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First semester

The last post was almost 3 months ago, that, I am ashamed of and I will save you the excuses, as busy and crazy as final year is I am really...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A weekend in Scotland

I've noticed over the past few years of travelling that I don't need to go the the other side of the world to have an epic time (although that is pretty cool also). A day trip to Strand hill or going to the beach when the rain is pouring out of the heavens can be as much fun.

I had three places in mind to visit that I have never been before, with the plan to visit them sooner rather than later, Norway, Iceland and Scotland. Mostly for their beautiful scenery and their vast landscapes, we all know I am a sucker for a beautiful mountain range. When the opportunity arose to tag along with Shane to Scotland I jumped at the idea. He was taking part in the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline mountain race which consisted of Friday's VK (vertical kilometre) and Saturday's 29K 'Ring of Steall' their was also Sunday's official Skyline race 55K but he raced that last year and felt that two races was adequate for one weekend. 

I am at this stage in my life where I want quality over quantity, if that means grabbing three random days in Scotland rather than planning a week long trip and waiting for the perfect moment to go with a group of friends; as fun as that would be I prefer the spontaneity of these random three days. Therefore a weekend in the highlands with one of my best friends felt like the perfect adventure.


We had an early flight into Glasgow on Friday morning where we collected our rental car, we didn't want to waste time in traffic so got on the road straight away but not before grabbing some Muesli and almond milk from Tesco's, two coffee cups and spoons from Starbucks. We pulled in at the 'Black Rock Cottage' sat on the side of the road for breakfast with a view.

My little cottage in the hills, I told Shane there was one condition for me going; if we got to see this cottage.

The VK


We were completely blessed with beautiful weather, a gruelling hike onto the 'Ring of Steall' to station two and then following the rim we hiked in the direction that the runners would be racing from. I spent the day hiking with Angus who we were staying in the house with; we spent most of our time taking in the scenery when the mountain tops weren't wrapped in fog. Although there wasn't visibility all the time it had this beautiful calming effect, when you were surrounded by the unknown, in this cloud it felt incredibly unusual but some what comforting that the real world was blocked out.

Incredible how quick the weather can change, one minute you're surrounded by fog and next your squinting from the sun.


Our flight home was that evening and although we had to be back in time to return the car we couldn't help but squeeze one more hike in. Sunday held the grand daddy of Skyline Scotland, a gruelling 55K race with 4,750m of pure skyrunning the least we could do was cheer on our friends who were wild enough to enter.

 Luke Nelson
Kimberly Strom Crushing it.
We Airbnb'ed it with some just as excited mountain runners which made the weekend even more enjoyable; mountain running is an exciting sport that brings like minded people together but along with it's social aspects it can also have those lonely moments, because it doesn't gather the social statues that football or hurling does, you can find yourself in those quiet moments more times than you would prefer. Hence why the accommodation worked so well, we sat at night chatting over race maps, making dinner and taking a well deserved trip to the pub for a few sociables on Saturday night. The Airbnb worked perfectly, since we were staying in a quiet residential part of town, a five minute walk from Kinlochleven's town centre but far enough away to feel as if we were in the middle of the wild.

Although I am no mountain running or skyrunning expert, race reviewer or genius within this field I don't feel as if there is much more to know about this sport other than the fact that it is one of a kind, everything from the race course to the people involved. Whether your a runner or not, when you show your face you instantly feel welcomed; you see people at their lowest but you are their to congratulate them when they are at their highest. Ever since I first heard about skyrunning I was intrigued but always felt that this was Shane's world, he traveled to these events alone hence why this weekend was so special to me; it allowed me to get an insight into the unknown. I knew the gift that Shane was given but my level of respect has shattered my previous sky high limits and is on a completely different planet; the elements, the push, the strength, physically and mentally, I had my own new understanding. 

A weekend like this does not just simply appear and leave, it has an effect and then actions must be taken; I decided to enter the Garmin Mourne Skyline Granite Trail Race, 21st October 2016, training has begun and I am so excited.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Was college worth it?

