Tuesday, September 29

3 Peaks 2009

In true Pulp Fiction style lets start at the end, that's me tapping down Pen-y-Ghent after the nice American chap i met at the top. Rode most of they way home together in a mixture of cramp and smiles. So i may as well do it the right way round....

The last month has been hell. No training, work pressure, research pressure, life pressure and just general feelings of malaise have meant that i am in absolute terrible condition. Light, but in no good shape.

Saturday morning, packing, packing, realising my bike is not race ready, but its in UK ahead of me. Balls. Last minute lift to the airport (thanks Andy) and getting ready to go when the phone rings, PhD supervisor on the phone...not a happy camper...instantly i'm in no mood to travel. Don't want to do anything, want to just crawl under a rock and hide. But i'm past security and they ain't going to let me out are they. It's almost as if the race is trying to mess with my head before i'm even in the country.

Hop on the plane, Simon Burnley's Cyclocross is on my lap as if i'm going to get any last minute tips to win, and mp3 player blaring Skinny Puppy in my ears, just daring a flight attendant to tell me to take them off. Plane goes up, plane goes down, spits me out of the flying bus. Meet Pauline in a total mood and head off to Decathlon to get last minute nutrition and tubes. The drive up and banter get my mood raised, find the lovely camp-site in Austwick after some food in Settle, a pint of local in Helwith Bridge and a quick scout of the drivers route for Pauline who was doing crew for me, and settle in for the night (pun 100% intended).

Sleep. Wake. Urinate. Sleep. Wake. Insert food. Drive to start of race and register. Just get my warm-up in and i'm lined up, 30 seconds later after spotting Trio the race is go. I love the road section at the start, fast, technical, and scares the crap out of the pure MTB heads. No crashes this year, even spot Twinklydave at one point on his nice new Rodwell, me likey. Nice easy average power at 280W, not to hard, but staying to the right of the pack to avoid the wind from the left side. No issues on the way to the bottom of Whernside, hit the bottom and am walking earlier than last year due to the hoards of people who cant ride up a hill, and are puncturing all over the place. Kids, cmmon, basic one, don't run 20PSI, its not actually a CX race! Shoulder and run time. Gain a few places by the time it gets seriously steep. Damn i'd forgotten just how steep Simon fell actually is. Oh well, get on with it and move. Short fast steps allow me to keep my place and move on up the hill.

Onto the moonscape that is the top in a total fog out. Bleep, and turn for the descent, see the first crash of the day guy in the boulder field below the steps off the top, looks nasty, but people are tending to him. Then the daemons arrived. No idea why, partially because i've not been on the CX bike much this year compared to last year, and partially due to nerves, but i rode the descent like a granny. Felt tight, sloppy and scared. Got to the feed grabbed my bottle off Pauline, and had to stop to put it in the pocket. 'Are you ok?' Pauline shouted, 'No' was the simple response as i pulled off onto the road section. Time down, felling low, only a third into the race.

Missed the tail of a group and ended up solo. Ok triathlon boy, lets see what you can do. TT time. Tucked up, head down and gunned it, caught the group and kept going, picked up one guy who did nothing, dropped him on the steep hill. Looks like France paid off anyway! TT...TT...TT...drink..TT...TT...eat...TT...TT Ingleborough. Rode as far as the little legs could go then hit the climb, not stopping ever was today's plan. Peak at the watch let me know i was on time for last years ride, hmm ok, well once i'm not slower. Got to the top of the never-ending staircase and started the lovely ridge ride, oh how i love this section. Descent time, no punctures are allowed, ride clean, ride fast, ride smart. Quicker than i know it i'm off the slabs and on the flatter section, passing people and descending like i am supposed to. Better, but not best. Feeling strong as we ride to the via-duct. Just about hear Pauline to get the bottle and shout a happy 'Thanks!' back. Feeling good as i hit the road, no cramps, not issues, and a big ring that works this year. TT time all the way to Horton. Hard as i can, pass a lot of riders i know will get me on the climb so i need to make as much time as i can.

