Wednesday, December 22

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

> what is a grue?
The grue is a sinister, lurking presence in the dark places of the earth. Its favorite diet is adventurers, but its insatiable appetite is tempered by its fear of light. No grue has ever been seen by the light of day, and few have survived its fearsome jaws to tell the tale

Night time is upon us. We wake up in the dark. We go to bed in the dark. In between i live in a basement.

Running at night, riding at night, training at night. If it wasn't so damn quiet it'd be depressing.

On my own running on my local trails with nothing to entertain me. Turn my brain off. Listen to my breathing and foot falls. Just run.

There are some benefits to winter.

Thursday, December 16

Bradford National Series

Taken from Heidi Swifts blog:

As bike racers we sometimes confuse approval of our successes for love. I remember the first time I got anywhere near the front of a race – the way people reacted differently as I came around course. More intense. More earnest. More approving. It felt good. I wanted to feel that way all the time.

It can get confusing. You have to sort that shit out and remember that you

are not your results. You are a human being who happens to pedal – amazing at so many other things, important for so many other reasons.

Bike racing can fuck you up, man. Don’t let it.

Stay in control. It’s ok, you’re ok.

Bradford was to host a round of the British National Trophy in Peel Park. Hoping to get some faster races in before Nationals this year, and to take a chance to race my first elite race outside Ireland i aranged to meet Alan Dorrington and steal his food and accommodation for a few days prior to the race. A quick ferry over, training session in the ice with Dave Haygarth and a trip to the Chirstmas markets in Manchester with Pauline sorted the first few days. Saturday was spent preparing bikes, getting all the little bits done and just waiting to race.

Sunday morning up early and inserting food into me, bikes into car, and extracting the contents of my bowls. Normal pre race roulette at the moment of if a toilet is close enough at any point in time. A quick drive out to Bradford saw us arrive with plenty of time to pre-ride the course before Alans race in the Vet's group.

Initial feelings on the course were: Hard, iced up, and rideable...even the off camber wall of death was doable. Then it happened. It started to warm up, the ground thawed and then they let 3 races go before us. It was never going to be a pretty race, but at the same time it was never going to be an easy race.

After the break we got a chance to re ride the course again. My previous tire choice went out the window, Fango's off, Rhinos and Mud's to try. Then it happened having ridden 'the descent' in warm up i was confident of both line options. But i wanted to try them both in the mud. I tried the left line and dropped the bike. Ok...not the end of the world go again...dropped it again....broke my shifter....felt like an idiot...the beginning of the end.

Lined up, last min on the line pee and waited to get gridded. Middle slot 4th row. Not ideal, but not the back either. Commissars checking wheels, brakes and all the bits they like too do. No issues with the wheels i was running which was nice. 1 minute to go call. Check HRM, check brain, check gear. 30 seconds. Hooter and rolling, working to clip in as fast as possible.

OK start, coming into the first corner where i wanted to be, take a few places in the first section, and get into the line-out going into the first fast descent and manage to get away with it by running hard and fast. Go as hard as i can for the first lap until the off camber mud traverse section, opt to run this on the first lap and see how it goes on the way. Approach the run up and realise just how many people have crowded around to watch the race. Very different than home. Cross the line and bypass the pit on the first lap. Bike still ok at this time. Hit the descent running and get a 'good option lad' from a local Yorkshireman as i pass 3 guys trying to ride the drop. Hill running experience paying off there again.

Then the wheels came off. I started dropping wheels, thinking about changing bikes to a bike that I'd borrowed from Alan. Thinking about THAT run-up again, THAT descent, and all the other things that cause you to ride like a dog on tiles. HR dropped, breathing increased, RPE went up, a shitstorm hit my body and i could not cope. I'd love to say that i kept it together, i'd love to say that i clawed it back from the brink and chased down the places i lost, i'd love to say that i fought on and was able to overcome my daemons.


