My year running in review

This year past I have run 1,000km. That is roughly 10,ooo meters and 100,000 steps taken.

Running has had its ups and downs this year. Like most people, life gets in the way of doing the things we love and we get caught up in the rat race.

My rat race just so happens to be college. Contrary to popular beliefs, college isn’t as fun as some students would let you believe. Between commuting, assignments, deadlines and a social life, it is easy to ‘temporarily’ shelve hobbies.

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That being said, running has become a massive part of my life this past year. After settling down in college and finding my bearings around the small city centre of Dublin, I have been able to take to the pavements; running.

This year I decided I would step up my usual, scheduled races and train for the Dublin Half marathon.

At first it was tough to make time for training and I wasn’t always in the mood to get out and run after a long day. However, I told myself each time that if I didn’t hit my weekly kilometre target, that I would regret it come race day. So I dragged myself out each time and often, after the first step, I would leave any doubts behind.

Soon I started to notice that I was no longer talking myself out of going for runs, but talking myself into going for a run. I had created a habit.  It began to creep into other aspects of my life, and just like the decision to take on the half marathon, I began to take on bigger projects in my personal life.img_3060

As race day rolled around I was excited, yet proud by my little journey from a 10km racer to a half marathon survivor. The day flew by in one quick swoop with many words of encouragement from other runners and the rain that kept us wet (but not miserable) for 01:42:50 I was out on the course.

 

Since the Dublin Half I have finished the Waterford Half Marathon, where I took five minutes off my time in Dublin, only three months ago. I am meeting new people and running in new places. My advice to anyone for the new year would be to lace up your running shoes, because you never know who you might meet out on the road.

Tour De France facts

This year’s Tour De France was as dramatic as world class cycling gets. With Chris Froome successfully defending his title again and Irish man Dan Martin securing a top 10 finish.

  1. In 1989, famous cyclist Greg LeMonde won the Tour with 35 shotgun bullets in his body. This was as a result of a hunting accident two years before.
  2. Four riders have died while competing in the Tour. Fabio Casartelli crashed on a decent at 88km/h. Tom Simpson died of a heart attack while attempting to climb the infamous Alpe d’Huez in 1967. In 1935  Francisco Cepeda died after suffering a crash into a revine and Adolphe Heliere passed away after drowning on a rest day.
  3. The oldest stage winner was Firmin Lambot in 1922. He was 36 years old.
  4. The youngest stage winner Henri Cornet in 1904. He was 19 years old.
  5. The average amount of calories used by a rider per day is 5,900 calories. The average man only needs 2,500 calories.
  6. The heaviest rider in the Tour was 97kg. This accolade goes to Swedish rider Magnus Backstedt. This quite large when compared to most riders weighing in at 60-70kg.
  7. 13,000 Gendarmes (French Police) conver the Tour every year. They even came to Yorkshire in 2013 to cover the race. (The Tour started in England in 2013)
  8. Throughout the three weeks of the race, more than 790 bicycle tyres are used by the riders.
  9. The overall winner will receive a prize of €450,000. This will usually be split between the other riders in the team.

The 2014 tour was 2,276 miles long; the longest route was recorded in 1926 at 3,570 miles. 42,000 bottles were used by the teams in this year’s Tour. Over the course of the Tour, riders will sweat enough to flush a toilet 39 times. So, now do you think cycling has earned the title of the toughest sport in the world?

Asics ‘Beat the Sun’

The race around the Sun

On the 21st of June each year, 48 athletes from all parts of the globe take part in an epic race around Mont Blanc. ‘Asics Beat the Sun’ is organised by Laurent Ardito and is infamously referred to as the toughest race in the world.

The race started in Chamonix last June at 5.42 am. Six athletes stood at the starting line just as the sun began to rise. The race’s objective is to run around Mont Blanc before the sun sets. The race starts and finishes in Chamonix.

Each runner will run two of the twelve stages and have 15 hours 41 minutes to get through 140.1km of running, spanning three different countries.

As this year marks the third year of the race it was decided that the course was to be run in reverse.

There are 8 teams. Team Europe North, Team Europe South, Team Europe Central, Team Americas 1, Team Americas 2, Team East Asia, Team Asia Pacific and Team Africa. The teams are comprised of three amateurs and three experts. This year, the amateurs were selected from over 30,000 applications.

