Marathon of Marathons

There are still many days that I cannot believe we are living the life we live.

I apologize for the crickets on the blog lately, I want to be better at recording our day to day lives, as I never want to forget this time, but sometimes, we’re just having so much fun, I forget to write it all down. (Also, I’m not sure why anyone else cares about our day to day lives). Fair warning, this is really long with a ton of pictures 🙂

Here’s the whirlwind catch up of the last two months: I have been able to continue working in the same unit at the hospital, a wonderful answer to prayers. I still love my job and am so thankful for it. Jared submitted his writing sample for approval, we are still awaiting that approval, but he is just continuing on writing, as we are pretty sure he rocked it. Some of our best friends had the most adorable baby boy, who made quite an entrance at 12 days late. Our friend Randy came to visit and was a fantastic visitor. We loved spending a week with him, I’ll make Jared write a separate post about their trip to the Scottish Borders. We celebrated Jared’s 27th birthday with a quiet day in St Andrews and a feast for dinner. I spent the entire day Saturday making Coq au vin, Julia Child’s style, and we had a Guinness cake with Baileys salted whipped cream for dessert. April was crazy and fun and beautiful.

On May first, we set off for the Isle of Tiree, of the Scottish west coast. In January, my friend Hayley told us that she was running a half marathon on Tiree, and told us we should run it with her. I pretty much laughed in her face, which anyone who has seen me run would have as well. But Jared, encourager that he is, gently persuaded me that I could do this, and before I knew it, Hayley had a beginners half marathon training plan in front of me, and I was lacing up my shoes three times a week. It was never pretty, and never easy, but I am so thankful for people who lovingly encouraged me through this spring. Suddenly it was the first of May, and we were headed off to a tiny island to run 13.15 miles.

Our campsite

Our campsite

All week leading up Saturday, the weather forecast just said rain and wind. That was most people’s comment when they heard we were going to Tiree, “Oh, its really windy there.” But we were determined. Tiree is barely five miles across, and has a population of 730 people. By the time Hayley and I sat down to book accommodation, our options included: camping. That was it. So we begged a tent and some sleeping bags off some friends, and were lucky that our friend Kenny threw some sleeping mats in as well. We took the ferry over Saturday morning, and went to set up our tent. The wind made it pretty much impossible, and we were in the process of plotting how the four of us could sleep in our tiny rental car, when the kind campsite owner offered to let us sleep in his large barn/shed/garage thing. Despite the rocks covering the ground, it was a welcome shelter from the wind and rain (winds which got up to 45 mph at night…).

P5020059We got the campsite all settled, and made a dash for the race check in. Hayley showed me how to put on a race bib (which was pretty useless in the crazy wind), and we headed for the starting line; on the beach. Somehow we thought we were only running about 20 yards on the beach… while it was beautiful, I wasn’t too impressed that nearly the first mile was all on the beach. The wind and rain held off until about the last 3-4 miles, which I’m not sure if that made it any better or worse. Hayley limped into the finish line with a hurt knee, and I pretty much crawled there (back on the beach), but we finished. That was my goal and it was a great feeling.

Jared and Jeff were so supportive, standing in the cold rain to hand out waters, running along side us, and just so encouraging all around. Almost all of the spectators (lets be real, there were like 30 people), hid inside the hall, but the boys endured the weather for us. Their bottle of whisky may have helped them bear the cold as well.

Since there is a total of one restaurant open in the evenings on Tiree, we ended up eating dinner at a fish and chips take away truck, which was probably better than any restaurant we could have found. That was the best burger and chips I’ve eaten in a long time. We spent the rest of the evening huddling together over a game of Hearts until it was an acceptable hour to sleep (about 9 pm).

Despite the locals assurance that the ferry would not make it due to the crazy weather, we made it off Tiree and to our warm, cozy wigwam, and enjoyed real beds and warm showers. I’ll take glamping over camping any day. We took the first morning ferry to Islay, and entered a completely different kind of marathon: the distillery marathon.

Islay, “The Queen of the Hebrides”, is a beautiful island, with stunning scenery, and eight whisky distilleries. Some of Jared’s favorite whiskies come from Islay, and he has been plotting a trip here since day one. There is no one we would have rather explored Islay with than Jeff and Hayley. We travel in similar ways (do as much as you can, for as cheap as you can, and get as many pictures as possible.) Hayley and Jeff have become some of our best friends here this year, and we loved having this weekend with them. We began our journey at Ardbeg Distillery at 10 am, and were pleasantly surprised to find that almost all the distilleries would give us a taste of their whiskies for free! We would usually all choose something different, and share our drams so we could try them all. Monday we made our way through Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, and Bruichladdich. It was fun to see the differences between each distillery, and what made them unique. It is also crazy that on this island, there can be so many unique whiskies, with the same ingredients, yet all so different.

We took a little time out of our afternoon to track down the Islay Ales Brewery, and enjoyed a private tour from the quirky brewery owner/manager/worker/accountant/marketing guy/deliveryman…. you get the picture. The brewery has three people on staff, and he seems like he works really hard to keep things running. This was particularly interesting because Jared and Jeff have been making some homebrewed beer recently, and this was kind of just a big step up from what they are doing!

We had originally planned to camp on Islay, but after our Tiree adventure, we were more than wiling to fork out the money for a last minute hostel. We ate dinner at a local pub, at the recommendation of our host, and once again, were asleep by about 9 pm. We’re crazy party animals.

Just to clarify, our days consisted of more than just whisky tasting, we also got a chance to explore the beautiful island. Islay has some of the most dramatic scenery changes I’ve ever seen for such a small island. We hiked Monday afternoon out to a monument, where we enjoyed our lunch, and the crazy views, and also the crazy mountain goats. Tuesday was a bit more rainy, but we still made our way out to an old chapel, and to Finlaggan, the center of the Lordship of the Isles. There is some amazing history on Islay, and my history nerd husband was in heaven.

Tuesday we finished our distillery marathon by visiting Kilchoman, Caol Ila, and Bunnahabhain. The way each distillery presents themselves and their whisky is very unique, and cool to see.

We ended our whirlwind trip by catching the last ferry off the island, and road tripping back across Scotland to little sleeping St Andrews. This weekend reminded me again of the amazing life we live. The country we call home. The people we do life with. The beauty of this world. The ability to do new, hard things. Life is good, and we could not be more thankful.

Watch out for the next post: Hannah in Scotland!!!!!!!!

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