You might think I’d actually been busy, as I finally transcribe an account of a local cycling league from the early summer, all of 7 months ago at this stage. It was only this evening after downing a couple of mugs of yerba mate that I thought it would be a good time to transcribe the words jotted down in a now crumpled notebook before it biodegrades. It should have been done long ago, but the league finished upon a caffeine-free week for me which meant I was about as creative as a sloth lazing up some tropical tree.
It’s easy to see, that for a cyclist, how a refusal to write without caffeine can quickly transform into there being no point in turning up at a race unless you’re on something somewhat stronger!
Anyhow, please enjoy what will most likely be my last post about cycling for a while – an account of the local summer league back home in Donegal over the summer of 2016.
Round 1 – 10 Mile TT Barnes
I’m slowly losing the will to live with each revolution of the pedals. I got blown into the lidl roundabout in 10 minutes by a gale force wind and thought I was flying. But the headwind now quickly slows me to a crawl as I try to return. It’s a strange old pastime we all share, 20-30 minutes of pure suffering in total for these 10 mile TT’s. It’s sensible carry on indeed.
In my 33 years, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been stuck in the middle of Barnesmore gap on a still evening and this evening is certainly not one of those.
As I near the finish I catch sight of a few carrots lined up ahead of me which puts a spring in my step. The last couple of kilometers are absolute hell and I have John Kerrs in my sights as I start to bury myself. I catch him with about 400m to go as he shouts some words of encouragement. I wonder to myself how he is even able to talk, all I can think about is not vomiting!
I read on facebook afterwards that I “had wintered well in Italy”….like I was a charolais bull just off the ferry in Rosslare!
Round 2 – Road Race Laghy
It’s lap 2 of 4 and I have the taste of the mackerel I ate for lunch 6 hours previous repeating on me. I’d rather it take the southern route out, but it’s that old familiar feeling of parts of the body shutting down for business in protest at what I’m putting the rest of it through. My heart rate hasn’t dropped below 180bpm since I got away out of Ballintra on the first lap. This is torture.
The occasional glance around reassures me that it’s only a matter of time before I’m caught as the main group lies less than a minute behind. Oisin Doherty has been with me since we got away, he takes the odd pull on the front, doing his best to keep our doomed escape alive.
By the time we start the last lap it looks like we may stand a chance of staying away. As we near the finish I’ve nothing left and start to shit myself that I’ll get beat in the sprint! The games start with Oisin with the main group perilously close, but somehow I hang on by mere metres. Absolutely spent after the efforts. It’s the first thing I’ve ever won in my life. Happy with the evenings work.
Round 2 – Glengesh Hill Climb
The last time I was talking about Glengesh it wasn’t but a month ago down in the south of Italy as I entertained a group of Dublin cyclists for a week. It’s all well and good reminiscing about these climbs while watching the sunset over the Tyrrhenian sea in 20 degree heat while sipping red wine…it’s quite another when you arrive on a “June” evening and it’s spitting rain, howling a gale and barely 8°C!
You know things are going badly when you start off crawling into the most almighty headwind and after 400 m you’re already looking over your shoulder convinced your minute-man is about to catch you! Sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself that that conditions are the same for everyone. Not even the few hardly souls with cameras on the hairpins, braving the conditions can do much to motivate me. I’m already in a world of pain and wishing it was over. These hill climbs are as hard on the mind as they are on the legs, it’s all a matter of how much you are prepared to suffer. Eventually I arrive to the cruelest finish, hard to break the habit of a lifetime on Glengesh by not stopping at the viewpoint. Pushing up around that final bend is absolute torture.
Round 4 – Marshalling Barnes TT
There’s only one thing worse that doing the return leg of a Barnes TT into a dirty headwind, and that’s marshalling on a calm evening! I’d take the blast of a headwind slowing me to a crawl as I exit the roundabout any day over a ball of midges orbiting my head feasting on any exposed skin!
It’s a lucky escape for me however as I’m sent up to the midge-free Lidl roundabout. It turns out to be an uneventful evening as I stand at the roundabout witnessing my surprise early lead in the league slashed by Darragh Mc Carter. With a sub 22 minute time, he’s well ahead of the rest of us. Not even the old-timer poodling around the roundabout in a Volkswagon Caddy would have slowed him if I had let him in 10 seconds earlier!
Round 5 – Road Race Mountcharles
The evening started well when I couldn’t find the chapel in Mountcharles for sign on! I stopped on the Main St and asked a young boy where it was, his reply, “I’m not quite sure”. How Ireland has changed I thought to myself.
The philosophising soon stopped when I reached the start line. The news was I’d start in the scratch group with the Mc Carter brothers. Light years ahead of me, I’d in for plenty of suffering and likely quickly spat out the back like the Ireland of old and her catholic ways.
