Cycling, Coffee, Cake &…Wind

Coffee

Go cycling, they said.

You’ll love it, they said.

When I first started cycling (in any sort of meaningful way, as opposed to a 5 minute jaunt to the shop…) it was with the local triathlon club. I figured I was very new to all this lycra and metal malarky and could benefit from some guidance and experience around me. After all… unlike running, when you’re on a bike you’re typically going much faster and the potential for becoming entangled in metal or wiped off the road is much greater. So tips from the experienced… most welcome!

As I quickly learned, apart from things like road etiquette, what gear you should be riding in and general tips about how to actually ride your bike (who knew?) , there are also a particular number of certainties that go hand in hand with cycling, which unless you have already been initiated into this clandestine little world, you never would have put together.

(I didn’t know anything of this cycling decorum so lest you too end up looking like a confused, gormless gobshite – like me – I suggest you read on!)

1. Coffee 

Every cyclist’s best friend and unapologetic indulgence.

Before a ride, multiple times during a ride and always, always AFTER a ride.

If you’re out cycling with a club, group or a buddy, be prepared for a nice stop at a cafe along the way. Good chance for a break during a long spin and it can be a welcome rest before heading off again. The caffeine is a helpful boost too – just ask Floyd Landis who infamously downed 15 cappuccinos in one sitting 😉

If you think cyclists are a very serious lot, think again. For a lot of cyclists, the coffee stops are the best part of cycling. I was once out with a small group of cyclists and it was pissing rain so I tabled the idea of forgetting the cafe stop and just cycling straight through to the end.

“Then what’s the point in all of this then?” said four disgusted faces.

 

2. Cake

Yes, actual cake. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs, whipped together and slathered in icing.

You might be forgiven for assuming all cyclists starve themselves and probably stick to a bare americano  or espresso on their coffee stops but no. Nearly every cyclist I’ve ever encountered will go for a pastry,  slice of cake, scone, whatever – without hesitation.

Most reckoned they’ve burned the calories and need a few more to fuel the next part of the ride. Most would be right. Granted, I’ve never been out on a ride with a grand tour rider but I like to think they eat cake too 🙂

Similar to a cyclist’s feelings on coffee stops, I get the feeling that most view the cake situation along the lines of sure, what’s the point in a long spin if there’s no cake?

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Cake honestly tastes much better when you’ve worked for it.

3. Wind

Nobody tells you about the wind. Nobody.

OMG, the friggin wind.

Before I started cycling, I ran. As a runner, I thought I was one with nature and the elements, frequently returning home from a run knowing exactly which way the wind was blowing and being in a position to compare wind strengths from day to day.

Now I look back and realise I knew nothing. Within the first 20 seconds of a ride, I’m immediately calculating which direction the wind is blowing from, estimating wind speeds and working out wind gusts. You feel the wind so much more when you’re seated up on a saddle and though I’m no expert, I expect the fact that you’re moving much faster on a bike than say, you would be while running means that there is a much greater wind resistance and it’s therefore a much greater factor.

The wind is huge in cycling and it can make your ride or… well, just make you want to dump the bike on the side of the road and curl up into a ball. No exaggeration.

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I cycled through this pretty little village of Dunsany today. Not relevant really, just pretty!

4. Social Bunch

Cyclists are the best. One of the reasons I love being a cyclist now is that I feel like I’ve joined a some kind of very cool secret society.

You go out for a spin and you spot a cyclist coming in the other direction. Never met him, never even seen him before, but I look up, give him a little wave and a smile and he likewise, lifts a hand from the handlebars and waves back, giving a respectful nod of the head.

This happens all the time with nearly every cyclist I come across on the road offering a smile, wave, respectful nod and sometimes a few words of hello. Not to sound naff, but it’s really quite lovely. Particularly nice at those moments when you’re feeling tired, bored, soaked to the skin or just otherwise want to turn around and go home – an encouraging greeting from a fellow road warrior can give you a nice little lift and spur you on a bit further.

