Team KCLR Cycling For Chernobyl

Team KCLR on Day 2
Team KCLR on Day 2 – L-R: Fitzy, Stephen Byrne, Edwina Grace, John Walsh, Myself, John Keane

For the past few weeks, some of the on-air team of KCLR have been prepping for the annual Mary Slattery Memorial Cycle, a charity cycle run each June bank holiday weekend by the Chernobyl Kilkenny Outreach Group for Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International.

Having taken part myself the past two years (including the near biblical conditions of 2012), the weather turned terrific for the 2013 outing, kicking off in Cork after the birthday celebrations on Friday night to make it to Dungarvan on Saturday and on to Kilkenny yesterday.

Team KCLR on Day 1
Team KCLR at the first water stop on Day 1. L-R: Stephen Byrne, John Walsh, John Keane, David ‘Fitzy’ Fitzpatrick, Myself. Pic: Edwina Grace

I could have done with a few more weeks on the bike in the build-up but came through both 80+ km days without any real physical or mental difficulties. The longest I’d managed to put in on the bike all this year before the weekend was a 36-ish spin on Friday morning before handing over the bike so squeezing in 160km unscathed over the weekend is a good result.

Also a good result is word that by Saturday evening, the fundraising efforts of the cycle had generated over €37,000 with cards and donations still coming in across the weekend. There’s an auction for two tickets for Bruce Springsteen in Nowlan Park that continues until the end of KCLR Breakfast with John Walsh tomorrow morning and text lines are still open for late donations by texting DONATE CHERNOBYL to 57777 (1.50 per message).

There’s nothing like a weekend on the bike to give you back the appetite you had for cycling. Such is the case with the Cork to Kilkenny cycle and with the grandest of stretches in the evening upon us, it’s time to capitalise on that. Wedding looming and whatnot.

To all involved in making the cycle possible – you’re all stars. Honestly, you can’t find fault or flaw in any of the organisation for the weekend, everyone crossed the line in high spirits, still in one piece (albeit some more sore than others) and more again pledging to join in the craic next year.

Here’s to making it four years running…

So much Science and Technology in Cycling

Gravity Works
Creative Commons License photo credit: Let Ideas Compete

THERE IS so much technology in cycling. I don’t think I realised it at first. But over a month on from picking up a bike and telling myself I’m cycling to Sligo (which is this Friday), I’m finding out that there is an insane amount of technology behind cyling. Between power output monitors, wireless this and ANT that, GPS tracking, speed and cadence monitors, heart rate monitors, ultra light-weight this and paper thin that, percentages here there and everywhere, there’s an incredible amount to take in.

All of this has got me thinking that cycling must be a techie’s dream when it comes to sports.

Admittedly, I’m not the most sporty of people. Yes, I love my sports, but I’m very much the armchair supporter. But spending the last five weeks out on the bike has gotten me wired into the sport (literally) on a completely different level.

I’m logging my routes with a Garmin Edge 500 (and running with a Garmin Forerunner 405). I have fitted wireless sensors to the back of bike and pedal shaft to track my speed and pedal rate over the course of a cycle. I’m wearing a heart rate monitor (quite comfortably) under my jersey which, when monitoring heart rate zones, is driving me on or reeling me in, depening on how things are going. These both talk wirelessly to the Edge unit which sits on the cross bar. Once I get home, I sync the Edge up with Garmin Connect which has been mapping my route under GPS with access to stats on length, time, speed, heart rate (max / min / average / zones), temperature, altitude, grades of hills and a whole lot more. Connect it up with Google Maps or Google Earth and I can play back the entire journey and get a solid overview of where things need to be picked up or where things were going quite well.

These small gadgets are teaching me a lot about my own body and level of fitness, what energy is being used and much more besides.

But I’m only scratching the surface.

Everything about the bike is driven by science and technology. Races are won and lost on the time difference created between bikes that are carrying one kind of bottle holder over another, or the position of a saddle, handlebars, the compounds used in the chains, gears, tyres – it’s like looking at a Formula One car for all the world (without the insane budget, and the fact that it’s a car), but you can see where I’m coming from.