It wasn’t to be however, and after a first lap where I felt like I was going to die on no less than three separate occasions, the first of which before we had even reached Kelly’s Garage, I finally found my rhythm. I passed up on plenty of turns at the front but pulled my weight as best I could any time I felt I could actually breathe!
To tell you the truth it was enjoyable. There’s something about the human mind that wont let you emulate that intensity in training, so I was revelling in the good training. 2:10 was the gap to the front as we started the last lap. We would surely finish well down bown, but on that 6k drag up the Dorrin Line we slowly began catching those who had started out ahead. In the end I came in 5th, just behind the Mc Carter brothers. Happy enough with the evenings work, and my best training session in a while no doubt.
Round 6 – Altidoo Hill Climb
I was reading about endorphins the other day and their evolutionary purpose. When you’ve just done an all out sprint to get away from a large cat on the savannah, apparently they keep you positive when you currently find yourself stuck up a tree, relatively safe, but still in need of a plan to shake off the cat circling the trunk below.
They are to be used sparingly apparently, best kept for seldom use. Things seem to go south when regular visits are made to that department. I suppose it’s a bit like the bog. Anyhow it’ll be a question for my next visit to Alfie.
This evening it was an all-out effort up Altidoo. 7 minutes something of almighty suffering, which was not in the least bit enjoyable, but the endorphin high that awaited atop somehow made it seem worthwhile as I taxed the adrenals for that mild high yet again.
Fueled by endorphins a few of us take a “warm down” via Letterbarrow back to Mountcharles. It turns into a sparring match and we end up hammering up the Dorrin Line with the competitive instincts kicking in. When the dust settled Kevin Mc Glynn turned to me and said “if that was the warm down then I wasn’t trying hard enough!”
Round 7 – 25 Mile Time Trial
On marshalling duties tonight for the 40K TT to Balyshannon and back. Not too much excitment up at the Ballyshannon roundabout until Willie John Gallagher swerved at the last minute after almost taking the wrong exit. A glutton for punishment I thought he wanted to add on a few extra kilometres and return via Rossnowlagh! I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say the brain fart was caused by hypoglycemia from that can of coke I saw him gulp down just before the start!
Serious time from Darragh Mc Carter tonight of 55 minutes. Just as well I wasn’t taking part, the shame of me being passed before the Tullyearl roundabout on the way up!
Round 8 – Road Race Ballyshanon
The bog and the hay are the often-heard excuse for someone’s form dipping at this point in the summer. I can’t use that excuse however in what was a tough race tonight, as tough an hour as I’ve had in a while. As the attacks went in I hung on for dear life on a few occasions. When your heart rate is 187bpm on the drag up to Ballymagroarty, things can’t get much more uncomfortable. It’s good training nonetheless, and although in the moment it’s impossible not to silently curse the man whose wheel you are trying to hold, egoism is most certainly altruism when it comes to getting in a good training session with others.
The biohacker in me recently got his genome sequenced with 23andme. Aside from the unwelcome news that I’m twice as likely to get both type 2 diabetes and alzheimers, I also found the following statement within the report: “Probable good endurance athlete, but definitely not a sprinter”. I always knew I had a useless sprint, but can it really be so shit that someone dressed in a lab coat can tell it from a saliva sample I posted to them in a test tube? Either way, never a truer word said I’m afraid!
The statement is inline with my experience in most club races I do, hang in there with the big boys for 39.8km and for the last 0.2km watch all the hard work go tits up when the sprint kicks off!
Accounting for my shortcomings in the sprinting department, I made a move coming off the Tullyearl roundabout to try and get away. Alas it never stuck and I lost a couple of places in the end. What can you do when you’ve been short-changed in the genetic lottery on fast twitch muscle fibres?..
Round 9 – 10 Mile TT Barnes
9 times out of 10 on this course, there’s a tailwind on the way in and a cruel headwind on the way back. Today however, it’s the opposite. The nerd in me was recently reading that in time trials you should always push harder into the wind and hold back slightly with a tail wind. Basically push hardest when you’re going slowest.
So today it was balls out from the start, no holding back. As well as the wind, I had a couple of carrots in front of me, but more importantly, I had three Mc Carters starting behind me. If that doesn’t put a spring in your step, nothing will.
The end result, I’m a minute faster than I’ve ever gone before. Makes me wonder how much time I threw away on previous efforts with the pacing malarkey. Can’t beat the old school approach it seems. I need to stop reading blog posts by David Millar, what did he ever achieve anyway?
So that’s it for another year! It’s all too short and leaves me wondering what to do now with my Thursday evenings. I better think of something to avoid taking up golf again!
Thanks for reading!