Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The 2015 Ring of Kerry Cycle

I wasn't too bothered about taking part in this years Ring of Kerry cycle but come pre-registration day FOMO got the better of me and in a last minute rush of blood to the head, I phoned Aisling and we signed up. She didn't even have a bike, I had to dig mine back out from somewhere in the back of the shed. We went on two cycles prior to the 180km Ring which in hindsight is probably the dictionary definition of 'How NOT to train for something'.

I had been in Brussels on holidays the week before the cycle so I came home two days before the cycle stuffed to the gills from one too many Aperol Spritz and delicious Belgian chocolates. Myself and Aisling were planning on heading to Killarney at 3pm on Friday in advance of our intended 6:30am departure time the following morning. But unfortunately for Aisling, it wasn't meant to be, she turned up at my door on Friday evening looking like death warmed up ever so slightly. With a heavy heart Aisling went home to duvet while I drove the three hours to Killarney with the music pumping and the windows down, bike in boot.

I got to Killarney just before 7pm where I finally got to meet the wonderful Derick (@chefyd) and Edel (@dellers) at Registration. We even had time for a selfie before I ran off to meet the gang from work as we were all staying together in Neptunes Hotel. It was early(ish) to bed as they decided to aim for a revised start time of 6am. I was kinda flummoxed as my original plan all along had been to trudge on with Aisling but suddenly I was facing the prospect of cycling it on my lonesome. The work gang had been training together and had their own plans for the day so I didn't want to be holding anyone back (bearing in mind this was going to be my third cycle this year!)

Hanging with the Kerry-folk!

My alarm went off at 5am and following a quick breakfast in the hostel, we got a quick photo of the work gang at the start line and we were off... By the first kilometre I had lost everyone from work (dammit!) but I happily peddled on. The experience this time around was so different to last year as I knew what was ahead of me. I still took in the fantastic atmosphere and had the chat with loads of cyclists as I made my way around the first 60km to the food stop in Caherciveen.

The Work Crew

As I parked my bike, I met Joe, Caitriona and Barry (from work) who all had cycled the first 60km on their own. We must have been only minutes apart. The work kit is great as you can spot it a mile off but as it had been raining, everyone was wearing jackets! After a quick 15 minute stop, the four of us headed off together. Myself and Joe lost Barry and Caitriona about 5 minutes in to the second leg of the journey. I was so glad to have company for this section as I felt I needed the distraction (Thanks Joe!).

Caherciveen Food Stop

As we reached the Coomakista Climb (90km), we met back up with Barry and climbed the peak together. The views from the top made the climb (which seemed so much longer this year) worthwhile. After a small pit stop (and water refill) we enjoyed every bit of the downhill ride and cycled together to the food stop in Kenmare (140km). This is the main difference I find with cycling versus running - it's so much more social. We could talk, stop, grab a Nature Valley Bar (they were everywhere!!!) - there was no major panic or rush to finish and every time someone fell behind, we waited.

The view from the climb up Coomakista

Taking a break at the top...

The food stop in Kenmare was like a mirage when it finally appeared (the signs kept claiming Food Stop Ahead which lead us to believe they meant just up ahead, not another 15k ahead). Again we were spoiled in Kenmare with enough sandwiches, Jaffa cakes and tea to feed an army. It was after 2pm and we knew we just had the climb to Molls Gap to get over and it was plain sailing home. The climb was tough, a lot tougher than I remembered it being - maybe I was tired, or my lack of training was showing but I've never been as happy to get off the bike at the top. We had time for a quick selfie with the lads and then we freewheeled down the far side of Molls towards Killarney.

At the top of Molls Gap

We finished just before 4pm which ironically meant I completed the Ring about 15 minutes faster than last year. In reality, the stops weren't as long as last year but still, I while I was quite chuffed to get my finishers certificate, I was happier to get a pint at the bar in the finishers area. The Ring was yet again enjoyable and something I'm glad I did but if I'm honest, it didn't have the same magic as it did for me last year. Maybe it was because I was missing Aisling, or maybe because I hadn't put any work into training for it so I didn't have that inner sense of accomplishment like I didn't last year, so much so, once I got back from Kerry, I put the bike straight back into the shed where it'll more than likely stay until FOMO kicks in next year and I sign up again for the 2016 Ring.

BOOM! Coming in for the finish! (Pic by Killarney Camera Club - Link)

Finish Line - 2015!

As I've said already, the thing I love about cycling is the social aspect to it - and nothing like 11,000 cyclists to make a city come alive. Killarney was buzzing Saturday, and after dinner with the work gang, we hit the town which was buzzing (and wedged). I got to meet the handsome Alan (@alanjdaly) who had also cycled the Ring and his equally dashing other half, Samuel (@huntersr86). We spent the night dancing to the most random tunes (think Wyclef Jean followed by Maniac 2000) in the most random late bar. I fell in the door of the hostel after 3am wrecked... but happy.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Failure doesn't come from falling down...

Losing weight is tough, maintaining at goal weight is tough, putting weight back on is tough. Each of these are different kinds of tough, I know as I've faced each of them at different stages over the past few years. Self-restraint can be challenging, motivation comes and goes and despite what anyone tells you (even your leader!), being disciplined is tough. I believe no one can be perfect all of the time. But for me, the hardest kind of tough is when you feel like whatever progress you've previously made is slipping away from you.

