Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rediscovering The Fun

A couple of days ago I set off once again on the early train for Midleton to go for a run in the Curragh Woods, this time with James Moore. After all the negativity and stress of the previous week it was great to simply just go for a simple no pressure run with a pal and relax. I must confess to having some doubts about going for any run at all but the legs were feeling quite good after the marathon so I decided to give it a go. James looked after me very well and set a nice gentle pace that ensured that we were able to have a nice chat and pretty soon I was leaving any doubts behind and simple enjoying running along in the dense foggy woods that were full of atmosphere and beauty. I felt that I could have been running anywhere and at times I was reminded of the beech and chestnut forest of the Pyrenees Orientalis. We twisted and turned and went up and down and it was great. The hour that we spent running simply flew by. I didn't care if we had covered two miles or ten, it didn't matter, it was simply fun. I was buzzing after it and my high lasted well after we parted and I headed home. I felt that I had re-learned a lesson that I had forgotten and realized that I should run for the fun of it and not place myself under too much pressure. That's not to say I should sit back and take it easy, far from it, but I should stick to what I enjoy and push myself when it feels right to do so. Anyway enough navel gazing, bottom line is that I had a great time and I found myself looking forward to the next time so today I went with Ruby for a five mile run on Bweeng Mountain and despite the wind and rain it was great to be out and I felt like mentally a weight had been removed. Now I'm looking forward to whatever the next outing brings.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon.

Well that's another marathon under my belt but I confess to not really feeling any sense of achievement or satisfaction this time. The main emotion is disappointment with my performance and the sense that perhaps marathons are not for me. This is my fourth one and the last six miles of each of them has been an experience of distress to varying degrees which is not perhaps actually good for either the body or soul.

Saturday December 7th;

I entered this marathon as a way of maintaining  my focus and giving me something to aim for late into the winter. I hadn't realized that it would be such a big event and I was surprised to find that over two thousand enter the three events ( full, half and 10K). The idea of a run by the sea promised to be interesting at this time of year. The sixty euro entrance fee also was a bit of a shock. Anyway this time I was determined to try and get in some long runs before the event and in the month before I managed two 18 mile + and two 15 mile+ runs and these went well. I had stood on the scales a few weeks before for the first time in perhaps six months and I was horrified to find I had put on over half a stone in weight and I decided to go on a diet to try and shed a few pounds. I gave it a good go for the first week and was again horrified at the end of it to find that instead of losing a pound or two I had put one on. I confess to feeling a sense of depression and hopelessness and the diet went out the window. I continued to train but mentally I was in a bad place and I wasn't looking forward to the race, in fact, better to say I was dreading the whole thing. Anyway the day arrived and I was going to give it my best shot.

So I got up at five thirty and after a coffee and biscuit I set off. Now that I was actually in motion my mood lightened. The morning was pleasant but there was a fair bit of fog en route so full concentration was required as I traveled unfamiliar roads. When I crossed the Lee near Coachford there followed a twisty tree lined road that climbed for a fair while and all I could think was that it would make a great cycle some day, what is wrong with me?. Anyway as I got further there was an almost imperceptible lightening in the sky yet it was still quite dark as I entered Clonakilty. I'm not familiar with the town but it was just a case of following the traffic in order to find the registration place.  There was a bit crowd about and a big queue for the registration. Things were a bit chaotic and they ran out of pins to clip on the number and I had to take a large top (too big for me) so I was a bit disappointed with that. There was no other freebies on offer which I thought was quite mean considering the hefty entrance fee. Anyway I had my number and since it was still an hour to the off I returned to my car and listened to some "tuneage" until it was time to walk the mile or so to the start line. I was now actually feeling quite good and since there was no turning back I was looking forward to the challenge ahead. I arrived at the start ten minutes before the off and there was a big crowd assembled in what was a large square waste area behind a modern development on the outskirts of town. There wasn't the usual DJ whipping the crowd to a frenzy yet despite this there was a definite sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. The half marathon started elsewhere and the full marathon was due off at 09.10. The allotted time duly arrived and we were off.
What a fabulous morning for a run.
Lovely start...these pictures aren't mine I hasten to add.

