Sunday, December 07, 2008

Day in the hills

After Saturday's antics at the MAD Club Champs and the post-Champs night out, it was decided that a later start would be more appropriate today, with a plan formulated to hit Crone wood for a run up Maulin and Djouce (following the IMRA Powerscourt Ridge route) with a bike session in Djouce to follow.

And so, on a spectacularly crisp morning, myself, Jackie and Mel laced up and started up the fire break. The view from Maulin extended for miles, with not a cloud in the sky, and the frosted ground was good underfoot. I thoroughly enjoyed the descent to the river, but loathed the climb back up to Djouce. After checking out the lovely Mountain Meitheal work at the top, it was off the brakes again and down to the bottom. Had a really interesting experience here, whilst bounding from tussock to tussock, a gust of wind took me mid-leap and blew me into a vaguely horizontal orientation. My first engineless flight :-) The long grassy stretch down towards Djouce wood was a welcome opportunity to stretch the legs and enjoy the negative gradient before the last drag up to Ride Rock. Then the suffering began....I just hate running down smooth trails...I don't know why, it just messes with my body. It was all I could do to hang on to the 2 girls and not crumble into a heap at the side of the trail to be laughed at by the walkers...

At that stage, it would have been pretty easy to jump in the warm cars and roll home, but we were only halfway through the adventure. Summoning up enough motivation to go back out into the cold, it was a short jaunt around to the top of Djouce wood, to take in some of the best trails in Ireland. And they are riding amazingly well these days! Almost bone dry, they seem in better condition now than July. A midweek return trip may be required :-)

All in all, 4 hours of exercise, 3 tired and hungry bodies, 2 activities and 1 fantastic day.
Can I have some more please?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Zero time on the bike lately, but my Ascent file shows a bit of this curious "Running" thing showing up...
In short, I find running a bit more time-efficient (put on shoes, go for 45 min run, go home) and in that sort of timeframe, I get more out of a run than an equivalent cycle session. Also means I don't have to do any bike maintenance :-)

Had planned my first road spin in a while for Saturday, but after meeting Arek, we agreed that it was too icy to risk going any further. Posts on showed it to be a wise idea.
With another icy day expected today, I resolved to get my exercise au pied, which meant a run in the cold around Tymon Park. Seeing as Accuweather thought it to feel like -3deg outside (I really love the Real Feel application) I wrapped up in 2 Helly Hansen layers and my MAD winter jacket and was just about warm enough (after returning home after 3 mins to get warmer gloves)
Lower body protection was provided by some Under Armour HeatGear tights. These kept me lovely and warm, but after just a few minutes, I became quite aware that my legs weren't feeling good, like something was wrong with my shoes or stride. Seeing as I've not had any trouble with either of those recently, I wonder if it was due to the compression qualities of the tights. Who knows...more experimentation required I think. I'm reasonably aware of the supposed benefits of compression clothing, but I'm also aware of the need for unrestricted blood flow to muscles during exercise...

The tights (and some other bits...) came from the most excellent of Wales. I stumbled across this store on the web one day and was impressed with their range of brands and prices (it helps that the euro is strong against sterling right now) A quick email last Monday asking for a bit of info about a product was greeted with a super-quick and researched the extent that the store owner actually went out with a measuring tape and measured some items for me to get the correct fit...Placing the order at 7pm saw it packaged and ready to post by 10pm on Monday night, and it arrived in Dublin Thursday morning. They even threw in a free fleece neck gaitor, which was most welcome this weekend!
So if you're looking for any sort of running/AR/outdoors gear, Likey's is the place to go!

Busy week expected this week, last of the term. Loads of assignments and reports due these couple of weeks, looking forward to taking a day or two off at this stage...maybe I might even get to venture out on two wheels...

Friday, October 31, 2008


Seeing as I had nothing to show for 2008 (see previous posts) and the first half of 2009 is already written off with dissertations/finals, I've been thinking of setting some challenge or other (or even this) to sink my teeth into next year.

