Armageddon?

I think the immediate run up to ‘the day’ was summed up beautifully by Colin Shaw whose Facebook post echoed what many of us ‘newbies’ were feeling.

Why should putting a number on a jersey make you feel nervous!!! - Colin Shaw FB

Why should putting a number on a jersey make you feel nervous!!! – Colin Shaw FB

But before I go into that, let’s wind the clock back a bit. My first real life encounter with Paris2Nice was at the Morehampton Hotel one evening back in February. Up until then the whole undertaking was very much in the abstract. To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect and I was doubtlessly lulled into a false sense of security by Kevin Hui.

As I walked up the short flight of stairs I was greeted by a hubbub of excited chat. The sound of great friends meeting up and reminiscing about past conquests and future adventures to come. It was infectious. Why had I been nervous about attending? Sure all the people seemed ‘relatively’ normal. This was going to be grand. By the time proceedings began, I had even stopped feeling guilty about not having cycled in. I had considered it, but reckoned the 6 kilometres would have floored me.

Up gets Tom Kennedy to deliver a masterful introduction to Paris2Nice – all the whys, whens and whats. But then…came the hows!!! Sweet Mother of all that is sacred! I think it may have been Paddy Holihan who burst my bubble, with a needle the size of the Spire in O’Connell Street. ‘You need to be out riding ‘X’ times per week, doing ‘Y’ kilometers for T amount of time, slowly building up to ‘X+Y+T’ to the power of 2 gaining in one point increments until we reach Armageddon! Holy shit! I was never great at maths, but all of these numbers were turning my brain to mush, to say nothing of my insides. I left feeling bewildered, terrified and more than a little bit confused.

Back to the present. So what is Armageddon? In its generic sense, it relates to any ‘end of world’ scenario or titanic battle. In its more specific sense, it relates to the Wicklow 100/200. Sunday WAS Armageddon in all senses of the word!

I had hardly slept the night before. I kept waking up in a cold sweat! ‘Jaysus Andrew, it’s just like any Sunday morning cycle’ I repeated to myself. Oh great, now I’m feckin’ talking to myself, and what’s even more worrying, I’m also answering myself back. As the night slowly dragged on and dawn made a pathetic attempt to break through the murky dank clouds – the rain started! Great, that is just bloody marvelous. Not only do I soon have to play a bit part in Armageddon, I’m also going to get soaked doing so.

Colin Shaw, my friend, neighbour and fellow cyclist arrived at 06:00. I opened the door expecting to see an ebullient, gungho smiling MAMIL. Not a chance. Like me he had been crawling the walls all night. Out to the car we went, like two condemned men talking the long walk that would culminate in an overly intimate encounter with Madam Guillotine! Next stop the Shoreline Leisure Centre – the site of the execution.

Things started to look up. Amazingly we found a parking spot very quickly, and started the long process of preparing the bikes and ourselves for the day. To be honest, we showed up at the P2N spot looking like hedgehogs. Bristling out of our backs were energy bars, Gels, Shots, sweets, rosary beads, cameras, arm & leg warmers, monkey-wrenches, batteries, lucky charms etc etc. I’ve packed less to go on a 3 month trek across Europe. Every time I leant forward it was like being kicked in the kidneys. But I had been a boy scout and I had to ‘Be Prepared’. Twenty minutes later, registration complete, group photo taken and we were off. As soon as we got going I felt shite, and started to worry even more about the day. My chest was tight and I wondered if I would be up for it. But I had to keep going. I couldn’t fall before I even got to the first hurdle!

It was only after we turned off the N11 and started to climb that I started to feel some semblance of normality. I know this sounds a bit corny and possibly a bit strange, but climbing hills relaxes me. No time to think about all the other stuff going on, just pure focused concentration on the gradient in front of you and the perfect cadence to get you up there. Staying in the saddle until the burning in the legs gets a bit much, then out of the saddle to give a new set of muscles a bit of a go. Then back on to the saddle again. Then back up again. All you hear is your breathing and the faint sound of your heartbeat. The rhythm almost becomes hypnotic.

When I got to the top, reality reasserted itself and I noticed that the brutal weather had not gone away. It was getting worse! The rain was bad enough, but the wind –  the damned wind. It was then that I noticed my gear problems. Every time I went up to the big ring, the chain came off. After the second derailing I decided to just leave it on the small one and try to fix it at the halfway point in Rathdrum. This was fine apart from a few stretches where my cadence shot up to 130 or so. I was bouncing up and down on the saddle like a lunatic. When I say bouncing, I mean squelching! I had just come through a couple of cloudbursts and my chamois must have contained more water than my two Camelback bottles combined. But I was delighted to find out that if I sat down quickly and firmly that I could squirt the water out of it and make a little squeaky sound 🙂

Top Tip

I know, I know…but when you are 40k in, and trying to forget the crap weather, any little distraction is a welcome one! I can’t imagine what the riders behind me thought I was up to – as they cycled through the warm mist!

