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It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t give up when you’re tired. You give up when the gorilla is tired

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Once again it’s short (and sweet?) this week because painting has been prioritised over cycling. The timing was good actually, because the weather turned foul and a week of rest (from the bike) will be good.

Last Sunday our lovely group had an easy week too. The route was shortened as we wanted to keep the bikes clean, so instead of heading to Ballyduff after getting up the tricky little hill near Tallow, we returned directly to base with only the important coffee-stop and group photo to delay us.

Knockroe Hill is just outside Tallow in County Waterford. Yes, it’s a decent hill, and one not normally cycled up or down simply because there’s a longer less steep detour. It’s short at just 1k and registers on the steepometer at 10%. In short, yes it’s a bit tricky.

We conducted a quick survey in in advance, to find that of the 17 in the group, only 2 had completed it. All completed the job very capably, so from here on it’s on to bigger hills!

Climbing an unknown hill can be a bit nerve-wracking. The body must push hard, and sometimes beyond hard. Grit and determination are needed, oftentimes to a degree not shown before. On top of that, the head must send the right messages. The bike must be right too. The last thing a climber wants is some silly mechanical that ruins the long sought-after rhythm. If there’s an element missing the hill becomes torture, and the result may be in the balance. It’s a battle, really. A physical and mental battle. Preparation is key, and it’s a good idea to have a plan. At our level of cycling, it’s not a competition, so the trick is to settle into an easy rhythm. If a cyclist is fit, this alone will get him (her) to the top. What other advice might be helpful?

  • Cycle against the hill, not against another cyclist
  • Stand out of the saddle for brief periods (maybe 10-20 seconds) every few minutes
  • Change position on the saddle. Sit further back for a short while to use different muscles
  • Focus on breathing. When the gradient becomes very steep, deep breathing is important. Take in a huge amount of air through open mouth, and then force  it out quickly
  • If you have a heart monitor, use it wisely. More on this later
  • Do not climb in the drops. Some can do this, but the general advice is to avoid it. Oxygen intake is restricted
  • Zig-zag the road if it’s safe to do so

In life, there are many hills and valleys to pass and you cannot avoid them! The most important thing you need is to know this: You must pass them!

There will be harder hills to come during the year ahead. Many in this Group 4 are targeting the Sean Kelly 160 in August, and apart from the length of the ride, it’s the hills that will get into people’s heads. But, despite tackling this little hill last Sunday, the plan is to have a couple of easy spins until February rolls around. Even then, it’s very early in the process. Late March and April will be time enough to put Power’s the Pot and the Maama Road on the agenda. Mahon Falls will likely be conquered in May, and the dreaded Tickincor in June. July will be spent combining at least two of four these challenges in various combinations.

For now, our Group 4 are content that they’ve climbed a hill harder than any they’ve met before. Time to savour the satisfaction of a job well done, take a few easy spins together and extend the cycling distance to 100k over the next few weeks.

It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t give up when you’re tired. You give up when the gorilla is tired.

come-on-mister-hill
Great tips here: How to cycle uphill (Photo Bernard Thompson)

Is there a best way to train to become stronger on hills? I’m sure that there are as many ways as there are coaches selling them, but much of the advice may be similar. Over the next few weeks, I’ll pass on some of the advice I’ve been given by experienced riders. Stay tuned, and in the meantime ride that hill!

Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,

Páraig

About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking,  a firm believer that TEAM is the motto (Together Everybody Achieves More) and that life’s obstacles are there to make him stronger. Coffee helps with everything too.

The Sean Kelly 2016

Mahon Falls was called out-of-bounds because of adverse weather conditions. The elder lemons amongst us rejoiced whereas the newbies felt cheated.

