As I sip on some good whiskey writing this, it’s that time of year where I get a chance to rest my weary body and change into my fat pants for a week, yes that’s right its the annual running break where I get to let off some steam and indulge in some of life’s vices! It’s been an action packed week but I managed to stay reasonably active at the same time. No scheduled training as such done but plenty of fun times which I detail below. Prepare yourself for tales of gluttony and sloth with some hints of bright rays for 2012 mixed in between!
Winter Solstice Run
We choose the shortest day of the year to do the Winter Solstice run up to the Fairy Castle on top of Three Rock Mountain. The 22nd, 23rd, 24th had the sun rising at 08:39 with the first day being the shortest at 7h 29m 53s long. It’s a celebration of the nights ceasing to get any longer. It’s crazy to think that this week alone we already clawed back 5mins from winter’s cold grasp. The day was in stark contrast to the previous year where it was a complete white-out and we practically skied down off the mountain. A really pleasant morning at first saw a crystal clear sky when leaving the house but then cloud came from in-land and leaving it somewhat dull. The horizon was clear except for a single cloud just in our line of sight which obscured what would have been a perfect view as we could see from ships in Dublin bay that the sun was lighting them up brightly. There were about 20 runners / mountain bikers and hikers up on the summit. As the new dawn broke we sipped on some Johnny Walker 12 year old whiskey from a communal hip-flask I brought and huddled on the lee-side of the Fairy Castle for a good 15mins.
I don’t know if it was the whiskey of the thrill of being back in the mountains again but I was really in the mood for a downhill run and took off at my own pace through the forest making my own trail as I went along and just followed my nose which was surprisingly accurate. Whether it was because of my recent reading of Christopher McDougalls – ‘Born to Run’, which tells of the super tribe of Tarahumara Indians who run incredible distances while kicking a ball, but when I got to the roadside I came across an old deflated football and ended up kicking it all the way down the mountain as I playfully guessed how it would travel down the slope while managing to keep up with its gravity, I got a few strange looks from passers-by but I was having a great old time by myself so didn’t mind. The next day I woke to stiff quads but I couldn’t really think how that could be until I remembered my overzealousness on the downhill.
Christmas Charity Tradition
I spent 20 years playing hockey in my local club Glenanne HC until I retired about 2 years ago to concentrate on mountain running. There is a great tradition in the club where, since the 1940′s, every Christmas morning they organise a charity hockey match where the married men in the club take on the single men in the club. I have been playing in this match since I was 15 years old, only missing it 3 times because of sickness and travelling. This year I was was making my debut on the ‘marrieds’ team so I would finally know the secrets of the ‘club elders’. “It’s simple!”, an anonymous and most respected member of the team told me, “Don’t let anyone get by you…”, he checks who is listening and then in a more hushed voice and a wink says, “And if they do, take them out!”. Ingenious I thought to myself. Armed with this wisdom I did what all older and wise hockey players seemed to do, or should I say didn’t do, I skipped the warm-up and just started the match. Ten minutes in and my legs were in ribbons. I was now using a completely different set of muscles than I have been training for the last two years. I was still the fastest man on the pitch mind you and we were eventual 5-4 winners despite the best efforts of the ‘single’ umpires. As Lydiard promised, I was running just as fast and hard at the end of the game as I was at the beginning of the game, an encouraging sign as we embark on introducing his training to team sports.
Just for the fun I wore my Garmin watch to see what my stats were. Playing right midfield and as a forward I could count 56 sprints of a duration greater than 5 seconds! I covered 6.2km despite coming off the pitch for ten minutes and playing for a total time of 50 mins. A game is usually 70 mins duration and a top forward will typically cover about 7km on average. I was still walking funny four days later, a serious case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Still following the elders and not doing a warm down didn’t help my case either.
It was great catching up with all the lads and the craic that is had in a team sport like this is what I probably miss the most. Afterwards we had the collection for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul where we raised just under €3K, a fantastic amount for a small gathering like ours. We were awarded our winners’ medals and to my shock and surprise I won man of the match (as did my brother Devin last year) and now have another perpetual trophy sitting on my trophy shelf. A few hot whiskeys and home-made mince-pies were scoffed and then it was off home for the big dinner.
I spent Christmas day in Eva’s parents house where I brought up the famous Kehoe staples of Christmas, home-made croquettes and trifle.We had a great day and that evening we walked the 3 minute walk to my own parents house where we got stuck into the Quality Street sweets and exchanged gifts. We wrapped up the evening with a hilarious game of Pictionary.
Streets of Wicklow
I had great intentions of running the Streets of Wicklow 5k race but I knew going to bed my muscles felt like they had been put through the office shredder and celotaped back together again. Plus the fact that I didn’t wake up until 11am, the race start time, kinda settled that anyway. Looking at the results I may have scrapped into the top 5…maybe. But with all the food from the day before it probably wouldn’t have been likely. Makes you think when some pros are training twice a day on Christmas like GB’s Mo Farah, then again he is Muslim so just another day for him I suppose, and less people in the park too!
As a Christmas present Eva’s father took me down to play golf in Arklow GC, a lovely little links course an hour south of Dublin. It was nearly going to be an expensive day where I was literally 2 inches short from a hole in one on the 13th hole. My closest time in 23 years of playing as an amateur. If you get a hole in one you have to buy a round of drinks for everyone in the bar that evening. There is even insurance against it where the insurance company will give you €300 to cover the tab, it would have been worth it though! Myself and my friend Bill drew level with Eva’s father and his friend in a four man rumble competition where we had a wager on for a princely sum of €2, I had an average first 9 holes but my late rally including my 2 and a good par on the next hole kept us in the game. My annual subs are due in January for the golf club and I have a serious decision to make on whether to continue to pay and play even less golf next year as my training gets more serious or suspend or even cancel my membership for 2012. 1st world problems…I know.
Over the last week or so I have had about five very heavy nights out on the beer and I feel like I’m about one more night away from being able to call it quits for another year. New Years Eve could be that night, we’re staying for two nights in the Four Seasons in Dublin for our one year anniversary and will ring in the New Year in style. Unfortunately this means we will be missing Rene and Aoife’s get together the same night where I hear he has a secret stash of boutique English Ales!
I did go out for one 60 min jog around Foxrock during the week to get the last of the DOMS out of the legs and intended to do a few more over the next few days but I have just been struck down by some mysterious knee pain from sitting on the couch too long playing the new games I got for the X-Box, the price of a sedentary lifestyle! Btw remember I reached racing weight of 64kg a few weeks back… well that is well and truly out the window…sure isn’t that what holidays are for!
Was it a fast year for you? A couple of years back I was wishing time away and before I knew it, it was gone. I made a vow to myself a good while back that I wouldn’t wish the time away anymore as one day the final curtain call will be here. So for me it was a long year with many highlights and firsts. This day last year we were getting married but it does seem like quite a time ago. Running wise I achieved probably one of my greatest running goals, winning the Carrauntoohil mountain race in a very competitive field of runners and many others achievements are peppered throughout the year. What does 2012 hold for you and me? Shall we find out?
Wishing you a great and successful 2012, next year it’s down to business!