Tuesday, September 30, 2008

World of Pain

I’m the type of person that loves to workout. I don’t feel like myself if I don’t. Nothing gives me more joy than a good, challenging, physical session. I’m all over anything that requires me to push myself and test my limits. Not every day mind. I do look forward to those recovery days in between the tougher sessions, when all I have is a warm-up and some stretching, but generally I’m a whore for the tough workouts. The only thing I find is that I’m unable to train without a goal. Something specific I’m aiming towards. I just have no interest in working out for no good reason. There needs to be a reason.

That being said, I have given myself a bit of a break lately. When I got back from my pace-making tour of Europe, almost 4 weeks ago, I decided to rest my weary self or rather my body demanded it of me, when I picked up my jet-lag with a twist illness. But even prior to that, in order to get myself light and fast for the racing, I had stopped lifting weights. Honestly, its been a good 2 months now since I entered a weight room, let alone lifted a weight.

But the road racing season is about to kick off again here in Atlanta and because my friend Mike and I did pretty well in the couple of races we ran in last year, we’ve decided to put in some mileage and give them another go this year. And since I’m always on the hunt for a challenge and a reason to workout, this is the perfect excuse. So yesterday, after a 2-month hiatus, I returned to the weight room. And when I tell you every muscle in my body is crying out in pain right now, I mean every muscle in my body, IS crying out in pain.

I DO NOT have full range of motion in any of my muscle groups. Not my neck, not my shoulders, not my pecks, not my stomach, not my ass, not my saddle bags (that area between the top of the hamstring and the glutes), not my hamstring, quads or calves. Nothing. I hurt like a mofo. I feel like a crash victim and I’m walking around at a pace much slower than my norm and in a style, which is very reflective of Frankenstein. It hurts to sit, it hurts to stand. I need to lower myself very slowly onto any type of seat. The car, the toilet, the office chair, all of it. And once down, don’t get me started on trying to get myself back up. Stairs are also proving a nightmare, up or down, it doesn’t really matter, all of it hurts.

I know my pain is temporary and once my muscles re-adapt, I’ll be just fine, as long as I can survive the rest of the week. It’s amazing the damage a few squats, lunges, bench press, step-ups etc.... can do to a body. But on a positive note, cos we should always focus on the positive, Wednesday, I get to do it all again, so Thursday my pain should be much worse. Good times ahead.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Slan Abhaile (Irish for "Safe Trip Home")

Its hard to believe that the 8 days are up and my family are now headed back to Ireland. The week just seemed to go by too fast. Maybe cos we spent much of our time sightseeing, shopping, pubbing and eating. All the ingredients necessary for an action packed vacation.

For their last evening, Husband and I took everyone out to an amazing fondue restaurant. Neither my parents or my brother had ever been exposed to the fondue experience before, so it was a real adventure and a new and interesting way for us to end the week on a high note.

"Have a safe trip home family. I just realised when ye left, that I forgot to get ye to sign our guest book. Oh well, I'll just bring it with me when I'm headed your way again, soon."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yes, We have NO Gas

The world as we know it is ending here in Atlanta. Something very drastic has happened. So drastic that it has caused me to rethink my life and its style and how if Armageddon were to happen tomorrow, I have no plan.


I am not kidding. All the gas stations are dry. Yesterday I was driving my parents back from a day of hard shopping at the mall, when my car, Fenway is his name, started to “ping”. “Ping” is Fenway’s way of letting me know he is now getting very thirsty and when I get a spare second over the next 20 miles or so, could I please just throw some gas in the tank. And since he refuses to stop “pinging” until he gets his way, I tend to respond pretty quickly. However, the first gas station I pulled into had all their pumps locked up and signs reading “No Gas”. That’s weird, I thought, never heard of a gas station running out of gas before. Never mind, plenty more stations along this road. But each and every station I pulled into was the same. Pumps all bagged up, notices saying “No Gas” and many even had that yellow and black crime scene tape out and around the station itself to keep people away. Now you know when you see that special issue pow’lease CSI tape, things are not good. Something big is going down. The sight of it instinctively made me nervous. “What is going on?” I said to my dad. “Why is there no gas?” The more gas stations I went to, the more I felt like I had entered some sort of twilight zone. I swear, I was waiting for the sky above to turn black and the wind to pick up to a level that indicated Mr. Armageddon was just around the corner.

