Tag Archives: Cycling

Go big or stay at home

A fitting title for a fitting event, but not with the outcome you’d expect from some of my previous exploits. This time, I really am staying at home.

Well sort of anyway.

Rewind a little

2010 with the marmotte, hitting my weight goal, winning my first race, well it was a year to remember. In no small part, my performance was helped by the National Champion himself, Ryan Sherlock, and for that I’m grateful. Who knew were it would all end up.

Shortly after writing the year review, I developed some knee pain. At the time we put it down to the hard year. I had lost over 20kg by this point as well as having trained (hard) through the previous winter including some pretty insane mornings on 3 Rock in dense fog and ice. So after the month break it was left for another week or two to try get back into it. A physio trip helped things and it looked like that was it until the first week of training again and bam! Gone again.

That marked the end of the real training as I really couldn’t muster anything consistent. Trips to the physio helped and I would get a week or two without issue before it’d start going down hill again, but each time I’d never be back to the level of consistency I had before.

2011 Race Season

With the knee problem sort of bouncing around, the year started uneventful to say the least. Ok my first race was plagued by two punctures meaning I only got 7km or so, but otherwise the races I did do had me placing 7th or 8th, always just behind where I knew I could be. I did place 3rd in the Swords GP but that was about it. I’d missed quite a few races from waking up on the morning with a sore or weak knee too, and even more training than I could count.

An answer to the question you don’t want to ask

Eventually enough was enough, I’d done a few physio sessions, rested for longer periods, even done directed knee strengthening exercises without improvement. It was time for an MRI. I didn’t bother to self diagnose as I’d gotten it so well with my previous consultant visit on an unrelated matter.

Long story short, a visit to the sports clinic and a referral for the MRI revealed the issue. Micro tears in the meniscus above my patella. In short, I’d damaged the connectors of the muscles into my knee. But here was the real kicker. It wasn’t enough to warrant an operation, and I’d need to stay away from pain shots or I’d risk damaging enough to warrant an operation. Worse still, I was advised to go back training but strict instructions to watch the intensity level and pain. Pushing too hard would cause pain and possibly rip more. But if I do it right, it’ll heal by itself and come back to the normal level.

What it all means

In short, my training sucks. It is really difficult to get anything consistent out. Planning in advance doesn’t happen as I’m forever worried about damaging my knee further. I bounce between being perfectly fine somedays – to having pain while cycling which disappears when off the bike, to days like today where I’ve pain while not moving but none on the bike.

Admittedly this is a post I’ve written in many forms over the last year but never published. Probably because things change so quickly. I regularly switch between the days of great training and days were sitting around is a sore knee, and others when the knee is sore but I feel great after training. Really, a total mind jerk.

I’m still cycling, just not as much, often, or anywhere close to as hard as before. In reality, no racing up hills and no interval training, especially no interval training on hills. Normal people may think something like this is a god send however I strangely enjoy interval training on hills. Yes it is a painful, but the measured goals seem to work.

A day of new goals – aka What next

One thing I had been instructed to do was cross train and get my other muscles to build up. Strange as it may seem, this has meant running to improve a knee injury. Well it was that or swimming and I’d get a bit too wet while swimming.

With previous small steps in goals, I’ve signed up to the Dublin Marathon Series including the full Dublin Marathon. All after completing only a short 5 mile christmas run and some short training runs otherwise. Ok so that is a bit of an understatement, but then not really. It does mean upping the distance considerably but even starting a marathon training plan too.

Will I get back cycling? Yes hopefully. I do really intend that the increased endurance will help building on the longer cycles and I’ve a few 100km+ rides without knee pain completed as well. Time will tell.

Race Report – Swords GP [2011-06-05]

Given that the previous day, the Saturday had lovely warm weather, waking up to drizzly rain and greasy roads really was an unpleasant feeling. Immediately my mind turned to the turn at the top of the climb – the one I know I need to keep speed up through just to hang on in the group. Maybe this would slow things down, or maybe I’d cook it. Who knows.

