Fun in Meath with The Bohermeen Boys: 3 lessons I learned

Tour of Meath, July 27, 2014.

Since early July, I’ve clocked up the miles. Lots and lots of miles, amid glorious sunshine. I’ve done it right, as I increased my long-distance spins bit by bit and decreased my pace to match. Therefore, as I drove to Dublin on Saturday I was very enthusiastic about my first An Post Tour of Meath. I had previewed the route online and there was nothing there that would cause me any huge difficulty. Having cycled the Vee and Knockboy last weekend, this route looked very flat, with only one small hill along the way.

The atmosphere in Trim as I registered on Saturday evening was really good. The finish line was all set up, the PA way singing loudly, and there were many marquee events nearby. Of course, most notable were the many cyclists coming and going…but not a bike in sight! Registration was extremely efficient, and I was back behind the wheel within minutes to overnight in Dublin. Pasta & plenty fluids were the order of the evening, and I got an early night knowing that I needed to be on the stat line with my buddies at 8am.

My buddies for this one were local man Francis Walsh, and Joe Lynch from Naas Cycling Club. As arranged, we met at the startline after several phone calls, ready for road. And at exactly 8am, we were counted down and sent on our way. for the first hour, as in any long 160k event, we simply rode steady pace in a very large group, estimated at 1500. It was impossible to try to move forward, as it just was not safe to do so. It became even trickier after 10k as we moved on to narrower local roads, heading towards Kilmessan and the famous Hill of Tara. The road here was very narrow, and as many ahead of us seemed to slow down, we moved up the bunch carefully.

As the miles sped by, the groups splintered and we tried very hard to get into a groove. However, there was very little of real interest until we hooked up with Cuchulainn CC (Dundalk) They obviously had a plan. eight members in club gear at the head, working well, so we decided to sit in. Unfortunately, as soon as we hit a hard little hill, they did not stay together, and once again we went off in search of a group that might.

We arrived at the 5okm water stop, and rested up, filled up and headed on again quickly. This time, we formed our own group. There were about 12 together, but usually buddies want to cycle beside buddies and no movement in the group means no momentum. Those at the front usually get tired, and those behind are chomping at the bit! Time to crack the whip! I spoke to Francis, and we got it moving. We went to the front, and after about three or four minutes, Francis went up & over, as I urged the guy behind him to move up. That got it rolling, and within minutes the pace was up, people were chatting enthusiastically with strangers, and before we knew it, we arrived together in Nobber (who thought it up?). Onwards than towards the Cavan border, and the road began to rise. I had known that it rose to 600 feet (not much really), over approximately 6 miles. Not a hill to be afraid of. However, Francis & I left the comfort of our friendly group and we pushed on hard. Then we pushed a little bit harder again! When we got to the top, approximately 10 miles from the next food stop, we decided to go steady, and immediately over-ruled ourselves. We got a good strong pace going, but by the time we got noodles & sandwiches, we noticed that the average had dropped from 17.2 to 16.9mph, largely because of the long hill.

Tour of Meath, route and elevation
Tour of Meath, route and elevation
2014 07 tour of meath
Farmers and retired teachers. What’s the world coming to, at all?

Therefore, with full bellies and bottles, we headed onwards for the final 40 mile section. Flat, the stewards advised, and they were right. As soon as we had gotten back into a rhythm, we really opened up a strong pace in order to find that elusive group. The Gods were smiling on us, as we met fourteen Bohermeen CC warriors towing a group of about twenty behind. The Gods were not smiling for long, as the rain came down. Not heavy, but enough to make a bad drizzle, and greasy roads. This was not the time to be sitting at the back of the group, and we moved up when the opportunity arose after several roundabouts on the edge of Kells stretched the elastic. We sat in with the Bohermeen lads, and we did our turns. This group was a joy to be in. Everyone worked hard, everyone looked out for any members who might be struggling, and above all we chatted and had the craic. I spoke at length with Barry who is undertaking the Race Around Ireland in September. What a challenge!