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I don’t know what this face is, but I never know how to pose for a selfie. I may need training.

5. Chamois Cream and Underwear

I’ve saved the best till last.

What no one wants to talk about but what you MUST know about. Ignore this intell at your peril.

Most cyclists do not wear any underwear when they cycle. Two reasons – you can see the lining of the underwear under the lycra cycling shorts, which some find unfashionable/ unseemly. Secondly, wearing underwear can exacerbate the saddle sore situation…

When I first started cycling, I never had any problems with chafing or skin injuries anywhere on my body. Alas, when I started to crank up the frequency and duration of rides, I quickly became acquainted with what are commonly known as “saddle sores.”

Leg up, leg down, leg up, leg down… over and over and over again for 3+ hours, rubbing back and forth over the side of a saddle. Add a good splash of rain and sweat and you quickly have a recipe for skin abrasions. While on the saddle, you might feel a slight discomfort, but actually this is not the worst – what is worse is what comes afterwards.

Stand in a hot shower with fresh saddle sores and you’ll know all about it. Very similar to chafing injuries from running, except these ones are on your heiny and on the inside of the upper leg.

Because of the location of saddle sores, they can be very slow to heal because you cannot very well avoid sitting down completely. And if you’re like me, you’ll be back on the bike a day or two later again and more than likely end up re-aggravating the injuries once you start pedalling away again.

It’s a nasty circle, but the good news is that it can be avoided – mostly. Get yourself a jar of chamois cream, slather some around your shorts and may you never have saddle sores again!

I use Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream (with shea butter) which retails for about 10 euro (on wiggle.com). I only ever need to use a small amount owing to the coconut oil – like consistency, which means you get quite a lot of lubricating for quite a small amount.

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Going Further

Going further

In running, there are certain distances you become accustomed to. 5km, 10km, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon etc. These are milestones every runner grows to know intimately – you learn to recognise how you feel at certain distances and what to expect physically and mentally at different points, the result being that you develop a kind of mental store and psychological toughness that helps you be better the next time. But when you’ve ran enough races, you also learn to know how you can expect to feel at the end of certain distances. For example, even though I haven’t run for over a year, I can remember exactly how I would feel after a 5km parkrun Vs. how my body feels after a half-marathon race Vs. after a marathon.

With Cycling, I find it a lot less clear cut. I could cycle an 80km today and be in bits tomorrow. Or I might cycle 100km today and be up for cycling another 70km tomorrow, no bother. There have been some days recently when cycling 37km to work on back to back days has just knackered my legs. But where is the sense, I ask you?

Apart from being able to draw the obvious conclusion that the harder the ride and more effort you put in, the more it will take out of your body and the slower it will be to repair and refresh. And the hillier the cycle, the tougher it is – also going to tire you out more.

But generally for cycling Vs. running, there are no milestone distances to focus on – or maybe there are and I’m just out of the loop! Oh well…

Some cyclists seem to work with time, rather than distance. You cycle for an hour a few days during the week and then go for a three hour ride at the weekend, for example. I don’t work that way. I like to map out a ride beforehand and then see how long it takes me. Next time, I try do it faster. That’s what motivates me. I’m less good with a “three hour ride” because for me that’s just a licence to sit on my ass and flooter away three hours coasting along at my ease.

So I stick with distance. Up to this year, I’d never ridden over 100km, with the longest cycle I’d have competed being around 91km. So I cracked out mapmyride and mapped a few 100km -ish cycles and worked my way up to them. Then I did a race a few weeks ago which involved a 105km spin around Carlow and over Mount Leinster. I loved it.

Today I took a spin from Naas to Kilkenny, travelling through Athy, Carlow, lovely Leighlinbridge and Bagenalstown along the way. The weather was a bit crap to be honest with dark clouds, some rain and a headwind most of the way… but I was happy out just to find I could actually make it all the way to Kilkenny. Needless to say when I arrived in Kilkenny 3 hours 41 minutes later, I was delighted with life and Kilkenny was buzzing with people, despite the rain.

