Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Trust NO ONE!

I'll spoil the ending right here, I'm on the plane to Palma as I type this. 

When leaving Cali I was pretty confident that I would make it to Palma with next to no stress. I was also pretty confident that some part of my luggage wouldn't arrive. Little did I know the drama that was about to happen. 

I've been on one or two planes in the last few years and I've learnt that stressing out or cracking up with someone doesn't really work but I was pushed close yesterday. It all started in Colombia when our flight was delayed by 2 hours, this started a chain reaction that we would not know about until the sweat was pissing out of me and I was told, "no possible." I'll get to that in a minute. 

Me being me and we being the guts of the women's team pursuit. 

The plane touched down in Madrid and it was only then that I realised how close we were cutting it, we had 30-40 minutes to get to the plane to Palma. In 9 to 10 years of travelling I have never been forced to do what I was about to! I hate it with a passion, at the ripe old age of 29 my body isn't up to it and I'm happy to listen it. When you roll off a 10 hour flight slightly crossed eyed and you just want to get to bed you'll do desperate things!

15 minutes later. After side stepping people, hopping things and taking the straightest line possible through duty free I arrived at the gate, I could see "last call" above the gate which gave me a glimmer of hope. Little did I know there was a stone cold witch who had made her mind up. The flight was closed and that was that. With a heart rate of 170bpm it takes a bit of self control not to crack on someone but I'm pretty happy with myself. What made things even worse was the other half of the Irish team were sitting on that plane! They were on a different flight from Cali. Apart from lying down on the gang way there was nothing they could do to stop the flight closing.

We were directed to a desk to organise the rest of the trip and at this point you just have to do what you're told. Problem now is that what we were told was a load of horse shit! We were told to pick up our bags and forget about your bicycles, they will be taken care of - fair enough, I didn't really want to do any manual labour. The plane we had to get was in 6 hours time so we just hung about and ate some crap food before finding our way to the correct terminal. 

Curve ball!! At the check in, 5 hours later the staff have this bewildered look. 5 - 10 minutes of quick fire Spanish is passed back and forward between the check in staff and we were still none the wiser. Then an Avianca representative turns up and says we can't travel on this flight because of some shit I still can't really understand. It was something to do with airlines not being partners and we can't travel without our luggage as it's a security risk. This tells me that our bikes never arrived and if we left before our bikes arrived there would be no one around to take responsibility of them when they did. 

Honestly I did pollute the air with a few curse words but at this point of the evening and jet lag kicking in I was happy to get to the hotel and sleep it off. The Avianca rep said, don't worry, everything will be taken care of. "Do this, do that, no problem. They will know all about your scenario in the morning." More horse shit by the way. 

5.18am wake up, which if you weren't in Spain would be a 5.15am wake up call but hey, that's the least of my worries this week. For being 6am I felt pretty chirpy but I still had a feeling that we weren't home and dry yet. Turns out your gut is always right! At the Iberia check in the staff were initially like, who the hell are you, they would soon know!! They didn't really know what was going on and the fact that we had 19 (yes, 19!) extra pieces of luggage had them dumb founded. With things as clear as mud I ran up to the nearest Avianca desk who kind of knew our scenario. The problem now was which airline is paying for what and Iberia were confident they weren't. Yet again with the quick fire Spanish and no real progress. There was about 30 minutes of back and forward chat, looking at bag tags and another guy turns up with a smug look on his face. He didn't really help that much and with all said and done we probably had about 2 minutes to spare before check in closed. After all those words were wasted they checked our bags and told us to go. No more running, just a bit of a power walk and I was at the gate, happy. 

My brain hurts right know so I'm gonna sign off! There is probably some major details missing in what I've just said but you get the gist. I'll update you folks on how my race in Cali went soon.

Next stop, Palma! 


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

2 days to go....

2 days to go….

Hola from Colombia!

As I sit here and type this I can hear the rain bouncing of the window but I promise, I’m not in Dublin. The rain I’m pretty sure will be brief and in a few hours time the sun with be blaring and the temperature will be back in the twenties.

The trip to Colombia was long but pretty painless, for me it involved a flight from Palma to Barcelona, Barcelona to Bogota then a short hop to Cali. It was fairly routine getting to Bogota but as we boarded the next plane to Cali I was sure that we’d have no bikes. The plane itself could be compared to Bus Eireann’s finest, basic, up to the job but very little storage room. If I was sitting I would have fell of my chair - standing in Cali waiting for are bikes and one by one they all appeared, amazing and awesome! The same couldn't be said for the other half of the team who travelled via a different airline, they're are still waiting on their bikes. The aussie team have been here 5 or so days and they are still looking for luggage!! With only really 2 training days left I’m hoping the bikes appear soon!


