The Road to Recovery

I should have seen the signs really! What started off as the usual Sunday Morning P2N training spin to Laragh, County Wicklow ended up turning in to something that was anything but ‘usual’.

We all met up at Frank Keane’s at 08:30 and headed off in two groups and then reconvened at the newly opened Texaco station at the fork coming in to Enniskerry. The first decision was made there, some would take the high road and others take the low road. Somehow I ended up taking the high road, which was very pleasant. The temperature was perfect, and the blissful ignorance spawned by a false sense of security embraced me. I was at one with my bike – feck it, I was born for this!!!

But shortly thereafter, the warm mantel of contentment and wellbeing was unceremoniously ripped from around me. There, just in front of us, was what can only be described as a WALL! I prayed that it was indeed a wall that just happened to have a couple of houses built precariously on top of it. But God was not listening. This was no wall, this was The Road to Hell. And what was worse, it was our road, the one that we had to climb. Lip quivering and knees shaking I scanned it from a distance. Were those dark shadows at the side of the road bodies of cyclists who had tried to summit this monster, but expired in their quest to do so? Probably! As we approached I could hear the ghostly whispers of countless failed endeavours! “Leave me here, you go on, save yourself’ and ‘tell my wife and kids that I love them”!

As we approached the foot of the hill, all I could think of was Twenty Eight. Twenty Eight. Twenty Eight. Twenty eight is the number of teeth on the biggest ring of my cassette. I had planned on upping that to 30 or 32  just prior to our departure for France, but why oh why had I not done so already? I was now committed to the hill, and as we all know when you are wearing cleats, you cannot stop. De-clipping at 2kph on a 14 degree hill is a recipe for disaster. That in mind, I just kept grinding away for what seemed an eternity. And finally I made it. As I crested the summit, where was the fanfare, the medal ceremony, the adoring crowds? There was just Cathal saying ‘C’mon lads’! In future I think I might carry an Irish flag with me to hold aloft for such circumstance, although I need to learn how to cycle with no hands first! And, yes, the hill was only a couple of hundred yards long, but it will be filed away in that part of my brain reserved for ‘That was bloody great’ stuff.

On to Roundwood we continued and then from there through Anamoe to Laragh where we met up with the rest of the gang for compulsory coffee & scones! The sun came out and the trials and tribulations of ‘The Wall’ were well and truly forgotten!

Pic by Gerry Gilligan

Coffee and Scones in Laragh. Pic by Gerry Gilligan

‘So which way are we heading back?’ I asked innocently. A number of options were thrown in to the hat, but one in particular, championed by Cathal, started to gather a worrying number of supporters. Trying to head off this insane proposal I looked to Ronnie for support and I got it. Unfortunately, it was the wrong kind. She was all for the ‘long hill’. And so it was decided that we would head up out of Laragh towards the Glenmacnass Waterfall and on to the Sally Gap. I had been down this route, but never up it. However, I did remember hearing a vague sonic boom as I came down it a couple of weeks before. So logic suggested that the opposite of a sonic boom would occur going back up. Not sure what that would be, but soon found out that it is a strangled, breathless groan!

On the long hill the group started to separate and I ended up riding behind Cathal Gormley, John Power and Patrick Gavin. It was a tough pace for me, but I managed to keep them in sight – just about.

Pic by John Power

Cathal Gormley, Patrick Gavin and Andrew ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ Watchorn. Pic by John Power

We stopped at the Sally Gap and because it was getting a little chilly decided to forge on. My body was starting to break down a bit at this stage, but what kept me going on this incessant climb was the thought of the wonderful decent down through Glencree and on in to Enniskerry! Then to my horror, we rode straight past the turn. It took all my willpower not to throw a tantrum there and then. But sure they wouldn’t have heard me anyway as I was falling a bit behind at this stage. Would I take the turn? Would I follow them? Or would I simply lie down in the heather and have a bit of nap! The latter was so tempting, but I soldiered on up the military road. Not sure if that is what it is called, but there is a 50/50 chance. All roads in Wicklow seem to be called either ‘The Long Hill’ or ‘The Military Road’ which is usually a long hill as well!

Finally a bit of downward relief as we came down that mad descent by the viewing area in to the Featherbeds. A busload of tourists had just arrived and obviously had not been told about the local fauna i.e. MAMILs travelling down the road at 60kph screaming ‘Get Out of the Way’! I just managed to avoid two of them and was left with ‘ Du Arschloch‘ ringing in my ears! Down by Cruagh Wood we came, and hit the first rain of the day. The roads were really scary here as the rain had obviously been torrential. There were full scale rivers running across the road carrying every manner of debris out of the forest. Now, I am not the best on descents, but coming down this flooded road on a bike, and not a canoe which would have been more suitable, was buttock clenching! Not that there was much clenching left in them as they, like the rest of me were shot! Of course the lads had no such fear and were way ahead of me. But, in time honoured P2N fashion, they waited for me 🙂

Click for Strava details

Click for Strava details

And so to the final leg of this biblical ride. We reconnected with civilisation by Marlay Park and the M50 and rode on up to Lambs Cross. At this stage I was completely bunched. Absolutely spent, physically and mentally! Earlier in the day I had promised myself that if I had tipped over 90Km, I would do a loop to get me over the 100km for the first time ever. As I approached home I was just over the 90Km, but there was absolutely no way I could carry on. But I had made it back, I had not stopped, and I had just completed what was definitely the most physically demanding thing I had ever done in my life. I was shattered, but very, very happy – 51 years of age, and able to complete a spin that I could not have even contemplated two years ago. You see I was a smoker, and now that I have given up cigarettes, a whole new world has opened for me.

Back to the title of this post ‘The Road to Recovery’. By that I mean recovery of my fitness in the long-term and recovery of my body in the short-term. The long-term recovery bit is a work in progress, but for the short-term recovery I had heard that it is a good idea to take protein shortly after pushing your body beyond normal. So last week I had bought a tub of Protein Recovery Shake.

Post Training Recovery Supplement

Post Training Recovery Supplement

This one doesn’t taste half bad – Wild Berry. So I mixed it up and had it downed within the 20 minute window that they suggest. This is no quick fix, but it is meant to aid in repairing your muscles after you have pushed them hard. I then spent most of day hobbling about the house trying to avoid anything that required any kind of exertion. But here is the thing, when I woke up this morning I was expecting to feel awful. But to my amazement I didn’t. No pains or aches in my legs. I really do believe that is down to the protein shake.

So for any of you who have not considered using a Recovery Protein drink, it may well be worth a try. There are many makes, and you can also buy them in single sachets in your local bike or sports shop.

And so the long-term quest continues – next stop The Wicklow 100 🙂

Thanks P2N 🙂



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