The miles ticked on, the pace stayed high, and the legs were beginning to feel a bit tired. No matter, we pushed on  to Athboy and increasingly we had the tailwind for the first time since leaving Trim hours earlier. At the finish hands were shaken, shoulders slapped, and goodbyes said. The Bohermeen boys are coming down to Waterford in August for the next an Post event, a slightly tougher course through the Comeraghs. Needless to say, they’ll be welcomed, but won’t need much minding!

 

I learned some big lessons from the boys of Bohermeen. Much of this I’ve seen and admired in groups down through the years. They just brought it to a fine art:

  1. The group is stronger than any of its members. Strong cyclists can cause havoc in a group. These lads understood, each and every one of them, that the lad who is very strong today might need a dig-out tomorrow!
  2. Outsiders are welcome. Once they saw that we were not just going to sit on the back, and we worked to keep the cohesiveness of the group intact, they let us in. They chatted, they put us on the front & they urged us on. In fact, at one point I was expecting a reprimanding roar from behind to steady the ship, but they seemed to know that it was ok to reprimand their own, but not the visitor!
  3. These lads were locals. They knew the roads, they’d biked them upside-down and inside-out. This is hugely important on an event like this, away from home and into the unknown. I think it would be a good idea to keep a watchful eye at the start line to find the locals. It worked for us today, even though it wasn’t until the latter end of the spin.

 

2014 07 tour of meath 3
Food, friends & flat miles.
Bohermeen Boys....they minded us!
Bohermeen Boys….they minded us!

First Tour of Meath completed.

Distance: 98.4 miles.

Time: 5h 52m

Pace: 17.8 mph (17.2 at 50k, 16.9 at 99k)

Average HR: 123 (easy)

Highlight: The Bohermeen Boys

Verdict: I’ll be back.

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Five Men Fix a Puncture

National Bike Week took place last month, but it passed me by as my focus was very much on my first triathlon. As soon as my wetsuit was hung up (temporarily) I longed to start my long endurance cycling training. In fact, whereas I probably should have taken an easy week to recover, I did the opposite, in fact, as I biked approx 270km over four spins (37, 26, 96 and 114kms). I was aware that this was not really a very bright idea! As luck would have it, I spent the following week in Galway and Athlone and I was happy to leave the bike (and the runners) at home. One full week of rest… my first and only week of complete rest since before Christmas!

I noticed this week that I was really raring to go, and as the weather once again obliged, the miles began to clock up! Sunday almost 140k; Tuesday: 60k; Wednesday: 33k; Thursday: 130k; Saturday: 35k and today Sunday 106k brought the total to just above 500km in eight days. The shorter distance days were at a very very easy pace, recovery pace.

Today (Sunday) was another very warm morning on the rothar, as a good solid group of twelve DCC riders headed for Cappoquin and the Vee. We kept the pace steady, and as agreed, we kept the group together on the way up to the Tipperary border. Without stopping, we pounced down to Clogheen and waited at the junction for Newcastle five who assisted with a puncture on the way down. It’s actually easier for one person to fix a puncture, but men tend to think that 10 hands are better than two!

The journey east to Newcastle proved to be very enjoyable with a gentle tailwind, plenty stories and only one mechanical. (By the way, for a good read about what MEN talk about for three or hour hours cycling, have a read of TheCyclingBlog…highly recommended!). The stories started to take on a more serious tone as we approached the village, and after the right turn for Melleray, many horror-stories and fantasy were only too forthcoming. The experienced among us opted for the sensible (experienced) version: the silent movie! Onwards and upwards, very hot sun did not help us at all, and our group of twelve were scattered to the four winds simply because there WAS no wind. Not even a little cooling breeze. The climb is quite difficult, at almost exactly 1000 feet in  3.5 miles. The average gradient is 6%, but there are three steeper sections at 15, 18 and 19.7 per cent. It’s no wonder that we tackle this monster so rarely. Take a look at the profile below. The first is the Vee, the second is Newcastle (officially Knockboy), both approximately the same height, but Newcastle is much shorter and steeper.

Capture2 hills
The Vee and Knockboy. Everywhere else is flat.

