It’s Been a Long Time Baby

It’s been 8 months since I wrote anything here? Golly.

So, I bought a boat in the end. An eleven year old wooden GP14. Daniel came on board and we spent the summer and Autumn trying not to be last in the club racing at Sutton Dinghy Club. We managed second from last once or twice and were bloody happy with that!

Mark, Daniel and a GP14 called Kaya

In all seriousness, sailing is an incredible sport. There’s so much to learn technically, yet someone with very little experience can get out there for a Sunday afternoon of seriously exhilarating racing. On a sunny day with a 15 to 20 knot breeze, it can’t be beaten.

Late in October, the Hot Toddy GP14 meet at Sutton was definitely the highlight of the whole season. Force 4-5 winds, 4 races offshore and 20+ GP14 crews made for a real taste of what serious dinghy racing is all about. We won ourselves a “good effort for a newcomer” trophy, but after Hugh Gill talked me through some photos of the event I’m only itching for the new season to start and make a better effort to keep up with the fleet this year.

In late August we spent a week trekking the northern half of the GR20 in Corsica, organised by UTracks. It’s a pity I didn’t do a proper day-by-day blog of the trek, but anyway …

The GR20 is known as the “toughest long distance trek in Europe” and I can see why now. Sure, there’s a lot of ascent and descent on the stages, but then you have to factor in the serious heat and the fact that it’s not a nice Alpine footpath, but a series of boulder field and bone-jarring scrambles. We really enjoyed the week, and the scenery was incredible, but we’re very glad we didn’t sign up for the full two week GR20 trek.

The most famous part of the GR20 is the Cirque de la Solitude. Basically, you get up to a col and find that the path becomes a very exposed, near vertical, 200m drop followed by a near vertical 200m ascent. Our guide book claimed the section is completely over-hyped, but honestly we were surprised that thousands of people go through there every year. In the Alps, this would be via ferrata, you’d wear a harness and helmet and you’d be cliped safely into iron rails. Here, you just had a ladder or two and some rusty old iron chains. Me abiding memory is of Catherine climbing up a slab behind me and thinking “if she slips now, she’s gone”.

In this photo, the route starts at the bottom of the photo and ends at the col at the top. One of the little specks up the top is a person.

Cirque de la Solitude

In October, I went along to Dublin Marathon and helped out in the baggage area to give a bit back after running it last year. After running with her a fair bit over the summer, it was brilliant to meet Maura after she had gotten over the line in under four hours.

In November, Paula and I entered in the Cooley Raid adventure race. The 8 hours kayaking, mountain running, mountain biking, more mountain running  and more mount biking was a tough day out, but great fun. We didn’t push ourselves too hard during the day, since we wanted to make sure we finished. We did actually do the bonus run section and got to every checkpoint, which we were very proud of. Apparently it’s unusual to sit in the middle of the race and stuff your face with pasta, judging by the chuckles we got!

Paula and Mark at the Cooley Raid – taken by maryd0502

My running took a bit of a nose dive after adventure race as my good friend, shin splits, paid me an extended visit over the last few months. I’m back comfortably running 10-15k again, and looking forward to some good running over the next year. The IMRA season kicked off in Howth again this year, but with a much more interesting route. It was nice to go along and run a reasonably time without pushing too hard.

Up the mountains

Over the winter, Catherine and I surprised ourselves by getting out in the mountains fairly regularly. We got up Lugnaquilla, Glendalough/Camaderry, Glendalough/Mullacor/Derrybawn, Crone/Lough Tay/Djouce, Coumshingaun in the Comeraghs, the Knockmealdown and Galtymore. Some of the days out have been magical – cold, dry and sunny with the mountain tops covered in snow and ice. We can definitely recommend winter hiking in Ireland!

Cathy on Djouce

But there’s more adventuring to come yet! At the end of February, the two of us are off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, then to chill on the beach in Zanzibar before going on safari in Kenya. Let’s see if I can get around to writing some decent blogs on that trip …


Emer Casey Memorial 10k

Catherine and I went along to the second Emer Casey Memorial 10k in Youghal this weekend.

Emer was a colleague, and fellow trainee solicitor, of Catherine’s in Matheson, Ormsby, Prentice until she tragically died from ovarian/uterine cancer 2 years ago. The Emer Casey Foundation website talks about how much Emer is missed, and the size of this event just goes to show much that is true.