Ever wonder why you done something? What was it all for? You've managed to reach that milestone, that ultimate challenge and your standing with the reward and a mind filled with memories. You fought your battle and achieved everything that was once a distant dream. How does that feel?

I studied for 19 years of my life. I finished my GCSE exams at the age of sixteen and choose willingly to continue with education, I done what I felt I had to, I just needed two more years of school and then college was mine for the taking. I struggled with the work, I had every opportunity to bail, there was nothing that said I had to continue, no one who said if I didn't finish higher education that there wasn't another way of getting to university. I battled through the next two years and found out once I was finished school that I had to take a foundation degree in art in order to pursue my design degree...

What now? I had to take one year at tech and then I would be off to college to study design, the only subject I ever really felt I had a chance at, it was my passion it was everything I loved. Although I couldn't help but feel incredible sorry for myself having not got accepted into university the first time, I had convinced myself for two years that if I suffered I would get what I wanted. After spending a summer both happy that I had finished school but confused of what I should do. I applied to my local tech/community college for a year of foundation art and design. This course brought me down a path that I had never considered before, it opened my eyes up to a whole new world, I struggled again with work and the idea that all my friends who were in the same position the previous year were now living the student, that no parents lifestyle. 

In May 2012 I received an offer like no other; I was accepted to Ulster University to study design! I was one year behind my age group but I felt that this was my time, I was ready for this. I started classes in September and lived away from home in halls, allowing me to make friends and really live the student life, the first semester was fun I was thankfully living with a friend who had been by my side the previous three years and now studying the same course. I noticed from day one that classes were few, I had three classes over the course of two days in a week and the rest of the time nothing, I possibly could have done some of the assignments that I was given but I think we know the answer there. I decided to stay in my student apartment the nights before my class and at home the rest of the week, I worked full time hours in my job at home and found myself spending more time at home; which might I add was not a problem, I love my family but it was such a waste to spend money on something I wasn't getting full use of. 

By the end of the year I had really slipped up, I was passing my classes barely and the love I once had for my work was gone. I remember being in school and thinking, what would it be like if all I done was design? I could spend all day working on a project that I loved. I was now in that position and I wasn't happy. I decided for second year of college I would travel to college from home; sharing lifts and saving my money. Within a short space of time I realised that I wasn't happy. I was only going to class because I had to, I was on the verge of dropping out. All my hard work and all the SUFFERING in the beginning, for what?

I stumbled across a programme to study in america and jumped at the idea to do something different and really get away and be independent; I now had a target to reach for, I was working more hours in my job to save and had a goal getting me through another year of college which was close to being a drop out year.

I went to america, now really living my student life as there was no coming home at the weekend, no feeling sorry for myself, no parents, no job to distract me. I wanted to find my passion again and although I had this goal and I had no real expectations, whatever happened was happening for a reason. I hit the ground running literally, registered for my design classes even signed up for a running class and joined the international club. I could talk for hours about america but that would take this whole blog (I have older posts from my experiences in the states). 

I came home from america raring to go, I was excited to start final year (yes, you better believe it) I understood the work load would be heaps more than that of america but I understood that students were given free run on designing their projects which had my mind running in all directions. I decided in that moment that I wanted the best result possible, I wanted everything that I could get my hands on, top marks, what ever! I had put so much work into the previous six years that I desired it for no other reason than for myself.

I began the year with high hopes, as the weeks ticked by my feelings never changed, I was surprising myself at the work I could create and my ideas, I entered a photography competition on the sideline and thankfully won, earning me a trip to Japan. The year was going so well but as I entered the second semester the work load pilled up, my social life disappeared (for obvious reasons) and the pressure was intense. I would spend hours and hours in my room designing, researching; one day I spent 16 hours working, I started getting migraines and sever headaches, my arms broke out in rashes, I kept up my running to help shower my head rather than taking it out on family members but lord knows they were caught in the firing line every now and then.

This went on for four months until one day it was all over.