The PreRace Fun

Surprisingly this year, there was little information about the race available before the day. The usual stuff started to appear on boards and the circuit was known since it was the same on we do in the club league. There was the start time of 12pm with sign-0n from 11:30am so knowing this, I arrived around 11:30am – enough time for a quick warm up but short enough not to get cold before the race.

That all changed at 11:55am when it surfaced that the start was at 1pm. Oh well. Luckly another rider was around and we went off on a easy pace for a warm-up lap. A good idea since I could properly determine the wind direction as something from the North would definitely suit me and help stop any breakaway just before the turn. Remembering my mistake from last year, I was determined not to have a repeat.

On the main road, we continued along chatting away at a nice 32km/h, side by side, so no drafting. Possibly a little faster than I’d hoped but bring on the race.

The Race

We all grouped together near the gate and got ready. For us, A4, it was to be 3 and half laps with the finish on the fourth time up. So off went the A1/A2. Few minutes later, off went the A3. Numbers were down, probably due to a combination of the weather and the bank holiday weekend which left 25 riders starting the A4.

Initially things were un-organised. But then how is that any different than a normal A4 race? Only when a pace car rolls out does the start stay orderly. It took a few guys to ramp to the front to get us moving at something beyond what would be considered a slow commute speed. But even then, it never really got organised and pacey. One of the downsides of A4 racing – some people just like sitting in the outside line and not moving up.

Lap 1 stayed together and we continued up the hill at a decent enough speed. Nothing too hard and I stayed in behind two others to slow myself down. Apparently some people did drop off this time up the hill but I couldn’t tell from where I was.

Lap 2

This is where some racing began. One guy decided to jump from the front himself and try move things along. Our main group was being led by one other rider at this point who seemed content on letting him head off into the distance. After a few minutes and walking the time gap grow, I moved up and asked what the plan was – let him go, or wait and see. While discussing what to do and when to go, two or three other lads jumped and the chase was on. Immediately the speed was up and people started working together.

Unfortunately this really didn’t last for long and when on the main road, it dropped to about 3 or 4 of us working to pull in the gap. Knowing my weakness on the flats, I was careful when to pull and when to sit in, and the others seemed happy enough to have slow up and overs we some very fast pulls through to rope in distance.

With this we brought him back about half way along the road and things slowed again. Not what was hoped but what can you do.

Around the corner and again the same guy goes off again. On the first little bump, I sped up and chased to catch on. Now I don’t know if it was just I was feeling good, or plain insanity, but once I reached him, I pulled through and kept the pace up. And we started pulling out a gap. The other guy did say to work together and keep going right at the exact moments I was starting to slow down which probably helped, but we pushed hard up the hill. Even near the top, he shouted to keep pushing – that he’d work on the flats to get the break. Really that did and away I went. By the time I crossed the top, I had 3-5 seconds on him, and he another 5 on the riders behind if not more. But I knew what had to happen and I slowed to let him come back.

Slow through the corner as it was so slippy but start back on the gas. By this point there was a few of us and worked together keeping the pace very high to try pull some gap. It didn’t stick and it looked like the bunch came back together by the village again. I later found out that the effort up the hill tore things apart and less than half the group was left by this point. Such is racing.

Lap 3

Lap 3 was uneventful beyond the fact that we went slow. Ridiculously slow at times. On the main road we dropped to 27km/h at one point (remember that I did 32km/h on an easy warmup lap here) meaning it remained a simple lap. Even the hill climb wasn’t all that stressful.

Lap 4 – The final run cycle

Things did move along fairly ok on this lap strangely enough, more so that you usually expect some people to sit in. Perhaps because I sat as rider 3 for quite a while until I started dropping wheels during the fast accelerations on the main road. I really couldn’t pull through fast enough when the wheels jumped.

Around the corner from the main road and some people started jumping as usual. Nothing fast and no one followed through with it much. Once again through the last bump I went to jump a wheel, and once again I pulled all the way. Not withstanding that I had planned to sit in until the cross roads, it just happened. I put the head down and just rode. A quick glance back at one point put one rider on my wheel and the bunch a fair bit back.