I was baffled. Repeatedly I was asking, “What is going on? I just don’t understand this”, because I didn’t. I knew the economy was in recession, but seriously, up to this point I felt it was just a bit of a horror story the media had latched onto in an effort to justify hiking up the prices on commonly purchased goods and to curtail the trend of impulsive spending on fabulous but nonessential items by the trigger happy credit card generation. That was until Wall Street took its big fat nosedive last week and now this, dried up gas pumps.

I am fortunate enough not to have a large portion of my wealth tied up in any Wall Street stocks and bonds. Mine is more tied up in the jeans and shoes kind, which some would argue provides zero return on investment. I happen to disagree. You just can't put a price on looking and feeling fabulous. But this situation with the gas right now, is kind of a big reality check that things are actually worse, or definitely feel worse, than I had previously understood.

My inability to get gas anywhere that day was kind of scary and even though Fenway continued to “ping” about his emptiness, there was absolutely nothing I could do. The next day I heard that one of our local gas stations had managed to get some gas and would be selling it for a couple of hours that morning. So I immediately jumped in the car a drove down there. But it seemed like everyone else had gotten the same memo, cos when I tell you there were several lines of cars that wrapped around every inch of the car park and out onto the street, I am not kidding. The pow’lease where on hand in an effort to maintain an orderly, peaceful system of queuing and acquiring said gas. It was just nuts. I had no idea where any of the lines started or ended so I drove around in fear that I would join it at the wrong point, or cut someone off unawares, resulting in a possible riot like situation. But as luck would have it, Husband called to say another gas station was selling gas a little further up the road, and right now there were only 5 or 6 cars in line. So that’s where I went. And after a short 30 minute wait and a limit of $50 per car, I got gas. I didn’t even look to see how much I was getting charged per gallon. It didn’t matter. Not to me. Not to anyone else in line. We were just so relieved to actually get the stuff we would have paid whatever they asked and more.

Luckily, I have no plans on driving anywhere any time soon. From now on there will be plenty more walking and biking going on and Fenway will only be brought out when absolutely necessary or for special occasions.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ruby Falls

Yesterday saw the Shinkins clan head out to Chattanooga, Tennessee to check out the Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain. About a year ago I was watching the Foodnetwork and they were doing a show on Southern Dining where they featured the Ruby Falls. I was so impressed, that I have for the longest time wanted to go and see them for myself. And with the family over for a visit and the falls just a short 2 hour drive away, there was no reason to not take the opportunity and go.

The coolest thing about this waterfall, is that its just over 2000ft down into Lookout Mountain. They have no idea where it comes from, all they know is that its there and it flows through the mountain and eventually out into the Tennessee River.

We started off by taking an elevator ride down the first 260ft. Once out of the elevator we walked the remaining 1740ft through the most amazing cave like scenery until we reached the actual waterfall. And this thing was amazing. The fact that they have developed a very impressive light show to go along with your viewing experience, helps take your level of amazement even higher. We stayed down there for a good 30 minutes or so, just watching and enjoying and wondering about the whole thing.

The Ruby Falls, in all its glory.

Some of the changing colours we saw during the spectacular light show.

You can just make out my family right in front of the falls.

Look at the excited and impressed little faces.

Once out of the caves, we walked to the viewing station at the top of Lookout Mountain where we could enjoy views of the Tennessee river and of Tennessee itself. I realized that I've not actually been in any of the photos on the trip so far, due to the fact that I've been behind the camera much of the time. But here I am, finally.

Here Conor and I are very happy and relieved to be sitting down to some food. After a long drive and our big adventure in the caves, hunger got us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

High Flying Birthdays

Today was a big day, so there are lots of pictures to go along with this blog. First of all it was Husbands birthday. Happy Birthday Husband. And because its been about 2 months since he got any flying done, he decided to spend part of his special day up in the cloudless sky. But he was not alone. Both my dad and my brother had the honor of joining him on his expedition. Such a lads day out playing with the big boy toys, honestly, they couldn't have been happier.