Hopefully I’ll say something later on in the week but I can’t promise anything. I’ll either to busy racing or just be busy being lazy!


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Revolution 48

Revolution 48

Back on the boards and this time I went home with all my skin and bones intact!

I have to say I was delighted to get back into the Rev bubble. Initially I was a bit anxious because of my lack of racing but that wore off once I was in the Velodrome. The format of this Revolution was slightly different than what I've done before. There was 2 sessions this time instead of the one evening session that I’ve done before.
Once I was signed on and had my numbers I had a flick through the race manual. On the cards was a flying lap, 30k points race, 15k scratch race, Madison 1k TT and a team elimination. The last 2 races did cause some sweat to appear on my brow! Anyone who knows these races know that your Collarbones get a good work out! It means hand slinging your partner into the race and in all honesty the last thing I wanted to be doing.
While I digested the race program I got my bike built, pumped my tyres and pretty much got everything I needed to race ready. It's 12pm at this point and the track was open, I really needed a pedal especially with the flying lap being my first race. If it wasn't a must for me I probably should have avoided that session, there was a small bit of madness with everyone on the track. Future stars, sprinters, men and women endurance all wanting to warm up made it interesting. Thankfully I managed to avoid a girl sliding down the track in front of me mid warmup, I honestly thought, "here we go again!" Definitely got the heart rate up though.
So, first up. The flying lap and it couldn't have been any better for me as its a key part of the Omnium. I wasn't using any specific equipment so I wasn't expecting an awesome time, I was just looking forward to getting the effort in. When the dust settled I was 4th and on the same tenth as Vivani, happy enough.

At this point in the evening my lack of UCI points in any event was in the back of my mind.  If I wanted to race my beloved Scratch race at the World Championships this year I badly needed points in that event. While I raced the 30k Points race that thought kept creeping into my head and I avoided going too deep. I got stuck into the racing but I wasn't my usual aggressive self. I managed to get a lap up and be pretty involved but there was a race winning move that gained another lap and I wasn't in it, game over for me. That was the end of the first session, I got some food and found a quiet corner and flaked out for awhile.

Scratch race time, what a let down! The race started the fastest out of any scratch races I’ve done but I was still floating about trying not to let anything go. With the compilation of team mates and friends on track you couldn't really figure out what was going where and who was helping who or vice versa. To my absolute disgust a group of 10 got away and I was stuck without much help but I really only have myself to blame. I just wasn't sharp enough to be there, I’ve no idea where I finished. No World Championships for my unless I get some dispensation or luck from a third party.
The Madison Kilo was next up. My partner tonight was Mark Christian and thankfully he’s pretty laid back. I told him what the story was with my Collarbone and we figured out what the best order was to keep the left shoulder stress to a minimum. My plan was to make the exchange as smooth as possible although we’d sacrifice some time. In the end we did the kilo in 59 seconds which was dwarfed by the Clancy/Wood pairing, 54secs!!! 40mph average, scary!
There was only one race left for me and that was the team elimination. More shoulder stress!!! Once I’d cooled down from the kilo I noticed my shoulder was feeling great, I had a chat with Phil West (tech director) and he was happy enough for me to sit this one out. Thankfully I was out of trouble and I’d got through a race without any drama, really chuffed. 
I want to thank everyone involved in the Revolution series. I love being apart of them and I’m delighted they like having me.
Now I'm back in Mallorca again and the final tune up for the upcoming World cup in Cali, Colombia begins.
Wish me luck!


Monday, 22 December 2014

Steel is a very real option!

My marginal gain. 

As soon as I moved my focus back to Irish duty and to the track again my main aim was to look at everything that could make me a better bike rider. One of the first things I looked at was the very thing I train on, everyday! My track racing bike and the road training bike were very different animals so I thought why not have them set up exactly the same. Problem is that my Felt TK1 is pretty unique, it's setup for the optimal performance on track and there isn't a road bike out there with the same geometry.

This is where Brendan Whelan and the Bicycle design centre comes in. I know Brendan from racing on the Irish cycling scene and I've seen some of the work he has done on other custom bikes. Since I started cycling I've been on a limited budget, cheap or free! Things pretty much still run in that trend and I'm really grateful for Brendan's help. 

I approached him with an idea of getting a road frame with a similar geometry to my track bike. I wanted to be training in a similar position to my track bike, that makes perfect sense in my head. I honestly think Brendan fell off his chair when he looked at the dimensions that I showed him. The 60cm top tube and 14cm head tube was probably his main concern. Long and low! The other obstacle I had for him was the time frame, I was heading to Mallorca to prep for the European championships and I wanted to get training in that position ASAP.