By Long Strand
Very quickly we left the buildings behind and immediately it was clear why the title of Waterfront Marathon was used as were ran along a harbor-side road towards the rising sun, it was glorious. I was determined to try and listen to my body as I went and I soon settled into a comfortable rhythm, whether that was going at eight or nine minute mile pace I didn't care as long as I was running comfortably within myself. As it happens it was at about 8 minute 20 per mile and I was happy to settle for that. The route soon left the water behind and we ran along lovely rural country lanes liberally sprinkled with the large new build homes that were a feature of the "Celtic Tiger" and  many farmsteads that worked the excellent quality land in the area. One delight was the approach to the little village of Milltown which as well as being slightly downhill (that always helps) there was a lovely stream cutting through a shady deciduous woody glen that abounded with mossy dry-stone walls and ferns, it was magical. Next we ran by the impressive "Castlefreke" ruins and then before we knew it we were near the sea once again. Now though we came to the first real hill of the day which was a stiff climb for about 500 meters in length. I managed this easily and I was feeling quite good, my confidence was improving a bit. From  the top there was a great view onto Roscarbery Bay and we ran down and then alongside the lovely and aptly named "Long Strand" before once again reaching the sea at the delightfully named "Dirk Bay". Here we left the sea behind and the next six miles were inland.



 I knew that there was a substantial climb in the offing and while I wasn't looking forward to it I was hopeful that the downhill section that followed would  allow me to recover somewhat and see me towards the 20 mile mark. Once I passed the half marathon distance I knew that I was now on the homeward side and that each mile done made the finish that bit more attainable. The hill when it arrived was not actually that bad. It rose very gradually to a crest before turning right into the village of Ardfield which I hoped was the top but alas it continued on before finally reaching the top at the 17 mile mark. I must confess to by now feeling the effects of the run and I was looking forward to hopefully recovering a bit on the downhill section. Alas it was not to be for as soon as I started down the slope I got a viscous belly ache and I had to find the first exit from the road and urgently go to the toilet. After this I'm afraid things just got worse. A certain amount of queasiness remained and the legs just got worse and worse. I struggled on to the twenty mile mark and even at this stage I was still after maintaining an 8 minute 20 second pace. From here on I was reduced to occasionally walking and even this was getting increasingly painful. I still was experiencing stomach cramps and was often tempted to try and find another toilet spot but I reckoned that if I stopped I wouldn't get going again. My hoped for time of 3 hours 45 mins was not now possible and I just hoped break the four hour barrier. Sweets and Cola were on offer at the frequent water stations but they only made me feel ill so I passed them up on the last couple. My mood wasn't helped by the banal, so called inspirational writings, written large on the mile markers but probably that was due more to my suffering than anything else, I'm sure the intention was good. Eventually the 25 mile marker passed and I knew that one way or the other I would get to the end but my word I was feeling rubbish. About this point I was passed by the pacemakers for the four hour mark and I tried my best to keep up with them yet try as I might they slowly but surely pulled a couple of hundred meters ahead. Its truly amazing how long the few hundred meters after the 26 mile mark can be and I was never more relieved to finally cross the finish line.
How I managed a smile I don't know...perhaps twas my goodies

 I was in truth too distressed to give a monkeys about the time and more intent on finding somewhere to go to the toilet again. I was totally spent and despite the benign weather I was starting to feel the cold. The foil blanket was welcome and necessary and I hugged it around me. I was given a banana and a bottle of water after the line but I could really have used some soup or something hot but I couldn't see any to be had. After my toilet stop there was nothing for it but to make my way back to the car. The walk seemed endless and I was really cold and weary by the time I got there. I wasted no time in changing into fresh warm clothes and after a while I started to feel a bit better. There were showers available in the hotel but I didn't fancy the four hundred meter walk to reach it so I decided to head home immediately where a hot bath awaited but first I needed something to eat. I stopped at a service station on the edge of town and, oh dear, I'm afraid my first attempt at walking to the shop wes painful and faltering, but I got there and a large roll and good coffee gave some fuel to the starved engine. A weary drive home followed and the bath was indeed welcome but the weariness will linger for a while yet.

