Thursday, 29 November 2012

Redbull Foxhunt 2012

The Redbull Foxhunt is a format into its second year.  Following on from a successful first year the Redbull crew in association with Plush MTB Club moved the venue to Cavehill Country Park, Belfast.  A park with some breathtaking views across the city of Belfast, sprawling woodland and a majestic castle in an exquisite garden setting.
 Photo Courtesy:

The format is a simple role reversal of the controversial Foxhunt.  This format the hunters become the hunted.  The Fox - former world champion Mountain Biker Gee Atherton.  The hunters - A collection of Amateur and semi professional mountain bikers from Ireland, UK and Europe.  The 120 hunters start in a mass start with the Fox starting 10 seconds after.  Gee rides the course trying to pick off as many of the hunters as possible before the finish. 

This event was held over the weekend of 24th and 25th November.  The real work began 6 months prior to this, getting permits and a full backing from Belfast City Council.  The organizers (Plush MTB club) addressed the issues that some of the local conservation groups forwarded.  When the Council where happy that everything was in place the proposal went to Council Meeting for a vote and the event was passed unanimously.

The weather before the event wasn't the greatest with heavy rain. The organizers done a lot of hard work preparing the course to have as little impact on the area as possible.  Clearing over grown areas piping drainage away from water logged areas and generally cleaning up an already eroded trail (From many years of walkers)  This is the type of work that goes unnoticed by the majority.  The type of work that some of us may take for granted but without this there wouldn't be an event.

Saturday would be practice day with a category seeding race in the afternoon.   The morning was cold but dry and a little over cast.  The event village was the grounds of Cavehill Primary School which backs onto the park.  I arrived early to get registered and get the bike ready.  Riders were arriving from all over smiling with anticipation, story's of the seasons races rang out as riders were reunited from previous races.  Some new faces riding an event like this for the first time myself being one of them.  We just took it all in chomping at the bit to get onto the mountain.  After we registered and received our number plates and arm band it was time to get ready.  Numbers zip tied to the bars, chain lubed, tire pressure dropped for more traction, forks and shock set.  Before riders could ride into the park all bikes went through the power wash to reduce the risk of potentially spreading the tree disease in the area.  Another step the organizers took which showed just how professional and well run the event was.

Leaving the event village it was a short ride to the uplift track.  The uplifts are tractors and trailers with riders and bikes loading up to save the energy for the descent.  Myself and other keen riders where the first up the mountain.   We arrived at McArts fort on the top of Cavehill, the trailer door open and riders hopped out to get a look at the start of the course.  The view from here is spectacular with the mountain dropping away below our feet. The woodland carpets the land below stretching out to the suburbs of Belfast.  The city of Belfast is within touching distance yet feels so far away from this heather and mountainous terrain.  Belfast Lough stretches out below as far as the eye can see.  To the south east Northern Ireland's highest peak Slieve Donard dominants the horizon with its tip covered in snow.  Its not every day you can race in a setting like this and as the trailers kept arriving it became apparent the riders appreciated just how special this setting was.  Everyone stopped to take in the views, pause for a second to marvel in the surroundings before getting their race face on.

I was the first to leave the start area, as this is a local track I know it fairly well so I pushed hard across the first section.  Open mountain quickly filtered into the narrow single track that skirts the edge of the mountain face.  This is usually a very fast section but conditions were tricky and as it was practice the pace dropped slightly.  Reaching the top of the famous quarry trail a marshal stepped out to tell us the track hadn't been open yet.  Some walkers where still on the track and we would stop to give them time to clear.  We got the all clear and as no one was edging forward to go I took off down what is my favorite part of the track.  The narrow single track hooks around the hill to the right with a series of banked corners cutting through the bedrock that can be taken flat out.  The track from here opens into a mixture of soil and rock.  It is quiet technical with bumps and a large rut cut down the middle.  It is a very fast section that falls away with corners right and left before two lines open up.  A steep drop into a step up jump or a flatter corner with a small kicker on the top.  As the trail merges there is another series of tight corners with a few small drops and rocks that can catch you out.  After this there is a long right hand corner before yet another set of tight fast flowing corners with a pitched almost berm like side so riders could keep the pace through here.  The track narrowed with a fence to the left and the quarry to the right.  It swooped down between some trees and across a burn on a grassy descent.  A small jump lead into the next section which would turn into the scene of some amazing crashes as the weekend unfolded.
 Photo Courtesy: Keyser-Soze

