Thursday, December 9, 2010

The off season

Right, to summarise in 2 words what I've been doing for the past 3 months... bugger all.

Well, I've been doing a few bits.

After the marathon champs, I pretty much stopped mountain biking and road cycling with the exception of commuting to work. I did not have much time on my hands with work and the little guy and after a busy end to the season I did not fancy doing much.

I did over do the cycling to work however, and ended up getting a bit run down. A trip to the doctor confirmed this and a course of iron and plenty of rest for a couple of weeks sorted me out.

Next came cyclocross in October. I did a few of the training session organised by Team WORC and really enjoyed it. Initially it was a case of swapping tyres on the Kinesis for the training, but once I decided to do a few races I bought a cheapo set of wheels for the road and used the old set for CX. I raced in the Tymon park and Corcaigh Park Supercup races and found them shockingly tough, but seriously fun. You were always chasing or being chased and it was all over in an hour - perfect. There were not many races in the Dublin area this year, but judging by the number of competitors out, there will be plenty for next season. And it gives me time to upgrade the Kinesis groupset and brakes :)

I then decided to sell the Pronghorn. Its a class bike - and it will be hard get a better XC race bike, but I'm working on something for next year so hopefully I won't regret getting rid of it!

Then the big freeze kicked in. So that meant no biking of any kind. I had been thinking about what to do training-wise this winter and one thing that came to mind was core training. Its something that I have never thought much about, but its seemingly pretty important. So, flush with cash from the Pronghorn sale I got a good deal in a local gym and signed up for some core classes. They mainly consist of planks, light(ish) weights, and press ups - plenty of those! I don't think it'll do me any harm, so its worth trying out.

But its no substitute for biking - on or off road. So Thats what I need to start doing. Today (Sat 8th) was to be the first day of training, but snow, ice and rain put me off, so todays my rest day :), will defo head out tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm selling something

[EDIT] Its sold! Sob :(

Know to figure out what do ride next year...


For sale - 2010 PRONGHORN PH1

I’m selling my 2010 PRONGHORN PH1.

This bike has ONLY been used in 2010 NPS races, national champs, and 2 endurance races. Its in excellent condition

The bike has roughly 300km on it so its in perfect condition, just about ridden in! There are 2 of these bikes in the country and this year between them they won: The Masters NPS series, The Cooley Thriller, The Bull raid 12 hour solo, The Marathon XC Champs (Masters), 3rd and 4th place National XC champs. They also grabbed 2nd place at the Bontrager 24/12 race in the UK!

The setup is as follows:
Size Medium
PRONGHORN SEATPOST, RISER BAR AND STEM (bike will come with flat bar also)

€2200 ONO

More info on the Pronghorn brand can be found here

Reviews of Bikes here -

Drop me an email/tweet for more info

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Marathon Champs 2010 Report

The 2010 Irish Cross Country Marathon Championship was hosted by MBCC and was run over and around the Ballyhoura trail center on the Limerick/Cork Border.

I wanted to give this and the Cooley Thriller a really good go as it was the last 2 races of the season and I wanted to end it on a high. Unfortunately mechanicals put a stop to my gallop fairly early in Carlingford and the build up plans for the Champs were not going as I wanted either. A combination of bad weather (yeah I know), and being busy had reduced by training plans down to bare minimum, so I was not particularly confident going into the race.

We got down to the venue for 10:30 and after a bit of messing around found some decent parking. With the race starting at 11:30 there was not a lot of time to do anything other than get signed up and changed. The first climb would do as my warm up. So we all started gathering oat the start line. It was going to be gridded by category but it was to be a mass start. And considering in the first 4 km's we were climbing 250 meters, no one was worrying about being caught behind slower riders.

Myself and Oisin were chatting at the start and once the flag was dropped we were up the hill attempting to pass as many riders in front as possible and as the kilometers rolled by the fire-road began to empty of riders until all I could see nearby were Oisin, James McCluskey, Mick Jordan (Vet), Evan Ryan and Ryan Sherlock (both elites). There was also another guy I didn't recognise, but looked like he meant business - more about him later. It took me 15 minutes to reach the top of the first climb and I felt pretty good - even managing to catch Evan and get ahead of him for a short while.

However before the first feed station, Evan had pulled away slightly and James passed me and was just up the road, with Oisin just a little ways back. I tried to keep the James in sight while trying to take a decent drink. The plan was to stop at the feed station, but James didn't so I thought better of it as I still had enough in my bottle to get me to the next station at 26km. We dropped straight into the Singletrack section and I tried to keep James within sight. Oisin who would be much better at getting a good steady flow on the trails, got past me and pulled out a gap. Luckily for me, it seemed that at the end of every singletrack or techie section was a fireroad climb, so anything that the guys gained I could claw back.

A similar pattern followed for the next couple of hours, the guys would pull an advantage on the techie stuff and I'd get it back on the climbs. I pushed as hard as I could on the descents, but you needed your wits about you as they quickly went from being ridable double track to a strip of clay 6 inches wide with gulley's either side. There were also huge (and I mean huge) ponds of water to contend with. In fairness to the organsiers, they were marked well for the most part and you knew which was the shallow end! I did have problems with the mud/bog holes - one in particular on a corner which I went around the outside of only to find the front wheel sinking up to the axle!

Things went bad for me on one rocky climb. Very silly mistake had me over the bars and face planting the rocks. I damaged my finger which started to swell up straight away, but I also got some serious road rash on my left shin. It was the worst pain I've ever felt. I was convinced I smashed it to bits. Pretty sure I shed a tear in pain at that point and not to proud to say it either! I managed to pick myself up and hobble up to the end of the rocky section. Blood was starting to drip from my leg at this stage. My head dropped and was I was not sure about what to do - leg hurt, finger hurt, face hurt, halfway through a marathon race and I had no idea where I was. So after a minute or so I just got on the bike and tried to pedal. It hurt a lot at first, but the course flattened out slightly and each pedal stroke was a little less painful.