This year’s race was regarded as the toughest one yet. Not just in terms of length, but it saw the athletes hitting huge altitudes, so far up that they had to wade through snow.

For many of the athletes, this was their first time seeing snow.

It was a dramatic race. By stage 5, the two Asian teams were out of contention and the lead team was twenty minutes behind the sun.

The weather conditions became so treacherous that stage seven, the stage that would require harnesses and climbing axes, was cancelled last minute. Instead a slightly less dangerous route was chosen to take its place.

Coming in at 20.34, Team Europe North finished in first place with GB’s Matty Hynes leading the team home. They beat the sun by 51 minutes, and the next team by 40 minutes.

Europe South was next with twelve minutes to spare followed by Europe Central who were six minutes’ shy of beating the sun.

One year I would love to run the parts of the route they followed. Maybe not as part of the race but part of a holiday.  These guys really are inspirational and I really recommend you watch the video on YouTube.

 

 

History of the Marathon

With the Dublin Marathon coming up on the 30th of October, it is important to know the story behind the ‘Marathon’ and how it came to be the race we all know of today.

The name marathon comes the legend of Philippides or Pheidippides.

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Philippides was a Greek messenger from back in 490BC. His job was to run to Athens, from the battlefield in the city of Marathon. The reason behind this was to inform the Greek council of the news that the Persian army had been defeated.

It is said that Philippides ran the whole length from the battlefield in Marathon to Athens and burst into the hall to tell the Council screaming that they had won the battle. He is said to have run the whole distance non-stop and died after declaring their victory.

The reason the marathon became the gruelling 26 miles distance is because Philippides took the slightly longer route from Marathon.

The legend of Philippides is that he had first run to Sparta and back which was 140 miles to ask the Spartans for help in the battle against the Persians. However, they refused based on an ancient law.

Philippides then ran another 140 miles back to Athens to inform them of this news. After arriving, he and the small Athenian army marched to Marathon to battle.

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After fighting in heavy armour all morning in Marathon he was then requested to run to Athens to inform them of their victory. Where he shortly died after from the exhaustion.

Centuries later the “marathon” race was held in the Olympic games. The distance was 40,000 meters, or 24.85 miles. Later in the 1908 London Olympics it was made a little longer to accommodate a lap of the Olympic stadium at the end of the 25 miles. This made the race become the iconic 26.2 miles.

In 1921 it was cemented as 26.2 miles as the standard marathon distance by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

So when you see the runners going by on October 30th make sure to give them an encouraging cheer.

An Unlikely Hero

Bradley Wiggins is an unlikely hero to say the least.

Brad was raised in London from the age of two. His father was a pro cyclist named Gary Wiggins, who, was from Australia. However, he was never around while Brad was growing up. For this reason Brad had to rely heavily on his mother and on his grandparents.

Wiggins certainly didn’t come from a wealth family. His success stems from his ability to work hard and endure suffering. But, more importantly, he was a dreamer and at the age of twelve he already had high ambitions.  Bradley had told one of his teachers that when he grew up he would be an Olympic champion and “wear the yellow jersey in the Tour”.

Another big moment in his life was buying his first bike aged twelve. The rest is history.

What makes brad an unlikely hero isn’t that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a likely hero. It’s the fact that he never really asked to be a hero.

After his first Olympic success in the 2004 at the Olympics in Athens he became one of the first British athletes to win three medals at the one games in over 40 years.

Bradley then began drinking quite heavily when the games ended. “I wasn’t just drinking for England during this period, I wasn’t quite at the races mentally either. For a while my life threatened to spiral out of control.” He said in an interview.

The nine-month binge ended with the birth of his son, Ben. Here, the unlikely hero got back in the saddle. He went on to do well in the 2008 olympics and then placed third in the 2009 Tour de France, after Armstrong lost his position.

In 2010 he signed a contract with Team Sky and pledged himself to win the Tour De France.And in 2012 this became a reality.

What makes Bradley special is the way his mind works. He is not greedy.  After winning the Tour once, that was enough for him. He is a romantic towards the sport and loves the rich history that cycling offers. He is the proud owner of many signed jerseys and some bicycles  from legends of the road.