This is "Foxy", the plane that brings Husband so much joy.

Dad and Husband do the final checks on "Foxy" before they get ready for the off.

The pilot/birthday boy is focused and ready.

Conor (my brother) and Dad have the ear-muffs on and secure all windows and doors for departure.

There they go.

Later in the evening we threw Husband a little BBQ/birthday party.

The cake was ablaze from the sheer number of candles necessary to represent his age.

Chocolate cake, I wonder who chose that?!?

And it wouldn't be a party without a Jack Sparrow piñata.

Husband and intern Gordy hook up the piñata so we can all get a good crack at him.

Husband gets his mandatory spins before he is let loose on Jack Sparrow.

A couple of good spanks and Jack was injured pretty bad.

Then mam stepped up to give him a few smacks and sent much of the candy flying.

Finally, Conor stepped up to finish poor Jack off.

A brutal decapitation.

Poor Jack.

But the scavengers were more worried about grabbing all the candy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Its Pumpkin Time

My parents and brother arrived safely to Atlanta on Saturday and to kick off their vacation, Sunday I decided to take them deep into the boonies of Georgia, just to scare them a little. And it worked. My mother was in fear that our vehicle would breakdown or run out of gas and then " the Rednecks would get us" as she put it. My dad kept making banjo noises in an effort to recreate the theme tune from "Deliverance" and my brother was just in shock at the size and condition of some of the houses and trucks people were driving, out in the middle of nothingness. I however, have been exposed to this scene many times before, so I just enjoyed watching their reactions.

Since Monday is the official start of Fall here in the US, we stopped off at a pumpkin farm to pick ourselves out a fine big pumpkin to decorate the garden. This is not something we do in Ireland, so we were very impressed with the size and variety of pumpkins there was to choose from.

Here my dad arms himself with a wheelbarrow and we head off to choose ourselves some pumpkins.

We took our time finding the perfect pumpkin, well, dad did.

And of course we had to throw in some of the cute tiny ones too.

Once we got our goods loaded up, it was onwards to Amicalola Falls where we hiked to the top of the falls and once there, enjoyed a seriously good brunch at Amicalola lodge which overlooks much of the Georgia Mountains.

The family at the falls. Only 425 more steps from here to the top.

But we all made it.

And after brunch, we took some time out to sit back and enjoy the view, retirement home style.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Already off the Wagon

Ok, I didn't follow through on the good intentions I had for Monday, but I've still been under the weather and at this stage I know its more than jet lag. Its jet lag with a flu like twist, and yes, I'm sure that is in fact the medical term for it.

Anyway, I never mentioned how the final race in Italy went. It went fine. I did flirt with the idea of actually finishing the 800m, just to see what I was capable of for the distance, but I got tired around the 600m mark and since there was no need for me to go all the way, I didn't. I'll just have to wait for another time to test my 800m skills.
But I really enjoyed my trip to Europe and I especially enjoyed the pace-making. Who knows, I may get called upon to do some more next year. So there's a great reason to stay fit and fast.

On a completely different note, this weekend my parents and my younger brother are rolling into town, all the way from Co. Kildare, Ireland. Yes, they are popping over for a visit and I'm very excited to have them. I was suppose to spend much of the week getting everything organised for their arrival, but the past few days I've been struck down by my mystery jet-lag with a twist illness, so now I'm completely off schedule. However, I am confident in my abilities of pulling it together at the last second. For anyone out there who knows my Husband well, you know if nothing else, he is a complete "last second man", and even though it has at times frustrated the hell out of me, the experience may now actually be of benefit.

Unfortunately, I have no yet planned out the places I would like to take them and some of the things they might like to see. Because they've been here before, we've already done much of the touristy stuff there is to do in Atlanta, so I guess a bit of creativity will have to come into play. Or I could also check out some of the Georgia visitor books to see if they might have any interesting suggestions. Either way I know we'll have a good time. My parents have this ability to enjoy themselves no matter where they are or how boring the situation can get.

But right now I have to go and get a couple of bathrooms painted. For some reason, they are not painting themselves. And trust me, I have waited a long time just to see if they would.