Thoughts of firing water out of my shorts vanished very quickly as I came down the treacherous hill  a few kilometres short of Rathdrum. The road was in full flood and I had to slow down hugely just to make it safely down.

In to Rathdrum for a quick pitstop which comprised coffee, chicken & stuffing sandwich, coffee, fruitcake, coffee and then a cup of tea. Gerry, kindly showed me how to fix my gears and off we headed again. We had been told that the worst of the terrain was over and that the last 50k or so, was a cakewalk! Will I never learn!

Wicklow 100

The hill coming out of Avoca was a bit of a monster, but my legs were now on auto pilot. It had stopped raining and there was no more entertainment to be had from my shorts, so I reverted to singing some of the songs from The Clash album ‘Sandinista’. I was halfway through ‘The Call Up’ singing –  ‘It’s up to you not to heed the Call Up – I don’t wanna die’ as I passed this other rider. He obviously just heard the ‘I don’t wanna die’ bit and said ‘Well why don’t you fu@kin’ slow down then’! I didn’t and I didn’t, if you know what I mean.

Shortly afterwards there was a sharp left where I was immediately confronted by a wall!!! Apparently there had been a postage stamp sign that instructed you to ‘drop your gear’, but I certainly didn’t see it. I just about managed to avoid some guy who had been caught short, and continued on up the hill. I ended up riding pretty much on my own, and couldn’t see anybody in front or behind. I slipped effortlessly into a bit of Lloyd Cole & The Commotions and started to pick my pace. Finally, I spotted some riders up ahead and was almost up with them when we hit Ashford. I followed hot on their heels as they swung left at the roundabout. I was distracted, as I was now belting out a bit of Kajagoogoo and wondering WTF was Limahl’s hair all about! Strange thoughts indeed given that hair styles have played no part in my life for 30 years or so!

I was about half a kilometre up the road when I started having doubts about our direction. I looked back towards Ashford, and there they were, a ganzy-load of riders shooting straight on! Ngrrrnnnnagghhhh! I reckon the guys that I followed were the ‘Wicklow Red Herrings’. An organisation whose sole purpose is to mislead and misdirect us poor beleaguered cyclists! Back down into Ashford, sharp left and started on the last leg. I passed by a half eaten deer at the side of the road. All I could think of was that Cathal had run low on granola bars and couldn’t wait for the food at the finish line!

The sun was almost out, the rain had stopped and some people had ventured from their homes to give us all a bit of encouragement. That is the first time I have ever been on the receiving end of  such a wonderful thing. The lift that it gives you is immense. As I approached the final run down Greystones and the Shoreline Leisure Centre I got a massive boost of energy, partly from chewing a Clif Shot Blok (Blackcurrant flavour), but mostly because the end was very much in sight. I swear, if my chamois had not been so wet, I reckon there would have been flames shooting out behind me.

clifbloks_11

Clif Shot Bloks

And so it ended, where it had all begun – the Hall of the Leisure Centre where I received my medal and my certificate. I genuinely don’t think I have been as proud of an achievement since I got my ‘Big Big Charity Walk’ cert for walking 20 miles with the scouts in the early 70’s. Forgotten were the tired legs, the slipping gears, the apocalyptic cloudbursts and in incessant wind. I had made it!!

I sat down with my pasta and salad and watched as a steady stream of riders came in to the hall. Some looked in reasonably good shape, but others would not have been out of place in the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video. Everybody had undertaken the Wicklow 100/200 for their own reason. Everybody was out to prove something quietly to themselves. And from the number of smiles I saw in that hall, personal achievement levels were in the stratosphere!

Shirt

Armageddon – nah, not really. This was a titanic battle for many people, including myself, but guess what – it was all of us, the good guys who won in the end.

My thanks to all of the Paris2Nice alumni who got us to the stage where we could complete this sportive. Without your patience, guidance and knowledge, many of us would not have had a hope. And to all the volunteers on the day, the Marshals, Registrars, cooks etc. They were brilliant.

Finally, I would like to say a huge congratulations to Derry Clarke and Kevin Hui on their completion of the Console 200k to Galway the day before the Wicklow 100. A staggering achievement.

