Sunday, 29 January 2017

Ice Planet Hoth

Lite Run - A much bigger turnout this morning than I'd expected, given that we'd been thrust into climes to rival those on the ice planet Hoth. With no tauntauns to bail us out, we had to rely on windbreakers and nimbly spinning legs to keep us warm.
It was unanimously agreed to stick to main roads which would be less frosty. Not so unanimous were the ideas bandied about - Moira, Donaghadee, Ballynahinch....eventually we decided to head up the main road for Saintfield (vapin' all the way!), then head for Killyleagh before turning north and stopping at McCanns in Balloo (we're becoming regulars).
On the way, a dropped bidon saw Martin pull off some major drift before taking a tumble onto the side of the road. Thankfully he managed to scrub off most of his speed before hitting the deck and his only complaint was of a bruised bum cheek.
Rims was suffering with cold hands, making gear changes very difficult, but soldiered on until the coffee stop where Poggio and Cameron kindly insisted that she take a pair of undermitts. The extra layer made a world of difference - thanks everyone for looking out for each other :)
While at the café, I witnessed my first indoor tube change courtesy of Resurrection, and could only laugh at the misfortune of Stephen and Martin - both ordered tea which came in one communal pot, but were sat at opposite ends of a long table! Had we had retro to throw into the mix, pandemonium would surely have teleporting teapot patent is already in the works.
The journey home was a shorter leg; all of us went fairly directly to our respective homes - some via the main Comber road, others via Moneyreagh, and the rest on the greenway where we caught up with Jeremy.
Another great run, and a glowing testament to the moral fibre of the club - everyone helping and supporting everyone else. We clocked up 40 miles at 14 mph...longer than expected but everyone fared ok. Ride of the day goes to Rims, who suffered with the cold but never gave up, and who is definitely getting stronger week on week!
Hopefully see you next week for more of the same (36-40 miles at a steady pace), minus the ice ❄

Shiver Me Timbers

Full Fat Run - Shiver me timbers it was cold this morning. Coming down the northern passage dodging icebergs set the tone for the route - salty sea dog roads.
There was a great turnout for the Lite run and seven shipmates for a longer voyage. As we set sail, my only advice to the Beast was to watch for ice - we would later learn it wasn't the only slippy substance on the roads. The wind wasn't strong, but roughly south easterly. We stuck to main roads through Saintfield and Crossgar to the Quoile Bridge. With the frost easing and a mostly uphill trajectory we decided to get off the main road and climb through Raholp and on to Strangford that way.
When we arrived hoping to drop anchor, we found the cafe temporarily closed. Flashdance and Bullet decided to head home while the rest of us debated the options. Retro fancied Portaferry, but with the boat on the other side a 15 min wait made Ardglass a better option. Down to five and with a really high tide, we took in the views out through Kilief and Ballyhornan to coffee in Doyle's Bistro.
There may be a prize for the best caption for the photo below - "Retro on the pull again" and "We're gonna need a bigger boat" were the best we could do while scoffing sodas.
A direct hit back to Downpatrick and Crossgar lifted the pace, before we finally had the confidence to head back in to the lanes to Derryboye. The ice was fine, but oil or diesel on a right turn brought down Retro. Thankfully we had slowed for the junction and he's made of strong stuff. It definitely didn't slow him on route to Ballygowan where he came off the wheels and took a well deserved 30's - way to leave your worries behind.
A final trip round the lanes and home. Great riding by Chris today, who is really getting stronger. More main roads than usual, but still some beautiful scenery and a couple of short efforts. Thanks to Chris and Martin for the extra photos.