As we began climbing up again I could see a number of riders ahead of me working their way up the hill. As I got closer I could see another bunch stopped at the top and pointing in different directions, chatting away. Not normal behaviour in a bike race :) When I got to the top there was Ryan, Evan, James, Oisin, and a number of other riders. Turns out the course was not marked 100% correct and we had reached a dead end. The only solution was to going back down the hill to a turn which was marked off by ribbon. So we all went back down the hill and broke the tape blocking the correct route. A marshal confirmed that we were right and apologised. This detour added about 1.5 to 2km's onto our race and I think it was a good thing to happen for me as it totally took my mind off the pain in my leg.

So we were off again, descending at high speed, dropping in and out of singletrack and up climbing fireroads. I kept drinking and had a few gels and a bar (took ages to chew the bar but was a nice treat to have!) and felt pretty ok apart from on the kicker climbs which did take a bit out of me. At this stage of the race we had about 15 km's to go. Oisin, James and I were all together again and coming up on the last feed station. I went to get a bottle as muscles were starting to tighten up so cramp was not that far away. James did also, but Oisin kept going. James grabbed his bottle and chased after him. I just rolled up as I was sure there would be a hill soon enough to catch them on. There was sharp left turn shortly after which led onto a rough techie climb. I caught up with the lads fairly easily, so was beginning to thing they might be in a spot of bother (finally!). We rolled out onto a flat fireroad section and I decided to push things on a bit. Based on the distance traveled to that point I figured we had about 14km's to go with at least 3 of that downhill. So with some very fuzzy thinking and logical applied I picked up the pace a bit, passing James first and then Oisin. I had a quick chat with him and it turned out he was cooked.

We hung a left and onto the final climb of the day. I could hear a bike right behind me so kept increasing the pace gradually - there was no way I was going to jump out of the saddle and sprinting at this stage, would have ended up cramping my entire body! A few minutes later all I could hear was my bike and my heavy breathing, but I kept the pace up as it was all or nothing at that stage.

I got to the top of the climb and was directed down the singletrack. I thought I was only a kilometer from the finish line, but it ended up being closer to 3. I kept pushing it on the descent but did not enjoy it that much as I was hurting at that stage and I was also starting to think about the fella I saw at the start and who had been up front for most of the race. I began to think he was a master and I was just racing for 2nd place. So by the time I got to the finished I had resigned myself to that and was happy to settle for the podium. As it turned out he was a master, but was racing under a day license. It was afterwards I found out it was Anthony White, a top UK endurance rider. He came in 3 minutes ahead of me so I was quite chuffed with that.

So, in total I covered 64km's, had an average HR of 153 with a MAX of 167.

So, once it was confirmed that Anthony was not eligible for the title it was relief for me and I could relax finally. We had 2 podium appearances - one for the overall race and one for the national champs. So that meant a 1-2 for MAD in the masters champs with Oisin coming in a few minutes behind me. James DNF'd - I'm not sure why as he seem to be ok spinning back when I left him, and seemed fine when he rolled in.

To be honest the whole thing was a bit of a surprise - not just winning on the day but coming from starting mountain biking 4 years ago, or from 2 years ago when I started to take it seriously and train properly (well, when training could be fitted in) - its just been an interesting journey. And just in case I don't get me anymore of those national champ jerseys, this one is being mounted along with the medal!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've not managed to do much since the Cooley Thriller apart from the race in Mondello park. I came down with a head cold shortly after, so that along with my dodgy knee kept me off the bike for another week.

Last Saturday I thought I was on the mend so went off on a 70km south through Kildare along some rolling hills. It took a lot out of me but felt I could do a long one the following day. So I got myself together and headed off with a plan to do my usual 120km by Enniskerry, Djouce, Luggla, Sally Gap, Wicklow Gap, Hollywood. However when I got up that morning I knew it was not a runner - felt totally exhausted. So Another easy spin around the lake and a new plan which consisted of gradually getting back onto the bike.

So this week I did the commute to work again. Monday was disaster, got caught in the mother of all downpours and to make matters worse I punctured.

Tuesday I decided to head over to Robin Seymour's Cross training session in Ballycullen. I'd never ridden the Kinesis off road before and was not sure what to expect. There were plenty of people out and it was good craic. It's a lot more intense than I was expecting. Probably down to full on speed, jumping off, running up a hill carrying a bike and hopping back on and up to full speed again. I did enjoy it and will try to keep making the training and will defo do a couple of the races for the craic. I will need to get a 42 ring for the bike and a cheap set of wheels so I can keep using the bike for commuting.

I kept on cycling to work for the rest of the week, and on Friday morning I got up early for the big spin into work via the Sally Gap. It was a hard climb from Kippure House to the Gap. pretty cold and foggy, but the sunrise over the hills made it all the worth while.

Today I just took it easy and spent some time with the family... but also managed to replace the drivetrain and bottom bracket on the Giant. Tomorrow will be big spin day, then commute to work Monday, cross on Tuesday and maybe one more spin into work on Wednesday. Then its resting up for the Marathon Nationals. I'm not sure how I'm fixed for them to he honest - the time off was not planned and I think I could have done with another couple of big spins. Plus, by race day it'll have been 4 weeks since I've been on a mountain bike! Thats just the way it is right now though - where I'm based makes mountain biking time consuming and I don't have much of that to spare these days. Anyway, once this race is done, it'll be mtb fun times :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Almost end of season...

...but not quite...After the Cooley Thriller the plan was to take a week off and see if the pain behind my right knee cleared up. However while browsing I saw that Naas CC were hosting an Open race at Mondello Park. It was too much to resist, so Thursday evening myself and Gene cycled out to the race track (its only a 20 minute cycle from the house so it would be a good warm up too). As usual I had not prepared for this like I usually would for an mtb race, but wanted to give it a good lash all the same.
When we arrived there was a good crowd already out on the track warming up, so after signing up we were out on the track. It was great to be out on the race course - nice surface and no oncoming traffic! The track was essentially flat with lots of interesting corners - some hairpins and double apex turns which would make for interesting racing. The race was for 50 minutes plus 3 laps and with the laptime at about 5 minutes it was going to be more like a criterium race.

Pretty much back on planned starting time we were off. There were about 40-odd A4's out with about 7 or 8 guys from Naas CC. I was not too sure how the race would play out - I was maybe expecting a few breaks, so wanted to try stay up the front just in case. However, the Naas CC guys went to the front from the start and kept the pace very high which, on the negative side removed any chance of a break, but on the positive reduced the chances of the A3, A2 and A1 cats catching us.

