Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sean Nolan Meath GP Road Race

The weekend saw me take part in my second ever road race in Navan. The race was advertised to be a 112km but at the start line they informed up that it was actually going to be closer to 162km... A bit longer then I wanted! The race started like the other race I took part in, fast fast, slow slow, fast fast.... Unlike the last time, I decided that I was going to be aggressive from the start and bridge breaks and basically try to get into the lead break... (Riding fast, putting out a lot of power was the purpose, from a training point of view, for the race) I rode hard and over a 25 minute interval my average speed was around 50kph – pretty nuts (for me at least) on a flat course. Still though, I missed the break that occurred at around 27 minutes and could not catch it (no one in the Peloton seemed bothered). I was a little annoyed about that with the amount of work I put in, but I'm still a newbie...

The course was basically ride out to a lap, do 4 laps of a big lap and then ride back to the start. After the third lap my back had been giving me a little trouble (something that happens from time to time since the Castlewellan race) and I decided that as I wasn't in the lead group and this was a training race anyway that I'd call it a day and pull out early... I have XC races the next few weeks and I was a little weary of doing such a long race especially since I was not in the mindset of 162km... (didn't have enough food/water either). I rode back to the car and ended up (including the warmup/cool down) doing about 150km anyway...

I didn't like the course, it was really flat with no real climbing so I don't think it would suit me – although I hear that almost all the road races in Ireland are like this.... Give me a proper 1000 meter climb any day...

Results can be found here

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rain repeats...

I was out on the road bike last night (I'll take the rain over the turbo trainer any day) and I swear the rain was out training with me... I think it was doing some sort of Lactate Threshold drills. Basically the rain was going heavy 2 minutes, light 4 minutes, heavy 2 minutes.... It did about 3 sets of this with a 6 minute mizzle between sets... (Or maybe it was doing Ryan persistence testing drills...) Maybe it has a big storm or something coming up soon that it's getting ready for. I know that the weather has been terrible around her these last two weeks :(

In other news, I'm probably doing my second ever road race this weekend, the Sean Nolan Meath GP... Hopefully the weather wont be as bad as the last one... Also, Mel and Fergal are taking part in the Rogaine this weekend. Mel and I did it last year and with the current weather forecasts, I'm glad I'm not getting ready for it this year.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tubeless wheels and tyres

Since my multiple puncture incident in the Carlingford K-Capital race I have switched to using tubeless wheels and tyres for racing. More specifically, I've been using a set of pimping Mavic SLRs and Hutchinson Python Light, Bulldog Lights and Maxxis Ignitor tyres. Initially, I didn't really notice that much of a difference when using them – I felt that they (in general) rolled a little slower (or maybe I was just riding slower) then my old wheels/tyres but after about a two months of use I can give a bit more of a verdict – I love them.

I'm still a long way away from being completely comfortable with finding the right setup per race and it is a pain to change tyres (since I currently only have one set of tubeless wheels) but for racing I find it gives me so much more security. The whole puncture resistance and pinch flat proofness is great but what really gets me is the feel when riding over slightly rocky/rooty terrain. The tyre really molds itself around the ground as you ride over it and the comfort level and grip that I get is so far ahead of the tubed version... Last night was a great example – I went up to the Team Worc club race around Djouce – it was a terrible terrible night, thunder and lightening and very heavy rain. Everything was waterlogged but yet I was very comfortable and secure riding the single track (about 30psi in a front Bulldog and 33psi in a rear Ignitor). The amount of grip cornering and climbing that I got in those conditions really surprised me.

The red hubs worked well with the rest of my bikes paint job

So, go tubeless or not – for me the answer is tubeless – I'm even looking for a set of (cheaper) Mavic tubeless wheels to use for training now. Oh, and thanks to CRC for helping me out getting the right wheel tyre combinations!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

NPS 5 – Killaloe and a picnic

The weather this last week has been a bit annoying – I find it so much more difficult to go out for a long spin when it's raining and there are grey skies. I don't find it to bad to get out in the winter under the same conditions, but it's the summer! It should be nice... All the rain over the last few days meant that Saturdays race was going to be a muddy affair – indeed, it turned out to be probably the muddiest most technical race I've ridden with a few sections being bad enough that the only way to get over them was to get of the bike and run (not a thing that I like doing).

The course itself would have been amazing if it was not for the terrible monsoon conditions over the last week – possibly the best course of the year but as it was, it really suffered from the rain. The course was a 5 or 6 minute fireroad/trail type climb that got steeper as you progressed – about 110m of climb of a kilometre. Some flat singletrack (that was a lot of fun to power along) and a bit more climbing lead you to a long single track descent with a few kickers. Then a short fireroad linker section to a final bermed DH section that leads down to the start/finish area.