Disaster pongs

At the cross roads my left hamstring decided it wasn’t having this and started giving out to me. Enough that it caused a few cries of pain. It was then that I knew any hope of winning was lost as I wouldn’t be able to jump near the top when the guys came through.

With a full km to go, I’d be lucky to stay consistent and hold the gap to the top. Even within 200km my pace was already dropping and becoming shabby. But push on you must and so I did.

The 200m marker at the top came and shortly after I decided it was now or never. Up I stood to try up the pace and break what was left. A feeble attempt as my leg really didn’t want to. The rider behind took that as a sign and jumped by me. Then another one. I pushed a little but really was disappointed with myself and rolled across the line for 3rd stopping the GPS as I went.

A look back

Overall, third place wasn’t too bad. I really should have done better and I paid for the effort on lap 2, but who knows, the race could have been different if I didn’t. The stats from this year to last year do say a lot however. Only 3 minutes slower and power was similar. Memory is a great thing.

The Stats

Distance: 72.16km
Time: 2:00:18
Avg Speed: 36km/h
Calories: 1746
Avg Power: 242watts
Normalised Power: 291watts

Race Report – Stamullen GP

This circuit was one of the first race circuits that I have ever cycled. I remember it popped up on boards way back when I was beginning cycling and we decided to cycle it, see what all the rage was about. Little did we know the difference a bit of speed makes. Back then I probably averages 20km/h if even on the run around compared to the race.

So was it all that was expected? Well … no. I only realised where we were cycling during the race and remembered then, something which will hopefully push me to check the course route a little better in future.

The day began with the usual half organised me packing up and heading off. In the car on the way I realised I’d forgotten something, not as bad as the previous week, but still not good. Basically I’d forgotten lunch. While I had some made, I didn’t eat it or bring it with. This resulted in my stopping off at a garage to grab a sandwich. It’d probably have fine if I ate it then, however I didn’t. I left it until after I arrived, and signed. All in all, less than 20 minutes before the start.

The Race

Since there is a hill of sorts in this race, I did say I’d do something stupid with the hills and see how it goes. With the hill only half way around the lap and a long descent after, I knew I’d need to get across the top in front, preferably far ahead. On the first lap everything stayed together. Not working too much, but definitely together.

During the second lap, one or two guys started off the front. Knowing about the hill, I tried to get people to work a little on the front and tried to pull it along. For a number of reasons, this resulted in my getting a few metres off the front, something that wasn’t helped by another rider I know following me up. Since he wasn’t in Swords gear, we went for it thinking they’d let us out. At this stage, we were still almost 2km from the base of the hill and on a slight descent. What was I thinking?

Up up and away

We rolled along taking turns to the base of the hill and began up. Knowing from previous days, I decided to pop a gel and latched back on. We continued up but at the first big corner, he said look behind – and there was the group catching us. We let it roll into us but right when they did there was an attach. Something I should have expected but didn’t.

This bit is a slight blur but I know I tried to go with and my legs couldn’t muster. At some point on the hill I partly threw up into my mouth. Lets just say that I’ll not be eating any chicken/stuffing/mayo sandwiches for a while.

This was enough to push me out the back and not wanting to throw up more, I clicked down the big ring and rolled up with the stragglers. Over the top and down the long descent were about 6 of use grouped up. Some of them were left overs from the U16 race but we mostly worked and kept it going to the finish.

While waiting on the finish, some other A4 riders rolled through, so the main group must have splintered on the hill. And people in the lead group also clocked a time of 1h3min so maybe we weren’t as far off as I thought. Overall I was disappointed with my result. However it was Wednesday before my stomach recovered from getting sick.

Live and learn.

The Stats:

Distance: 38.78km
Time: 1:03:58
Avg Speed: 36.4km/h
Calories: 994
Avg Power: 264.1watts
Normalised Power: 324watts

Sean McGreevy Cup Race Report [2011-04-09]

This race was all the way up north. 1:45 in the car to get to it, but it was either this or one in Drogheda in a combined A1/A2/A3/A4 race on a flatish circuit. I choose the hilly one, and frankly I’m glad I did.