This was a steep grassy hill, in the middle a large rut, to the left and right slippery grass and at the bottom a tight right hand corner.  This would lead onto another muddy slope across a river.  Get it right and this was a very fast section get it wrong and it was carnage.  First time through I made the jump staying to the right of the rut meant a tighter cut into the corner but I got around fine.  As I dropped down the slope to the river the back wheel locked up and I ended up going down the slope sideways, a direction that I would become accustomed too by the end of Sunday.  This was one of the sections the Plush crew had worked on and the gravel hard core meant we could ride out of the river and onto the flat section and around the bottom of the quarry.  Back onto a grassy surface the pedaling became harder as the mud clogged the grip on the back wheel.  The lower section of the quarry was a fast flat flowing section.  I made the most of my Reverb Dropper seat post along this section pedaling hard.  At the end of this I dropped the saddle for a drop and a small bridge across the stream.  Another section I love is this narrow single track with steps dropping down and natural steps in the form of the exposed tree roots.  A left hand corner which before the event was very narrow.  Again the Plush crew made a great job of restoring a worn path and building up the sides of this section.  This was the first section of the trail a fast technical and narrow trail leading from the open mountain to the forest woodland.

I was loving it and despite the rain the track was quiet grippy and riding well at this stage.  I smiled as I rode knowing this was just the start of an epic weekend.  We now joined the Belfast castle gravel based paths that would link the top quarry trail with the final single track river trail.  This was I think every riders least favorite part of the track.  A long section of rolling hills that had every rider gasping for air.  The climbs weren't too steep but the pace before and the technicality of the track meant you were working hard from the word go.  So reaching this stage the heart and lungs had already been pushing to there limits.  Some areas of the path had steps but a gravel ramp had been filled so riders could stay in the saddle and pedal through.  This was the case for the first practice anyway. After this tiring riders opted to walk the short climb and jump back on at the top.  With 75% of the track complete we now dropped of the main walking path into the forest proper.  The natural track meandered through the trees with a large natural roller jump.
 Photo Courtesy: Warren McConnaughie
The trail then fell away between more trees and dipping down into the river eventually crossing the walking path and into a final tree section.  From here we followed the road through the castle car park we then skirted the grass lawns and back onto the path around the castle.  By this stage we could tell we had been working hard and this was just a practice.  I eased back to get my breath and a few riders joined me to look down the lawn towards the finish line jump through the Redbull arch.  As I got my breath one of the riders took off down the hill with me and the other close behind.  Over the jump and into the finish area.  A lap complete and time for more practice before the seeding heats in the afternoon.

The seeding run was a mass start in our categories.  As we lined up the elites took of first followed by the seniors which I was in.  I hadn't the best of starts as both feet were on the ground as Colin shouted go taking me by surprise.  By the first corner I had clawed my way back up to the top 20.  I had great ride the rest of the course with only a couple of small incidents picking off rider after rider I eventually finished 11th.  Saturday done and my face sore from smiling all day.  We returned to the event village to give the bikes a much needed wash and load up to get some sleep before race day.

Race Day
Sunday was a hive of activity from very early morning.  Riders setting up, international camera crews and security loading golf buggies with cameras and equipment which would record the race for a global audience.  Looking around it was almost surreal to be part of this and on my door step.  This is the type of event I normally see on TV from central Europe or further afield.  Mountain biking has come a long way and to see and be part of this event was amazing. This race wasn't just special for the riders.  Spectators both young and old could get up close with a former world champion and possible future world champions.  A format never seen before in the North of Ireland meant riders of all abilities could ride together to the entertainment of the crowds. People that may become inspired to pick up the sport and give it ago after seeing such a spectacle. 

The Sunday schedule was a quick practice followed by the category races and then the main event of the weekend the Foxhunt.  As time was limited we rode the lower section before taking the up lift.  Heavy rain over night had made conditions worse with a slick muddy surface.  Race day was going to be fun either in the saddle or out.  The crowds where noticeably bigger on the Sunday with spectators lining the course from top to bottom.

