Thursday, August 25, 2011

Great Burren Run

Waves breaking against the rocky shore
The setting sun.
On the spur of the moment I decided to head to the northwest of Clare and take part in the Great Burren Run. This is a half marathon that is held in the beautiful village of Fanore. I had never run a half marathon before so it was something of a trip into the unknown. So I packed my tent and headed off after work on Friday afternoon. It is about a hundred mile trip but it soon passed thanks to the new motorways that are all we have to show for the so called "Celtic Tiger". As I was nearing the Burren I was keeping my eyes open for a possible wild camping spot. Things weren't looking too good until I rounded a bend and there by the sea was a flat expanse of grass that several others were already camping on. I was able to use the car as a shelter from the stiff breeze and I had the tent up in no time. After a leisurely bite to eat I went for a little walkabout to explore my surroundings. It was a wonderful spot where the rough seas pounded the rocky shore and there was a constant thunder of breakers crashing against the nearby cliffs. A good nights sleep followed and I awoke to a beautiful calm sunny day. A good breakfast and a short stroll and I was ready to head for the run.

Unique and bleak landscape
Limestone pavement
The village of Fanore consists of no more than a pub, a shop, a cafe and a few houses. It is situated in a beautiful spot hard up against the sea and the rocky Burren rising gently behind. After registering for the run I warmed up by taking little jogs. They were expecting about 100 to take part and these were split between a half marathon and a 10K run. There was a great atmosphere before the start and the rousing sound of a ceili band blaring from loudspeakers saw some even practice some jiggy moves. Soon we were lined up at the start and we were off.

There was a bit of a mad dash from the start and the super fit and super ambitious set off at a fast pace. After just half a mile on the road we went off down a dirt track and from there on to a beach. The soft sand made for hard going but I didn't push it and concentrated on keeping in my comfort zone. From the beach we were up another track where we passed by a herd of Alpaca. Not too many of them to the square mile in this neck of the world. Anyway another short road section was followed by a stiff climb on a waymarked trail where 400ft was gained. Another road section for a couple of miles alongside a delightful little river and we were climbing again on a green road. This was a long steep climb where over 600ft was climbed. A long run along the top of the mountain afforded wonderful views which helped to take the mind off the aching body was finally followed by a long downhill section to the finish.

The beautiful Burren

Ancient Dolmen
 I managed to come in eight in 1hour 53mins. I guess my hill walking and occasional hill runs stood me in good stead and I seemed to suffer less on the uphill sections. Anyway I really enjoyed the route which was really varied and went through beautiful scenery. After several large glasses of water and soup and sandwiches  I was ready for the journey home. I came back a different way via Ballyvaughan and Corofin. This travelled right through the high Burren and gave a great flavour of the magic of the place. I stopped and had a look at the famous Dolmen near Ballyvaughan. This is a really impressive tomb which is all of 5000years old. I wonder how much the landscape has changed since then. I was well happy with my efforts and the trip and as I headed home I was already thinking of my next trip to the area which I vowed would not be too far in the future.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Galtee Mountains Ridge

The Knockmealdowns looking lovely

Lough Muskry
James Moore and myself decided to do the Galtee Mountains Ridge today. As I was working nights I decided to start out straight after my shift. As James is in training for Gael Force he felt he needed a big mountain day to boost his hill fitness. He suggested that we do the full Galtee ridge and I readily agreed. We went for the minimalist approach and decided to do it as a hill running exercise. We needed a car at each end so I left my car at point 336mtrs Grid ref 889 197. James drove towards Cahir and our biggest problem was trying to find a track through the forestry that would lead us out onto the open mountain. We drove out the Tipperary road and initially we couldn't find the track marked on the map. We asked a guy in a haulage yard and he pointed us to an overgrown trail that led up into the woods. We left the car at 08.15 and started up the trail. The gradient was quite easy and we jogged along at a steady pace. Our biggest problem was one of route finding and several false trails lengthened considerably the time it took to gain access to open ground. Even then we had to force our way newly planted forestry for about 500mtrs which was very rough. All this meant that over an hour had passed before we reached our first top at point 449mtrs. We had at last gained the start of the ridge and it was obvious that there was a very long way to go.

Towards Galtymore
The day was lovely with clear skies and the promise of a dry sunny day for company. We set off for Slieveanard across rough heathery ground but we soon had a good track to follow which lasted until just under point 541 nearly 4kilometers further on. We made good progress and followed the broad twisting ridge to Feabreaga and up to Greenane. Up until now each top was higher than the last which meant that there was a fair amount of climbing involved in order to make headway. Now we were down hill for a kilometer to the tor that is called O'Loughlans castle and after a short rise another near two kilometer downhill stretch follows to the col under Galtybeg. A stiff 160mtr climb and the summit was ours and we continued down to col above Lough Diheen and another 200mtr pull to the summit of Galtymore mountain. James was starting to realise just how ambitious his suggested route was and his legs were starting to give him some problems. Still he soldiered on and we were soon down at the wall that runs along the western section of the ridge all the way to Lyracappul. This we followed and despite some cramping up by James we made reasonable time to this summit. Here a much needed rest was enjoyed along with some energy bars.