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I had booked to get the train back from Kilkenny to Sallins and had a bit of time before my train was due. I knew exactly how to spend that time.

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What is cycling, if not really good coffee and cake?

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After all, it’s the worst kept secret in cycling that the only real reason cyclists actually cycle is for the coffee and cake. And it’s worth it every time 😀

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After wandering around trying to find a coffee shop that I could safely leave my bike outside without fear of it being pinched, I came across the Pantry on Kieran St., which was exactly what I was looking for. Really good coffee and a good selection of homemade baked goods, as well as soup, sandwiches and hot lunch options too. I really just wanted somewhere to sit down and rest my weary bones for an hour, while indulging in a much looked-forward to pick me up.

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Nice design and good, friendly atmosphere, you can’t go wrong.

The staff were lovely, the coffee was excellent and my cupcake was just grand. The bun could have been fresher and the icing was a bit over-sweet, but I was starvers so it tasted great anyway. Good spot and I’ll be back again.

Next Up. Now that I’ve gotten past the 100km mark, I’d like to build on that and be able for greater distances. There’s a clatter of 200km events in Ireland that look fab but I’m a long way from being able to remain upright for 200k. But it gives me something to aim for – oh, you know how it goes… citius, altius, fortius… better.

Runners and Injuries: Not Letting Panic Triumph Over Hope

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This is a subject extremely close to my heart. In fact, it’s so close to the surface that I’d swear if you stood close enough to me, you might just be able to hear my heart beating out “Help me, I’m a runner”…

I’m going through this right now. I may not be an elite athlete, but I am 100% a runner at heart. It’s what makes me smile, lifts me up, allows me to escape everything for a few hours everyday and honestly makes me feel like some kind of superhero. On the outside, I might look like a hot, sweaty, flailing mess… but on the inside I feel like Mo Farah. I feel like me.

One missed session in my weekly training plan makes me uncomfortable and I’m very bad at just “letting it go” but sometimes weather or unforeseen events just happen and you have to suck it up.

One week without running – usually only happens when I’ve just ran a big race like a marathon or half-ironman – I struggle with not being able to get out for a run for this long because regardless of how physically tired my body might be, I miss the fresh air and time outside, the peace and quiet. But I persevere for the sake of rest and meaningful recovery.

Suck it up.

More than one week… Huh???!! It has been years since I’ve gone more than 10-14 days with no running. Sometimes you do need a good rest as a runner and head-wrecking and all as it may be, you tolerate it because you KNOW that in a few weeks time, you’ll be back out there slowly building yourself back up again.

You KNOW. So… suck it up.

Now, try telling a runner that they can’t run today, or tomorrow or even this week. In fact, it could be as long as a year… Actually, I can’t tell you when you’ll next be able to go for a run or even if you’ll ever be able to run again.

To a runner, this is devastating news. For me, I just couldn’t accept it right away – it was too much to deal with all at once and it took months for me to even come around to the idea and I still haven’t fully accepted it. When you’re used to being able to lace up and get out in the fresh air – just you and your radio – and plod along to your own rhythm, it becomes a massive part of who you are and when it suddenly gets ripped away, you feel lost – like a big part of you has suddenly been whipped away and crazy as it sounds – it takes a while for you to come around to this new version of yourself that doesn’t run every day.

You suddenly feel  – as if you’re not you anymore.

Trauma. Grief. Loss.

Heartbreak.

I don’t say these things to be flippant. I have massively missed running and the goodness it brings to my life. Life without running has left a great hole that I simply cannot fill with cycling or swimming. I have been cranky, intolerant, impatient, angry, sad, an utter basket-case at times (on multiple occasions) and I’ve cried big fat tears of frustration and loss for my life as a runner on several occasions. I’m pretty sure my Dad (poor man has witnesses a number of my ridiculous meltdowns) thinks I’m a complete nut-job but then of course that’s how it must appear to sane people on the outside.