I can only guess how many runners and walkers participated on Sunday, but I’d guess somewhere around 500 people. It looks like the foundation will be able to channel lots more much needed funds into researching the early diagnosis of this form of cancer. Last year they managed to raise an amazing €160,000.

Many congrats to all the folks involved in organising the event and thanks to the people of Youghal for the very warm welcome. I know I’ve never been to a race before where I got a cup of tea, tasty sandwiches, some cake and a hot shower afterwards.

Youghal Lighthouse – taken by huggs2

I found the route of the run itself fairly unusual. After the first k or so, it went fairly steeply downhill for at least a couple more k with the rest of the race consisting of an out and back along the windy seafront. So, a long downhill, lots of flat and no significant uphill.

I would have loved that except a bad case of shin splints had me reduced to a slow jog on the downhill. Once I hit the flat, though, I pushed myself harder than usual and finished in reasonable 48 minutes.

The surprise of the day was my wee little wifey, who had been aiming to finish in 60 minutes, crossed the line in a brilliant 54 minutes!

IMRA Leinster League :: Corrig

I only decided at the last minute to go along to the Corrig race (I was supposed to be seeing a man about a boat – more on that later), so when I arrived at the car park of Scholar’s pub near Tallaght, it wasn’t just for selfless reasons I was looking to carpool … I hadn’t a clue where Corrig was 🙂

Sean O’Byrne was kind enough to give me a lift to the start, and it was definitely the most isolated run I’d been to so far. I don’t think I could find the place again if I went looking … Funny to arrive at a random forest track and see a little gazebo with a line of runners queueing up to register.

It was a fun race – straight up the mountain, down into a boggy saddle to another small summit, back across the bog again and then down to the start by a different route.

Me and Barry Dooley – taken by Colleen Robinson

I definitely didn’t have the energy in my legs to make a decent fist out of racing, but it was nice to have a sprint finish with Barry Dooley who I’d had a good chat with at the start line. Final result – 116th place, 46 minutes 31 seconds and a poor 146% of the winning time.

(Nice to see the IMRA site improving all the time with new features like “marked runners”, “this is me” and the much needed slideshow for the photos. Yay! 🙂


Catherine, I, Conor and Donal went for a walk up Lugnaquilla recently on a fairly damp, gloomy day.

We took a fairly unconventional route – again thanks to Lonely Planet’s Walking in Ireland – starting at the footbridge in Glenmalure, up the road to the bigger car park and the youth hostel, up through Fraughan Rock Glen onto the eastern spur of Lug, to the summit and back to the start via Clohernagh.

Looking Back Down To Fraughan Rock Glen and Glenmalure

Once we climbed up out of the boggy Fraughan Rock Glen, I really enjoyed getting up onto the spur and finding the summit in the dense mist. Lug is a bizarre place in low visibility; a flat grassy summit with serious drops on either side – the North and South Prisons – and lots of people milling about, having their lunch on the cairn marking the summit.

Top Of Lugnaquilla

The sun made an appearance as we started down from Clohernagh which is probably what made us go a bit wrong. Rather than taking a northern spur down to Art’s Lough, we went down the eastern spur and ended up at the opposite side of the forest from where the zig-zag path to footbridge begins. Full of beans, we started ploughing through the dense forest thinking it wouldn’t be long before we came upon the path. A good 45 minutes later, we finally made it through, scratched to pieces and with a nice collection of pine needles in our clothes.

Conor, Me and Donal

Unlike the rest of us, Donal – the one who wanted to turn back half way up – seemed to love this part. The quote of the day was definitely his “every day should have a moment when you feel like Rambo” …

Buying a Boat, Step One

Step one – fit a towbar to your car.

If I’m to buy a boat, I’m going to need to be able to tow it back from wherever I buy it. So, after getting a €615 quote from Finglas Ford, I decided to buy a Bosal detachable towbar (€180) and wiring kit (€60) from and fit it myself.

Well … “myself” might be a slight exaggeration … I actually went down to Waterford yesterday to my ould fella, made him cancel his Saturday morning golf and spent the entire day with him figuring it out.

