Monday, October 6, 2014

Tha Valentia Half Marathon and The Wild Atlantic Way, (Well A Bit Of It).

Not a bad view from my tent at Mannix Point Campsite
This weekend I headed west to once again take part in the Valentia Island half marathon and to generally spend some time in this beautiful part of the world. I arrived in Caherciveen and checked into the excellent Mannix Point campsite. The facilities here are wonderful with a large well equipped kitchen diner area plus a large comfortable sitting room. Add to this good Wifi and it really doesn't matter what the weather is like.

Saturday October  4th;

After a good nights sleep and a leisurely start I drove out to Knightstown on the lovely island of Valentia to take part in the Half Marathon. This was my third time doing this and I was hoping to do reasonably well as I had run a 10 mile race in Killarney the previous Saturday and I was pleased with my time of 74 minutes 46 seconds so I was hoping for something around 1 hour 40 minutes today.
On arriving in the village it was disappointing to see such a small turnout for the run. Only around sixty took part this year but I guess the fact that it is a tough course, therefore not conducive to fast times keeps some runners away but this is a pity as it is a stunningly beautiful course with wonderful coastal scenery to draw the eye all about. This provides some welcome distraction from the rigours of the run. An excellent Tshirt, a protein shake plus a nice little carry bag was all provided for the entry fee of 20 euro so it was good value as well. One gripe is that this year they didn't put out any mile markers which was a bit naughty. The weather was windy with passing squalls and there was a decidedly Autumnal feel to the day. I was more careful this year not to go off too quickly and I tried to "listen to my body" as the race progressed. It worked to a certain extent but I was still struggling a bit by half way and the last few miles were quite tough. A lady in front of me was struggling and sometimes broke into a walk and as I neared her she asked if she could run the remainder with me. I was only delighted and her company and conversation until the finished helped to keep me going. She put on a bit of speed towards the finish and encouraged and cajoled me to keep up. She nearly killed me but she was great fun, Many thanks Elyane from Listowel.
Tempestuous seas by the lighthouse

The Skelligs

A big drop (over 400ft) from overhanging cliffs

Theres no rainbow without a little rain

The Valentia lifeboat powering out to sea

The Blasket Islands from the tower

Beautiful Bray Head

Everywhere spectacular cliffs

A great place to enjoy a walk.

After the run I got changed and went for a walk up to Bray Head for a "warm down". The weather was actually quite lovely now and the dark blue tormented sea looked wonderful. It was fairly windy but not too strong and I have seldom enjoyed a walk more. I took my time and walked past the old lookout tower all the way to the furthest reached of the head. Near the end there is a section of overhanging cliff where the drop beneath your feet is a full 500 feet. Airy stuff indeed. It was lovely to see plenty Choughs around and about and their distinctive calls filled the air. As I walked back to the tower I could see the Valentia lifeboat speeding out from Port Magee. Its hugely powerful engines made a big contrail and it powered through the rough seas spectacularly as it went to the rescue. It was followed shortly afterwards be the large rescue helicopter. We are fortunate indeed to have such good people and services in this country. And here I was with just a few aches and pains after a fun-run.

Sunday October 5th;

Today I awoke to much stronger winds and the showers of rain were more ferocious than yesterday. There was no evidence of blue sky and little promise of any appearing so I abandoned my original plan of going for a cycle (especially since I had left my waterproof cycling jacket at home) and opted instead for a hill walk on the nearby mountain Knocknadobar 690 meters. I had never been on it and it promised to offer me new sights places to see. It was also not too long an outing,(about 9 kilometers) so I wouldn't be too committing if the weather really turned bad as was forecast for the afternoon. I headed once again for Coonanna Harbour (where I had another unsuccessful fishing session on Friday evening) and I parked by a roadside "Grotto"(an enclosed religious statue) where I set off up the southwest ridge. For the first few hundred meters I had to negotiate a fair bit of gorse and I was regretting not putting long socks on and leaving my boots at home as the odd spine pierces the sides of my trail runners and scrope my ankles. Thankfully things soon improved and the gorse was replaced with grass and short heather. Unfortunately it was about now that another squall caught up with me and I was quickly drenched. I didn't mind however as it wasn't cold and I was actually enjoying the wildness of it all. And wild it certainly got, wow it had been a while since I was on the hills when the wind was so strong and at times it was really buffeting me about. My jacket was flapping madly and loudly (despite being nicely synched in) and I even started to wonder if it might tear, but it withstood the elements. There is a stations of the cross up the side of the mountain and I believe that several "pilgrimages or prayer sessions" are held on the mountain each year. On the summit there is a huge crudely built cross which provided a spectacular culmination to the stations (14 crosses in all). I was loving the outing and I was feeling strong despite the rigours of yesterday. I had reached the top in 1 hour 15 minutes without overextending myself and I actually jogged across the broad summit slopes to the north top about 1.5 kilometers away and just 80 meters lower. A nice descent on good ground (and into the wind and much fun) saw me all the way down to the foreshore of the harbour just over two hours after starting out. Here I was more sheltered from the elements and I enjoyed the almost balmy feeling as I went the 1.5 kilometers to my car. I arrived back dry and just as another squall arrived very pleased and invigorated by my jaunt and once again I returned home enchanted by a stunning part of the world.
Bad weather on the way

Coonanna Harbour

Stunning views back towards Caherciveen

Towards the summit

The final crosses

This must be around twenty feet high

Looking Northwest

Enjoying the "quiet" of the harbour