P.S. This is what happened the last time Silja tried to help me out with the painting. She stepped her big old nasty foot, into the tray of paint. A very "blonde" moment.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Out of Whack

I got back to the US on Thursday evening and since then I've just been so out of whack. I'm awake when I should be sleeping and I feel like sleeping while I'm awake. I swear, I get so exhausted a various points during the day that you can actually hear my words start to slow down. My sentences, if I can even remember what I was going to say, begin to not make sense, not even to me and slow motion is the fastest I can move.

So that's the reason for the lack of blogging. The thought of trying to sit down and type, let alone think, has just felt too exhausting. But clearly I'm getting better, cos I was able to put a little something together tonight. Sadly, it is just going to be a little something, but I'll force myself to get back on track tomorrow. Tomorrow is Monday after all, the start of a new week and as everyone knows, all good intentions start on Mondays, be they diets, promises to workout, efforts to get organised or become more efficient, basically anything and everything in our life's that needs changing starts every Monday. And that is exactly where I will start.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rovereto, Italy

I finally got some much needed sleep last night and today I hit the streets of Rovereto and in the absense of my kick ass professional camera, I brought along my precious little point and shot to give you a little taste of my surroundings.

Unfortunately, I chose to go walk about, just as siesta was starting, which ment no shopping for Shinks, boo. I don't know why, but everything in Italy is just so fabulous. The people walk around dressed all fabulous. The streets are fabulous. The hotels are fabulous. The stores and all they contain are so damn fabulous. The cafes are fabulous and they serve fabulous coffee, pastries and ice-cream. These Italians do not play when it comes to fabulous.

Rovereto is a city that is completely surrounded by mountains. No matter where you are in the city you can look around and see mountains.

The preferred mode of transportation for most Italians.

After the bike comes the Smart Car. Italians love the Smart Car and are completely wreckless when they drive these babies around at break neck speed.

Fabulous romantic little streets.

A fabulous little cafe.

Even the track has amazing views of the mountains

Monday, September 8, 2008

No Rabbits Today

Well here is the update. Although Alan, your well ahead of me with the results. Your turning into a real athletics fan by the looks of things.

But turns out there was no womens 800m. There was in fact a womens 600m. Such a random distance that's rearly if ever run. But the reason it was an event at this meet, is that the Slovakian girl had requested it so she could try and run a Solvak National record for the distance. So instead of me doing any pacing, I was in this race as a competitor. From start to finish I was seeing this one out to the bitter end.

Fortunatley is was anything but bitter. I actually surprised the hell out of myself and ran really well. I knew I'd be all set for the first 400m-500m. My concern was really the final 100m. I was worried the legs would give way and I'd be struggling to stay with these very seasoned 800m types. But as it turned out, my strength and endurance was stronger than I gave myself credit for and I finished the race in second place, just behind the Slovak athlete. My time was 127.42, which is very respectable and faster than I thought I could run for that distance. Maybe I'm actually discovering a hidden talent for the longer distances.?!? Hmmmmmm?

Anyway, after zero sleep last night due to the fact that I had to be up at 4am to take a 3 hour bus drive to Vienna. Then catch a flight to Verona, Italy and then another bus ride of just over an hour to get to my final destination which is Rovereto, Italy. It's been rough going, I have to say. But I'm here now and as is usually the case in Itlay, Rovereto is just fabulous. I haven't really gone out exploring yet cos I tried to catch up on a few Zzzz's in the afternoon, but if the bus ride in is anything to go by I'm in for a real treat once I do go venture out.

But anyway, on this trip I am definintely here to pace-make the 800m. Well, that's the story today, but as we have learned, these situations have a habit of changing last second. So we'll just go with the flow.

P.S This Photo-Finish picture was kindly hunted down and brought to my attention by one of my dedicated blog readers, Alan. Fabulous work Alan, I had no idea it was out there. That's me in 2nd place.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I spent a nice few days in Ireland catching up with my friend and all that’s been going on in her life, doing a spot of shopping, but not too much, the dollar is so weak right now, that my eyes just bulged when I did a rough conversion of Euro to Dollar and realized what the fabulous boots would cost me in American terms. Sorry fabulous boots, hopefully you will make an appearance Stateside and then I will not hesitate to snap you up. I also got to pop in and say “Hello” to the family. Can’t really go all the way to Ireland and ignore your own family now can you?