We'll see....

Friday, July 18, 2008

First race of the year - Djouce NPS

After various mishaps, illness and injury, I finally managed to put together 2 consecutive weeks on the bike and, against my better judgement, lined up in experts in Djouce on June 15th. Really the only reason I raced was because I knew the course would be a cracker and I was itching to feel a part of a race again (my last real XC race was the nationals last year...)

After a slow practice lap, trying to get my head around the course (have not ridden in Djouce in 6 months...major disadvantage) and get my legs into gear, I somehow got myself onto the front row of the grid and waited anxiously.

Actually, thats not true, I wasn't as nervous as usual, as I had no expectations for this race and the only goal was to get around in one piece, so I was pretty relaxed.
The start-line sprint didn't seem as hard as I remembered and I was in about 6th place entering the first bit of singletrack, a steep rooty climb. I had to let a few of the guys go from the front once the track opened out on the next climb, but I had no hope of keeping up with them anyway, so wasn't too bothered. Riding XTC wheel to wheel in a pack of 15 or so was a riot, and was exactly why I wanted to race. After the next climb, I had a decision to make, as I knew I was pushing far harder than I could sustain (and was much further into my anaerobic zone than I'd been in about 8 months!) and had to sit up to save something for the next laps. It really was a course that there was no recovery on, the climbs were steep, the descents technical and the fireroads fast.

Focusing really hard

I was still really enjoying it towards the end of my second lap, but by that stage I was shivering (despite the fact that is was pretty warm) and couldn't speak properly. I tried to thank Shane for handing up my bottle, but nothing but unintelligble grunts came out. Don't remember feeling much pain, but I think that was more numbness than anything. Caught Cait at this stage too, I think she told me to ride through, but I couldn't get the words out to respond and didn't have the power in the legs to ride past, so sat up a little bit, took on some extra fluids and gels before moving on. Later that lap, I suffered the indignity of being caught by masters riders Morgan and Paddy Daly. Luckily, they caught me just before the last climb of the race, which is where I was strongest and made time back up on them.

Gritting out the last climb

After 3 hard hard laps (one climb was so steep, I accidentally turned off my Garmin with my chin!) I crossed the line in 13th place in 1:40 and was delighted to have done so. The main thing I learned in the race was that the mind is far stronger than the body and I rediscovered my ability to suffer on the bike, the ability to push so hard that nothing else outside of the few meters of trail ahead becomes an obscure blur, the thought that you know you should ease up, but you go harder instead. The part of the sport I enjoy so much.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Starting to feel like a cyclist again...

Working on The Tan
(Don't worry, its not actually as red as it looks, just bad photography)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Finished exams and riding again

Lovely weather today for a 60k road ride. Pedalled a while with an XTerra champion and Primal Quest veteran, developed the tan lines a bit further (still pastey white!) and still felt good after 60k.
One thing I've noticed since jumping back on the bike a week ago is that my legs feel pretty good on the hills. Not a lot of power or anaerobic capacity, but they just feel good ticking over. I'm probably doomed to a month of bad days now after saying that!
The new club kit is really cool, the shorts feel great. Time to organise another order :-)

The less said about exams, the better.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm Back. No, wait, I'm not

1 week back on the bike, a few nice spins with good company and feeling energetic and life is good. Delighted to be back out on the trails and on the road on the nicest week of the year so far. Thanks to James for pointing me in the right direction.
Then I tried cycling into a car at about 35kmph.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Glasses for sale

Rudy Project Kaylos glasses.
Black frame, smoke and yellow lenses.
Includes hard and soft cases, spare lens case & original packaging.