Category Races
We lined up on the start line in our categories in rows of 5 in the order we finished the heats,  I was in row three and picked a nice line off the heather onto the path.  It felt like we were gladiators getting ready to go into battle.  The bikes rocking back and forward as we pushed the pedals getting ready for the start.  The elites got under way and after a short pause Colin let out a yell "Gooo" for my category to start.  The first row go, quickly followed by the second row and then my row.  Just as the first row started two riders tangled and crashed.  I quickly passed them by as they bounced straight back up and onto the bikes.  A good start but only a couple of places gained.  As we dropped into the next section another crash had me passing riders.  I was aware of a few riders close behind but I was concentrating on my own lines.  At the first small climb I got a good line and passed a few more.  Shortly after this on a very fast section a rider in front crashed and as I was going past tangled with me and I went down.  Quickly back on but a number of riders had past.  On another section a rider again crashed but before I had time to go round two had crashed into me from behind.  I can only describe it as exciting carnage.  Although crashes were happening most of the riders laughed and joked as they got on with it.  A tough middle section had me tiring for the last river trail.  As I approached the roller I pedaled hard for a big jump.  I went big having landed this all day Saturday.  Big mistake as I landed hard my front wheel washed out.  I remember seeing two kids dive for cover as me and the bike bounced out of control. As I hit the ground I bounced back to my feet raising my hands and cheering to the crowd "Best twenty pounds I've ever spent"  I got a good laugh at that and jumped back on the bike to finish the race.  As I pedaled the next section I noticed the gears slipping.  A combination of a bent hanger from the crash, thick muck, grass and twigs caked into the cassette meant the gears weren't at their best.  We rode straight back to the tractors for the uplifts for the main event of the day.  Unbeknown to us most went back to wash the bikes so their gears would work again.

 Photo Courtesy:
The Foxhunt 
After the carnage in the category races this was only going to get worse.  Riders started gathering back at the start area. Excitement and tension building the buzz of the helicopter chattered in the clear blue skies.  As the helicopter flew in over the castle it pitched up and circled above us. Cheers went up as riders waved for the cameras. Spectators, Friends and families shouting their good lucks for the riders. I glanced over to the highest point on McArts fort and could see Gee "The Fox" Atherton getting ready on the side of the cliff edge.  Marshals Ready,  Cameras Ready, Riders Set. The Hunter with his horn ready to start the race on Colin's say.  120 riders starting together trying to filter into one single track all at once.  Before the start you pick your line and have it worked out in your head.

Photo Courtesy:

The horn went with a few sharp blasts and it was go. As the race starts that line you picked goes straight out the window and you try aim for any space there is which there isn't much.  This isn't the type of race to make friends.  Every rider for himself, elbows, bar ends, knees and toes anything that you can use to get in front and stay in front.  It may be looked at as aggressive but in a competitive way and not a nasty way.  Inexperience on my behalf left me leaving the door open on too many occasions. I let riders take my line and push me onto a line I hadn't used before. I got swallowed up and into the back of the pack.  Two into one doesn't go and as the open mountain filtered into the single track that became apparent.  Riders collided causing a bottle neck.  Some tried to pass on the outside of the trail but crashed or got stuck in the longer grass.  Bikes and bodies toppled like dominoes. I spotted an opening and took it.  Across a bike and onto an open bit of track.  Riders on the left and right of me.  Elbows touching as we all struggled for grip. Pedaling hard into the first rise before the quarry trail the pace dropped and I had to jump off and run up the hill due to no traction.  As I jumped back on the bike I pedaled around the right hander.  I stuck my tongue out for the camera and got ready for the descent.
 Photo Courtesy: Uberdog Magazine

I came round the corner to another bottle neck.  The descent along the quarry trail was very slow, passing was at the risk of wheels getting stuck in the ruts.  Some managed it some fell into the gorse.  I passed bikes and bodies as riders scrambled to get back on the bikes.  No serious crashes just slippery conditions and different paced riders.  As the race opened out a bit we had a bit more space. Being so far back some of the riders spent most of the time on the brakes with feet on the ground.  It was hard to get into a good pace to use the bikes grip.  The slower I went due to slower riders the harder to find grip.  By the time I reached the flat quarry section there was a good gap to the next set of riders.  I used this section to try and get caught up a bit. I tried to change the gears and they start catching and skipping.  Nothing was going right at this stage so I just settled into my pedal strokes and eased my way back towards the river trail.  I had another crash through the trees with a rider stopping in front of me.  I went left but ended up bouncing of a tree.  As I reached the finish line the chain was slipping so bad I had to roll over the jump.

Foxhunt 2012 finished with a smile.  Well down the pack but one of the best weekends on a Mountain Bike I have ever had.

1st Greg Callaghan 2nd Gee Atherton 3rd Glyn O'Brien

Greg Callaghan - Redbull Foxhunt Winner 2012 Photo: M. Regan

Massive thanks to Colin Finley, Stephen Davidson, Ricky McKillen and all the others at Plush MTB club like the young marshals and helpers.  A special thanks to Belfast City Council for letting us host such an amazing event in the City.  Hopefully this event has showcased what we can host and the huge success it was.  Thanks also to the Redbull team, Eventsec security and Cavehill Primary school for the event village. 