Overall it was a well run event on a lovely scenic course. The stewarding was first class and there were plenty of water stations all along the route. An inspired idea was to have your first name printed in bold letters across the number bib and it was great to hear people offering personalized encouragement along the way. It was a pity not to be able to get the correct size top and registration was a bit chaotic. There was plenty of stuff for sale at check in but considering the hefty entry fee a goody bag with even a few bars inside would have been welcome as would some hot food at the finish. Perhaps posting the registration pack would be a better idea and make it less of a chore getting to the starting line. I will have to reevaluate my goals for the future. Right now I'm not sure if marathons are for me but perhaps that decision is best left for now.

Monday, November 25, 2013

There's Nothing Like Variety

This weekend I had a lovely varied time. On Saturday I went for a couple (yes a couple) of runs with the force of nature that is Kevin and on Sunday I had a lovely hike on the Reeks with Frank.


Saturday November 23rd;

I took the train to Midleton to meet Kevin on a stunning clear frosty morning. It meant an early start but it was so worth it to arrive at the start of the cliff path in the lovely village of Ballycotton with brilliant sunshine and frost still coating the landscape. I had walked this trail decades ago but I had long since forgotten what it was like so it was like discovering it anew. We quickly got ready and the chill air meant we didn't delay before the off. The plan was to run the clifftop trail which lasts for almost four kilometers and return via the road to the village which a total of 10 kilometers. Boy oh boy it was a treat. A nice firm narrow track wound its way in a lovely undulating meander along the clifftops. On our right fertile farmland rolled away inland and on our left the blue ocean was a joy to behold. A little fishing boat chugging along was the only thing to break  the calm carpet of unending blue. The short uphill sections were followed by lovely downhill stretches so the going was always interesting and varied. All too soon the trail came to an end and we had to turn onto the tarmac. Still the return had its compensations and we could see the Knockmealdowns and Comeragh mountains in the distance and of course the sea was never out of sight for too long. We clipped along at a good pace (for me) and we soon entered the village. I tried to up the pace for the final kilometer but I hadn't bargained for the stiff little pull back up to the car and I was reduced to my usual shuffle to the finish, unlike Kevin who took off in a rapid sprint and sustained it until the car. I was tired and delighted all at once. It had been a real joy to experience such a different outing and of course the banter was great.
Ideal Running Trail

Ballycotton Lighthouse

Stellar Weather

Trails End

Anyway us being us and the day being so young Kevin proffered the opportunity to visit Killagh Woods and I agreed. I had been here once before and it is a beautiful compact deciduous wood that has a variety of trails that never climb too steeply. There is a lovely little river that runs through the middle of it and this just adds to the already great feel of the place. I must confess to feeling the first run in the legs a bit but we set a steady (relaxed, slow...) pace and just enjoyed ourselves. Here we were mostly in the shade with the occasional bursts of sunshine breaking through. The ground was completely carpeted with fallen leaves and our progress was accompanied by the crunch and rustle as we ran. I was fast running out of puff and we decided to call a halt after six kilometers. The final kilometer back to the car was along a sunken path about four feet wide that was so like something straight from "Lord of the Rings"that I half expected to see Frodo coming towards me. I was delighted with our morning. Both runs had been over entirely different terrain and both were the finest of their type. I look forward to revisiting both spots again in the not too distant future.

