A journey is of no merit unless it has tested you. (Tahir Shah, In Search of King Solomon’s Mines)
Saturday, 11th February, 2017.
Weather: severe cold with strong north-east wind.
Our February long spin headed towards Kilkenny on a cold windy morning. Tom, Declan and I were accompanied by Tony on his maiden Audax 180k. Fortunately we also had the company of Ray, Johnny and Benny for the initial 40k to Waterford. This turned into a 50k spin because Declan broke a pedal (right pedal to be precise) and after a few kilometres of pedal-in pedal-out, he decided to divert home for a replacement. The rest of the group cycled on to Griffin’s Garage and turned right to meet with him again just at Five Cross Roads. The three lads doing the shorter spin were very good to us, staying on the front for the entire journey to Waterford while we sat protected from the wind, avoiding exposure as much as possible
As they turned for home, we realised how much work they had done and how much work lay ahead of us. In fact, having negotiated our way through the city, we faced an even stronger headwind for a full 50k to Ballyhale, Stoneyford and Kilkenny. For this section we decided to ride single-file so that three would be able to shelter behind the leader, and we rotated every few minutes. Anyone who has cycled this road will know that it is very slightly uphill for the first 20k, but there is a lovely slight descent most of the way to Kilkenny after that.
Tired and cold, we sat in for a beautiful lunch at an Italian restaurant just beside the Nore bridge in the city centre. How lovely to be served good fresh food rather than pre-cooked fare. Each of us had soup followed by lasagna, and departed for the return journey in good spirits. The fantastic tailwind blew us on towards Callan and Carrick, and as soon as we reached the top of the climb at Crehana we knew it was plain sailing from there. On the final leg we ramped up the pace a bit to Durrow and once we viewed the sea at Ballyvoile we pushed on harder still to the finish.
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking. He has completed many 200k events, and is hoping to try Audax Ireland long-distance cycling up to 600k. If there’s any time to spare, Paraig also has a gardening blog at Petals by Paraig.
Together with the SMART goal picture above, she has included a selfie cartoon. I’m sticking with the original SMART goals, and including my selfie:
I’ve got a few goals for 2017. My top two are seemingly complete opposites, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
Goal #1: do everything necessary to continue enjoying my cycling
Goal #2: complete long-distance Audax events up to and including 600k
It seems very difficult to be SMART about how to achieve enjoyment. Perhaps it’ll just happen if I go with my gut feeling. Perhaps enjoyment cannot be written down, planned or organised.
My second goal will need very specific planning! Writing down the details of this goal and giving them exposure here will be my form of SMART planning, in order to give myself the best possible chance of achieving what I set out to.
Donald Trump has been installed as the 45th president of the United States of America. Has he got a few SMART goals, I wonder? And even if he does, he sure doesn’t have a Bitmoji selfie to match @bikingqueen or myself.
Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking, and whenever not on the bike or writing about it, you’ll likely find him in the garden or writing about it. Páraig loves a subtle blend of specific planning to achieve goals and a lazy it’ll-be-grand outlook.
Monday, August 18th. Endurance Challenge 2068 Tour of Munster Day 2.
It’s all about people, isn’t it? The people working at Breakthrough Cancer Research are there to help people. Those of us cycling today were there to support Endurance Challenge 2068, in turn helping others.
A slow re-run of my mental slideshow of the week brings people into focus, and brings with it a clear view of each person’s intent to be there for others. Yes, we love our bikes and our cycling egos. Yes, we will betimes do our dammdest to outclock one another on a carefully-targeted Strava segment. Yes, we can seem to think more about our bikes than anything else!
But here’s the punchline…we do it all to be social. To be with people whose bike-passion is similar; to have the craic over coffee, sometimes to claim little bragging rights or to at least offer stiff excuses to negate the tiny victories of good friends!
The real reason we biked the 106 miles through three counties today was to support one another on a life-journey. Actually, seeing that in print sounds a bit corny, but I’ll not withdraw it! I spoke with Eddie on the final roll to the finish, and he commented on how much the ten days had meant to him. “It had everything except a new-born baby!”, was his summing up. He’s just about right, I’d say, as my memories of five of the days will prove to me.