Here’s a rough summary of the steps it took to fit it to me ’06 Ford Focus:

  1. Jack up the back of the car and remove both back wheels for easier access. Otherwise you’ll have to just work around the wheels.
  2. Remove most of the panels from the inside of the boot – the carpet, spare wheel, panel at the back of the car and soft panels on either side.
  3. Next remove the bumper – there are two screws underneath the car, another couple either side of the boot opening, a couple of torx screws in the rear wheel housing and, finally, behind the wheel housing cover there’s a small bolt. With all them removed, you should be able to pop off the bumper and detach it from the cables for the reverse and fog lights.
  4. Now detach the “bumper insert” – a big chunk of metal held on by three nuts underneath on each. You won’t need this again.
  5. In its place, slide in the towbar frame and fasten it with the four nuts and bolts supplied.

Here’s what the towbar looks like attached and detached.

Detachable Towbar

That’s the easy part, believe it or not. Now you need to fit up the electronics.

In the wiring kit, you get a black relay box, a length of 7-wire cable with a connector for the relay box and another length of 7-wire cable with a socket at one end which gets fitted to the hitch. The basic idea is that you need to locate 7 wires – left/right indicator, left/right park, brake, fog and reverse – and connect each the wires to first length of cable using snap-on connectors.

However, things are complicated slightly by the fact that the relay box itself needs its own independent power source direct from the batter. So, you need to take a feed from the fuse box, get it out of the engine compartment, through the car and into the boot.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find each of the 7 wires – for the 2 indicators, 2 parking lights, fog, brake and reverse – by tracing the wires back from the bulbs to a convenient place to tap into them. We removed the sets of light holders on either side of the boot and traced the first 4 wires from there. The other three we traced from the bumper connector. Use a digital voltmeter, turn off all lights except the one you’re testing, find the live connector and trace the wire back.
  2. Once you’ve located where you’re going to tap into the wires, decide where you’re going to put the relay box. We put it in back left hand side of the boot, down low, behind the paneling.
  3. If you’re going to tap into wires on both sides of the boot – we took the left indicator and park from the left side and the rest from the right side – strip the first 7 wire cable back, split out the wires for each side, wrap them together in insulation tape and feed from the relay box to your tap-in points. Then use the snap-on connectors to tap into the wires.
  4. Next, bore a hole – above where you’re going to fit the wiring socket to the towbar – into the boot compartment. Fit the grommit to the hole and feed in the other end of the cable from the socket and wire that up to the other side of the relay box.
  5. Now locate somewhere in the fuse box to take a permanent (i.e. still live when the ignition is off) live feed. We took it from a “bus bar” in the auxiliary fuse box in the engine compartment next to the battery.
  6. Connect a wire from this point to the supplied little fuse box and from there feed it back out of the engine compartment all the way through the car to the boot. We removed the battery and were able to pass the wire into the car through the hole where a bunch of other wires went, out above the central fuse box underneath the glove compartment, tucking it under the panels below the doors on the passenger side and into the boot.
  7. Now connect the ground wires from the relay box and the towbar socket to a ground source.
  8. Finally … tidy up all the wires and put back the bumper and all of the panels.

Here’s a shot of where we took a live feed from the auxiliary fuse box.

Live Feed

Other notes:

  1. You need quite a selection of tools for this – spanners and sockets/wrench for 6mm to 19mm, torx screwdrivers, voltmeter, wire strippers etc. etc.
  2. Don’t forget to bring the “lock nut” for removing your wheels if you have one. Yes, I forget mine.
  3. Be careful not to assume that a certain colour wire means the same thing everywhere – you need to physically trace the wire – e.g. the wire in the bumper for my reverse light was green/black, but in the boot compartment it was green/orange whereas green/black there was an indicator.
  4. If you do disconnect the battery, you might need a code to get the stereo working again. Don’t expect to be able to ring your dealership on a Saturday evening and get it.
  5. You might run down your battery with all the messing about. That happened with me and we thought we’d seriously screwed something up when relays in the two fuse boxes started making awful sounds and the ignition often wouldn’t turn and, when it did, the engine wouldn’t start. In other words, have a set of jump leads handy.
  6. The relay box that came with the wiring kit makes a sound when a trailer is hooked up and the indicators are on. Don’t worry, this is just to give you peace of mind that the lights are working. It doesn’t sound when there isn’t a trailer hooked up.

