Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Munster V All Blacks rematch

According to the Irish Independent THE IRFU have confirmed that Ireland will not release their Munster players for the province's match against New Zealand at Thomond Park on November 18.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


(Been meaning to post this all year!)

Some words on kitesurfing

Thursday, I think
Today was the start of our second week kitesurfing here in Cumbuca, one of the best spots in the world. It is hard to believe that only last Thursday we were getting our first lesson, Saturday and Sunday before we were in the water and now we are both surfing along the length of this great tropical beach, every day is big, just like learning to snowboard, every day brings a new skill and a 100% improvement, and something lined up to master the next day, totally loving it and exhaused at the end of each day. We were wondering the other day how and when the idea to kitesurf came up, like everything else since we arrived here in Brazil, it seems that there was no plan but it all fell into place. Cumbuca is not far from Fortaleza, where we flew to, but it is so hard to leave, the conditions are perfect. A few years back this place was simply a weekend beach for the Brazilians, but kitesurfing has changed all that. There are a lot of surfers here, and they need their comforts I guess. On the other hand, it seems that not much has changed. Maybe because we are just hanging out with the locals.Why not, they are such beautiful and calm people, things meander along you can't help but chill and slow down. We stumbled on a pousada two minutes walk from the beach, it is a little paradise, lovely garden with rooms around the edges, hammock out front, and Etamoe making sure that all is well for us , he is a little buddha from the slums, such a gentleman and amigo. So, a week and a half into our trip, we are planning to travel up the coast, but have settled into such a groove here that who knows when that will happen. Kevin is such a perfect travelling buddy, so easy going, we are laughing ourselves through the days. The sun rises here about 6am each day, and sets at 6, no dawn or dusk, and we have been getting up with it, days start early, it seems to be the custom, down to the beach after breakfast setting up the kites and into the water. It is hard to describe jsut how good it feels, the constant 35 kph wind, the equatorial sun hitting 40c, the warm ocean, just you and your kite and board, in th middle of such beatuiful and powerful forces. We got 3 days lessons, a few hours a day, from Bjorn, a 19 year old belgian professional, ranked 21 in the world, total dude, really got us thinking about safety and what to do when things go wrong. Kev is definitely ahead of me, putting his stylish snowboarding skills to good effect, even pulled a 180 today, to be fair though, I was suffering from seriously burned feet all week, thankfully ok now, we had our first crossover today, I was surfing out and he in, yeah man, every day is big, can't wait for tomorrow, gotta master travelling on my weaker side and making turns, its all good, and so, in Cambuca we stay, no reason to leave just yet,

A few days later......

Now I have got all the skills sorted and are having so much fun, working the kites and really zipping along, this is so much fun, the changing seascape lining up kickers on every run, its gotta be as good as snowboarding, similar but different....... and its just going to get better and better......