Rick McKee Chairman of the Northern Ireland Mountain Biking Alliance said "The legacy of this event will be long-lasting, with some of the world’s leading action photographers recording the business of the weekend (from ground and air!), so this will go viral on the web and social media for many months to come.  Good for mountain biking, and good for North Belfast, which has a chance to really show its resources and its hospitality at this globally unique event."

Until next year, Keep er Lit!!!!!!!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Wall Duathlon

The Wall Duathlon 
Sometimes I should listen to my body!!

Thursday I got recurring back pain that had me walking hunched like an old man.  Because it had eased a bit on friday I decided I would still give the race ago.  Saturday morning and the pain was still pretty bad but armed with deepheat and ibuprofen it was on.

The weather gods were on our side a beautiful day in the mournes clear blue skies and a perfect race temperature.  We arrived at silent valley reservoir for the registration and our dibber (electronic timing chip which we dib at checkpoints) The bike transition was at the side of the dam wall.  With the bikes racked we all walked down the steep slope to the foot of the dam.  With everyone stopping half way down Ian shouts "we dont do easy", promting us to move right to the bottom of the sloping green.  Ian give us the race briefing on the course and it was time to start.  A roar went up from everyone and we climbed the slope around Rowan.  Striking pains in my back I would see how the run faired before deciding if I will continue.

The run was a 3km clockwise lap of the nature trails on the far side of the reservoir.  I was running at a consistant pace and everything apart from the back felt good.  I got to transition and didnt think twice about grabbing the shoes, helmet, stuffing my trail shoes into my pack and dragging a leg over the bike.  Hunched on the bike I took off down hill to exit the silent valley park.  First up hill and out of the saddle felt a little better than in the saddle, so I just got  the head down and kept going.  The ibuprofen didnt seem to be doing much but the legs felt ok.  The head road was a series of rolling hills steep climbs and steep descents.  Stone walls spread through the countryside hemmed in the green fields in a patchwork like landscape.  The sun was in our faces and it was hard to see in places.  I had a few near misses with cars on blind corners.  the other issue was gravel on corners.  Twice I almost lost the front wheel tipping into corners.  I wasnt pedaling well at all slow on the ups and couldnt put enough power in to get going on the downs.  I was moving though and that was the main thing.  My mate Barry came storming past and joined a group in front.  I couldnt get onto any group and joined the newcastle road and pedaled this section on my own.

Turning into donard carpark I dibbed and racked the bike, kicked off the bike shoes and pulled on the trail shoes.  Drink of water and an ibuprofen to try do something for the pain.  The run followed the river path through donard forest and up onto glen river path.  The first section is through the trees on a very rough path.  Roots of trees rocks and stones littered the root. The shelter from the trees give a nice bit of cover to cool down a bit.  I was jogging slowly and walking the steeper sections.  As I got out of the forest I could see the route ahead lined with walkers and other competitors.  It was hard to gauge who was who and how far ahead some people where.  Although still in beautiful sunshine the temperature dropped the higher we climbed.  Plenty of encouragement from walkers saying it was a tough enough walk let alone run. The climb wasnt getting any easier as wee got onto the steep section below the saddle.  

I met a couple of DH bikers ready to blast down the trail.  Asked if I could borrow the bike for the way down one replied "if you carry it up".  I can barely get myself up!!  Just under the saddle I met the first place runner on his way down.  He was skipping down the stones like a mountain goat.  Shortly after that second and third place in at a similar pace.  I shouted to keep er lit and got myhead down determained to get to the top... Sometime today.  I got to the dibber on the steps crossing the wall and up the last climb.  This bit was tough as I could see more and more on the way down.  I kept going trying to stretch out my back but the pain was there regardless of what way I moved.  I kept thinking I could make up time on the descent so keep at it.  Finally at the top I dibbed and took a minute to get my breath, took a few pics and down I went.

I moved slightly to the right of the steps and onto the softer mountain for the descent.  Down was starting to feel worse than going up.  With every foot I planted a sharp pain was shooting up my back and down my legs.  I wasnt going as fast as I had hoped but still moving.  I dibbed at the saddle and back onto the stone steps.  No avoiding them this time and the pain increased. I just kept moving best I could.  As I reached the flatter section I tried to pick up the pace.  The pain wasnt any better but it wasnt any worse. I thought better going quicker to get down than being in the same pain going slow.  It was on reaching the river trail I took the first fall.  I stepped onto the rock and my foot shot out in front landing me on my arse.  

