Tuesday, February 23

Hit the North, CX or MTB??

Cyclocross or mountain bike, the eternal question. Which is better? Which is more fun? Which do i prefer?

I've been a mountain biker since i first heard of it as a wee lad climbing in Glendalough. Watching the old boys of Irish mountain biking descending the zig-zags wondering where they had come from and where they were going. All i knew at that time was that i had at least an hour walk out from the crags, and they would be drinking a beer in my name.

Several years later i had been mountain biking for a few hours when i saw a few lads (Robin Seymore, Joe McCall, Dave Gill) descending off the top of 3 rock down a run called Bone-shaker on what looked like road bikes. This route i considered a DH run, and used to hit it dressed head to toe in armour and donning a full face to save my gorgeous looks.

Three years ago i got my first cross bike after doing a few races on my MTB. An old Flanders beater i bought for €100 off a mate. I loved it, i thought i was Sven Nys.... albeit it 94kg and couldn't run up hill to save my life. This also corresponded with the lowest point in my personal life. I was in my final year and i pretty much opted to drop training for a year
Cross in a way was a saviour, an eye opener to a new world of potential and what i could do on a MTB. Along with triathlon and a fair dose of help from Pauline, i ditched most of the weight by the start of the next season. A summer of MTB and track, and 7 or 8 triathlons (god knows how many duathlons) left me eager for cross.

Roll on the Team WORC club cross sessions on Tuesday nights. Hard training, with the best, no bullshit, no place to hide, but more help than i ever imagined. The cross season rolled by, did the 3 peaks, i did ok, had a few top 30 races finishes, and a 24th in the national champs. This cross thing was addictive. The summer spent typing Dugast/tubular/Tuffo into ebay looking for that ever elusive deal, and yet roll on 3 peaks 2009 and i still hadn't coped on to how to train for cross. Still training like a MTBer who likes to run and swim.

Another cross season rolled past, entered more races, got a 6th place, ran a national champs and finished 15th. Getting better, nearly getting money in races. But alas all things have to come to an end. HTN it was to be. The race, the challenge, which is better? Race the 2 hour hilly course on a MTB, or do it on the CX bike. 'll take the CX. The bike that i'd done well on, the one i knew how it handled better than any other.

Was taking a leak when the riders were called up, buggerit, managed to get in about 4 rows back, not my normal starting position by any means but sure its a long race. Starters orders, clipped and ready to roll. Shivering in my skinsuit with anticipation and cold. Usual hammer for the first section, people who have no idea how to race in front of me get barged, sorry lads, but if you dont like it get out of my way. Elbows, knees whatever it takes. Running the sections people are trying to ride at the start gets me into the first 20 riders. OK, keep it down, draw a gap then settle in.

lap round and i see Jason standing at a corner marshalling and shouting at me. Glare at him, i currently want to kill him as its taking all i have to stop my stomach contents erupting. Must keep precious fluid in! Few laps later and its all settled, not going to loose any places unless i mess up. Every lap i get a cheer from locals and a few comments along the lines of 'go token Irish bloke' and 'you've come along way' also the kind words of Ed to another rider 'GET OUT OF THE WAY OF THE FAST BLOKE!' Precious.

One crash later, that has cost me quite a few Euro it looks like, and the race ended with me in 16th. I'd wanted top 20 as i'd heard there was a better list of riders this year. Happy with my result, not ecstatic, but happy. Unfortunately now the cross bike goes back into road mode, the TT bike come out for the long rides, and the MTB comes out for the even longer rides.

24 season is on the way. Take HTN, repeat by 12.

Monday, February 8

The Race

*turn off organising brain, turn on race brain*

Ok why am i at the back? This sucks, normally second row. This start is going to suck. Ok, roll with it, you can make time up you're ready to rock. No wait you didn't get a warm up. What gear am i in? Whistle? WTF where is the god damned warning!

Clip in, clunk clunk clunk, sprinting hard, on the brakes again. Ok that's 10 places easy. Left, tight right cut it wide, grip on the grass sprint again. Cut the corner at the bush, go in high to the tree, tight cut back left. Ok that's another 5 places. Into the tunnel, watch number XX shoulder a guy into the wall, give out shit to him as i ride past. Bad sportsmanship makes me sick.

