Exploring the world one word…and one mile…at a time

Archive for August, 2013

It’s All About People (Even for an Introvert Like Me)

These pictures illustrate the places where we met them, but this post is about the various people we encountered in Ireland. L to R: the Achill Ultra starting line; the village at Achill Sound; the Galaxy Bar; Gallagher’s Boxty House; and the Yeats exhibit at NLI.

Greetings from Germany…specifically from our cousins’ home south of Frankfurt.  We’ve only been here for one full day, but we already feel settled in and are so grateful for their hospitality and friendship.  We tackled our first post-marathon run together (six scenic miles along the Main River) and enjoyed our first German beers of the trip, including a specially-formulated alcohol-free beer with added vitamins designed for consumption after sports.  Running just got even better!

But before we fill our minds and hearts with new people and adventures here in Germany, we wanted to give a shout out to some of the wonderful folks we met in Ireland.  (more…)


11 Things I Learned on Achill Island

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L to R: Signage just before crossing the bridge into Achill Sound; J and me battling our nerves on race morning; race course signage (the roads were open); the start and finish line as the ultra runners began; mile marker near the finish line showing all three events.

The Achill Ultra race series on Achill Island in Ireland consisted of three events: a half marathon (13.1 miles), a full marathon (26.2 miles) and an ultra-marathon (a whopping 39.3 miles). There were just over 200 runners across all three races, making this a very personal affair. While most of the runners were Irish, we met folks from Ontario and New Jersey as well. And of course, we were in from New Hampshire. (more…)


We’re Off on the Road to Achill Island

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Scenes from our stop at Connemara National Park

We left Clifden Thursday morning with our sights set on tiny Achill Island on Ireland’s west coast.  It was slated as a short drive (less than two hours), but we planned to take our time.  Our first stop—just twenty minutes or so from the inn—was at Connemara National Park.  On any other day, we would have trekked to the top of the park’s famous (and fog-covered) Diamond Hill.  But two days before a marathon is not the time to take on an unknown hike (any hike, really).  (more…)


Easing Into European Time

Hillside

Scenes from the Hillside Lodge (L to R): M settling in to our room; music memories lining the hallway; the sunny breakfast room; fresh buffet; and delicious veggie breakfast.

The highlight of our time in Clifden was our two-night stay at the Hillside Lodge, a modern B&B located on Sky Road a mile or so from the town center.  Our room was comfy and cozy, the perfect place for adjusting to the time change and convenient base for exploring the town on foot.  One of the owners works in the music industry, and the home is a carefully-curated treasure of music memorabilia.  Breakfast each morning consisted of a fresh pot of coffee, generous cold buffet (with fresh fruit, stewed prunes, and homemade granola) and hot selection cooked to order (based on a menu we filled out the prior evening).  Their vegetarian version of a traditional Irish breakfast included veggie sausage, baked beans, and a potato cake.  It was delicious and satisfied us for most of the day. (more…)


Day 1 in Ireland: Cliffs, Cars, and Clifden

Ireland

Day 1 adventures (L to R:) Sunset takeoff from Boston; our tiny, barely-automatic rental car; looking south at the Cliffs of Moher; O’Brien’s Tower atop the cliffs; and veggie fare in Galway.

Greetings from Ireland!  We left from Boston Monday evening on an overnight flight to Shannon Airport on Ireland’s west coast.  Our plan to sleep through the flight and wake up refreshed in the morning was foiled by the fact that you can really only manage about two hours of sleep on a six-hour flight.  So we were more than a little sleepy upon arrival and quickly downed two airport coffees to jump-start our new day.  We picked up the rental car we had reserved in advance, having splurged an extra $100 or so for an automatic.  We’d heard tales of terror about driving on Irish roads, and although we can both drive a stick shift, we didn’t want the added pressure of figuring out how to do that with our left hands.  Driving on the right side of the car on the left side of narrow roads while navigating endless roundabouts would be tricky enough. (more…)


Our Canmore Adventure: Getting to the Hostel!

Canmore

L to R: Post-flooding destruction in Cougar Creek; our cozy hostel, the clubhouse of the ACC; view from the hostel of the Three Sisters peaks; and the picturesque playground downtown where we improvised a cross workout.