Derry & Kevin

Derry Clarke & Kevin Hui who completed the 200km Console East West Cycle

For Strava details of my Wicklow 100 click HERE http://www.strava.com/activities/150906017

Wicklow-Strava

 

 

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Does Paddy have a landing strip?

In the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, this question would have had an altogether different meaning. Because in those days many a Paddy did have a landing strip, or failing that – a HeliPad. But now, this question has a different connotation which I will return to later.

As I have come to learn, Cycling is not just the simple act of getting ones self from point A to point B on a bicycle. Oh no, it’s way more complex than that. There are so many associated things that now have to be considered. If any one of these things is not fully thought through, the consequences can be dire!

In a previous post I discussed the whole issue of wearing Lycra. In this post, I must touch on another hugely important area – hair! As a young lad I waited eagerly for the arrival of hair of any sort, to herald the start of manhood. No longer would I just be a kid – I would now be a MAN! And so it (singular) arrived. The joy. My voice hadn’t broken yet, so I had to pretend it had. After all, there is no point parading around in a vest and shorts trying to get people to notice the feeble sproutings – squeaking like a budgie.

My DNA dictated that I was never going to be as hirsute as some of my friends. But my DNA also dictated that the fulsome mane that adorned my head was not long for this world. And so the withdrawal began. This wasn’t some slow tactical loss of ground, this was a full scale panicked retreat! I never had a chance, every ancestor on both sides of the family have been follicly challenged! And so I went from Jim Morrisson to Yule Brynner. But luckily the retreat was confined to my cranium. My legs still retained the odd hair, here and there. But now they are under grave threat from this thing we call cycling!

The big question – To Shave or Not To Shave your legs. That is indeed a perplexing question for some, though luckily not for me. There is no way I am sacrificing my few fearless follicles for anything. God knows it took me long enough to cultivate them in the first place! But for those with Shire Horse like legs, the choice of shaving, or not shaving for that matter,  has all sorts of implications. Let’s face it, some guys legs are so hairy, they are an EcoSystem in themselves! All they are short of, is the periodic appearance of David Bellamy popping his head out from betwixt the briars! But these hairs are a mans badge of honour. Should they be touched?

Shaving

Not according to some people! But if you are wedded to the sport of cycling, and for you the answer is ‘yes, I will shave my legs’, then a whole new set of challenging questions erupt! What to do it with! How to do it? How often to do it? How much to do it to?  Mind melting stuff for a bloke, but critical questions nonetheless!

It would appear that there are three main methods for undertaking such deforestation.

1. Shaving

At first glance, shaving would appear to be about the safest. Most men have some level of proficiency with a razor which will benefit this approach. However, being an ambidextrous contortionist is also critical to this method. Never before have we been called upon to shave stuff that we can’t see. Only people who have spent years playing ‘Twister’ have any hope of making this particular method work!

Pros: All tools are readily available in the bathroom. Cons: Likelihood of slipping a disc, tearing tendons and requirement of a blood transfusion.

2. Waxing

This method is perfect for those who already enjoy pastimes such as self flagellation and watching the Late Late Show! There will be pain, and plenty of it! Is the result worth the suffering? I hardly think so.

Pros: Smooth smooth smooth legs Cons: Longterm mental and physical trauma.

3. Veet for Men

This method is just downright wrong. The things that can go wrong are truly horrendous. For any of you considering this I implore you to click this link VEET for MEN REVIEW – it brought tears to my eyes in so many different ways! One of the funniest things I have ever read 🙂

Pros: Can’t think of any, This Review was written  Cons: Armageddon

Now that you have decided on which method you are going to use, the next question is how far up do you go? Well, one would naturally think that just above the hem of your shorts would be perfect. But this can lead to problems. As a MAMIL you have probably started wearing Speedos again. And to be honest, speedos don’t look great (when do they ever) over a pair of ‘hair’ shorts otherwise known as ‘Hamster Pants’!

Speedos

So how much further do you go? The line of the Speedos? Tip: wrapping masking tape around the desired level on your thigh will make for a well defined line. Or do you go even further to, dare I say it  – a Pejazzle? Maybe not such a bad idea. Pejazzling involves the adornment of that hallowed area with small items of beauty – apparently! But it doesn’t have to be just aesthetic, it can also be practical. Properly shaped, it could be a great storage spot for Quick links, puncture repair patches and maybe even a mini hand pump! This personal emergency ‘Toolkit’ could be a real boon on a long cycle.