Brad was also knighted for being the first British cyclist to win the Tour. This really adds to Wiggins’ persona. ‘Sir Bradley Wiggins’. From here he really has become a style icon and a crafted his own identity that no one in the peloton can replicate. His tattoos, the beard, he even made the mutton chops work in 2012. Which is no small feat.

Also, Brad’s attention to detail is admirable. The bikes he uses always have a unique twist just for him. He makes ‘cool’ seem effortless. Even his short bouts of anger don’t make him look arrogant, but instead show his devotion to winning and what he expectations are  from his equipment.

 

The scene where he threw away his bike; but instead it rolled away, eventually coming to a stop and leaning beside the wall looked like something 007 had orchestrated. unlike kittel’s “BIKE SMASH” move.

Brad has published three books, is a gold standard Olympian, a Tour winner, a two times world champion and the hour record holder. He recently was a part of the Olympic team that beat the world team pursuit record. He has proven time and time again that he can and will do whatever he puts his mind to.

His mental strength which is not out of the reach from us ordinary folk, brings Bradley’s achievements back down to earth. He has built his persona and has earned his accolades through sacrificing since he turned pro in 2001.

Wiggins has been long known for his love of time trialling and track cycling. Both of which are known as the purest forms of bike riding. This defines Brad. His love for cycling is pure. It’s the passion he puts into his cycling that makes him a hero.

 

 

 

 

Skoda Tour of Connemara

The Tour of Connemara is regarded as one of Ireland’s most beautiful sportifs. It’s rewarding vistas and smooth roads make the 140km challenge a pleasure and I enjoyed every kilometre around the small and beautiful towns of Clifden and Letterfrack.

The decision to make the journey from Wexford to Clifden where the sportive began, was made during the run up to our exams in May. The weather was getting warmer with each passing day and we were longing for the bike.

David, a man of many talents, is a long time cycling partner and also a team mate. He had the difficult job of organising the bus journeys to Clifden, – which included nigh on eight hours travelling and three change overs – whereas I had to book the B&B.

GOPR0244-0001 The final decision on which B&B to stay in was easy as when I went to book it there was only one left that was affordable. It ended up being the second nicest B&B I have stayed in (Kerry trumping it just barely).

It was situated on the lower road of a hill that was populated by goats and cows whom never seemed to move.

The cycle took place on Saturday. We had registered the night before and were under no pressure the next morning. At the breakfast table Dave and myself ended up chatting to a hardened sportive rider who told us tales of his previous rides around Ireland and that we should keep something in the tank for the last 15km (we would later find out why).

The cycle into the start was good fun as it involved nearly 6km of free rolling downhill. The roads were dreamy smooth and we banked into the corners fearlessly. The adrenaline was kicking in. Well it was until the nerves took over two minutes before the start when we finally rolled into the midst of nearly 600 riders standing around chatting.

140km of riding is not a distance to be laughed at. On the contrary it almost puts the same stress calorie wise and physically as compared to running a marathon.  Underestimating the speed of some of the riders’, we started nearly 150 riders back. When the cycle began people were quick to fall into groups that were going a similar pace. Dave and I on the other hand raced from group to group for nearly 40km until we settled with a group that was going a little too fast for my liking.

From the back we glimpsed the rider that was happily piloting my pain and discomfort. He was a lean man in all black riding a beautiful bright yellow specialised tarmac. Somehow lost in translation we heard at the back of this relatively small group that this guy was a pro of some sort, which was hard not to believe when you were trying to hold his wheel at 37km/h.

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The first food stop came at the 50km mark. I was glad as we eased off the pedals and I could feel the release of tension on my quads. The weather had turned for the better and everyone was in high spirits.

After devouring a bacon and egg mayo sandwich we donned our bikes once again and headed into a strong headwind for another 40km. The never ending road took us through small little fishing villages and remote areas with vistas rivalled only by the Alps.

Not long after leaving the first food stop we ended up in another group, where the pace picked up and we were dragged through the headwind. Chatting stopped and a slight grimace spread across our faces. The wind was unrelenting and we wanted to get through it as quickly as possible.

That was when a group of racers passed us and myself and Dave worked like domestiques to latch onto the back of them. For the next 20km we raced up and we raced down the roads of Connemara, the club of racers not giving in and trying to shake the stragglers off the back. Although we persevered until the final food stop.