Despite my best efforts to stay up in the front 7 or 8, I kept finding myself slipping back down all too easily. One of the main reasons was my hopeless cornering. Pretty much from the start I could feel the front of the bike sliding away in the corners due to the speed. This totally freaked me out and I tiptoed in and out of the bends, which would then mean I had to put the hammer down to catch up with the bike in front. And that was pretty much my race in a nutshell - early and excessive braking following up leg burning sprints straight after - the perfect workout!

The 50 minutes went by pretty fast, and it was hard work - for the 67 minutes of racing we averaged 40 kph! My average heart rate was 164bpm, which is 2 bpm lower than my all time high in a race. In the end only 2 riders from the higher cats bridged across and the top 3 were all A4's. We wheeled in with the lead group 10-odd seconds behind the winner.

It was a great evenings racing/workout. Having access to the race track was fun but also added to the race also and I hope the guys will be able to host more open races there next year.

Photos here and here and race finish below

The marathon champs is still 3 weeks away, so now its a case of getting back on the bike after my weeks "holidays". The knee pain is still there, but I'm pretty sure its a minor problem and have had some physio done on it too so I'm happy to start kicking out the watts again :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Cooley Thriller XC Marathon 2010

This will be a short one :)

The Cooley Thriller is an MTB XC marathon race. I entered last year and won the Master category so was really looking forward to getting back up there and having another go this year. The course spanned 52km's across the Cooley Mountains with plenty of climbing thrown in to keep everyone honest. When we arrived the place was buzzing and it looked like a much bigger entry than 2009. The weather was not too bad - blustery and a few showers coming in but nothing too bad. As I was on holiday for the week leading up the normal pre-race preparation was out the window so I was not sure how the race would go.

After registration we got ourselves together and after the pre-race briefing we were escorted out of the sailing club and up through Carlingford village before starting the climb into the forest. There was no official start, but once we hit the wide fireroad the pace went up. Myself and Oisin got a little caught in the narrow lanes, but made up ground quickly - both of us were keen to be as far up front as we could for the first singletrack section.

We made it through easily enough and then hit the road for the climb up the masts. This was aserious climb - 6 or 7 km with the gradient hitting the mid teens on the top sections. Once I figured out the best gear I got into a comfortable rhythm. To be honest I felt crap for most of the climb and it was not until the top did I start to feel properly warmed up and a bit of go in the legs. As we progressed up the hill we began passing riders and close to the top we got a time check of 90 seconds from the leaders which was great to hear. I had no plans on competing against the elite riders, but it was still nice to hear.

Unfortunately that was the highlight of the race for me. Coming down the first descent I took a bad line down a super steep section. I managed to keep it together until close to the bottom but ended up sliding out on the wet grass. It was a nothing accident, but I think it was at that point I managed to break two spokes on the rear wheel. One of them wrapped around the wheel causing the freewheel not to work properly, so basically if I stopped pedaling, I'd get a chain suck type effect and it would lead to the chain dropping up front.

I kept going not realising what the source of the problem was, but on another descent when I did freewheel again, the chain hopped off the chainring and got lodged between the granny ring and the bottom bracket, totally locking the cranks, and in the process twisting the front dérailleur around by about 45 degrees. So I stopped for a bit to pull it out and set off again, but I knew there were big problems. So a little further on I stopped again and fixed the dérailleur. I wanted to quit as this point as I noticed a missing spoke and a buckle in the rear wheel, but I had no idea where the nearest road was! So after about 10 minutes I decided to follow the course and drop out at the nearest road. That turned out to be the Windy Gap - about 3/4's way through the race! But thats what I did and cycled back to the car park on the road.

I'm still gutted about dropping out especially after a good start and feeling good after the first climb, but thats racing. It was the first major problem I've had all year so when you look at it like that I can't really complain. I did some more investigation on the wheel when I got home. On top of the problems mentioned above, the locking nut for the cassette had also come loose with only the quick release keeping everything together! Total disaster really.

But on the plus side it was a great 1-2 for MAD in the masters category with Oisin winning and Mark coming second.

The Cuchlainn lads put on a great show again and I plan to get back up next year to try again.

There's a whole month before the next (and final) race of the season - the XC Marathon champs. So my plan is to take a week totally off all bikes and try to sort out my knee thats been acting up a bit since The Bull Raid 12 hour race. Then one last push before cake, beer and social spins!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Bull Raid

It took a good week to recover after the twentyfour12, but I was still not feeling super. Did not do too much on the bike – a couple of spins to work, an evening mtb spin and a big road spin at the weekend – but the tank never felt full. But myself and Oisin had planned to compete in the first Irish MTB endurance race – The Bull Raid – hosted by Dundalk cycling club. Unfortunately, Oisin had come down with a cold which left me in a dilemma – try to find a partner to race pairs with, OR try the solo. I had sworn not to do another endurance race again after the twentyfour12, but as the pain receded I began to warm to the idea of doing it solo. So, with very little thinking I decided to go for it.

Preparation did not need to change – I just did very little. Unfortunately I had plans on the Friday night so instead of camping the night before at the site, I decided to head up very early on Saturday morning as the race started at 8am. To be honest I probably got a better nights sleep, even though I was getting up at a ridiculous hour. I had cooked up a mountain of pasta the night before and a quick zap in the microwave I had the perfect pre-race breakfast - well fueled for a good few hours anyway. Car loaded, and I was up the M1, making it to the race venue in Belurgan at about 6:45. I met up with the rest of the guys from MAD and began sorting out our pit area. I also had to re-register as a solo rider with the organisers. There was no time for a pre-ride and the only info I had on the course was from the guys who did the Leinster League race back in Feb, and that was not great. Basically there are serious amount of schlomp on the singletrack. The week leading up to the race was dry enough, but it had rained the night before so I was not too optimistic.

As we got everything organised in the pit, we got the call for the pre-race briefing. All commonsense stuff and straightforward enough – cycle for 12 hours and the person who’s cycled the furthest wins – simples.

