The day began cold but dry. We departed at nine and set off in the direction of Carrick to meet the lads coming up the road. In Carrick over thirty five smiling faces gathered at the old ESB before heading our way. By the time they reached Clonmel the group would number forty eight but the weather would have taken a change. A dramatic change for the worse.
Two degrees is cold on a bike, especially with the wind chill factor dropping it even further. Gale force winds in our faces made for hard work. Then the rain began to fall, and fall and fall. The heavens opened up so much that I was expecting to see Noah in his Ark being towed by a Land cruiser coming against us.
Then the pain set in. Riders shivered, riders shook. Riders moaned and groaned in anguish.
As Knocklofty hill presented its 10% gradient the usual fifteen who turn for Surehaul were joined by more, many more. A group of forty eight was decimated to a group of just eight.
A tyre separated two riders in a race yesterday, almost 100k would separate them today.
It was no coincidence that five of the eight had the ONDA logo present on their clothing. A range designed and tested by Sean Kelly himself was bound to be at the head of affairs in these conditions.
The quote of the day came from ‘the King’ as he smiled at the conditions and said ‘ A Belgie wouldn’t even have an under vest on a day like today’
Eight drove on for Clogheen before turning and following the foot of the Knockmeldowns to Newcastle and back to Clonmel. Two choices then presented themselves, the back road or the main road back to Carrick. The back road is harder, the back road was chosen.
Kelly punctured and repaired quickly, as Nana tried to find a missing friend who would help answer his request to get in touch with nature.
Fishermans hill saw the battle commence as Kelly attacked hard. I jumped onto him and as I rode up alongside he turned with a grin and said ‘Boonen attacks on the Kwaremont’ in his best TV commentators voice . I thought of how often I had done the same thing as a voice in my head said ‘Kelly attacks on the Poggio’
Only The Magician followed so a truce was called and a longer, harder detour was chosen via Rathgormack where I bid farewell to my companions and headed for home via the Jenny heights.
Now alone with the day clearing up a little I decided upon another little detour to help my training to ‘Everest’ Tickincor. Now with four hard hours in my legs it would be a good test of how my plan is progressing.
I turned left and almost immediately my legs began to scream ‘what the hell are you at’
I was under severe pressure and needed a distraction, fast.
I decided to break it down into manageable chunks of just five meters at a time. Forget all about the full five kilometers to the summit past Powers the Pot and just focus on the next five meters. It was a tactic that worked. The pain was still there but the bike kept on moving forward.
The summit eventually arrived as I began to think a little too much again. I will need to do all of this climb twenty times in a single day to reach the height of Mount Everest so I will need to be able to climb it when my head says that I can’t. The only logical thing to do was to turn right around at the bottom and do it all again straight away. So that’s exactly what I did.
This time the screaming from my legs was all about getting sense, stopping, turning right around and going straight home. I needed to come up with a serious distraction quick or I would be walking at the very least.
That’s when, out of the blue I started to think about a guy called Chris that I was friends with when I lived in San Diego who was a Navy Seal. He would tell me stories of the training that they would do and I sometimes related his stories to cycling. One phrase that he used often, stood out :
Pain is just weakness leaving your body
I began to think about this and focused on pushing the weakness from my body with every push down on the pedals. I kept moving forward up the climb.
The more I thought about it the more sense it made. If I could push as much pain as possible out of my body it would be replaced by something else, strength. The more pain I could endure today the stronger I will be the next time I face the climb.
It’s exactly what happens when you lift weights, do interval training or any other form of training that makes you stronger and fitter.
I eventually reached the summit of Tickincor and was faced with a sign advising me that was enough for the day.
However, my Everest climb finishes at the summit of Powers the pot, another two kilometers up.
First time up I had not thought that I would make it. Second time I felt that I would not make the first thirty meters yet here I was three kilometers further up. I had pushed through the ceilings of limitation that I had set twice before so why not really push the boat out and go for the top again ?
I also thought of a spin just three weeks previously when I got dropped.
Off I set.
I really struggled. A friend passed in a car that I didn’t even see until I heard the horn blow. But eventually I managed to reach the cattle grid, when I should have stopped thinking but didn’t.
What if I threw it up into the big ring, ignored the howling wind and sprinted out of the saddle all the way to the top ? Wouldn’t that really make me strong ! There’s a reason strength and brains are not interlinked.
So off I set, sprinting at the incredible speed of thirteen kph. But then it began to creep up, and up, until eventually I crested the summit at thirty seven kph. Sam need not worry, but I was happy enough. I pretty much collapsed at the top and was glad to face the five kilometers descent back down.
Struggling to maintain twenty kph on the flat as I finally headed for home I thought of how much cycling can sometimes be a metaphor for life itself.
How often do we set ceilings for ourselves when we are capable of more if we just keep on pushing, and breaking through our self imposed limits.
This is what I wore on todays spin which was ideal on such a rough weather day ;