Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 Irish National Marathon Championships

The final goal of the year before some well deserved rest and relaxation (and a chance for my various scars to get the energy they need to heal up properly) had arrived. After not being run in 2009, 2010 marked the return of the Irish National Marathon Championships. I won this title in 2008 and was very much motivated to retain the title.

MBCC (Mountain Biking Club Cork) where the club responsible for running the event – they were holding it in Ireland's largest trail center – Ballyhoura, but they promised much more than trail center riding – and in that, they delivered.

My leadup to the race was good – after our wedding, I rode a few big weeks and then tapered off for the championship itself. The week before, I took part in the Leinster Road Race Championships, motivated to win but had one of the worst sets of legs of the year for the first hour – the decisive hour. After an easy week, it takes a hard session to get my legs going for racing fast and with the Hill Climb Race that was supposed to be ran by Swords CC the day before, being cancelled at the last minute – my 'opener' session was gone. However, a massage by Stewart Carr on Monday had my legs feeling good again. Other than the disaster of a road race, things were going to plan and I felt strong.

The course was going to cover around 63km with 1,500m of climb. The course contained long fireroad climbs, long technical climbs, steep descents, ruts of death, forested singletrack and about 70% (I'm guessing) of the purpose built Ballyhoura singletrack. A challenging course and one that I felt suited me well.

Female winner, Cait Elliot

The race started up a 5km fireroad climb – initially I had Evan Ryan and Dave O'Neil for company, but by the top, I had moved off. I rode the climbs at a good tempo, the trail center stuff as fast as I dared and took it really easy on the technical rocky descents. I was in the lead and paranoid about puncturing on the very pointy rocks so I took my time descending. I had a lot in reserve and felt I could drill it on a few of the longs climbs towards the end if needed.

With a little over an hour of racing to go I came to a dead end on a section (the only section I think) that we doubled back on. There were no signs – and I cursed, very loudly, and with much anguish. I had been VERY diligent watching for course marking and felt that the course had been really really well marked. I remembered seeing a sign 1km back that pointed right(ish) but was clearly taped off. I rode back, met Anthony White (fellow KCNC endurance rider) and we rode back to the junction where I stopped as he was sure he was still right. We faffed around some more (I spent 10 minutes up there faffing!) until basically the first 10 riders were together. We decided that the taped off section must be wrong and followed where the arrows pointed. Very shortly afterwards, a moto rider confirmed we were now correct and apologized profusely for not having had the tape removed in time. I was kinda pissed – I had worked hard enough to make sure I had a good lead in case any mechanicals occurred and with 1 hour of racing to go, it was all back to the start. Motivated, I hammered off.

The rest of the race was thankfully uneventful. The course was really nice and the singletrack a lot of fun to ride in the dry. I had been riding down here on my hardtail training bike a few weeks earlier and by the end of the session I could hardly move as my body was that beaten up. Today, on the full suspension Epic – I felt great. It ate up the course, smoothed out the rough sections and allowed me to really enjoy the course. I finished without the obligatory sore back that is usually associated with trail center type riding.

3 hours 20 (or so) after starting, I finished off my 2010 season crossing the finish line to win my second Marathon Championship and my second National Championship of the season. I think I may be the first Elite to claim both a MTB and road national championship in the same year :)

Other than that one glitch which effected the front 10, the race was very well ran, on a really great course – certainly the best marathon course I have raced on in Ireland. The prizes were sponsored by VANS and went down really well :)

Thanks for all the support along the way in the race, before, during and afterwards. And another special thanks to Alan for coming down with me for the weekend and supporting me at the feed zones and lugging my spare wheels around. It is great to be able to concentrate on the cycling and know that everything else is being taken care of. In addition to my ZipVit Recovery drink when I finished, he even had a Coke waiting for me – how PRO is that? :)

Results are up here and I'll add in more photos from the race as I find them.

For those always asking - my nutrition for the 11:30am marathon was:
LARGE bowl of oats with raisins, cinnamon, a banana, muesli and soy milk. Some orange juice and a large mug of coffee.
ZipVit Energy Bar
500ml ZipVit Energy Drink as I warmed up and one ZipVit Gel
During the race:
4 ZipVit Gels (one caffeine, an hour from the finish)
4 x 500ml of ZipVit Energy Drink

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2010 Ulster XC Championships

As usual, as the end of the season approaches there is an extreme lack of races, both on the MTB and on the road. Fortunately, Banbridge Cycling Club were hosting the final round of the Ulster XC series in Tollymore Park – home to the 2007 National Championships. This round was also doubling as the Ulster XC Championships. Back in 2007 (my first year in Elite), I really enjoyed the course, there were a few big climbs and then kilometers of testing, forested singletrack. The course changed a lot for 2010, much less climbing, but still lots of singletrack.

The course had been riding very well in the days leading up to the race (so I was told) but on the Firday and Saturday before hand – mother nature dealt the course a hammering of the aquatic kind. What were dusty dry trails were now slick trails with a side helping of slippery roots.

When we arrived at the race venue, Mel and I both rolled around for a preride. I could see how cool the trails would be in the dry (or even in the damp), but with the heavy rain – I didn't really get into the flow. I got back to the car and wasn't really motivated.

