Cycling… Gah!

In other news. Marshaling at a cycling race can be terrible.

These cyclists woosh past at hair-raising speeds. The roads were closed to traffic along the cycling course. You’d think pedestrians would, for the most part, see the barriers, the Gardai (police) and high-visibility-vest-clad marshals and realise maybe they should be careful crossing the street. And do it quickly.

You’d be wrong.

For the most part, people needing to cross the street were good about it, but there always has to be a few nuts in the fruitcake. I suspect I might be too anal about this, as I am in such awe of the racing cyclists. But even taking my overly developed respect for the race into account, there were a few complete idiots out there last night.

One guy seemed to have a few drinks in him already. He ignored my warning that there was a group of cyclists coming really fast. Instead of waiting just ten, twenty seconds for them to pass, he staggered across the street in a small gap between one clump of cyclists and another. From where I stood, it looked like a close thing.

Another who stands out in my memory was a woman in a dress that had aspired to be a shirt before it changed careers. Its cousin would be the skirt that applied for a job as a belt, but was considered a tad too wide. (I am trying to say the dress was very short.) She tottered across the street on heels that had been stilts in a previous life. I watched, heart in mouth, the whirr of approaching cyclists in my ears as they came down the alley before the S-bend where I stood. I know there was probably a bigger gap between her making it to the pavement and the next group of bikes zooming past than it seemed to me, but from my harassed point of view she only just made it.

Other things I did was to chat enthusiastically to a taxi driver, with a big disclaimer that my knowledge of this sport is woeful; give directions to several people; and help one pair to find the nearest hotel.

That felt good. I remembered a day long ago, when only a spit away from where I was last night someone asked me to direct them somewhere. I grinned and said: “I suppose I need only speak for you to understand why you’re asking the wrong person.” Hearing the accent, they laughed and moved on to find a local. I felt a bit odd, because I realised the guy probably thought I was a tourist like him. I almost ran after him to say I lived in Dundalk, it was just…

Now I’m a local, and it feels good to be part of this town as much as any foreigner can be so. Wel, I’m at least local enough to be able to tell people how to get to where they need to go in Dundalk.

Most of the time.


View from the Rear Part Two

This is a continuation of this post, which you really should read first if you want to make any sense of what follows.

Thanks to the kind efforts of a lady called Nuala, who calmed me and assured me it was fine, I managed to overcome my ego and do my thing.  I didn’t finish the race – having only trained three weeks at that point, I hadn’t intended to, I wanted to get a feel for what it would be like – and copped out after the bike leg.  And even though it was part of the plan, falling out felt like a betrayal, like a slunking off.  I was starving, so I went into the pub for tea and sandwiches.  I got a few looks from the hard men at the tables, and they all said to me: you didn’t finish*.  You don’t deserve these sandwhiches, that cup of tea.  I would finish the next one, I vowed.  And so, I did.

I finished it so long after everyone else, that the long horizontal poles on which the bikes are hung in the transition area, were all packed away.  Not another bicycle was in sight – well, except for the mountain bike with which the only person slower than me had tackled the race.

Let me tell you, there is no feeling as awful as the one of crossing the finish line to no other sound than that of your own laboured breathing, getting handed a slip of paper with your time on by a guy of few words who you can almost hear thinking: ‘finally’, scraping together your gear in an abandoned, quiet parking lot, then slinking to your car to pack it away.   Continue reading

View from the Rear Part One

This all started with a bread board.  I stood behind a group of exceptional humans as I contemplated the fact.  They were special because they were all made from bone, sinew, and muscle.  Especially muscle.  Fat?  Nah.  Fat cells disintegrated on contact with these people.  I got thinner just standing near them.  My cycling shorts and running shoes were little more than a disguise: I was an impostor here.  My cotton tee shirt came closer to the truth, bearing the legend: “Pete Puma’s Super Intelligence Serum – favoured by morons everywhere”.

I can’t say for sure what went through their heads as we waited for the ‘start’ signal that would mark the beginning of the race, but I can guess.  I’m sure it was serious stuff, like a mental visualisation of them running the 3.2km course through the rural paths near Dundalk where the race took place, making a smooth change from runners to cycling shoes, pedalling hard and efficiently through the 17km cycling leg, then repeating the 3.2km run and finishing strong.  Maybe some were thinking of the person they wanted to beat this time, pictured themselves passing him or her and crossing that magic finish line first.

I’m not entirely sure if anyone else was pondering the profound influence of bread boards.

Continue reading