Sprint along the banking up and over getting another place as i take the alternate root behind the tree after the descent. Tunnel, left turn (watch for snakebites, hit the little gap), sprint uphill, tight right with massive cheering crowd, right into the trees cut it high cut it tight. Singletrack, bermed right hander, rutted left (slippery over roots, high on the right), tight slippy left powersliding both wheels as you hit the tarmac, onto the main straight to recover.

More singletrack, grass exit, down the steep, into the tight RH over the very slippery grass. Into the crux of the course, mud alley, two rutted sections about 5m long with a break in between, followed by a bumpy mud exit. Stay central, stay loose, the tubs will take care of grip. Exit to fast downhill, RH turn to long uphill (watch the stones on the right, stay left its harder ground), over the bridge (RHS will snakebite), up to LH turn, tighter LH turn, mud section off camber grass, through tunnel, over roots (Gonna get slippery later), tunnel, tight RH, (use the berm to exit), tighter LH, super tight right (try to keep speed) onto slip sliding hell and sprint up to the steps.

36 steps to my bike again, run them run fast, split after the tunnel to the right, over take, back on bike long straight to RH turn into singletrack again, up/down/left/right onto the main straight.

Repeat x 9, puke, wonder why i do this sport. Pat people on back. Collapse.

Memories of the race: Flanders flags, BBQ, Shouting crowds, playing tag with Niall, Dave and Will.

Stress level: 0

I love to race my bike.

Cyclocross National Championships (In the manner of 24)

*intake of breath*

Yesterday was probably one of the most stressful days in my life. Trying to run a national championships and compete in one on the same day. In my head in the lead up i thought; 'Sure if Robin can do it, so can I'. Suffice to say i was wrong.

The weeks leading up to the event were hard, postponing an event like this did not go down well, either with me or the cycling community as a whole. Not much could be done with the country under snow. But i digress.... The rescheduled dates clashed with another event that meant i lost half the marshals that said they would work on the day. Stress level 1.

Rock on the week before and people start dropping like flies , random statements coming out in the press about licence conditions that had no grounding in the truth, and the park still frozen in ice. Stress level 4

Day before, have scrounged enough marshals through emails/twitter/beer promises. Getting all the last bits sorted, meet the park, walk the course, de-flood the section 2 foot under water (bet you cant guess where that was). Everything was in place except my head. Stress level 5

2am, before the race, up in 5 hours to start marking the course. Cant sleep, cant eat, stomach in bits. Stress level 7.

7am Breakfast time...ooh food. Stress level 5. 7:30am arrive at the park and start taping out in the dark. Stress level 4.

9am marshals and helpers arrive, keep taping; stress level 5.

10am Phone call from Ollie, timing computer is not working. Ring Dave for spare. Stress level 7.5 ish. 11am, timing still shagged. underage race to start in 30mins, only 2 but gotta get them out. Stress 8.

11:45am underage race goes, only 2 riders. Get sent the wrong way by the 'leader'. Bodes well.....

12pm Timing is still down, tell the MTB race we are going to be at least 15 mins late. 12:30pm MTB race starts....god i feel bad. Stress level 8.

12:45 i leave my race radio down, and ride over to the room where my kit is. Race is starting in 15mins. No time for warmup time to get into kit, cram a gel in, grab a glass of water, get Stu to pin on my number and 'race'. Stress 3, this was the calmest moment of the whole day and at this point i almost thought about just leaving and going home.

1:10pm On the start line with people i thought i knew acting like idiots. This moment goes into my mental trove of times i will remember for the rest of my life, and one that has changed opinions of people for me for ever. You know who you are.

1:15pm Race starts, gridded at the back with no stress.

8 laps later race over. I'll write about that later.

Saturday, February 6

The Night before Cross Nats, by me

Twas The Night Before Cross Nats,

Not a rider was stirring, except in one house;

The skinsuit was hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that cold weather soon would be there;

The tubs were nestled all snug on their rims,

While visions of mud rut danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long summers nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen rain

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature rider, and 9 tiny gears,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Slick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, O'Neil! now, Ryan! now, Delahey and Ferguson!