Unfortunately, with most of the other Elite racers hunting for UCI points for the Olympics (or not travelling down to the bottom of the country) I was going to be the only elite racer. With this in mind, we (the race organizers and me) decided that it would be more fun if I started with the Masters and Experts – it was a good move. At the start of the race Dave Barry flew off from the start line at a pace I wasn't prepared to go at (I didn't think it would last very long anyway with a 5 minute climb that gets steeper) so I sat in and hovered around 6th or 7th. As it started to get steeper I moved to the front and that was it (mostly) for the race. Joey, who is an excellent technical rider, caught me on the single track on the first lap and lead for a couple of minutes, but I passed him again on one of the kickers and that was it for the race. I found it hard to keep the intensity up for the race but in the end I enjoyed it – not much suffering was had and it was a bit of practice racing in muddy conditions :)

It was difficult to stay on the right line here

It was a bit mucky!

As it was Mel's birthday on Saturday (she did an Adventure Race up by Newry instead of the NPS) we were organizing a picnic/bbq in a remote (ish) valley that we like between Crone and Cloon. MAD were also going to drop by as part of their Sunday spin so it was going to be a pretty busy affair in the valley with lots of food to be eaten.

Some of the MAD folk

All of us (minus the MAD folk who just left)

In the end, the BBQ went really well and I think everyone enjoyed it – it was interesting to see the people who spend less time then us (or the MAD folks) in the countryside and I think everyone enjoyed escaping the city for a couple of hours. Food wise, the Apple Crumble that Mel and I made on Sunday morning was probably the highlight, but the burgers and salads went down great too. I cycled over the mountains to the BBQ (Mel drove my car) and then for another couple of hours afterwards. The first hour of the cycle afterwards was tough carrying all the extra food around! I didn't feel low in energy though :) I wasn't hungry for the rest of the day which is very unusual for me! There are a few more pictures here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Time Machines...

It's been pouring all day here today (the blissful Californian weather of just a few days ago is but a distant memory – the tan is still here tho :) ) and I had the bright idea of giving the Turbo Trainer a go instead of getting soaked outside as my ride for today was going to be a pretty short (about an hour) active recovery spin. I have a Turbo Trainer for about 14 months now and have used it about 3 or 4 times so, I set up the laptop, turned on an episode of the Sopranos and started to pedal... Time passed, more time passed, started to get thirsty, drank some, keep pedaling, moved through the gears... I looked down at the clock and 3:47 (as in 3 minutes 47 seconds) had gone by! Ahhhhh!

Anyway, I stuck it out and did the 'spin' but I think I'll be throwing the thing back in the cupboard and put on the rain gear the next day...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Preview Video of this weekends course

This weekend I'll be racing in the 5th Irish NPS race down in Ballycuggaran Woods. The course last year was steep climbing and steep super wet (it poured right before the start of the race) descent. Hopefully this year it will be a bit drier...

Monday, June 11, 2007

British XC & Marthon Series Round 3 - Margem Park

Last weekend saw Sean and I (as well as a few other Irish racers) head over to Wales for the third round of their National XC and Marathon series. There had been talk of rain for the whole weekend but fortunatly enough it never materialized and all the racers on in the XC race on Saturday ended up getting burnt!

Saturday saw the cross country race. It was basically 5 laps of an 8km course with about 300m of climb per lap. The climbing on each lap was split up into 3 major climbs with single track descents following each one... At 12pm the Elite race started and the pace was frantic from the start. My legs felt terrible from the beginning and I knew that it was going to be a long 2+ hours... On the fourth lap, my hamstrings locked up half way up one of the climbs – it was pretty steep so I wasn't really able to stand and climb in order to get into a different position. About 3-4 minutes of agony (I thought I was going to have to turn around and freewheel back to the start) the pain subsided and I was able to race on. By the time I finished in 26th place I was absolutely zonked – pretty dehydrated (it was 27C and humid with no wind) and didn't really have the energy to get ready for the next days race. I even contemplated dropping from the full 100km marathon down to the 50km! A long bath and some good food meant that by the time I was going to bed I felt a lot better.

The Marathon race went somewhat better – it was going to be 4 laps of a 25km course with about 700m of climb per lap. It basically was the full XC course from the previous day plus a big chunk out the back hills. From the start, the pace was a lot easier then the day before and I didn't have to push to hard to keep (roughly) with the lead group. (One of my regrets from the race was that I didn't go that little bit harder and be in the lead group...) During the second lap I had a great tussle with two other lads – unfortunatly about two thirds of the way around the lap one of them punctured and I dropped the other guy (who seemed to be suffering more then me) on the last climb of the lap. The third lap was spent passing about 300 riders who started the 50 and 25km races about 15 minutes before I came through on my lap. It was pretty amazing – all levels of riders and a constant stream meant that I was riding off the racing line for much of the lap. Apart from a 10 minute interval on the last lap when I felt a bit bonky it all went pretty well. I finished the race and didn't feel like I needed to fall of the bike. Overall felt easier on my body then the previous days XC race even though, at 4:50 on the saddle the race was more then twice as long! In the end, I came in in 7th position (Robin won the race) which I was really happy with :) Again - my bike, wheels and tyres (if a little heavy) blew me away...

