Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I think the Weather Widget is funny...

I'm about to head out but it doesn't look -13C! What's up with the silly widgets anyway...

The Bike I Want...

When I was riding through Sausalito on Saturday with Kieran we stopped off at Mikes Bikes to pick up some new tubes (and eventually a tire - the cause of all the punctures) I had a look around the shop. I got to see the bike I really want - the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL 2. It's amazingly light, lightest stock bike I've ever lifted. The frame was a little different then the one in the photo, naked carbon (to save 100-200grams) with a little white and had the full SRAM Red gear on it. The new cassette locked trick.

They also had the new S-Works Epic there - since I have had a 2007 for a while, it seemed a little less exotic to me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Back Home Again

The final two spins in California went pretty well. On Saturday my brother and I headed from San Francisco up Mount Tam. To get there though, 4 punctures were had (not me :)) at the start but after that all was good apart from me. I felt pretty bad – thought I was going hard and I would like down and my heart rate was 118... Kieran's (who is usually 7-10 beats less then me) was way higher then mine so I knew something was up. I felt a lot better from about 1:40 into the ride, basically when we started climbing up Mount Tam. Originally, I thought it was just tiredness from the week of long rides but I'm thinking now it was due to the lousy food I ate the day before...

Proof that I did have nice weather (at times)

The obligatory Golden Gate picture (I think the lens made it look so foggy)

The Mount Tam route

Profile for the ride - my HR just does not look right... Light blue is Zone 1...

The next day was my first (full) A-Ride. The route took us up Kings Mountain and West Old la Honda, both climbs I know well and enjoy. From the start of the days ride I felt much better then yesterday and could ride reasonably strong claiming both KOMs for the day. (My brother and I crested the last together) To be fair though, no one (including me) was actually trying – it is December after all.

Now I'm back in Ireland again – I went on a tootle recovery mountain bike ride today on almost dry trails, it was sweet. Felt pretty squirrelly though – I guess that's what riding a road bike for two weeks does to you...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Time in California...

So what have I been up to recently – let me see... At the moment I'm in California drumming up contracts for my new software consultancy company (similar to Edgespace) and enjoying some of the sunshine (but not the cold). As usual, I took my road bike with me and, as usual, the fine staff in Heathrow Airport decided that it is best not to put the bike on the same flight as me. That's 4 trips in a row that my bike has sat in London for at least an extra day! Ahh well, maybe BA will bump me again...


Seeing as I wasn't going to have a bike/helmet for the first day (or two...) I picked up a new Giro Atmos from Performance bike shop at the fine low price of $106 and headed out on my brothers LeMond – it's a lot more comfortable then my Aluminium S-Works E5 road bike but not quiet as stiff – I think I would rather something a little more comfortable for the 100km+ rides on Irish roads. My bike arrived 28 hours after me and since then, when not working, I've been going on long, reasonably steady spins. Probably the highlight of which was Wednesday's group ride that consisted of male/female pro's and the independently wealthy unemployed. A very steady 135km with a coffee/pan au chocolate stop half way around :) If was cold, but the sun and dry roads made it my kind of winter riding.

The long group ride

My brother, Kieran, also roped me into taking part in my first Cyclocross race. There was me thinking I had finished racing for the year, let alone racing in shorts and a t-shirt and then this opportunity arose. I had been trying to give myself a rest from racing but it was just too tempting to give it a miss – I also dearly miss the buzz of racing. The race itself was pretty good fun. About 45 minutes of pain with 50 other people - a terrible start from the back row meant that I had a lot of passing for the remainder of the race and as I did a 4 hour mountainous spin the day before my legs had no snap, but I still enjoyed it in some twisted way... I guess I'm going to have to take part in the Irish National CX champs on January 6th. There is also a race on December 30th pretty close to my home town which I might try to get to.


It was faster to run - honest ;)

Tomorrow I'm heading with my brother up Mount Tam and the surrounding area and on Sunday I'll be doing the Alto Velo A-Ride... After that, it's back onto a plane for the long flight home.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Photo Albums...

I'm finally getting around to putting up some photos from our Tanzanian trip... There are some from Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar

Mel and I with our guides at the top of Kilimanjaro

I plan on putting up some more pictures and a bit of text about the rest of our trip soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beautiful Winters Day

I was out on a road spin today in glorious sunshine. I did the same spin as I did on Saturday except today (with roughly the same effort) I was 20 minutes quicker. What a difference the sun (and less wind) makes.

Around by Blessington Lake

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Mel and I were out pretty early this morning on the bikes - early enough for an amazing sunrise. The trails and weather were excellent today. Trails were dry and fast while the weather was two jersey warm...

Friday, November 23, 2007

A few pictures

A couple of photos from the last few days.

Mel and I rode around Djouce for a while on Sunday morning before I headed off for Balinastoe. It was an 'atmospheric' day.

A river climb at 8am - not exactly what I want to be doing.

Funny picture - about 80 Euro in Tanzania. I just took it out from an ATM

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A fine November day...

Since coming home from Tanzania the weather has been amazing. Really warm and dry for this time of year. I was out on a spin this morning and took this picture. Amazing fun descending on the path (not really sure where it was due to the leaves) between the trees...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2007 Irish Marathon Championships

Before I go and start a few posts about my holiday, I'm going to mention the last race that I took part in this season - the Irish Marathon Championships. In addition to the Cross Country Championships back in July this was one of my other major goal races for the season. I was well prepared for it and had been looking forward to it for some time.