The details of where I went, and how much I enjoyed the cycling must wait until the latter end of this article, as I attempt to do my summing up of the most important part of the week…the wonderful people who I met with, spoke with briefly or at length, and shared with me a small portion of their story.
As I mentioned earlier, the memories are a slow-motion slideshow on my mind, and I am grateful for each and every slide! Some are slightly blurred as I remember certain conversations but not the name of the biker, while others are crystal clear. As in life, some central characters made strong impression, while others played a supporting role. All are part of the show, as we rolled on from Limerick, to O’Brien’s Bridge, Birdhill, Cappamore, Bansha, Tipperary, Cahir, Clogheen, Lismore, Tallow and Dungourney before arriving to a rapturous welcome in Midleton.
So, my attempt to bring some slides into focus includes the following (in no particular order):
Oonagh, who is off doing a half-ironman in two weeks
Ger, a teacher from Farranfore who was in his younger days teaching near Dungarvan, and renting in Fitzgeralds Terrace, my childhood homeplace. We swapped lovely stories of a wonderful Stradbally man, Sean Ahearne.
Leonard is married to a lady from Seapark, Abbeyside
Peter brings music to Dungarvan, working in the piano business
Two proud Tipperary men (Johnny & ???) , quietly savouring the match result, yet knowing that it was the strength of the Rebel boys (and girls too!) that brought them safely to the finish line. Perhaps, the Premier boys will cross next month’s finish line just a little bit ahead?
Donie…jeepers lad, you had a lot to put up with from me, but the cycling was massive. Thank you
Johnny, you too had a restless night, and yet the support on the road was top notch!
Tony, thanks for the chats, the fist-thumping and your gentle leadership along the way. You won’t forget we have a little cycle trip in the planning for the Autumn?
Brendan, I’d love to be as mad as ya, and as sound as ya at the same time! Brendan paid me the ULTIMATE compliment when he said in a strong Cork brogue: “You know, the other fella is the road captain…but you are the general!” (Ego now downsizing again after that out-of-characher blip…)
Nessa, I’m gonna get my head chopped off for this, but…if I were a woman, I’d be a Nessa!
Eoin, working the Dungarvan circuit, unknowingly tried to destabilise me with High5 Zero electrolytes
Catherine for the hidden stash of Bassett sweets and your extraordinary care for us throughout
Tommy, Kieran, Jim and Brian…the long road is shortened with good stories. I’m still wondering who sponsored the shorts?
Niall, what can I say? I caught a sideways glance at the finish. You were so proud of us, and of the entire event. Rightly so too, captain, my captain! Were it not for you I might not have been at the start line. This entire event was an immense accomplishment on your part!
Bernie, you looked a wee bit shocked as I pointed out the run section of our local Waterford Adventure Race atop the Vee
Nick, you grew rapidly into your role as road-captain, thrust upon you by circumstances. You will surely never ckimb the Vee again with such satisfaction, keeping a group of 31 together all the way to the summit!
Eugene…it was a huge privilege to be with you. Your reaction to the views near the Vee hairpin made me even more aware of the beauty on my Waterford / Tipperary doorstep!
Mike, back from a fundraising cycle for the Hospice Foundation in Spain, content to fund it yourself, and repeat the dose again around most of Ireland. You’re the main man!
James & Sean… are getting used to all the kudos for this mammoth event? I learned a lot from listening to bits of your life-story, and like many many others, I was inspired to go the extra mile, not just on this event, but along life’s twisty road ahead.
The huge contingent from Midleton CTC…ye made this tour EPIC.
After that ramble, the details of the cycling seem less important. To offer a brief summary, we cycled the 106 miles with a tailwind, stopped briefly at 11.59am and offered a silent prayer, pushed on through the Premier County to lunch in Cahir, before approaching Clogheen with caution. Many in the group had developed myths about the Vee. There were worried questions that needed answering. Here’s the lowdown: the group were of one mind. We decided to keep all 31 together going up, and it is a tribute to Barry & Nick that this plan was executed to perfection. Downwards then through the Déise, the final county on the Endurance Challenge on magnificent roads, before heading on to Tallow and over the border into Midleton.
