My Cycling Year
This blog post looks back on my cycling year. 2015 was a good one, participated in lots of events and covered over 10,000km around the roads of Ireland (plus a small bit in Spain). Most of this cycling was done in group events but I did mix in a few competitive events. I went for an A4 racing license so that I could participate in cycle Ireland sanctioned race events. Along the way I picked up a few prizes and I would see myself as a keen cyclist who likes to participate in various events. I did take part in some events where professional athletes like Bryan McCrystal participated so it was nice to rub shoulders with them.
I also do a bit of jogging which allows me to participate in Duathlon type events. The only other thing I do is a weekly session of hot yoga. I find that the yoga increases my flexibility and so I am less prone to injury. Without the yoga I found that I was hurting my calf muscles and Achilles when I worked hard at running faster.
The image above shows how much distance I covered each month during 2015. Some may say that Ireland is a wet country and only suitable for summertime cycling but this is not the case. It’s really only ice or strong winds that makes things dangerous for cycling.
January – 593km (Total 593km)
January 2015 included the final events of the Cyclocross season. This was my first year participating in this event and I used a full suspension mountain bike which was a liability in most events due to the weight of it. However, I took part in every event and I finished 3rd overall in the B league.
Cyclocross is an excellent sport for building up fitness and bike skills. All you need is a mountain bike or a proper Cyclocross bike. I liked it so much that I sold my mountain bike and bought a Cyclocross bike in late January.
Sunday cycles continued during January and I alternated between Claremorris Cycling Club and Annagh Wheelers. Typical spins covered around 80km. My longest spin of the year was the Annagh Wheelers tour of Mayo which was 250km.
February – 462km (Total 1055km)
February included my first duathlon of the year. I took part in the Ballinrobe duathlon which I have done for the past 4 years. Duathlons consist of a run stage followed by a cycle and a run to finish. You need to be a good all rounder to be competitive at these. Some people are really fast on bikes but are not fast runners and I know many good runners who struggle on bikes. If you are interested in taking part in a Duathlon I published a blog post earlier which looked at preparing for your first duathlon.
As you can see in the pictures above I used a time trial bicycle during the duathlon. This is a bicycle that is set up for speed and puts your body into an aerodynamic position. I had a bike fit done by Padraic Marrey just before the event so it was a new setup. It seemed to work as I posted my best time for the event.
March – 802km (Total 1857km)
March brings longer evenings and this reflected in the distance covered for the month. I also participated in the Ashford Duathlon. My main memory from that was that I messed up the transitions, took way too much time changing shoes. It was also a very windy day so I did not use my time trial bike. I use deep wheels and I was worried about the stability of them.
The picture to the right shows me on my road bike which I also got Padraig Marrey to setup. It is a Boardman Team Carbon which I bought through the bike to work scheme in 2009.
April – 1103km (Total 2960km)
April was a busy month on the bike. At the start of the month I participated in my first road racing event. The 2015 Davis Cup was held in Claremorris. I took part in the A4 section which consisted of three 25km laps. I stuck with the main bunch for the first 2 laps but I was caught out on a downhill section on the last lap and was dropped. I tried to get back with them but to no avail. I learned a lot about road racing at this event, you really need to concentrate hard or you will get caught out very quickly.
April also brings one of my favorite events of the year which is the Annagh Wheelers weekend of cycling on Achill Island. We cycle over and stay two nights. It is a fantastic cycling location, plenty of climbing and nice scenery if you get the weather. We stayed at the Achill Cliff House Hotel which I would recommend. Around 10 of us covered over 300km during the weekend which included cycling to the top of Minaun hill.
There are a few charity cycles that I attend every year and one of those is the annual charity cycle in aid of Pieta House which is organised by O’Malleys Bar Cross. I normally cycle over from Claremorris which brings me up to 100 miles of cycling for the day.
May – 1097km (Total 4057km)
May was my busiest month when it came to participating in organized cycle events. Highlights include:
Weather for the month was a bit of a mixed bag. The day of the Mayo Pink Ribbon cycle was very windy and wet. To make matters worse we had a tailwind heading out to Achill Island and a really tough headwind all the way back. The Annagh Wheelers tour of Mayo was my longest cycle of the year, covered over 250km but was a really enjoyable and sociable event. The Lough Key Classic Cycle included plenty of climbs around the Curlieu Mountains. Wonderful cycling country
June – 657km (Total 4714km)
June included my annual family trip to Spain. The house where we stay has two basic mountain bikes which are good enough for short spins. I think I was doing around 100km of cycling per week which meant the total for the month was low. This cycling in Spain was the only distance that I did outside of Ireland. I do plan to go on a few proper cycling trips to The Alps or The Pyrenees at some stage.
July – 963km (Total 5677km)
July got me back on the roads of Ireland. I participated in the last few events of the Tri Lakes TT league. This is an excellent league to get into time trialing. They cater for all abilities and plenty of tea and sandwiches at the end of each event.
I had the loan of a fat bike for two weeks and this was a very interesting experience. Back in 2014 I had a full suspension mountain bike but I sold it and bought a Cyclocross bike. I do miss mountain biking and I will buy another at some stage. Will probably go for a hard tail 29er the next time.
My visions for the fat bike were for a slow and cumbersome machine but it was the direct opposite. You can bring them anywhere and they are surprisingly easy to pedal. The large tyres provide some of the suspension and they give loads of traction.
The picture to the right shows me with the fat bike at Moore Hall. There are a few great trails around the woods in Moore Hall. You do need a mountain bike and watch out for flooding in lower sections during bad weather spells. Other great trails in the west include Derroura Mountain Bike Trail and Cong Woods.
Mountain biking is a great way to develop bike handing skills and you don’t need to worry about getting knocked down by a car so it’s an ideal sport for younger cyclists.