My work was submitted, my presentation was done and I was planning my end of year show, the buzz of being finished took over from the mayhem of that year and still so much was happening. I woke the morning of my show and knew that the results were there, all I had to do was make a phone call. I was shaking, dialled the number and just before it started to ring I ended the call, I wasn't ready for this, I wasn't ready to know. Compose yourself. Redialled and let it ring this time. After some polite but hurry with the short talk talk I asked the all important question. With a pause for effect the answer rung in my year;

Me: "sorry Sir, can you repeat that again" 

My Lecture: "Yes Clare, you got it. You got a first"

I ran downstairs screaming and kee hoeing grabbed dads wrist and without words he knew to drop everything and follow, I took off running to mums business at the back of our house in bare feet, running over stones like I had trainers on. Through the door like a tornado and screamed:

"I GOT IT!" 


The end of year show was one not to forget, surrounded by friends and lectures who were more than entitled to the open bar that night and the celebrations that continued into the wee hours. One thing after another I had a summer packed with travelling and working, day trips here, spending time with family and friends who through I had went into a deep hibernation and finally a family wedding to finish the summer off. 

September 2016. Part time job, no ties, no major responsibilities, a degree under my belt and Silence. Something that I hadn't experience in quit a long time. It rang so loud in my head that I was almost confused. I started to feel annoyed at myself, why did I not have a job set up for straight after college? Why do I feel as if I reached the ultimate goal and I was dropped from the top? I wanted to work on the next goal, a career but my subconscious was crying out for peace although it was wrecking my head to have it. After being surrounded by so much busyness and activity I didn't know how to handle it. 

Now as I sit here without a plan, a desire to travel the world and 19 years of education. Where next?

And yes, college was worth it. I got there in a completely different way than I would recommend anyone but that was the path that I choose.

College is not for everyone, when you choose to go, go because you want to or because you are passionate about your degree not because all your friends are or "if I don't I will be letting my family down." 

It is your decision, make it count.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Madrid in two Days

A four hour bus journey from Vitoria-Gasteiz and the wait was completely worth it, it might seem like a lot of travelling to explore a city for a day and a half but I had made it this far, plus another city that I had not been to. Temperature when we arrived was 36 degrees celsius which was absolutely what I needed.
Spider man

Madrid was an enchanting city filled with stunning architecture that just blow my mind, I  couldn't help but stop and stare in amazement at the old corner apartments, I could only dream to think what it would be like to live in one of them, with views out over the 'Mercado de San Miguel' or watching the blazing set over this vibrant city. The time we had was short but that didn't stop us on our whirlwind tour guide of the city; we were able to walk everywhere, soaking up the smells of fried shrimp and torta potato that wafted from the bars and quaint restaurants.

If you have not visited Madrid, it's worth it, even for a day.

Monday, 11 July 2016

An over due visit to the Basque Country

The Basque Country is a place I have heard only good things about.
Ander and I made a promise to each other one day in Durango Colorado, that we would visit each other in our home country; to see where they live, meet their friends and family and find out about the place that helped to make each of us the people that we are. Ander had already fulfilled his promise, now it was my turn. I thank God every day for the experience that I have in my life and for the opportunities to travel the world and hang out with such cool people.

I arrived into Bilbao on Saturday 11th June and I travelled with Ander and his family to 'San Juan de Gaztelugatxe' on the Sunday, I knew we were going to the coast but I had no idea the views would be as breath-taking; it reminded me of the scene with the chapel in 'Mamma Mia'.

A private tour around the 'Plaza Toros' Azpeitia or bullring.
It's all about who you know!

What better way to see a new town than to get out on the bike and set your own pace.

 'Basilica of Loyola' or 'Sanctuary of Ignatius of Loyola' 

There is a trail from Ander's town that runs along the river, it continues for miles and miles allowing you to enjoy the peace and quite of nature, parts of the trail uses old railway lines and the tunnels that were carved through the mountains for large coal powered steam trains are replaced with the slightly quieter sound of bicycle chains clinking as the gears lower with the climb.

A new perspective from the town hall.

San Sebastián

Can we just take a moment to appreciate these beautiful apartments? I admit I am a sucker for anything mustard or yellow but they are stunning.