The first difference from the twentyfour12 was the running start a la Le Mans.
So we all pushed out bikes halfway down a field, dropped them and walked to the ditch where we waited for the start. Once the bullhorn went we were off, trotting across the field to our bikes (sprinting was not on as all my tools and food would have been fallen out of the pockets and scattered across the course). I hopped on the bike and the race was on. Again, like twentyfour12, I had no plan in terms of pace setting, but thought it would be good to get a couple of fast laps in before settling down to a comfortable pace for the rest of the 12 hours. And that’s what I did, managing to keep with the 2 and 4 man team riders for the first couple of laps before dropping the pace. I had not planned on stopping much either. I was going to stop on every lap to pick up a bottle and around the 4
th and 8th hours pull in for some food.

The course itself was very impressive. Technical singletrack, tricky drops, tough singletrack climbs with switchbacks, tricky bridges and not much fireroad. Oh and a motocross track thrown in for good measure! The course did start out wet, but within a couple of hours the trails were dry. The land owners did a great job laying hardcore on the wetter areas of the initial singletrack climb, so my concern at the start of the race proved to be unfounded.

To be honest the hours slipped by pretty fast and before I knew it I was in for my ‘lunch’ which Aine got for me (free pasta all day from the organisers). I tried to steer clear of the gel’s and energy drink as much as possible but at about 6 hours in I was running out of steam, so started to take a gel every second lap, and alternate between water and energy drink each lap, with the odd energy bar thrown in. And even tho I was using them sparingly, after a few hours the familiar tummy pains started to kick in.

As far as the race went for most of the it I had no idea where I was. I had a feeling I was up near the front, but after a few pit stops it was hard to tell. Again, team manager Aine came to the rescue and after a chat with the time keepers she had the info I needed to hear – in 1st place up 1 lap on Paddy, my club mate, who was in turn a lap up on Declan McCabe. At this stage it was 6:30pm and using my feeble maths I came to the conclusion I just needed to do 1 more lap, and I could take it easy doing to too! I was delighted as after 10 odd hours I was hurting. I crossed the finish line 40 minutes before the 12 hours were up and after a quick chat with the race director I handed over my timing chip and made my way back to the pit. I had completed 13 laps. If I had to I think I could have managed 2 more, but there was no point in putting myself through that! I starting feeling pretty sick as I sat down and in general I felt like I was run over by a steam roller. It took a good hour to summon up the strength to stand up again. I managed to pick up my belongings and pack the car before heading up to the BBQ. At this stage I still was not up to eating so got a cup of tea instead! As we sat around the blazing bonfire waiting for the prize giving I started to feel a bit better and managed a burger. Later I felt much better and went to the local chipper for battered fish, half pounder and chips!

The prize giving was great – it was my first time on the top of an actual podium and we go some great prizes too. Unfortunately for me I left my winners jersey and other goodies behind, but did manage to hold onto the cash and trophy!

I went home that night and got to bed pretty late. But I was feeling OK the following morning so decided to do the Kildare 100 – bit silly, but I was at a loose end and had paid up a few weeks earlier… plus there was a t-shirt and burger at the end!

Again, the Pronghorn was perfect. This was a real Irish course, plenty of rocky technical stuff, but the bike did not have a problem - its rider on the other hand had the odd off the bike moment, but for the most part I managed to keep myself attached to the bike.

More info on the race and results on the official site

And race video:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bontrager Twentyfour12

Myself and Oisin had signed up for this earlier on in the year as neither of us had ever tried an enduro event or had raced in the UK. We decided to gradually ease ourselves in and go for the 12 hour race - as opposed to the 24 hour pairs.

But the first job was actually getting to Plymouth. Some of the guys from the club were planning on taking the ferry from Rosslare, but due to time constraints we went for Holyhead and then the M5/M6. In hindsight I think flying might have been a lot easier, as it took us 9 hours from getting off the Ferry to pulling into the camp site, totally shattered. We pitched out tents and had some food/beer before hitting the hay. Unfortunately we were located by the toilets, showers and floodlights so there were generators going like the clappers for most of the night. I probably got 2 or 3 hours sleep. It rained too, which had be worried as I did not fancy having to switch to the Toro in the morning.

We were up early and got signed in - getting our goodie pack also. Then it was lots more food, and preparation. We had not put a huge amount of thought into tactics apart from we would both do a couple of 1 lappers full on and see how things went. Next was the race briefing by the organisers and Keith Bontrager himself. Before we knew it Oisin had to line up for the start. As we had no time to do a pre-ride it was going to be a steady first lap and the see what happens after that. The first lap was a little longer to stretch out the field before the loop began proper. Oisin stayed up the front for the mini loop bit and came through the start/finish proper in a good position. I wandered back to the MAD marquee and sat around for a few minutes before I just decided to go to the transition area and wait for the hand over.

Before I knew it I could see Oisin dropping down the hill overlooking the arena. I got myself together waited for him to come in. After a couple of minutes he came into the transition area and I grabbed the baton (which was a headset spacer on a necklace). I trotted over to my bike and exited transition and off on my first lap. After leaving transition you had a short section in the camping area before crossing a small river via a narrow bridge. It brought you out to a small section of fireroad and through a field. Then a nice little drop, sharp right and onto a disused fireroad which had you climbing for 3 or 4 minutes.

You then hit the first singletrack section proper. It kicked up sharply up to the right and worked its way through a mature forest. Lots of roots and swoopy turns before dropping out and across an embankment which led you onto the only road section. It was a sharp left turn into a climb. Unfortunately, the start of the climb was greasy as you exited the singletrack and I came out a big fast, so as I turned nothing happened and before I knew it I was skidding on the concrete with my calf and finger getting a good old grating. I was not planning on getting road rash at an mtb race, but there you go. I quickly got myself back on the bike and pushed it hard up the hill into the next singletrack section and got back into a good rhythm. The singletrack flowed along and you were never on fireroad for long before you were back on swoopy, technical trails. The variation kept you alert all the time, and there were a few sections which brought you into the camp zone which was great also as you got plenty of cheers along the way.