 I gathered myself and tried to be more careful jumping from rock to rock and hopping over the roots.  Then just when I was getting a good rythym I went again stepping off a rock to drop down to another my foot slipped and I landed right on the tail bone the exact spot the pain is worst.  It took my breath for a second but knowing I was nearly at the bottom I limped on.  It was now I thought about pulling the plug with the pain I was in. I didnt think I could pedal.  I ran to the transition telling myself if I could get the leg over the bike I would give it a go.  I took a bit of water and an ibuprofen had a laugh with Rowan.  Or I should say Rowan laughed at me.  Shoes changed and helmet on this was it could I get on the bike.

I got the leg over the bike, into the pedals and onto the road.  Pedaling was worse than running it felt like what ever was causing the pain was being rubbed together.  I kept going at a steady 15mph out through bryansford and the climbing began.  It would be a long climb from here to spelga dam.  I was keeping a steady 15mph even when climbing.  It was getting warm again on the bike with a very calm day,  only a very slight headwind.  The real climb started as I turned onto the slievenaman road.  I slowed to about 10mph but could see the flag at the fofanny dam check point.  At the check point I took a few cups of water and tried to eat a bit of cake but it was far too dry.  I got back onto the road and got into the steepest part of the climb.  With the legs feeling ok I got out of the saddle and tried to push to the top.  It was a struggle but the sight of spelga dam told me it was almost all down hill from here.  As the road flattened I took a large drink from the water bottle hoping the high 5 would give me a bit of a boost.  I looked down and could see the speed was 25mph on the flat.  I dont know how I was keeping this pace but even on the slight incline it only dropped to 20mph.  At the top of the descent I took a last drink and got the head down.  45MPH without peddaling and with a hydration pack on my back gives you an idea of the descent.  Normally this would be a time for relaxing and recovery but the pain I was in it was hard to hang onto the bike.  Every bump in the road was like a knife in my back.

I turned into silent valley park and met a few runners just heading out on the run.  I got to the transition and almost fell off the bike.  As I stretched out I took the decision to call it a day.  I could have struggled on around the run but didnt want to get half way round then need to be taken off the mountain.  I am dissapointed to have to stop before completing the route but surprised I got as far as I did. 

The route was stunning circling and summiting the mournes.  The weather was perfect the mournes where glowing a golden colour and the craic at the finish line was mighty.  I have never seen so many people looking so broken at the finish line.  Smiling and joking but broken and busted.  Just how you should look after a 26extreme event.

Great event once again by 26extreme, all the marshalls, the med team, sound function DJteam and everyone who helped.  

Friday, 5 October 2012

Causeway Coast Half Marathon

Causeway Coast Half Marathon 2012
29th September 2012

I have not been running much this year.  5 days before the Causeway marathon the buzz from friends who had entered was enough to make me take the plunge and get entered.  I have never left it to the last day before entering I normally enter early with a great training plan in mind, then on the day of the event wonder why I hadn't trained.  This turned out to be a similar approach with regards the training side of things but because it was so last minute I didn't put any pressure on myself to do well.   A few fast 10k's here and there was enough in my mind to get me around the 13.2mile course.  I was well aware that it is a tough course with plenty of challenging terrain and climbing.  I was going to run at a steady pace and then ease into my stride and enjoy the run.  No looking at my watch, no crazy fast paced start or no racing early on!!

I am a great planner, analyse what my goals are, think about the best possible way of achieving them, memorise my plan of attack, then on the start line FORGET everything I have just said above!  I came here with no real goal in mind but one thing I wasn't going to do was race hard.  I didn't think I had the legs and to be honest I was doing this for the enjoyment and a bit of training for the wall duathlon in a couple of weeks.  

The atmosphere at these events is always very special.  All kinds of athletes, friends, family, people running for a laugh, people running for charity and some serious runners.  That's what I love about this event no one is out of place and everyone seems to be there to enjoy it.  The start of the half is in Larrybane Quarry near the famous carrick a rede rope bridge.  The quarry is down a steep hill which we run up at the start. Turn around a hairpin at the top onto a grassy path. This leads along the top of the quarry walls across to Ballintoy Church.

On the bus ride over to the start I talked about the route with friends.  I remembered the last time I done the half it got congested at one of the first gates.  With this in mind I decided I was going at it from the start just to get a bit of free space.  No racing eh? That lasted a long time.  I jokingly said I would be first out of the quarry to the first corner.  

