The magic of sunny Donegal

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Horn head near the start of our run

In the barron North West lies probably Ireland’s most fabulous county.  This may be debatable among plenty people but in my opinion on a good day it is very hard to beat Donegal. Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend two days training with my good friend Shaun. I know for many of you that read the blog you have seen my posts and heard me gloat about Donegal before, however last weekend really topped it off for me.

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Highest point on our coastal run near Horn Head

On Saturday we ran for two hours through forest, coastal trail, bog, beach, road, (covering 19km, 916 metres ascent, 229metres highest point) and stopping regularly for a photo along the way. It really was a completely epic run. Hugging the cliff tops most of the way we ran at a good clip, almost turning our run into intervals. The wind howled through the crevasses in the cliffs and funnelled through the gaps in the trail that led out across the North Atlantic. We saw waterfalls blowing back up in the air and got soaked while stopping to catch this on camera. I got soaked and Shaun failed to get a photo!

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Grunty the seal

As we ran we were suddenly spooked by movement on the beach. We saw a gorgeous seal cub, possible separated from it’s mother. It made it’s way to some rock pools and with a few grunts told us to leave it’s territory. I hope the little seal makes it through. These coastlines are a harsh climate for even the toughest of animals. We stopped beside a cliff face and watch the gulls as they performed acrobatics trying to land on the cliff. They swooped in, missed their landing and would continue to swoop using the wind and their skill until they could land safely on the cliff edge. Just to think people complain about traffic on the way home. I would take it over the possibility of death by smashing into a cliff face.

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One of many beautiful inlets we discovered

We made our way down off the cliffs and onto a beach. A cracking beach near Dunfanaghy with sanddunes spread along it’s entirety. We hopped across some rocks and as I went to land on the beach I lost my footing on both legs and ended up ass down in a stream. Hilarious considering all the nasty terrain we had just covered. I had fallen off a rock and onto the beach from about 6 inches high!! Shaun had a great laugh. There was a cave at the source of the stream I had fallen into. During our little excursion into the cave Shaun found a bone, possibly a dolphin or a whale. I tucked it in my pack and Shaun said a friend of his will ID it for him at some stage. Always nice to have a little find on a trail run.

Sunday was an even sunnier day, with the showers disappearing and a frosty night, the sky was blue and the bikes were calling. We went for a 55km spin out to Rosguil Point and back. This was part of ‘The race’ course last year and the memories flooded back. We had done this route on a training day last year when I had bonked and really hadn’t taken it in properly until this Sunday.

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Rosguil point views

The cycle was hilly and a great workout. We slowed up on a few possible icy patches where the road was still sheltered but most of the time we kept pushing on and finished the 55km in around 2 hours. It really is a meca for cycling, no doubt the hilliest cycling in Ireland. Every time I come back I realise I am not half the cyclist I could be. The hills will make sure to let me know.

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Decent views?

This trip, however short to Donegal, reminds me that wherever life takes me in the coming years I will no doubt come back to this great part of Ireland to train and enjoy myself. Hopefully this good feeling of enjoying training will lead me into the race in Donadea on Saturday in a good frame of mind. A 50km over 5km loops may not be as scenic as the cliffs at Horn Head but no doubt these images will be in my mind as the pain kicks in on race day.

Burren Training in June

We decided to head South rather than West for training on my days off lately. The Burren is an unspoilt, unknown area to Galwegians really. The karst landscape is beautiful and undulating, therefore a perfect training ground. We kept our efforts to the Burren Way Trail, following the trail through the heart of the Burren and down the coast to the Cliffs of Moher. Our first day was mostly mountain biking with some pretty tough hike a bike sections. Steep rocky backroads and trails meant a tough physical session on our first trip.

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The terrain above was as good as it got on the first day with some much trickier technical biking around the coastal trail on the way home. I finished the day with two punctures but made it home.

Day 2 which we turned into an overnight camping trip was fun. We biked as far as the coastal Cliffs of Moher trail and then ran this hilly trail along the cliffs and back for 12km. The hills were actually steep and it is a trail I would recommend for anyone interested in a different hilly trail. The views are just amazing . It is no doubt one of the most scenic runs I have ever done.

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Running along the cliffs was exhilerating. The wind was strong on top with some exciting downhills and tough uphill drags. Emma was flyin it as well, enjoying the mountain biking as she had done very little off roading before and cruising through the trails on foot.

By the time we finished we were starving but some tasty salmon and a quinoa salad sorted that out. My new Brukit Wolf burner worked a treat and we had hot food cooked up in no time. The Burren coast has lots of free camping areas, wild camping at it’s best and most beautiful.

As you can see it was a usual irish camping trip, well wrapped up and surviving rather than camping really!

The next few weeks will include build up training towards the Snowdonia trail marathon and so far so good. I am increasing my speed training and doing a bit more strength in the gym so hopefully I will be feeling good on the 23rd.