Stepping away from the bike and I’ve spent the past month analysing food – what foods work well in what situations, ways to replenish energies, recover after long rides. Combine the two (the food and the bike) and I’ve got a very different outlook on things food and fitness-wise to where I was a month ago. All of this is building up of course to me cycling to Sligo on Friday. We start Friday, do 80 miles and continue Saturday with another 70 or so. If you had asked me to cycle 150 miles at the start of the summer I would have told you where to go in no uncertain terms.

But the techie in me is being driven towards it as I’m mad for the stats that come out the other side, stats that in a large part have come down to your own physical input. When all is said and done and I get back to the office on Monday morning I’ll get them uploaded here. Even before we get the cycle done we’re already talking about the next trip, and the one after that. God only knows what I’m after letting myself in for…

So yeah, I’m cycling to Sligo

Me (left) heading off on first cycle

That’ll be me on the left in the Sky jersey, heading off on first cycle yesterday

SLIGO. I’ve driven there countless times. I’ve taken the bus there. I’ve taken the train there. But I’ve never cycled there. Actually, the farthest I ever cycled in one swoop was about 10 miles on an exercise bike, a run around town is enough for me and at that, only if the weather is good. To correct that, I’m cycling to Sligo. Last week I didn’t have a bike, now I do. Last week I had never cycled beyond ten miles, now I have.

The route we’re taking (when I say we, I’ll be joined on this trip by my father, brother and cousin, the latter pair also pretty much in the same position as myself) runs about 150 miles and the plan is to do this over two days in October. 2010. I bought the bike on Friday gone, had the first cycle yesterday (and managed 22.17 miles at first time of asking, ticking along around 16.5 mph average) and I’ve got six weeks to get myself into some kind of shape to make the cycle to Sligo. This coming from someone who sits at a desk most of the day, hasn’t maintained any serious level of fitness or exercise in years and who has developed a serious taste for dining out and ordering in over the last few months, much to the detrement of both my wallet and health.

There are plenty of reasons for doing this. Festival season has been good to us folk in Kilkenny and I’ve just come off ten days and nights of the Kilkenny Arts Festival, which were rather good to me in terms of food and the late night pint. Throw in a comedy festival, Roots festival, and more besides and it turns out I haven’t been completely looking after myself food and fitness-wise, so I figure it’s a good way to get in shape. Then there’s the challenge part of it. There’s nothing like overcoming a massive obstacle when you put your mind to it. In my case, the obstacle is a 238 km trip from my home in Kilkenny to the family home in Sligo. It’ll save on diesel anyway.

Cube Agree SL 10

I’ve tried the C25K running programme, made it half-way once, almost finished it another time but found that I was able to carry the pace of 5km a lot sooner than 9 weeks so got bored. I don’t get to see my kayak all that often (it resides in Sligo at the moment) so figure cycling is a good a way as any to get fit and give yourself a challenge. I get a call one day last week from my cousin (also pictured above) that went something along the lines of “come on, we’ll go look at bikes in Dublin”. After all, if one is to cycle anywhere, one must have a bike and unfortunately I don’t think the mountain bike picked up last summer would cut such a trek.

So, Friday meant a trip to Cycle Superstore in Dublin to collect the bike above, a Cube Agree SL 10. I should thank Justin for his assistance in the shop there, he looked after us well for the afternoon both with the bikes, the service and the pricing (we walked in looking for three bikes, pedals, new gear for me and more besides).

Next thing you know I’m up on the bike, first cycle out of the way (yesterday) and on my way to getting in some kind of “show shape” as I like to call it, for October. We’ve earmarked the weekend of October 8/9/10, take a chunk of one day to cycle Kilkeny to Athlone, then do Athlone to Sligo the following morning. If things go really well and there’s nice weather the previous weekend, sure we might try that one. Either way, I’ve got six weeks before hitting the road and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Note that this isn’t a charity cycle or fundraising cycle, this is four of us (two at complete beginner status, one with a few years experience, and one who gets notions to travel the world by bike every now and again) taking off for the fun element, and hopefully with a pint at the finish line. It’s all healthy eating until then! If you’re interested, I’ll be writing about the experience over here for a few weeks. May as well be blogging about the whole thing. Whether or not I stay cycling afterwards remains to be seen but it’s a nice goal to have in sight for a start!