Somewhere along the line I heard this phrase and it got stuck into my psyche . If there’s an easy way to do something and a hard way I will very often find myself doing it the hard way . Winter training is no exception .
Instead of just ‘tipping away’ on the bike and being fit enough to get a four hour spin in each Sunday in relative comfort I always manage to find myself at this time of year with way too little training done , and instead of building up gradually I jump right into the deep end . Today was no exception .
The local training group is one of the best in the country . There are current and former National Champions , more Ras stage win’s than you could count and even the fourth greatest cyclist of all time . This group is not for the fainthearted , or the unfit ( note to self ) .
As I headed down the Waterford road out of Clonmel to meet the group this morning I thought that I was flying . The fact that there was a gale blowing behind me was conveniently forgotten . I met the group near Kilheffernan and as I turned I noticed that the size was a little smaller than usual . Maybe 25 to 30 in total rather than the usual 50 or so .
We were now facing into a headwind and as I was sheltered all still seemed fine . Then as we headed out the Dungarvan road and ploughed on up the Kilmacomma drag I began to feel quite uncomfortable . The hammer was descending and I only had about 8 k done .
Adding to my ailments was the fact that I was for the first time wearing my new orthotics . The podiatrist advised wearing the everyday ones for an hour at first gradually building up by an hour per day , and not to wear the cycling ones until I was up to the full day wear on the casual ones and then only for an hour or so for the first few spins . But this wouldn’t matter as I wouldn’t be wearing them until after Christmas . Or so he thought .
My first day with the casual orthotics I decided that I would try them for 3 hours up to lunch time and then change them when I went home for lunch . However we were very busy that day and I never did make it home for lunch so ended up wearing them for the whole day . The following day I had the same intention and the same thing happened again . My feet were sore but I said feck it and have been wearing them everyday for over a week now and they are grand .
Today I decided to try the cycling orthotics and obviously wore them for the full spin instead of the recommended hour max . They were sore for the first half hour but after that the rest of my legs and body took over so I kind of forgot about them .
It was freezing last night but seemed to have warmed up a little by morning . However it was still possible to see the breaths of those in the group when we were approaching Colligan as can be seen below ;
Next up came the climb of ‘The Pike ‘ , the most feared ascent there is between Dungarvan and Leamybrien . I was expecting pain , I was expecting much suffering . This is the midway point of the spin , so if you get dropped here it’s a long lonely road home . Luckily Martin and Leslie were on the front for the climb and the pace was what could be described as ‘tea drinking sociable’ . This suited me just fine .
Now I was lulled into a false sense of security , but as we passed through Leamybrien a very strong North wind was whipping itself into a frenzy and I was glad to be in the middle of a group that size and also glad of the shelter that provided .
However , just as we were at the foot of the climb of ‘The haysheds’ Johnny M punctured and as he drifted back he asked me for a tube . As Geoff Mac mentioned ‘ A few grands worth of a bike and no spare tube may require an introduction to a left boot in the posterior ‘ or something to that effect . I stopped to give him the tube and a loan of my Park Pump .
Coincidentally , at the very same moment Danny Carroll broke a spoke in his rear wheel and also had to stop to release his brakes . ‘The Haysheds’ is the point where no-one will turn back for you so I had visions of facing that headwind all the way home in a group of three . Not an appealing thought given the fact that I was now really starting to suffer . The long lonely road up ahead looked so desolate I could have cried .
Just when you’ve given up all hope and your at 180 bpm going over the top of ‘The Haysheds’ and your legs feel like two sacks of jelly as you struggle against a block headwind an apparition shows itself and all fate is restored in humanity . Some of the group had turned and had come back for us . I felt like a Navy Seal – Never leave a man behind . Thanks Leslie , Geoff , Bobby , Johnny , Andrew , Big Ben , Paul and John .
The run into Carrick was steady and we stopped at a shop so that Johnny M could get his breakfast
As we left Carrick to face the 13 miles home I felt as though we had left Everest based camp and were heading for the summit , such was the state I was in . I just about managed to stay in the group going towards Clonmel although my legs were now on fire . The one consolation that I had was that I kept telling myself that this was great training for the Etape next year . Although then I should have 6 hours done and be feeling like this near the summit of Mont Ventoux . I was telling myself that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger when I thought of Tom Simpson ( who died on the climb of Mont Ventoux ) and decided to think about something else .
My legs barely got me up the hill home and as I staggered in the front door even my vision was a little blurry . The funny thing is that after a long shower and a bite to eat I felt human again and there was even a perverse sense of satisfaction in having pushed my body that far . I guess that’s what cycling is all about , finding just what your limits are . The former Tour de France King of the mountains Robert Miller once said that the best climbers weren’t the ones who could climb the fastest but those who could suffer the most !