It was a another beautiful day out with the sun shining and a very light breeze. After signing on I saw in the car and ate my rolls before getting ready. Right then I released I’d forgotten my shorts. Of all the things to forget. Luckily a bike shop was within walking distance. Quick trip around and I was set with enough time for a quick 20 minute warmup.

The Race

We began with a 5km run out from the scout hall to the tracks start/finish which was on an uphill. The A1/A2 had their start moved to a line near the town which was basically a long flat road just after a bit of a descent. I was very thankful the A4 race didn’t finish there.

When getting to the start/finish line, I immediately saw a problem. Just before the hill was a descent. A mild one yes, but before the hill I knew it’d give all the wannabe sprinters enough to pull way ahead of me. Something to watch out for.

The race was going to be 5 laps of the circuit giving a total of 70+km. Longer than any of the other A4 races that I had finished. I believe the Des Hanlon would have been longer but the puncture stopped me in my tracks for that one.

The course was a lot of up and down with only one shortish section on the flat but into the wind. It was enough to start burning people off on the first lap but the group stayed larger than I expected with the main hill. Presumably since there was a bit of a flat and descent after it, they were able to regroup while the main group did its usual lets not work. Admittedly, I’m also quite guilty of not working. Last year, I did do a bit on the front but in the wrong places, the Mondello Race was one I tried to sit in and conserve. This year it has gone the other way with me staying near the back most of the time, again something I will have to work on.

A breakway forms

On the last lap on the main hill, a few riders were up ahead pulling away. In theory I had moved up enough on the hill that I could have chased on but very quickly riders were falling off it. I honestly believed it would get roped back in very quickly. Strangely it dropped to one rider and the group slowed up. Someone from Bray Wheelers was off out on his own, and without another Bray Wheelers blocking the front, the A4 group did was it does best! Nothing. Normally they chase down everything but he was let go, presumably the locals thought we’d get him on the straight.

Way before the straight, a time gap of over 30 seconds was called and it was very obvious that he was doing much better than expected. Yet no one worked. There was an uphill section after a longish descent during which I moved up the front in an effort to pull things along, but no one came. Few shouted to work but nothing. I switched my bidons, took a drink and drifted back into the main group. I know I wouldn’t be able to hold on out on my own so going would have been a mistake.

By the back straight, a gap of 1:05 was called and we knew he had it. One of the locals tried a break further down the road but was just left hang. I really was in two minds about trying anything on the finish, especially since I was near the back again with the descent and couldn’t move up much. Still I came out wide for the left turn and did my best to move up, and I did somewhat, but anything I gained was lost on the descent section. At that point I decided to just sit in and finish out the race. What a mistake.

As the road started going up, people started moving backwards at a crazy rate. At the last second I jumped up and decide to go for it making up a number of places, but I started way too late and only managed 8th. Pretty sure I crossed the line with a HR of 150 showing just how much extra I could and should have done. My garmin does should 170-180 for the finish but I wasn’t out of breath so what does it know!

But each mistake is a learning experience and I know for next time.

The Stats:

Distance: 78.6km
Time: 2:15:24
Avg Speed: 34.8km/h
Calories: 1765
Avg Power: 224watts
Normalised Power: 286watts

Ben McKenna Memorial Race Report [2011-04-03]

Since the race was running on roads that are both used in the Swords CC league and would be considered part of my training routes, I knew mostly what to expect for the day. Immediately on seeing the course, I knew my problems were going to be on the descent to Ballyboughal. A long fast descent at -3 or 4%.

Why the descent you ask? Well I spent last year training for La Marmotte which means hills, hills, and more hills. As such I enjoy going up them and do so at a fairly ok pace. I’m still a bit off last year, but still enough to stay with the front of most groups on the ascents. For some reason however, I am unable to keep the power on during descents. Can’t figure out why.

And In The Beginning …

The race began with a short neutralised section. Enough to cover a warm up (even though I’d already spent an hour warming up due to be too early) and to take us along the rolling road to the descent to Ballyboughal that I don’t like so much. Before reaching the turn, another problem became obvious, my HR was way way too high. 175 to be precise, and during a neutralised section, well already not looking good. The Chinese from the previous night was going to haunt me.