The Phases of Running Grief – not kidding, there are actual phases …

1. Blanket denial – the physio doesn’t know what she’s talking about… she’s talking out her arse – sure I know more about running than she does and I definitely know my own body better than anyone else. I’ll be grand in a few weeks. Your biggest worry at this stage is loss of fitness – worrying about losing the good place you’re at that you’ve worked so hard to get to. Your nervous that your sub 3.45 marathon goal may have to wait till next season.

2. Bargaining – Loss of control and helplessness make the control freak runner in you start to try and rationalise it all in a vain attempt to regain some control – what if I do this next time? What if I did that better?

3. Anger – After a few weeks, nothing is better, the injury is still there and you start to panic when the realisation that it might be quite a while before you’re able to run again starts to feel real.

I followed my plan… why am I injured and X, Y and Z are not? It’s not fair… I did everything I was supposed to do? Why is it different to any other training cycle? I should have taken a longer rest after the last marathon… I should have done more strength work…  I should have eaten better… I should have said 3 hail mary’s before every run… I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid……….and why does nobody understand me?! Get away from me…. No, I don’t want chicken soup to make me feel better!!! Aagggghhhhhhh…

4. The Sad Bit – crying in a pathetic curled ball on the floor as your running gear starts to gather dust, as the races you signed up to months ago all come and go.

Mourning the loss of running as a friend and of that huge part of you that is tied up in running. It’s not just a hobby- it’s who you are first thing in the morning, the feeling you carry with you all day having completed a great run that morning, Parkrun with you friends on a Saturday morning and coffee afterwards, the long run on a Sunday morning listening to the Marian Finuacan radio show and the heavenly after-feeling of that effort as you chill on the sofa drinking coffee, watching Downton Abbey.

Acceptance? Nah. See number 1. I’m an optimist and I love running far too much to ever give up on the idea that I could be out there running some day soon.

I choose hope, rehabilitation and optimism. So maybe I’ll have to keep spinning the wheels of this cycle for a little while longer- going through the phases of denial, anger, sadness – but I won’t stop hoping and I won’t give up.

I saw a new physiotherapist this week and for the first time since I got injured I heard the words “I see no reason why you shouldn’t recover and get back to running”. Like the saddo I am, I nearly cried when she said this. It’s the first positive thing I’ve heard from the rounds of Doctors, physios, orthopaedic surgeons and other specialists in a year. She gave me hope – she didn’t promise anything and she did stress that the first goal would be to get back to a place where I have no pain in my feet just as is. Then, we can look to bringing walking back. Only after that can we even consider bringing running back in.

This could take quite a while to get to that stage but right now, I feel hope – I can see a finish line. Not sure of the distance yet but I can see one drifting about in the wind somewhere out there – I just have to be patient, follow the right path and not be stupid.

Then maybe, just maybe… I’ll be a runner again.

Good Pains in Strange Places

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I’ve started going to the gym and for the first time in a long time, I’m bringing back strength and conditioning sessions in a big way. But boy, it does hurt so good.

Strength and conditioning is an area I confess to having neglected in all my years running. Lifting dumbbells, doing squats and squeezing out a few press-ups are all the types of exercise I would typically hate. I always felt they were boring exercises- like sport without any of the joy. Coming up to marathon training time, I’d resolve to make sure I did at least one proper session per week and then also including a few exercises in my everyday post-run routine, such as heel lifts, wall-sits and planks.

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But in all honesty, I probably have not been doing as much as I should have been doing and now that I’m out of (temporarily!) the running game and sitting on the sidelines, injured for the foreseeable, I can’t help but wonder if I had been more diligent about my strength and conditioning training, I might not be injured right now. I might still be running about blissfully ignorant and injury-free.

I’m not a shoulda, coulda, woulda person though, so I bring this up as topic not to dwell on the past but to learn, plan and build for the future. I want to be stronger, I want to be faster and I always want to be better. (I don’t need to be higher 😉 )

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…and I always want to eat scones.

What’s the Plan?