The race was held in Carlingford like last year over a different course. The marking last year was suspect (to say the least) and I was a little scared that something might happen in this years race. The race started at a gentle pace with neither myself or Conor McConvey going particularly hard as neither of us wanted to go off the front and possibly get lost. The race trundled along for the first hour with the lead group getting whittled down to about 4 or 5. On the biggest climb of the day Conor and I broke ahead only to have to stop at the top to find our way (at which time people started to catch us again). We headed after the markers but eventually the markers ended – my fears had been realized – we were off the track. By now our group was 4 with James and Joe joining us. We turned around and started heading back up the 100 vertical meters we just descended eventually bumping into the rest of the people that were behind us. The lead 'group' was now 12 strong. I'll cut the rest of the post pretty short as I'm still pretty pissed about what happened and I want to try and not rattle on too much. Basically, another few kilometres later the trail brought us into an adhoc campsite (who camps in the middle of trail). The Scouts that were camping there told us all to head left and sure enough, there were markers showing the way. We ambled along for another few kilometres (I was at recovery level speed for much of this :( ) then Conor, Joe and I broke off from the others. Shortly after this the 3 of us split up (slightly) – this was the final split of the race. I rode in second place for the final 10-15km having to stop and check directions from time to time. I eventually finished about 2 minutes behind Conor, Conor having just won his first Elite National title – or so we thought. The second place meant that I was selected for doping tests – an interesting procedure. Peeing into cups and being followed around – ahh, the life of an Elite cyclist ;)

Conor and I reaching the masts in first - don't the bikes look well!

Weather conditions were a bit crap!

Mel riding away...

Sean and Mel after the race

Afterwards, we found out that pretty much everyone in the race did a slightly different course – the lead 12 cutting out a section of singletrack. (The campers told us to turn left when we should have gone right – they even moved markers to fool us!) This meant that the “powers that be” decided to unchampionship the event. I was pissed about this for more reasons then I will mention... No one who raced had any qualms about the finishing order. I'm actually glad that Conor beat me in the race, I would have been devastated to have won and then the championship robbed. I feel bad for him...

There is a report available here.

Anyway – that was my last race of the year. A real let down from an organization etc... point of view. Marathon courses should not be run over open mountain. I love having a huge big lap, but ONLY if it is well marked and marshalled. The 8 laps in Coed Y Brenin was pretty boring, but at least I could race! I was glad to be heading to Tanzania 2 days after the race.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Coming home tomorrow...

Our trip to Africa has almost ended. Today Mel and I went down to the beach and we are heading out now to pick up some final bits of shopping then it's me packing up the bikes and Mel packing up everything else (who has the best deal?) before we head off for a final dinner over here with Paul and Ellen. My fingers are crossed that Mel and I will be bumped on our return flight home with BA due to them losing my bike for 4 days on the way here. It would be a great way to end the trip :)

Sunset in Zanzibar

EDIT: In the end, BA bumped Mel and I to World Traveller Plus for the way home but somehow managed to leave (well, it was Heathrows fault) our bags in London. They arrived safely the following morning. Still - I was happy with how BA treated us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another picture from Kili

Only a week left in the trip - back in Dar at the moment and going to Zanzibar tomorrow morning.

Another picture from Kilimanjaro at around 4,000 meters.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Holidays...

Mel and I are in Tanzania at the moment on Holidays. I'm up in the mountains at the moment but will write something about the Irish Marathon Champs and what ew have been up to when I get back to Dar es Salaam (where my brother lives).

Mel and I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last week. At 5895m it's pretty high. This is Mel at 4600m. It was DAMNED cold!

Tons more higher quality pictures on the way :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another picture from Coed Y Brenin

Cait took a few photos of the marathon race last weekend. I thought this one was pretty cool.

First lap

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

British Marathon Champtionships and BMBS XC Series

This weekend saw me take part in the penultimate weekend of racing for the year. I was heading over to Wales for both the final round of their National XC Series (BMBS) (UCI C2) and the final round of the Trek Marathon Series (100km) which was dual rolling as the British National Marathon Championships, so a lot of racing hours was going to be logged...

The race was being held in the Welsh MTB mecca that is, Coed Y Brenin. Getting their was easy, Richie Felle, our bikes and the Silver Bullet (my Peugeut 205) made our way to the Irish Ferries ferry from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales, once there, it was a relatively short rainy drive (about 1.5 hours) to our B&B that was about 10 miles to the race course. After checking in and having a quick nap we headed down for the preride. The course for the XC race and the marathon had been billed as being the most technical course of the year but upon finishing my first lap – it was anything but. The XC lap was 10.5km long and only about 1.5 to 2km of singletrack. Coed Y Brenin has TONS of amazing singletrack and yet it was almost completely on fireroad. I mean, it's one thing to do all the climbing on fireroad (a lot of the time that suits me) but a lot of the descending was on fireroad too! There were a couple of techy sections on the course and a really fun final 4 minutes but just way too much fireroad. It also didn't help that it rained the whole time and made everything very slushy. (One thing though, with the constant rain the course for both days held together well with it all being 100% ridable – the HUGE puddles and rivers we had to ride through meant that not too much got to clog up the drivetrain)

Race morning arrived but my legs didn't feel that up for it. They didn't feel bad, just not that good. After the warmup we were all ready to start. Not much really to add from the race... I didn't feel very quick, my legs feeling pretty dull but I did have a few good fights during the race. The last lap James Fraser Moodie and I had a great tussle (me losing out to him just before the line) exchanging positions throughout the final lap. I finished up coming in a respectable 17th. I wasn't overly happy with the ride but I had one more long day on the bike to look forward to the next day so I simply refocused on it. Results of the XC race can be found here and a report here.