Luckily the descent was at a normal enough pace and the group held mostly together. I didn’t loose too many places during it which was a good way to be.

The rest of the lap remained pretty much uneventful all the way up to the steep descent back onto the road from the start at the sports center. For those who have never cycled this road, it is effectively a tractor track that was tramaced back in the 80’s. Oh and it is really steep and has some pot holes right where you don’t want them. Then to top it off, the end has a little bit of a flatish run right before the sharp corner giving the impression that you can take it at speed.

I was also told that the previous year, the finish happened along the straight after that descent. Everyone would have been happy it wasn’t this year.

The decisive moment

The group bunched up again on the flat road back to corner 2 and the pace was slow enough to easily take off my gillet since the sun was out. Once through corner 2 and on to the rolling road to the descent, the pace did begin to pick up. Right from the start I began moving up through the group in anticipation of a split happening. I think we were only a third of the way along the road when it did. And I missed it too, but the few guys ahead looked like they were motoring by the stranglers. Until the guy ahead of me started drifting back from his wheel. With a bush on my right, another cyclist on my left, and the guy in front drifting while beside someone, it was the worse position to be in. Luckily the guy on my left started moving forward and a gap opened. I was on his wheel and we began rolling forward. And fair dues to him, he kept the pace up all the way to the end while we picked up another rider or two.

Right at the end, I sprinted up the corner to ensure I was near the front for the descent. Things looked like they were going fine and we’d catch the break ahead. Everyone started working together and taking turns. Somehow I missed the signals and on my way through for a turn, I couldn’t make it, sitting up I got the mother of all stitches and began rolling backwards. With a wheels length gone and not being able to hold on, I knew then and there that it was over. I popped a gel, sat back and waited for the main group.

Rolling Home

Most of the group of maybe 20 or so riders worked together to keep the pace going. Was actually catch a few from the break later in the lap although I don’t think we saw them before the finish. I didn’t bother pushing on the last hill, because really, why work for 10th?

Still it was a good day out and some lessons learnt. I do have to spend more time training with faster groups through descents or even on the flats. Some more hours of pain wouldn’t go a miss either.

The Stats:

Distance: 52.2km
Time: 1:31:56
Avg Speed: 34.1km/h
Calories: 1269
Avg Power: 230 watts
Normalised Power: 288watts

Staggs Lucan GP [2011-03-26]

A little late on the report but better late than never.

Since the previous week in Carlow ended with a puncture, my goal for this race was simply to finish. Nothing more than to cross that line. It was this goal that stopped me abandoning after the first lap when things were going so slow and boring. No one was willing to work and anytime anyone tried anything, it was left hang with not enough people pushing off to get the breakaway. More annoying was the constant moving to the front and unpredictable side to side movements of some people. But that is what happens in the lower groups I guess.

The second lap was when the pace started to up a little. 3 or 4 lads were off the front when crossing the line to begin the second lap and I took this as a chance to try get a work out. A sprint up and a shout to try get them to work and I was on the front. Powering on for 30 seconds did nothing however and only one person did anything, but even that was short lived. I sat up and fed back into the main group.

Things did up a little at times but as soon as it bunched, everything slowed right the way down, and this continued all through the lap.

I can’t remember when I saw the first puncture, but I do remember getting worried about finishing. Another one happened about 10km from the finish which again spooked me. It was then that I started moving up to the front as much as possible. Better to be up there when the final corner happened too, stay out of trouble and all that.

Round the roundabout we went and a short sprint back onto the wheel. But with a couple of km of a drag left, it did start bunching up a little.

So much for not doing anything, I started staying up with people as they moved off the front.

Just as the second last move went, behind me I heard a shout and people were down. A crash. Luckly I was a bike or two ahead of it, and for those in it, no one was badly hurt.

As I kept up the front, the pace quicken and I was still managing to stay with it, but the sprint hadn’t happened, yet.

