Wednesday, July 28

Beast of the East Triathlon

Beast of the East is one of those races that chew you up and spit you out the other end. Unfortunatly this happened.

I had a terrible race and i don't want to think about it to much. Swim was apalling at 37mins for 1,500m. No idea what happened i must have just switched off at some point and forgotten that i was supposed to be racing.

The bike was fine at 1:15 on a very hilly course. But dropping my bottle off my bike 1km in and loosing all but 2 mouthfulls of water was not a great place to be in for a 40km TT in the heat. Paced it well and did a 257W average for a very hilly course. But was already considering a DNF on the run as i knew i'd be dehydrated.

The run was the usual spectacularly hilly affair that this race brings. Hard running from the off and no let up as it drops you back down into the valley on a 3km descent at the end. Lung and thigh busting. However with 3 water stations i got to drink for the first time in nearly 2 hours, so all was looking up if i'm honest.

To your right is a broken man, one who was tired, dizzy and sore. i've not dug so deep in a long time and yet finished so far down. It was hard, and i didn't appreciate it at all.

Thanks to Ollie for letting me steal his photos.

Remake Remodel Reuse.


Over the years I've had a few people come and go and make impressions on my life. During my more haphazard early college years i did alot of soul and bottle searching. If i wasn't drinking i was probably hung over, i sure as hell wasn't in lectures. Over the coming months i started rock climbing more and more, and eventually managed to go on a trip to the French Alps and bag my first few big peaks. Our first trip was slow, cumbersome, and i ended going home early with a screwed up knee and some ideas. Over the next few years i managed several more trips to the Alps, summer and winter. A few to Scotland and then culminating with a 6month trip to climb and mountain bike in Canada. During this time two books came to me. The first, Extreme Alpinisim, was a revelation into the idea of 'light is right' and 'measured danger', a kind of punk rock attitude to big mountain climbing that still resounds with me today. The second, Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber, struck me deeper. A collection of Marks writings from several sources, and a pure insight into another mind that in some way paralleled some of the thoughts going through mine. Over the past few years the books have gathered dust on my shelves. Occasionally being rubbed clean as i pass the climbing topo's that dominate one shelf.

A while back I re-watched The 300 and remembered that the gym Mark had set up was involved in the training. A quick Google later and i was at the Gym Jones site. A click on the knowledge tab and i was back in a place i had not been in a long time. Introspection is not something i do well. I have always tried to portray myself in a manner that is open, happy, and comfortable where i am. Of late this face has been coming down. A PhD is a place that forces me to think internally and it's been a hard process. Riding a bike, running , or swimming alone is the key. Being solo for a long period gives me that time to think, gives me a place to be, gives me a time to break it all down. I've come to the conclusion that things need to change. Change is good, change re-enforces what is good in our lives, and takes what is not and discards it. Once again i found explanation in a mentor long forgotten:

You have to be willing to bite off more than you can chew, to overdose, and to fail. If you won't risk the answer you won't ask the question. If you lack the will to ask then consciousness will not unite with muscle and bone. I criticize such a lack of will (especially in myself) and ask, "What's the worst that can happen?" The fearful part of me replies, "I may fall short of my expectations. I may not be who I pretend to others. My perception of self may be proven wrong, very wrong." The confident part of me says, "So what ... only after breaking myself apart may rebuilding begin." So go ahead, break stuff. Break yourself on the once-hard edges of yourself. And recycle the debris into the foundation of your future.

Mark Twight; Remake Remodel

Tuesday, July 27

Holla holla holidays!

Post Hit the North was dedicated holiday time. I pretty much don't know what happened to Saturday other than i rode around a track flat out and then drank some beers and woke up on Sunday feeling tired but happy that it was raining and i could wuss out of a ride in Cragg Quarry. A long drive up to the lakes (not as long as we thought) and arrived at Sarahs for a bit of realxing and seeing the lakes. Apparently the lakes were mostly falling from the sky all over the ground for the whole time we were there. So we didn't get to see much. I was wrecked for the whole time and was pretty much happy to
just chill out and do nothing!