Para glider
We were surprised to see a para glider over by Temple Hill. I have never seen one in our mountains and they are a sight I associate more with Chamonix and the Alps. Still he was enjoying good conditions and was effortlessly gaining height on good thermals. He soon drifted in our direction and we got a really close look at him. He drifted swiftly along the ridge in the direction of Galtymore. We loosened out seizing muscles and commenced our jog down to the col under Temple Hill. There was no way we could rush the 185mtr climb to its summit but we trudged gamely and we were soon enough enjoying the panoramic views this top has to offer. It offers great views over towards Galtymore and has a remote feel to it as it is quite separate from the rest of the ridge. We didn't tarry long and we ran down the broad spur that leads gently down towards Pigeon Rock Glen from where we could access the track up to the car. In keeping with the start of the day we again encountered difficulty finding the track which meant we went a kilometer in the wrong direction and had to retrace our steps before we found the right trail. At this juncture in the day this was something we really could have done without and we were very glad to arrive back to the car. A grand total of 34 kilometers and a total ascent of 1700meters in just over six hours meant that these old bones were in dire need of a good rest. A most enjoyable day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Galtee hill run

After my night shift I headed straight from work to meet James Moore for a run on the Galtee Mountains. This meant that we were ready for the off at 7.30am this morning. James was just recovering from a nasty chest and throat infection so we decided to take it nice and handy so as not to do him any harm ahead of his participation in Gael Force West, an adventure race taking place in Connemara in a couple of weeks. We went up the Black Road and headed for Galtybeg. From the top down swiftly to the col under Galtymor. The steady pull up to the summit at 919meters soon passed and we ran down to the col under Sliebhcushnabinnea. From here down gently into the glen and we followed the river until we had to traverse around Knocknagaltee and we were able to regain the Black Road and thus back to the car. A total of 14 kilometers and 750mtrs of ascent in just over two hours. When James is fully recovered I,m sure we can take a considerable chunk of time off that.

Long Cycle Home

View towards Ballymakeera
I have been getting out and about a bit of late, mostly short hill runs over Bweeng mountain ( perhaps a bit of a misnomer as it is only 414mtrs) and trying to keep fit for the Gap Triathlon which was due to take place last weekend. Yet again the Killarney walking club lived up to their growing reputation and cancelled another event, so being left high and dry and not a little disappointed I decided to do a cycle route that I have had my eye on for some time. I cycled back to Banteer (7miles) and caught the train to Killarney. From here I went on the main Cork road until Ballyvourney. This was the least pleasurable part of the cycle as the road is very busy and it is always a little nerving having cars and lorries whizzing past sometimes very close. Anyway this stretch of road involves a good climb of over 230mtrs before the descent into the village. Here a sharp left turn leaves the hustle and bustle of the busy road behind and you immediately enter a lovely leafy lane and start the long climb up towards Mullaghanish. This is a very noticeable mountain, marked as it is by the very impressive communications mast on its summit.
Mullaghanish and its mast

Soon the leafy surrounds are left behind and you enter more open ground. As you rise ever higher the rugged expanse of ground that sweeps from the summit to the forested and rough ground above Ballymakeery makes a very pleasant sight. Though the climb is relentless it is never too steep and you are able to enjoy the atmosphere. The day was lovely and fine, warm with little breeze and I was enjoying it immensely. The pass between Carrigrathduff and Knockullane is at 400mtrs and so after another 230mtr climb I stopped here briefly for a drink and a bite( literally) of a chocolate bar. Next came the reward of the long and swift descent on a mostly good road to Caherdowney and onto the Millstreet to Macroom road. Straight across this and another long climb to St Johns Well ( a little detour up a cul de sac adding a couple of K and 50 mtrs of a climb). This time the road was quite rough and I was glad when the 180mtrs of climbing was over. Down swiftly to the Kerrymans Table and another 140mtrs followed to the pass at Mushera. Again swiftly down and on to the village of Rylaneand on to the Kanturk Cork road. Here a left turn means another 170mtr pull over the bog and down again to Nad. From there home means another couple of short climbs and it was much to my rear ends relief when I arrived home just over four hours after I started from Killarney. All in all 95 kilometers and 1100mtrs of climbing made it (for me at least) a great day on the bike.