On Sunday I got up to a very soggy, rainy morning – the type of morning that when I'm at home I would reschedule a spin to latter in the day... Not today as it was going to be 100km of a (mostly) unchanged XC course. The rain continued to pour down right up to and past the start of the race. It was actually my first off road race that I left arm warmers on for! The pace at the start wasn't too fast (probably because no one warmed up because of the weather) and I was able to stay with the leaders for most of the first lap. Three quarters of the way around, the people in the group I was with allowed a gap to open in the single track and unfortunately, I couldn't chase back once we hit the climbs again. The second lap started with me in a small 4 person chase group and something worrying started to happen. My front brake starting to lose power. Another few kilometres and I had no front brake. (I had checked the brake pads on the front the night before and they were fine – I replaced the rear ones) For the next 4 laps I only had my rear brake to stop me. Luckily the course was not too technical so good brakes was less critical then normal but I would say it still added a minute or two to each lap time. Mid way through my sixth lap, disaster struck – on a fast descent my rear brake lost all power. Now I'm flying down a hill with no brakes... Time for some old school foot on the front wheel braking... With the smell of burning rubber I was able to stop and check out the situation. Brake pads (and back plates) were completely gone on the front and rear brakes. A nice walk/run back over to the start meant that I lost a ton of time (it was about 4km...). Robin, who suffured double punctures in the race, was able put on a set of pads on my front brake but I was going to do my last two laps with only a front. (Well, I did 4.5 with only a rear, only a front should be faster...) Before I left, Robin mentioned that I was as high as 5th but had now dropped to 8th (I think). With this, I had my motivation set to go hard for the final 80 minutes or so. The last two laps were uneventful enough – I felt good throughout and was even able to push hard on my last lap. I finished up the race in 5 hours 30 minutes for a decent 7th place. Having looked at the details from my Garmin, I probably lost around 20-25 minutes due to my braking issues... I could have had a 4th or 5th... You live and learn. Results from the marathon can be found here, as well as a report here.

The race was a serious mudfest. Lots of photos here

Mud, mud, mud...

The huge puddles meant that the Epic stayed 'roughly' clean

In general, even with the disappointing course I had a great weekend of racing. Thanks to Richie, Geof and Paul for helping me out in the feed zone and Robin and the Pipedream crew for the brake pads!

On Saturday I'll be taking part in the Irish Marathon Championships. It's going to be the final race (don't know about the cross season yet) of the season for me. I'll have nice, new, bedded in brake pads for that...

Monday, September 17, 2007

2007 National Road Hill Climb Championships

Last weekend (I've been busy since so no updates) I took part in both the National Hill Climb Championships and the National 'B' Road Race, both of which, as I mentioned earlier, where in my home town of Monaghan.

Saturday's hill climb had a really late (for me at least) start of 3pm so I spent most of the day before hand just wondering around Monaghan. I even ended up being the first person to sign on for the race. There was a little confusion over the starting order etc... and it ended up that I was going to be the first off – not really what I wanted as I would have no 'rabbit's to chase... Also, finding out so close to the start about the starting order meant that I had a pretty terrible warm up... For a 6 minute event, the warm up should have been crucial!

Anyway – with an anchor for a rear wheel (was using my training wheels as my light wheels were still being serviced) I waited for the countdown... 50 seconds I was told.... I back pedaled a little and the chain dropped on the lower, 39tooth ring (the climb, as it was so short at 2.7km and only 150m of climb was a big ring only climb)... I thought I had lots of time – so I told myself, don't panic, I'll get it on... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.... The guy said 50 seconds when he meant to stay 10!!! Crap, I flaffed about with my gears as I started up the hill loosing a bit of time. The climb was very short with several down hill bits so it was never really going to suit me – I would have much rathered a nice long 15-20 minute (or longer) sufferfest. I crossed the line in 6:25 which, when everyone had ran was enough for a 7th place. I was happy enough considering the mistakes that I made (warm-up, gears, wheels etc...) but I believe I should have easily been another 15 seconds faster. (Also, the last heavy week of training wouldn't have helped!) Not enough to touch the overall winner, David McCann though! Fellow mountain bike, James McCluskey finished a few seconds behind me.

Sunday morning was the turn of the road race. The course was a 13km loop with about 175m of climb per lap (yeah!). We were going to be doing 9 laps so around 3 hours of racing. My plan for the race was to conserve as much as I could during the first half and then be ready to work really really hard for the last 30k or so. (Simple, I know – but I'm not that experienced in road races!)

