Friday, July 31, 2009

K-capital Challenge round 1 and other pains

Right, start at the start...which would be about 3 weeks ago...

It had been a quite enough week, bikewise. I'd done a couple of spins on the mountain bike and a spin into work. However, on Wednesday I came down with a nasty migraine, however I did not realise what it was until I went to the doctor. It totally knocked me out for about 2 days. I was exhausted and had to get into a dark room and sleep. I went back into work on Friday even though I was not 100% as I wanted to take part in the Meteor/Barnardo's cycle challenge. Even as I was getting ready to do it I could feel another migraine coming on!

The Challenge was simple, travel as far as possible on an exercise bike in 15 minutes. As a carrot, Meteor had organised a prize of a €600 voucher for a 5 star hotel and spa. Needless to say I was motivated! My team were meant to be first up, but some last minute changes had us going at the very end instead. Probably worked out best as it meant I knew (or at least I thought) what to aim for. The 15 minutes flew by and relative to a 2 hour mountain bike race, was not particularly gruelling. I started to drop the pace off in the last minute when I took the lead, and ended up with 5.76 miles or averaging about 37km's an hour for the 15 minutes. It was enough to win the price though! But I did get a scare at the very end. We were short a man on our team and a guy at the event said he would join. He got on after me and came within .10 of a mile of my distance! Needless to say I was relieved to see the clock tick down there! So I was really chuffed - the first thing I've ever won for pedalling (can't really call it cycling).

Meteor kindly sponsored our club this year so it was great to help out at this event and hopefully we can do some more events in the coming year.

Another big plus of doing the event was my migraine finally cleared! So there you go, if you're getting a migraine, get on your bike!

The first round on the K-Capital Challenge was happening on Sunday, but I wanted to change a few of the pre-race rituals, just to see if things would improve. So on Saturday, instead of lazing around for the whole day I went out on a road spin with Paul. We took the lake route in sunny weather. It was really nice to just stretch out the legs for a couple of hours.

The next thing I wanted to change was what I was eating. Taking a leaf out of Joe Friel's book, I decided to eat as much 'real' food as possible the morning of the event, and do my best to steer clear of any of the energy bars/gels/drinks until right before the race. So, I had some of Saturday nights dinner leftover for breakkie (Chicken/rice deal), and surprisingly it was not that bad to eat at 8.30 in the morning!

When we arrived, there were plenty of people milling around already, and masters being the biggest category with 77 riders! There were plenty of seniors, juniors and ladies also, so with a mass start it was going to be tricky.

The course was about 14km long (2 laps), with big climbs, kickers and tricky descents. A lot of the 2008 National champs course was used. The conditions varied from dry (on the climbs) to schlomp-city (everywhere else), so 100% focus was needed at all times in order to keep the bike upright.

After a basic warm up, we headed down to the start line. As there was no gridding, it was first come first served, and I ended up on a second row of sorts. As we were getting the count down to start, I noticed the guy in front of me for the first time. He was a big fella, with a Camelbak - nothing wrong there, but then I saw he was in the granny ring! The first 100 metres of the race was flat before heading downhill slightly, so I knew this was going to be a problem. But not as big a problem as the Belmont House section. Its can old ruined house which you pass through in single file. And because I was held up at the start, I joined a significant queue to get to the through. I think we were standing around (and joking) for about 90 seconds or so. Once out the other side the racing started.

The remainder of first lap went well, apart from some sketchy descending. I kept up with 2 club mates on the climbs and hung onto dear life on the descents. Towards the end of the first lap I passed both and got the head down for another tough 14kms. But it turned out to be not as tricky as lap one. I had managed to get a handle on the descents and the schlomp - despite being almost totally unridable in places. Coming into the last quarter of the lap, I caught up with Stuart Galloway (WORC) and Luke Manning (IMBRC). I think me arriving made them up their pace a little but I hung on as best I could. Once the final climb was done I think we all realised that it would be a tight finish. An Epic rider also joined the group with about 400 metres to go. He was the first to make a move with 200 metres. It was a steady incline to the finish - on grass. I really was not sure how much I had left in the tank, so decided to just keep the steady pace up the climb. Sure enough the Epic rider began slowing and we picked him off with about 100 metres to go. At this stage Stuart was so close behind me his from wheel was rubbing my rear wheel. Luke had dropped off about 10 metres at this stage so it looked like a 2 horse race. With about 40 metres to go there was a small bank to navigate, then a left turn and finish line. To be honest the rational, thinking part of my brain gave up at this stage, and I was just running on instinct. I could not see what Stuart was doing, but I knew I was a bike length ahead, and he would have to get by me. Someone in the crowd began cheering on Stuart, and that was my queue to sprint (or as good as an impression of sprinting as was possible). It was only 20ish metres but felt like a mile. I could hear Stuart behind me giving it everything but he never made the bike length up and I crossed the line ahead to my relief. I then collapsed on the ground with both quads cramping AND my forearm (for some reason). It took a couple of minutes for the cramp to dissipate but it was worth it - 7th place, and a sprint finish against some top mountain bikers where I came out on top! Happy days.