Sunday November 24th;
Easy ridge to the summit

When I arose this morning any hopes I harbored of another sunny frosty day were quickly dispelled as I looked out on a gloomy overcast sky. Still it was dry, which is always a plus and I harbored hopes that there might even be a temperature inversion in the offing. I set off back to Killarney on the train to meet with Frank and I must confess to having felt quite weary. I'm not sure if it was the effects of yesterday or just a culmination a generally fairly busy time but I was more ready to hit the bed than the slopes by the time I reached Killarney. Still it is always a pleasure to hook up with Frank and he promised to take it easy on me. We settled on climbing Maolan Bui (The Bone) on the Reeks. It had been quite a while since we had gone up the long spur to the ridge on the East Reeks and it promised to just fit the bill, being neither too strenuous or severe. It was also heartening to see that the weather was much brighter in the area than at home and this made for a welcome change. So after our usual coffees we hastened to Lisliebane and we were quickly on our way. As I suspected or at least hoped, once I was out and actually moving I started to liven up and soon any lethargy was forgotten. The "Hags Glen" was holding a fair bit of cloud but there were breaks and occasionally the tops were to be seen. It was something of a surprise to see that even up at 3000 ft there wasn't any sign of frost. We took it nice and leisurely and enjoyed the experience of our majestic surroundings. Eventually we reached the summit and now we were treated to stunning views down to the eastern side. We had a bite to eat in a windless sunny summit and soaked up the views. After our respite we headed off along the easy ground over Cnoc na Cuillan, then down and up to Cnoc na Toinne. Here we opted to go down the "Zig Zags" as I was ancious to see for myself the state of this trail. It was quite the shock to see the erosion that has already occurred on this track that a mere four years ago was only a slight barely visible line down the side of the mountain.


Stunning views


Terrible erosion in a short time.

Sometimes I despair at the stupidity of the mountaineering bodies in this place. When a proposal five years ago suggested putting a safe "Tourist Track" up the Devils Ladder there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by local mountaineering clubs and even the mountain rescue who all came down heavily against the idea. Local guiding groups then started using the Zig Zags and this has led to this latest damage. Eventually there will be a path made but I fear not before irreparable damage has been done. Anyway we were now moving rapidly and I was back in town in good time to get the early train. It had been another lovely day and as I traveled home I felt fortunate indeed to have been able to experience and enjoy such a great variety of the best this land has to offer.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Carrauntoohil with James

Sunday 17 November;

Today I went to Killarney to have a hike with James Moore. It had been far too long since we were last out and this was too good an opportunity to miss. James has been working hard on his fitness over the last couple of years and has been concentrating mainly on road running. A few years ago I would have to take it easy if we went on a run together but now the tables have turned and he can sustain a six minute mile pace while it would give me all I could do to break seven minutes for one. Anyway he had been to Killarney  the day before with his club for a race and social evening and as it had been quite a while since he had been on the mountains we decided to go for a hike.

I have been trying to get in a few long runs of late to try and prepare for a marathon I intend to run in Clonakilty on December 7th. I went for a nineteen miler on Saturday and found it tough, very tough. I ran over Bweeng Mountain and this added over 400 meters of climbing to the route and I guess I paid the price for it in the latter stages as the last three miles were brutal. Its fair to say that I still felt the effects of that outing as I set off for Killarney but I reckoned that a hike was just the ticket to try and stretch out my aching muscles. The weather forecast was for rain to arrive in the morning and continue for the day so it was a pleasant surprise to arrive in town and see that the skies remained largely clear. I collected James from his hotel and after a brief discussion we decided to climb Carrauntoohil and off we set. It was great to see him and we nattered away as we had a fair bit of catching up to do. We were changed and ready for the off at 9.45 and still the weather played ball. It is always a joy to walk into the "Hags Glen" and this amphitheater of 3000 ft plus peaks never fails to inspire. We decided that we would go up the "Heavenly Gates" and  then see from there. I don't think I ever actually climbed the mountain by this route as I normally use it in descent but it is a delight whichever way you go and it shows the impressive ridges and cliffs to their best effect. We were delighted to get a great view of a wild goat perched on a ledge on Primroses Ridge and he looked positively regal as he surveyed all beneath him. Onwards we went and we soon reached the col by the Devils Ladder.
King Puck