The first few laps went by pretty easily – high/low pace takes a bit of getting used to but I was actually really enjoying the race. There were a couple of nice descents that really seemed to flow on the road bike. Half way through the race, I ended up bridging (with 2 others) a 20 second gap to a break that I thought was going to stick. A while later the peloton caught us again :( Early in the 7th lap, the break of the day got away and unfortunately I missed it. They didn't get too much ahead but by the time we started the 8th lap it was 1:30. The peloton flexed a bit (of the 50 or so riders remaining in the peloton, about 6-7 were working) we brought it down to about 30 seconds... Enough so that we could see the break. At this point I felt very strong but the others that were working with me seemed to have had enough and were happy with letting the break win. After another 10 minutes of trying to urge the peloton on I gave up with that and with about 10-12 minutes of racing left I decided to really test my legs and see if I can catch the break which had a 40 second lead at this point. I worked hard up the hills (and unfortunately, into the wind for a chunk of it) and actually caught 4 or 5 of the break but not enough for me to be pulled up to the top ten. (I finished 12th in the end) I was disappointed about missing the break and not getting a better result but I was happy with how my body and my legs felt for the second half of the race... What I lacked in this race most of all was experience. As a training exercise, it beat going out on a solo ride for a few hours :)

The official results from the weekend are here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Chasing Cows...

I'm in Monaghan (my home town) for the weekend as the National Hill Climb Champtionships are on here this weekend. I prerode the course today and something funny happened - there were stray cows everywhere, feckin pooing all over the lovely road :( Also, each one of them thought that they could take me on the climbs so they ran with me each time. I had no problems dropping them ;)

The course is actually really short (less then 4k) and not very steep. It is actually an undulating climb with not much elevation change. A track sprinter could do well tomorrow. Not really my type of climb. It climbs 150 meters and descends 40 meters.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dry trails gone? Back to the road bike...

I think the dry trails are gone - you should be able to see Three Rock...

It should be like this...

Finally some dry (ish) weather...

The last week has been reasonably dry which has been great for making the trails fast again. I had almost forgotten how to ride fast on dry trails as we have had to deal with so much slomp this year. With the dry trails I've mostly been riding the mountain biking and getting ready for the British races and the Irish Marathon championhips at the end of September.

I'm also probably going to give the National Road Hill Climb Championships a go next weekend. They are actually being held in Monaghan (Irish capital of drumlins - not mountains) on a climb that's not very big or long. I'm not sure of the climb it will be on but I know the mountain and it's only about 250m high so the race will probably be a 10 minute effort... I still have to find a nice light set of wheels to use for it? Anyone got a spare set for Saturday? Sub 1.4kg?

The view from the Hell Fire Club (believe me, this was a 'nice' day!)

Mel and I cycled home from Joe's BBQ on Saturday night, this is Mel in a good tuck on one of the descents on her commuter bike...

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Weekend of Hill Climbs - Kippure and Kilmashogue

This weekend turned out to be a weekend of timed climbing races. First off was the Team Worc Extreme Hill Climb. It was a handicapped, (small) group start road climb. The course wasn't a constant climb (see the profile) but was almost 20km long and had 748 meters of climb. Robin, James and I were the last to start so we had many 'rabbits' in front of us to catch. We worked well together for the first 'rolling' 30 minutes of the race and we started to catch some of the earlier starters from about 25 minutes in. The conditions were very windy up around the Military road so our time wasn't going to be setting any records. Into the wind for the final few kilometres before the turn off to the final ascent of Kippure I somehow ended up on the front – unwilling to put much work into the wind I cruised along at a recovery pace as we all tried to recover a little before the final steep (17% in places) ascent of Kippure. As we made the turn and accelerated towards the masts, it was James and I in contention. We ended up playing cat and mouse the whole way up... Unfortunately, I miss timed my final sprint (I thought the penultimate bend was the last) and James pipped me to the post for the fastest time of the day – with the handicaps in place, we were still a little off the overall win. The Irish National Hill Climb Championships are on in a few weeks so I might give them a go – hopefully I'll have my light wheels serviced by then as I had to ride my 'heavy' training wheels for this race.

A graph of the climb from my Garmin

After a false start on the morning spin (more about that in a later post) I ended up heading out on the Epic for an afternoon spin. This week has been mostly (race aside) about recovery so I was only going to be out for a couple of hours but I still wanted to do one hard short effort. Every time I feel like this it's good to give the Kilmashogue hill climb a go. I physced myself up for a fast time and rode half way up it for a warmup dumping my bottles and saddle bag in the ditch, rode back down and made a go for it. I went hard from the start but was careful not to over do it on the steep sections so that I would have enough in my legs to really hammer on the less steep sections. I was about 2:54 in when I turned off the road for the first time (I remember last year doing this when I was really happy if I was under 4 minutes at this point!), negotiated the closed barriers (another few seconds could be saved here) and hammered on up the hill. I tried to remain relaxed and not over cook myself but I noticed that I was riding fast – Big and 8/9 for the 2% 'flat' section. By the time I got to the quary I looked down at my watch and I was still under 10 minutes – I remembered reading a report by Robin from a few years ago when he said he was at 10:something at this point and yet he still posted the second fastest (recorded – as far as I can find) time up the climb (he did a 12:13 in 2001 - the record of 12:12 was set by Craig Brady in 1997). I put my head down and hammered the last second hopping to stay in the low 12 minute mark. I crossed the crest of the climb and hit the split button – I looked down to find 11:56 a new (if unofficial) Kilmashogue Hill Climb record. I let out a few cheers and then realized that I need to get my breath back before I fall over. My heart rate average was actually a little low for the climb (173 – my LT is usually around 178 – last year I averaged 190 up a 17min climb in the states) so I might be able to squeeze a little more time out there. The weather conditions were pretty much perfect though – dry with little wind but some fresh gravel and the closed barriers would have slowed me a bit. A great end to a recovery week :)

My HR versus the climb... The coloured bands are my heart rate zones

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dear Santa...

