Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer in Ireland

It was funny - very misty up in the mountains but pretty nice once you got back down to sea level. The pictures really reminds me of the riding that I did in New Zealand.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2008 National Hill Climb Championships

Last weekend was a pretty big weekend of racing for me as there were two National Championship events being held. On Saturday, the National Hill Climb Championships were being held in Linsfort, Donegal over the Mamore Gap, while on Sunday the National Cross Country Marathon Championships were being held in the Wicklow Mountains.

In this post, I'll just focus on the National Hill Climb Championships. Preparation began for it (outside of training!) in the leading week when I started to try and shed a little weight from my road bike. A super light set of wheels and full carbon saddle brought my bike weight down to 6.9kg (including pedals and the Garmin Edge bike computer).

My 'pimped' 2008 Specialized Tarmac Expert

Next hurdle was actually getting there. The race was about 5 hours drive from my home in Dublin so I staged it in two sections with my Dad kindly offering to cover most of the driving. (Driving takes a lot out of me and with the marathon on the Sunday, I was trying to conserve as much as possible). Due to the distance, I was not going to be able to have a look at the climb before the race so this is all I knew.

  • A very tough climb – maybe the toughest in the British Isles
  • 1.9km long with 250 meters of climb
  • 10 bends and 4 switchbacks

After a very friendly signon we all headed over to the bottom of the Gap – it was at this point that the rain and wind really picked up. The climb was going to be wet into a strong headwind – as if the elevation gain was not enough to contend with!

I got on the Turbo Trainer to warm up (something I don't use very often but found it perfect in this case) and got to the start line ready to go. To save weight, I didn't use my power meter for the climb but I had practiced pacing on a climb this length a few times recently so my basic plan was go a little easier (from a perceived effort point of view) then I think I should for the first two minutes and then pick it up – hopefully my power output would be pretty well averaged out over the climb.

5,4,3,2,1 and I was off up the hill. The next few minutes were mostly a blur with the odd self questioning - “why am I doing this?” - usually, this is a good sign – it means I'm pushing hard. The climb was very very steep – the hardest I've seen in Ireland by a long way and my 39x25 was two high a gearing for me to ride the hill the way I wanted. In general, especially more recently, I like to spin while climbing. About 80-90 RPM while seated and around 80 while standing. I basically had to stand almost all the climb, using all my mountain biking smooth pedalling skills to not spin out the rear wheel on the slippery tarmac while only pedaling at about 50rpm. After a lot of pain, I looked down at the Garmin to see I covered 1.55km – only 350 meters to go, but those 350 meters were like a wall. Already far into oxygen dept and a huge headwind I hit the final section which averaged out at a 19% gradient – I wish I had lower gears. I kept pushing and the crowd cheered me on as I made the final push. I crossed the line, placed my bike carefully at the side of the road (making sure not to damage the super expensive borrowed wheels) and promptly collapsed. I had no thoughts in my mind that I could have pushed harder – better gearing would have helped a lot, but I really did give it everything.

Looking down the climb

I don't even remember this bit!

The prize giving was held back in the Laurentic Bar in Linsfort where the supporting club (North Pole CC) put on a huge spread of food - the race was super well run by North Pole CC. The poor bar staff looked on at is as if we were a pack of locusts :) and it was not even a long race!

Suffer suffer suffer - picture from here by Marian Lamb

In the end, my time up the climb of 8:50 which was enough to secure second place – missing out on winning the Championship by a mere 7 seconds! (If only I was a kilo lighter...) Ronan Mc Laughlin who rides for the Pro outfit AnPost/Sean Kelly won the event – he looked smooth as I watched him pass as I returned down the hill.

There was only 14 seconds in the top 3 places

Results and a report are available here.

After all this excitement, it was a return drive to Monaghan with my Dad and then I drove back up to Dublin to start preparation for the following days marathon. It was a busy weekend.

I have to say a couple of big “thank yous” from this weekend. I really appreciate the support from Shane Connaughton from Cycleways, Eoghan (sorry – I need to get your second name) and Ross McClure. They helped me out with seriously lightening up my bike, Eoghan and Ross giving me the use of their mega light Lightweight wheel-set. Those things are ridiculous! I would be getting a pair if I did more road racing to warrant such an expense! Also, a big thanks to Dad for driving me to and from the race and supporting me around it - it was a huge huge help!

