Friday, 25 April 2014

Easter riding in Ireland

Spring has arrived and the weather encourages to be outdoors, making training easier both physically and mentally.

My Big Season started badly. After the painful race at the round 1 of SouthernXC, I tried to race again 2 weeks later at he 1st Round of the National Series but went backwards from the start line and never moved up from my last position. The heart rate went through the roof, legs were weak and I had to stop a few times because I had just no energy to pedal at all. A week later it was time for the 2nd Round of SouthernXC - I managed to stay on the bike for nearly 2 hours, which was a significant improvement from the previous week, but finished last again, feeling weak, sluggish and beaten up.
A lot of analising was carried out and the conclusion was that one of two scenarios is taking place: 1. Either my body has still not recovered from the Andalucia Bike Race (and a week-long illness afterwards) and I need more recovery or 2. I'm still in "endurance mode" (having not done high intensity riding since last summer) and I need more interval training. I took a chance and decided to train more, my body however had a different opinion on the matter and opted for Lemsip and aspirin instead of protein shakes. Luckily I got healthy in time for our Easter trip to Ireland - to visit Sean's family and to ride the Irish trails again.
And what a weekend it was!

On Saturday we drove to Ballyhoura in West Ireland to check out the course of June's European MTB Marathon Championship. We rode a marathon there 2 years ago and loved long kilometres of singletrack and were very surprise to discover that this time the route follows mostly fireroads. It's probably fine if you don't know what's behind the trees just a few metres away fro you but if you're aware of the trails, it makes it hard to stick to the roads. Some of the sections were blocked by fallen trees and it took us a while to navigate our way around, making it seem even longer and slower than it really was. After nearly 6hrs of riding and 70km done, our legs were aching but we felt happy to be breathing in the Irish air in our lungs anyway.
Now, what's funny is that I was talking to the guy organising the Euro Champs afterwards and he said they've used practically all of the singletrack available and they're afraid there will be not enough fireroad sections! I wonder whether our memories were clouded and the perception screwed (walking through bushes around the fallen tress took a lot of time) or maybe he has developed some weird love for fireroads since the last time we met... I'm really intrigued by the difference in opinions on this subject, a conversation on Facebook with various people who have ridden it made it even more confusing. I guess the only way to sort it out is to ride it again in June :)

It was steeper than it looks like, really!

Views over Ballyhoura.

A fire-road in Ballyhoura, let's hope they'll clear it before the Champs...
... otherwise it'll add to the challenge.

We got home to Dublin around midnight, had a quick shower, a cup of hot tea, re-packed the bags and at 7.30am next morning we were hitting the trails in Dublin mountains. The beloved trails we rode hundreds of times before... familiar view from the top on the mountain onto the bay in Dun Laoghaire... well known drops, and rocks, and roots, and so many new ones! We had planned to drive to Djouce, south of Dublin, on Monday but decided to come up 3Rock again, with some old friends, to catch up on their lives and on the life of our mountain. Both Sean and myself admitted on the plane on Monday morning to the feeling of guilt for all those times when we lived there and didn't ride it, because we were tired, or injured, or there was a storm... Because we felt that the mountain will always be there. Well, it will. But we may not...
With the great, tricky, challenging singletrack (there are still sections that I cannot ride, after years of practising!), it doesn't feel like training there. You just climb as fast as you can to be able to ride down again, and don't even notice all the elevation you're getting in. The  climbs aren't long so it's like a constant interval training but with a grin on your face. Because the trails are so tricky, the average speed of your ride may look funny, and so may the distance, but when your back and arms are so sore the next day that you have problems putting your clothes on, you know you did some good job there. And we reminded ourselves of another feature of mountainbiking, so common in Ireland and hardly-known (and avoided) in the UK: crashing. But that's another story...

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