I know it's a bit early for Christmas but I think I know what I want...

It's the new 2008 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL... Probably costs around 7,000 euro - but I can dream. Picture is from here.

The view from Kippure

Descending (and climbing) around Kippure today was crazy. One minute beautiful sunshine, the next, mist, cold and time for thermal arm warmers. At least it wasn't raining...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

2007 Outsider Annacurra Adventure Challenge

The story of this race started a little over a year ago when Mel and I took part in the first running of the race. After almost four and a half hours of racing and sitting in second place in the mixed category we ended up missing out on the second place due to a mistake I made – I missed two punched checkpoints... To say Mel was a little annoyed is an understatement.

A year later, and a lot fitter (well, I was, Mel was a little banjaxed due to her last Adventure Race and a lack of training due to her studies) we planned to return to the Annacurra Adventure Challenge and banish the ghosts from last year. First though, I had to get the bikes and gear ready, a process that started at 6pm on the Friday and didn't finish until almost 2am! Enough to almost push me away from heading down to the race at all! Anyway, we woke bright and early (why can't all races have a nice 1:30pm start?) to see a wet miserable day await us. Undeterred, we headed down to Annacurra.

At 10:30 the 50 teams (or so) started the race by a run around the local GAA pitch (to split us up I assume) before we got to our bikes to start the first 16km mountain biking section. From the very start, some of our preparation started to pay off. Due to the difference in our fitness levels we were going to use a bungee device between my bike and Mel's as much as we could. In the end, we used it for all non technical climbing stages throughout the event – even the running. This allowed us to pool our fitness and stay with the lead group for most of the first stage, just drifting off the back on a long slightly technical flat section.

By the time we got to the running section we were around six minutes behind the leaders. Me being a mountain biker, the running section was going to be the hardest on my body – the last decent run that I went on was this race last year... (Although I did do five short, low intensity runs before this event to lower the pain...) Wet conditions meant that the run was reasonably technical – it was short at 6.5km but it contained 575 meters of climb! Considering Mel's injuries (tendonitis in both ankles and the onset of cramping) and my allergy to running we didn't lose too much time on the run and started into the third stage very positive.

A climb just after the stage 2/3 transition

The third stage was a 25km mountain biking section. The section contained a lot more technical riding then the first stage and would have suited us more seeing as we are more mountain bikers then adventure racers. Throughout this stage I was very very attentive to our location and the location of the next checkpoint. It was during this stage last year that I missed the two punches that robbed us of the second place. After about three and a half hours we arrived back at the finishing area for the short course.

A quick refuel transition

After a quick transition (grabbed a few gels and fresh bottles from the car) we headed straight back up the hill for a long climb followed by a fast descent back to the finish. The bungee was vital here as Mel was starting to tire and the cramps were taking over. (I think I heard her curse more in the last hour then I had anytime before) For me, I put my head down and tried to remain focused on getting to the top of the hill as fast as possible. Funnily, about a kilometer from the top we caught Eoin Keith's elite adventure racing team. They looked to be in a bit of bother but I knew that they would catch us again on the running section so I tried to put as much distance between them and us as I could. Unfortunatly, they did catch and pass us on the running section and the final descent didn't give us enough time to catch them again (they were 20 seconds faster then us...).

We arrived back at the start to find out that the first and third (the one we had a final battle with) teams had missed checkpoints (the bane of last year) so we were actually catapulted into second position overall. In addition we finished first mixed team. All my goals for this race were met.

Big mucky smiles after the race

The event was very well run with the course marked out excellently – the weather was terrible throughout and all the off-road was shlomp – but thats Ireland this year... I know we had smiles on our faces throughout and I had to remind Mel afterwards that we rode through torrential rain at one point (she seemed to block that out).

A great feast was put on for us after the race (I think we must have looked like a swarm of locusts to the poor ladies who were helping out with the food) and we enjoyed chatting and sharing stories with our fellow racers. Overall, an excellent event and a great day out - many thanks from Mel and I to the Annacurra team and Outsider magazine and I'll be there again next year.

First and second placed teams

Photos are from here and results can be found here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another reason to fly to California...

Not only does Palo Alto have nicer weather then here (On Tuesdays club race I wore full winter gear - two jersies, arm warmers and my thermal jacket!) but I also have a new niece to visit. My brother Kieran and his wife Cynthia just had their second child - Ella. Together with Orlaith the Sherlock family has been extended by two this year.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A short and long spin...

A short and a long spin made up this weekends riding. Saturday I rode around the usual spots concentrating on technique with a couple of laps of the Epic Club course thrown in at the end for good measure. Sunday's spin was a long MTB group affair. In the end I covered a few new trails and a good few that I have not been on in a while. While in Balinastoe I got to see the new purpose built mountain bike trails that Collite are building. They look awesome in the fast flowy sort of way. Very similar to a lot of the trails that I used to ride in California. Completely weather proof - something that I really look for in trails given the Irish 'summer'.