Joined a gym, had a personal consultation and have a training plan. 2-3 days a week, I’ll be doing an hour of strength work, mixed with a short interval of cardio. In addition to that, I’ll be out on the bike at weekends and as the days start to get longer, I hope to get out a few mornings or evenings before or after work. I hope to get in one or two swims during the week too.

My program consists of:

  • Chest presses
  • Leg presses
  • Step-ups
  • Planks
  • Russian Twists
  • Face Pulls
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep Dips
  • 15-20 minutes cardio (I’m having a go at rowing to try something different…)

Nothing revolutionary here – and if you’re a runner, you’ll probably be very familiar with most of these exercises. What I like particularly about this program is that it aims to build a basic level of strength and it also incorporate specific exercises that will be good for running, when I start back.

Leg presses will help develop the quad muscles as well as the glutes – also excellent for cycling (and my butt!)

Step-ups are a simple but excellent strengthening exercise that every runner should be including in their daily routine –  as well as the exercise helping to work the glutes, quads and your core, this move also helps to develop good balance and running form. I quite like doing these too.

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Planks and Russian Twists – work your core/ abs mostly but planks are an overall excellent strength exercise.

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I did the full program for the first time during the week and while I enjoyed doing that night… oh my sweet Lord, did it hurt the next day. I know since not being able to run for 10 months, my arms, abs (and general upper body) have just gone to flop. You just don’t use your arms that much on the bike and your entire upper body is more or less stationary for the entire ride – you don’t use it at all the way you do when running. So right now, I have NO upper body strength. It’s pathetic.

I could not lift my arms above waist height on Thursday after my weights session on Wednesday night. And there were aches and tendernesses in back muscles and shoulder places I have never felt before. Have you ever seen a person trying to massage their own back muscles? Not an attractive look. I cared not!

So onward and strong-ward! If you are also someone who has been avoiding strength work because you too find it boring and tedious, please PLEASE heed my advice and just do it anyway. Find a way to get it into your week – if you’re not someone who enjoys lifting dumbbells or churning out squats, then go to a class like bodypump or bootcamp. Ignore this element of your training and it could end up costing you dearly – both literally or figuratively.

Let me put to you this way – would you rather spend your hard earned wages on physiotherapy, MRI scans, doctor’s appointments, blood tests and consultant visits (still with no diagnosis or end in sight…) OR on the entry fee to the Boston Marathon?

Easy, right?

 

January On The Bike – The End is Nigh

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When I first started this cycling in the winter malarky last November-ish, I was a little shell-shocked, I have no problem admitting. Before then, I’d only ever taken the bike out of the shed between the months of June-October on days in between running days to get in some light cross-training. Come the end of October, I’d typically have packed in the bike after running the Dublin Marathon until starting running training properly again in Spring.

Alas, times have changed. Having not been able to run since last April, I’ve been on the bike 3-4 times a week and have pedalled on through the winter months. It’s been cold, it’s been wet and yes, it’s been emotional.

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Some great views from the Wicklow mountains, even in gloomy weather.

Depending on how you just read that, it could sound bleak. It’s not. Heading out early on a winter Sunday morning into a winter fog, trees frozen white and the fields hugging a low white fog… it’s nothing short of religious. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to over-romanticise it either – those mornings also involve freezing fingers despite wearing two pairs of gloves and numb feet (particularly the left one for some reason…) And on particularly cold days, it has also meant a very cold head.

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Rainy day winter gear – all the layers!

Cycling in the winter months undoubtedly makes you tougher and more resilient as a cyclist. You don’t look out the winter and think “Nah, it’s too wet/ cold/ windy”. You don’t decide to turn back home just because the wind is kicking your ass after the first hour and you still have 2 more hours to go. If you can be soaked to the skin (wearing 2 jackets…), the wind blowing you backwards and take ANOTHER wrong turn and STILL keep going forward, that’s progress.

It might not feel like it at the time – in fact, it really doesn’t feel like it at the time – but that’s how you grow as a cyclist. It’s a lot like running that way – it’s all in your head. Your mentality is everything both in running and in cycling. Mental toughness is at least half of what makes up the essential ingredients for success.

