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Ireland (Was Amazing.)

December 8, 2014

Ireland (Was Amazing.)

IMG_5239It’s rare that I go anywhere without a bike, and even rarer for Peter—especially when the place in mind has no races, no trade shows, no bike events of any kind.
IMG_5274But when I found a great deal on tickets to Dublin back in July, I knew I wanted to go. So, we spent the past two weeks in Ireland, between Dublin and Galway and all up and down the countryside, exploring, hiking, running and, of course, working. It’s been an amazing pseudo-vacation. (It turns out we are both horrible at relaxation and not working, so even on weekends, we managed to put in a couple of hours of work every day. You can’t change in a week…)
IMG_5407But while our work schedules didn’t waver (we probably got more done than we would back home, especially since we were here for Thanksgiving weekend), our workouts and training certainly were turned upside down.
IMG_5367Tons of walking, tons of hiking and a good amount of running have been the main staples of this trip, and the nearest we can figure, the short days we walked around 10 kilometers, and the long days went up into the 30s walking and running. We hiked under the Cliffs of Moher, scrambled through rock fields and on the edge of cliffs at the Aran Islands, climbed Croagh Patrick and raced down, wandered gardens that inspired Oscar Wilde, and—of course—took in some amazing music, from blues to traditional to a drummer and accordionist playing the Game of Thrones theme song.
IMG_5386This is the first time I’ve stayed in an AirBNB place, and it’s been fantastic. Highly recommend. For us, since we’re so used to host housing, it feels fairly normal, especially since our host is fairly athletic and doesn’t think we’re too crazy. We do seem to astound him with our eating (“Do you always eat like this/that much” is a constant refrain) even though we’re not making anything out of the norm. But the fact that we cook most of our meals in the house and walk to and from the grocery store seems to puzzle him a bit. The amount seems to shock him too, and I guess I can understand that—the amount of veggies alone is usually pretty hefty, and it doesn’t seem like veg is a huge priority at mealtimes here, or at least, not in the sampling of the population that I’ve seen.

This is also the first time that Peter has driven on the wrong side of the road—and in a standard, no less!
IMG_5277I think I was probably more terrified than he was, though. Still, it was worth the terror to have a couple days of driving freedom to get to some places we’d never find on a regular bus tour—like the Silver Strand Beach, which we found completely accidentally while we were trying to find our way home from Croagh Patrick, which was insane. How do normal, non-athletic people climb this?!
IMG_5288 IMG_5302 IMG_5307The coolest part of the trip has honestly been the past few days though—just really settling in and existing in a different place. Jet lag is gone, I sort of understand the Euro conversion, we grocery shop and work and drink coffee in rad cafes and take long walks. Weirdly, I enjoy this normal life stuff as much as I enjoy crazy adventures like the Aran Islands, which were definitely the highlight.
IMG_5470The Isle Mor is ridiculous, and in particular, two main highlights of it. First, there’s the Wormhole, and then, there’s an amazing fort perched on top of a cliff. Between the two is fields and fields of jagged rock. We started running off the ferry on the 16 km loop that goes most of the way around the tiny island, and detoured up toward the fort about halfway around. When we realized it was a pay-for-admission thing, we decided to come back to it if we had time, and set out in search of the Wormhole, this amazing perfect rectangle on the cliffs that acts a bit like a pool, but controlled by the (massive) waves.
IMG_5456When we got somewhat near the cliffs we thought we needed to get to, we ran into a tour guide, who told us how to get to the wormhole (after being shocked that we were running the whole thing. Apparently people don’t do that.)… But he pointed out that the tide was coming in and to be extremely careful.
IMG_5481So we slipped over a ton of rocks and saw the first set of cliffs. I wish I could describe the way the waves look crashing into them, but the color is indescribable. It’s like taking silver mixed with the best of green and blue and smashing it together in this wild, flinging gesture. It’s beautiful and terrifying, and we could see the spray coming well over the tops of the rocks we were staring at. So, we did what sane people would do and kept going… toward the Wormhole, along the cliffs. Peter was the voice of reason, while I was scared to death but absolutely in love with the way the waves looked. I’ve never seen waves so huge, honestly. We crept along under this overhang, jumping around puddles of seawater until we finally reached the Wormhole. Holy god. The water rocked around in it in this brilliant turquoise, ebbing and flowing as the waves echoed into the rocks. You could imagine it as part of mythology, something not good, not evil, just ancient. It was incredible.
IMG_5480We scrambled back up to the top and spotted the fort, tiny in the distance, and decided we had plenty of time to get there if we hurried. So we picked our own lines over the rocks and started the dance up. We stopped to (terrifyingly) glance down over the edge of the cliffs, and pull back. We could see people wandering inside the fenced in section of the fort as we scrambled closer, and I was struck with the intense urge to start shouting and charging towards it—even better if we’d planned ahead and dressed in full costume. Honestly, this island is a LARPer’s wet dream.

(Yes, I said that. And I stand by it.)

The whole island, that section in particular, makes you feel like you’re back in time. There are no No Trespassing or Danger signs, it’s just you, the rocks, and something to defend. The feeling is just something old, something to be respected.

We ran down from the fort again and back to the path, with stone fences sprawling the entire span of the island. Back in town, five hours later, we finally found one tiny shop that was open and sat until the ferry came in, drinking tea and just existing.
IMG_5336That’s what this trip has been about—escaping a bit from normal routine, seeing where we came from, going on some adventures, but doing it the way we know best—by falling back into our natural rhythms, finding our rhythms again, and settling in.
IMG_5494Okay. There was maybe a little racing. But we held back from renting bikes so we could take part, and heckled instead. Nothing funnier than Irish teens shouting “Enduro” on the technical downhill sections.

IMG_5237We came home a few days and real life started up again—and how! It’s been so busy that it took me a week to get to this, despite writing it while we were there…

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