More words on kitesurfing

I woke up on Monday, my last day of 4 weeks in Cumbuco, Kev left the night before, and discovered that I was a day late, missed my flight, another day in paradise, nothing like several missed connection and losing a bag in Heathrow to bring you back to unreality, who cares, I am so feelgood happy and at one after this trip, how can you put it into words. Cumbuco was our home for four weeks, unintentional but so hard to leave, the little Brazilian fishing village where people come to kitesurf, the constant wind, I fell in love with bibi, my kite, black and yellow like a bumblebee, it is hard to describe kitesurfing, each week brings a new level and something else to love about this sport. My limited experience was seeing some nutters out in the west coast of Ireland and the east coast of england, seemed pretty crazy, have you ever tried to fly a power kite, I found out during the summer with Alistear up the northumberland coast, dragged 100 meters through the sand on my heels before being tossed like a rag doll through the air, but now I am surfing through the water hitting the big waves, tweaking the kite all the time in tune with riding the board, unreal, speed freak, the sound of board on water and spray hitting you, slowdown and sit back, big slow swells rolling by soon to turn into big waves, you find yourself between two and feel lost in the water jungle. In the first week you are learning the skills, spend a lot of time losing your board and kite hitting the water, come on bibi, do it for me, body dragging using the kite and wind so you can retrieve your board, learning how to go in one direction, turning and coming back, we went straight to the ocean, like learning to board on new zealand ice snow, conditions can't get more difficult but you learn quickly. The second week is more controlled, all the time concentrating on kite and board, losing yourself in yourself, in brasil, in the water, all seeing oneness with the mother ocean. The wind there blows almost parallel to the beach, slightly on shore so you don't end up out in the ocean if you get into trouble, staying upwind is a basic skill , edging the board so you keep a line, in and out, in with the waves and out against them, jumping as you hit the edge, little natural kickers, getting some air, pull on the bar to power the kite and you get serious air, I was happy to leave this till I got a bit more experience. We met Kelly the Candian radical surfer in the second week and he got us excited with his talk of downwinders, basically you forget about staying upwind with the 200 kiters in the water and go with the wind, a 6km trip to the lagoon and get a buggy back, heading maybe 300 meters out to the big waves and then back again to the shore, getting nice air going out against the waves and then chasing them in, riding up and over the back of a big flat top, then surf down the front, incredible feeling. Closer to the shore you have to navigate five or six huge breakers, somehow slipping in front and onto the shallow shorebreak, turn and bash your way out. Kev was in his element, Radman in the air and me more often in the washing machine, basically, if you come off or a truck like wave hits you then you get swallowed up and thrown in circles with the breaker, hoping that you manage to keep the kite in the air or it too gets the washer treatment, not nice, poor bibi broke one of her lines, such was the power. I was digging the surfing though and started kicking my back leg to get a snowboarding-surfing style going, using the kite to power my turns and looking for big waves, unorthodox but so much fun. By the end of the trip we were doing a couple of downwinders a day, in the water for 4 or 5 hours. I could have stayed another month, I guess there is always next year, the trip was just too good, and so many people that made it special, Radman and Effe, Kobi and the dutchies, Sander and Bjorn at the Coconutchie, the crazy Germans Lars and Aslan, TicoMeister at the Pousada and brazilian Joshua, cooking and surfing and listening to sweet reggae music, living life to live, and a big up to Kev my kiting and traveling buddy, we got into a groove on the first day and kept the Cumbuco shuffle going for 4 weeks.


Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ryder Cup 2008

Faldo's pairings! Can't see the US having a chance - even with the hotline to tiger - with 6 rookies.

Want to be a volunteer at Valhalla? That'll be $220: from guardian:

If nothing else the 2008 Ryder Cup will be remembered for redefining the meaning of "volunteer". This week will see 3,600 people guarding the cross-walks and putting greens of Valhalla, "Quiet Please" paddles in their hand, primed to pick up litter and tell hecklers to shut up - a "privilege" for which, it turns out, they have all paid $220 (£121). Volunteer? More like "paying lackey".

Ireland's top athlete

Following in Liam McHale's footsteps there is Kerry's Kieran Donaghy, top scorer with 21 points, when the Tralee Tigers won the Basketball Superleague title at the end of March this year. He was also named basketballer of the year, matching his achievements in 2005. In 2006 he won the All Stars Footballer of the Year.

If it was not for Tyrone beating them in the 2005 final Kerry would be going for the 5 in a row this year. I am not betting against the Kings of September getting the 3 in a row this time.

Monday, 15 September 2008

First Monster

Talk about the Monster event came up at the Big Chill festival back in August, Hannah and some friends were heading up to Scotland to take part in a 120km run and bike challenge that circled Loch Ness, 8 stages with each team member completing one run and one bike stage. It sounded good, and was also a chance to visit Sarah and Chris up in Elgin, so why not, we were in. We sat discussing our training over a few beers last Friday after a 5 hour drive up to Inverness. Chris "I just can't stick to a training plan" hadn't managed to get out running, Al hadn't run for several years, Pete had pulled out because of a wedding and last minute recruit Simon had gone for a run the previous weekend. I had got out for my first runs of the year while in Ireland last weekend. Granted, we all like biking and myself and Al had just done a 1200km bike tour around England and Wales in August. So, we had an English man, and Irish man, a Scots man and a Swiss man, and figured we might as well have a laugh, convincing ourselves that all would be fine, and we still had 6 hours to get rested before our 5am start. Hannah had come up from Wales with a couple of friends and they seemed to have had less preparation than us, well, Hannah did go to a spinning class during the week. They were worried. I needed a cigarette.

