next couple of days we were tourists!

Back to the hotel for a ride in the comedy elevator, a shower and after a cheeky snooze we explored our locality while looking for a nice restaurant for a well deserved steak dinner. We crossed Grand Via to explore some of the side streets, there seemed to be a lot of really friendly women hanging out on street corners and for a little while we just thought this was the happy side of town before we realised we were wandering through a red light district.

Not seeing anything that appealed in that corner of the city we headed north for our juicy steaks and entered another district with an altogether more colourful feel, our tired minds finally figuring out that we were right in the middle of the city’s gay district, but still no open restaurant so onward we went towards Puerta del Sol. We visited a few bars along the way but one would become a particular favourite.

Judging by the explicit murals that covering the walls we decided this was a lesbian bar.  Our theory was given further weight when two handsome men (i.e. us) were completely ignored by every woman who passed our table. The staff were really friendly and looked after us well by keeping us fed with tapas on the house. When it was time to move on the bar staff asked me if I wanted another beer, assuming it was a chance for one last sale I declined but what I didn’t realise was that in traditional bars in that part of Spain, and if they like you, the staff frequently offers you a drink on the house when you are leaving.  A mistake I didn’t make again.

The next day we hired a three-wheeled GPS guided motorcycle and saw all the major sights in a whistle-stop tour, that was a lot of fun! In the afternoon we had BBQ for lunch and back to our lesbian bar for drinks and tapas before a wander through the Madrid’s night life.

The next morning we has sore heads and foggy memories. After breakfast and cappuccinos all that remained was to enjoy the last few hours in Madrid before a sleepy flight home.

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Great Ireland Run 10k

April 15th, 2012 No comments

This in my first race of 2012 but I have been training hard for the Madrid marathon in March which explains the 49.48 PB result. This is a special race for me as way back I 2006 I started my running life at the Great Ireland Run. Since then running has taken me to some wonderful places, to meet some wonderful people and to places within myself that I never knew existed.

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The Mighty Deerstalker 5K

March 27th, 2012 No comments

5K me arse!!! Kerry and Paul have been doing this race for years and I had the pleasure of joining them this year. The race is deep in the Scottish countryside, not entirely sure if it’s the highlands or lowlands but definitely bloody cold and wet lands… and the distance is more like 10k… and then it’s up near-vertical bog and tracks, across hill tops, down through dense forests (and a mid-forest disco), through waist-high freezing river (won’t be seeing them for a while I said to spectator as I emerged from the water), under a tunnel filled with that same freezing water, through a swamp, literally into a cargo net from a serious height, under even more cargo nets, over 8 foot high walls and finally crossing the finish line… Then having to camp in the freezing Scottish night in my clothes, without showers and having to walk through a maze of tents in the pitch dark to have a piss and then having to scrape ice off my tent in the morning… On the up side it was the most exciting and exhilarating adventure race I have ever done, I had really the best time!! Speaking of times… I ran as fast as I could and covered 10k in 1.27.35, that’s how tough it was! Everyone should do this race!

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8 Mile Marathon Cool Down 2011

November 12th, 2011 No comments

A welcome stretch of the legs a couple of weeks after the marathon, more like a walk in the park with a time of 1.20.43.

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2011 Dublin Marathon

October 31st, 2011 No comments

This race was not on my radar this year but a colleague had to pull out due to injury and I saw the opportunity for another race t-shirt… Just had to deal with the tiny detail of running 26.2 miles first.

Having run Kielder 3 weeks earlier I knew this was a bad idea but sometimes bad ideas result in great experiences… Not this time but it was good, as Dublin always is.

I finished in 4.48.51, not bad all things considered.

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Donadea Forest 10K

October 15th, 2011 No comments

This is a great race…. flat, fast and and close to home. When I finished in 50.54 I was convinced that it was a new PB but the GIR this year was seconds faster…

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Kielder Marathon

October 9th, 2011 No comments

I knew this marathon was going to be tough but I totally underestimated just how tough. Kielder is in Northumberland, close to the English – Scottish border, the site of England’s largest forest and Europes largest man made lake which the marathon circumnavigates. While I knew this was going to be a tough run because of the terrain I failed to appreciate that the route may not follow the lakeshore exactly,  my logic was that if it did follow the waterline faithfully the entire run would be flat. The organisers had different other ideas and often took us deep into the Forrest along ridiculeously challenging terrain.