The weather in July was poor with lots of rain and wind. The annual Westportif cycle was really difficult and the group I was with decided to skip some of the hill climbs as conditions were so bad. There was at least one bad crash during the event and this came as a reminder that accidents can happen. Thankfully they are rare but you should always make sure your helmet is fitted correctly before every cycle.
August – 1302km (Total 6979km)
August saw the arrival of a power meter. These are electronic devices which can measure your power output. More power equals more speed so many cyclists monitor their power output over time to see if different training methods actually work.
Power meters have always been very expensive as they use complicated strain gauges to measure tiny deflections in metal as you press down on your pedals. Ray Maker has some excellent reviews on his website if you are interested in learning more about power meters.
I picked up a crank based Power2Max unit. It is one of the cheapest power meters on the market but it is very reliable and can do left and right side power measurements. Power meters by themselves are useless, you need to understand what their data outputs mean.
Terms like functional threshold power (FTP) are used a lot to measure what your average power output is like over 20 and 60 minutes. Make sure you know about the theory about power measurement before you purchase a power meter. My power meter was one of my best cycling gadget purchases but only after I spent a good bit of time reading up on the theory.
The image below shows the output from a free application called GoldenCheetah. It is good for offline analysis of power data. This shows my stats from a 15 minute warm up, 20 minute FTP @260W, 10 minute recovery @ 130W, 20 minute FTP @260W and a 15 minute warm down. This is a popular 2×20 FTP interval session which most power training applications include.
During August I participated in the annual Headford Duathlon. From what I remember there were two 4km runs and a 18k cycle. I prefer events with longer cycles as cycling would be my stronger bit. I started out well on the first run but towards the end I did feel the left hamstring getting sore.
I was 4th after the first run and knew I could catch one or two on the bike. Sure enough, after around 5km I had made my way up to second place. I could not see the guy who was in first place and they had a good lead. This became a problem for me as when you see someone in front it can push you on. I actually eased up too much. With about 3km to go I noticed that the 3rd place guy was not far behind and I pushed harder to open up more of a gap going into the second run. Messed up a bit in transition changing from cycling to running shoes, this is something I really need to practice.
The second run became a leg minding exercise. My left hamstring got really sore so I had to hold back. Thankfully I had opened up enough of a gap to hang onto 2nd place. 5 years ago I would never have contemplated taking on one of these events so to finish well up is a great buzz. The sore hamstring also reminded me to get back into hot yoga, I was very busy with other things and had not attended for a few weeks.
September – 960km (Total 7939km)
I also took part in the last Hollymount Wheelers TT event of the year. I posted the best time on the day but I was the only one there with a TT bike so it was a big help. I was also wearing a cheap skin suit which I bought online. A tight fitting suit can cut down on drag which results in faster speeds.
Weather was okay during September and I managed to get a few cycles around my favorite parts of Mayo. Claremorris – Carnacon – Ballintubber – Toormakeady – Finny – Clonbur – Ballinrobe – Claremorris. This covers around 115km through some beautiful scenery.
October – 917km (Total 8856km)
I competed in another Duathlon during October. It was my 3rd time participating in the Westport Duathlon. This is a tricky one for me as you have to run through forest trails and I don’t do much training for this. After the first run I was in around 25th place but I managed to make my way up to 5th place after the cycle. One guy passed me out during the forest run and I finished in 6th place overall or 1st for my age category. It was nice to win another prize which goes a small way to paying off all the cycling bits I have bought over the years.
My Cyclocross bike also got some use in October. I use it for winter cycling as the disc brakes are more reliable in the wet and the frame has more clearance for mudguards. October also sees the start of the Cyclocross season in Ulster and Leinster.
November – 896km (Total 9752km)
In order to keep the cycling up I started using an application called Zwift in November. This is an excellent training application but you do need a power meter to get the most out of it. I used a mix of live cycling and training modes. These apps are also great for learning about using power meters. I spent so much time looking at power meters during November that it is now strange to go on a bike that is not displaying power output. At the moment I am working off a 260 watt 20 minute FTP.
December – 600km (Total 10,352km)
December brought more turbo trainer work and less outdoor cycling due to bad weather. The Connacht Cyclocross league kicked off and this year I am using a proper Cyclocross bike. In race one I came third (B race) and in race two I got a second. The final event is scheduled for early Jan.
While I was participating in race one I hurt my right calf. Not sure what happened but I ended up with a series of deep cuts from a chain wheel. This set me back a bit but after a few turbo training and yoga sessions I was okay.
One of my favorite local events is the Land of The Giants Duathlon. Weather was not great on the day but a record number of participants took part. It was some sight to see over 250 participants running from the square to Clare Lake / McMahon Park. This is a very well organized event with plenty of event staff and marshals keeping everything running efficiently and safely.
I had a good cycle and managed to finish in 9th place overall or 1st for my age group. I had a bike fit done with Padraig Marrey earlier in the year and this helped. When you know the bike is setup properly you can stop blaming it and you can concentrate on other things. Struggled a bit on the second run but this is something I can work on.
This is the first event in the Ireland West Duathlon Series with 4 more to come in the new year. Looking at my Land of the Giants duathlon times below I am happy that I have beaten my time each year. My target for the next one will be to break the hour mark!
So that was my year of cycling. Met lots of new people, worked harder then ever before and covered more distance in one year than I ever did before. For the year ahead I plan to do more of the same. I am planning to try and do more TT type events and a bit more racing. Good luck with whatever plans you make yourself. It does not matter how many kilometers you cover so long as you are out there enjoying it.
Don’t be afraid to sign up for events outside of your comfort zone. Join a cycling club and aim to go on longer spins, maybe try something different like cyclocross or do a bit of cycling in other countries.