There are some reports and photos from the race here, here, here and here.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Panorama from New Zealand

A panorama overlooking Wanaka from about 1,800 meters

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Racing, racing and more racing...

It has been a long time since my last proper post and I've been doing a lot of racing both in Ireland and abroad recently. I'll briefly go through the races and hopefully get back to normal posting soon.

Irish National Points Series – Round 2 – Balinastoe – May 6th

This was the second time that I was going to be racing in Balinastoe, last year we had a round of the NPS on roughly the same circuit. This time however, they cut out the parts that I didn't like (a fast gravel road descent!!!) and replaced it with a reasonable enough single track descent through a cut down forest. The course itself was actually quiet short (and dry!) and we only had to complete 7 laps. My lap times for the laps were around the 12:30 mark... (3.7km, 160m climb per lap). The race only saw Peter Bugle, James McCluskey and myself take part in the Elites. We all headed off with James putting on the early pressure. Me, my legs didn't really hack the pace and I ended up staying about 40 seconds back on him and Peter for the first two laps. On the second last lap I passed James on a single track section with his bike upside down. Unfortunately, he snapped his dérailleur hanger somewhere on the section. I didn't see Peter again until the finish line.

A view over the course

Mel at the start of her race

A tough climb at the start of the lap

Towards the end of the lap there was two lines, the slow line or the jump :)

Freerange Sports Optics British XC Series Round 2 UCI C1 – Sherwood Pines – May 12th

I travelled with a bunch of Irish riders over to my first race in the UK. The field looked impressively strong (about 50 Elites) with all their shiny team sponsored bikes and the race looked set to be a fast one. The course was almost completely flat (well, a few short 'climbs') but was 11.1km long! 5 laps meant that I'd be averaging about 22.5kph on twisty offroad single track :) That's almost as fast as my recovery rides on the road bike on the flat! My inexperience was apparent from the start when I went to the start area 10 minutes before the start to find that I'd be in the last row! All the Irish races with 12-16 Elites had me spoilt! The race went by pretty quickly with me never leaving the big ring. I had a few good tussles with the riders around me – it was one of the first times where I was constantly racing behind fast people. I guess with so many Elite starters the chances of having riders at an equal speed as me goes up dramatically. I ended up finishing 34th which I was reasonably happy with all things considered... After the race, I had another race, to the airport to get ready for my next days racing...

Sherwood Pines course

Irish National Points Series – Round 3 – Carlingford – May 13th

Arriving home on a Saturday night, tired, hungry and with a bike to be built up is not the best way to prepare for a Sunday morning race. The race in Carlingord was going to use much of the course from the one used in the K-Capital (the race I had all the punctures, blew up my cars engine and hurt my knee...) with some parts reversed and a new technical descent. Briefly, I felt squirely on the single track (it was pretty technical) for the first two laps and my legs only started to feel good on the 3rd (of 5) laps. Roger Aiken finished out winning the race (he went on to race in the Ras) a full eight minutes ahead of me - eeek.

Irish National Points Series – Round 4 – Larne – May 20th

This course was really unusual – it's basically an old quarry that will (hopefully) be turned into an outdoor sports adventure centre type place. Unfortunately, at the moment it resembles a quarry more then a sports centre. The race course was about 6km with 110 meters of climb per lap. The climbs were all made up of very short (some times very steep) climbs – not really the type of course that suits me. I'll leave the report of this one short – basically, Lewis Ferguson and I were having a nice wee tussle for first for the first couple of laps. For the 3rd to 5th lap I was about 30-40 seconds back on him then about two thirds of the way around the 5th lap my rear wheel burped and I lost most of the air. I hobbled to the tech zone, got some air in and as I left the tech zone I found out that I was about 1:40 behind Lewis. My body felt really good and my legs felt perfect (I had barely used the up to this point in the race as I couldn't get myself to go any faster then a cruising pace). I hammered off with my mind focused on catching him... Two minutes later, my front wheel hit a rock (not very hard!) and burped all the air out – my air canister failed and my race was pretty much over. To say I was a bit pissed about it is an understatement.

That's basically all my races up to last weekend. Last weekend I raced in the UK again but I'll write about that another time soon.