EDIT: Sold

Want some cash to buy new ones for the great summer we're going to have :-)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Classic BKW
Says it all, really...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Life in the pit lane

Saturday April 12th....Wicklow Way Ultra day. This was one of my first goals for the season, but I had to give up on it a long time ago. Maybe next year.
Nearly 4 months out of training now, still don't know what's wrong with me. A very brief road ride a few weeks ago proved that I've lost pretty much all of the hard work I've put in on the bike over 3 years. I was zonked after 30 easy minutes on the flat and nearly suffered the embarrassment of losing out to a group of 70 year olds, probably out training for the Wicklow 200. Poker-faced radiologist wasn't reavealing much last Wednesday, just said she'd "send her findings" to the consultant. Swallowing a camera on Friday, maybe it'll be the day when everything becomes clearer. Cabin fever is setting in :-)

I've mainly occupied myself with college work (never realised I could be so up-to-date with my work when not training 20 hours a week!) and helping out at the K Caps doing the bottles for the MAD crew and a few assorted others. MAD has had a really good showing this year with some very strong results. Needed 4 layers (inc 2 waterproofs) to stay warm and dry last week in Djouce, the feed zone was very exposed. It was pretty cool being able to see the bands of hail and snow rolling in over the Maulin Valley however. Really wish I could have raced, as I know that those conditions would really have suited me. Still, I'm buying lots of good karma in the hope of a speedy return to action.
Thanks to all those who have offered kind words.

Pictures by Cormac Ahern

Monday, March 24, 2008

Playing with the Blog

Google have updated the Blog dashboard, so far it seems pretty user friendly but you need to reshuffle any links and things you've got in the sidebar >>>>>>
Updated some of the links (new sites from Mel and Cait) and added the big picture (from Shay Barry) up top. Just as well most people are on broadband these days :-)

Other things I've been doing include going to the K Capital Cup races in Kilruddery and Moneyscalp and doing the bottle handups. This has made me very hungry to get back on the bike and I'm having cravings for 6 hour spins covering as much of Wicklow as I can...
Great to see lots of folks from MAD doing well, especially Ryan, Mel, Oisin and Fergal with great finishes in their categories this weekend as a payoff for their hard work. Pretty cool to see groups of racers travelling over from GB and Belgium - brings a bit of international flavour and shows others are taking an interest in Irish racing.
There seems to be an awful lot of nice new machines on the race circuit this year. Maybe someone found a pot of gold hidden on a mountainside somewhere. Must locate it and see about updating my steed for when I get back into it...

Seeing a consultant on April 3rd...onwards and upwards from there I say!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Driving Test

Passed the driving test today - woohoo!
Felt very well prepared, thanks to plenty of lessons from the Irish School of Motoring, but was still pretty nervous.

Just for a laugh, I wore the HRM and put the Garmin in the door pocket of the car.
Here's the output:

You can see it spikes where I had to do the various manouvres and for some strange reason, the biggest spike is at a roundabout, which was not heavily trafficed and I had no trouble passing through.
I honestly expected to average a lot higher, as my heart was pounding and my knees trembling in the pre-tests which I did.

Only managed 1 fault, a minor observation fault on the reverse, so almost blemish-free.
For my first solo drive, I headed out to UCD for our Monday evening climbing session. Time to hang up the L plates.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Engineering ... it is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer's high privilege.

The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned....

On the other hand, unlike the doctor his is not a life among the weak. Unlike the soldier, destruction is not his purpose. Unlike the lawyer, quarrels are not his daily bread. To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort, and hope. No doubt as years go by the people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician puts his name on it. Or the credit it to some promoter who used other people's money ... but the engineer himself looks back at the unending stream of goodness which flows from his successes with satisfactions that few professionals may know. And the verdict of his feloow professionals is all the accolade he wants.

