Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fanore Half Marathon 2015

Friday August 21st;

Last weekend I went to one of my favourite places "The Burren" in county Clare to compete in the Fanore Half Marathon again. This would be my fifth time doing it and it is an event I really enjoy. It isn't one of the big high pressure athletic events but it has a friendly relaxed atmosphere and this coupled with the stunning scenery makes it a joy to visit. I took my camping stuff and as the forecast was reasonable (for Saturday at least) I was hopeful of having a good time. I set up my tent in the wild camping spot near Ballyryan and I was delighted to have it all to myself. My joy however was short lived as a couple of carloads of twenty somethings who were intent on having a party arrived. The screech of laughter from one of the females (that I was certain could actually shatter glass) as their tents were going up, about 30ft away, decided me and I packed everything away and moved home about 500 meters up the road to another spot. I had no sooner pitched my tent and gotten myself sorted for dinner when a few more carloads arrived and set up residence. Out of options and as it was nearly 8pm I decided to grin and bear it and settled for the night. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that this group were more intent on a good nights sleep before a days rock climbing the following day than having a party so I slept very well. Result !

Lovely evening and lovely place

Rock climbing heaven

Saturday August 22nd;

I was a little disappointed to hear gentle rain hitting the tent when I woke up. The forecast was for dry weather but hey ho. It dried off in good time for me to have breakfast outside and I was able to decamp before more drizzle and mist arrived. I was a little apprehensive about the run as I really hadn't put many miles up of late but I was feeling quite strong and I was determined to just take it nice and easy and try and enjoy the run. The mist was intermittent and the scenery was fantastic and there was a nice little atmosphere building as the start time of 11am neared. I did a bit of gentle jogging to loosen out and then we were off. Nice and easy does it and I set a steady pace for the first two and a half miles. Not that I had any choice as they are all uphill. It was a joy to reach the flat plateau on top and the new route this year followed delightful flower bedecked little lanes that wend and wound their way around and up and over the hilltop. From mile three to eight was a delight with some short hills and nice downhill stretches which I ran in the company of a local woman. We chatted away as we ran and the miles passed easily. I was surprised and delighted to find that we were actually going at a good pace and I felt pretty good as we faced a long stiff hill between mile eight and nine. I made a good pace up this and I as knew that the final miles were back down the initial stretch I wasn't too concerned about running out of steam. Finally the downhill came and I pushed hard (for me) all the way to the finish line and I was delighted to finish in 1 hour 45 mins. I was chuffed with my effort and the company and food in the by now gloriously sunny day finished off the event nicely.
Deserted cottages by the shore at Fanore

Before the run

After the run...nice rock pools to bathe in.

The odd downpour is never too far away

Across Galway Bay towards the mountains of Connemara

I wandered down to the seas edge when I was rested and fed and I found a little rockpool where I sat into it and gave myself a wash as the water roiled nearby. It was lovely. I had taken my bike with me for the weekend and I hoped to enjoy a cycle in the area on the following day so I decided to while away the afternoon exploring the local area. I visited Black Head where the remarkable limestone scenery of the area can be seen to best advantage and I basked in the warm sun for a while before visiting the village of Ballyvaughan for supplies and heading back to to my camping spot and settling down for the evening. Camping with my car nearby is a real luxury for me and I was something of a curiosity for the hoards of tourists who were periodically dropped off by tour buses as I sat by my tent in my chair and just soaked in the views. The rock climbers were still around and they had left their tents up so they would be around for tonight as well. Unfortunately the weather forecast for tomorrow was now quite poor and heavy rain was promised but I was going to enjoy this evening anyway and if the worst came to the worst I would just head home in the morning. The sunset was spectacular and I felt privileged indeed to be able to enjoy such a beautiful place. The rock climbers were back before dark and as the rain started to fall they settled in a group under a canopy for the evening. I wasn't too bothered by them but it seemed that they thought that as tomorrow would be a washout they might as well have a blowout and my humour wasn't at its best at four thirty in the morning when they finally decided to retire to their tents. This is I guess the risk you take when you camp in places like this. Still it was worth it for the sunset..I think.
Not too much solitude while the buses are calling.

Room with a view

It just got better and better

Sunday August 23rd;

I had managed to get a few hours sleep and it was with some delight that I emerged from my tent after 8am to see that the day was actually showing some promise and I hoped that the rain had passed overnight. I made myself a good breakfast of porridge with decent coffee to follow and I was all packed up and ready to embark on my cycle before 10am. It was with some satisfaction I saw some bleary heads appear from the tents and I hoped that they regretted their excesses of the night. I had in mind to cycle as far as Lahinch on the coast road before turning inland as far as Lisdoonvarna and from there I would have a couple of choices, depending on how I felt, as to whether to continue on to Ballyvaughan and return to my car via Black Head or cut things short and return directly to my car from there. I was pleased to find that the run of the previous day hadn't affected me too much and I was soon cycling well as I headed for Doolin. Great views from high above the sea across to the Aran Islands were good compensation for the hill climb as I headed towards Moher where I paid a fleeting visit to see the world famous cliffs. Now it was a long downhill stretch to the seashore again and with a tailwind I whizzed into the busy seaside village of Lahinch which is a favourite spot for surfers and golfers alike.

Nice morning for a bike ride

The Cliffs Of Moher..some of them.

Plenty surfers but not a lot of surf today

On Corkscrew hill looking towards Ballyvaughan

The Wild Atlantic Way..whats not to like.
 Next I was heading inland and the undulating road all the way to Lisdoonvarna (famed as a matchmaking hotspot) was quite tough in places. It was a total of 28 miles to here and I took the opportunity to rest and have a coffee before setting off on the longer variant and heading for Ballyvaughan. Another undulating road ensued but it had a great surface and I enjoyed the journey. I arrived at the top of "Corkscrew Hill" with its marvelous views of the hills around Ballyvaughan where I pulled in to a viewing bay to relax a while. Here a group of enterprising kids ranging in age from about 7 to 12 years old were busking with a variety of instruments. While they were undoubtedly full of enterprise and enthusiasm they were unfortunately sorely lacking in talent (or training) and the lamentable screeching sound that they produced ensured I didn't linger too long. Still the tourists seemed to find it amusing. Downhill and easily into Ballyvaughan where I turned onto the coast road again. I now had about 14 miles back to the car and I had a little trepidation about the amount of buses I would face on the relatively narrow road. As it was still fairly early I hoped they wouldn't arrived until later in the day and so it proved to be. I didn't meet one bus and I was able to enjoy the ride back. I arrived at the car to find a total of four buses parked as their passengers enjoyed the view. My timing it seemed had been perfect. It had been a round trip of over 51 miles and I must say I felt pretty good. I changed clothes and stored my bike and set off on the 2.5 hour drive home. I love the Burren and I will be back.
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