Ian Cummings (26 extreme) give everyone the last minute instructions and it was time to start.  A few words from the mayor of the area, a roar from the crowd and the race was underway.  I got the head down skipped my way across the quarry and shortened my stride going up the hill.  I was true to my word leading around the first corner.  On the grassy path I kept the pace high without pushing too hard.  I had a quick look back and could see already a gap between the top 20 and the rest of the field.  My head was saying now is the time to ease into my pace and slow it down but I was feeling good and kept at it.  We got to the gate that caused the congestion previous years.  Through it without slowing and onto a downhill road section.  Again I decided not to ease up as I was feeling good.  We ran past the harbour and headed for the sandy trail that lead to whitepark bay.  I knew the reason why I was feeling good was it was so early in the race and I had to save something for later. 

Whitepark bay was as beautiful as ever,  a very strong head wind made it a tough crossing.  As always any time I seen a runner with a marathon or Ultra colours I give them a clap and a few words of encouragement.  I got in behind a few runners and thought I would use them to draft.  It helped a bit even if it was just in the mind.  They didn't seem to like this and altered their pace so I went around them to give them a break.  They didn't seem to get the concept and raced passed me again so I pulled across to the side to run by myself.  At the end of the beach I had been passed by a few people.  I think this was part down to me clowning around for the cameras.  When we reached the rocky section a lot of the runners had slowed right down on the rocks.  This is the parts I love about the off road runs so skipped up along the biggest rocks taking a harder but more direct line passing most of the others again.    

At portbradden we had a slight detour due to a landslide on the coastal trail.  Instead of following the salmon fishery trail through the hole in the rock, we had to run up the road.  I got the head down and pushed on passing a few ultra runners.  I normally only carry a few gels on a half marathon but for some reason I had a bag of tangfastics in my back pocket.  These where really spoiling a good run bouncing around in a pocket I thought was much tighter.  I would ditch them at the next bin then I seen the friendly face of Johnathon crazylegs Jones marshaling on the road.  I whipped out the packet and launched them to him. "Enjoy" I shouted to which he replied "Cheers I am hungry"  Turning into another farm lane we would follow this down to dunseverick harbour.  A few fields to cross then the biggest muddy section I have ever seen on a race like this.  I bounded through the mud lucky to keep my shoes on.
We crossed over the gate passing dunseverick harbour. As we got back onto the road, I started to tramp my feet to try get rid of some of the mud from earlier. I had a good laugh with another runner who talked about buying the lightest shoes he could find in the shop only to pick up half of his body weight on one shoe.  Thankfully by the time we got to the top of the road the most of the mud had gone.  We left the road and back onto the coastal trail.  

This is one of the most spectacular sections of coastline in the world.  To run through it just makes you feel alive.  The wind howling and the waves crashing on the cliffs below really makes it one of the best settings for a race you could ever have.  I was fairly comfortable at this stage and eased off a bit enjoying the scenery.  It was one of those days you had to watch your step.  The wind was strong and the wrong move up here could be the last.  I looked at the scenary and thought how good I was feeling and had a good smile to myself.  The trail followed the coast around to Dunseverick castle where there was some Marshall's with water.  I took on some water and on I ran.  

I knew the next section had a lot of climbing and descending.  As we climbed the wind got stronger.  A few coves provided some sheltered and gave us I nice break from the wind. After dropping down a set of steps and climbing another we were hit by a massive breeze.  A few runners in front of me on rounding the corner took a few steps back it was that strong.  I let out a roar "Yeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaa" I put my head down tried to get as low as I could and picked up the tempo.  This continued over each high point of the cliffs with a sheltered bit in between but usually meant there where steps to climb.  Most of the steps people walked to get a breather.  

I had a good chat with one of the ultra runners who seemed in great shape so far into the race.  He said the pain was there but he was in the zone and blocking it out.  He was trying to beat 7 hours so I left him do his own thing and continued at my own pace.  Near the causeway stones there was another water station.  I grabbed another cup of water and and slowly jogged down the busy path to the visitor centre.  Half way down Craig the ultra runner flew past me like he was in the 10k  I knew he was going well but I was also slowing too much.  I picked up the pace again for the runkerry headland.  Looking across to Portballintray I knew I was close to the end but the legs where getting tired and heavy.  Had I pushed to hard at the start? Probably but I was going to keep it going tired and sore as I was. 