Having heard the horror stories at the base, we listened to the advertisments atop! Rightly so too, I suppose. I had decided early on in the spin to take it gently on this climb, because my mileage this week was more than double my recent weeks. I kept my HR in zone 3 most of the way, and only crossed into zone 4 for only three minutes, and arrived at the summit with tired legs but fresh lungs. Our spin home via Cappoquin once again was very enjoyable if uneventful, and as the distance was just a little short of 100km I went for a short ramble on my own.

8 days…500+ kilometres. Three weeks to goal date. A lot done, more to do!

Details of my spins can bee seen on Strava. Here are some sneak previews of the efforts this week:

Capture  elevation
Lots of climbing
Capture miles january to july
Miles per month so far. I’m still in old-fashioned miles.
Capture miles
Lots of distance. Probably best to schedule an easy week again.
Capture
The same effort, same enjoyment, in kilometres this time.

I realise that it would be a good idea to take some photographs along the way. Nothing speaks like a photo!

Finally, it’s clear to me now that I’m well on my way to being ready for my planned long events in three weeks time. Bring it on!

Páraig

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Have you a favourite hard hill? Please tell how HARD it is…

Dungarvan Triathlon

Saturday June 28th, 2014

Another wonderful day on the sunny south east! Saturday June 28th, 2014 will go down as a red-letter day in Dungarvan sporting annals as the local Tried & Tested Triathlon Club held its inaugural Dungarvan Triathlon at the beautiful Clonea beach. The sun shone brightly, and calm sea conditions brought a huge sigh of relief to the organising committee and competitors alike. This was my first triathlon. To be sure, I was not alone as there were 42 club members taking on the challenge for the first time. We had trained well, under the watchful eye of experienced triathletes. We had taken on board all the hundreds of tips and tricks. We had, in short, been tried and tested.

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Beautiful Clonea

I arrived just after 8.30am, to find that the place was buzzing. As we racked our bikes, prepared our gear and double-checked everything, there was plenty time to relax and chat. For me, this was a great way to calm the little floating butterflies. However, as briefing time approached, we turned slightly inward and the banter lessened. I went for a short jog on the beach with Paddy, very short really. I was happy just to walk back at my leisure to get into my wetsuit. Following our safety briefing by Dave, we walked to the far end of Clonea beach and entered the water for a few minutes of acclimatisation. I remembered the advice: use this time wisely. Warm up, swim for 10 / 20 seconds, stand, stretch, relax, repeat. No time for chatting now. This was it! Months of training just for this moment. I had decided to swim on the right edge of the group, as there was a slight tailwind and current in my favour. Overall, my swim went well. We were in the expert hands of 22 kayakers. For the first time I noticed that my breathing was better, and I was able to swim longer sections with my head in the water. I did take my little sculling breaks on my back every now and then, and was pleasantly surprised that when I passed the final buoy at 600 metres I was not as tired as in previous training swims. The final stretch back to the beach was easier, and I was focused entirely on the Powerbar flags at the water edge. Finally, after 27 minutes or so I emerged. The photo shows how much it took out of me, but in fact, I recovered quickly for the bike section.

Section 1; 750 metre swim
Section 1; 750 metre swim

This being my strongest sport, I pushed as hard as possible into a very slight headwind to Stradbally. I eased into it to Ballinroad roundabout, and increased the effort near Garranbane. The climb to Ballyvoile hurt me, and the heat was intense. From there to the quarry after the river Tay I was able to recover a bit, knowing that the part of the course where it’s easiest to lose time is from the Tay bridge to the turning point at Five-Cross-Roads. And therefore, I was thrilled to see that the course was slightly shortened for safety reasons. The return to Clonea was fast, with a lovely tailwind, and I pushed very hard. Unfortunately at the Crooked Bridge near Ballinroad there were two cars in my path. In all fairness, they had nowhere to go as they had cyclists ahead. I eased off through the chicane, and pushed on hard to the roundabout. Here too, the same situation. I was a bit cheesed off, but looking back now, it gave me  just a very short breathing space to prepare myself for an all-out assault on the final flat section to Clonea.

