Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Ireland Day 6 - Race Day!

Full photo album - https://photos.app.goo.gl/RYKZ2YDDv4cPDVHg7

Route of the Giant's Causeway 20 Mile Coastal Trail Run

Starting the day in Cushendall -

Prior to this day, I'd been able to sleep in a bit and have a nice breakfast with the BnB hosts. Today, I needed to be out the door a little quicker, so I told the hostess that she wouldn't need to make breakfast for me. She made cinnamon rolls for me and had them with some extra snacks packed in a to-go bag. It was an unexpected and pleasant treat. 

I really wanted to get a lot of nice sunrise, sunset and night sky pics throughout my trip, but it was not easy. Often, there was a lot of cloud cover at just the wrong time ... or I was not in a location conducive to those kind of pics (at the bottom of a valley or behind a tall tree line). This was the best sunrise pic I got ... 

As a point-to-point race, I had to go to the finish line for packet pickup and then take a shuttle to the start. I made it to Portrush with plenty of time, but it took me a little extra while to find parking. I made it to the shuttle with less than five minutes to spare.

As I waited at the start line, I met someone named Tina. I told this Tina that I knew someone named else Tina (Mama T from Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner) and we chatted a bit. I love making friends at races. I am convinced that everywhere I go, I find that runners are the coolest and neatest people.

The start area is actually another filming area for Game of Thrones. We started in the parking lot for the Carrick-A-Rede bridge. I'd have loved to walk up that way to get some pics, but there wasn't enough time for the race started.

There were 250-ish of us who started the race, and we are all crammed into a small area.


At first, the course was fairly sedate. The first two miles passed quickly. We wound up running for a bit on the beach, and it was nice ...

And then we got to the end of the beach ... there was a lot of kelp to wade through. On some runners, it was mid-calf. I was amused ...

And then I don't have any pics from the next 2.5 miles. We were along the base of the cliff and it took a lot of concentration to pick my way across large, wet, mossy boulders. I moved very slowly and deliberately. If it had been rainy or windy, I would have probably dropped. It was some of the hardest to traverse terrain I've ever crossed.

The scariest part of this ordeal was having to move from one rock to another and that second rock was just a few inches out of my reach. I'd have to release my weight and trust that I'd picked a safe landing spot. Even a 3-4 inch drop was enough to cause me clinch up my little butt checks and hold my breath. I thank God for a safe traversal!

At one point, someone came up from behind me and asked how I was doing. I was perplexed at first, but then I realized I was talking to the course sweeper. If he passes you, you're removed from the course. I was so intent moving along the base of the cliff that I had fallen into dead last place.

The first checkpoint was near Dunseverick Castle. I had moved so slowly through that part of the course that Google Maps asked me to rate my stay. Seriously. Thanks, Google. 


By mile six, we got past this terrain and I managed to put a little distance between me and the sweeper, but it was still slow going. There was a lot of elevation changes, and often it was not much faster going downhill.

We moved through active farmland, caves, arches, waterfalls, etc. I was able to start taking pictures again. The views were everything I hoped they'd be.

It was clear enough that you could see Scotland in the distance! You could also see Rathlin Island off in the distance as well. (Scotland = 1st pic below, Rathlin = 2nd pic).


Look at the house ... that's how high above sea level we were much of the race. At least from checkpoints 1 to 3.

Why is the path of this side of the fence? I stayed very close to the fence, yet I saw some people very close to the edge and taking pics over the side. I know that if I tried that I'd either faint, throw up or both.

Around mile 10, we approached the Giant's Causeway. This is one of the iconic locations in all of Ireland. It was definitely one of my "A1" sites to visit. 

The causeway is made up of thousands of hex-shaped basalt columns that thrust up from the ground. It's all natural, and some of the columns are a few stories high. It looks like a scene from a sci-fi or fantasy movie.

I didn't get to spend much time on the causeway because I was in the middle of a race ... and I felt like I had a course sweeper breathing down my neck. So ... not much time, but I kind of prefer it that way. After all, I am a runner too, and the time I spent on the causeway was earned. I had ran 10+ miles, several of which were very demanding, and I had conquered the challenge. I did take a little detour to sneak of the course a bit and sit on one of the columns. A very short break, but one that induced a very satisfying chuckle. I was on the causeway!


In this race, what goes down must come up ... so it was back up to the top of the cliffs. The second checkpoint was shortly after the causeway. I had caught to a few other runners at this point, and I was no longer in dead last place.

This pic was not taken with a drone. It's the closest I ever got to the edge.

Another bucket list item was Dunluce Castle. I couldn't leave Ireland with visiting this place. 

C.S. Lewis said that he modeled Cair Paravel on this castle. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (note that he did not use an Oxford comma in the title of this book) was the first "real" book I read as a kid. I was in the 2nd grade. In my years as a youth pastor and school teacher, I have taught through this book many times. It is my all-time favorite book ... and I got to run by the preeminent castle of Narnia in a race! It was a moving experience. 

The third checkpoint was right after Dunluce ... and I was able to pick up the pace as the terrain became more runnable. I'm glad that my fastest four miles were my last four miles. I'm glad that I finished strong!

My first week in Ireland was the last week of Easter Break for their school system. Portrush is a resort town (like Coney Island perhaps?) with a big beach, amusement park, etc. The last mile of the race meandered through town, and I had to dodge a fair number of families with kids in strollers.

Overall, it was an excellent event. Everything was top-notch. It was well-organized. The volunteers were wonderful. The terrain was challenging. The views were breath-taking.  The weather was perfect. The experience was unparalleled.

Prior to this event, I had completed 272 organized running events (yes, I keep a very detailed journal of my races) over the last ten years (ranging from 1 to 100 miles). Before I even finished this event, I had determined that this was my all-time favorite.

I can't recall ever starting event with such high expectations ... and I can't recall another event exceeding my expectations to such a high degree. It was truly, genuinely magical!

My goal was to finish within 5 hours. I would up finishing in 5:18:55, and I managed to finish 221 out of 229 finishers.

According to my Garmin the race was about 20.5 miles with almost 2,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain.


Following the race, I had to drive south to Ardee in County Louth. I would spend the next three days there and use it as a base to explore Counties Down, Meath, Dublin, Wicklow.

I was excited to spend time in Ardee, because it was the site of the central battle in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. This is my favorite story of all time. How has this not been into a blockbuster movie?

The battle between Cú Chulainn and Ferdiad is epic. The two were best friends and forced to fight as champions. Cú Chulainn prevailed after four days of back/forth combat. As his friend died in his arms, he composed the Lay of Ferdiad, which is a beautiful tribute.

This stone marks where Ferdiad died, and he was buried not far from that same spot.

I explored Ardee bit more beyond the battlefield ... and I found an Aldi's. Turns out the "Aisle of Shame" is an international phenomenon.

So ... in one day, I got run onto the Giant's Causeway, visit Narnia and stand on the banks of the river where Cú Chulainn battled Ferdiad. I don't know if it's possible to cross too many more things off a bucket list in a single day ... I was exhausted by day's end, but what a magical day it was.

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