IMRA Leinster League – Hellfire

At Aisling‘s suggestion, I wrote the race report for this one:

Hey, it’s sunny out! That can’t be right, surely?

A beautiful, hazy, sunny Wednesday evening saw a motley crew gather in the South Dublin hills for the third installment of the IMRA Leinster League. This week, the location for the race was the Hell Fire Club forest south of Rathfarnham/Ballyboden.

Runners had to negotiate a 6km course involving no less than four steep climbs and similarly steep descents. Apparently, Jane and Graham can be blamed for this “Hellfire and Brimstone” route.

Fortunately, though, the warm weather, the relatively short course and the wide, dry trails made for a thoroughly enjoyable race … if a little frantic on some of the descents.

Also, runners can be proud to have briefly diverted the local hooligans at the Hell Fire Club ruins from their cider flagons for a few minutes!

I really enjoyed this race – nice and short, frantic descents and … yet another battle with Tommy Galvin.

Me and Tommy – taken by Colleen Robinson

I’ve mentioned Tommy as my “nemesis to be” before, and I’m not kidding. Every race we seem to trade places a few times … and this time, I just managed to get home one place and 13 seconds ahead of him! 🙂

Cardiff and Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Walk

Last weekend Catherine, Janina and I visited Vanessa in Cardiff.

Catherine and I went over Thursday morning and stayed in the lovely Vale Hotel in the Vale of Glamorgan, had a massage, wandered around the golf courses, ate, drank and generally just chilled out.

For the rest of the weekend we stayed in Vanessa’s place, close to Bute park in the centre of Cardiff.

On Saturday, Vanessa brought us for a classic Brecon Beacon’s walk where we started at the bottom of Craig y Fan Ddu, around and up to Fan y Big, Cribyn, Pen y Fan, Corn Du and back via the upper Neuadd Resevoir.

It was a long enough walk – maybe six hours at a decent pace – but we were rewarded by stunning view after stunning view. It’s hard to describe the geography of this area of the beacons … it’s like a series of peaks joined by a ridge, the north side of which is a pretty sheer drop and the south side made up by a series of glacial corrie. All that makes for lots of ups and downs and walking along cliff edges.

Cribyn – Humphrey The Camel

“Humphrey the Camel” … WTF? I can’t post that picture without also posting this:

Who’s at the top of Cribyn! – Humphrey The Camel

Strange goings-on seems to be the norm around here – just as we got back to our car, we could see a group of fell runners blithely tearing down the steep slope we had climbed at the start, while at the bottom one of their group was wildly waving his arms pointing another direction. Looks like they’d come down the wrong ridge and the poor buggers had to trudge back up and go down a different way to their cars.

Anyways, it was definitely one of the most enjoyable days walking we’ve had in quite a while. Our appetite has been whetted again for hard walks. Back to Lugnaquilla next weekend!

IMRA Leinster League

Last Wednesday in Howth saw the second race of IMRA’s Leinster League.

Since I know the route well at this stage, I was hoping I’d run it a good bit faster than last time. Off I went at the start, pushing it as hard as I dared on the lap around GAA pitch and into the woods, but it wasn’t long before I started struggling to keep up the pace. By the end of the first lap, I’d lost a good few places, but was happy enough plodding along.

In the end, I finished it a minute and a half faster than last time, but slower in terms of percentage of the winner. Slow down there youse out front!

I live down the road from Howth, so I went up early and helped out with the registration by handing out the race numbers. It was funny still doing registration for the 19.30 start at 19.40, people running in a panic thinking they were late and me saying “I’m running and haven’t even changed yet, so you’re grand”. Nice to chat to Aisling too and do the whole bizarre “I know you from the Internet” thing 🙂

Top of the first ascent – taken by John Shiels

You can’t see it in the photo above, but at other points there was a clear sign of my future dilemma – lots of sailing dinghys out in the bay … It seems that Wednesday night is the night for sailing around Howth, so if I do buy a boat soon I’ll hardly make it to many more of the Wednesday night races.

Hopefully I’ll make it to Hellfire tomorrow night, but goodness knows what time I’ll have to leave work to get all the way over there for 19.30 ….