So next year – 7 more seconds... I'm getting closer :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pain in the butt...

Literally - I was doing a few preparation drills for this weekends Hill Climb Championships (checking equipment, checking body - both good) and when I was descending back down after a run I felt a massive sting on my inner right thigh (the bit that rubs, or is close to, the saddle). I looked down to find a honey bee stuck to my shorts.

Panic mode started - two days before an important weekend of racing and I just got stung by something that I have a known very bad reaction to. In August 2006 I got stung on the face (turned into a "Mars Bar Head") and again in July 2007 I got stung on my forehead (another "Mars Bar Head" incident). The second reaction was much faster so I knew time was crucial. I headed home as fast as I could and started to call Cycling Ireland and the Irish Sports Council to find out what I need to do as I was pretty sure I would be getting an injection of Solu Cortef. I was doing all this as I was getting dizzy and in a lot of pain. With the documents I needed I visited the doctor and got sorted pretty quickly. (The receptionist remembered me from the last two times and pulled me straight into the Doctor)

Now, I'm pretty good and the doc said I should be okay by the weekend - fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I did a loop of the upcoming marathon course yesterday morning. The course is pretty good and reasonably weather proof. One of the climbs is a killer and I suspect that unless it stops raining for the next few days (currently raining) I'll be walking sections. It is not very long though and the rest of the course more then makes up for it...

Anyway, getting back to what I thought was crazy - I stopped off at a part of the marathon course where I joined in to drop off a bottle and some extra clothes I didn't want to carry (hidden nicely in the trees). I rode for two hours (the loop) and arrived back to find this:

Seriously - who the hell does this? I'm in the middle of nowhere and someone dumps all their crap (There is a link to report such things). The recent weather is bad enough to push me out of Ireland let alone this type of thing! It's not even that unusal. I also passed a truck pilled high with 5 burnt out cars that they just picked up from the forest.

Seriously - people in this country (any country) that cause any issues should have to do a mandatory 500kms a week on a bicycle - then they wont have any energy left to get up to badness :) Grrrr

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fuel for a 100km marathon

This is the fuel I used during the marathon in Drumlanrig. 8 bottle of TorQ (about 500-600ml in each) and 8 gels... Yum yum :) My saddle time was around 5 hours.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Spot the difference



Number 1 was yesterday, number 2 today... Seriously - it's the SUMMER time... Grrrrr

Met Eireann proubly anounces todays weather as "Showers or longer spells of rain, with some very heavy or thundery downpours." - that has been the outlook for the last week. I can deal with training in crappy weather all winter - that's fine - but the summer has to be a bit nicer! It's warmer, yeah - but much wetter.

Monday, August 04, 2008

2008 Bontrager 24/12 Report

I should have written this ages ago but work has been busy... Anyway...

In 2006 I took part in a race ran by Epic called the Epic Blast, I wrote about it before but it was basically a sprint run down a long downhill course that also had XC type sections. The reason I bring this up was that this was the most fun day I had racing since I started... Bontrager 24/12 has given that day a run for it's money!

It all started a few months earlier when Matt from TorQ asked us if we would be interested in taking part in the mixed pairs category of the 12 hour race. Apparently, this was going to be the 'big' category as most of the UKs leading couples were going to take part. The sound of all this (and the fact that it was not 24 hours) intrigued us so we agreed to take part.

Roll on a few months and Mel and I found ourselves outside Plymouth on the grounds of Newnham Estate in glorious sunshine. A preride of the course brought huge smiles on our faces so no matter what happened, we knew we would have fun. (It also helped that if it did rain, the course would be pretty weather proof – unlike Vietnam... I mean, Mountain Mayhem...). After a few false starts we eventually found some accommodation (don't even ask about the original one we booked) and ate a great Indian meal.

Birds eye view

Morning arrived with blue skies, a bone dry course and a high probability that we wont get rained on. (There was a deep river crossing to keep the dust down though!)

At the start, Mel and I decided that I would do double laps and she would perform single ones until I started to slow. This would hopefully equal out our energies over the event (having done a couple of adventure races, one of the most important things is to always make everyone equally tired). That didn't mean Mel got to chill out for an hour at a time though, as we had no support, she was going to be prepping for me as much as she could when I was riding, the plan being that all I had to do was sit down when I got back, eat and before I start my next lap fix anything on my bike (mostly, this was just oil the chain... but I'll get to that later) grab the bottles she prepped and go.