Canmore is an interesting gateway town near Banff National Park.  It sits just outside park boundaries on Highway 1 between Banff and Calgary.  At the time of our visit, Canmore was picking up the pieces from devastating flooding that hit Alberta in late June.

Although Highway 1 reopened the day before our visit, allowing us to get to the town, several local roads were closed, including most of the roads that led to our hostel, the Alpine Club of Canada’s Clubhouse.  We found this out the hard way, first when our exit off the highway was blocked and then, after navigating our way back into town, when we encountered two different road closures.  (more…)


Catch Ya on the Flip Side…of the Atlantic

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Our bags are checked, and our flight’s on time!  After a surprisingly uneventful cab ride to the airport (think middle-aged metalhead in a crumb-filled mini-van…),  we cleared security in record time and relaxed over pre-flight veggie burgers and beer.  In a little less than an hour, we’ll board our overnight flight to Ireland.  With any luck, we’ll fall asleep quickly and wake up in the Emerald Isle.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting near-time updates from our travels in Ireland and Germany as well as sharing a series of posts highlighting our recent road trip across the American West.  We hope the resulting “time whiplash” doesn’t deter you from following along. We are looking forward to sharing this next leg of our travels with you. -J&M


Bumming Around Banff

Banff

L to R: Downtown Banff on a perfect afternoon for hanging out on a roof deck; post-storm rainbow outside the hostel; and the Banff Hot Springs just after sunrise.

We rolled into Banff on a warm Saturday afternoon in late June, and the town was buzzing.  It was too early to check into the hostel, so we strolled downtown looking for a pub with outdoor space.  A sidewalk sign announcing “Roof Deck Open” was enough for us.  With heavy post-run legs, we climbed three flights of stairs before settling in at a high-top table with a killer view.  We lingered for a while, grazing on snacks and savoring a few cold Canadian beers. (more…)


My Road to Achill

My road...err, flight path...to Achill

My road…err, flight path…to Achill Island for next week’s marathon

I’ve only been running for three years, but I’ve noticed a recurring runner (R)/non-runner (NR) conversation that goes a little something like this:

R: I’m a runner.

NR: Have you run a marathon?

R: No

NR: (Nods. Loses interest. Changes subject.)

Completing a marathon is a rite of passage for a distance runner.  It confers a level of commitment to the sport, of accomplishment as an athlete, of membership in a special (albeit slightly crazy) group.  And while half-marathon is now the most popular distance to race in the United States, the marathon remains out of reach for many runners.  Perhaps because it is more difficult, more of a training commitment, more daunting a challenge…whatever the reason, taking on a marathon is a milestone in a running career, and for me, that milestone is right around the corner. (more…)


A Change of Plans in Lake Louise

Lake Louise

L to R: Late afternoon on the shore of Lake Louise; nearby Moraine Lake; a washed-out section of the Banff Legacy Trail; the electrified bear fence surrounding the campground; and post-run yoga overlooking the Bow River.

After leaving Jasper via the Icefields Parkway, our first stop in Banff National Park was the small settlement of Lake Louise, most famous for its ski area and storied Fairmont hotel.  The hotel sits directly on the glacial lake, but the shore area and trails behind the hotel are open to the public.  We headed to the lake the evening we arrived in an attempt to avoid tour bus crowds, and we were rewarded with a parking space close to the water.  The lake was pretty, but the light wasn’t quite right, and the scene didn’t measure up to either of our expectations nor to other lakes we encountered.  Moraine Lake in Jasper and Maligne Lake, just a few miles away from Lake Louise at the end of a windy mountain road, were arguably more picturesque…at least on the days we visited them.

We spent the night at the HI hostel in Lake Louise, conveniently located near the center of town.  Actually, town is an overstatement.  It’s more like a small tourist village within the national park, with one main intersection, a gas station, a few inns, several overpriced restaurants, and a gazillion tour buses.  In short, nowhere we wanted to be.  We went to bed early, much to the chagrin of the 20-something German guys with whom we shared our 4-person bunkroom. (more…)