Sorry James, not your most flattering pose


The Hags Glen

The Heavenly Gates


The 300 meter slog from here is always a chore and there was nothing for it but to put the head down and plod on. As we got higher the wind got stronger and colder and there was a real bite of winter by the time we reached the summit. I also had a touch of rubber legs and was in dire need of something to eat. We had intermittent views when the clouds parted but the cold ensured we didn't tarry and we left as soon as we had eaten. We both agreed that a swift return to lower ground was the best option and we descended via the Heavenly Gates again. Once we were down under the cloud the temperatures improved dramatically and we enjoyed glorious views down and across the plain of north Kerry. We were back at the car about four hours after setting off and in a reversal of what normally happens when I'm out with Frank I dropped James back to the train station. The weather was now lovely and thankfully the bad weather forecast hadn't materialized. We have plans to get out and about soon, only this time I hope James will take it easy on me during our runs.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

TOMIES WOOD AND GLENA COTTAGE

Today I once again went to Killarney to have a hike with Frank. Alas once again the weather was pish so we opted to do something different. Since I ran a circuit of Lough Leane a couple of months ago I have wanted to go back and revisit the beautiful trail that goes from the western end of Tomies Wood  through the rhododendrons to the shores of Lough Leane and the ruins of Glena Cottage.
Frank enjoying the day

O'Sullivans Cascade


Doing chin ups 
We started in the rain and ended in the rain but we ended the day completely smitten and enchanted by our outing. From the car we walked the forestry road for a few kilometers until we diverted briefly to look at the lovely O'Sullivans Cascade. After this there is a gradual pull up to the 200 meter contour where you leave the road and cross some rough boggy ground and just when you think that the way ahead is barred by an impenetrable thicket of rhododendron a tunnel like trail appears and from here for the next couple of kilometers you enter another world of enchanting trail that has the feel of something straight out of a Terry Pratchett novel. Eventually after a steep slippery descent to the lake you come to the ruins of Glena Cottage. A holiday retreat built in the early 19th century by Lady Kenmare and where Queen Victoria lunched when she visited the area. It burnt down in the 1920's but it is still an atmospheric place to visit. We explored hereabouts for a bit and then not wanting to try and cross the truely trying O'Sullivan's Punchbowl we turned and retraced our steps. The climb back up was a bit testing but soon passed and eventually we reemerged into the open ground by Tomies Wood. We returned to the car via the higher road and Frank even wanted to jog some of it. So four hours after we set off we arrived at the car where we changed out of our wet gear and set off for home. It is a spot we will definitely revisit again in the future and makes for an excellent bad weather outing.
Slippery and a surprisingly big drop beneath


Wonderful place

The ruins of Glena Cottage

Gorgeous trails 

Typical trail

Actually much darker

Back in the open ground above Tomies Wood

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Coumloughra Horseshoe In Kerry

Today I went with Frank to have another hike in the Kerry Mountains. The weather forecast wasn't great with plenty of heavy showers predicted and with the cloud covering the tops it seemed that that was the way it was going to be. I left it up to Frank to decide where he wanted to go and I was delighted he opted for the Coumloughra Horseshoe. This is one of the best circuits in the area and takes in the three highest peaks in the country. We had our customary coffee and set off and after about fifteen miles we parked up in the excellent new carpark by the "hyrdo road" on the east side of the Reeks.