Then it went and 2, 3, 4 lads are off and those in front start too. Doing what I had practised, I was in the drops and began spinning up to speed, but it wasn’t enough. Crossing the line 7th with positions 4,5,6 all within an inch or two ahead of me, and I passed them within a foot or two of the line. It wasn’t the first time this had happened either. At least I know where I have to work on, and my sprint was much better than previous races.

The Stats:

Distance: 39.7km
Time: 1:01:35
Avg Speed: 38.7km/h
Calories: 807
Avg Power: 218watts
Normalised Power: 280watts


Tacx Slipping Tyre Problem

So last year I bought a Tacx Fortius turbo trainer to try get some experience of the big hills in the Alps. All for La Marmotte which was completed in the Summer. Shortly after buying it, I did sign up to a trainer and that had me out on the road a lot more than I expected so it didn’t get used all too much. But enough to learn the pain and also enough to get to the tyre slipping problem.

The problems

Unless you have perfectly balanced power output through 360degress of your pedal stroke (and you don’t, no matter what you think), then under heavy power, usually on hills, the tyre starts jumping or slipping.

Even the trick of moving the roller to the tyre, then three and a half turns didn’t sort it for me.

The Solution

Degreaser. No seriously.

The suggestion came from Fisher Outdoor, Tacxs reseller in the UK. Degrease the roller wheel on the motor to remove any rubber, dirt or grease. Clean thoroughly at the end. Then degrease the tyre too, same deal.

Honestly, I didn’t think it’d do much but wow. I have been able to cycle without any slipping, even at really low cadences. Even standing out of the saddle at low cadence is working fine, no slip what so ever. Almost like glue on the wheel.

Try it and let me know if it helps you too.

A year in review – The benefits of a golden goal [2010]

Sitting here, listening to Auto Rock by Mogwai, a tune iconised by Top Gear, I begin thinking back to a year, 7000km of cycling with my Cervelo S2. And what a year it has been. What started as a “how hard could it be” moment, went on to become one of the most rewarding things to do – La Marmotte.

But with passing 7000km on Sunday gone, and winter really being here now, it’ll very soon be time to hang up the good bike and switch back to the winter trainer, full mud guards an all. The big thing now, is to set some goals. Some real goals, with feeling. Last year La Marmotte proved to be the defining goal, one that got me out of bed at 5am in the dead of winter, battling the ice and snow and pitch black to do hill repeats – and then enjoying it too. I calculated that I made more than a 30% increase in performance on 3Rock (the hill we do hill repeats on) between signing up for the Marmotte, and the week before the event.

In no small part, I owe much of the improvement to my trainer, Ryan Sherlock. He also became Irish National Hill Climb Champion recently which allows me to say I get trained by the National Champion. Nice. To top it off, he also won the MTB Champs letting him retain his national champion title there too. Word has it he is the first man to hold national titles in both road and off road in the same year in Ireland. Talk about getting trained by the best!

But in reflecting on the year, I’ve seen that it wasn’t just one thing that made it such a good year. Lots of little things fell into place. My Cervelo S2 really helped. It was a reward for hitting a weight goal of 85kg although I did go slightly over board when buying it. It is a such a different machine compared to my Giant. Stiffer, more responsive, and even more comfortable which might seem strange since it is a full on race bike with aero wheels, while the Giant is a commuter with 25mm tyres and a more relaxed position.

Having the Marmotte as a goal was another big thing. Needing something to get out of bed on those mornings, well when you have no goal, there is nothing to get out bed for. Even with the Marmotte I took some days I probably shouldn’t have. Or maybe less cake and I wouldn’t have worried about those 4 seconds. Not having a firm goal now does show although this last week I’ve covered over 400km as my stomach is back so the motivation is just to cycle as much as I can while I can.

A training partner also makes a world of a difference. My friend Peter was also training for the Marmotte and was out for the hill repeats on those Tuesday mornings. Even coming along on the long weekend rides – well at least one a week, I was doing a fair bit of training. It does help with those dull gray days when you struggle to get out to know that someone else is doing the same. That someone else is equally as dumb motivated.