Pen-Y-Ghent lane and i have issues. I nearly gave up at this point last year, due to a combination of cramping; tiredness; and hatred off all things vertical. Rode the whole section up to the gate. Stunned. i have no idea how i did but i did. I am taking this as my shining point from the day. Up up up we go, all the way to the top, once again the people who give us water half way up are gods among men and cyclists. I love you guys so much for not making me drink sweet carbo drink. On the final section my head started to calculate for the first time. 20 mins from the top to Helwith bridge to go under 4:30.....doable...but realistic i dont know. Descend like a daemon for the first time, feeling good, but wait is that....crap left calf starts to cramp. Ok, no jumping re-mounts. 5 mins later and the right starts to go. Damn it...descend, worry about it at the bottom.

Hit the road in a bunch of 3 look at the other lads and make the obvious statement. 'Want to go for this lads?' A resounding YES and i hit the front giving it all i have which proves to be a pathetic 290W. Turn it over to the American, and the pace stays high, not looking at the clock, keep gunning it. We drop rider number 3 and i take the front again. On the edge now as i spot the bridge and bring it home, avoid the gravel face plant add cross the line for a respectable 4:35. 5 mins outside what i wanted, but 10 mins faster than last year.

I've only toyed with the power data from the Powertap, although not the lightest option, it should give me some interesting data to look at. I'll do a post about it tomorrow if i get time.

Am i happy, yes. Will i be back, yes. But am i disappointed, yes more so. I had a terrible lead up, no specific training, and little to know enthusiasm. But next year, it will be different.

Also have to give a big thanks to Amy who without i would have not got an entry this year. I owe you something large and pink.....ehh ok...that sounds very very bad....erm....oh well.

Race around ireland 2009 Day 1

If you don't like needles....maybe not the best to look at all the photos.

What an event. The concept of it boggles the mind. Teams of 4 riding 2,131km around the country in under 96 hours. Then add in the solo's doing it in under 120 hours. Crazy. Totally so.

So to make it a little crazier it was decided that one team of cyclists would lend me their bodies, blood, saliva and urine for the name of science. This team was the wonderful lads in An Post Connaught.

What can i say about the race from an outsiders point of view. Controlled chaos. Riders would wait for a while until everything was about to explode and then jump into action, bikes set, gear on and in 2 mins the new riders would have arrived and the recovered riders would be on the road. Every 4 hours this rotated between resting and riding. Day and night, luckily through near perfect weather.

But my side of the race is what i want to talk about and how i experienced the event. This is going to be a bit like 24, but not as many explosions, but very similar amounts of blood.

-12 hours to race:
Navan, god how i hate Navan, something about the place. Sitting at the local sports partnership at 7:30am waiting for the boys to turn up and the sensors van to rear its head, please god let it turn up of 15mins penalty even before we start. 7:59:50 they turn up and Colm sprints in to sign on. Oh dear.....this is how its going to be then. Sign up, get the vans ready, accelerometers on the bikes and riders. Off to the main town centre to get the van accredited, done, happy out. Get my blood, psych, saliva and urine samples. Say my good lucks the the lads, turn all the kit on, bail back to my lab. Run my samples, pack the van, hit the road.

-1hour to race:
Phone wont stop ringing, ive just driven to the other end of the country and people want me to sort shit out. Get over it and deal with it!! I'm tired and i want dinner.

-10mins to race:
FUCK OFF, i don't care about it. MAKE SURE ITS ON. Simple strokes as Niall would say.

4 hours RT (00:00am):
Cant sleep, totaly shitting the first night, no idea if this is going to work, really not enjoying this not knowing whats going on.

11 hours RT(07:00am):
Phone on, P just rang. Van has blown all its circuits, fuse fucked, no power, but got it sorted. To make things worse, total blow out on the van. Stress building, people not happy, no idea if they are going to let me sample them. So so nervous.