One of the big things I learned is to get bigger bottles. I only have 500ml bottles and I felt that I would need about 2 per lap. Because I could not fit a bottle holder to the seat tube (well, I could but needed spacers) I had one the holder and one in my back pocket, which was OK, but a bit messy. So for the next race I'll be using Cannondale liquigas 750ml bottles. Should help solve the problems from the race.

For me, the sprint finish made this race my most enjoyable so far and had me buzzing for days afterwards. I'm really looking forward to round 2 on the 22nd, and despite the limited training I've been doing, I will be giving it socks!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

National Champs review

Sorry, I'm a week late on this post, but I've great excuses!

Last Saturday the Irish National Mountain bike Championship took place at Dunmore Mountain just outside Spa in County Down, Northern Ireland (hosted by Dromara CC). After all the messing about this year with the injury, it was nice to know I was going to make this one! Myself and Gene left about 9.30am and about 2 hours later (30 minutes of which was wondering about the back roads of Co. Down, we found the event.

The weather was holding up nicely when we arrived, but the forecast in the week leading up was not good at all, and knowing that a lot of the lap would be on grass with serious climbs I invested in a Hutchinson Python for the front and a Toro on the back, thinking I'd be up to my eyeballs in muck. And while it did rain during the week, the course was - apart from the odd section - bone dry. Luckily I messed up the order a bit though - the Python is more for dryer trails, and the Toro, while being a knobbly mud tyre, has very little rolling resistence.

So, once all the tyre choice faffing around was done, we got signed up and snuck out just ahead of the sports race to get a quick pre-ride in. The lap started in an open field and worked its way downhill into a rough singletrack section. After that it's a blur of kicker's, technical singletrack, swoopy descents and monster climbs! But I liked it - in a sadistic way!

So the race kicked off and it was a blast down the field. It was not one of my better starts, but I did what I could. As we began climbing I started to pick of positions, and found myself (again) behind Paddy Daly. I stuck with him for the first lap and into the second before he pulled away. I then had a tussle on the 3rd lap with another fella before he dropped off slightly - only to come back in a big way on lap 4 and pass me easily. While I did not feel totally drained, I was not doing the lap times I thought I should have been. To make it worse I totally had in my head it was a 4 lap race (well I wanted to believe that I guess) even though I was told it would be 5! So it was a shock to the system to do one more. At this stage I knew I was in the top 10 somewhere and just decided to bring it home :)

However, coming towards the end of the lap, I got passed by Epic's Rory Walsh, who was sitting on the back wheel of Ryan Sherlock! They passed me at speed and there was no way I could muster up the power to chase, so I had to let that position go. So, I crossed the line in 9th place and I'm happy enough with that. I don't think I could have done any better on the day, and a top 10 finish in the Nationals is nice to have given the year its been.

So next up are the K-Capital Challenges, starting on Sunday! Woh hoo!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Post race update

Better mention the past week also. Its been busy in work again this week, but not as bad as previous weeks thankfully. Unfortunately my previous weeks exertions were still causing me problems, along with not getting 1 decent nights sleep all week. And to top it all off, my sinuses starting acting up. I'd been taking and OTC drug call Zirtek, but to be honest it only masks the symptoms and not getting to the root of the problem (to solve that I need Xyzal which is prescription only - grrrr). However the Zirtek was doing enough to let me out on the bike a couple of times during the week. We did a couple of spins in Glending - and one on Wednesday was particularly hard, and I also did the spin to work on Friday.

I had a totally crap sleep on Friday - and spent Saturday wondering around zombie-like for most of the day until I gave in and got a couple of hours sleep in the afternoon. I got another 10 when I hit the hay-proper that night, so it was nice to wake up this morning feeling rested!
However, I had zero motivation for this race - not sure why (maybe too much sleep :) ), just did not feel like doing it, plus my legs felt totally dead. I would probably have preferred watching the TdF and the guys hitting the Tourmalet. But meself and Gene headed over and hit the trails for a pre-ride. The course had been modified in order to remove some exceptionally schlompy bits. It became longer though and had lots more off-camber singletrack which was going to be tough with my Specialized Fastrak Control - which I think were designed by some lad in California who never saw sticky mud (or any mud for that matter).

After the pre-ride the legs were feeling better, but the mind was still not 100% on the race. So, we just hung about for an hour and took in some of the sport races before getting into the warm up.
The warm up was not so good - I just found it hard to get the heart pumping, so just wondered down to the start line and placed myself as far back as possible as I felt I was going to get in the way of faster racers.

