Monday, August 30, 2010

Cycling Cruise - the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford 2010

I did it! I took part in my first cycling event today and absolutely loved it - the 50km Sean Kelly Cruise in the Tour of Waterford 2010. Long-time readers of this blog will know that hubby Jan did this cycling challenge for the past few years and I have been on the sidelines to cheer him on and welcome him past the post last year, which is documented here.

This year was different though. I got a bike for my birthday in March, and you can read about it here - it's a lovely lipstick red Hybrid Kelly's Kappa bike, part touring, parttown bike. Suits me to a tee, and I even got a basket much to the horror of the cycling purists in the family. It's black wire mesh and detaches from a small fitting on the handlebars, and is perfect for those little forgotten messages (= things from the shop - a peculiar Hiberno-English-ism which tends to confuse anyone unfamiliar with our oft-obscure terminology). I knew Jan was planning his assault on the 90km Coastal Route, which was pretty daunting as it traversed plenty of steep climbs which would challenge the pros, let alone the amateur enthusiast. I wondered whether I'd be able for the 50km and decided to get a bit of training done. Shayne, our eldest son, decided to go on this one too, using his dad's old racer.

So since June/July I've been cycling regularly, about three times a week, from a 15km cycle a couple of evenings after work to a longer one at weekends - the longest being39km. Not alone did I surprise myself at my ability to cope with the longer runs, but I felt great afterwards, despite being exhausted when I came home at first. My stamina improved very quickly as did my speed andIenjoyed seeing the proof of my progress when Jan logged it onto a nice Excel spreadsheet with line graphs as evidence. For example (without getting pedantic or too boring!) the first 15km I did took just over an hour, whereas now I can do it in about 50minutes. I knocked 9 mins off a 22km run in the space of three weeks, which I felt very smug and virtuous about. I got plenty of encouragement from Jan and the family and also colleagues at work, some of whom were participating themselves or had family members taking part.

The great thing about this cycle is that it's all about fun. There's a professional element to the longest run, 160km, and then for the amateur enthusiast like hubby there's the 90km run. That's along a rugged coastal road with lots of steep inclines and some spectacular scenery - the Copper Coast and Geopark are famous for their beauty and historic significance in the Bunmahon area of Co. Waterford and the scenery might serve to distract the cyclist from the pain inthose calf and thigh muscles on the climbs!

The 160km mountain trail is for the serious amateurs and the professionals who enjoy a day's stage equal to an Etape in something like the Tour de France or the Giro or Vuelta. There's steep mountain passes to negotiate and endurance is needed to keep going to the end. So not for the fainthearted, and it was evident in the numbers that the 160km drew the biggest crowd and that cycling is fast becoming one of Ireland's most popular leisure and sporting activity.

The 50km started cycle for the beginners like me and eldest son Shayne was perfect - short enough to be attainable without huge time commitment and long enough to give a good adrenaline rush and an immense sense of satisfaction. And there was plenty of time to enjoy the view. The scenery from Dungarvan to Cappoquin via Ballinameela and Villierstown is beautiful especially the Villierstown-Cappoquin section which runs parallel to the Blackwater River and foms part of theDromanaDrive, a scenic route along back roads in the lands once owned by the local governor Lord Villiers-Stuart for whomVillierstown is named. Nowadays Villierstown is famous for an Olympic medallist John Treacy who won Silver in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the Marathon. Today Villierstown was transformed into a haven for cyclists, who were given refreshments at the first water stop of the day. A very welcome break after 23km and I enjoyed the banana and Flahavan's Flapjacks (locally made in Kilmacthomas - supporting local produce is a hallmark of these events).

In Cappoquin we had a food stop in the magnificent new Community Centre, and I had to laugh to see the bikes thrown around outside in seemingly random fashion - everyone being very trusting. Shayne was on a racer and he went ahead quite early on, and we didn't meet up till Cappoquin when he passed me on the home stretch while I was heading for the food stop. We had pasta and sandwiches and delicious Barron's Brack, with hot tea and plenty of meeting up with other cyclists and some friends who were around the hall. The home stretch to Dungarvan was along the N72, the main road I drive daily to work. It was a lovely run with gentle hills and hollows, and a nice tail wind to push us along. I felt no pain and apart from the odd numb bum, which was alleviated by dismounting for a few minutes rest every 15km or so, I felt great at the end. Shayne and me waited for Jan to return from the 90km, which he duly did, and it was a far greater challenge than ours, as some of the hills were so steep many had to dismount to walk them.

We took some photos at the start and finish, and a few along the way of the rest stops. We collected our certificates of achievement at the end, and I will be very proud of mine, as I hope it will be the first of many Tours of Waterford for this keen cyclist. By the way, my time was 2hrs and 30 mins for 44km, which was what I clocked up - my speedometer wasn't connecting at the start - but I am very happy with that - average speed was over 17km/hr, given the crowds that was pretty good, as there was little opportunity for setting a pace along those narrow roads for the first 15km. So if you are contemplating a new hobby or some gentle exercise, you could do worse than to take up cycling - I did after a 30 year gap and it got bridged in no time.


Lilly Higgins said...

Well done Catherine! That's really great. My sister recently did her third Tour de Munster, it's so inspiring. It was for Down syndrome ireland this year. We had a big bbq to raise money for it so I just helped out by cooking and eating! Well done again!

Irene said...

Congratulations, you did a great job. I think it's wonderful that you took up biking again after all these years. As you may know, riding my bike is my main means of transportation, so I do it a lot out of necessity. It's a great way to keep fit. It's good for your heart and your lungs, let alone your legs. It does keep them trim.

Stephanie V said...

Good for you! I'm impressed with your consistent training and the graphing that provided an incentive. Great idea!