A reasonably strong Elite field had entered and as we toed the line, I didn't really know how to play it. Go full gas, or just ride and have some fun. The whistle went and we sped off. After some jostling, the front 3 (myself, Ray and Aidan) settled into the race. As I mentioned, I wasn't too keen on the trails in my preride – but as is often the case, in the race situation, they rode really well – other than a bombhole section (well, you go up and down banks a bunch of times) that was really cut up – the rest was great fun. Indeed, days afterwards as I was looking back on the race as being really great fun and wanting to do it again. Me, I would have more climbing and try to open up a few sections, but it was a great fun course.

Mr. & Mrs. after the race :)

Midway through the second lap I went to the front and increased my pace a little on the climbs. From there I just rode a steady tempo for the next few laps – on the last lap, I put in a little more effort on the climbs to get a slightly bigger gap and rolled in for first. Aidan McDonald was second and Ray O'Shaughessy third. Mel won her race too – the interesting thing being that the top 3 in the Elite Men, and top Elite Woman were all riding Specialized Epics – talk about domination :)

There is a report and link to more photos and a video here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We will

Best cake topper ever!

One of the other reasons why updates have been a little slow lately is because Mel and I got married on the 19th of August. We were very happy how everything worked out on the day. Our wedding was a very special few days full of joy spent with our families and friends.

Just married :)

And yes, I actually did cycle to my wedding (not in tails though) - there was no room in the car :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010 Mondello Open Race

It is not often you get to race on a completely closed course, never mind a race track – so when I heard about the Open Race being held in Mondello Race Course I was all up for it. That and the fact that there are hardly any road races for my class (A1 – basically elite) this time of year you gotta do everything you can. I had heard that the last open race held there was 1986 but if successful, more events (maybe a series) would be held next year.

A large A4 group went off first, followed by an A3 group and then finally an A2 and A1 group (there was only four A1s so we got to go with with the A2s) got going making a total of around 90 riders (many riders trying to make it failed due to a big crash on the main route to the event – me, I had to ditch my car and ride the final 10km to the event and leave Alan with my car).

The race was one hour plus three laps, so I tried to get our groups going well until we caught the A3 group – after about thirty minutes of riding an easy tempo, we caught them and the group was suddenly huge. With that, I attacked straight away with 3 or 4 other riders getting a good gap quickly. Another half lap later while cornering on the front of our group I heard my rear tubular go pissst – damn... I pulled in and made my way back to the start/finish in the hope that the race organizer would allow me to change wheels and get back into the race as long as I didn't contest anything. They did, so I rejoined the original A1,A2,A3 group. After getting up to speed I attacked out of that making sure not to pull anyone along. From there I basically went full gas on a solo effort to bridge to the A4 (and the guys I was with when I punctured out of the winning move). I pushed hard and almost caught the group by the finish – averaging 43kmph over the windy course by myself.

After a wheel change - waiting to get going again

Attacking off the A1,A2,A3 group

I was annoyed about the puncture – I wouldn't have expected that on a track but several other riders also punctured – side wall slices of all things – there must have been some crap on the circuit from previous races. On the plus, I was feeling very very strong - on what was a very flat course.

The sprint finish

I really enjoyed the racing and hope that there will be more racing out there next year. It was well organized and a beautiful late summer evening topped it all off.

Thanks to Alan for all the pictures (and driving my car the rest of the way to the venue)

EDIT - Naas CC have just announced that there will be an Open Race in Mondello Park, every Tuesday from 19th of April 2011. Cool - sounds like my AC/Threshold sessions for next year are sorted.

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 Carl Fullerton Memorial Road Race

The Carl Fullerton Memorial race was the final race of the Irish Road Classic Series. It was being held up in Donegal by the North Pole cycling club, a club that has become synonymous with well run events on great courses. Fortunately, for the final round of the championship the course did not disappoint – unfortunately the attendance did with only fourteen making the journey up. Of the fourteen, Sean Lacey – who at this point could not be beaten for the title made the long trip up from Cork (or is it Kerry – sorry!). I guess it was like already getting into the break of the day before we started – the fourteen riders that were here were all strong.

The race started with the Eurocycles pair of Adam Armstrong and Thomas Martin (good luck this week in the Tour of Britain) going full gas with Sean Lacey – another couple of riders were quickly burnt off and unfortunately, that was the three away for the day. As I rode in the group, I wasn't worried about them being off the front – the course was difficult enough and it was very windy with strong riders in our group. As the kms, ticked by, we rode mostly well together but there was never the concerted full gas effort from all of us needed to pull back the leading trio. It was frustrating, but I'll put that one down to experience. A few hard accelerations from our group burnt off the riders that were simply sitting in and with a half lap to go, I attacked and left our group to go for a solo effort for 4th. I stayed away for about 10km but got caught again (more riders where shelled from our group in the chase). It was down to a sprint finish on the drag up to the line. We played cat and mouse for the final 4km (which was acutally a lot of fun). With about 600m to go, a rider went for it, I sat in a little as Conor Mc Allister responded and with about 400m to go, I went full gas – I didn't look around until the line but there was a long way back to my 5th. 837W for 40 seconds does that...

Photo from Marian Lamb

My attack and the end sprint clearly visable on this, the final lap of 4

As I said, a well run event on a fantastic course – just pity about the numbers. Thanks to North Pole CC for putting on such a well run event – the races up in Donegal always seem to turn out great.