Monday, May 4, 2009

Sliabh Bloom Challenge - Sunday 3rd May 09

Event Info

Looking out at the early morning sunshine and having heard a good weather forecast I decided that this was a day for shorts,light weight socks and short sleeve top.

I had thrown overshoes, armwarmers, jacket and heavy tights into the car the night before, just in case and I was going to be sooo sorry that I didn't use them.

I arrived at the meeting point with Allen,in Strawhall at 8.30 for registration and a 9.00 start. Bumped into a mate, Lar, at the assembly area.

We had a bit of a false start. We noticed that there were groups heading off already, so we decided to follow one of the groups. That was all well and good until we realised that we weren't closing the gap although we were pushing the pace a bit. We decided to turn around and head off with a more suitably paced group.
We met Lar and two mates on the way so we jumped in with them. None of us actually knew the route so a quick check of the map was needed on the ringroad. The roads were well marked after that.

Despite the strong head wind it was good craic in the group on the long drag by Killeshin.
This was also the first opportunity to try out the new chainring. After what happened on the climb up to the "Cut" my small gears will no longer be referred to as girly gears. More later !!

I was freezing for the first few miles, my feet didn't thaw out for about 60 miles. I'm really not sure if they did get warmer or if I just stopped feeling them after all my other bits started to hurt. I wasn't brave enough to take off my over jacket all day.

At about 17 miles I had the life scared out of my by a bunch of 30 or 40 riders whizzing past on a downhill. We hopped into the group and stayed with them 10 or so miles.
This was the first time since school (that's not today nor yesterday) that I've been in a large bunch and it felt fantastic. I lost sight of Allen, Lar and the lads for about 20 minutes as I moved closer and closer to the front of the bunch. I was getting a bit nervous when I realised I would most likely need to take a turn at the front (Ahh Jaysus, I'll be too slow, how long will I last at the front etc.) I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when the group broke up and I hadn't been on front.
I think that I went into a sort of race mode for a while, I wanted to chase down the wheel in front and hop on any wheel that passed, it did feel exciting, but it eventually dawned on me that we still had about 70 miles and some big climbs ahead.. slow down you fuckin eejit you're not 18 any more !!

The route took us through Abbeyleix and onto the rest stop at Mountrath. A very welcome cup of tea and a couple of sambos refreshed us for the next stage "the mountains" I had hoped that the break would help to warm my feet, unfortunately that wasn't the case.

The first climb over Sliabh Bloom towards Kinnitty was steep enough in parts but mainly a tough drag. The scenery was impressive, although I guess that it would look a lot better without sweat and snot dripping off your nose.
The surface on most of the downhill was crap and made for some serious arse clenching.
I nearly rear ended Allen on the way down (not in a brokeback mountain way)
I was glad to reach the better surface of the main road.

The wind is either in your face or you are having a good day.
We were having a good day on the road from Kinnitty to the next village (cant remember the name) We had a conversation along the way, we knew that there were two large climbs on the route and I asked Allen if he thought we had already done the two climbs. not as stupid a question as it may appear as there was a distinct up, down and up again on Sliabh Bloom. We were left in no doubt when we made the right turn off the main road and started up the climb to the"Cut"

Like Lance Armstrong and Jan Ulrich we were powerfully pushing our way to the summit, About half way up I tucked in behind "Lance" to allow some cars to pass and as I glanced to my right to move out I was greeted by young lady in Carlow road club livery shooting past "howya" "howya" and she disappeared into the distance leaving us "supreme athletes" huffing and puffing and suitably reminded of our place in the cycling world. (no more references to girly gears, ever, ever, ever again. Sorry girls)
I was getting some mild stomach cramps on the way up, I think it was the mix of Lucozade sport and gels just didn't agree with me, all was well and good until on the way down I farted :-O .I had to tell Al that there would be a stewards enquiry. For a few minutes the laughter took my mind off the aches and pains.

Mostly downhill back to Mountrath where we checked out where we had the first tea break in the hope that there would be some more refreshments. At this point I really fancied a cuppa and a sandwich No luck though. Ah well, keep going, onward to Portlaoise.
I noticed that I was starting to check the mileage on a more regular basis, 70, 71, 71.5... It's going to be a long haul home...the legs felt like they had one speed only and my shoulders (traps) were going into spasm.

Going through Portlaoise Allen did a Superman and made his bike fly, when he jumped a huge pothole and avoided a car pulling out of a side street. Impressive move .. I could almost visualise him with red knickers over his lycra shorts and a billowing red cape...(WOW !! that's a scary thought)
I was a bit worried about the impending climb out of Stradbally but it turned out to be relatively easy (didn't need to use the baby gears) Well not all of them.
We joined up with some lads from Naas cycling club and that really helped make the last few miles fly by. I even found enough energy to take a turn at the front and close down a gap or two. Wonders will never cease !!!

Back to Carlow, a cup of tea and a quick chat with the lads and away for grub and a shower.

Finished the day with a gallon of guinness with Allen in his local. Great day !!!!!

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