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One layer, two layer, three potato…four!

Cycling this winter has been a revelation for me and also a kind consolation for not being able to run. It’s given me something to do when I couldn’t pop on my running shoes like I normally would every day. It’s given me the head space and time out I need on a daily basis. And it’s given me something fun to play around with while I wait for my feet to heal.

Having said that… I’m looking forward to the days getting longer and warmer, when I can head up into the Wicklow mountains without any fear of wet roads and, dear God, for those days when I don’t have to wear 3 layers of clothes on the bike! I can’t believe I used to just wear a short-sleeve cycling jersey, shorts and one pair of light socks… shocking.

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The professional cycling season is about to get underway in earnest in next few months with the roll out of the Spring classics and I’m genuinely excited to see how it’s going to unfold. I may not be as tough as those guys, but cycling through these recent winter months, I could at least pretend to be for a few hours 😉

Happy January, roll on February!!

Running Advent Calendar

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Ho ho ho…my fellow runners. December is but a day away and with it will come a slew of shopping lists, party invites, household tidying and cleaning tasks and a gazillion other demands on your time for the next 25 days…

Fun, right?

The run up to Christmas can be hectic and free time to do the things you want to do can rapidly be hoovered up. Time you may have had before to go for a walk with you friends or a hike up the mountains can so easily be swallowed up by to-do-lists, present-buying and a whole host of other things that seem more important.

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With all the extra demands on you in the few weeks before Christmas, things can get pretty stressful. It’s for exactly this reason I think it’s just as important, if not MORE important to make sure to take a chunk of time for yourself everyday and go for your run – or your walk – or your cycle – or whatever it is that you do that centres you.

If I don’t get out for a run, I start to feel trapped, very quickly. I get ratty, short-tempered and intolerant. I like to think of it as some kind of inherent human, self-preservation characteristic that needs regular exposure to fresh air as a reassurance that if necessary, I can and will escape 😉

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Smiley, happy people.

Or maybe it’s more simply that I like to get outdoors into the fresh air and blow off some steam, whether that’s running the roads for an hour or two, or cycling away the miles for the morning.

Either way, I know how important making the time to get out and exercise is for my mental state. I used to feel like this was a very selfish thing to do, making sure that I carved out some time in the day for my run. I don’t anymore. If I don’t get out for my run, I don’t feel like me AND If I don’t feel right in myself, I’ll be off-balance and my mood will be all wrong WHICH won’t make me a great person to be around. I want to be in a good mood and enjoy people and everything that goes with Christmas – this makes it very simple for me.

For your own good and for the sake of those around you in the next few weeks, it’s important to make sure you do you. Don’t stop running in the next few weeks because all of sudden “you don’t have time”.

Make the time.

Get up an hour earlier. Run at lunchtime. Hit the gym in the evening. Whatever and whenever you can manage.

Don’t lose you in the Christmas chaos.

Because if you’re anything like me, if you start giving up your daily run to Christmas shopping, errands and cleaning the kitchen presses (and other riveting household cleaning tasks…), you will very quickly find yourself sitting in the corner, rocking back and forth, wondering how you ever got there… Okay that hasn’t actually happened yet but it has come close many times!

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Obligatory pic of Macauley Culkin freaking out

For the Next 25 Days… I’m going to help keep you all in the mood for running and remind you how great it can be to have running at this time of year.

Watch out for my posts and excited to get cracking into December!

Winter Cycling: Not For Wimps

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I’m a cycling novice, having only really committed to regular training on the bike in the last 6 months. Prior to that, it was just heading out whenever I felt like it on irregular occasions and for irregular lengths of time. No plan. Nowadays, I’m on the bike 5 days a week with structured short and long sessions for specific days. However, I have to admit that I’m still not overly fussed about being too strict about how far I should go for a cycle in any session, preferring to leave it up to how I feel on the day. I’d rather not suck all the joy out of cycling.

