One stone. One dead bird, and one mortally wounded

I finally managed a century today, passing the magic 160km (100mile) mark on the bicycle. My total for the day was 189.6km, which is 10.4km short of a double metric century. Why did I not just cycle that last 10km and make it two birds with one stone, then?

While I still felt strong, and think I could have done it, by that time it would have taken me at least half an hour. And I didn’t have half an hour. I had pizza and wine and a man waiting for me at home.

Also, I was truly, really, absolutely knackered. Never so glad to see my little car.

The feat was accomplished when I set out to cycle around Lough Neagh, which is supposed to be a 180km (113mile) trip. I was happy with how I did, got a flat tyre and thanked heaven I’d bought a mini-pump just Friday. If I hadn’t, my trip would have been over then and there. As it was, I had tyre levers, a spare tube and a mini-pump, so I was okay.

I was quite astonished at 148km to find myself in Portadown already. This was not on, so I got onto the Newry Canal Towpath and cycled down just past Poyntzpass. I did have in mind to cycle 25km out to make it an additional 50km, but realised I was going to be very late if I carried on and turned around before the magic number which would have seen me to 200km. That will be for another day.

The route is very flat and easy, so in all honesty, I cheated, really. However, it was the best way to break trail into a new dimension of cycling for me. The mystery and awe is out of the magic 100 now, and from here on I can gradually do more difficult routes.

There was also a special significance for me to the 180km mark.

I really am very knackered, and many things hurt when I use them. However, when I did my first metric century, I was also very tired. It’s not a big deal for me to see the speedo click over to three digits any more. Perhaps one day I’ll get to the point where 180 is also no longer something to get all excited about.

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Cycling… want!

Last night, I had the unexpected privilege of helping to marshal at the Irish Criterium Cycling Championships here in Dundalk. It was a different kind of racing altogether, and very exciting to watch. My overwhelming sentiment?

“Oh, gods, I want to do that.”

This is difficult to describe. There’s a certain joy in pedalling and feeling as you do so that your body… that it works. I know that must sound really stupid, but it’s the same kind of delight I experienced when I waited for the kids in the car one day and by chance put my hand on my upper arm. And felt muscle.  I kept poking and prodding my arm then, because this was really weird. But also really great. I’d been training and training and training and in all honesty, I find it difficult to really internalise the results in my racing. I know they’re there, but somehow it remains a distant concept for me.

When you’re at the bottom of the pack and your main aim in a race is to not be dead last, your rewards lie in the sheer joy of participating. It’s in the cold harshness of the churning swim, the muscle-singing harmony of the cycle, the peaceful challenge of the run (I know how weird that sounds. Just go with me on this one, it’s peaceful and wonderful but you’re sweating bricks).

While I’m at a performance level compared to them which makes this almost sacrilege, I could empathise with the racing cyclists as they zoomed past me. I watched Alan Bingham especially (simply because he was the only participant I actually know), and while I of course can’t be sure my impression was correct, I saw him think. I saw him watch the cyclists ahead of him, could almost feel him calculate how long to chase and when to shoot past. I watched how close thy cut past the pavement at the bend where I stood, and while it was heart-stopping, it also made that same heart cry out in recognition. They’re so in tune, body and soul, with their bikes that they have the confidence to do what’s needed.

Everything in me cried out to try the same thing. To do something where I purely focus on cycling. I don’t mean leaving triathlons behind, I mean just adding some time trial type cycling to my activities.

Ah, but. It would mean I’d have to participate in leagues on weekday nights, and doing anything on a weekday night is difficult. Micky and I live very separate lives out of necessity. He works during the day, I’m home writing and seeing to the kids’ needs. We don’t have the same interests where hobbies are concerned, so on Saturdays he climbs and on Sundays I cycle. Our few hours at night to touch base, to each be surfing the net side by side (I suppose it must look weird, we love snuggling under the blankets each with our laptop on our lap) or watch Dad’s Army, IT Crowd, Blackadder, or Black Books together are precious to us.

But maybe I can make a plan. We’ll just have to see.

Ooooh, I seeeee….

This is a very self-focused, selfish, navel-gazing kind of post, my apologies for that and my thanks to good friends who are patient with me.  I’m not sure I tell you often enough how much I appreciate you all.

I’ve recently become frustrated and disappointed with my training.  I go to gym every day, and on Sundays I do a long cycle.  Still it felt to me as if I got nowhere.  My body simply won’t do the things I want it to do.

Trying to work through this, I got to the point where I asked myself what it is I am trying to achieve.  Why am I aiming to do triathlons?

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