Monday, 25 June 2012

Maracycle 2012 - June 23/24

Over the last couple of weeks coming up to the event I wasn’t really sure what to have for the weekend; so if in doubt, overstock :-)

Day 1-
Arrival at House of Sport – Start Point Belfast

Thankfully I had quite well prepared for the morning. The night before I had got ready all my bike gear, checked and re-checked the weather and re-read about twenty times the race pack info for each day. I was a bit worried about the weather as it had rained pretty heavy non-stop the Thursday and Friday, but it showed that the weekend held only occassional showers. I decided on wearing my heavy rain jacket, however in the last five minutes before the set off I changed my mind. The riders all pretty much were wearing light rain tops which although not heavy rain proof, are fine for light showers and provide an extra barrier for the winds. I ended up 3 layers on way down to Dublin and two layers (changing to one layer) on the way back to Belfast the next day.
Anyhow, getting back to the morning, I had a banana, 2 muffins and crunchy nut cornflakes before heading to the house of sport for the kick off. On arrival I dropped off my bag and went to the start point with my bike. The bag would be delivered to Dublin for me to collect when I would be checking in to Dublin City University halls of residence.
Set off -

The start started smoothy enough at just after 7.30am. I was using two waterbottles. I recently added a second waterbottle to my bike and my aim was to roughly drink one bottle of water/energy drink per stop with gels, protein bars and gels along the way. This worked well for me.
As I never was in a cycling club and only knew very little about cycling I never really contemplated group riding on the route down to Dublin. Every time a group came along I let them go on ahead and never jumped on (this would change on day 2). Pace was probably 2-3 zone level bearing in mind I didn’t want to over exert myself for tomorrow and I especially wanted to enjoy my first time at this event and knew my bike was prone to chain jumping or the chain falling off when pushing down too hard when changing late.

Lunch stop – O’Connells GAC

The lunch stops on both days I followed the same format. Toilet, sandwich and coffee before heading off again. 

At some stage after the lunch stop I got lost somewhere after Castlebellingham. At one point I rememember a marshall waving me on, twenty minutes  later it seemed I reached a roundabout with no signs with the only direction for Dublin was the sliproad onto to the motorway showing ‘no cyclists.’ As the maracycle makes a point of not going on any of the motorway, I knew I had took a wrong turn somewhere, or I had not caught a turnoff signpost somewhere. I started to think about the last time I had seen a sign or a cyclist and I started to worry. I rang the helpline number which was busy, so I decided to go back and hopefully I would get back on track.
About five minutes later I came across a fellow cyclist, waved him down and he said he had followed the marshall like myself and he thought he was going the correct way, but was worried like myself due to the lack of signs. He said he knew a route which is an old road which should take us to Dublin. Twenty minuted of hard effort of trying to keep up with big ‘Puk’ (I later found out his name) we came to Dundalk. At this point Puk gave up and he concluded he didn’t know where to go from here. He rang the helpline and the logistics folks gave him a route to take which I followed the big lad on for 6 miles roughly until we finally met the main riders at the next rest stop at Bennets Pub, Ard Cath.  I was also kinna glad to stop here for 5 minutes to catch my breath as I no longer wanted to do any more cycling with Puk as my guide – he was way too strong and fast. He may be a trusty  ‘St Christopher’ when you need him, but keep up with him you must, or he would drop you like a sack of potatos! He never at any stage looked behind him to make sure I could keep up with his pace and I remember at one stage he had said to me he was hoping to cover the distance in under 7 hrs! – I was pacing for 9 hrs! I then continued on my journey.
After leaving this last rest stop I felt tired but I knew I could make it ok to Dublin ok, so I plodded on by myself. Soon my spirits were going to be lifted –

After this I shortly came to DCU entrance and had finished the first leg; yepee!

After arriving, I parked the bike in the large hall

Day 2 -
Dublin to Belfast
After a tasty fry up and chat to a fellow novice cyclist I geared up and got ready for the off.

After ten minutes of riding I came across my first group ride and decided to give it a go and latched on to the group 'peloton'.

This was my first proper time trying this 'peloton' out. Group 'peloton' riding as far as I know has different formats but we generally operated two abreast with an anti-clockwise format at change-overs. I made a few mistakes early on by after being domestique I jumped all the way to the back instread of merely taking a step back a turn on the left side while someone took my place in the front. The principle behind group riding is that the front two take the force of the oncoming headwind and create the all important ‘draft zone for the riders behind to fall in behind and thus the riders behind use less energy and power to maintain the same pace as the two riders at the front. When you are part of a goup ride it is important to call out things that are coming up in front (eg call out ‘ pothole, car up head, on your left, lights, right/left turn/stop etc) these call out help prepare riders way behind you be prepared fro what is up ahead of them. As part of being in behind, it is important to stay close, but not too close to the rider in front. I aimed to be roughtly 6 foot at the most behind the rider in front, however at times I needed to brake or speed up according to what the riders in front were doing. You need to pay careful attention when traveling at average speed of about 17 miles an hour not to hit the person in front of you. Peloton riding is pretty cooll I have to say. For about half the ride up to Belfast I was part of various different made up groups, few of which were set groups. Some I lost due to rest stops, or some I caught up with and I joined. I became acustomed to the call outs and quite happily did my fair share of the work up front. I formed groups of just me and another person taking turns, other groups were roughly about ten with the largest about one hundred it felt like! There is something unique about the sound of so many bikes flying along at synchronised speed. It is almost like a train.

The second day lunch stop came a lot quicker than yesterday I felt, probably because i was going slightly quicker average speed and output of probably Zone 3. Apart from the half mile severe gradient getting up the hill to Lislea Community Centre.

So far I had travelled 63 miles. I had my sandwichs and coffee and was off again.
After another stint at group riding I was feeling pretty good and strong and came across the beautiful Camlough Lake in Armagh

I knew the finish was near at hand when I reached the Moira Demesne last reststop

I cycled on after this along some back roads for about ten miles before jumping onto another group for the last 5 miles right up to the finish via Lisburn and Malone Road leading back to House of Sport finish.

The rest stops were well manned. There were a lot of volunteers and these were even supplemented by the irish defence force in the republic. I also have to say both the PSNI and the guards did a great job of helping direct us. A first time maracycle for me that I really enjoyed.

Started at – 7.39am
Finished at – 5.09pm
Stage 1 – 4.54
Rest – 24 min
Stage 2 – 4.11
Overall – 9.05 hrs
Started at – 8.16am
Finished at – 4.02pm
Stage 3 – 4.21
Rest – 17 mins
Stage 4 – 3.24
Overall – 7.28 hrs

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