I got back to the transition area and Oisin was waiting. There was no time to chat – just hand over the baton. We communicated with a notepad back in the marquee and passed on messages via Aine, our team manager/mammy J. I felt good after the first lap, as it was only a 35 minute loop so really was no problem. I stopped into the first aid tent to get my finger cleaned up and then back to the tent. I had some fluid, checked the notepad and before I knew it, it was time to get back to the transition area. Oisin came in and we agreed on doing another 1 lap stint each before switched to 2 lap stints. So after a couple of fast 1 lappers we decided to switch to 2 lap stints. This would allow the other person to have a good rest and get some food in or get bike cleaned up. So Oisin came in and I went out. The first lap was fast, but the second was tougher and I the pace was notably slower. I got back in shattered and had some food. Despite having over an hour to rest up, before I knew it I had to get back to transition for my second 2 lap stint. Same situation again, first lap fast, second lap a lot trickier. But despite the going getting tough meeting and passing people on the course took my mind off things. There were so many racing on the course you would be calling ‘Rider up!’ every few minutes.

By the time I got in after my second 2 lap stint it we were over half way through the 12 hours. And then it started to rain proper. Because it was a warm evening, it was less miserable than you’d think, but an hour after the rain starting the singletrack descents were getting sliddery and one rooty climb was just about rideable. At this point Aine told us we were in 2
place which came as a shock to me. I never really set any goals for the race and had been enjoying the race, but now we had something to defend it suddenly got serious!

It started to get tougher once it got dark. The rain had abated, but a freaky fog settled in the forest sections at the highest points of the course. And with lights on full power you could just about see 2 or 3 metres ahead. I guess it added to the challenge but it did not do my nerves any good. After a couple of more laps I was back in transition with the help of Aine trying to figure out where we were and more importantly were the guys in 3rd place were. We had figured out that the guys were about 20 minutes behind, so 2nd place looked good. Now the only thing I was worrying about was Oisin coming in before 12am and forcing me to head back out for 1 more lap, which I did not want to have to do! Luckily Oisin arrived at the finish line at 12:05 to my relief and 2nd place was ours.

Over the course of the race the Pronghorns performed perfectly, they were great on the climbs and had no problems over the technical stuff. And when things got schlompy neither of us had problems with frames getting clogged up with muck or branches etc.

We were both totally exhausted and in the mud and rain we all trudged slowly back to our tents. Unfortunately the majority of the other racers finished at midnight also so there was a huge queue for the showers. So we just decided to dry off as best we could, pull out our celebration beers and get some food. However we were so wrecked we enjoyed neither so tried our best to get some sleep as we had to leave at 9am the following morning to get the ferry. Unfortunately due to the general nature of a camp site and lot of generators around there was very little sleep. So I got up an managed to grab a shower about 5am and found a few people to chat to in the tented area before getting another couple of hours sleep before getting up for breakfast and packing up.

Despite the long distance travelled, lack of sleep and mucky conditions it was a great weekend – not just because of the 2nd place, but also to be a part of a big enduro event weekend. Ok, next year if we go we’ll be either flying or taking an extra couple of days to make sure we were not under any pressure. Plus, I think the night before the race I’d stay in a B+B to get a decent night’s sleep and then camp the following night.

More info on the race can be found on the official site

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

National XC champs 2010

Epic MTB hosted the 2010 National XC champs in Djouce wood on the 17th July. I had not done much leading up to the race - did a road spin the previous Saturday and a session in Glending on the Wednesday leading up to it - as I was busy in work and at home. I still felt OK leading up to the race. My only concern was the course itself as I had not seen any of it - in fact I'd not been in Djouce in 2 or 3 months and with Epic running the race, there was going to be techie bits - not one of my strong points.

We arrived early to an already almost full car park. There was a great buzz around the village, with plenty of stands, food stalls and a bouncy castle! We signed on and headed back to the car to get ourselves organised.

Just before the sports race started a gang of us from MAD got out for a pre-ride. The course after the start finish line the course moved into a singletrack section when brought you to the lower carpark before the climb up to a slightly extended XTC. Once you were out of that it was walking path over to some of the sections used in the races last year. But some of the sections were taken in reverse, such as the switchback climb up to the highest point of the course, After that you worked your way across to Toro, and out onto fireroad which brought you to GC, and then out along the new straight trail down to the river. Then a small fire road section which brings you to the single track climb up by the step and then across before dropping down to the main fireroad, and sprint back to the lower carpark where you drop to the left and into a bermy singletrack section before entering the field which contains the start/finish line. All in all, I actually enjoyed the course. The only real tricky section was a rough singletrack drop which was about 50 meters long, but otherwise I thought I could handle it ok.

I was gridded on the second row in roughly about 6th place. The whistle blew and I started to lose positions again – but not as bad as usual so I felt happy enough entering the singletrack. However, as we were leaving the second section something happened and my chain dropped. Not sure what I did to make that happen, but it did, so I had to hop off and get it back on fast. I guess 4 or 5 riders passed me while I was getting myself sorted. But I kept my head and hopped back on the bike for the climb up to XTC. Over the course of the first lap I had Dave O’Shea and Mark close by and we were all together until half way through the second lap when I pulled out a gap and managed to get some slower riders between me and the lads on the single track climb. After that I just pushed on as hard as possible. Coming into the 3rd and final lap I spotted Oisin up ahead, so went for maximum effort for the last few kilometers. Unlike the Dromara race I never got too close (maybe 50 meters at best) before the finish line arrived.

I was happy though - 4th place! I never even considered a podium in the National champs so to get it was amazing. I stopped setting targets for individual races and just focussed on getting fast, consistent laps in instead. Another thing I wanted to do was not keep something in reserve 'just in case' and instead leave it all out on the course. And I think my racing got better for it over the past couple of events.

So thats all the xc done for the year. The Nationals result more than made up for the very mixed NPS season and just motivates me to try to do that bit better next year. So just the enduro and marathon events left which will be a fun way to end the season.

Monday, July 26, 2010

NPS 6 and 7

Work, family and biking have seriously limited my free time, so I'm going to bundle the last 2 race reports into this post.

Dromara CC, Dunmore MountainIt was pretty much the same course as was used last year for the Nationals - lots of kicker climbs broken up by flatish sections, and a few techie drops here and there. I enjoyed this course in 2009 and felt good leading into the race - all I needed was a decent start...