Your post almost makes me want to get out my bike and ride. But the seat is so uncomfortable when you don't ride all the time. Hard to make that commitment now that rainy fall is on its way.

Catherine said...

Thanks for the kind comments! Lilly - your sis passed through the lovely Lismore so! The local fire brigade and volunteers were out collecting for Down Syndrome as the Tour de Munster passed through the town, there are photos on the Lismore Heritage Centre facebook page if you want to check. I was working so missed it.

Nora - you would be well able for the 50km as many regular cyclists took part.Now wre want to go to Nederland to cycle round Zeeland sometime!

Stephanie V - I saw your bike and it's like mine.You'd soon get over saddle soreness - I did! I just hope I can keep it up during the winter.

All the best, Catherine

Lily said...

Well done Catherine!

Next year, who knows some Limerick folk do this cycle. Sounds great fun :)

Catherine said...

Thanks Lily - you should give it a go seeing as you did the Limerick Run, it's two wheels instead of two legs! There were around 4000 doing the three cycle routes.
We were up that way last Fri for Will's Graduation - photos on Facebook of UL. 4 years flew by!

Ann said...

Congratulations Catherine. What a great achievement. Next stop...Tour de France!

Catherine said...

Thanks Ann - I doubt I'll even have the stamina to tackle the 90km run next year unless I get better at climbs - Jan found this year's pretty challenging. It was great fun though and the 50km was pretty easy looking back - there was no stage when I was feeling any pain! I'll continue to enjoy the Tour de France from the sofa!
All the best, Catherine.

susan said...

Congrats! You've inspired me to keep up my biking efforts so I can do a fab run like that one!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Congratulations, Catherine. This looks like it was a tremendous amount of fun. I love cycling. But mine is a private affair -- since there are no events around here. Roland

Angie Ledbetter said...

Visiting/following from KarenG's bbq post. Nice to "meet" you!

Summer Ross said...

Wow! I've never done any cycling like you have.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Glad to find another Irish blogger. I'm not Irish but Irish women seem to like my novel Uncut Diamonds LOL, so I feel a bond :) There's a private school here near Salt Lake City called Waterford. Wonder if they named it after your part of the world?

nephite blood spartan heart said...

What a great experince and way to see the country.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hi! I popped over from Karen's blog BBQ to say hello. Wow. Great job, Catherine! :-)

MTeacress said...

Your cycling tour looks invigorating and exhausting at the same time. What an accomplishment!

Thanks for the follow. I follow now too. :)

I've got some Irish ancestors of my own. My grandfather is a McBride, and I'd really like to see Ireland some day.

Ann Best said...

I've so glad you found me from KarenG's BBQ!!

Turns out we have much in common. I'm a 24/7 caregiver and you're an "actual" nurse. Small world indeed as you said on my blog. You said your husband found some long lost relatives in Utah from genealogy websites. A few years ago I did some people finding on my daughter in law's one ancestral Dutch line so I know how Jan is pronounced in Holland. I also work with family history one day a week at our church's family history center here in Harrisonburg, Virginia USA. You probably know that the Mormons have THE major genealogy sites in the world: the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and an online site at

I LOVE these photographs of your recent cycling experience. Your blog is SO colorful, and I'm happy to become a follower. I'll be back!!

Ann Best said...

p.s. I LOVE your header photograph!!!!

Marguerite said...

Hi Catherine, it's so nice to meet you! Great post and blog! Quite an accomplishment on the cycling tour! Congrats! That BBQ party is awesome, isn't it? I just so happen to have a blog friend who is visiting Ireland right now, and blogging about her adventures. They are going to Killary Harbor, next. Not sure if that's near you, but here's the link to her blog, if you want to check it out.( Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for the follow! Cheers!

Nicki Elson said...

Gah! It's all so absolutely gorgeous. Congrats on the race and how cool that must've been to do it with your son.

I don't get to travel nearly as much as I'd like to, so I'll consider following your blog a vicarious vacation. ;)

Catherine said...

Wow! So many new followers and commentators over from Karen G's BBQ blast which has gone viral as far as I can see! Thanks so much to everyone for your comments - I love to reply to each individually so I will try - forgive me if any omissions!

Roland - my cycling's mostly private too and this was my first public event! Good fun too.

Angie - nice to meet you too - keep the Cajun jokes coming!

Summer - I hadn't cycled for about 30 years since my student days so it's never too late to get going!

Karen G - I wonder about that Waterford school too - you never know, will check it out. Must check out your book too. Haven't time this weekend as it's busy - future blogpost will elucidate! Well done on this great BBQ.

David - it is a new perspective on the countryside - all the better when I can stop and pick some blackberries to eat along the way at this time of year.

Shannon - nice to have you drop by and I will visit/follow your blog too.

MT - cycling was a lot of fun, hope to keep it up. McBride is a Donegal name I think, very Irish anyway. hope you do visit some day, lots of interest in roots tracing here.

Ann - as you know you are the 100th follower on my blog so Congrats and thanks! I know about the Mormon's interest in Genealogy and their maintaining fab records and that's how Jan found his long-lost relations - so like blogging it unites people globally! Glad you like the blog and I look forward to reading yours too.

Marguerite - I am following your friends' blog now - love to see Ireland through visitors' eyes. Killary has something in common with Waterford in that they both have natural Fjord-like harbours. Hence the ford in Waterford.

Nicki - thanks for visiting - blogging is living vicariously I suppose - not that I don't have a life in the real world but it is fun and I enjoy connecting with so many interesting people from all over the world. There's something amazing to see people on the map from everywhere and I do wish I could travel more too!

All the best to you all, Catherine.

cycling in kerry said...

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