Morning after a great dinner and evening in watching the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy with some local beers we drove on to Grizdale trail centre. Not a place i'd heard of until i'd picked up MBUK and they had a short piece on it. The North Face Trail sounded kinda cool, and in the end didn't disappoint. Not an uber technical trail at any stretch of the imagination, but 20km of fast flowing singletrack with little to know fire-road or road on the whole thing. Exactly what a trail centre should be aiming to be. Great little spot even though it rained for the whole time and made the board sections into uber death traps that felt i still had to ride as fast as they came at me! Tea and food in the cafe after in the torrential rain pretty much ended the ride and we hopped in the car for the drive down to Manchester to meet Odile.

Curry trip had to be done and then we grabbed some floor space in Odiles after we decided not to drive to Wales in the pissing rain with no camp site booked. Passed out as soon as i hit the floor and woke up feeling much much better (albiet at 7am). Hopped in the van and pointed it south. Arrived in Betwys Y Coed a few hours later and set up Chateaux del Awesome. Both of us were wrecked so went for a wander about the village, ate some food, and hit the bed early. Plan was to ride for the next few days so may as well ride while rested!

Marin trail. Still a favorate of mine despite its amounts of fireroad. Always a good way to get a 30km ride in while in the area. The weather cleared up and we were treated to shorts and T-shirts the whole way around. 3hrs later sitting in Betwys realising that we only stopped once for a bar and a few pee's by me on the way. Good day, legs were starting to come around again. Time to polish it off with some food then bed.

Next day saw some shocking weather
and a decision to skip down to Coed to try and see if the weather was better in the next valley. Twar (Red Bull) in Coed Y Brenin is a great trail. Mixture of evil fire road climbs, hard technical singletrack, and stunning cakes make CYB one of the best places to ride in Wales. Its about 2 years since i rode Twar and my brain was jumbling it up with MBR and Beast. Forgot how some of the lines change in the wet and damp that always hide away in the forrests. While in CYB you cannot leave with out 2 things. Cake and riding Dream-time. Such a good trail, fast, flowing, and always always tempting you to go faster. I still think this is one of the best sections of trail in the UK.

After a MASSIVE dinner at the Dragon restaurant in Betwys (eat here if you enjoy real asian food) and an early night to bed we woke up early to pack down the Chateaux and hit the road. A quick bite to eat and then up to Ogwen. Run up to the slabs, take the steep route to the walking trail and up onto Tryffan. Enjoy the view and then drop down again. Changed by the side of the road and straight to Llanberis to get breakfast in Petes Eats. Best breakfast establishment in Wales and an institution that needs to be visited at least once if you are in the area. Pop into Joe Browns and buy some kit i don't need, but liked the look of, then into the van for the quick drive to Hollyhead and the ferry home.

Monday, July 26

Hit the North 8hr


First up a big congrats to the guys and gals over at Hit the North. Again one of the great races of the season, and a real highlight. Nothing quite like ragging a bike around a course with other fast people to give you a great feeling of being alive. After a week away from the computer its time to get my words down on how the race went.

Head has been wrecked over the past month, no two ways to put it, i needed some time off to get my head sorted, get some big miles in, and have a few beers. Luckily enough a week and a bit in the Uk had been arranged with Pauline, and we headed off.

Rolling onto the early 8am ferry on Friday i turned my phone to silent, switched off the 3G connection and vowed not to check my emails until the following Monday week(today). This was going to be a proper holiday. The normal quick spin to Hollyhead took a bit longer as the boat was delayed, so we ended up about 2 hrs behind schedule. However with the only plan for the day being to get to Decathlon, and then put up the tent i was planning to buy at the race venue, we weren't exactly stuck for time. Tent up, bit of a wander on the course, cram some food in, meet Jason before bed and laugh at the obvious crash points, and generally just chill.

Up early on Saturday as normal, however with a late start of 11am, i ended up being able to pootle about and get a much longer warmup than i'd normally get. Which was nice. Big shout out to Jason who pretty much saved me a long walk back on the warm up as i'd wedged my chain between my wheel and cassette. Simple as, the chain was wedged in good and proper and it took the two of us to get it out. Needless to say if he'd not given me a hand (thanks to the 3 riders who rode past me without even a 'are you ok', wankers) i'd not have been racing. Good when the organisers give a shit ehy??

