EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING…….(the last post)

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It wasn’t meant to end like this, the morning after the Tour de Frank..standing here looking out the kitchen window, a thousand chores lining up. the grass needing cutting; the hedge needing trimming, and the whimpering dog needing to be let out for a piss.

Everything is everything…and life goes on.  

 The Blog took on a life of its own, after Martin died…It was originally meant to be a light hearted diary keeping track of me and my Saturday morning cycling buddie’s, as I tried to get in shape to cycle Edinburgh London..In my head it was to finish as I swept triumphantly into London, with a big happy head and a sore arse….But alas, Martin tripped me up, tripped us all in 795 up.

 The Tour de Frank took hold and I picked that as a fitting the end of the blog…In the end the blog became a record of a cycling year in a broken hearted club….But alas in a broken hearted year, where a club could have fallen to pieces. Instead it reawakened in us a sense of belonging

…In a year where Don, PJ Fintan and Frank, qualified for Tri London and the buzz of wearing the Irish Jersey…In a year where Dave Conway and his fellow Mountain bikers hauled 120 competitors along rugged trails of the Blackstairs Mountains…

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In a year where James Bodels returned, rekindled the Rubberman…doing what James does best, bringing novices along, encouraging pushing. and awaking in them a sense of achievement…

 In a year where some of us fulfilled personal dreams. Liam, cycling Landsend to John o Groats, Me Edinburgh to London and Jim and Barry cycling the Wicklow Way in an amazing day

In a year when Lorraine finally learnt to fix a puncture, In a year where Orla O’Leary sprinkled fairy dust in our company and made us all feel good about ourselves, Where Traceys Marathon dream fumbled on a kerbside, where her homemade energy bars fuelled us over the mile high climbs, and in a year when Joy returned to do us proud in the Limerick marathon, where Dena finally wins her first Triathlon dream’s fulfilled. In a year where Helen, Yvonne and Caroline decided that if you cant beat them, join them..and started running.

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 In a year where Fintan inspires eight others to sign up for an Ironman in Belgium, where Mike saved a life, where Rudolf made his comeback, where Peter, became a Warrior of the Sea, where Shaugh’s and Tom continued to blaze a running trail..where Raging Bill and the Beastie Boys got bate up in the beast of thee east, , where Lou became our best new comer, and where the Blackstairs Adventure Race separated the men from the boys.  And in a year that we helped  fulfill Martins Grand Plan…and did him proud

And in a year the club finally cycled together as a club and drank coffee and lunched on poached eggs and French toast and laughed and shared cycling moments together.

In a year where so much was lost, and yet so much achieved. Yes, everything is everything, and life goes on and  Martin will never be forgotten, where ever the Racing 795 jersey is worn… he will never be far from our thoughts.

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So here’s to tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. Here’s to a thousand cycling miles, a thousand Mountain bike days, here’s to Triathlons, and Marathons and Ironmans, and meeting on the Square, here’s to 795 and the years ahead….and here’s to Martin and his legacy and the life he lived…and the memories he left us with.

Here’s to life…..

THE END.

HERE COMES EVERYBODY……The story of the Tour…

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I did not travel to Kilrush, The Grand Tours start was small and intimate, for family and friends and Racing 795’rs who were there at the beginning with Siobhan and Martin who shared those intimate moments of a small fledgling club…And now once more together with Siobhan and her family at the end. A dignified emotional moment and a fitting start to Martins’ Grand Plan….

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You could feel the raw emotion in the air as the Kilrush Peloton rolled into Bunclody and its sea of Blue dotted with the red of the 795 jersey..There was a great sense of anticipation and excitement, that Martins Grand Plan was about to become a reality.

PJ and Frank who worked tirelessly from our end, clicked into gear, pulled the three peloton groups together, focused our minds…and after all the meetings, all the phone calls, all the texts, all the emails, all the restless nights. It came down to this, , this moment in the Mill Race car park,. Standing in a sea of blue, dotted with the red of Racing 795. We finally pulled out to cheers and waves and best wishes, and Yvonne’s camera clicking thousand snaps, a thousand memories…Three groups three leaders,  an array of Captains we pulled out, and for the millionth time in our cycling careers hauled our asses once more up Carrighduff and out of Bunclody.

For George, Paul and Cora and the extended Mimnagh Family Martins Grand Plan had been realised…What a feeling.

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There is a skill to cycling safely in a Peloton, there is no time for reflection, for dreaming..Everything focuses on the bike, the wheel in front, the bike behind and beside, the hazard calls, the sound of the traffic, the feeding, the drinking, the rolling over, the staying safe…and the stress of just getting everyone up the road safely.

For many it was just another spin, for others it was a personal journey, to honour Martin and Frank, for others just a challenge in itself to cycle a marathon distance, and for others it was  a matter of just being there, being part of it all, just to participate in part of it, to cycle a bit, to rest a bit, but just to be there, to savour the moment….