Thankfully Brendan was up for the challenge and soon enough he was keeping me posted on the progress. I was really looking forward to getting my hands on it.

A Columbus steel frameset and a full carbon fork.

In the rig.

Soon enough I got my hands on the frame itself and got to work building it. I measured everything 10 times, changed the stem a few times and added a spacer here and there. Eventually I got it set exactly like my Felt TK1 track bike. It has the same saddle setback, same reach and saddle to bar drop.

Set up perfectly.

Within the week I was in Mallorca and soon racking up the miles. Straight away it felt great, I didn't even have an ache or a pain that I would usually get from changing equipment. 

A random road in Mallorca that you wouldn't take your car down!

At the velodrome in Mexico.

At this point I've had the bike running for a few months. Its been around Europe, to Guadeloupe, Mexico and back. There's roughly 200hrs on it now and it's still going strong. I just wish I could say the same about myself!!

Honestly I can recommend a bike from Brendan. If you have a unique position or a need for a certain bike setup he can help. I'm delighted to support a local Irish company and I'm delighted that they have supported me.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

That was interesting.

That was interesting. 

First thing I will say is that I am an awful spectator. I’ve spent the last few days in London to find out whether or not I had to start the second World cup of the year and I spent a lot of time on the other side of the fence, I hated every minute of it. The whole week was crap, I was with the team and moving in their circle but when it came to doing any cycling I was just a person in the way, a bollard, an object screwing up the natural flow of the pit area where the teams were getting ready. As you can guess I didn't like it!

The view from where I was.

In the end I was told, in a round about way that starting the race was my best option. Even the the race doctor signed me off saying I was unfit to race. In the cut throat world we live in I had to start the race to make sure I ticked all the boxes of the criteria. The criteria that someone somewhere thought was the best one. I’m going to bite my lip now because if I elaborate anymore I'm almost guaranteed to stick my foot in my mouth and say something I shouldn't say.

As I finish up typing this I’m Mallorca bound. I’m heading there to finally start training again. This last month has been a pain in the back side and hopefully soon enough I’ll get a clear run at it, hopefully!

Also, I’ve set up a Facebook page recently with the aim of letting people know what I’m doing. I find that people forget what myself and the Irish track team are doing until we pop up and win a medal. I have to say, I’m hungry for some new silverware:)

Thanks for reading.


Friday, 28 November 2014

Back at it.....

I’m back on my travels and thought I’d check in with whoever is reading this. I warn ya though, what you are about to read could be slightly, maybe, possibly a little bit on the negative side!

Hopefully I’m over what has been a pretty crap few weeks. I can’t tell you the frustration I’ve had but that’s life. I’ve gone through loads of phases ranging from chilled out/that’s life mentally to angry and flapping about in a panic. Now that I’m able to get going again I just hope things go my way.

As I type this I’m 9 days post-op and I’m surprised how quick things have come on since the surgery.  The surgery itself left me in a heap for the first two days. Once the anesthetic and drugs involved with surgery cleared out of my systems I was back at it pretty quickly. There was major progress on Thursday when I was able to back squat in the Gym. Thanks to Chris and Lisa in SINI for the good direction on that one.

My view from the squat rack at the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland

Now I’m at the stage where I can stop watching my belly grow and left arm shrink so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in! Even more motivation comes from watching everybody racing on the track; the UK revolutions and 6 six days are in full swing and I so badly want to be a part of it.

I feel like Nemo and his gimpy fin:)

This week I’m back to Mallorca and hopefully I can get in the grove. In saying that though, I was at home at a good time. A special man, father in law and friend Joe McNally passed away a year ago on Monday and it was a really nice time to be there. Just being there, hearing the stories and helping out at what has to be a hard time for the McNally family.

At the rate I’ve been typing these blogs lately I’ve had a crash every other one so hopefully the next time you hear from me that ain’t so!!

Chat soon,


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Negative to a Positive.

Negative to Positive

Ok, so. Not the blog I was planning to be writing at this time of the year. My “clear goals” and “box ticking” from my previous blog definitely did not happen! As seems to be the trend this year, I’m on this learning curve and it’s getting steeper by the day. I went into the Team Pursuit really confident and I actually thought we could do a solid ride. Turns out it took me right back to 2009 – actually, not even, we missed out on our previous Irish record by a tenth or two (David McCann, Paul Healion RIP, David O’Loughlin and me). The thing that erks me the most is that the bunch of guys I’m riding with are so young and so fast that we could easily chop 10 seconds off that time with a few more races under our belts to calm the nerves. I can honestly say I sat on the rollers for around 20 minutes pondering what the hell happened. I really didn’t think it was possible to go that slow but the wheels well and truly fell off the wagon. Here’s a comparison for you, Bobby Lea (USA) did an individual pursuit of 4m16s in the middle of an Omnium and we had 4 whole big dudes and did a 4m11s. The only good thing I can see coming from this is that is gives everyone on the team a kick in the ass and when we get it right it will have been worth waiting for! 