6 hours of active time meant it was the longest MTB spin of the year - I felt pretty good afterwards (infact, better then normal) but I think the chocolate milk, food and nap as soon as I got home did that.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A new frame - Giant XTC Composite

With the sale of my Enduro last week it was time to get myself in gear and pick up a hardtail frame. I had been thinking about getting one for a long time as I've all the bits I need hanging around to build up a nice bike. Initially, I wanted to pick up a 2007 Specialized S-Works M5 hardtail but unfortunately, Specialized UK are out of stock in my size. I then looked at getting a Salsa Moto Rapido but having talked to the guys over in The Cycle Inn I ended up going and getting a Giant XTC Composite. It was a little overkill for what I set out to do – build a decent hardtail for training on and using over the winter and is now turning into a pretty darned good race bike. (My Epic need not worry, it's still the best bike I've ever ridden)

At 1383 grams it's a pretty light frame with seat post collar and chain stay protector

The build is mostly XTR/XT and some carbon bits with the weight around 9.4kg...

All built up and ready to go - some minor changes to come

It had been a long time since I was riding a hardtail having sold my Aluminium Stumpjumper over a year ago but after the initial hour or two getting used to being bucked around I started to really enjoy the feel of the hardtail. I think the carbon made it a lot more forgiving then the old Stumpy that I was used to.

Another piece of kit that I have really gotten to love recently is the Stans NoTubes conversion kit. I started running tubeless earlier on this year with my SLRs but recently I converted my XTR/Mavic 717 rims to tubeless too – I use them as a backup in races and some training. I've put about 400km on them so far and there has not been a single issue. Well worth the investment.

Tires that I've been using recently:
Bontrager Jones XR Tubeless Ready 2.2 - great intermediate tire, rolls really fast and are pretty light (around 600 grams) for such a large volume tire
Maxxis Crossmark LUST 2.1 - very very fast tire on dry trails, a bit sketchy on mud but fine if you drop the pressure a bit. At 705 grams each, not too light.
Hutchinson Bulldog Tubeless Light 2.1 - great in all conditions except on loose over hardpack (or road with dust/stones on it) - had a nasty spill during the 6th NPS due to the front washing out

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mel's Beast of Ballyhoura race report

It all started a few weeks ago when I got a phone call from Ivan Park (Causeway Coast Adventure Races) - asking if I wanted to take part in the Ballyhoura Beast - they were looking for a girl to complete their team. The Ballyhoura Beast is a non-stop 24-hour adventure race in the Ballyhoura/Galtee mountains region, including disciplines such as orienteering, mountaineering, mountain biking, abseiling, clay pigeon shooting and kayaking. The other two guys on the team where Paul McArthur and Rowan McMahon (Not the Sunday Run) - both mostly unknown to me. I had actually already decided to not take part but then I thought, what the heck, changed my mind and said: "Sure, I'd love to!". What did I get myself into.... Due to various other race commitments and them living up North, we didn't manage to have a single training session. A few e-mails back and forth we had all the gear sorted between each other and I made my way up to our lovely B&B with another team. Meeting Rowan and Paul in the evening for the first time for 5 minutes before we went to bed, we all woke up the next morning to a full Irish breakfast fry - mmmmmhhh. Might not be the best food from a nutritional perspective before a strenuous 24 hour race, but from a mind perspective it was exactly what I needed.

After the breakfast, we made our way up to the race HQ in Ardpatrick and then the kit sorting began. I had to get a puncture sorted on my bike - making Rowan the official bike doctor for the race. After the kit check and being each fitted out with an electronic SI card on an irremovable wristband, we were transported to the race start. A short briefing and we were off at about 12 o'clock for the first orienteering stage - closely watched by some TV cameras. A short sharp run along a river we retrieved our first orienteering maps from under a bridge and tactical discussions began. There were 8 mandatory points to find and each of them giving clue to an optional super control worth 40min as well as about 13 optional, closer spaced controls, each worth 10min. With jogging pace we made it to a ruin after fighting through some jungle, down to a river, over a river, down to another river, up that river, onto a saddle, down to the woods, down to another river, through some undergrowth, through some gorse (ouch!) and along some fire roads back to the orienteering start - having found all the mandatory and 4 of the optional controls. At the start we were awaited by a zip line over a river which was a fun bit - especially seeing some of the heavier folks bum skimming the water .... Unfortunately we didn't figure out the super control location correctly.