Ian and I at the start of the race

At 12pm the race start. A short start loop brought us around onto the lap proper. I spent most of the first lap telling myself to take it easy – it's easy to get carried away but when I'm going to be riding close to 8 hours I had to really hold back at the start. My plan was to ride well within myself for as long as possible and much further into the event (8 hours or so) put in a few fast laps if needs be. I have done a lot of long races recently so I thought that I should be strong enough at the end as long as I take care of eating and drinking. I also knew that Mel would be fresher so that we can also switch to single laps.

Coming around after the start loop - Ian on my tail

Our competition in this race was going to be tight with Kate and Ian Potter, Jenny Copnall and her partner Richard as well as Phil Morris and Madie Horton. The four main teams stayed pretty close throughout the first few hours but it was the Potters who we had the main tussles with. (They were having there own inner competition too to find out who the fastest Potter is – Kate's blog has all the gory details :)) There was never more then a minute or so between us and 6 hours in, I was really starting to wonder if they would ever slow down! Kate was as fast as normal, but Ian was really pulling off a blinder. I was most impressed with Kate in one of her laps though, I started a little behind her and caught her on the climb, I contemplated in trying to get her to hang on to me and then try to up the pace and get her to follow but I threw that idea out and rode my own lap. I arrived into the arena after my lap to turn and see her just behind! Impressive stuff.

Fortunately, we didn't have any mechanicals that caused major problems but I didn't get away scot free. I started my 3rd lap (about an hour into the race) and noticed I had very little travel on my front fork – as the next few laps progressed, very little turned to none. So I did another 5 laps without any travel – although the course was not technical (and my high volume Racing Ralph tires were amazing) my hands and wrists were really starting to get sore. This was until I rode through the bomb hole section and heard a massive pop and loads of liquid in my face. My heart dropped thinking that I just sliced my wheel and the liquid was the Stans fluid in the wheel. The feeling of riding on the rim didn't arrive but the front felt spongy – I looked down to find a chunk of the left leg of my fork missing – I actually felt relieved – I was 5km from the finish and didn't fancy running or changing tires. The compression and lockout adjustment was gone (litrally) but I now had a full 100mm of bouncy travel again! (Oh, and a fresh oil shower every-time I hit a big bump)

Anyway, back to the race – everything was neck and neck until around 8 or 9pm when we started to edge ahead of the Potters, not much, but a minute or two per lap and we also switched to single laps. The night laps came and I got to do some of the most enjoyable night riding I'd ever done – it was my first time using our Exposure lights – they were amazing – so light and bright. Mel seemed to be buzzing after every lap too (according to the people at the TorQ stand).

I finished my last lap (13) at about 11:50pm to find Mel waiting to go out on her last lap. We probably had enough time that we didn't need to ride another lap but Mel had the biggest smile when I seen her that I knew she wanted another lap. I handed over the baton and headed to the TorQ stands were Matt and Sasha prepared diner (YEAH – real food - thank you, thank you, thank you!). Mel finshed her lap (8th for her) and we all sat around chatting, eating and enjoying a glass of wine till late. The end to an amazing day of racing. Perfect weather, competition, course, organization and company...

With a little bit of sleep, Mel and I got up the next morning to blue skies and decided to head out for another 'recovery' lap (you would think 21 laps between us was enough!). The fact that we were doing that, after so many laps really shows how much we loved the course – it was so fast and so much fun, the weather was perfect and we got to cheer on the 24 hour folk.

Mel the next day when we went out on a 'recovery' ride

I know I have gone on a few times before about this but the TorQ nutrition products are simply amazing for this type of event. I've raced a few long races recently and know a few things about nutrition but I was still amazed that I came in after my last lap feeling better (with more energy) then I had 12 hours earlier – incredible.

The mixed podium (Maddie and Phil had to leave early)

Both of us have to thank TorQ for their support and encouragement during the event, our competitors (especially Kate and Ian) for giving us such a nail biting race and Martin (InEvent) and Keith Bontrager for putting on the event – you'll see use there next year.

There are lots of photos available here and here and some we took here as well as some reports here and here. Results are here. As usual (and she beat me to it this time) Mel's report can be found on her blog...