We had a beautiful descent into the stop which was led by our new friends at 65km\h. My legs were really pumping and felt like they were going to explode. The food stop was our oasis in midday sun.

From the food stop we had 40km left. We decided to just ride this last bit out and take in as much of Connemara as possible. So for the last time we through our legs over the top tube and rolled out. We were accompanied by a Finnish rider who kept our minds off our legs with his stories of racing in Finland.

The sun kept us warm and chat kept us busy. This is what the sportive was about. We realised there was a time and a place for speed, but in saying that, going at an easy pace is only nice after going at a hard one. The art of exhaustion.

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The day was a success and a great way to start the summer. The atmosphere was amazing, so was the weather and the road surface was smooth. My only advice to people wanting to do the 140km loop is to keep something for the very last climb… trust me.

 

By Nick Moloney

Cyclists vs Motorists

As summer is fast approaching, the evenings are getting longer and the mornings are getting brighter.

With this extra light, people choose to spend their time whichever way they like. Some go for afternoon walks, some jog, and others go for drives. But for a particular set of people, they will don their bikes from the shed and take to the roads.

The roads are a dangerous place at the best of times. Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users, with their only safety precautions being a lightweight plastic helmet and high visibility gear.

According to The Road Safety Authority (RSA), there was nine cyclists died on the road last year. This figure is down from 2014 where the death toll was 12. The RSA said, “Even though cyclists’ deaths were reduced from the previous year, it is still a worrying figure.”

The RSA is concerned for cyclist’s safety as the summer months’ approach. “We would be concerned that cyclists will take unnecessary risks”, the RSA said.

One of the reasons they say they are worried is because of research that shows only half of the cyclist’s in Ireland wear helmets when they are out cycling.

The RSA are currently campaigning for new legislation that will see the speed limits in built up areas set at 30km/hr.

“Research has shown that if you are involved in a collision with a vehicle travelling at 30km/hr, you have a 9 in 10 chance of surviving” the RSA said.

The “Stayin’ Alive 1.5” was set up in County Wexford and is run by cyclist, Phil Skeleton, who is campaigning strongly for a minimum overtaking distance of 1.5 meters between and cyclists and the vehicle.

“This distance definitely makes the difference to the safety of the bicycle rider and creates awareness amongst motorists on what a safe lateral space is when overtaking in line with what many jurisdictions have done worldwide”, Mr Skelton said.

The “Stayin’ Alive 1.5” campaign is trying to make the 1.5-meter minimum overtaking distance a state law. It is already referenced in the rules of the road, which was a massive win for Mr Skelton and his campaign.

The 1.5-meter Minimum Passing Distance Laws are in place in 26 US states, 2 Canadian Provinces, France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. Mr Skelton hopes to add Ireland to the list as soon as possible.

Mr Skelton said that the law does work, “In [Austrian State] Queensland, for example, a recent survey done by the Amy Gillette Foundation after just 6 months of a trial there, they found that 75pc are aware of the legislation, 67pc support the legislation and most importantly 61pc of cyclists have experienced greater distance from overtaking motorists” Mr Skelton said.

1.5 staying alive

One of the key issues cyclists face this summer is the two-abreast debate. This debate has driven a wedge between cyclists and motorists. This misunderstanding is further accentuated by ‘name calling’ and ‘stereotyping’ said Mr Skelton.

Stereotypes like “all cyclists run red lights” and “all motorists text while driving” pushes the two groups further away from a harmonised relationship.

Mr Skelton said, “understanding that road users are people…people like you and me and none of us are perfect and do the right thing all the time but we all need to look out for each other.”

However, cycling two-a-breast is well in accordance with the rules of the road. Under the statuary instruments no. 187 Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, states “A pedal cyclist shall not drive a pedal cycle on a roadway in such a manner as to result in more than two pedal cyclists driving abreast, save when overtaking other pedal cyclists, and then only if to do so will not endanger, inconvenience or obstruct other traffic or pedestrians.”

The RSA says that it is “often ok” to ride two-a-breast except when you are on a narrow road, holding up a lot of traffic or overtaking a parked car.

While it is not only legal to ride two-a-breast it is also the most enjoyable part of the sport for a lot of people. Most people out cycling are out for the day and it is a lot more enjoyable to cycle with someone other than alone.

Mr Skelton said, “most car drivers will talk to their passengers and this is not regarded as unsafe driving.” The two-abreast cycling also has many benefits that motorists might not necessarily understand.