I learned a new word today : stravatise. It’s a verb. The act of logging a journey on strava. Well holy God!
The Irish Examiner has a great article today about the event. Not the same little quirky bits you see on blogs, but important nevertheless. Final word to James: It is only when cancer “touches someone close to you” that all your trust and hope goes into treatments, which stem from cancer research. “We really hope our challenge will raise much needed awareness and funds for Breakthrough Cancer Research,” he said.. Here’s the full story.
I was rested, and raring to go once again. The three days in Ulster at the beginning of the week merely whetted my appetite for more, and because the organisers are from the east-Cork town of Midleton this was definitely classed as the spin of the year! The cyclists’ mecca on this All-Ireland semi-final Sunday. Oops, sorry…don’t mention the hurling.
Today’s jaunt through Counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick was an epic day in the saddle. The stats are massive. 138 miles @ 16.7mph in 8h15m. Stats do not tell the real story, though.
Here’s the real story: 38 seriously fit cyclists watching out for one another, helping out always and keeping a happy bunch rolling along nicely, thank you very much. This was critically important during the first four hour journey via Cork, Macroom, Killarney to the lunch stop in Castleisland, as we faced a very fresh headwind.
As we turned north-east towards our destination, the wind became our friend. However, when one door opens another slams you in the face! In this case, despite a more favourable wind, there’s a five-mile section of “dead road” heading up out of Castleisland, and it became very important to drop the pace and keep the strong group together.
Cycling in a group is estimated to be up to 30% more efficient, so there’s a big onus on all in the group to ensure that everyone benefits from this saving of energy. On three occasions, following my turn at the front, my mind began playing tricks with me. It’s a long way to Limerick. Maybe you’ll get there, maybe you won’t. Are you sure you’re strong enough? These thoughts need to be killed off without mercy.
There’s no better way to ensure that happens than to ride within the umbrella of a group that is intent on maintaining pace, rhythm and all its’ members.
That’s exactly what happened, and we thrived on hard work to Newcastle West and Patrickswell, and finally knocked it back a few notches as we entered the Limerick city limits.
My highlights included:
1. Meeting James Colbert’s mam as she joined with us to Cork City
2. Lunch at the Country Market in Castleisland, and their innovative coffee-serving technique.
3. A full 15 miles beyond my previous longest spin
4. Catherine’s Basset sweets once again.
So, it’s early to bed and early to rise…you know…it’s the attempt to build up a store of wisdom! There’s a stiff note of caution, however: tomorrow’s another day, and the bike won’t cycle itself. Night night from the Strand Hotel in the Treaty city. Night John Boy.
Postscript: I missed having Mike Collins alingside today. Get well soon mate, and hopefully we’ll meet in Dungarvan next Sunday…
Armagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Ulster, bike, endurance bike, challenge, craic, British, lafies rugby, world cup, tailwind
Tour of Ulster. Enniskillen to Armagh. Wednesday, August 13th
It is done. This big target was set back in late March, and today it has been ticked off the list.
After a most delicious breakfast at the Enniskillen Hotel served by the most professional & friendly staff I’ve ever come across, Brian, our resident mechanic, was keen that to put some oil on the chains, after horriffic rain yesterday.
An earlier 9am start to coincide with a rising westerly wind, pushed us along briskly lo lunch in Castleblaney and our final destination back to Armagh City Hotel. We took it easy today. It was a day to savour after two tough ones. Marion and her cousin Marguerite were waiting for us, and after photographs and a very short chat among the Ulster Warriors we went our separate ways. We intended staying longer, but the cavalcade was moving on to Dublin for the next phase, and they looked like some beauty-sleep was badly needed…
I want to thank many people. In no particular order: Niall the head honcho, Tommy & Kieran on lead van, Catherine for the food stops (especially the Bassett sweets!) and Brian our mechanic. They watched over us. They organised our bike-day from top to bottom, and were fantastic.