After passing runkerry house I knew it was a flat section back to the finish.  The sand hills on the beach made it fairly sheltered.  As I pushed on I started to get very warm.  My legs felt strong perhaps a bit heavy but no sign of cramp or strains.  The last push for the finish took us around the bush river board walk.  This section was very warm with the shelter from the large sand hills. I had my head down looking at the planks from the board walk.  A combination of the heat and the shapes passing my eyes I got light headed and could feel how tired I was.  I got the head up and started to take a few deep breaths as I ran.  Across the bridge over the bush and one last climb to the packed finish line.  I had a strong enough race despite the lack of training.  The only time I really felt it was from runkerry across to the finish.  Finishes generally are the time you feel tired but I normally have enough for a good sprint finish.  I didn't have anything for the finish line this time leaving it all out there. A great atmosphere as always to finish these events with the sound DJ's blasting out the beats for the finishers. 

Finishing the race slightly under 2 hours was a shock to me.  I knew I was going fairly well but never felt I was pushing too hard apart from the very start. The smile says it all I love this race!!  If I can keep at it I will be back for the full marathon next year or who knows maybe the ultra...  one day.

Another great event from  

Next up for me is The Wall Duathlon 75km in the mournes.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

29er Revolution Ireland and UK

The Revolution is well underway throughout the world.  29er Mountain bikes arent exactly a new thing but it has yet to really take of in Ireland or the UK.  I dont understand why because for the terrain we have here 29ers are perfect.  I started riding 29ers three years ago and although I have yet to buy my own I am still a big fan.  The main reason I havent bought one is because any time I needed one I was lucky enough to have the loan of a bike for the occassion.

Why choose a 29er?  First you have to ask yourself what you want out of a bike, what trails you are going to be riding and what type of terrain you are going to encounter.  Some hardcore fans will have you believe that the 29er is the only bike needed for every type of riding.  I dont agree, I think they have a place and until such times as the design is changed I cant see 29ers compete in the likes of a  DH race.  This probably will change because already we are seing more and more AM 29ers. 

Benefits of a 29er
29ers have a much better rollover effect when faced with larger rocky terrain or rougher ground.  You feel a much smoother ride when the front wheel rolls over this type of ground.  There is a lot less movement in the bike and power can remain focused on going forward rather than bike correction along with pedal strokes.

Traction is a massive benefit with the bigger wheel.  With more wheel on the ground it goes without saying that you are going to get more drive and more traction.  The rollover effect and the traction coupled together gives another major factor in why the 29er works.  Forward momentum!! The bigger wheels can carry the momentum along the climb or on flater sections more so than a 26 ever can.  It is this forward momentum that can keep the bike moving faster and conserving a riders energy.  The trick to the forward momentum is keeping the bike going learning to take the corners rather than stop start on trails.  A 26 and a 29 from a standing start the 26 will win no doubt about that but at pace through a trail it has been proven time and time again that the 29er is a faster bike.

With new designs and better technology the bambi effect has been removed from the bikes.  Some of the early 29ers hadnt the strength or components to make it feel comfortable.  The feeling of movement when you didnt want it was enough to put a lot of riders off.  This like any technology has changed massively now that the major designers can see the benefits of the big wheel.  

Join the Revolution get yourself over to 62 Cycles for the latest in Carbon 29er frames.
 62 Cycles

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Regan Family Tree Top Adventure

This is what we get up to when we are not biking.  My parents are both over 60 and both done this breath taking high ropes challenge with the family for my Mums birthday.

The course comprises of over 40 challenging elements set at varying heights above the ground (in some areas you are suspended 70ft up). There is a series of things like rope bridges, scramble nets, zip wires, Tarzan swings, and our very own King Louis Descent. The King Louis Descent is a Powerfan drop where you can experience an adrenaline freefall drop in safety and without needing to deploy a parachute or strap yourself by the ankle to a bungee cord.

Monday, 26 March 2012

360 Panoramic photo of BMC TE29 above Barcelona

BMC Team Elite TE29

BMC Team Elite TE29 Hardtail

At first look the bike looked great. It had a sleek finish in white with black decals.
The 29er Big Wheel Concept is something I find a big advantage on long days and on rougher climbs. The main advantages of a 29er is how they roll on rougher terrain.
The first day out I took it fairly easy to get a feel for the bike. Climbing felt good with the stiff frame. The pedal strokes felt like all the energy was being transferred into turning the wheels. I have found on some other bikes a slight flex in the frame during pedal strokes. This felt like the energy was being wasted in turning the pedals. It may not be the case but it felt that way. No sign of that with the BMC.

The BMC 29er’s geometry is the result of countless test rides. We passed through several prototype stages before settling on this as the optimum configuration. The short 430 mm chain stays combined with the optimum bottom bracket height and a 70° steering angle guarantee secure handling on trails.

