Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Running in Ireland

Laura and I traveled to Ireland for our one year anniversary, and like all of our trips, I am quite excited to run in new places. Last year ( May 2015), we took our honeymoon in Europe, and I was able to run in Reykjavik, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Paris. Three years ago (August/September 2013), we went to Brussels (only a layover so no time to run), Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, and Zurich. And, this past September (2015), we traveled to Montreal for a weekend. Prior to traveling with Laura, I had run in Madrid, Rome, and Florence (August/September 2012); Warsaw (July 2011); Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (June 2010 and December 2011); Berlin (December 2010); and London (October 2009).

Irish flags - that's how you know you're in Ireland, or South Boston.

Dublin: March 25-27

Dublin is a pretty neat town. We were quite jetlagged as we barely slept and when we landed, it was already morning. After getting the rental car, I had to adjust to driving a car on the wrong side of the road with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car. Plus, the stick shift was done with my left hand (not a problem since I’m ambidextrous), and the street signs are in metric. Once at the hotel, we were able to check in and then wander around for someplace to eat. We found a cafe across from Trinity College and then booked one of those hop-on/hop-off buses to take us around Dublin for two days. We stayed on the bus for a while to get our bearings of the city. We learned where the Guinness Storehouse was, passed by Kilmainham Gaol where there was a ceremony commemorating the 1916 Uprising, and went out to the Phoenix Park, which would make a lovely running route. When we went back to the hotel to rest, I set out to run an out and park in Phoenix Park. Unfortunately, I hurt my hamstring earlier in the week and the pain started to bother me near Guinness. I wisely stopped two miles into my run and walked back to the hotel. Laura was sleeping so I soaked in the bathtub.

I'm happy because I haven't yet aborted my run.
Prior to dinner, I went to the hotel bar while Laura finished getting ready. Oddly, no alcohol can be served on Good Friday in all of Ireland, but apparently the loophole is your hotel can serve its guests. I brought my book, Round Ireland with a Fridge, and was reading it when a local plopped down next to me. Since he couldn’t order for himself, I bought PJ a Guinness and he gave me advice on what to do in Dublin and around Ireland. He had lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City as he worked in construction; now, he is retired but owns and manages property. At dinner, we found a pub that could serve us dinner but nothing spirited to drink. For dessert, we enjoyed Murphy’s ice cream, which is based in Dingle and we would enjoy more than this one time.

On Saturday March 26, we took a long walk of about two miles from our hotel to the Guinness Storehouse. Once inside, we toured the factory, and it was pretty much a zoo. There were long lines everywhere. While I found it interesting, it wasn’t actually a brewery but an "experience." When we made it to the end and sat down at their nice dining restaurant, but they didn’t bring me my drink until after I had finished my lunch. At least they didn’t charge me for it, as I barely drank it. We finished by going to the top to redeem our drink ticket and get a Guinness and look over the city. But, it was too crowded and I had a few sips before we decided to leave. After, we took the hop-on bus to the Kilmainham Gaol, but when we arrived around 2PM, we were told there were no more tours for the day - they had sold out. Instead, we hopped on the next bus and went back to the downtown area and instead went into Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and their old library.

Trinity College Old Library next to the Book of Kells
At night, we went to O’Neill’s (misspelled according to my good Irish friend), for a drink before finding a proper pub for dinner. We had a nightcap and dessert at the pub near our hotel. That night/early morning, I experienced springing forward a second time as their clocks went into daylight savings time.

Phoenix Park and an obelisk.
I arose early to get in a run and see if my hamstring was all right. It held up without pain, just discomfort, for the six mile route I planned for Friday which was by the Laffey River and to Phoenix Park and back. They were preparing for the 1916 Easter Uprising parade and celebration, so I snapped a few pictures.

1916 Easter Rising Centennial Run

Kilkenny: March 27-28

Having walked most of Dublin, it was now time for my first real driving experience in the countryside. The drive out of Dublin took a while as much of the city was blocked off for the 1916 Easter Rising parades and celebration. The GPS kept taking us into barriers, but we eventually figured out how to leave town. Once in Kilkenny, which took less than two hours, we checked in, found the garage for the car, and found a hotel bar that would only serve us scones and croissants.

After, we took the Smithwick’s tour, which was another "experience" as it isn't a brewery. On our tour were a couple from Freetown and two couples from Olney, Maryland. The Freetown couple - he was a state trooper and she was a paramedic/firefighter. Another couple was living in Colorado, but originally from Michigan. This was a better tour than Guinness as it was more personalized and informative and less crowded. And, at the end, I got to enjoy a beer and posed for a pour of a beer. For lunch, we hopped into a pub for pizza and a pint where we chatted it up with a newlywed couple from the Jersey Shore - eight months married. We toured the Kilkenny Castle which reminded us of Downton Abbey and went back to our hotel room to rest before dinner. At night, we went to Kyteler's Inn where we enjoyed authentic Irish traditional music. For a drink, we found the Hotel in the Wall Pub, which was a tiny speakeasy.

Monday morning, I took a run on the River Nore and the hamstring was even better. I was going to add an eighth mile, but I started to feel it and decided that seven was fine. It was a beautiful run through the woods and along the river. If I needed more miles, there were more paths and sidewalks.