Herbert Hoover, Engineer & Politician

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wake up call

After too many weeks of not training, mostly on account of not feeling well, (Christmas is the last time I spent any decent time on the bike, and also the last time I was feeling OK) I was very anxious to get back out on the bike this morning. Can't say I'm feeling any better, but I'm going stir crazy without getting my weekly ration of pedalling action and the call of the hills was strong. Plus, I figured, there's been no change in my condition thus far, so some cycling at a fairly easy intensity may not help things, but it more than likely won't do any further damage either...
With the weather mild and dry, I forsaked the usual overshoes and headed off towards the Sally Gap, not decided yet where I would end up after that. The first few kilometers were good as I got warmed up on the flat. The pedals went around easily and I settled into a groove which lasted until the graveyard on Stocking Lane, when I started to suffer a bit, but nothing more than was expected after a long layoff. After adjusting to the gradient a bit, the going felt easier and it was up onto Military Road where I helped a motorcyclist who had dropped his bike. Some lovely scrapes on his brand new BMW but nothing more serious. The weather was colder and pretty foggy up on the Gap, but there was plenty of traffic around for distraction and even a bus for some motorpacing along the flat top section. Once I turned west down towards Brittas, the sun came out and brightened everything up and the world was good once again.
After about 37km, my legs started to tell me that they weren't happy (only 37km!) and I started to feel the pinch. I started to get quite annoyed at this stage, as 6 months ago this was a route which I would have done as a warmup on a big day, not something that would break me! Stopped in Brittas for a bottle of Lucozade to provide 1 last spurt of energy but I still felt myself grinding up the final hill and nearly cracked. It was a fatigued and relieved body that tucked into the drops for the final run down to Bohernabreena and on home.
55km in total, it felt a lot longer with all the suffering. Really showed the poor condition I'm in and the fitness I've lost recently.

Question is now, where to go from here?
To a (trustworthy) doctor is the obvious starting point, but in terms of planning events, everything is now on the back burner.
First to go will be the 2 Day adventure race in Castlewellan which I was planning to do with Fergal. Was looking forward to this as an oppurtunity to gain some more experience and develop some skills (navigation & kayaking for a start) while working towards the bigger summer races.
Next off the list will be the remaining IMRA Winter League races, and unfortunately most likely the University Champs in Crone on March 9th, which I had set as an early target race for the year. It's still a month away though, so maybe some cosmic forces will realign and provide a miraculous cure and return to form. Unlikely though.
The Big One.
Having tried a few times to get long runs under my belt since Christmas and failed miserably with the stomach cramps, its looking increasingly unlikely that I'll have enough km's in my legs by early April to attempt this. If I can get cured soon enough and back on my feet again, I'll do its Little Brother instead, but its both disappointing and frustrating to be calling it quits before I even got going...
Thinking about all of this, I'm starting to feel somewhat rudderless, as while everyone else is setting out their stalls for the year ahead (L'Etape, XC Elites or whatever) I'm backtracking and putting things off. Its the first time in years that I've not had a goal to work towards, where simply getting back in the game would be enough and it feels strange. I'd always seen myself as someone who saw looked towards the big prize(Nationals, usually) , which generally was enough to get me through and motivate me in the long, dark months of winter road miles knowing that the benefit would come on the start line in March or April or whenever. But now, the big, long term goals have been wiped from the horizon, all bets are off.
I read in a magazine somewhere a quote from mountaineer/climber Conrad Anker: "Never get so out of shape that getting back into shape would be a monumental effort"
To be honest, seeing today how out of shape I've become, its creeping towards that "monumental" status.
Not that I doubt my ability to get there, I just wish it was somewhat under my control, that my body is able to get to where my mind wants it to be, and soon.
Going to see a new doctor soon, a friend and someone trusted and widely respected, so hopefully he can put me back on the road to recovery post haste.

Plus, there's always those most enjoyable climbing sessions to enjoy, which is something.

Friday, January 18, 2008


New line of running gear from Scott USA
They also make superb bikes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Warm & Toasty II

Looks a bit dodgy, but possibly one of the best pieces of winter kit ever.
Just pull the face part down unless its reeeaallly cold.

Thursday, January 03, 2008