But maybe this is still not enough for some people who wish to go even further. Which leads me back to my original question – ‘Does Paddy have a landing strip?’. To be honest, I don’t know, but might I suggest you ask next time you meet him 😉

PS If you are going ahead with this shaving malarky, here are a couple of video links from GCN:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

 

Triumph 20 & The Third Policeman

Since their invention in the early 1800’s, bicycles have evolved from a two wheeled yoke that you sat on and pushed with your feet, to the super high-tech race bikes of today. bicycle_layout_zoom_0905_2 But they still do exactly the same thing, even if they are a little more comfortable and faster nowadays. In the past, bicycles were used by many, as their only means of transport. My father in law tells the story of how his father in 1952, wanted to see Westmeath play in Croke Park, 60 miles away. Off he set on his black ‘Bone Shaker’ to see the match. 1950s While he was there, he met another Westmeath man who offered him a lift home in his truck. He politely declined, as he wanted to mull over the happenings of the match while he cycled the 60 mile return trip home. 120 mile round trip on a bike that probably weighed three times what a modern bike does. Amazing. Times have changed. Now most people ride bikes – not out of necessity, but out of choice. The growing popularity of bikes in Ireland is staggering and has no doubt been fuelled by the successes of the likes of Stephan Roche and Sean Kelly and more recently by the ‘Bike to Work’ scheme. Who would have thought that Enniskerry and other such cycling hotspots would become so full of bikes at the weekend, that you end up getting caught in bike jams! Talking of which, prior to my first P2N spin, cycling to Enniskerry had been my longest trip on a bicycle. I was 12 and we were going to the annual Whit Weekend Scout camp in Powerscourt. On the way down, the sun was shining and the time flew. The ribald banter of a load of young lads freed from their parents for a weekend flowed. Excessive us of expletives was the order of the day, as there was nobody to give out to us (we had left or Scout Leader miles behind)! The bike that I rode was my legendary ”Triumph 2o’! What a machine it was – when you were going downhill! Triumph 20 But coming back home after the Camp we were confronted with the hill from Enniskerry to Kilternan. As we wended our way slowly up, we started to lose people. Our ever decreasing Peleton was finally down to about four of us who were just about managing to stay on our bikes. Who was going to break first? At this stage the guys who were walking had passed us out and were nearly at the top of the hill! We were zig zagging to such an extent that we were making absolutely no upward progress. Screenshot 2014-05-13 18.27.37 Then disaster struck (as it tends to in my recollections)! I was putting so much pressure on my pedal with my unsuitable desert boots, that my foot slipped forward and the beautifully positioned lever (for raising and lowering the handlebars) dug in to my knee! I had escaped injury for the whole weekend despite wielding axes, throwing knives and jumping campfires, but my bike got me in the end! So whether your bike memories are good or bad, one thing is for sure, bicycles have become part of our DNA. So maybe Sergeant Pluck’s Atomic Theory in Flann O’Brien’s ‘Third Policeman‘ was true. ‘The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who nearly are half people and half bicycles.’ Leaves me wondering what the introduction of carbon in bikes will do to the next generation! Cyborgs?

It’s NOT a Race said Kevin!

So, I got on the bike for the first time in February. ‘Sure you’ll be grand…it’s not a race’ said Kevin.

That statement held true, until last Sunday when it was unceremoniously consigned to the slag heap that is entitled ‘Cycling UnTruisms’! It is now in good company with other statements such as ‘It’s mostly flat from here’, ‘That’s the worst part over’, ‘We’re just going out for a gentle spin’ and ‘Sure the wind will be behind us when we’re on the way back!

So what changed on Sunday. Couple of things really. Firstly – Strava. I am now racing against a feckin’ app! For those of you who don’t know it, Strava maps your ride using GPS. And, if you have other gubbins strapped on such as speed, cadence and heartrate sensors, it layers all of that info on top to tell you how you are doing. Also built in to this is an ability to compare your speed over given stages. Stages with poetic names such as the ‘Enniskerry Sperm Loop’!

Anyway, on Sunday I decided to go for a Strava ‘PR’ or Personal Record on the Stage known as ‘LM Bray to Greystones Climb N to S’! So off I went, with nether regions pointing skywards with thoughts of the great Marco Pantani on my mind. Hey, he even looked a bit like me!

940-pantani-marcoPantanii

My legs were going like the clappers. Every sinew screamed, but I wouldn’t listen. This hill is mine, and nothing was going to take it away from me. Almost at the top, my lungs were bursting and I had even developed a stitch! Christ, I hadn’t had one of them since Jack O’Grady caught us robbing his orchard and gave us a monumental chase. But none of this mattered, the pain, the suffering, the sheer agony of pushing my body to the limit. There was smoke coming out of my heartrate strap FFS! But I was almost there – King of the Hillock!