I’d like to thank all who donated to my charity page or gave me cash, and finally I want to record my appreciation to my ten bike buddies for good safe cycling over the three days. Unfortunately all ten were were no craic at all. As dry as sticks, they were…but, sure, isn’t it the fundraising that’s most important?
I am back with these no-craic-at-all-at-all cyclists for the Tour of Munster on Sunday and Monday next. Report to follow.
The staff at the Enniskillen Hotel
Sun & tailwind
Rolling countryside of Cavan & Monaghan
A little extra excursion around some lonely unmarked roads
Tailwind. Did I mention tailwind?
And last but not least…the staff at the hotel
The village of Drung. I noticed that the Irish and English spelling is exactly the same. One in italics the other in CAPITALS. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to figure out which was which. Does anybody know of any other placenames with this feature?
No craic? Well, I hope you weren’t fooled by that!
So, that’s it from me, and that’s it from Ulster. I need to go watch the Irish ladies rugby world cup semi-final against England.
You’ve had an overload of Spring Forwarding, and it’s important for you to wait a wee while for the next wee story.
Tonight the update will be short and sweet, unlike the spin today with Endurance Challenge. A whopping 107 miles from Armagh to Derry through five of the Ulster Counties.
If Heineken did wind, t’would be the best wind, and always at your back. I think today’s wind was supplied by Murphy’s stout. Granted we had tailwind for an hour. After that, we didn’t.
group spirit, despite the conditions
lunch in Randalstown together with impromptu entertainment by young Irish world dancing champion
the view from Barnsmore Gap
the great people of Northern Ireland. They are so friendly and they are do delighted to welcome us here.
Did you notice the GoPro speed camera on Sean Buckley’s helmet? Penalty points for some of us today!
The leaba is now calling, and I’ll not be found wanting. Tomorrow we head south to Enniskillen. I’ll be dreaming of a tailwind. Just hope it doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
Just heard the sad news that Robin Williams has died. I just had to google him and came up with… “You’re only given one little spark of madness. Don’t lose it”.
There’s a few Cork lads here who seemed to have been given a double dose, and they sure know how to use it!
Tour de Suir 160k, Sunday August 3rd, 2014
When I was very young , my grandmother told me the story about the stationmaster in Cahir, County Tipperary. Unfortunately he had a speech impediment and the town of Cahir became “Here”. As the train would approach, he was heard to call out: “Here ye are for where ye’re goin. All within for Here come out”
This childhood memory came back to me as I sat outside The Galtee Inn, in Cahir during the week, but it suddenly dawned on my that there isn’t a train station in Cahir. Maybe there’s part-truth there somewhere, though. It returned to my thoughts once again as we departed Clonmel Park Hotel at 8am for the 160k Tour de Suir 2014. Here we are, for where we’ re going…
I had been very fortunate to get breakfast! No milk in the fridge earlier, and coffee and bread is not exactly bike-fodder. No milk either for my usual scrambled eggs on sportive mornings. Nothing for it but to bring my bowl, spoon and muesli with me, and I thanked heaven when I found a shop open early in Clonmel. Chatting and munching prior to the start, I knew that my day was saved.
Stage 1 to Aherlow: While the general feeling was that the low turnout was a bit disappointing, we did not let it affect us as the 45 headed out towards Cahir at a very lively pace. The stiff westerly breeze made it all the more important to stay within the protection of the peloton. Time to Cahir was 27 mins @ 18.6pmh
The lead car pulled aside after Cahir and we were left to our own devices. I think the wise heads at the front made the correct decision to not be tempted into race mode, because of the long journey ahead. They were surely tiring from being in the wind and soon the group got a good up-and-over rhythm going well, bringing us speedily to Tipperary and on towards the first big Tour de Suir challenge. Average pace to Aherlow was 19.6pmh. That’s fast for me!
I was in the top four at the foot of the climb. Some veterans had given me a quick summary of the profile. It rises 475 feet in 1.4 miles @ 7%. This is deceptive, as there is a short almost-flat section before half-way. Up to 15% early on and a hurting 18& near the top. Time: 9m 10s. At the front I kept a strong tempo over the first steep kilometre and eased back into a flatter section. However, the last kilometre near the top put me in the red, and I had no choice but to back off. Once I recovered and got over, I enjoyed the downhill and waited for my group at the bottom.