At Ballyvoile
At Ballyvoile

My transition to the run was quick. But the run itself was not! I had very little left, and plodded around slowly. The spectators and marshals along the route kept me going, and as it turned out, only one competitor passed me. My brother Ray was at the 400-to-go point, and as I passed he gave his usual advice. “Don’t have a lame finish! Go HARD”. So I did…and I was glad I did! I raced it. The huge crowd for the last 100 metres was really special, as I heard my name shouted over and over by unknown unseens! I did indulge at about 20 metres to the line as I clapped over my head…and finished with a sprint. Tried & tested. Passed!

image

Immediately after, I met up with many many fellow club members and marshals. We shared stories and high-fives. We waited to cheer home other club members. We sipped, munched and chatted. Triathletes all! Joey in Clonea Leisure Centre offered me a bed, but a stint in the jacuzzi followed by a long cold shower brought me back to life, and again as we lingered in the warm sunshine, posing for remembrance photos, I enjoyed Ivor’s delicious ice-cream.

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Couldn’t have managed without my biggest supporter

The presentations took place shortly after, again in blazing sunshine, and as I cycled slowly back home, I was able to take it all in. Later that evening, we enjoyed a great get-together at the Moorings in Dungarvan, as we listened to the playback over and over again, until such time as voices became slightly blurred and the effort of the day seemed to take its toll.
No matter, roll on 2015.

Details on Strava
Details on Strava

Tried & Tested Triathlon Club is in its infancy. Founded in 2012, this was its first hosting event. And what a super show it put on! Serious kudos to all involved, especially Dave, race director for the day.  Actually, that does him a disservice because he has worked tirelessly in this role since last Autumn. I recall cycling with Dave back in early spring, and what struck me was his determination to ensure that this new club would cater equally for the few on the top of the charts, for the many mid-table members and for the back-of-the-pack stars. Chapeau Dave! Your determination and vision brought 42 new members into triathlonland.
I want to thank all the club members who helped out. One competitor mentioned that there were nearly as many marshals as athletes. Their support and encouragement was immense! Finally, I want to say a very big thank you to two wonderful coaches….Ann in Clonea Leisure Centre and Natalie. Ann got me started in mid-December. Three lessons, then she told me to go and practice what she taught me! It took me until mid-January to swim a length of the pool, and I never looked back after that. Natalie taught a weekly lesson right through the spring. She coaxed, encouraged, pushed and guided me and many others. But here’s the thing: I specifically remember one session back in March when I was close to packing it in. Natalie had the insight to just leave me alone and muddle my way through my doubts! By early June, although my swimming stamina was still missing, I KNEW deep down that I would complete my first triathlon.
Tried & Tested. PASSED.

Finally, finally: I thought it was very fitting that Tried & Tested Triathlon club made to make a financial contribution to Dungarvan Bay and Helvick Head RNLI Fundraising Branch.

Our efforts also help others
Our efforts also help others

For a selection of event photos check here. Also theres a complete set of event albums here.

So, what comes next? Lots of cycling in July and August as I prepare for Endurance Challenge 2068. I will be cycling the nine counties of Ulster and the six of Munster over five days in mid-August.

Monday 11th: Armagh Town to Derry City.
Via: Banbridge, Antrim.
Distance: 174km or 7-8 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Tuesday 12th: Derry City to Enniskillen.
Via: Strabane, Donegal Town, Ballyshannon.
Distance: 139km or 6-7 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Wednesday 13th: Enniskillen to Armagh.
Via: Cavan, Castleblayney.
Distance: 124km or 6.5-7.5 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Sunday 17th: Cork City to Limerick City.
Via: Killarney.
Distance: 172km or 8-9 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Monday 18th: Limerick City to Cork City.
Via: O’Briens Bridge, Cahir, Lismore
Distance: 209km or 8-9 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Post update coming soon. Watch this space…

Questions:
For triatltetes out there, what are your memories of your first one?
Did you compete at the Dungarvan Triathlon? Want to share your experience?
Why is an important day called a “red-letter-day”?

Dungarvan Triathlon Gallery: June 28th, 2014

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He’s got the Edge: winner, Chris Mintern

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Note: BIG RED SIGN !!!

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Ready, steady, GO

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Dungarvan Triathlon Club

Want to see all the photos? Check it out at Dungarvan Triathlon Flickr Photos

Click here to return to my account of My First Triathlon