Then, disaster struck:

No, I didn’t fall off. A certain Cathal Gormley, riding his totally silent ‘Stealth Stevens’ shot by me to grab my title! Oh the ignominy. But I’ll get over it.

So what I am really trying to say is, for me cycling is a race. A race between me and myself! This is totally new to me as I have never before pushed myself physically. The pain barrier was always just that – a barrier, through which I had never passed. But now that I have, the view on other side is marvellous. So what is the big payoff? The payoff is knowing that the next time I do it, it will be a bit easier. It is also arriving home after a long spin knowing, that I have achieved a number of personal goals and that I have just spent 3-4 massively productive hours.

To be honest, I have been surprised by my own progress. Many of the hills that used to terrify me are now welcome challenges. But for me, what is truly wonderful, is watching the P2N group as a whole develop and progress.

To be able to do so much for yourself, whilst also doing good for others – it’s no wonder Paris2Nice has grown in to the amazing institution it has. Thank you P2N, you have made one MAMIL very very happy.

 

Going Commando

When I was a kid, my favourite comic was, without a doubt, Commando. Sixty eight pages of beautifully cartooned war action  where the ‘righteous’ always won the day! And the Commando Knife in the logo and on the back, I desperately wanted one of them!

Commando-4329-cover

There was something special about the Commandos that got my imagination going and there was no doubt in my mind, when I grew up I was going to be one.

Well, life intervened and  I never did.

So why am I taking this misty-eyed trip back in time? What has that got to do with cycling? The term ‘Going Commando’ has suddenly made an entrance in to my life. Yes, of course I knew what it was (no underwear) but to be honest it was never a pastime that I actively indulged in to any great extent. And on the odd occasion when necessity warranted it, I felt that everybody around me had X-Ray Vision and knew exactly what was going on. Ingrained in to most of us by our Mammies was, always make sure your underwear is clean and if you are going any distance carry a spare pair in case you get run over! Well, cycling dictates the opposite! NEVER wear underwear under your Lycra. Apparently it is the number one crime committed by cycling newbies!

So, no undies!! What is going to protect you from the Commando Knife like saddle that most modern road bikes have. Well it is a strange thing called a ‘Chamois’! Now when I heard about it first and looked it up I was informed it was a goat-antelope species native to Europe! And let’s be honest, you’re hardly going to get much relief by stuffing an antelope down your shorts! On further searching I found out that it is also a cloth for making thinks shiny! Surely having a shiny bum can’t be that advantageous for cycling? Finally I found out that it is also a pad that is sewn in to cycling shorts to protect ones nether regions.

Mens_TopShelf_Chamois

So off I went to purchase a pair of cycling shorts with a ‘chamois’. I was told that should get ‘Bibbed’ ones as they go over your shoulders and stop them sliding down when you’re riding. Bloody hell, it took me a couple of goes to get them on, as straps were going in the wrong place etc. I even had them on backwards at one stage which was just plain weird. I mean, who the hell needs a pad coming that far up their front?? I wasn’t planning on lying on the saddle! Finally, I got them on correctly and proceeded to waddle around the house looking like John Wayne after a particularly long ride on a very twitchy horse! But, as time passed, I became one with my fancy new cycling shorts! I even managed to convince myself that they didn’t look too bad. But then, the family arrived home and all hell broke loose. Mixed emotions (all bad) flowed like a raging torrent. The general consensus was disownment and longterm ostracism! But hey, I was doing this for charity wasn’t !? Grudging acceptance followed, although it has now been agreed that I have to warn them in advance when I am coming through so they can avert their eyes and face the wall!

Given the severity of the reaction, I have decided not to tell them about the Chamois Cream, as I reckon that would put them over the edge. But for those of you who are less squeamish, Chamois Cream/Butter is used to lubricate the Chamois and your nether regions so that there is no chaffing on long rides.

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And does all this stuff work? The answer is a resounding yes. So, to jump back to Commando parlance, if you don’t want your ‘undercarriage shot to pieces’ then bib shorts with a chamois and chamois cream is definitely the way to go!

A Mountain to Climb

When I committed to doing the Paris2Nice Cycle, my main concern was whether I would be able to complete the 700 kilometres in six days. Well, I reckon that if I keep up my training I will be able to do it. Huge thanks has to go out to the riders from previous years, who organise weekly rides to show us newbies how it can be done!

But there is an option to climb Mont Ventoux on the 4th day. Known also as the “Beast of Provence”, the “Giant of Provence”, or quite aptly “The Bald Mountain”, this involves a 21km climb to the summit! This mountain has a real history for cyclists as it has been part of the Tour de France many times.

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Will I make it? Who knows but I sure as hell am going to give it a try!