Tag Archives: club

tnib* – first club spin of the year

With the lifting of restrictions our Club officially restarted Club rides again last week. Like most Clubs this is a Tuesday and Thursday evening as well as Sunday morning. I used to be a regular attendee of pretty much all 3 meets but since changing jobs back in August 2019 I’ve been missing them a lot. I finish work at 6 and the spin starts at 7. This doesn’t usually give me time to get away, changed and travel to the start in time. My old job was almost 15min less travel time and a lot quieter so I was able to get changed early and go on the button of 6.

My last activity with the Club was our Bike Week event back in September and previous to that it was a few Sunday rides in January last year. I can blame the pandemic for most of that but it was me as well. During 2018/19 my cycling activity dropped off considerably and I lost a lot of my fitness. Most of my cycling was solo and I lost the edge I needed to ride with my usual group who had all stepped up a level. Even back in January last year I was struggling, and often failing, to stay with them, especially on hills.

Having the long weekend off and no work yesterday meant I had a perfect opportunity to get back to a Club meet. To be honest I was nervous about it. I’ve always been a bit awkward in social situations and the last year and a half haven’t helped that any. I knew I’d gotten stronger on the bike this year but I was sure I was still way off the rest of my old group, especially as my activity had dipped in April and May again. There was quite a bit of flip-flopping throughout the day about whether or not I was even going to go but eventually I knew I had to go for my own good.

I cycled up to the meeting point from home and ended up leaving early and being there almost 15min early. I was ready to go so just left before I could talk myself out of it again! Quite a few people turned up and a good mixed group so I knew I had someone to ride with no matter what happened. After a bit of chatting among groups a route was decided. All abilities were heading in the same direction which suited me perfectly as it meant I could fall back to a slower group if I wasn’t able to keep up. I didn’t intend to go with the faster group but as everyone separated out I ended up starting with them. At least three other guys came too that I knew I could stay with so I was reasonably happy. Nervous but happy.

The route was up Barnes Gap, left down the Derg Line to Castlederg, over the valley ridge to Castlefinn and back to Ballybofey via the main road. This also suited me as it gave me a few drop out options to cut the ride short as well as not having to cycle home solo from Ballybofey at the end.

The big issue with this route is that the start is pretty brutal. The first 10km has a lot of climbing when legs aren’t properly warmed up. The last time I came up Cappry I really struggled to stay with the guys and I was pleased to stay with them this time. I did fully expect to be dropped heading up into Barnes Gap (one of the two hardest climbs of the route) but I wasn’t the last one up. I was seriously red lined at the top and didn’t get much of a chance to recover as we kept on to the Derg Line before stopping properly. I ended up behind Tony and really struggled to keep his wheel before losing it on the last small climb about 200m before the turn.

This next section was a lot better. It’s a fairly rolling section and the wind wasn’t as much of an issue as before. We formed a good double line with all of us taking some time on the front. My pulls were pretty short but I still got up there and took my turn. This was a very fast section too and that took a lot of getting used to. Riding in a group was nerve wracking, especially across the first bit which was pretty twisty and bumpy. At times I really felt close to my skill limit and verging on uncomfortable but I soon settled in.

Two guys had decided to hold back and wait for a slower group just after Cappry but I had one other guy that didn’t normally ride with the fast group and one other guy that does but is the slowest so I still had company and didn’t stand out too much. In fairness the three faster guys were great. They took the majority of the time on front, set a challenging but reasonable pace and eased off to wait for everyone to regroup after the tougher climbs.

The route stayed rolling and fast all the way to Castlederg with one last steep climb and fast descent into the town. Then it was the last long pull up over the valley ridge before dropping down to Castlefinn. This is a long, hard climb at the best of times and my legs were really complaining at this stage. However, the wind was now behind us which helped. I managed to stay with everyone for about half the climb before two of the guys really started to pull away followed by one of guys I was trying to match. About 2/3 of the way up John came past me like I wasn’t even moving! He had dropped a chain when he had to stop for traffic mid change and had fallen way behind but I’d say he was still one of the first to the top. Close to the top I got passed by the last of the group meaning I was the last one up but about 1km on I caught up with them again as they had slowed to regroup.

Then it was the very fast descent into Castlefinn. This is a nice twisty road with a good surface and there’s always a fair bit of racing here to get to the bottom. I topped out at just over 60km/hr at 100rpm on my fastest gear and still couldn’t catch some of the guys with bigger chainsets and more power than me. It was great!