Starting from a high weight (I was 229 lbs / 28.8% body fat back in Dec 08) played a part too strange as it might seem. Loosing weight makes you faster on the hills. Plain and simple. But when you are training for a ever so slightly hilly event, well hill climbing times are what is about. And since I was dropping weight, I was getting faster on the hills. Psychologically it helped. You see the times dropping and that object of just finishing gets closer and closer, and then soon becomes a maybe I can do better. Maybe, just maybe.

Body fat Graph over the period

Without any one of these, the house of cards may have fallen down. I don’t really know. I wouldn’t be where I am today cycling wise, I know that much. Every bit of success has an element of luck, but every bit of luck also has a bit of blood, sweat and tears, and that is the part you rarely see.

From the falls on the ice, to somehow not falling while navigating a hill in total blackness and only using the difference in colour of grass and tarmac, to crossing a line thinking I’d missed a goal by 4 seconds, to winning my first race. For all the mechanical issues, the punctures, the crashes. Each added its own small part. Each one made the year a year to remember.

Race Report – Mondello Open Race [2010-09-02]

Quite possibly the last race I’d get to this year, it was a must. More so after missing two races a few weeks ago due to not having recovered from a hospital visit.

The course was to follow a number of laptops around the Mondello circuit which meant closed roads for the race. But since Mondello is a race course, it is pretty flat. So flat that SportTracks thinks I lost and gained 0m over the course, however I think it just can’t handle the drift in the elevation from the Garmin. Either way, a flat fast course would probably not suit me and I knew it. The goal became to sit in the group, stay with the front group if and when it broke, to do as little as possible on the front, and then not go at the end either at all or until at least 2-3 other people had started their sprint. May sound like a strange goal but they are things I need to learn to get better at racing.

The Warmup

Due to a crash on the N7, I like many others arrived a bit later than I would have wanted. After the sign on and a quick change, I managed a whole 10 minute warmup. But since the evening was warm it would be enough. Or at least it would have to be. Within 5 minutes from stopping, the usual talk about the race was done and we were off.

The Race

While signing on I asked how many laps it would be. The answer was that racing would go for about 50 minutes and then they’d call 3 laps remaining. I should have taken this as a warning sign. Thinking back, I remember looking at the GPS after 10 minutes and being bored. Such a flat course and with a huge number of riders behind us, well there wasn’t going to be a break away.

By 20 minutes I was doing what I could to convince myself not to abandon. To take the race as a training spin and suck it up. The problem however was that it wasn’t overly stressful. Power was about 230-240watts with most of that being the little sprints out of corners when people ahead braked.

And a few people did brake in corners, but not in the way to stop them going into people ahead. At least one person is sticking in my head as everytime I saw him he was accelerating by to a corner and then braking hard. No racing line, no speed through the corner. The first few laps this meant very hard accelerating out of the corner to jump by and grab the wheel ahead. By mid way through the race, I had learnt what he was doing (as had others it seemed), and he started to get left on his line each time as we all took a wider line around and past.

The turn out for the event was high too. 85 I think was the number. Which made for large groups in the corners as people didn’t want to be left behind. Made worse by the fact that the pace was so leisurely. With only short straights and long corners, no pace line really formed. The main straight was usually the slowest part of the course as people slowed right down to try get others to go through.

On the second to last lap I think we were caught. But it was on the last lap going onto the back straight that the pace started picking up. If only we had had this pace from the off, I’d have enjoyed it more.

Blue was speed

In the end, I didn’t finish. I punctured during the 4th last corner. Luckily I held it up and moved to the side and everyone got past. If it had been the next corner, well things could have been different. It was taken faster and usually with more than one or two riders across. But it meant limping home at a slow pace and ironically down the pit lane.

The Summary

Everyone I spoke to after enjoyed it. Things like the big rocks on the corners were all but forgotten at this stage. The closed roads are a plus too. But for me the course was too short and boring. Probably a side affect of all the long 100km+ training rides earlier in the year. Can’t say I’d be jumping to do it again.