I know my weight is going to be something I will have to remain actively engaged with for the rest of my life. It's not like college where once you graduate you have your degree forever more and thats it. All you have to do is take your eyes off the ball for a short period of time and old habits can rear their ugly head. I had a weigh-in on June 2nd (the day after I ran the Cork Marathon) and I was 13st 5lbs. I weighed in on Tuesday (July 7th, one month later) at 14st 1lb. Christ! That's TWO STONE heavier than I was at my lightest in August 2013 and I'm right back at where I was at the beginning of the year!

Its like the Lough Ness Monster

In my head I'm trying to justify this with arguments like 'But I just ran a marathon' and  'I just cycled 180km around the Ring of Kerry' but if I dig a little deeper I know the truth. I have clothes that no longer fit, I'm not as fit or as fast as I was and while it's not all about the number on the scales, I know I've gone wrong. Unfortunately the only person we cannot lie to is ourselves, no matter how hard you try dress it up.

At every 'breaking point' (I've had a few of these points of frustration), I've had two options in front of me: Keep going or pack it in. I know I'll never pack it in as its too important. I need to go back and remember that every day (in every way) we make active choices that knowingly:

1) work towards what we want
2) go against what we want

Will I go for a run? Do I really need that muffin I just bought in the petrol station? Should I bring the dog for a walk even though its raining?

Yes there are a few cases in which your choice will neither positively or negatively affect your goal so I'm going to ignore them for now. I'm constantly struck by the talk Gerry Duffy gave in Kinvara a few months ago where he spoke of the mentality of a group of Olympic rowers who constantly preceded everything with the question: Will this make the boat go faster? If the answer was yes, they did it. If it was no, they didn't. Simple.

What I need to do is reset my previous weight/weight loss expectations, start tracking again, lose weight 1lb at a time, exercise one session at a time all with a common goal in mind. For me, this is the Berlin Marathon (end of September). Everything I do for the next 3 months will work towards this. I need a goal to keep me focused and on track, both from a weight and exercise perspective.

I'm not upset or going to beat myself up over my recent gain, I'm just feeling deflated and needed to get this off my chest. There is no shame in failing or tripping up after all 'to err is human'.  

Failure doesn't come from falling down... Failure comes from not getting back up

Friday, 3 July 2015

The 2015 Tour de Burren

I was really looking forward to taking part in the 2015 Tour de Burren after how incredible the cycle was last year (Post here). My intention had been to be more prepared but unfortunately that didn't work out too well thanks to the Cork Marathon and a week in Mallorca. I found myself at 10am on the morning of the cycle at the start line getting on my bike for the SECOND time this year. Last year I had given priority to cycling over running which I felt had derailed my running efforts so this year I decided not to do the same... although in hindsight I probably should have given it a bit more time than one cycle in the previous 11 months.

All signed up and ready to tackle the 2015 Tour de Burren

On your marks... Start Line!

Myself and Aisling started with the hundreds of others on the 96K route at 10.30am - leaving sunny Ballyvaughan behind us as we headed into the first 30K and the first few climbs. I knew the route from last year which I thought would have made it easier but it really didn't. I'd recalled the first 30K being "easy enough" with two climbs but really, it was the most challenging part of the entire circuit. Myself and Aisling stayed together chatting both between ourselves and to others who cycled alongside us for the route.
Danger Danger - Cycling selfies... 

We pulled into Carran (30K) before noon where we met a gang from work. We had a banana, refilled the water bottles and had a quick chat before getting back on our bikes. The problem with coming in to a food stop last is that everyone else is ready to go, so without much consideration we hopped back on our bikes and off we went for the next leg of the journey, 30k to 60k. We knew the food stop in Lisdoonvara was at 60K but we also knew it was proceeded by the dreaded Corkscrew Hill. 

As we left Carran, it started to rain. The rain and low hanging clouds hid the amazing views of the Burren under dark grey skies. While I felt sorry for the other cyclists who were missing out on what I knew was absolutely incredible scenery, I was more concerned with surviving on wet roads. It was only as we were speeding downhill towards the Ailwee Caves (45K) that I realised this was my first time cycling in the rain. Slipping road surfaces and an inexperienced cyclist didn't make the journey as enjoyable as before but we made it.

Bit too late for the pre-climb prayer

We reached the bottom of Corkscrew Hill soaked to the bone but that didn't damped the mood as we slowly zig-zagged up the 220m incline. Like last year, I loved the banter with other cyclists as we made our way (in the pouring rain) towards the cheesecake that we knew was waiting in Lisdoonvarna. Myself and Aisling reached Lisdoon before 2pm. The rain had stopped people gathering around outside so the hall was quieter than before but that also meant we had a great selection of sandwiches and cheesecake to help ourselves to.

Wheres the cheesecake?

As we left Lisdoon, the sun came out and we cycled the last 40km through Doolin and along the Clare coast towards Fanore chatting, laughing and in great form. At one point Aisling broke out a verse of 'The sun will come out' but I couldn't tell if that was tiredness, dehydration or elation as we were nearly finished. About 10K from the finish, Aisling's mum drove passed a few times and beeped us home! It was glorious to finish dry and in flying form. Of course we had to have the ice-cream at the finish line and we even had time for a pint :) 

For Aisling's second cycle ever, 96K certainly wasn't a bad effort. For myself, I was happy to finish and still feel human. Next stop: The Ring of Kerry

Tour de Burren - Strava Data