I wanted to cry on a few occasions but every time I felt like breaking down I was overtaken by a granny or someone dressed as scoobydoo which guilted me into not giving up. I crossed the line after running, walking, disparing and repairing for 4.58.07. I spent the next hour recovering, the guy next to me asked me several times if I was ok… apparently I was rocking back and forth muttering to myself.

We learned afterwards that the guy that came in second actually jumped on a bus around mile 20 and rejoined the race close  to the end. There is an amusing piece of TV footage of him being interviewed with the “real” runner up  looking on with a look of total confusion on his face, later he explained that he couldn’t work out how that guy managed to run faster than him without overtaking  him.

Hands down this was the most difficult AND enjoyable marathons I have ever run.

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Brussels Half Marathon

October 2nd, 2011 No comments

I’ve run a few races in Belgium but this the first time doing the Brussels half. The weather was perfect and I really enjoyed this run, I’d like to do the full in a couple of years. Finish time wasn’t record breaking but I can work on that, crossed the line in 2.05.37.

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Rathfarnham 5K

September 25th, 2011 No comments

Just missed a PB by 2 seconds but ran with everything I had so really happy with 24.00.

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Great North Run 2011

September 18th, 2011 No comments

The biggest half marathon world, something like 55,000 runners, walkers, scoobydoos, giant sunflowers and an occasional kitchen appliance running the same direction. Finished in 2.03.55, great day out! Loved it!

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Longford Half Marathon 2011

August 28th, 2011 No comments

First time doing this one, really nice run but the best bit for me was the post race refreshments. The race HQ was a large school within the town where they laid on the best food you could ask for and as much as you wanted. I finished in a good time of 1.58.34, another decent time to add to my list to join the inch or two I added to my waistline.

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Frank Duffy 10 Mile

August 20th, 2011 No comments

Part of the Dublin marathon race series, I love this race and today was especially lovely as I crossed the line with a shiny new handsome PB of 1.27.08. Races, lots of races… Seems to be the key to PB’s!

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Kilomarathon Ireland

August 7th, 2011 No comments

A day after the Tulfharris 10 probably wasn’t the best time to tackle my first kilo-marathon, a 26.2 kilometre race. Finished in 2.42.04, and happy.

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Tulfharris 10

August 6th, 2011 No comments

Accurately billed as the “Tough Ten” we spent the entire race running uphill and considering we started and finished in the same place that was a remarkably feat. Finished in a decent 1.33.28.

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July 23rd, 2011 No comments

Loved, loved, loved this race. We started and finished in the grounds of Strokestown house but most of the run was through bogs and along twisting country lanes. Got in just under the 2 hour mark,  crossing the line in 1.59.51. Met one of the the organisers of the Longford half-marathon that I plan of running later this year, he reckoned one of the best marathons he has ever ran was the midnight sun marathon in Tromso, Norway… The most northerly marathon in the world… It’s on the list!

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St. James’s Hospital Liberties Fun Run

July 21st, 2011 No comments

Really enjoyed this race though the heart of Dublin city. The liberties is one of the oldest quarters of Dublin and is generally safe but there are a few tricky spots which may explain the fast time of 31.24, I think subconsciously I was afraid that if I ran slow enough someone might have it away with my trainers…

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2011 Irish Runner 5 Miler

July 16th, 2011 No comments

Another one slower than last year but still happy with 41.53!

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2011 Dublin Docklands 8K

June 21st, 2011 No comments

Finished in what I initially thought was a shiney new PB of 41.48 but turned out to be a slower time than last year… But only by 30 or so seconds so I didn’t beat myself up about it.

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Long Way To Luxembourg… Day 15

June 16th, 2011 No comments


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