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 runningĀ  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 …