Descending is a bike skill in itself, a skill I am beginning to master only recently. It involves three components (that I can think of): positioning on the bike, bike handling and confidence; and it is generally accepted that confidence is the key. On this descent, the road surface is not great, but I was glad that it was dry. The group ahead were out of sight and I was alone. This meant that I was more easily able to pick my line through the bends and be safer.
Onwards then on very undulating and unforgiving roads to a very welcome banana-stop in Galbally, where we assembled a larger possee to see us through to the next phase of the battle. Distance covered 33 miles. Exactly one third of the way.
Stage 2 to Ballyporeen. A group of 10, mostly Dungarvan-based, brought a good steady pace to the proceedings: Vincent Feeney, Frank Browne, Dave Byrne, Louie Dowley, Francis Walsh and mé féin, together with other strong and equally sensible group members. Before you could say “Are we there yet?” there we were, in Ballyporeen for more bananas! We timed it well too, as we enjoyed watching a heavy shower outside with warm coffee inside! Distance covered 51 miles. Still a long way to go!
My mother grew up a few short mikes from here in a place called Kilcaroon, on mountain farmland. It is a place in the Premier County that brings back fond memories of boyhood summers. But, as the “Airplane” script goes…that’s not important now.
Stage 3: The final 49 miles was the Big Challenge, bringing us over the Vee, and on to Lismore and Cappoquin at a fierce rate of tailwind knots. The long drag up Millstreet to the Clonmel road was tough, and it was here that we began to look around to make sure that our buddies were ok. In reality, it’s not a drag. It’s a long hill. But because its only a little hill in comparison to the three big ones, it can be overlooked. Dangerous mistake! All hills are hard, and we hit this one after 130k. Safely up, we pushed on to Ballymacarbery and stopped to breathe deeply, eat, drink and sympathise with one another in advance. We knew what was ahead! Powers the Pot rises more than 900 feet over 3.5 miles @ 5%, but it has the advantage that it’s a constant incline, rather than varied steepness as was the case with Aherlow. However, after nearly 90 miles of cranking it along it must be given lots of respect. “Multo respecto”, the Romans would say about this. Twenty-two minutes later I crested the top, unable to shake off Francis, despite trying hard! When w all regrouped at a junction on the descent, it was with a huge sigh of relief. Finally, the windy descent (as in twisted, not with wind) on good surface to Clonmel was thrilling, and we arrived safely and without mechanical mishaps to the finish line, to be presented with our unexpected medals.
Pace 17.7 mph in old money
Verdict: A joy to be in a good working group all day!
Man of the Match: Louie Dowley, off the bike for nearly three weeks. When he needed to find an extra gear, he got it from somewhere deep! Chapeau, old chap!
Tour de Suir 160k blog by Pat Burke. Managed to hang on to this 28.5kph group for 162k! http://t.co/53Iqusk2jz
The three-day Suir Valley race, finished on the very same Power’s the Pot the following day and was won impressively by Mark Dowling. Well done, young man! Here’s a StickyBottle. report. As we crested the summit on our version of the race, there were no supporters to cheer us on. Just ourselves and some lonely sheep!
Interestingly, in order to add a touch of race reality to the event, we were chip-timed, and I received this text shortly afterwards. I was tempted to reply indicating that it did not take account of our time eating bananas and drinking coffee, but it was a no-reply number. All is well!
Finally, to round off one of my rather long event reports, I mentioned the story to Vinny Feeney about the day myself and Philip Cleary met a bull standing in the middle of the road just before Ballyporeen. Back about ten years ago, I’d say. We had been cycling from Limerick, and were suddenly stopped in our tracks. The bull looked dazed, and we ventured carefully past, hugging the ditch, walking inside the bikes for protection! Vinny laughed back, because I had forgotten one important part of the story…Vinny had been there with us that day too! Just goes to show… I would have remembered it if I’d been blogging back then.