So, day 2, the Omnium. This is where I planned to turn my weekend around. I slept really well overnight, rested well the previous day and I was mentally tuned in to do the best scratch race I could. I had a really good feeling – I almost skipped to the track. However, as I have come to know, life has a way of kicking you in the balls and bringing you right back down to earth. As per usual, the Omnium now starts with the scratch race and I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable throughout the race. I geared up expecting it to be fast and I wasn’t wrong. There were times when I really had my teeth out. With roughly 7 or 8 laps to go, the bunch regrouped and stalled in anticipation for the sprint. As soon as I thought about the finish; splat, I found myself in the middle of a pile of bikes. The first thing I did was reach for my shoulder where I could feel a bone sticking out of it – what made it that bit more real was that I could see it sticking out of my skin suit. 

Excuse the shady pic but ya get the idea! Nowhere to go.

From this point on every third word was a swear word and turns out a helmet doesn’t bounce – sorry Giro! I was so pissed as I knew I was genuinely on for a solid race result. First man on the scene was Brian who I reckon tried his best to not show his frustration but like I said, that’s life. If there’s one man I know who is quick to see the bright side, it’s Brian which is exactly what I needed. Once I was in the pit area, there was gaggle of friendly faces around me – Brian, Andy Sparks (USA) and also Richard Freeman (British Cycling Doctor) whom I got to know well in Guadeloupe……see my previous Blogs for another stupid crash. I don’t make a habit of this I swear.  

From this point on, there’s not a lot to say that is glamourous. I was stuffed in the back of a tiny Ambulance with three Mexicans and two Russians and not a word of English between them – throw in me with my nearly English….loads of chat! After what seemed like an eternity bouncing around in the back of the Ambulance, we got to the Hospital. Once at the hospital things happened pretty quick – I was looked at, poked, prodded, x-rayed and told the worst within the hour. This was where the ball was in my court. Operate here and stay here for an extra day or go home and get the work done with local surgeons and familiar hospitals. Once I made the decision to go home, the local doctor seemed happy enough. He fitted me with a brace, gave me some painkillers and sent me on my way. Weirdest thing happened though; in the middle of putting the brace on, I started to feel sick, went all hot and sweaty, went a bit deaf and heaped over for the second time that day. Turns out thats what happens when you’ve a bone sticking out and people playing around with it - It hurt, a lot. This is where I need to give a big thanks to Neill Delahaye for the help. He organized everything from the lifting and laying and even gave me his clothes to wear home. Between him and Alex Castanon, who was there to help with the language barrier, my life was made so much easier. 
Next thing to do was get home as soon as possible. With the help of strong painkillers and a little alcohol my ten hour flight was gone in a blink. I‘ve travelled business class three times in my life – twice I was broken. I hope someday to actually be conscious and enjoy the bloody thing! This is where my morale took a severe dent. I was ushered on and off planes in a wheelchair racing Grannies to be the first in the queue. If I was left on my own  though I would have been fairly useless so I was grateful for the help. 

I remember when I was younger, I loved X-rays. I really really wanted to see what I looked like. Now, I’m sick of seeing what I look like and I really really never want to see one again! 

When I got back to Ireland, I went to Belfast to see a super duper guru surgeon and I got a bit of a kick in the kidneys. I was hoping for a swift “I can fix you, lie down” but instead I got a “oh that’s a nasty looking cut, here’s some antibiotics, see you in a week”. It did knock the wind out of me but after speaking with some people, I’m happy that this is the best course of action. A week here could have been a few months the other side if it wasn’t done properly and I'm just happy to have the surgeon do exactly what he thinks is best.

As I’m finishing up tying this, I’m not long in from the Cycling Ireland Awards Dinner. It was really nice to get an invite because honestly, I feel like a “has been” at this point in time. It was a good show and I got plenty of encouragement from the people who’ve been there and done it. On another positive note, as this week went on the news filtered out that I’ve signed with Madison Genesis for next year. Yet again, there were more words of encouragement from the cycling bubble. The team DS is Roger Hammond, I have a long lasting memory of Roger, mainly that in my first year of cycling, he finished on the podium of Paris Roubaix, not too shabby.

Words of wisdom from Sean Kelly.

Right, I'm off. I'm sitting here with everything crossed and hoping I get my surgery on Tuesday. If all goes well the next time you here from me I'll have a new wing.

Thanks for reading.