Ah well, we didn't get deterred by that and made our way towards the mountains for the mountaineering stage. The weather, which had held up beautifully until now turned worse and it started raining (and didn't stop for the next 14 hours.....). Anyway, we struggled our way up on the open mountain, through heather and some burned gorse. With deteriorating weather conditions, we all put on our warmer rain proof coating and arrived up on Galtybeg mountain in now atrocious weather conditions to be greeted by a poor marshal in a tiny tent guarding the control. As we were too late for the cut-off for the optional orienteering loop up here (thank god!!) we headed straight towards Galtymore mountain along the ridge walk in knee deep mud. One wrong step and you could have tumbled down a few hundred meters on either side. The rain was joined by fog when we tried to navigate our way after Galtymore towards the gorge where the abseiling was taking place. Due to Paul's and Ivan's excellent navigation skills we found the gorge even in deep fog with less than 10m visibility and were greeted by the abseiling marshals. So, after harnessing up, we had to abseil 50m down a river turning waterfall in a swollen riverbed on slick slippery stone with cold water streaming down on top of you as you were hanging down the edge of the waterfall.... Just as a beside, this was Ivan's and my first abseil.... Oh my god!!! However, after overcoming our fears, we arrived safely and soaking wet on the bottom of the waterfall and made our way down to the bridge to pick up the last control before the run-bike transition. Followed by the TV crew we sped along the road to the transition and were welcomed by a cheer from the support crew after being about 8 hours or so into the race.

After filling our stomachs with food and changing into dry clothes we got ready for our biking stage. At this moment in time, we had darkness breaking in. We followed a network of small country roads till we had to face some hike-a-biking up an overgrown single track along the Ballyhoura way (thanks Rowan for pushing my bike!), ending up in a dead end. Luckily we found the right way eventually and headed along fire roads to the clay pigeon shooting place. Earplugs in and gun loaded, we were given instructions and each fired our 10 shots (each missed shot was a minute penalty). Coldness and tiredness made it harder to aim (try and hold a heavy gun still after about 11hours of running and cycling!!), but we were pleased to hit about half of the fluorescent clay dishes. Back onto the bikes and into the relentless rain, we hit some formidable single track and followed the signs along the Ballyhoura way until we hit the Ballyhoura mountain bike park a few hours later. Greeted by the TV crew (who were BBQing and not sharing any of it!!!) and an ever energetic Vanessa, the main organizer we were given instructions on the next bit on the new and purpose built Ballyhoura mountain bike trails. Along the sheer endless single track which made it hard to concentrate after such a long time on the track, we were surprised by some glow stick enhanced masks, the beasties, some of which contained our controls. A crash and a "brufen" and some more single track later we made it back to the start of the trails after about 2 hours and 13 kms and headed on for the rest of the mountain biking stage which was mostly along fire roads with the day ahead dawning on us. Sounds easy? Not when there has been 12 hours of rain! The tracks resembled full raging muddy rivers and I was wondering why they hadn't added wetsuits as mandatory gear to this stage! After an unfortunate waste of time searching for a control near some ruins we were caught up by another team when we eventually found it, so we went back on our bikes as fast as possible and raced towards the kayaking transition where we arrived after a total biking time of about 12hours.

After exchanging the wet gear one last time, this time for a warm wetsuit and filling up on some food we headed down the overgrown and swollen river in sit on top kayaks. Oh - the rain was stopping now - of course, no rain needed when we were going to get wet in the kayaks! Under trees, over trees, over rapids, around rocks and again under and over trees and more trees and trees and trees and some capsizes and lost rucksacks later we had collected our last two points and even had had a bit of a competitive time with the other team that had caught up with us. We made sure to get out of their eyesight as fast as possible and kayaked down the river over and under trees and more trees and trees and did I mention the trees? A last fun section around the weir and we could already hear the drums of the finish at the castle. Spurred on by the near end we ran up the finish and were greeted once again by Vanessa and Co., drums and an amazing feeling of achievement. We took just over 24hours non-stop to complete the course. What an amazing and great race! I had soooo much fun on the race and am sooo happy with how we worked as a team, everybody supporting each other and we just "gelled" really well which was very lucky considering we had never raced with each other and barely or not knew each other. I really really enjoyed this race! Can't wait to do the next one! Hold on, is this pain that I'm feeling? And this and this and this..... Ouch and what is this? Chafing from my rucksack? Tendinitis on my Achilles tendon? Ok, I'll wait until I've cured my various injuries.... The post race scenario included lots of food, a hot shower (aaaahhhhhh) and a free sports massage (or bum grab as others prefer to call it). Unfortunately I was too tired and wrecked to stay on for the post racing party - so I only found out later that we actually placed third - a formidable achievement. Thanks to Vanessa and Outsider to put together such a great race and thanks to my team-mates for just being, well, a GREAT TEAM!


P.S. What I have eaten/drunk during the race:
15 Energy gels,
6 Powerbars,
2 bags of pasta,
1 bag of porridge with raisins,
2 sandwiches,
6 cereal bars,
2 bags of wine gums,
2 bottles of sports drink,
4 cans of red bull
2 pain killers
a big bite of cracker cheese
several liters of murky river water with nuun tablets

and my stomach was still grumbling of hunger at 8am!!!

Monday, July 30, 2007

A week of long spins

After tapering for the nationals last weekend it was time for a bit of a long week. Lots of long distance endurance stuff with no drills or intervals. Just some time on the bike riding and trying to enjoy any nice weather we get.

Saturdays road ride was the most interesting – Mel was off racing in the Clec (and winning the all ladies category!) so it was just me at home and I decided that as the weather was going to be nice for most of the day that I should get a long spin in ahead of the Annacurra Challenge which Mel and I are taking part in, in a couple of weeks. 172Km and 3000 meters of climb I completed one of my longest spins of the year. At 6 hours, it was pretty long but felt like how a 3.5 to 4 hour ride felt last year. I was a bit tired around the 3 hour mark but felt great towards the end (maybe the thought of diner pulled me along). I actually really enjoyed the two climbs towards the end – Slieve Mann and the Shay Elliot. I hope I get to do those climbs in a race at some point soon.