Riding two-abreast makes it safer for the motorist, especially if there is four or six in a group. Because the group is more compact it allows the motorist to overtake the group quickly and safely.

The other reason the two-abreast rule is safer for cyclists is that it makes the cyclists more visible to motorists approaching quickly from behind. By making the group bigger the motorist will have to slow down and take proper precautions when over taking.

If there were three or four cyclists in single file it would mean that some motorists might take more chances when over taking, driving too closely and quickly to get passed them in time.

Cycling is becoming a huge sport now. People are calling it the new golf and that means that there will be more cyclists out on the roads. With people working hard for cyclists’ rights and awareness, it still comes down to people just needing to realise they do not own the road.

Our First Cycling Adventure

At 17 years old none of us had been away from our family’s for a trip like this.

When Jack saw The Cycle Against Suicide advertised he literally ran straight up to me and Nicky telling us that he had a great “plan” for our first adventure.

Jack and Nicky are two friends, that have been since primary school. I was the extra for that six days. Afterwards though, it was like we had been friends for years.

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From right; Jack, me, Joe(One of the many people we met) and Nicky

The three of us had been cycling for around two years at this stage. We all started off on heavy aluminium road bikes that weighed around 14 kilograms. At 15 we were out cycling in traffic, down tractor infested back roads and sprinting for every stop sign we saw.

We caused our parents quite a bit of concern as we would disappear for up to five hours nearly every Sunday exploring the beautiful countryside of Wexford.

Two years later we were riding 7-kilogram carbon fibre racers. Still to this day that bike cost more than my first car but it is a true passion.

We set off on a warm springs morning. The students in the school including some teachers came along for the first day. They had organised to go out for one stage of the cycle.  Our 600 kilometre epic from County Carlow all the way along the coast to Ennis in County Clare had begun.

We rode at a slow pace of 20 km/h for the whole six days. This meant that we all stuck together. The first day was only 84 kilometres. The feeling among the bunch was something I had never before experienced. There was a feeling of openness and sincerity, the type where you could talk to the person beside you about anything.

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We would stop every so often to let everyone catch up.

Throughout the trip we pulled into secondary schools for lunch. Students would line the drive way in and the hall ways would be full of students looking at over 1000 cyclists dressed in lycra, young and old.

This is where the cycle really made a difference. In the school, talking to the students about suicide awareness, the speakers always did an amazing job and would often leave a lump in your throat. The schools and students would always have an amazing spread of food and no one would leave hungry.

Been the youngest cyclist to do this meant we got some attention from the other students that were our age. Jack was never shy when telling them all about our “adventure of a lifetime” and Nicky playing the ever faithful wingman.

Jim Breen, the man behind the cycle would host talks in all of these schools about mental health and the issues surrounding suicide. What always amazed me was that each talk was different from the last one. They were not rehearsed. You could tell it all came from the heart and everyone would have an overwhelming sense of love and joy leaving.

Jim always started his speeches with the song ‘Intro’ by the XX and then a massive group hug followed by a one song long dance. Not everyone participated, I certainly didn’t but Jack and Nicky really were in their element.

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A talk we had at one of the schools along the way

That was the thing though, whether you were up dancing and signing it didn’t matter as long as you were there wearing orange standing “Shoulder to shoulder” to break the cycle of suicide in Ireland.

The slogan of the cycle is “It’s ok not to feel ok and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help.”

Jim also liked to end some of his speeches with, “You’re lovely, you’re lovable and you’re loved.”

The second day of the our cycle has always stuck with me. It was the longest day of the trip, around 130 kilometres from Waterford to Cork. We got up from our beds sore and cramped after the first 84 kilometres, got dressed, headed downstairs in the B&B, walked out side and threw our legs over the top bar of our bikes.

Ten minutes later we were soaked through and it remained that way for the next nine hours. Throughout this whole day I never once felt cold or thought that I wouldn’t make it. People were encouraging you and talking to you the whole way keeping your mind off of the Irish weather.

You sheltered the person behind you and you were sheltered by the person in front. Everyone had a purpose that day and the point was made at lunch time that problems shared really are halved.

 

By Nick Moloney

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Taking outside our school CBS wexford. These are all the students that participated in the cycle that year.