Which I got :) . by the time we hit the rocky single track climb the group had spread out and were moving at a good pace. I was close to the guys in front and kept pace for the first lap, but they gradually pulled away, while Damo Mulcrone gradually caught up with me. So it was going
to be one of those pressure races :)

Damo continued to close in and seeing him move closer distracted me a little from what should have been my main goal - catching Oisin who was less than a minute up the road. The second
and third lap were all out, and mentally I was ready to give up by 4th place spot to Damo as after all the effort he was still hanging in there. Then, finally the elastic snapped at the start of the last lap. I looked back and he was gone! I then looked forward and there was Oisin in the distance. So, with renewed optimism I chased hard for that first NPS podium...

Unfortunately I didn't work out - I got to about 3 bike lengths of Oisin at the highest point in the course, but on the descent to the finish he pulled away, finishing about 40 seconds ahead of me. Still after the horrors of Killaloo I was happy to be back up the front(ish) again.

Full race report here.

MAD, 3 Rock
After Dunmore I was feeling a little better about racing, and looked forward to my own clubs race - despite the techie layout.

The race kicked off and I had my usual rubbish start which left me in or around 12th position (starting from 2nd on the grid). There was a fireroad section shortly after which allowed me to get back up the field, but again a poor start left me with unnecessary work to do - something to improve on. The race settled down with Oisin, Rob, Andrew and Adam pulling away, and a right battle for 5th place building up with Mark, Kev, Dave and Aaron, Damo and me. The course was great - it had the balance of super techie, with challenging climbs and swoopy singletrack. The only problem was the hurricane blowing into the racers face when they reached the aerials after a killer of a fireroad climb.

The race was going fine for me until about halfway into the second lap. Up until that point I was within touching distance of 5th place and felt that on the 3rd lap I could get past the guys and not be under too much pressure. Well that was until I found it difficult to stay attached to my bike and found myself over the bars twice in the space of 3 minutes on the 2nd lap and once more on the last lap.
I can't figure out the cause of the first crash. I had caught up with Dave O'Shea and another rider on Sprint and was happy to wait until the next fireroad to pass him. Then all of a sudden I was over the bars and sitting in the furze. I'm guessing I hit something but no idea what. No damage to me or the bike, but as I looked back down the trail I could see Mark and Damo catching fast. So I was back on the bike and pushed hard.... ...only to hit the dirt again in the last singe track section. Again, no idea what I hit, but it was enough to send me flying. This time Mark and Damo
passed me.
So, back on the bike and off I went chasing. I caught the lads at the entrance to MX and got ahead of them. Mark had a mechanical/crash in Rock and roll and I felt like I might be able to hold on here. I passed Damo on the last fireroad climb and could see the rest of the lads battling for 5th place ahead. I gradually closed the gap and just near the top Mark passed me after putting in a serious effort on the climb. I just got ahead of him again before entering T-connector. However, things went pair shaped again in sprint when, for some reason I decided to go off the nice line and onto a schlompy mud pit where I promptly fell off. So as Mark passed me by all I could do was laugh. Back on the bike one last time and I tiptoed it to the finish line and 9th place
The mad thing was I was still only 40 odd seconds from 5th place. Its quite frustrating, but I had few off the bike moments this year, so to get 3 in one was was probably just balancing out things.

So that was the end of the NPS. I finished joint 6th with club mate Mark McGauley. To be honest, I doubt I could have made it to 5th place - all the guys ahead had either won races or were on the podium in pretty much every race, so can't complain there I guess.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New post coming soon

Been a hectic few weeks with work, biking and the little guy, but post on its way covering Rounds 6 and 7 of NPS...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

General updates...

I've done very little since the last NPS race, and I feel it. Monday I went out with Gene to Slade for an hour, just to loosen slightly sore legs and also to keep the quickly forming monster scab on my knee from reducing movement. The whole spin was nothing to write home about.

Tuesday was supposed to be IMBRC club racing. I went up to Slade straight from work with the plan of getting in a couple hours between the race and a few sneaky laps beforehand. But a rough night with the young lad had be shattered so after 2 laps of the club course I threw in the towel and went home before the race started.

Did not do anything till Friday, when I cycled into work via Blessington lake. A good 2 hour spin with lots of rolling hills. Then got my easy 40 min cycle home after.

Saturday was an hour in Slade. Yeah, should have done more but felt tired. Plus I had big plans to head out today, which didn't happen!!!

Training is getting harder and harder, and I need to be more disciplined in order to fit it in along with work and the family - not as easy as it sounds.

So for this week, its big cycle into work tomorrow. Tuesday I'm thinking of cycling in with the mountain bike so I can get the club race on the way home, and then as much cycling in and out of work as I can for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

NPS round 5 - Killaloe, Co. Clare

Sunday was the 5th round of the Irish NPS, held in Killaloo, overlooking Lough Derg. The course was always going to be tough. A long fireroad climb, with a slight drop to give you a breather, before climbing up again, then a sharp right up onto a singletrack climb which levelled out before, yes, you’ve guessed it, another climb. The final one being the toughest and the slightly wet conditions making things tougher.

Then, completely out of breath, you enter the forest and a rocky single track section, which climbed up and down over and around various obstacles. A very technical section followed with 360 turns on the descents followed by drops through gulleys. Less hairy descended followed, but not before you were heading sharply up again before a chicken-wired drop (!) and then onto a fireroad section. Then a sharp right and descend down to the last singletrack section and onto the start finish line. Jeez, even writing that description is exhausting me, so you can imagine it in a race.

I was seeded in this race (7th), so was on the second row. To be honest it didn’t really matter where you were as you had almost a mile of climbing so there would be no sprinting for the first section of singletrack.

So we were set off. Rob Tobin set the initial fast pace and with a few hundred meters the lead group was whittled down to about 6, with me hanging on by their coat tails. It was fast, but I did not feel too bad. I’d defo done harder sessions so was happy to hang in. As we got to the top of the climbing section the main guys moved away and I had only had Andy Newman and Kevin Stanley in view. The singletrack was tough, but going through it the first time I was happy enough.

The second lap was ok too, it was slower and I was making a lot of mistakes on the singletrack, but I had said to myself to get through it at my own pace and get a slow, steady flow the whole way through rather than trying to keep up with guys who were much stronger and messing it up.