As a novice, winter cycling is new to me. Of course I have cycled in winter before (it would be weird if at the age of 30 I had not…) but in previous years where running has always been my priority, deciding not to bother with a recovery cycle just because the weather was horrid was not a big deal.

Not anymore.

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Got to test these overshoes out for the first time today. I was glad of them for sure!

Now that running had been put on hold for the foreseeable future (breaking my heart in the process but let’s not get morbid!) my cycling mentality has temporarily taken over my running mentality. This means if there is a session for today scheduled, then it’s get up and out, get it done. Doesn’t matter what the weather is doing, doesn’t matter if I’m “not in the mood”. Up, out, get it done.

This was tested today.

On a Sunday in Ireland, where a thick white frost covered the fields for as far as I could see, leaves on trees and bushes frozen in place like tiny statues, and a constant white fog hung in the air, there was no mistaking that winter had indeed arrived on our not-so-green-today island.

I deliberately waited to later in the morning to head out on the bike in the vain hope that temperatures might increase as the morning progressed, but in fact, they never got about 0 degrees. Cloud hung low in the sky, blocking out the sun and preventing it from shining through and creating a smidgen of heat.

I love a good, solid, unmistakably winter morning but today’s conditions were simply freezing. Armed with two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks, overshoes and solid layering on top, I was all set to test my cycling resolve!

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See how my pale Irish skin just grabs all the light in the room. Complements the flattering cycle gear, don’t you think?

I headed out in the direction of Kilcock, feeling better than I expected to and happy that I had got the whole layering thing right. Not too cold and not cooked either. After passing through Clane, I continued on the Kilcock road before turning off for Donadea, where main roads gave way to country fields on either side and an accompanying deep white fog. I quickly realised I should have equipped my bike with lights today as although it was daytime, visibility would be seriously affected by the fog.

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Deep pockets of fog on country roads, very eerie…

I then continued to Timahoe, from where I turned right for Cloughrinka, making way through bog country and farm areas, all appearing as though the White Witch had just past through turning everything she touched to winter. Bushes, trees, leaves on the ground, the grass verges… all encased in white. The fog ever-present as I pushed on, with me wherever I went. My fingers started to numb despite the two sets of gloves because even though it was dry, the moisture from the fog was such that it was starting to settle on my clothes and hands and soak in. You wouldn’t think it, but I could see the moisture drops forming on my bike and starting to roll off my helmet.

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From Cloughrinka, I made a left toward Edenderry and from there, I motored on to Clonbulloge village, on to Rathangan and then straight home to Naas. I hardly drank or ate anything on the bike today, despite the 94km distance. Partly because I was too cold to notice where I was thirsty or hungry, but mostly because my hands were too cold to pick up my bottle. It just seemed like too much effort to route around my back pockets to dig out an energy bar or wrestle with the bottle from its cage. At one point, I dropped one of my bottles on the road after losing my grip on it due to my numb fingers… and having to turn back when you’re cold and tired is a killer. I tried to drink more towards the end though.

I was happy to get in a good long cycle today and it’s always good practice to cycle in challenging conditions. I have to admit that reading George Hincapie’s biography at the moment and his stories about training in freezing conditions for hours on end is inspiring me to be a tougher cyclist. OBVIOUSLY my cycling expeditions are on a whole other level to George’s but he has really made me aware of just how hard pro riders actually train and the extent of the effort and discipline involved in the unglamorous, unforgiving daily life of a cyclist.

George was in my mind today I spun through the chilly conditions and although it was a long spin, I felt brilliant when I got home. Well, more specifically, I felt brilliant after I had defrosted, had a hot shower and changed into warm, dry clothes… and clung to a radiator for a while.

Running or cycling. I always feel brilliant afterwards. It may be winter out there, dark, cold and forbidding and oh-so-tempting to stay in your warm bed, but it’s always worth it to get outside.

So go forth folks and embrace your inner winter demon!

You can always  go back to bed then.