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And if there was one individual who captured the Spirit of Martins’ Grand Plan, it was Carol Anne, who a few months ago when out on her first training spin Frank told her to change gear, she went to take off her top…..but this weekend she was queen of the peloton, rolling over like a pro, tracking the wheel in front, calling the hazards, all with a lovely sense of humour and a happy smile….

Day 1 we pushed through familiar towns, the Peloton alive with the buzz of fresh conversation, On through Tullow, Castledermot, and the first of  a million Bananas and homemade energy bars soaked in a vat of butter, clogging coronary arteries, but man were they delicious…Kilcullen, Naas and a Garda escort, Sallins, Clane, Kilcock, Summerhill…..The groups found a rhythm..and all the time the sheparded along by Captains and Leaders, protected by escort cars, bike mechanics, civil defence, amvulance, Garda escorts, Motor bike Marshalls, family and friends, as a sea of blue swept down country roads and small towns….

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All day long we churned gears, sucked gels, wolfed bananas , murdered jaffa cakes, talked and gossiped, made friends, hauled stragglers back to the main group, barked instructions, called hazards, waved at well wishers, jeered and slagged Racing 795 buddies….And all the time the captains and leaders worked pushing, pulling, holding back, tired legs, tired bodies back to the peloton…

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Martin would have loved this, he would have loved the challenge of racing in group 1, and putting it up to the flying Dutchmen. Of the easy steady pace, and banter of group 2, and falling back, encouraging, pushing the new comers in group 3…Today. His presence was all round…

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And throughout it all, we drank and laughed and slagged, men about sharing a tub of chaffing cream, Emma,s  HooHaa cream, men’s Dooda cream, Cazerian section scars and hidden tattoo’s, Laughed at Captains being head hunted by other Team leaders, of Flying Dutchmen, of Pints of Stella with an extra kick, of sullen taxi drivers at three in the morning, Of riding the club bike, taking on a whole new meaning, ,of Barry’s honeymoon suite, of Don’s general untidiness, of Liam Kelly sleeping in a skip Of me putting Mayo in my porridge,, Of Gel farts that would wipe out a small town, Of snorers and sore arses, Of Ollie’s vintage bike and tires that a rat chewed, Of Fergal’s jocks, and our smelly socks, of Tyrone and Mayo and the silence in the club bar….But most of all we thought of Martin and his legacy, and this wonderful weekend, and the fulfilling of his Grand Plan..

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How quickly  the weekend passed, Day 2 , pushing North, through the stony grey soil of Monaghan who burgled the bank of my youth its rolling drumlins, proving a bridge to far for some. As we edged closer to Omagh the good will cheers from passing motorists, an adrenaline shot to tired legs. Group 1’s 795 members, swept back out the road with shouts of encouragement in search of group 3, to bring them home…..

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And what a home coming it was, Slane had opened its doors to us but, Omagh had opened its heart…what a moment, what a feeling…..Siobhan and kids on their bikes and trikes, slowly turning down the sweeping driveway down into Kilyclogher Gaa Club, flanked by George, Paul, Cora, Martins Mother…the O’Neills and Mimnaghs family and friends…Martins’ Grand Dream finally realised.

For Maritns and Siobhans children, the significance of the occasion perhaps lost, But hopefully somewhere in the muddle  of suppressed childhood memories , when older and they manage to piece together  this mixed up emotional year, this moment  this day, They will realise that their Daddy, was a wonderful,l wonderful man, That in his short life he made such an impact, and because of him and their wonderful mother, This day, this strange and emotional weekend where over 200  cyclists and crew came together to cycle 280klims from his adopted home County of Wexford to his home town to honour his memory and realise his dream..to honour his own wonderful father….

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And for Frank and PJ, finally an emotional dam burst, a job well done you brought us here, safe and together, in one piece, to Martins home town, place of his childhood memories, And to Paul, George, Cora and his extended family..You finished what Martin started..His Crazy Dream, his Grand Plan..His Tour de Frank……A fitting tribute…Well done all….

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This time last year……….

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This time last year,
We were in Baltinglass as part of our club day out…
This time last year,
We cycled in a fragmented peloton, in small huddled groups, not really sure what we were about..
This time last year
Martin punctured out, and we zipped by, Lorraine with a car full of kids pulls in to help out…
This time last year,
We got drunk over night and came home with silent stories..
This time last year
The forum was filled with gentle nagging, that we didn’t cycle as a club. that some people treated it as a race….
This time last year,
The complaint was taking on board, with the promise that
This time next year,
We’ll do our own club day out, plan our own cycle, and pull it all together…

This time next year!!!!
Who would have seen it coming!!!
This time next year!!!…
This time next month!!
This time next week……………..

