What do you want to do?

One of the things involved in working out a training programme for the coming year, was deciding what precisely it was that I wanted to do. The answer surprised me: I want to keep doing this. ‘This’ being triathlons, races, cycling holidays, running for fun, and generally just having The Little Body that Could. The start of an adventure, for me, goes like this: “Hey, I bet I’m fit enough to…” Insert anything at the end there which sounds like a challenge.

I also want to run a clockwork household, but alas, this morning Lara asked: “Mom, where are my stockings?”

And I replied: “In the oven!”

I think aiming for an Ironman or an ultramarathon or something is more realistic.

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

Shredded Nerves at Pink & Gold

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Please note – I didn’t go to the tri intending to take photos, so what I have here was taken with my phone. Which doesn’t, as you’ll see, boast a very good camera. My apologies for the poor quality of the images.

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“Marie,” I said, “is it just me, or is this thing not very well organised?”

“Not just you.” There were many things making her, Sydney (who had just completed his first Ironman the weekend before) and myself very uncomfortable. Some of the stuff happening at the Pink and Gold Sprint Triathlon in Virginia on 1 August 2010 seemed downright dangerous. Continue reading

Analysis of a Decision

The text took me by surprise: We might have a space on Mizen to Malin for you. Weeks ago, when I’d asked for a place and found the quota filled, I asked to be put on the waiting list as one of those things you do without expecting or even hoping that anything would come of it. Now the possibility of joining the group of cyclists travelling between 220 and 250km a day for three consecutive days was real.

I spoke to Kevin on the phone later. He was serious, realistic about what this undertaking would require. We worked through the obstacles I faced, and in the end it boiled down to two questions for me: Can I do the distance at 28km/h average, and can I cycle with a group? I undertook to find answers to these, and let Kevin know my decision as soon as possible. He didn’t give me a deadline, but I saw on Cuchullain Cycling Club’s website that the fee for the trip was due 25 July. Counting the day I received the text, it left me nine days to make a final decision.

Continue reading

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.

First tri done

I participated in The Rock, more widely known as Setanta’s Blackrock Sprint Tri, on Saturday.  It was great fun, but I won’t bore you with the details here.  I’d aimed to do it in an hour and a half, and managed 1:21:45.  However, I was frustrated and angry with myself for being so slow on the run.  I’d done better than I’d thought I would in the swim, and while my touring cycling is very different from this kind of cycling, having covered more than 5 500km on two wheels seems to have given me some strength at least on the bike.  But oh, gods, the run.

I’d overtaken so many people on the bike who just soared past me on the run, while I could do no more than shuffle along.  This doesn’t take away from my happiness with having done my first one.  It just makes me realise I need to work on my running.

Other lessons learned:

  • Do not forget your swimming goggles and nose clip.  Really.
  • Put sunscreen on.  That one should go in bold, underlined and italics.

In other news, things are looking good for a mid-July cycling trip.  My soul thirsts for a few days of just me, Ronan, two panniers of luggage to see us through whatever might come and the open road.  I might go out of Ireland, but it would have to be somewhere I won’t need a visa (or can get one quickly, and free: not impossible when your spouse is an EU citizen) and where, preferably, I can go by ferry.  I like flying less the more I do it, and Ronan’s carrier was broken in transit on the way back from Switzerland.  I’d really rather go by ferry, there’s a kind of magic to that which I can’t wait to feel again.

Limits my options, hugely, but I’ll also be quite happy to go explore the South of Ireland.  I’ve never been that side, though I’ve grown very fond of the North, its people and its beauty.  So we’ll see how things go.