14 hours RT(10:00am):
Met the lads....everyone is actually chilled...quite confused. WTF happened and why aren't they annoyed! Waiting for the lads to arrive for the switch over and every one is just lolling about, drinking coffee kicking heals. I'm very very confused, yet chilled.

15 hours RT(11:00am):
Riders here, switch done, Mick and Padraig in, Noel and Daire out. What a total anti climax! So fast, saw everything, which was nothing. Time to take samples off the lads. Have the van in a nice corner of the carpark away from everyone, however sticking needles into cyclists in the public's eye is something i need to keep quiet!

15:30 hours RT(11:30am):
Shit the wheel with the puncture is still in the follow vehicle, chase time! Got it an hour later, then had to skip on ahead onto Sligo to get it fixed. This is a puncture kids.

19.5 hours RT(3:30pm):
Sligo, another petrol station, new tire fitted in record time in Grange. Time to stab the lads and get more blood in another dodgy spot. Lads are holding up very very well. Local area now so they are happy out, playing up for the people and just talking easily to everyone.

29 hours RT(11:00pm):
Just arrived in Tralee, drinving from Sligo to Tralee in one go sucks so much. Wrecked, lads are still riding, apparenlty ok. Will see in the morning. hope i can get more than 5 hours sleep tonight.

This gives an idea of the first day. Seriously hectic moments and other not so hectic moments. I'll do some more tomorrow, to tired now! All leading up to this:

Tuesday, September 1

End of season race's

Ireland can be a great place, one minute its sun, the next its rain. The last two races i've done have reminded me of this more than ever.

K-Capital Round 2: Carrick Mountain
Second race of the WORC league was always going to be a biggie. Long course at 40km, but on the day we had to shut it down to 30km due to the weather...have a guess what....it was raining. But not just rain....torrents from the sky in the days leading up to the race. Was so worried that it was going to totally wash out the course.

Luckily it was not as bad, no the weather was still crap, but it was soaking. More to the point i wasn't actually racing i was sweeping. *sigh* long long day in the saddle on my own. Lost my water bottle 5km in, no water until about 12km. Add into that a race at the Bray Aquathon and a long run session the day before and my legs were shot. Felt so lonely for the whole ride until i caught the back markers. Saying that i enjoyed the day out, but it's made my mind up that i am not marshalling any more races this year.
Dublin City Triathlon
Week later and a week less training. Horrible week in work, stress, stress and more stress. 3 weeks before the main data collection for your PhD is NOT the time to try to do an A race. Once again i blame Xterra France for sucking SO BAD at getting themselves sorted. grrrrrrr. Anyway..

Great race as usual, cant fault the Piranha folks on this. Pure excellence. As normal not a hitch and the had transition sorted perfect for this one. Very little flow and the water was not smelling as bad as normal. Cold swim, but more or less uneventful bar nearly loosing a tooth when i got an elbow about 500m into the swim. Need to get FASTER to stay AHEAD of the pack. Left with a slight bitterness to the swim 00:30:15... wanted under 30. Welcome to the trend of the day.

Bike was good, aiming for a 1:10 split and did a 1:10:32, just outside again, i probably could have paced better, but the efforts were euqal on each lap, all the times within 30 seconds of each other, cant argue with that for 5 laps..

As for the run...wow...first 3km, felt great, hammered it, going to go under 2:3o, no issue, might might do a 2:20..then kaboom, legs toast, down to 5:20km's, shit shit shit, head fell out, and then it happened, pace dropped and couldnt do nowt, even had a bit of a walk....how sad is that.


2 mins outside of my season goal. Result. Bitter. But.... im fitter, faster, lighter and more motivated than ever. The cross season is on the horizon and im looking forward to it. Life i good, i have a job, and relationship. Lets be honest. Its just a race.

For now