Things started to go pear shaped at the end of the 2nd lap. After the chicken wire drop I ended up in the ditch due to taking my eye off the trail – very dumb., but it got worse. While still cursing myself for the first crash, coming off the drop onto the fireroad at the start/finish section, I somehow managed to slide the bike and ripped a layer of skin off my knee cap and elbow. Really stupid thing to do caused by a lack of concentration. I lay there for a few seconds just to see how bad the pain got. Once I figured out it was at a bearable level, I hopped on the undamaged bike and pedalled off.
Lap 3 was hard, on the climbs the knee hurt and I could not get any flow through singletrack and would have been faster walking it. I lost count of the number of crashes – one of which twisted the seatpost/saddle 90 degrees off.

The 4th lap was hilarious. I had slowed to a crawl on the climbs and walked large parts of the singletrack as I had lost all confidence on the bike. I had totally given up on racing to the extent when I saw a bike computer on the trail, so I stopped to pick it up thinking it was Gene’s and it would be the sound thing to do. Turns out it wasn’t his and because I stopped he passed me a little further up the trail!

14th position sucks. It’s very disappointing as I should have been more like 6th or 7th worse case. But if yer not making mistakes (and learning from them) you’re going nowhere.

So where did it all go wrong? Well....
• The previous couple of nights I did not have great sleep – between the little guy on Friday and a party being held in a nearby house on Saturday, I didn’t get my usual not much 6 hours. But there’s I can do about that.
• Tyre pressure wrong – so wrong. There were probably close to 30 psi as I was thinking about the long climbs in the race and because the rims were not UST I was concerned about rolling them off and game over. It was a complete disaster, as the damp, rooty sections needed plenty of rubber on them to keep you upright. I was in Slade yesterday and dropped it closer to 20psi and it made a huge difference in the rooty singletrack section.
• Maybe went off too hard from the gun – not entirely sure about this. I felt good on the first couple of laps and took the gels, but I had dropped right off on the last 2 laps. But I think that might have been a combination of normal tireness and just mentally already being in the car, driving home.

Thanks to Conor for the pictures

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NPS Round 4 review and training plans

Myself and Gene headed off from Naas at about 8.30 and made good time getting to Magheramorne at 11am. It was a long drive but the motorways and great weather made up for it.

After getting signed up, we headed out for a pre-lap. Starting the entrance of the quarry there was a left turn into the open area across a sandy, dusty area before the first drop. At the bottom there was a 90 degree right turn across a very dusty section. Before entering grassy singletrack. Again, another 90 degree turn and a tricky little kicker (which in the wet would not have been ridable).

The course then consisted of sections of open singletrack with short draggy climbs, tight singletrack with swoopy turns, and plenty of big swoopy drops. You then crossed over the Larne road and into the quarry proper, dropping down to the lake and crossing through a water feature before climbing gradually back out and following a red, dusty trail back to the start/finish. On the pre-lap, the course seemed very long and that was confirmed by one of the lads who clocked it at 7kms. Still, as there were not many long, steep climbs, it was going to be fast.

We lined up for the start and I had managed to get up just behind the first line of top riders (about 5 of them). So I thought it was looking good for getting a good start and trying to stick with the lads. However, I had another disaster of a start and before the first drop a good 10 to 15 riders had passed me. I’ve not got the foggiest why I can’t get away from the line quickly, but I will have to work on it before the next race. A bad start puts you at an huge disadvantage as you spend the first lap at least attempting to past riders. So that’s what I ended up doing – chasing and passing riders when I got a chance. There was plenty of spots for overtaking so you were never held up that long in the Singletrack.

After the first lap I didn't have any head-to-head's with fellow masters riders. The race basically became a time-trail - pushing as hard as possible. I did pass people but I was never sure what categories they were racing in, and just assumed they were not masters and scooted past as soon as I got the chance.

About half way through the 3rd lap I spotted a MAD rider ahead with a WORCie following, as I got closer I realised it was Oisin and the WORCie was a vet. This gave me the extra kick and I pushed on for the rest of the lap. I had closed to about 100 meters but about halfway into the last lap Oisin looked around, saw me and switched on the afterburners. As I entered the last section of singletrack I thought I had a chance of catching him before we crossed over the road, but when I exited the trail, Oisin was nowhere to be seen! I probably should have kept the hammer down but lost the motivation when he was out of sight so sat up and spun the last 3rd of the lap.

So I ended the race in 4th place, 41 seconds behind Oisin and just shy of 3 minutes behind the winner Kevin Stanley. I'm really happy with that - I know a few lads had mechanicals, and there were plenty of punctures, but I've not felt that good in a race since early last year. Hopefully it was not a once off and I can keep it going for the last 3 races of the season.

Monday, I decided to cycle into work. Should have had a rest as the legs were sore after racing, but the weather was so nice it would have been criminal not to. Did take it handy tho, and a great tail wind had be home in record time.
Tuesday, IMBRC club league. Was great craic. I set off 1 minute before Mark McGauley so the pressure was on! Legs were still sore but after a few minutes of riding I didn't feel a thing - apart from the pasta and meatballs I ate and hour earlier trying to get back out. Mental note - don't eat your dinner an hour before balls to the wall racing. In the end Mark caught me in the last 50 meters and it was a sprint finish between us and Ben Marchant. I won that but was tough. Great racing and organisation. Looking forward to next Tuesday all ready!
Wednesday, Ok, knackered today, but again with the weather so nice I cycled in - very slowly. And another nice tail wind to look forward too on the way home.

Planning on cycling in via Slade tomorrow and if I'm not on the road bike on Friday I'll be out in Slade or Glending with Gene. I'm busy over the weekend, but hope to get out for a couple of hours on the Road bike on Saturday morning or Sunday evening.

And then the following Monday will be spin to work and IMBRC club league on Tuesday. Yes, I've planned out the next 6 days and its fairly crammed with different types of biking, but I'm keen to make the most of the coming week before kicking up the heels from next Wednesday

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekly update

Monday - after the Hammond race I wanted to keep things up, so cycled into work, and left early to get a nice 60km spin home around the Blessington lakes. It was a perfect day for cycling - pity I had the backpack on tho.
Tuesday - finally made it out to the IMBRC club race. Its held up up in Slade with the start on the Kildare side of the hill. The its a 10ish minute loop that you do 3 times and takes in just one section of the NPS course - the rabbit ride. There was a good turn out - 20 plus - despite the not ideal conditions. Its run in the same way as the Epic club league in that its a handicapped race, so you just go hell for leather from the start and try to pass as many people as possible. My handicap was 17 minutes and my understanding of the course was a little hazy so I followed on the of guys who knew it for the first lap, after that I passed him and pushed on. I finished in 6th place just as the rain really kicked off. I was happy enough with that considering it was my first time doing the race and am really looking forward to next weeks.