I failed on all accounts to deal with my brain and put it in its place. I went backwards, worse than i think i have ever done. Last place, lapped on the 4th lap, looked at by the commissar and given the option to bail. Hit the pits, jumped out of the plane and didn't pull the cord. Race over. Disappointment, apologies to Alan and Pauline who did an amazing job pitting for me, clean bikes when i needed them, no complaints from them at any stage.

Experiences like this need to be learnt from. Nationals are 4 weeks away. I have to look at what i want to do there and see if it is possible. I have to work on my technical skills again. I need to sort my brain out so i can claw it back when it goes into spiral mode.

Wednesday, December 1

Ulster Cyclocross Championships

Friday through Saturday and the snow started to fall. Not only were we being given small craft warnings (bikes are small crafts aren't they?) but the temperature was due to plummet. Safe in the knowledge that the Irish road system would fail with even the slightest hint of snow i opened a beer late on Saturday night and settled into a night of relaxing before a race that i assumed would be cancelled. However not to be outdone i did ease off after the second beer, pack the kit bags, set the alarm for 8am, and get to bed by 11:30pm. Just in case.

8am alarm call and I've been away for an hour anyway. Body is adjusted to winter time now and tries to get as much sunlight as it can in the morning. Open the curtains to find 10cm of snow in the back garden and the car under the same in the front. Wander to the loo and send people some texts. Mostly no commital answers until one back from Andy saying 'Robin is on his way up, slowly'. Bugger..... if he is going there is a reason. Text Robin to hear that its slow but he's not hit the M1 yet. Living only 10mins from the main road to the north has its benefits...and if it was clear...even vaugly... Text back at 9:10am 'M1 clear, slow going, get move on'

9:15am, car packed, two bikes, 3 wheelsets, kit, water, ski pants and jacket. 9:17am rolling/sliding to the M1. 10:00am hit the M1 after witnessing some terrible drivers trying to drive at 60kph on sheet ice. One lane open on the main motorway, 40kph until Balbriggan when it opens out fully and can get up to 80. Once past Drogheda there is no snow, frost yes, but its like a different world. Dublin got hit bad for a change but the North was fine. very very weird. Rest of the way to Rostrevor as fast as the limits allow sitting in the car park for the race at 11:15am. Perfect.

Kilbroney park in Rostervor is one of those CX venues that I love and hate. A DNF there last year saw me fall from a top 10 place to a pile of vomiting hell for a week or two.Met up with Robin, Evan, Dave and Andy after sign on and a quick lap of two. The course is great but you need to be fit, very fit. Freezing conditions had left the course like a road race. The MTB races before did nothing to cut the ground up and it was perfect for us. Gridded on the second row had me in a good position for the first section but the first two corners were going to sort it out quick enough. Sure enough after the gun Glen Kinning dropped it in the second corner and a bunch of 12 us managed to get away.

the first lap had us all together until a fracture saw Robin and Matt Adier get away. Shortly afer that another move saw me in a group of 4 hanging off the back of an 8 behind the lads. Matt wrecked his derauiler and that was that for the day. Scrapping would ensue among these groups. Andy Newman from WORC worked his way up and past me and replaced Dave O'Neil (WORC) in the pain train. Glen made his way back up to help his team mate and we played cat and mouse for the next 6 laps. With the course running hard and fast average speed for the race was 21.3kph. Second last lap and i binned it trying to attack out of the group i was in. Glen was smart enough and attacked the second he got past my flailing corpse and i had to work as hard as i could to get back to him. At the exact point again on the last lap where i caught him Glen attacked again. Couldn't get onto his wheel, totally spent but had to defend from the two guys on my wheel. Luckily into the last section of single track i could pull back, ease off and recover. The final climb would be where the attacks came from and i needed to go with them. James McMaster from Curran Racing attacked on the last hill and i went with him before he got to my hip. With an on coming bush in his way he backed off and i went again. Jack from East Antrim CC managed to get past James and that was the end of that.

Video, Photos, and results from the day. 10th place overall, a good attack from Glen left me dead for 9th place. Great move and recovery from the crash on the first lap. Happy with the result overall, happy with how i rode, just not 100% smart on some sections. Good feelings before the National Trophy race in Bradford on the 12th of December.