But alas, I have moved on again and this weekend finds me in Slovakia. I’ve never been to Slovakia before so I was pretty excited about the trip and so far its nothing like I imagined. First of all it’s hot. Yes, as in tempeture wise. With sunshine. I really was not expecting that. For some reason I was picturing darkish, overcast, grey days, with depressed looking building and people, all wrapped up in long wooly overcoats and furry hats. For some reason it’s always winter when I think of places like Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and all those eastern European countries. Maybe I’ve watched too many World War 2 or communist movies. Anyway, it’s nothing like that. At least not the part I’m in. Think Sound of Music and you wouldn’t be too far off. Lots of mountains, lakes, trees, rivers, amazing old castles on top of hills and towns that look like their right out of the pages of a Renaissance book. So pretty.

Our hotel is amazing too, but in a very modern way. It looks a little out of place in this old fashioned town to be honest. Think Spanish villa on this one. But the rooms are huge and every room has a balcony that overlooks a pool and Jacuzzi area. Give you one guess what I’ll be doing after my race? Pool and Jacuzzi maybe? And all the balconies are connected. You can literally go out and take a stroll from balcony to balcony without having to scale high walls or building. What a great way for us to get to know those who will occupy the rooms and balconies next to us. Whoever designed this hotel was a very sociable creature.

So that’s a brief update of where I am and what I’ve been doing over the past few days. I’m looking forward to running Sunday. It appears the Slovak people are big into their track and field, which means a good crowd at the stadium.

Here are some shots of the town I'm staying in.

Ok, this is our hotel. See what I mean. Costa del Solvakia.

Nice pool and jacuzzi though.

Monday, September 1, 2008


The pace-making went great. I did my job fabulously and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was some confusion going on right up until I started my warm-up. The meet organiser wanted me to run the first 400m in 59 seconds but the athletes were not pleased. They wanted me to take it out faster, cos they were looking for some good times. It was debated for a while and finally I was given the number 58 as the target for the first 400m. So I spent the day before getting my mind set and rhythm in tune for a 58 second pace. However, once I arrived at the stadium I'm approached by the coach of one of the athletes and he asks me if it would be possible to do a 57 second opening lap instead. Of course it would. I'm here to please. Your wish is my command, only please, can't we all just agree on a time and leave it at that. I'm almost exhausted running the race in my head at the various paces that I'm at risk of not nailing it in the actual race.

I take matters into my own hands. I spot most of the girls warming up and decide to do a little poll. Ladies, I have a 59, 58 and 57 second opening lap on offer, who wants what? The overwhelming response is 57, so that's it. It's finally agreed, 57 seconds it is.

There were a little nerves before the race. But once the gun went, I got out and took my position at the front of the field and established a rhythm that I felt was right on track. A quick glance at the clock as we approached the 400m mark told me I was spot on. My legs felt strong so I was prepared to take it all the way to 600m. But the British athlete, Marilyn Okoro, who went on to win, (thats her in the above photo) came up next to me right as we approached 500m and told me "I got it". I was surprised. She was well clear of the rest of the field, but that meant she still had another 300m left to run solo, which is a tough task especially when the fatigue kicks in. But I figured she had some sort of race plan and I didn't want to be responsible for interfering with that in any way, so I stepped off to the side. I was kind of bummed. I really wanted to see what kind of time I could have hit for 600m. But it wasn't about me, it was about doing the job for the athletes, so I put my own ambitions aside and focused on the athletes.

So all around, it was a great success and as a result, I've picked up 2 other gigs. Friday I'm off to the Slovak Republic. I run there on Sunday the 7th. Then it's onwards to Italy for another race on Wednesday the 10th. In the mean time I have flown over to Ireland to stay with my best friend Derval, who I haven't seen since well before the Olympics, which is too long. So we'll spend the next few days bonding, reconnecting, braiding each others hair as we talk about our feelings and emotions. Now doesn't that just sound fantastic?