The Profile for Saturdays ride

The route around the Wicklow Mountains

Did I miss some nice climbs? Let me know :)

2006 S-Works Enduro for sale

Due to spending almost all my time on XC wippet bikes and road bikes over the last year I'm selling my prized Specialized S-Works Enduro. I've not used it in about 6 months due to all the racing and I really have to clear some space in my house. The Enduro is an unreal bike fit for long Sunday spins or downhill races. I took it with me on my biking holiday in New Zealand and did DH runs with a former world champion (Vanessa Quin) one day and a 100km XC spin the next...

Picture taken this morning

The bike is little over a year old. The spec is the same as the 2007 Specialized S-Works Enduro. Here are the updates for it:

Drive Train: Replaced 1000km ago
Cables: all new
Tires: Comes with 2 * Maxxis Swampthings 2.35 ST (about 200km on them - practically new €50)
1 * Maxxis High Roller 2.35 ST (€30)
2 * Maxxis Wet Scream 2.2 (Brand new €70)
1 * Syncros BHT Factory 2.35 Front Tire (New)
2 * Specialized Enduro 2.35 (One almost new, one a little worn)
Front and rear shock had a complete service with new seals two spins ago.
Also comes with EnduroForkSeals bearing kit (€55) for rear suspension (not yet needed)

The bike is a large but would probably fit anyone from about 5 foot 8 inches up... (I'm about 6 foot 2 and it was just about big enough)

The price for the bike, all the tires and bearing kit is €2400 - a LOT less the the $5,900 list price! Email me at biking ( at ) ryansherlock (dot) com if you have any questions or want to have a look at it.

There are lots more photos available here.

EDIT - Sold
The bike is sold and gone to it's new home. I've no plans for picking up another bike yet - 3 is enough for now but I am on the lookout for a hardtail frame for use as a training/crummy conditions bike.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

2007 Irish National Cross Country Championships

This past weekend seen me take part in my biggest race of the year so far. It was the Irish National XC Championships weekend! The race was being held in Tollymore Forest Park which is at the foot of the Mourne Mountains close to Newcastle in Northern Ireland. Even though it had been raining constantly for the last 8 weeks when Mel and I arrived at the course for the preride we were amazed to find a mostly dry track! The course was pretty interesting – a short fireroad climb followed by some flowy single track (with slick corners) followed by a 1.9km fireroad climb. It wasn't particularly steep but seemed to suit me pretty well (I usually like steep climbs :)). From then, the rest of the 5km course was all single track. The first half was a very tough off chamber single track section with a few kickers followed by a long swoopy section back to the start. Lots of roots, rocks, slick corners and a double bomb hole kept everyone on their toes...

The morning of the race arrived and I had some of the big race nerves (have not felt that since the K-Capital races – it's a good sign for me) and started to wonder why I was about to put myself through two and a half hours of suffering... After a decent warmup on the roads surrounding the forest we all lined up for our 1:30pm start. It was funny, my resting heart rate is in the 30s yet I was sitting on the line 'relaxed' with a heart rate of 100 – guess it was the nerves again. The first seven or eight minutes of the race was reasonably uneventful. We all simply went through the motions and got to the top of the climb to enter the single track – not particularly quickly. Once on the single track, I made a silly mistake (and fell off) and got stuck behind another rider. This meant that I lost touch with the leading group. I was a little annoyed about that at the time but I knew it was a long race and my legs felt good so I got over it. Lewis Ferguson, James Mc Cluskey and I rode the first lap mostly together. Half way up the climb on the second lap I dropped Lewis but James was still there about 20 seconds back. For the following few laps James and I stayed around the same distance apart, I would add a few seconds while we climbed and he would close up to me by the end of the single track. On the fourth lap, I left James (who was having some mechanical issues as far as I know) for the rest of the race. Also, on the fourth (or maybe third...) lap I passed Conor McConvey who was just finishing fixing a puncture, knowing that he was hot on my heals was real motivation to hammer up the climbs. I rode the top section of single track terribly on my 6th and 7th lap but recovered well for my final lap to post my second fastest lap of the race... Overall my laptimes where very consistent. 17:15, 18:17, 18:17, 18:18, 18:16, 18:59, 19:04, 18:10. Lap 6 and 7 hurt me!

We are off!

Somewhere in the single track...

Mel riding away

Mel and Morgan riding together

I eventually came in in 5th position behind Robin (14th National Championship in a row), Niall Davis, Roger Aiken and Peter Bugle. I was very happy with how the race went overall – I had a few crashes (the singletrack was so tough) but no real problems and my legs felt good the whole way around. I didn't even suffer that much! The next big race for me is probably the National Marathon Championships in September – a long way away so I'll look around for some other races and possibly do a road race or two again.

Another thing was that the my Epic seemed to be tailor made for the course, the suspension really helped me out on all the roots. I was using Bontrager 2.2 Tubeless Ready Jones XR tires for the race which are now my favorite tires.

Some of the MAD winners from the NPS series

There are reports of the race here and here as well as photos here, here and here. I'll be adding more photos as I get them.