So warm up done, last bits of food in, pit bunny given final amounts of attention before i crack on with racing (thanks love), and chain lubed with some free lube from the folks at Squirt. Took a toilet break while Pauline racked my bike beside Dave's and got back to the bunch just as it was time to ditch outer layers. The 500m Le Mans style run suited me perfect. Tight fast running and nice ups and downs gave me 5th place out onto the bike for the first lap. Plan was to ride HARD for the first lap, little less so for #2 then settle in for the next X laps.

Grab the bike, quick run out until the end of transition zone. Quick pedal into the first set of single track, down the sloppy descent off camber section, over the lump that sent Ali into the river, left into the bomb hole, over the river and run up the progressively getting muddier, into some muddy ST, then onto the first section of flat. Gun it to the un-ridable climb, sip down the other side, back onto the long flat section and onto the side of the motorway. Up the piece of hatred that was the dry single track that destroyed my back every lap, i hated this part more than anything. Into the trail centre section and hammer again, enjoy the techy corners, and play the 'don't touch the brakes' game. Up the first bridle way section and onto the berms, hammer down, trying to resist launching into the sky, carbon race bikes don't like to fly. Bit more single track, and then some more bridleway, lots of cobbles and the first proper section to eat the contents of my pockets. Into the gravel swoop-track that i rode with Jason at the start apres fixing my bike, great bit of the trail where most people were riding way way to easy. More fast and flat to the drop into the river again (avoiding the chicken chute) and then up the steps to get a bottle and food from Pauline.

Repeat by 12.

Get lapped by Dave TWICE. Dude was on fire. 14laps. 2 more than me. Unreal.

Came 6th....happy with that as i was aiming for top 10, and not being on form it was a big booster for me that i can race hard when i have too.

The usual afters were excellent. Great food (3 dinners), great beers, and some tunes. All in all the way racing should be. The course was great, if a little lonley, and i am so psyched over the winter race next year already. The more and more i ride in the Northern parts of the Uk the more i could see myself living there. The racing sceen is so different to Ireland with people realising that you are not mental for wanting to spend 8hrs and 18mins straight on your mountain bike....or maybe its just the ones i know.

Monday, July 12

Itchiness fading, altitude increasing!


What a weekend. All plans of training thrown out the window due to a last minute decision to go biking in the rain on Friday. Next time when i get the idea to go out in the bad weather to train, i'm just going to get onto the turbo. I blame the weather, as i think its just cruel to blame the pretty flowers.

Saturday was hell, falling asslee watching the tour, trying to fettle bikes and genearllay just being a mope. Went to the shops at least and bought lots of good healthy food (mostly veg so i can feel like i'm getting revenge). Felt down so decided that i'd get myself a bottle of Duvel for dinner, then decided i deserved curry, and had another bottle of Duvel. At about 10pm sleepiness took over and i just had to crash and burn.

So Sunday, more of the same, caught up on some reading, drank coffee, and watched the tour. On the plus side my chili plant needed harvesting as its growing a load more peppers. So looks like tasty food for dinner tonight! 11hours sleep had done me well, but i still felt lethargic, and was scratching like mad, so more drugs.

Monday and the itch has subsided, still there a bit, but no where near as much. Spent the morning constructing out hypoxic tent, and am currently running tests to make sure its holding its values. Fun and games that i may get to use in my work!

Saturday, July 10

It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

This post could also be entitled: Can't sleep tigers gonna get me.

Every now and again i suffer from insomnia. Used to it at this stage. Normally manifests itself during periods of high stress, high alcohol consumption, or HIGH workload when training.

At the moment i am scoring low on all of those. Stress from work/life is low (Bound to rise next week before holidays), I've cut my alcohol consumption back to pretty low by normal peoples standards (not athletic standards, still on >4 units a week), and I'm in a flux period of large hours training, but little to know intensity.

I went out for a 2 hour MTB ride in the rain last night. It's a long time since i have trained in the rain as its been so dry, and i wanted to make sure if it craps out for next weeks HTN that i can ride well.

There were nettles, lots of nettles. I also came off my bike (clipped my bars in a narrow channel) and landed in a lovely soft over head high thicket of Foxgloves.

Turns out i am allergic to them and my legs are covered in hives. Thankfully i was wearing long sleeves and landed on my back and helmet as my face is not!

Pretty much spent the entire night awake as my legs are super sensitive to touch. Waiting for the chemist to open so i can get some anti histamines.

This sucks.