The hydro road had a charm that is well buried under the rough concrete surface and is best dispatched as quickly as you can. It is a steep-ish plod that rises straight from the car but once you reach the turn to the right the gradient eases and it allows the opportunity to take in the ever expanding views to the west and across to the Dingle peninsula. We opted to do the round in an anti clockwise direction as this means that while the ascents are steeper the long descent from Caher is much nicer and a fitting finish to the day. Once we reached Scregmore we were in the mist and there was a damp chill to the stiff breeze but it didn't matter as we were well wrapped up and we are well used to a lot worse. We made good progress and stopped for a bite of lunch on Beenkeragh before crossing the ridge and easily climbing the 400 ft to the summit of Carrauntoohil. On the way up we passed a couple of guys who caused me to do a double take before I believed my eyes, they had ice axes. I couldn't pass without asking and it transpired they thought that there might have been snow in Central Gully and one said he would have used it to make an anchor for the rope in the gully. I was a bit dumbfounded and decided to press on before I said something I regretted. My God the incredible ( lets be charitable and say) silliness of some people never fails to surprise. I mean it was fifteen or sixteen degrees at the car and there hadn't been a cold day yet this autumn, how did they think snow would be there??. Anyway onward over Caher and we were back under the cloud soon enough. The views were a delight and we stopped frequently to take a few pics and enjoy the array of colour and beauty. Back at the car in a little over five hours and we were really pleased with our day. We were dry once we emerged from the mist and the weather had improved throughout the day, result.
Looking in from Lough Eighter

Feeling the pressure

Looking west on the way down from Caher

A wee bit wind blown

The way up

Stunning Landscape

Monday, October 14, 2013

Valentia Island Half Marathon Weekend

I returned to south west Kerry this weekend to take part again in the Valentia Half Marathon. It had been two years since I last did it and after my (for me at least) good showing in the Killarney Adventure Race I felt that I might have sufficient left in my legs to have a good race here. I was mistaken.

Quaint clock tower.
I left home after work Friday afternoon and enjoyed the almost two hour drive to the excellent campsite at Mannix Point in Caherciveen. This is is a beautifully situated very well equipped site where it is possible to pitch your tent right by the waters edge. The weather was great and set fair for the whole weekend so I was more than a little surprised (and delighted) to have practically the entire site to myself. Not another tent was on view. I know its late in the season but with such super weather I thought that more people would be taking advantage of conditions. Still I wasn't complaining and I enjoyed a lovely sunset and a bite to eat and relaxed in the excellent sitting room for the remainder of the evening.
The view from my tent

I slept really well and the only noise to break the silence was the occasional haunting cry of passing seabirds. The morning was overcast and there was a slight chill breeze but it was dry and there was no hint of rain, always a bonus in the middle of October. The race wasn't until mid-day so after a good breakfast of porridge and coffee and cake I went for a stroll into the sleepy town of Caherciveen. For a town situated on the famous Ring of Kerry, it is perhaps the least celebrated in the area. Its fair to say that it perhaps lacks charm in places but there are some wonderful bits, not least the very impressive RC church and the "Old Barracks" museum with more than a hint of a fortification from the Rhineland about it. Of course it is easy to miss both the good and the not so good as you will probably be enchanted by the stunning landscape that surrounds you.
The Old Barracks