And thats it! Since then I've not done anything apart from an hour on the road bike this morning which ended up with a puncture on the way home. I probably should have done something handy on Wednesday, but the previous few days had taken a bit out of me so decided to rest up.

Tomorrow is round 4 of the NPS series and its going to be pretty hot - the racing and the weather. The only drawback is the 6 hour round trip...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hammond Memorial race

Quick post about this one.

It was a 40km, 2 lap race starting in Roundwood, Wicklow. It was a challenging course - tricky, very fast descent followed by some draggy sections, and a tough climb back up.

I had planned on making a proper effort at this race, but had not done the usual preparation I would for an XC race. The legs were a little tired from the week and I was hoping to sit back a bit in this one and try to do something later in the race.

However once the lead car tooted it horn to notify that the race had started the speed went well up. We quickly reached the descent and everyone was well spaced out. I hit 65kph with people passing me.
About 15 to 20 regrouped after descent and 3 or 4 guys kept the pace going. As we got to the climb proper the pace pushed up another notch and on the climb the 4 guys just cycled away. It was the type of climb I enjoy doing but I found it hard going today. On the second (and last) lap after the descent, about 4 of us got organised and we attempted to bridge back to the leaders who were about a minute ahead. But despite our best efforts we did not get them before the climb. And at this point my legs gave up. I lost contact with the chasing group - they were never more than 20 second ahead of me, but it might well have been an hour - I wasn't going to get back to them.
So I rolled in a minute or 2 behind the winners. The race was only a little over 1 hour in duration, but it was hard, probably the hardest one this year - there was absolutely no letup. Can't complain about the result, but I am a little disappointed I got dropped out of the chase group. There are plenty of road races left this year and I will make a proper effort for one of them!

Monday, May 10, 2010

NPS Round 3 - Lady Dixon Park, Belfast

Sunday the 9th of May had myself and Gene head up to Belfast for the 3rd round of the Irish NPS series. It was a 2 hour drive to the race venue, and the venue was easy to find thanks to some good sign posting by XMTB - the hosting club.

After signon we head out for a pre-ride of the course. The race was held in a typical city park - rolling, grassy hills in the middle (with the odd rose garden) and a tree lined perimeter. Not exactly the first place you'd think of holding a mountain bike cross country race, but in fairness to XMTB, they made use of every scrap of the park to make a challenging course.

25 meters after crossing the start/finsh, you had a 90 degree right turn which then switched quickly to a left hander and into the forest / single track section. The single track doubled back on itself quite a bit, so there was plenty of hard braking and accelerating. There was also plenty of options for the odd suicide manoeuvre into a corner. We had a laugh at the thoughts of the moves being made during the first lap in the singletrack section... little did I know later on I wouldn't be laughing...

You left the forest and got into the rolling grassy hills. This was pure CX territory. There was no time to take a breather here as time could be made and people overtaken before the next singletrack section. This bit was a bit more tricky as you had some tricky off camber rooty corners which even though it was a dry course were still a challenge.

After a couple of kickers and swoopy drops/climbs you were out of the trees again and up a kicker which transitioned into a draggy climb. But before you knew it you were diving down into a little hollow and then climbing, before a taking a roller coaster of a drop which - if you got enough pace, allowed you to free wheel up the other side.

After that you had a long grassy climb back up towards the start finish. But before you got there, a final single track section had to be tackled... then feed zone and start finish.
We lined up for the race. I was expected the top riders in the series to be called to the front, but it didn't happen, so with that and the fact it was a nice wide starting area, I found myself up towards the front of the field. The race was started and I had a decent enough start, probably in about 10th heading into the single track. It became a bit of a procession then and things were going ok, apart from some numpty shouting "who's losing the wheel?!!?". I hoped he was having a laugh. Anyway, we started in the second singletrack section, climbing up a narrow trail section. I had two riders in my sights who where slowing up after the initial high pace and decided to over take them off the single track... in other words a suicide move. I managed to pass them but I was slowing up too and lost control of the bike and headed towards the low lying branches of a tree. I rolled over them hoping I could power my way out - I couldn't and came to a standstill. So as riders passed I got myself together and ran up the hill till I could find a spot to remount and get moving again.

It was a silly mistake that cost me time and plenty of places. So it set the tone for the rest of the race - chasing. I started passed riders where I could in the next 2 laps. Then I came up to a Team WORC rider. He was not the fastest in the single track but could climb like Contrador, so I caught him in the forest section and tried to hang on for dear life outside it. Looking back at the lap times over the course of the laps he was holding me up, so in hindsight I should have passed him straight away. But for some reason I decided that chasing this guy would be my little race. Everything was going well until the 4th lap when a mistake on off camber turn had be off the bike and the competitor pedaling away. I got my head down and chased on - getting within a few bike lengths, but it was not to be and he crossed the finish line ahead of me.

I got 9th position, which is fair enough, but I really think my rush of blood on the first lap cost me a good 3 or maybe 4 positions. The course lent itself to close racing - there was about a minute between me and Mark in 6th place. While you could have run a CX race on exactly the same course, I think even the hardened XC'er enjoyed the racing. Still was nice to break into the top 10.

The Pronghorn was well suited to the conditions - the lightness allowed for quick acceleration and the xtr brakes stopped me in plenty of time before I could do any real damage to myself :) Oisin, the other Pronghorn rider came in a great 4th place after some close racing with another Team WORC rider.

So thats the 3rd race already finished - the season is almost half over! Next race is up North again next Sunday, but I planning on a road race this Sunday as I'm keen to try one where I actually go out to try and win it as opposed to using them for training/having a laugh.

The week since the xc race has been tough. Works been very busy and the little fella is teething - STILL! This means tough days in work and sleepless nights. Still, I managed a few commutes into work, but no off road which is annoying, but you've got to make the most of the time you have!

Thanks to Uberdog and racing795 for the pics!