What’s the most common mistake made by bloggers? Starting out with a flurry of posts and then letting them dwindle until there’s only one in a blue moon. Yeah, well …


Early in March, a group of eight of us went skiing in Söll, Austria. As usual, we had a great week. Lots of skiing, lots of eating, lots of drinking and lots of laughs.

I’d only ever been skiing in Meribel, France before, and I found I didn’t enjoy the skiing itself in Söll quite as much. The Ski Welt area (of which Soll is a part) is pretty huge, so there is plenty of opportunity to explore. Our main problem, though, was that it took us ages to figure out the piste map enough to get out of the immediate Soll area and across towards Scheffau and Ellmau. We weren’t the only ones confused.

Most of our group did group lessons nearly every day, so Marie, Paula and I spent most of the week exploring together. Steve, the owner of our Hotel, the Gansleit, also took us out a few times during the week, which was pretty cool. Nice to have someone in the know guide you rather than having your nose buried in a piste map the whole time.

Me and Marie

As for the apres-ski part … well, we didn’t go too mad this year. Most days we came straight back to the hotel where there was a really nice sauna, steam-room and solarium to chill out in. Much more civilised than heading straight to the pub. Some nights we stayed on in the hotel for drinks after dinner, other nights we headed down to one of the bars in the village. One night we found ourselves in a low-ceilinged bar, heaving with locals, singing “The Irish Rover”. Bizarre, but good craic.

On our second last night, though, the “craic” ended with a “crack”. Messing about with Derek, I found myself flat on my face, with mild concussion, a fat lip and a sore hand. I still went skiing the next day – even leading the whole lot of us around the place – but by the end of the day, from the pain of dragging my gloves on and off, I realised things weren’t right with my thumb at all, at all. Back in Dublin, at hospital, it turned out to be broken. Dammit.



Needless to say, with a cast on my hand I couldn’t get up to much for a few weeks, but Catherine and I did manage to go for a few nice walks.

One of those was the Great Sugar Loaf, which we’d passed so many times on the N11, but hadn’t explored. We took the route suggested by our Lonely Planet “Walking in Ireland” book, going up from the north side and coming down the east flank. On the way up, we met only a small handful of people until just below the top where there was crowds and crowds of mainly families coming from a car park on the south side. We couldn’t wait to get down off there again and away from people.

Another weekend we went back to one of our more regular walks, the Tain Way and Slieve Foye in Carlingford. Living on “de northsoide”, it can be much handier to get up there than across the city to Wicklow. That day was a funny ould day for the weather … you can’t beat the Irish mixture of gale force winds, blissful sunshine, hail, sleet and rain all mixed up together. It’s definitely a walk we’ll do again and again, though. I love emerging from the forest towards the end with a view of the lough, the village and, across the water, the Mourne Mountains.

Top of Slieve Foye, Carlingford

We’ve lots more hiking ahead of us this summer as we’ve just booked ourselves in with UTracks to do the northern half of the GR20 in Corsica this September. The GR20 is supposed to be “the most difficult long distance walking trail in Europe”, so we’re in for a bit of a challenge, but it sounds like it’ll be excellent. I just can’t get my head around the fact that a Mediterranean island, 10% the size of Ireland, has mountains up to 2700m. When we’re done with our weeks trekking, though, we’re going to spend another week chilling out near a beach. I’m almost looking forward to that as much as the first week …


Since I enjoyed the dinghy sailing courses in Sutton Dinghy Club so much last year, I’ve started the process of looking for a boat. Hugh Gill, club manager, was really helpful one lunchtime when I went down there looking for advice.

Hugh in a Pico

There’s so much to think about, it’s not funny. What type of boat? A Laser, an IDRA14, a GP14? If a Laser, then a full rig or a radial? Buy an old boat for a couple of grand, or spend twice that on a newer boat that would last you longer? If the boat doesn’t have a road trailer or trolley, where to pick those up? Where to store the boat out of season? Towbar for the car? Insurance for driving with a trailer? Insurance for the boat? Joining the club? Getting a boat parking space at the club?


I’m leaning towards getting a Laser with a full rig, since it’s single-handed and there’s a fair few adults racing them in the club. I’m right on the recommended weight limit for a full rig, so I’ll probably have a tough time controlling it in strong winds, but maybe that’ll just get me down the gym more …

Now, if I could convince a certain other person that we really wants to take up sailing too, then maybe the slightly more sedate two-handed GP14 might be a good option. We’ll see 🙂

Mountain Running

With the cast off, and some fitness regained, I’m getting back into running again and doing some hill/mountain running.