Then the gridding started and it turns out it was gridded in the top 10 - feck it! The whistle went and I proceeded to have the worst start in an XC race - ever. I lost count of the number of riders who passed me before we even made it to the single track. And when I arrived into that I might as well have just ran the lot - nothing to do with the conditions - I just totally lost all understanding of how to ride roots. Once we got out into the open climb to XTC I was thinking of just heading down to Powerscourt waterfall and getting 99 from the kiosk. As usual though, once I was on the XTC berms I perked up a bit and started racing. An expert passed me and I just tucked in behind him for the first half of the first lap. I then had a bit of a tussle with Paddy Daly for the second half, but he pulled away at the start of the second (mostly down to me screwing up single track again, but he also put the hammer down in fairness). The course was not too bad - there were schlompy sections but drier lines were found and used. However it did not prevent the pedals getting gunked up with mud. This made clipping in and out a problem - which was more of a problem in this race as it was a very common occurrence for me. There was a fair old bit of running done and I was glad of the studs at the front of my shoes. The gears started acting up again, and there I was thinking I had them spot on, but they spent most of the 2nd lap climbs jumping about like crazy.
On the last lap I started to get even more sloppy, an over the handle bars moment, and a pretty awesome loss of control on one of the fastest bits of single track which left my handlebar pointing one way and the wheel the opposite way. I think I can put both down to the tyres though as both began with the front wheel washing out on pretty ok terrain. So with the national champs coming up next week and a crappy weather forecast until them, I've bought a pair of Hutchinson Python's, which should solve a couple of the handling problems.

I'm not sure where I finished in the race - it was top 10, possibly 7th, will know later on and will update. Happy enough with that - don't think I would have done any better even if everything went perfectly.

I also dropped the bike into OCtuning for a pre-Nation Champs service. Hopefully he'll undo the mess I've made of it!

Going to take it easy enough this week - might do an mtb spin mid-week and maybe a couple of spins into work, but that'll be it.

Thanks to Arek for the photos!
UPDATE - came 8th.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Still alive

Ok, tearing myself away from the PS3 to write this post :)

I have to say that the old mountain biking has gotten de-prioritised over the past couple of weeks in favour of work, house extension and the arrival of the baby. It's getting quite tricky to have time for all these various things, but one can only do one's best :)

I have been managing to cycle to work a bit. 3 times last week and twice this week. I really don't think I could manage 5 days in a row though - maybe it’s just the very warm, humid weather we're having at the moment, but after the 3rd day, I'm spent. I've also managed to lose more weight than I'm comfortable with loosing - down to 74kg's now. I had a 34ish waist at the start of the year, I'm heading to 30 right now! Defo not good, and will be working hard to get that weight back on - no matter how many pizza's and deserts it takes.

Another factor in the cycling is I'm not bringing all my clothes with me on the cycle. Before I was stocking everything up in work and just bringing me and a few bits in my pockets. But I've bought a North Face Borealis which is my new favourite thing at the moment and was only €40 in the North Face outlet shop in Kildare Village! So that's another few kg's I'm lumping around with me too. I'm taking the Giant a lot to work these days - really liking the acceleration and lightness (relative to the BeOne), but there is an annoying squeak coming from the rear wheel that has stumped the Cycle Superstore, but I'm dropping it back in today for them to take another look. It’s probably no effect on the bike, but its seriously effecting and annoying me.

So, 3 spins into work last week, and on Sunday I did a couple of hours blast in Glending, which was tough. Monday, Tuesday of this week was work commute, and last night was up in Glending but was more just to tap around. But I'm been off the bike for 4 days and my legs feel pretty dead. In general I feel pretty run down. Sleeping is tough with the weather we're having at the moment, but I think its also to do with poor eating habits over the past couple of weeks. With work so busy I've been skipping lunch a lot - just going for a sambo usually. I hope work eased off this week and I can get back to normal patterns. But it may be too late as I'm getting a sore throath right now, so a cold may be on the way.

Went out to Djouce today in the lashing rain to try out the nps course. It's pretty tough - lots of tough, technical single-track with very little let up, or even places to get a drink apart from the main fireroad, but you've only maybe 200 metres there. Some of the new sections were getting badly cut up today as there were a lot of people out pre-riding, so things could be tough come race time. The forecast is for the weather to improve later on the in the week so it might dry out some bit. I hope to get out again later in the week (providing I'm not in bed sick), to give it another lash.

Might try cycling into work on Tuesday and then a few sessions in Glending/Djouce up to the weekend - depending on how I feel.

Still no sign of my replacement Garmin – will hold off giving out until Monday though. Mind you, it’s nice to have one less thing to find before going for a cycle!