On, Convil ! on Boyd! on, Galloway and Clougher!

To the top of the steps! to the top of the hill!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As wet muds that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the bike full of carbon, and St. Slick too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and posing of each little hoof.*

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Slick came with a bound.

He was dressed all in lycra , from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with blood dannk muck;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were so gaunt, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as cool as the snow;

The stump of a Torq bar he held tight in his teeth,

And the smell it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was skinny and ripper , a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the kit bags ; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his bike, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"No Seymore, no Aitken, we're in for a fight!"

*you try find something that rhymes with hoof....good luck tomorrow all

Thursday, February 4

Research Subjects needed!

The Effect of Acute Sleep Deprivation on Cycling Performance.

The School of Health and Human Performance at DCU are conducting a research study to investigate the effects of acute sleep deprivation on physiological and psychological function of endurance trained cyclists. The purpose of this study is to investigate how sleep deprivation and quality of sleep affects endurance cyclists during longer duration cycling events such as the Race Across America, Race Around Ireland, and 24 hour mountain bike racing.

We are looking for healthy physically active male cyclists who have been training for a minimum of the past 6 months and have raced within the past year. The testing will involve a minimum of four trips to the Health and Human Performance laboratories’ based in Dublin City University. This will include an initial visit for maximal fitness testing (via a VO2max test), two over night stays, and a final visit to measure recovery. During one of the overnight stays participants will remain awake for 24 hours with intermittent monitoring of physiological and cognitive measures, the other overnight stay will involve the participants following normal sleep and diet patterns.

During these trips to the performance labs in DCU you will undergo monitoring of cycling performance via a 20 minute time trial (via a cycle ergometer), physiological performance (via heart rate, respiration, lactate and sleep quality measurement), cognitive performance (via four computerized cognitive function tests), and have blood taken via a venous blood sample for analysis in DCU laboratories. You will be tested in a similar fashion 4 times throughout the 24 hour period. For another of the visits you will be allowed to sleep for a maximum of 8 hours and will be tested 4 times (as above) over the 24 hour period.

After the tests have been performed you will be given information relating to your current level of fitness, as well as the influence of sleep deprivation on you. You will also receive feedback based your fitness during the VO2max trial which can be used to set training zones and targets for the summers racing.

If you would like to hear more about this study or would consider participating, please contact Gregory May (Ph: O1-7OO8214 (office) 10am- 5:30pm Mon-Fri, O87-9O83684 (mobile) or email: gregory.c.may(at)gmail.com).

Tuesday, February 2

Ups and downs along the way

Its been an odd week or two since i posted last. Pay cheque arrived, payments went out, another month of scrimping starts, and its still not to bad a thing. once i remember to actually buy food and cook dinners rather than reverting to the cheap and easy options it normally helps get back to race ish weight. Just need to start avoiding the cake and beer isle again.

February the last two years has been the month where i've been eager to get going again after a nice bit of time off from the cyclocross season. Sure i've never taken it anywhere as serious as i did this year, but the self imposed extension of the nationals has left me in a mental state of fatigue. A month off that i don't get to have would sort me out for some exploratory racing in Feb, but now i have to push back further. Thankfully i had already sort of scheduled March as a no racing month. It'll be good for me to get a hard block of work in, and still catch up on friends.

At this point i just want to get it over with. All the love, all the excitement i had for hosting a race at my home venue has gone. I just want Sunday to roll over, happen, then die so i can get back on with my life and not have to deal with everyone else's.

The last cross race i actually raced was in November,the final round of the Super-cross. 6 weeks ago. I have done lots of aerobic work, am lighter than i was, bike skills have been honed on the MTB. But i fear the top end is gone. Only racing will tell.

Why do i get worked up and stressed over training for a race that i will do average in, why do i stress over work, over every little facet of every little thing that i can control, yet if i mentally declare something that i cant control, i don't stress. I don't know why, if you do answers on a postcard please.

All i know is that i need to get some time off, time to myself, time with wheels under me and blue sky's above. Time to be solitary and hurt the daemons in my head. Once the CX nationals are over, and the dust (hangover) has settled this will happen.