The disused Railway Viaduct

The imposing RC Church

After killing enough time I set off on the drive to Knightstown and arrived in good time for the off. I like this little village and the quaint clock tower on the quay only adds to the feel of the place. There was a fair number of people milling about but it was also clear that there hadn't been a big explosion in the number since I last took part. This was something of a surprise to me as it is surely one of the most beautiful routes anywhere in the country, but I suppose the serious runners would be put off by the substantial hills in the course that preclude having a very fast time. Anyway I checked in and collected my timing chip and number and soon enough we were gathered for the off. I set off at a steady good pace and was feeling quite good as we left the village and commenced the gradual but long climb up to the slate quarry.  As you go along the views to the north get better and better. Down to the rugged shore below and beyond to the Dingle peninsula and the Blasket Islands. I was surprised to see that there were no mile markers and the first marker was at two kilometers. I was still feeling OK and I pushed on. Alas after about four kilometers I was starting to feel a bit whacked but I reasoned that once I reached the quarry in another kilometer I would be turning back downhill and I would recover then. It was more than a bit disappointing to discover that the downhill was difficult as well. By the time I turned for the next short hill I was starting to wonder if I would be able to finish the run. I'm afraid I had to slow down and try and find a rhythm that I could maintain and try to concentrate on getting to the end. I guess you could say I found a level of distress that I could live with and eventually the miles passed and I could envisage the end. For the last few miles I felt as if I had completed a full marathon and I was mightily relieved to finally reach the finish line in the village. I finished in 104 minutes and I was pretty disappointed with that but once I had recovered a bit I began to feel pleased that I had stuck it out and finished the run. A great spread of soup and sandwiches went a long way to restore my spirits and at after a while once I was sufficiently rested I left for a hike on Bray Head at the westernmost extreme of the island. This is a short six kilometer hike out to the impressive rugged end of the island that affords stunning views in all directions, not least out to the gorgeous Skellig Rocks. Oh dear I was weary but I reasoned that the gentle climb and easy hike would be a good warm-down for my tight leg muscles. I took a fair few pictures and returned to the campsite where I enjoyed a long hot shower and a good feed. It had been a tough day but ultimately a rewarding one.
Bray Head

Panoramic view towards Caherciveen

Panoramic view from my tent

Valentia late Quarry

North from the quarry

Puffin Island

The Skellig Rocks

Signal Tower on Bray Head
I awoke Sunday morning after a decent sleep and was pleased that I had largely recovered from the day before. I obviously felt some after-effects but I was actually looking forward to going for a cycle on what was another great weather day. So after a light breakfast I suited up and set off for a circuit that I had planned on doing a couple of years before but hadn't done it due to bad weather. Now I had no excuses so off I set, a bit gingerly at first, in the direction of Waterville and the plan was to head into Ballinskelligs, onwards to St Finnans Bay, up over the big hill behind and down into PortMagee and then back to Caherciveen. A total of 52 kilometers but it was the 250 meter climb out of St Finnans Bay that I was dreading the most. Still that was some way off and I was enjoying  myself, relaxing and taking in the views as I pedaled along. The roads were lovely and quiet on this sleepy Sunday morning and I was able to enjoy an almost solitary experience. Soon I reached the turnoff for Ballinskelligs and after the village there was the 100 meter pull to the col where, once you pass the crest you are presented with the most delicious vista from the delightful bay to Puffin Island and out to the iconic Skellig Rocks. I had to stop and try and capture the scene with my excellent camera phone.
St Finnans Bay

Puffin Island

A crowded beach
A lovely downhill stretch follows where I focused my attention out to sea and tried to ignore the the ever larger bulk of the hill behind the bay that I had to somehow climb over to reach Portmagee. There was nothing foe it but to give it a go. Perhaps I am overstating the size of the challenge a bit but it does involve a steep 250 meter climb where at times the gradient is well over 10 degrees. I wasn't in the mood, or indeed able, to try any heroics so I popped the bike into its lowest gear at set on up. It went pretty well but higher up where fatigue and steeper sections arrived I struggled and at times I was going at barely a walking pace, but I was still going. At last the top arrived and a well earned rest to enjoy the view. There followed the fastest mile I have ever done on the bike on the equally steep descent towards Portmagee. It was an ample reward for the test of before and I was in the village in no time. Now came the final eight miles back to the campsite where I enjoyed another healing shower before packing up and heading home. The day wasn't finished giving yet though as I came back via the lovely Ballygisheen Pass. This afforded me the opportunity to enjoy the best that the stunning Everagh Peninsula has to offer. I stoped at the pass and climbed up a couple of hundred meters and jut enjoyed the majesty of it all. The Reeks loomed large to the east and many of the other beautiful mountains that I have been lucky to explore added to the vista. I returned home very content with another visit to the very special southwest of Kerry.
Above Portmagee

A new windfarm

Panoramas from the pass

Looking east

Looking West