BMC motto - Style, Passion, Precision
The first bit of single track on the uphill section wasn’t the most technical. It gave me a chance to feel how the bike cornered on trails without the added technical aspect to the trail. The bike felt a bit slow on the corners on the way up. I would later realise that it was probably me just getting used to the balance of the bike. The first single track descent again felt like the bike was cornering slow and a bit top heavy. Braking into corners took me a bit of getting used to again. On my 26 I feel like I can hit the brakes and tip it in. On this first day I wasn’t as confident and seemed to do my braking way before the corner so I was able to turn. The more I rode the bike the better it felt.

As the week progressed and I got a better feel for the bike I started to push a bit harder on both the ups and downs. When you have the right balance for traction and cornering, climbing more technical single track was a lot more smooth. I was able to push the bike as hard if not harder on the climbs than I would on my 26.
The fact that this is a hardtail will definitely make a big difference to what I am used to but it does feel like a great climbing bike. I took the bike down some single track that I knew fairly well so I could push it on and feel how it handled. It was again towards the end of the week when I was better balanced on the bike I could ride it like a 26 on the descents.

ISC - Integrated Skeleton Concept
Tube junctions perfectly tailored to the distribution of forces. Cleverly selected skeletal reinforcement elements at the nodal points and the spread of the top tubedistribute the impacting forces perfectly

The 29 wheels roll well on rougher terrain on the descents and as a hardtail goes it definitely doesn’t bounce around as much as a 26 hardtail. Cornering hard on the BMC did however feel a bit less solid as climbing. There was definitely a feeling of movement in the rear probably from the wheel flex. The rear seemed to move quiet a bit when in the corners under pressure. I think with a better wheel set up this may solve this unwanted movement.
This bike has a very solid frame and you can feel this on the climbs. The geometry for descending feels good but the issue in the wheel flex was noticeable. I think for a less aggressive trail rider this bike would be perfect. The bike isn’t designed to be ridden as aggressive on a trail so this cant really be reviewed as a fault or issue.
It can handle technical descents but doesn’t feel great when you’re pushing hard on a descent. Possible upgrade on wheelset may help this if you are a more trail aggressive rider. If you aren’t then this is a very solid good all round bike. Personally I would spend the extra on the xo spec for that added quality finish and slightly lighter bike.

Full Bike Details: BMC TE29

Bike Supplied by BiciOci, Salt Girona

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

BMC Bicycles The History

BMC bikes (Bicycle Manufacture Company) has a great reputation for producing bikes that benefit from the latest technology.

The company states that its primary desire is to create bikes that are both stylish and benefit from ultimate precision. BMC are known for their great collection of mountain bikes, but they also manufacture other types of bike as well. BMC also sponsor a cycling team that is performing well in events around the world.

The History of BMC Bikes

In 1986 an American called Bob Bigelow decided to begin manufacturing bikes in Switzerland under a license for Raleigh. The company struggled to survive in a tough market and by 1995 split from Raleigh. A new company called the Bicycle Manufacture Company was formed and despite some successes it was a real struggle for BMC to stay in business. It wasn’t until 2001 that things started to look a bit brighter for the company. This is when Andy Rihs took over and made the necessary changes need to turn the potential within the company to actual success.

Since 2001 BMC hasn’t looked back and their success is growing by the year. The mission of the company is to manufacture bikes that benefit from three attributes; precision, style, and passion. The team at BMC are convinced that it is their passion for creating the best possible bikes that gives them the edge over the competition. Their bikes are very distinctive looking and this makes to brand easily recognizable – even when you don’t see a BMC logo you should still be able to tell that you are looking at one of their bikes.

The BMC Devotion to Precision

BMC is devoted to bike research and are always looking for ways to improve things. They make it clear though that they don’t just want to change things for the sake of change but only when it brings benefits to the riding experience. The ethos at BMC is to question everything and there are sacred cows and assumptions. If there is the possibility of improving any part of the bike then BMC want to investigate this possibility. The Swiss are known for their devotion to precision and quality and BMC are keen to emphasis these attributes in their bikes. People who buy one of their products can rely on a very high standard of bike that has benefited from the best in innovation.

The BMC Racing Team

BMC are also proud to sponsor their own racing team which is based in the US. This team is made up of some top names in cycling including George Hincapie and Alessandro Ballan. The team has had some great success since 2007 and 2011 could be their best year yet. The BMC racing team is a fine example of what the company stands for and has gone a long way to promoting their bikes. It has also provided even more evidence that BMC is now firmly on the international stage as a maker of some truly exceptional bikes.