There is no better way to start this post than by grabbing the report from the group PRO:

“There was a sense of nervous excitement amongst G3 on Sunday last. For some it was another chapter in the Sean Kelly role of honour, for others a totally new experience. Jitters out of the way it was a peppy 30kmh spin to Carrick aided by a tailwind. Then to the first major climb of the day as Tickonor lay in wait, but it was nothing to be feared and was ably dealt with. In heavy misty rain it was on to Powers the Pot and a difficult climb due to visability. 100k in the legs and a welcome stop in Rathgormack where we heard the devastating news that Mahon Falls was closed due to adverse weather. The elder lemons amongst us rejoiced whereas the newbies felt cheated. However it is hard to keep G3 down and they made the best of the situation. Up the Mahon Bridge and safely across the Mauma, it was a jubilant group who sailed home safely. A special mention must go to group captain Anthony who coordinated the training plan that ensured we all completed the course comfortably on Sunday. From all of us thank you and roll on the class of 2017!”

They Say it’s All About The Bike. No, It’s Not

On an event such as this, it’s all about the group. One for all and all for one. In running circles it parallels the Dublin Marathon, demanding stamina and perseverance. The group dynamic is critical in getting everyone to the finish line. There were times last Sunday where the elder lemons did their duty in minding and nursing first-timers. In turn, these newbies displayed true grit and acceptance of this one-for-all ethos so critical on this epic event. Our Group 3 had a mixed bag. There were young and not so young, experienced been-there-wore-the-tshirt bikers together with some who have come to this life-changing sport within the past twelve months. Everyone had trained consistently in the run-up and everybody subscribed fully to the group structure.

The First Time Is The Sweetest

Huge congratulations are in order to DCC members Carol, Benny, Tomás, PJ, Ray and Brendan as part of our Group 3, and to Paul, Ed, Chris, Johnny, Áine and Judit who completed the event with style in other groups. Ian also gets an honourable mention, as he was unable to finish because of a mechanical… cycling can be a bitch!   You are all now enrolled in the SKT 160 band of warriors along with the dozens, if not hundreds, of cyclists who conquered the Comeragh Challenge for the first time. I know that the first is the sweetest, and it’s very likely that you will be responsible from here on for encouraging others to follow you. You may even have to cajole and tell a few white lies to impart a firm self-belief in your chosen would-be comrade! You will be the ones who will assist in looking and minding future first-timers.

I completed my first Sean Kelly 160 in 2007. Unfortunately, it was back in my pre-blogging past and the details are lost, but what stood out for me was the support and you can-do-it attitude I received from others who rode with me back then.

This is now our wish for you: go on to better things if you choose. Give the gift to others. Be sure to mention that it’s not all about the bike.

With this in mind, I contacted some of our 160k first-timers, and asked for their feedback. I leave it to the reader to take in the following, in the sure hope that these quotes will encourage others to take on major challenges in years to come:

My memory is the butterflies in my stomach coming in the road. It was almost an energy or anticipation like before playing a county final or starting a new school, can’t describe it. On the spin round it was unbelievable: the camaraderie between the group, the more experienced cyclists seemed to have a sixth sense as to when we were struggling and there were words of both encouragement but also techniques provided at just the right time. What I also noticed was that that it wasn’t always from the same person passing on the advice but actually came from a combination of every cyclist in the group at varying times. The feeling as we worked as a team was unbelievable. Coming down from Colligan was unbelievable, and coming in from the “Nissan Garage” as the streets got busier and hearing the sound of the announcer giving a big shout out to the DCC contingent was surreal. Only then did the achievement hit home. SKT 50K in 2014, 100K in 2015 and 160K in 2016. Progression due to DCC.

 

My goal for the last 12 months was finally going to be realized. Prior to the event I was racked with self doubt. Despite having trained hard and consistently over the summer I could not imagine putting it all together on the day. But there was no need to worry. As soon as I clipped in the nerves disappeared, the miles flew by and the support and genuine bond from my cycling family contributed to one of the best days of the year so far. A remarkable experience that I will never forget.

Don’t you just love “one of the best days of the year SO FAR”? I think there are further challenges ahead!

I am very happy to have achieved something that not too long ago was way beyond my wildest dreams. It is something I would never achieved without the encouragement and support of my comrades-in-arms and friends in Group 3. On the day everyone looked out for one another and it was some thrill to arrive back into town as a group.

