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Posts Tagged ‘Road biking’

“Oh shit”, I thought. The grating noise just didn’t sound good. I looked down. My back wheel was making a really unhealthy sound each time I turned the pedal. This was not what I planned as I left my bike at Kate Kearney’s Cottage the night before the 70km Killarney Adventure Race. I poked and prodded at different metal bits for several minutes before concluding there was nothing I could do. “It could be just a bit of mud stuck from the day’s ceaseless rain”, I thought. “Or something much more serious”. I would just have to wait until the race to see.

Setting off on the 35km bike from Kate Kearney's Cottage to Muckross Lake. Photo courtesy of Marek Hajdasz.

Setting off on the 35km bike from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Muckross Lake. Photo courtesy of Marek Hajdasz.

My rear wheel dilemma was made all the more stressful knowing who I was up against. Fiona Meade had entered the race, the 2014 National Road Racing Champion who had beaten me by over 20 minutes in last year’s Sea to Summit Adventure Race. Though Killarney’s course is well known to favour mountain runners, I couldn’t lose too much time on the second stage, a 35km cycle from Kate Kearney’s to Muckross Lake. A banjaxed wheel would be enough to hand Fiona the race.

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6 weeks. That’s how long the medics said it would take before I could start training again. 6 weeks! That’s nearly a month and a half. That’s far too long to have to wait after 9 months of seemingly never ending pregnancy.

Sonia O'Sullivan and her baby - She went back training 10 days after giving birth. Courtesy of bbc sport.

Sonia O’Sullivan and her baby – She went back training 10 days after giving birth. Courtesy of bbc sport.

I knew that Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan didn’t hang around for 6 weeks after the birth of her first child. She was back running a mere 10 days after giving birth. But if I thought that I was Sonia O’Sullivan material, I was terribly wrong. Day 10 arrived for me, and I was still a little too tired and sore to begin exercising again.

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Since moving back home, I’ve had a chance to explore the corner of Ireland where I grew up. I now live on the Inishowen Peninsula, which is lodged on the north-west tip of Ireland. It houses the island’s most northerly point, Malin Head, as well as harbouring some of Ireland’s most rugged, wild countryside.

Peter Crommie, race winner, running down towards Carndonagh on the first leg of the Shore-to-Summit race.

Peter Crommie, race winner, running down towards Carndonagh on the first leg of the Shore-to-Summit race.

So when there was a chance to race across the Peninsula last weekend with Extreme North Events, I couldn’t help but sign up. Starting on the east coast’s Redcastle, the plan was to spend the next 62 kilometres biking, running, and kayaking across to Buncrana on the western side.

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I had just moved back home to Ireland, to a part I hadn’t lived in for nearly 20 years. So I bought myself a road bike so that I could go exploring. But how was I to know the good biking loops to take?

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A friend had introduced me to Strava a few months before hand. Mel’s a super pro biker who takes her cycling seriously. She’s also the reigning Irish Road Race Champion, if that wasn’t proof enough. She opened up her laptop with much excitement to show me her online Strava profile. “You see these hills?” Mel asked, motioning to the map on the screen. “You can race up them and then compare yourself to the others who have ridden them”. She called these sections ‘segments’ and showed me how, if you’re the fastest ascender, you can get a virtual ‘Queen of the Mountains’ badge.

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I grew up in the north of Ireland and was born in the remote region of County Donegal. So when I saw a 65km adventure race advertised 30 minutes from my birthplace, I couldn’t help but register.

Me in my blue North Face jacket running down the trail from Urris lakes.

The race was run by Extreme North, a new adventure racing company based on Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula. They have seen the potential of this remote part of Ireland, with its rolling hills, rugged coastline, and stunning, un-spoilt scenery. They have also seen the country’s rise in interest in long distances multi-sport races, with the likes of Gaelforce, Causeway Adventure Racing Series, and the WAR races becoming more and more popular.

It was wet, windy, cold, and generally miserable when I arrived at the race start. The weather only added to my apprehension. I’d never done an individual multi-sport race before. And to make matters worse, I’d never raced on a road bike before. In fact, I had just borrowed my bike from Peter Crommie, my Beast of Ballyhoura team-mate and owner of Roe Valley Cycles in local Limavady.

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For months Cambodia’s Bokor Mountain has been officially closed. The public were barred due to reconstruction of the road that winds its way to the top. Finally, I heard that it was open again to the masses, and so took my road bike out on Sunday for a spin to its summit.

The sign at the entrance welcoming you to Bokor Mountain

It’s around 8 kilometres from nearby Kampot town to the bottom of Bokor. Then it’s a 900 metre climb that runs for 20 kilometres. Finally there’s a 10 kilometre undulating bit on top that rises 100 metres (Route can be found here). And just in case you’re wondering, access to free to Bokor Mountain. A big sign at the entrance says so.

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5 road accidents. That’s the number of incidents I saw during a mere 240 kilometres’ cycle over New Year’s. None of them were drink related. All of them were in broad daylight.

All I was trying to do was cycle my bike safely to Cambodia's coast and Sihanoukville...

Road accident #1: I set out from my home in Phnom Penh at 7am to start ride my bike to Sihanoukville via Kampot. It was a Saturday morning, so traffic was light from weekend office closures. That was, until I reached the airport, less than 30 minutes into my ride. Cars, tuk-tuks, motorbikes were squashed together in an uncharacteristic manner. After a few minutes of bike pushing, I saw the ambulance booting towards city centre. I then passed the broken glass and two very crushed motorbikes lying on the road side. I stopped together with a number of others to take a quick look and a surrupticious photo.

Road accident #2: So there I was, cycling along the road, when two dogs started sprinting towards me from the other side of the road.

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