View of the Nore River in Kilkenny

Waterford: March 28-29

Waterford was a quick drive from Kilkenny. We were there really only to tour the Crystal Factory. It was quite the fascinating experience to see crystal made in front of us. I had a ball, literally. In the morning, I went out for a longer run which was out and back along the river and then past the hotel, past Reginald's Tower (which we toured after the crystal factory), and to a park that was one kilometer around (I ran six loops).

Sunrise over Waterford
Reginald's Tower
Dingle: March 29-31

On our way to Dingle, we stopped at the Rock of Cashel, which offered great views but cold and wind. We posed by the castle on a sunny day. That drive to the rock took us through some one lane roads that were traveled in both directions while the drive to Dingle from the Rock took a good three plus hours. But, once we hit the Dingle Peninsula, we were rewarded with incredible views! In fact we saw some amazing weather off the shore and a pretty cool classical music song was on the radio so we took a video that came out well done. We checked in, walked to the town and stopped in every gift shop. For dinner, we ate at Danno's, and celebrated our one year anniversary. Of course, we had Murphy's ice cream for dessert.

Slea Head Drive

In the morning, I rose early to test out the hamstring and ran out five miles clockwise around the Slea Head Drive and then back. It was dark and cloudy when I departed but I got a good view of the sunrise. Going out, it was a bit hilly, but the views on the way back were incredible. I particularly liked all the sheep baah-ing at me. I have some great photos and video of the sheep telling me to go away.

The drive was really pretty. We stopped at a pottery place - we noticed that many of the pottery shops were also cafes. Halfway around the loop, we stopped at a cafe and ordered a scone and milk. At another spot, we pulled over and saw people climbing to the top of a hill, but decided not to hike up the trail. At another point in the road, I almost hit a dog that was in the road and wouldn’t move. He looked soaked and scared and Laura had to get out of the car to help him move along so he wouldn’t end up dead. Poor little guy.

That night, we got a drink at Dick Mack’s pub and met a couple from Charlotte, NC, that attended one of the UNC (Chris and Jennifer). Chris graduated in 1996 and married in 1999, but they haven’t traveled much since they have two kids. I discussed politics and the absurdity of North Carolina passing an anti-LGBT law. Chris defended it saying it was protecting the children. I usually find that protecting the children is code for, “We just don’t like this behavior.”

Just prior to sunrise, eight miles out from Dingle town
For my second run in Dingle, I arose quite early and ran in the dark going counterclockwise on the Slea Head Drive out eight miles and back for a total of sixteen. It was completely dark for the first half as the road was lit only by the moonlight - going out, I saw one car with its headlights on, but no one was in the car as it was parked by a house. It was a terrifying yet exhilarating run, and I kept thinking that I better not get mauled by the sheep or wild animals! I passed Mount Brandon and took a picture at the halfway point. The last four miles were mostly downhill, so I decided to hold a pace just slower than my half marathon pace, finishing up in 6:33/35/36/15. The hammy felt good!

I'm pretty sure this is Mount Brandon as seen during sunrise on my way back into Dingle.

Breakfast at the hotel was amazing as they had a full buffet then took your order. Yesterday, we stuffed ourselves on the breads, fruits, and cereals that we didn’t have room for anything from the kitchen. Today, we were wise to leave room and were not disappointed. David, Cameron’s son, is taking over the bed and breakfast and was the chef. During breakfast, I spotted a full rainbow outside the B&B and took a fantastic photo.

Ennis: March 31-April 2 (Cliffs of Moher and Galway)

We drove from Dingle towards our destination for the day, the Cliffs of Moher. The best way was to take a ferry from Tarbet to Killimer for €18. On the ferry, I asked the steward for the wifi password and he replied “Not Working.” I asked if that was all lower case, but he didn’t get the joke. Then it was another hour to the Cliffs of Moher. We again traveled down an unnamed side road where we could barely tell if a car was approaching due to some high climbs.

At the Cliffs, we ate lunch consisting of soup before going out to explore. They have a barrier to keep you safe and recommend staying inside. We saw a number of idiots crossing the barrier including a father who took his two year old son over the rail. There have been several folks over the years to fall over - there is a plaque memorializing them. I took a nice selfie but was photobombed.

Be careful!

From the Cliffs, it was a short drive to Ennis. There was no hot water for me to soak in the bath. We walked around the town, guided by Martin who is one of the workers of the hotel who needed to stretch his legs. He is also a runner and detailed a 5K loop that I dubbed the Roundabouts of Ennis since it turned left at each roundabout. We ate dinner in the restaurant, Poet's Corner, attached to the hotel. It was really the only option we considered as we ate there both nights. And, both of my runs consisted of loops of the roundabouts of Ennis - eight miles on Friday that was two loops plus an out and back through the town center and ten miles on Saturday that was three loops plus a shorter out and back through the town finishing with eight striders.

Ennis was the only place I ran where I didn't take any pictures on my run. On Friday, April 1, it rained most of the day and we spent it in Galway, an hour away. After lunch, we walked to the City Museum and saw the underwhelming and overhyped Spanish Arch.

The "famous" Spanish arch - do you see it?

Running was fun in Ireland. I started out injured in Dublin but gave the hamstring the proper rest and as I write this with about a week to go until Boston, I feel that I am at full strength and ready to at the least set a personal course record (3:19 in 2013). Not only did I enjoy most of my runs on the Emerald Isle (except for Dublin where I aborted one and was tender for the second one), but I left behind my "JHU-labeled" shoes as they hit 500 miles: I need the room in my luggage for souvenirs for the niece and nephews.

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