A couple of weeks ago, I went along and helped out with the registration at the Wicklow Way 22km and 44km races. It was good fun to go along, meet up with some IMRA folks and “do my bit”. No question that all IMRA runners should volunteer regularly since so much work goes into each race with course marking, registration, timing, marshalling, website stuff etc.

Still, though, it’s good that no-one expects too much from the organisers of each race – at Johnnie Foxes, I was given a list of names and told to give a “finishers mug” to anyone registering who had their name on the list. Next thing, Mike and Lindie had disappeared off to set the ultra runners on the way and I was left with a queue of the 22km runners looking to register. “Right then, how does this registration thing work?” was all I could say before getting the folks in the queue to help me figure it out … 🙂

Best part of the day was when Mick Kellett came up to me to register for IMRA for the year and I realised this was someone almost in the M70 category about to run 22km across the Wicklow Mountains. Can I grow up to be like him, Mammy?

Mick Kellet – taken by Forrest5000

Wednesday night in Bray saw the start of IMRA’s Leinster League – 12 races, of which your 7 best results count. I was looking forward to it because it sounded like a nice, straightforward little race to ease back into things – 5km with a 275m climb? No problem.

Except, when I arrived in Bray – yeah, I’d never been to exotic Bray before! – it didn’t look so easy. That cross up on the Head looked like an awful long way up. Once we got going, though, it wasn’t so bad after all … I took it easy on the way up to the cross, not wanting to kill myself early on, and then pushed hard to keep on the heels of my nemesis-to-be, Tommy the Tumbler, across to the second hill and back. On the way back down, I managed to pass Tommy and a bunch of others, but I got my comeuppance back down on the seafront when I totally faded on the last 200m, and had to watch them all go past me again.

Thumbs up No. 92 – taken by Darragh Sherwin

I think that’s what I’m going to enjoy about these IMRA runs – I may have only come 95th out of around 220, with a finishing time 145% of the winner’s time, but it was still great fun “racing” against similarly-paced others. Mediocrity can be fun too!

Next week is in Howth. My home ground. Watch out Tommy!

Racing – taken by Darragh Sherwin

(Poor Tommy if he reads this … I’m sure he’ll wonder “who the hell is this guy?”)

IMRA Winter League 2008 – Carrick Mountain

Saturday’s Carrick Mountain race was “interesting”.

It had all the ingredients of a great day out – a beautiful Spring morning, mixed terrain underfoot and a tough ascent followed by a couple of excellent descents.

Once I’d finished slogging up to the peak, I overtook a bunch of people and crazily tore down the first steep descent straight towards cameraman John Shiels. Thumbs up for the camera, big grin on my face, I turned right and went back uphill with John shouting something after me. It was only a couple of minutes later when I looked back to check that no-one was catching me again did I realise that he’d basically been shouting “You’re going the wrong way you big eejit!”. Doh.

After that, it was a bit hard to stop cursing myself and get back into it, but I did and started counting off the number of people I’d re-taken. On the final descent through the woods, I remember overtaking someone and thinking “that’s number eight” as we barreled down through a mucky cross-roads. Thirty seconds down that track, I realised that all the runners around were stopping and shouting at each other. It turns out that 10 or 15 of us had managed to get lost and had to turn back uphill again to get back on track. Double doh.

At that point, you’d think there every ounce of competitiveness would be gone, but when you hear someone sprinting up behind you at the finish, you’re not going to let them take your hard won 66th place, are you?

Racing – Taken by Darragh Sherwin

Fair play to Darragh for that shot. Hopefully we can the rest of his photos on the IMRA site when he’s got them processed.

From the race report, forum, Rene’s blog etc., it’s clear I wasn’t the only one getting lost up Carrick, which is some consolation. I’d agree with the sentiment, thought, that if I thought it could have been marked or marshaled better, then I should have been out marking and marshaling. It’s clear the organisers of this one had put a lot of effort into coming up with a new and exciting route. And it was certainly that … 🙂

Next week I’m off for a wholly different mountain experience … Skiing in Söll, Austria with a group of friends. Hopefully I’ll hit my first black slope this year. Can’t wait for it now …