First Monster is in its second year and has grown from 70 teams last year to 185 this year. It is so well organised, so friendly and had a few celebrity names such as Liz McColgan, Nell McAndrew, Ben Fogle and Gavin Hastings. We got to the stadium just after 6am, all of us quite excited and a bit daunted, so many fit looking people around, but the adrenaline was flowing. Myself and Natalie were on the first and fifth leg for the teams, all four running legs happening first and then the cycling legs, and buses to bring participants to their transition points. Stuart had come up from Wales with the girls and was our official photographer! The start and finish was on the stadium running track and it was a nice feeling to be lining up with so many others. This leg was only(!!) 9km but rose almost 300 meters through the forest in the first half, and then levelled out somewhat. I was excited but not at all looking forward to the climb. It was tough and I couldn't really believe it when I came in 51 minutes, totally exhausted we were on the board in 57th position. I handed the timer over to Al and he took off in a blur. I waited for Natalie to finish, both of us feeling exhilarated, downing the porridge, coffee, water, fruit and cakes on offer. There was a live feed at each transition point so you could keep track of your position, this really helped cause you knew roughly when you had to be ready for your next leg, and it was fun to keep track of your position during the day. Al and Chris had straightforward runs and then Simon was on the last of the running stages: a 16km undulating run with several steep sections, definitely the hardest stage. We had been bussed to the start of our bike stage, taking in stunning views of Loch Ness and the surrounding mountains. I was waiting for Simon, and he put in a fantastic effort, finishing in 1h28 and keeping us hovering around the mid 40ths.

Now I had a mountain bike stage, mainly fire track through the forest, some super steep single track to climb though, and equally steep downhills, going to lake level and way back up again, at least I was bike fit after a lot of road biking this summer. Mountain biking is so different though and this tested everyone’s endurance. Still, I managed to gain a few places and was really happy to finish the 22.5 km in 64 minutes. We were back up to 40 and three road bike stages to go. Next up was the killer though, starting with 10km uphill, steep enough that cars sometimes struggle, and a long decent, 22.5km in total, and who better than Al to do it. He is a bike machine, he couldn't wait to get going, a big smile on his face, wishing it was all uphill no doubt. He reckoned he would do it in 50 minutes, I didn't think it was possible, but he managed it, posting maybe the third fastest time for that stage amongst all the teams, and suddenly we were up to 28, we had to laugh at the irony of it all, and we were having so much fun. The girls were also doing brilliantly, in fact all of us were really exceeding any and all expectations. Chris and Simon managed to hold on over the last two shorter bike stages and we ended up in 27th position finishing in 7h08. Hannah, Sarah, Nerys and Natalie came in 9h04. All eight of us had so much fun and were simply raving about the great day we had, sure it was tough but so many friendly people of all ages and abilities and super organisation made it special. All we wanted now was a beer some food and bed, and sure enough, we were still up at 4am drinking whisky and making plans for the next Monster.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

poacher turned gamekeeper

Only caught the last 10 minutes of the Irish match but didn't miss the RTE punditry afterwards, from the Irish Times:
"Very happy, very satisfied," said Gilesie at full-time. "Satisfied but disappointed," said Ronnie. Dunphy? Spooky stuff: ecstatic. Bill was puzzled. He thought the win was there for the taking, if only Giovanni had been a tad more adventurous.

(Note: we haven't made this up). Dunphy: "RTÉ shouldn't be always knocking the Irish manager, we've got one of the best managers in the world, we're going to South Africa, this project is on track, relax Bill, we'll be doing it from South Africa, live Bill, LIVE!"

"All I can say to ya," said Bill, "is 'poacher turned gamekeeper'".
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