Sunday, 22 January 2017


Thanks to roadworks I arrived late this morning, just as the mothership was leaving Forestside. Tagging on the Lites or heading back to bed would've been a pleasure, but I suspect the mothership wouldn't have given me that option and may well have come to my house to ask if I was coming out to play....
Nine of us headed up the Saintfield Road. I discovered the destination was Newcastle, but they were relying on me to be the brains of the operation and to get us there - that isn't a compliment for any of us. We were joined by Alan or Tantastic as he might be known for a while, who graduated from riding with the Lites. Sam also joined us which was a bold move as he hasn't ridden that sort of distance in a fair while.
We'd headed that direction two weeks ago, so I tried to call some different roads. I'd been warned of more road closures ahead and wanted to keep us away from any diversions that would be busy. The roads had a common theme, they were narrow, lumpy and tough making everyone work hard. We dropped down from Drumaroad towards Maghera, where four riders turned off - based on current fitness I should've gone with them, but I like to suffer.
Suffering is what cyclists do more than anything. People ask why and what enjoyment we get from it, which isn't always easy to answer. I guess a lot of it is the knowledge that it gets us to where we want to be. If we want to be fitter and stronger we have to hurt ourselves, dig deep and trust our bodies will adapt. Those that have done it as long as Nitemare and me, also know it's a rite of passage - don't give it, unless you can take it and with that long experience we're fairly confident that at some point in the not too distant future we'll be giving it....
Anyway, we made it to Newcastle and dug in to refreshments in Nikki's Kitchen. Out to Bryansford and over to Castlewellan wasn't too bad. Then the pressure went on and my legs feel off. We kept the route simple and the rotations rapid. A big congrats to Alan on a great ride and thank you to everyone for pacing me home - the attack in to Carryduff was just the final throws of a dying man. A special thanks to Nitemare for a couple of shoves near home which I was very grateful for (two weeks ago I was giving them out).
I think it was Nietzsche that said "if a suffering cyclist cries and his team mates weren't there to see it, did he really suffer" - thanks for being there to see it!

Lite's Third Installment

Plenty out this morning for the third installment of the lites run - a very special welcome to Selina and Linda who made their debut appearances with the club.
Following the full fats' lead from yesterday, we headed for donaghadee via Bradshaw's Brae. After plying ourselves with French toast, bacon, poached eggs and hot chocolates, we were ready to hit the road again.
Home via the Movilla road, with Danny taking half home by the Comber greenway, while the rest of us battled our way over the carriageway drag to Dundonald. 34 miles in the bank, and home for a sleep (provided significant others don't have errands for us to run!)
Ride of the day goes to Linda, who was suffering at the halfway point but dug in deep to make it home. A huge thanks to all the club members who were on hand to offer help, advice and support to others throughout. Hopefully see you all again next week!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Choose Life

Choose life. Choose a bike. Choose Campagnolo. Choose a flat white and a scone or maybe pancakes. Choose a line and hold it. Choose quiet roads. Choose good friends. Choose to climb, choose to descend, choose to sprint. Choose a wheel, carefully... Choose riding out in to a headwind. Choose to be the bigger man and ignore the occasional ignorant driver. Choose karma. Choose the big ring, and line them out in the gutter. Choose the service revolver. Choose to feel alive. Choose to smile, choose to laugh, choose to try harder. Choose the healthy option, but know you've done the work to deserve the dirty one. Choose to respect cyclists, drivers, pedestrians, runners and horse riders. Choose another flat white. Choose Mallorca, choose Gran Canaria. Choose big legs. Choose good kit. Choose Bioracer. Choose post-ride naps longer than the training. Choose to do it all again tomorrow.
Choose cycling and not wondering who the **** you are on a Sunday morning. Choose not sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing junk food in your mouth. Choose your future. Choose life....

Thanks to Bridewell Coffee for making us welcome and to Digger, Scotty, Comrade and Nitemare for pulling me round.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Get on and Pedal

If the Beast had 15 in the Lite group and I had 7 in the E-Lite group, that meant 22 out in total. The roads were damp, but we didn't get any rain and even managed to find some sunshine.
As last week I found the simplest way to start proceeding was to get on and pedal - we could sort out the fine details once we knew who we had with us and what everyone wanted to do. The notional plan was to keep it pretty short. Some needed home early and some of us wanted to catch a little of the final Kinning's Cross League at Stormont. If we bumped in to the Lites at Balloo that would be a bonus and a minor miracle.
How we got there is a bit of a mystery to me, which isn't good seeing as I was calling the route. Road closures and the wind played a part, as did the absence of Retro sprinting up the hills! We basically took the Killynure Rd to Saintfield and then back roads south to Annacloy. More lanes to Scabby Road and north to Balloo.
With a twisty route and a puncture we hit Balloo a bit later than planned. A quick democratic vote, which Noel lost (sorry dude) saw us decide not to stop for coffee. Another quick democratic vote, with Hannibal won saw us keep on the main road in to Comber - great training.
There we jumped on the greenway and back to Belfast. At Stormont we arrived shortly after the ladies race finish, bumping in to our own Nitemare and Bioracer's Ken and Chris - great to meet you. The Lites arrived a bit after us and Martin took the photos below - thanks.
Less than 3hours, but a good 75k-ish with a mixture of speed and bergs - perfect January training. Speaking of Bergs, Santa made a late call to the Berg household with a delivery of Italian goodness - can't wait to get back to the dark side.

