The latest stage in my prep for the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race this October saw me drive Little Red off to Blessington in Wicklow after work today, to meet Brian Keogh from Total Experience.ie – and check out the difference between a mountain bike and a road bike. My own trusty hybrid sees me battle into work each day, fending off swans on the canal and deer in the Phoenix Park, before reaching the relative safety of rush-hour along the quays! But today was a totally new experience. I was getting a chance to try one of those light, slim, wobbly, FAST, roadbikes that so many of you have been talking about.
Thanks to Tom@tomsikeshop.ie I was about to have a go on a real thoroughbred, and thanks to Brian, I had a nice lake circuit to follow and company to show me the ropes, help me figure out gears and brakes, and pick me up if I fell flat on my face!
It’s three years now since I realised that you don’t have to be ‘sporty’ to enjoy sport – and I’m still blown away by the passion and generosity of the people I meet – who throw open the doors to their world and share their adventures with an enthusiastic beginner. They are nothing short of brilliant and I enjoy the people as much as I enjoy the sport, and the beautiful countryside I get to see when I’m out running, or swimming, or hiking, or climbing, or kayaking… or – well you get the idea. The fun I’m having is an open invitation to us all to get out there and try something new. You don’t have to be fit to start, you start first and the fitness sneaks up on you when you’re not looking! I felt that way today. I’d had a busy weekend; with 4 hours of kayaking on Saturday followed by a 10k cycle up and down part of the Wicklow Gap, followed by a bit of a jog up the steps at Spinc Mountain. On Sunday, I’d ‘relaxed’ with a couple of hours splashing and paddling with Dave Mason at the Wild Water Kayak Club on the Strawberry Beds. There would have been no surprise if I was stiff and tired today – but I wasn’t. Which shows my recovery rate is improving and the endurance training I’m doing is paying off.
Taking the dainty little road-bike from Brian, I felt a bit clumsy and heavy climbing up onto the very thin, very pointy, very hard and very tiny saddle. I pushed away all thoughts of ‘does my bum look big in this’ – as I pushed away from the kerb, and soon I was too busy figuring out how to get my feet into the pedal cages to worry about how I looked. Up and moving, it took a few minutes of careful explaining about the gears from Brian, and then we were flying. Those things move. I mean those things really move! I just loved the feeling from within 5 seconds of sitting in the saddle and I know I’m going to have to start saving again, because one of those machines is going to have to follow me home, and the sooner the better.
As for the fitness creeping up on you. We clocked up around 22k spinning around Blessington Lake this afternoon and despite my weekend exertions, I never felt a bit of it. Brian commented that I was a bit like a diesel engine, before he tried to backtrack and apologise for the less than girly reference. Ha .. this formerly weak and wobbly 23-stone female is taking that as a serious compliment. A 5ft nothing diesel engine eh? I’ll settle for that.
Something else has just dawned on me. If the 22k spin today felt so good – it takes some of the fear out of the 40k cycle which lies ahead of me in ‘Pedals 2 Paddles’ the Liffey Descent challenge that Kipper Maguire and I are planning in September, in aid of the LauraLynn Childrens’ Hospice in Leopardstown. If you get a minute, read about that here and pass on the request to all your friends to give us a few bob!
I may not be a Ferrari (yet) but I’m chuffed to be able to climb on a bike and go for a spin, flying past lakes, and castles, and purple and orange flowers tangled in a blaze in the hedgerow. I may not come first in the Killarney Adventure Race on October 5th – but I’ve learned that not only do you not have to be sporty to enjoy sport – you don’t have to come first to be a winner. 😉