Regrouping again in Castlefinn we took it reasonably steady to head back towards Ballybofey. I initially planned to drop off at Liscooley and head home but the craic was good and I felt my legs needed a slightly longer spin down before climbing home so I stayed with them to Killygordon before turning off and soloing the final 5km home.

Leaving the guys my average speed was 29.5km/hr but that included the first 12km solo ride up. Most of them finished with a 30km/hr+ average which is a lot faster than I’ve done for a long time. My usual average weighted power is 180-185, last night it was 200! It’s a very long time since I’ve asked that from my legs and I was very pleased that they had it to give.

*TNIB = Tuesday Night in Ballybofey, nod to BigDdyJim 😉👌

click the image to view on strava

week one

My first week of the 31 Days of Biking challenge is complete and so far, so good.

© Garmin Connect

I’m aiming for 230km per week so after Week 1 I’ve banked 36km in case I have issues later in the month getting in my mileage.

Four of my runs were early mornings, getting away at 6am for a 25km blast before heading to work. This route is nice and simple and doesn’t require too much thought or effort at that time of the morning.

© strava

Half of it is on the main N15 and although the roads are still quiet it’s a lot busier than I expected, especially with HGVs. I guess they’re trying to beat the traffic through the night and early morning.

My longest spin was 74km on Sunday, to the Ghost House, but as Monday was a Bank Holiday I also managed to sneak in a bonus 57km spin. This was in support of our Club Beginner Group that is in its second week. I cycled up and down and then completed 25km with the group, providing support and advice as they gain confidence on the road and in traffic. It was a very social night, very relaxed and very enjoyable.

I had planned to get 50-60km in again on Wednesday, my second day off, but life intervened. Family duties took priority which meant I didn’t get out until quite late in the day and was under pressure to get home for 8pm. 33km had to satisfy me but it kept me on track.

© strava

Only 7 days in and I’m starting to see benefits already. I can feel my legs getting stronger and I seem to be getting faster as my morning times are improving. I’m not sure how much of this is due to weather conditions through the week but at least they’re heading in the right direction.

Week 2 starts tomorrow with some additional challenges that will require careful time management.

metric century

Turned up for the Club Sunday morning spin yesterday determined to keep my momentum going now that I’m back on the bike and back out with the Club again. Nearly shit a brick when they announced it was to be a 100km spin!

I did plan to do a 100km this month but not for another fortnight or so. I didn’t think I had the legs to complete the distance and definitely didn’t think I had the legs to stay with the group over that period of time. But, I did and I did!

It wasn’t all roses though. At times I was really struggling. Every hill I was fighting just to stay with the other guys and I drifted off the back a number of times and had to dig deep to catch up.

The route was a new one for me heading around by Lough Derg, Pettigo and Laghey returning home via Barnes Gap. It’s a road I’ve looked at a number of times but never actually cycled until yesterday. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been in Pettigo before either.

Great route and a big personal milestone as I haven’t cycled 100km since November 2018.

click the image to view on strava
coffee stop in laghey

mind games

This morning I went cycling with the Club. That’s a simple statement that covers (up?) a whole lot. Getting to that point was the result of a lot of small steps that took effort and not all from myself. It started with a phonecall earlier in the week from one of the other guys asking me to come back out again. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked and not the first time by this person but this week it came at the right time.

Then came the small steps from me, getting my bike back from service in Halfords, getting my gear ready, getting my lights and Garmin charged, setting my alarm, putting my bike in the car yesterday, filling my bottle, getting dressed and leaving the house. Every one a small step that involved overcoming a separate mental objection resulting in a very enjoyable Club spin.

I was very nervous this morning, full of doubts about my own fitness, my ability to cycle the distance and to stay with the group but also going back out with people I know. Friday I cycled with strangers and that was mentally a whole lot easier.

In the end I surprised myself on all counts. It wasn’t easy and I know the group weren’t pushing too hard but I hung in there, was able to stay with them, not get dropped (except on one climb), enjoyed myself and completed my longest cycle for 3 months.

click the image to view on strava

I’ve always been a quiet person socially and it’s only in recent years that I’ve taken up cycling and found a group that I enjoy and feel part of. Over the last 12-18 months I’ve become more reclusive again, especially over the last year to the extent that today was almost exactly 7 months since I’ve cycled with the Club.

One phonecall was the catalyst to change that. For a non-physical part of the body the mind has such a lot of control.