The Best of Times

I was so horribly tired this morning, been lumping too much of my hard training together in one spot and not getting enough sleep. I didn’t expect much from today: Jonathan had a half day, so I put my bike, Daniel, in the back of the car, and took my runners. It wasn’t worth it to drive him to school, drive back to Dundalk, only to have to drive back to fetch him a short while later.

Once there, I got on the bike and set off in an arbitrary direction. Moments later, I was in rural Ireland, the odd way you can be in a town one moment and among farms the next hereabouts. So beautiful: not the majestic mountains I usually cycle around, but instead the round-headed hills inside which the faerie live.

Peace settled around us, and without me noticing I actually managed an average speed which is not great, but not as bad as I’d thought it would be. Just before turnaround point, something unpleasant: two dogs, one a Beagle by the looks of it, coming for me and bark-snapping at my feet. And lo, mere metres after shaking them off, I had to turn around and head back.

There was no other way to go. I watched them stop and sniff here and there as they sauntered back to their gate. Should I hare in fast, and risk one of them getting under the wheel, leaving both me and the dog battered and bruised? Or should I go in slow, so they could have a good chance to bite me?

I set off, half decided on fast, still picturing myself grating flesh on the rough tar road. And probably getting bitten when I’m down. Lo, they spotted me, and snarled, and ran toward me. That’s when I got angry and stopped.

“GO AWAY*, YOU BAD DOGS!” I roared. The dogs faltered. “I said GO AWAY! GO AWAY! BAD DOGS!”

And they did.

I pedalled on, pondering the dogs’ defeat, when… oh, for the gods’ sake, not another one. I watched the animal, again about Beagle-size, trot in the same direction as me but a stone’s throw away. But… it didn’t look like any dog I know. Fox? No. Then what…

“Sweet Jesus, it’s a cat!” I said aloud. And it was. The biggest darn cat I’ve ever seen. Beautiful, too. It got a fright when it saw me and bounded away, even though I’d slowed down to not startle it. Sorry, cat.

Made it back to the school, put Daniel back in the car, and set off for an hour’s run. Which the body liked doing. That felt good, even though I was knackered at the end of it.

It was a really, really good time, especially because I’d anticipated exhaustion and struggle. Back home, I let the rabbit out to wander the garden while I cleaned Daniel very thoroughly. This is probably the most peaceful day I’ve had in weeks.



*Believe it or not, I actually did shout ‘go away’. I’d used ‘fuck off’ earlier, when the dogs first went for me, as in: “FUCK OFF OR I’LL KICK YOUR TEETH IN!!!” It seemed in this instance, profanity was not the most effective tool.


Fear of my Landlord and Olympic Distance Triathlon

I’m scared of my landlord, half the time. I have no idea why, he’s a great guy. He’s friendly, funny, and really quite sweet. And I’m petrified of the man.

It could be because I’m the world’s worst housekeeper, and I stress myself to death that I’m not taking care of the house well enough. I worry that he’ll see the stain on the carpet, the children’s hand prints on the wall which defy any scrubbing I’ve done, and that he’ll tell me I’m not a good tenant, that really, he thinks I should find another house (because it was hell finding a place suitable for us, so the gods know I do not want to go through that ordeal again anytime soon).

It could be because Landlord is very Irish, and Irish people are still somewhat of a mystery to me even after almost five and a half years of living here. Most Dundalkers’ talk sounds like plain English to me, one’s ear adapts that well. But my landlord’s accent is quite strong, and I have to strain to  follow what he says. On top of that, there’s innuendo and unspoken meaning in Irish people’s conversation which you can only understand if you have a relative named Paddy.

It could be because I don’t really understand him as a person, or know what to make of him or how I should act to him half the time. We’re landlord and tenant, and as such I almost feel obliged to call him maaaaaster and walk with a limp. But we’re also kind of friends beyond that, so my brain short circuits whenever he’s near, unable to decide whether to be businesslike or joke around. Invariably, once we start chatting, I relax because, as I said, he’s genuinely a nice person. Then afterwards, I become convinced I’d made a mistake. I wonder for ages if he was joking that the dust is disgraceful or if he really was upset about it.

It could be because he’s an athlete I admire, someone who did an Ironman, moved on to cycling only and performs well with that. He’s at the head of a very successful triathlon club, able to work with a team of other people I am in awe of to organise well-run races. I happen to be a member of this triathlon club. Today, the presence of my much feared landlord helped me from a panic freeze and off to complete my first ever Olympic distance triathlon. Continue reading

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.

Doing it in a group

I’m worried. I might be late. I speed down the Dublin road towards Castlebellingham, my bike, Daniel, in the back of the car. I see the landmarks my friend Kathleen described, and there it is. The meeting point. The car’s clock says I’m a minute over time.

Kathleen welcomes me with her customary ready smile, and I wonder how this woman can ever, ever doubt she’s anything but beautiful. Jason is there, too, I only met him yesterday. Nuala comes haring round the corner moments later, hops out of her car and joins the banter. We’re on our bikes soon after, two by two down the road.

I hated the group cycle yesterday. Or rather, I hated myself in the group cycle. I looked back on my first outing and wanted to die of embarrassment: I’d been like something wild. Perhaps that’s what I was. I’ve cycled over 6000km by myself. I stop when I want to stop, and go when I want to go. In this case, I wanted to stop when I saw a bull calf out on the road.

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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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