Week 2 of the Lites

Week 2 of the lites runs got off to a flying start - with Danny and the Forestside group joining us, we had 15 bodies to put to work.
 Mike 's ankle bracelet wasn't going to hold him back, so we set off up the Saintfield Road at a steady pace. Reaching Carryduff, we turned left down the Comber Road and towards Moneyreagh. El Pistolero's guided historical tour furnished us with more information than we'd counted on, but it's sparked an interesting idea for a series of club runs later in the year - watch this space...
Through Ballygowan and down the Moss Road into Balloo, where we stopped at Mccanns. With a collective IQ in the triple figures (at least) we finally figured out how to get in, and availed of the caramel squares and pies on offer.
2017 marks the emergence of a new Retro...already stunned at his being amenable to a lite run ("I don't feel like burying myself today"), we were absolutely flabbergasted when his staple pot of tea was abandoned in favour of an Americano. Old habits die hard though, and it was only after a waitress had passed by several times announcing the arrival of a coffee, in an increasingly bewildered tone, that he acknowledged that it was in fact his.
Meanwhile, Bobby took exception to the local youths and Resurrection jumped on the "which wah are we going home?" bandwagon. I only realised he was winding me up halfway through the third explanation...
For a fourth and final time, then....the route home went via the Craigarusky Road, bringing us out into the south end of Comber. Danny, Lois, Paul and David headed home via the main road while the rest of us tackled the drag back up to Moneyreagh.
Schoolbus mode well and truly engaged, we started dropping riders back home one at a time. First Resurrection, then Mike, then Neil...the rest of us split at Crossnacreevy, with a couple of us stopping at Stormont on the way home to catch some CX action and meet up with our friends at Bioracer.
All in all, another successful run! 32 miles at 14 mph, with everyone sticking together well throughout. Joint ride of the day award goes to Stephen, who looks very strong on his second outing, and to Resurrection and Bullet, who haven't been out with a group for a while.
Thanks again to everyone who made it out, and hopefully see you next week 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

30 at Forestside

It was brilliant and mildly overwhelming to see almost 30 people down at Forestside this morning, with lots of new and old faces. With The Beast taking the part of the good guy looking after the Lite run, I was cast as the villain intent on merciless torture of those brave enough to sign up for the longer run - turns out despite the horrific looks, I'm not a natural villain, I'll need to work on it....
With so many people, the simplest solution was to split the herd quickly and give Stuart the opportunity to brief the Lite run. Our group agreed we'd head south in to the wind and make a brief appearance at the Irish Cyclocross Champs in Tollymore - how we'd get there and back was loosely worked out in my head, but as always I had a few possibilities so I could tailor the route for the weather and riders.
We took the main road up to Ballynahinch and tried to maintain a steady effort level up and down hill - we still have a little work to do on that.... left took us to Spa and the start of the hills. Strava explains the route better than I can and makes up for the fact I can't remember road names. To meet our objective of keeping the pressure on downhill, Digger and Retro hit the front on the long descent and strung it out.
On to Maghera where Flashdance turned for home, and then in to Newcastle via the Burrendale. A lap of the front and out the Bryansford Road to Tollymore. We arrived at the cross during the practice and while most of the group took in the atmosphere at the start/finish, Digger and me took in a little of the course down to the lower field - smart no, fun yes... It was soon time to head and we went straight across to Castlewellan. Straight laterally, very much not straight vertically with a nasty climb in the middle.
Coffee at Urban, where we decided to take a simpler than planned route home. The clock was ticking and legs were getting tired. James displayed his intimate knowledge of the Wizard of Oz and we soon had the Strawman, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy cast. Apparently I was the Good Witch. I don't remember her, but I'm guessing she wasn't a looker.
Near Drumaroad, we decided to split the group and let those in a hurry home head on - I hear Digger stretched a few legs.... Poster Boy, Chris and me took it steadier and probably had a slightly more enjoyable trip back through Spa and out by Ballycreen.
A really successful day all round. A major thanks and well done to Stuart for bringing the Lites back. Apologies for my photography, I really need to check the settings on my phone, but me and technology are not the best friends. Here's to next week!