More feedback from first-timers here

I Felt Good All Day

My legs were good last Sunday. I was properly prepared, rested and fresh. I can safely record this as the most satisfying of my six Sean Kelly 160 tours. A recent regret of mine is that I’ve not done the Dublin Marathon, but I’ve realised that I have completed its cycling equivalent. As marathon runners tell me, apart from the elation of a first finish, the feeling of a best marathon also lasts a lifetime.

What Did We Learn Today?

Here’s my take on items of note. Perhaps we were aware of some of these, but nonetheless they are worthy of a mention.

  1. Group cycling is the bees knees
  2. Ticincor is not to be feared
  3. It would have been good to have a spoke fix-it-me-bob
  4. Weather is irrelevant
  5. Uphills are part of life
  6. You can complete this even with a wobbly wheel
  7. We can do Mahon Falls whenever we want (but not on Monday)
  8. A light on the bike is sometimes useful, even in summer
  9. A story shortens the road
  10. An after-burger shortens the road
  11. Insert your own comment here
Happy 10th Birthday Sean Kelly Tour

I was surprised and delighted to receive an invitation in the post last week to a very pleasant function on the evening before the spin. I had been on the Sean Kelly Tour committee for the first two years, and my contribution was acknowledged, along with several others. My very special thanks to all involved, and especially to Rosarie, Karen and Johnny in Waterford Sports Partnership, to Sinead who is currently heading up the organisation of this massive event, and of course to Sean himself. The little sip of champagne worked its magic for me, as I had good legs all day.

Thanks And Appreciations
  • Finally, I want to place on record my grateful thanks to the many many individuals who gave their time to assist with marshalling and catering. This event is not only about cycling. It is truly a community event.
  • Secondly, to the guys and gals from Naas who joined with us for the day. I always like cycling with ye because ye have an attitude very similar to our club. Thanks for coming along.
  • Finally, to Dungarvan Cycling Club. Without this fine club, our cycling would be very different. Thank you to all who help to make it better.
Last word to Mr. Tutu:

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring” – Desmond Tutu

Links

There’s a new service called “Relive”. It plots the spin from the air. Relive our spin here.

Strava 2016 SKT 160K

Look back to 2010

Comeragh Challenge First-timers’ Feedback

Following on from my recent post about the 2016 Sean Kelly 160k Tour, here’s a selection of further feedback from Dungarvan Cycling Club members who took on the Comeragh Challenge for the first time.

Apprehension about the weather, nerves regarding adequate preparation and fear of not finishing pretty much describes my run up to the Sean Kelly 160 as a first timer! The day itself passed both quickly (Dungarvan to Carrick) and slowly (Powers the Pot and Mauma) and included a few unexpected mechanical challenges thrown in for good measure. I joined various cycling groups from around the country at different stages of the day and this made all the difference in terms of moral support, communal suffering and of course a bit of banter to distract from the pain in my legs! After what seemed like days on the saddle, I had climbed the last climb and all that was left was for me to experience the euphoria of the Colligan descent, the glorious speed bumps coming into Kilrush and the sense of achievement, a feeling that can not be described until you have completed the SKT 160!

 

As I joined DCC earlier this year completing the 160k was all but a dream. As my cycling progressed and with encouragement from group 23k I took on the challenge of the 160k on the SKT. As the big day arrived I was crippled with doubt. Were people right? Was the 160k just for the pros? But as I headed towards Carrick with fellow a club member, the buzz that is SKT took hold, all doubts were forgotten and we took on the beast that is Tinkincor. Remembering advice from the seniors that unless you are Chris Froome slow and steady allows you conquer Tinkincor without unclipping or grinding to a halt. The banther and chats to other groups along the way, saw the kilometers quickly come and go. Words of encouragement from other cyclists were aplenty as we conquered Powers the Pot, Mahon Falls and Mauma Road. I never thought I would feel so disappointed not to be allowed cycle up to the top of Mahon Falls. As we crossed the finish line the sense of achievement was unreal. All the hard work in training had paid off and a dream that seemed impossible no longer the case. Thanks to DCC for the support, advice and coaching, but most of all the fun and new friends.

Any other first-timers out there who might like to send your feedback report? Please make contact with me, and I’ll be happy to include you here!