The Stats

Distance: 44.47km
Time: 1:05:43
Avg Speed: 40.6km/h
Calories: 956
Avg Power: 243watts
Normalised Power: 267watts

Race Report – Corduff Hill Climb TT [2010-08-25]

The last event of the club season would be an event I was due to do well in. I like hills strangely enough but I suppose all the training on them does that. But being a TT is would just be me against the clock to determine what could be done to get up the hill.

At 3.5km, the hill isn’t exactly the worlds longest. And will a flattish section and a small descent at the beginning, the overall time would be quickish, probably comparable to the Boards TT up Howth last week.

Warming up

Reading anything about warmups tells you that the shorter the event, the more of a warmup you need to do. When I started cycling, it was mainly sportives that I did. Long sportives that we would cycle to a from. Averaging 200km plus would be normal for the day. Nothing says warm up like a 2 hour cycle to an event.

But this left me slightly out of wack this year with different events. La Marmotte for instance had a 1km cycle to the start, if even, but then is was a 175km cycle so a warm up wasn’t too necessary. With the races, it was always a case of try to do as much as possible and then hold on let what happens happen.

For a sub 10 minute all out effort, I would need to be warm. 15 minutes riding around didn’t do enough so it was on with the gillet and a quick run up the hill to get properly warm. In hind sight, perhaps doing a near TT effort for a warm up was probably not the best of ideas.

The Moment of Truth

My stomach decided it wasn’t going to co-operate as usual coming up to the event with the last 10 minutes of the warm spent in quite a bit of pain. Someday I’ll get it sorted, honest, the doctors just need to identify what is causing it. Luckily, the standing around just before the off seemed to let it settle.

I lined up and experienced being held for the first time. Honestly it is a strange experience and I really thought I was going to fall off.

5, 4, 3, 2 ,1, go...

And off I went. Immediately there was a problem as the low sun meant I couldn’t read my Garmin. So much for trying to limit my power at the start so I would fall apart as usual midway. It was near 2 minutes in before the screen became visible but with a flatish start before the slight descent, it was all out.

Once the hill started up, I settled in and kept just below threshold. Enough to feel the burn in the background, but not enough to actually burn. It is times like these that I really should be watching my power, and someday I will learn to.

At the 2km mark, the inevitable happened. As usual I dropped off a little before recovering. Luckily it was helped by someone as the side cheering us on. Honestly, the best part of the league has been constant support for everyone. Getting cheered on really feels great. One of my greatest memories in cycling still remains finishing the 2009 Wicklow 200, arriving back into UCD to the claps and cheers just before the line. What a way to complete a day.

The last km of the climb before the turn went on longer than I thought. Watching the time clock up on the Garmin really made me feel like I was going much too slow. But seeing that Marshall at the turn made me push harder and again the cheers and shouts. Up out of the saddle and pushing hard as possible on the steep uphill to the finish. All the time, trying not to lose much speed as I clicked through the gears.

And across the line.

The Result

I stopped the clock at 7:44 something on my Garmin. Close enough that the second screen said 7:45. David who had gone before me had timed himself and said he got 7:45 which meant I was in contention. And he pointed out the line was the first cone, not the one I had stopped at, so a few seconds off my time. But seeing some of the others come across the finish makes you wonder just how fast you have been.

Javan Nulty was in a TT helmet and warmed up on a turbo. He looked very fast coming across the line. And with a time of 6:59, he was fast. Full results available on the Swords CC website. But when all was said and done, I ended 3rd with a official time of 7:40. Only beaten by Javan, the visitor champion, and Henry who came second overall in the league. Not a bad result.

But I’m not happy with it. I should have been faster. I could have been. I guess it can be put down to inexperience. Yes I’m getting better. I’m not as strong as I was for the Marmotte, but that is the cost of periodisation. The goal is the manage the efforts full on without the drop in the middle.

The Stats

Distance: 3.58km
Time: 7:45 (Garmin – Official Time 7:40)
Avg Speed: 27.7km/h
Calories: 171
Avg Power: 382watts
Normalised Power: 370watts (first time I’ve seen this lower than the average)