Thursday, July 8

Howth Aquathon Mk2- run fatty run



I will re utter this; i HATE aquathons. But this is one of the reason i've made sure to do this series. Bike has always been my strong point, swim used to be ok for me but not swimming for 6months bar in races has changed that somewhat, my run used to be very weak, now its just not fast, pretty middle pack TBH.

The lead into Mondays nights race was not ideal, never was going to be with the Euro's the weekend before, and a long ride 2 days before. But as the book of Gordo says 'get used to training and racing tired'. Very little sleep was not the way to go in tired, i think its supposed to be from training isn't it?

At about 3pm i was still feeling rotten, had been on and off the toilet all day. Probably a combination of long ride on Saturday and eating all the food i could find, mostly sugar, and the bottles of Lucozade sport i sculled in Kildare. i'd forgotten that it turns my stomach to glue for a day. The combination of this, and a few beers to many on Sunday meant that Monday was a write off. Quick hours kip between 4 and 5pm helped so much. Woke up feeling better and managed to get a bit of proper food in before the race.

Met up with Becks and Roger (two of GB age groupers from Man Tri Club) before the race. Got lucky number 1 for some reason at registration, D'oh. Thankfully the tide was in today, but was still going to be a bit of a wade to the first bouy. Maybe an open water start would be good, but who cares, its all part of the sport. Swim was ok, mid pack for the first 500m or so, then a bit of missighting sent me off course and i found myself on my own. Stupid mistake, cost me allot of time.

Had to run hard out of the water (after i ran back to pick up my goggles and hat). Didn't have a great T1 (going to need to change the Brooks runners, not that easy to get into unfortunately- back to the Newtons) so running hard to catch slots on the way out. Ran the first Km hard (3:40 mins/km>

All in all an ok race, 2 mins faster than the last time, but probably lost another 2-4mins (100m in the swim and T1) at least through mistakes. Fresh legs for the next one is the plan, see what i can do in it, hopefully get another 2-3 minutes off the time at least.

Wednesday, July 7

Long ride to insanity & Euro Tris

Last weekend was the ETU Champs and the Age Group Champs in Athlone. Pauline was racing, some of the AG people from Manchester Tri Club, as well as loads of other Irish racers that i've known for a few years now. After last year in Athlone i pretty much did not want to race on the course again. I'd also assumed that Ireland would actually want a quality field in Athlone...which it turns out they didn't. There were some people who should not have been racing, but i digress.

So in my own way i decided i wanted to do a big weekend training ride. Easy plan, ride to Athlone. Sure its only 140km, not to far, and its summer, it'll be grand. WRONG. Headwind the whole way which i could deal with. However popping the sidewall on my front tire, having to ride back to Dublin to buy a new one as i was 30km into my ride, and bringing the total length of the ride up to 200km was not part of the plan.

On the plus side it did allow me to do a proper long IM distance pace, unlike the M3 cycle where i just binned myself into the wind, then tootled home. Felt terrible during the ride as i'd not brought enough food so had to swing over to get some food in Kildare. I dislike Kildare. But needs may and i had to stop. 5hrs 45mins total time, 5:08:49 ride time for the 140km from Dublin (the second time) to Athlone. Held 235W normalised power for the ride, and average HR of 134 bpm. So pretty good IM pace with a nice low HR.

Actually quite happy with the ride when i look back on it. Sure it wasn't going to get me a 5:30IM split (would have done a 6:30 IM bike if this was the course) as my average speed was 27.5kmph. But i was into a head wind the whole way, had an extra 60km of crap at the the start, and TBH i mentally blew up about 100km into the ride and nearly sat down for a cry. But it can't get much worse than this can it?

So got to Athlone, got very little sleep due to some noisy bastards outside, and up again early to wander to transition. Pissing rain at 6:30am and pretty much kept it up until the last lap of the run. I have allot of respect for the people who raced in this. Hard conditions, but still some excellent times posted. Great race to watch and then the elite race even better (they even got the sun!).

A good evening in Seans pub saw a few to many beers drank before dinner, followed by a huge dinner which stopped me drinking much more (always good). Stomach had been squiffy all day long, probably from eating the contents of my pockets on the ride up when i got to Moate, and the next morning i felt rotten. Nothing to do with getthing to bet at 1am and getting woken 70million times. No not at all.

Good times.
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