How our world has changed.

And instead this time next week we will line up and embark on fulfilling Martins Grand Plan..in honour of our club mate..and friend Martin….

This time next year…..

Life is just to dam short…

To stand still…

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A Good Walk Spoiled……….

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Is it that long ago since we first met, on the long corridor of the glass asylum, waiting for Saturday to come around when we could escape from the wards and the madness within, and lose ourselves for a while in dressing room laughter and the sheer joy of just playing football and been part of something. Who would have seen our friendship grow, and last all these years, despite the absences and distances that now and then we pull it together and meet up and within minutes we are back in that dressing room laughing and smiling and catching up on one another’s lives….

Hard to believe that a life time has passed. Now as we line up a tee shot from the first hole, coming together again after all these years, the football boots consigned to cobwebs and Leinster junior league history, us four battered old friends…

The bike for once left hanging in the shed….

Golf, a hobby you take up at day’s end, when you can no longer run, cycle, swim, walk, talk or piss straight. Here I stand in the company of Jim, Fergus and Jack. All have been seduced by the thrill of the long walk, the challenge of beating your self and the course with all its hazards. And me a once a year golfer, reluctant to give into the thrill of its challenge…
They tell you its great crack..but your not allowed talk, they tell you its sociable but you spend the day apart, searching for your wayward shot in the long grass, they tell you its good for your mental health, well how come I feel so stressed at days end, a hundred skewed shots a million lost balls..

Ah yes, I can take it or leave it, I can see the attraction in it, the open space, the fresh air, the challenge of the fairway, the obstruction of the rough and bunkers with the odd water hazard thrown in….and the sweet, sweet satisfaction of the clean hit, the flight of the ball through the air, the gentle thud onto the green and the flawless roll on the manicured green, into the hole…But it doesn’t happen often enough for me to want to come back, to give it another four and half hours out of my life..not yet anyway….

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Today is different though, Golf is enjoyable in the best of company, we slip back to where we once were, catch up, easy with one another, easy in our lives, the golf today really is just a side show, a reason to get together…a reason to laugh.

At days end, full of pints and small talk and reminiscence, we drift home, glad of one another’s friendship, reflecting on the days golf and the fact that I actually won the 14th hole….but Mark Twain was right….Golf….A good walk spoiled…for the time being at least.

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Blood, Sweat and Gears……climbing The Shay Elliott!!

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Face book is scary, my Forum posting found its way onto Facebook and all of a sudden the usual Saturday cycle turned into a badly organised event. With the Tour de Frank looming on the horizon, cyclists were coming out of the bike sheds from all directions. Throwing up a whole new set of logistical problems that I wasn’t ready for.(Where are you now Orla O’Leary when I need you and your motivational skills) God be with the days when a forum posting gave me Lorraine and Liam, and we hauled our happy asses up out over Carraigduff in search of a quiet coffee shop that served hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and cream……(those were the days).
And so it was a group of twenty pulled out of the town square in a strung out fragmented scattered disorganized Peloton heading for the Wicklow hills and Shay Elliott, a round trip of 136klms. Which very quickly I realised with a bit of help from Barry and David we needed to organise properly. And so we did, pull the group together, deploy a sweeper, leave no one behind and set a slow steady pace. Quickly the experienced 795′rs who came along for the ride, ended up helping to control, set the pace and babysit the stragglers, and stop the big boys who were straining at the leash from blowing the whole thing apart.. Tinahealy to Kilteagan the wind to our backs George M and I set a gentle 24k pace, keeping the Peloton tight till the mountains. David and Barry swept , hauling the stragglers, who lost ground on hills and minor bike problems, back to the main group.We pulled into Kilteagans sleepy village, 40k covered and already, one puncture and on our second pit stop, boy it was going to be a long day….with Sliabh Mann and Shay Elliott calling.

It was only then that I realized the momentous task that lay ahead for the organizers of the Tour to Omagh..the massive responsibility that it is, and the logistical nightmare that they face….

Sliabh Mann 459m above sea level, 255m ascent, descending down into the Glenmalure valley, before rolling back up towards Shay Elliotts memorial stone. On hitting the climbs we strung out as expected. Climbs seperate the men from the boys and as Brian Yates said, I never go anywhere without me Granny Gear….and he’s right in these hills Granny is king.

795′r’s came into their own nursing the Peloton along, stopping at junctions, chasing the pack, chasing the fading day. At the base of Sliabh Mann after a fast rubber burning descent, we came together again. The main group sitting patiently, refueling, …as Shay Elliott beckoned. Shay The first Irish man to wear the yellow jersey, the first Irish man win a stage in all the grand tours..at its 381m summit 3.2klm long the 33rd hardest climb in Ireland..there stands a small monument to his memory. Once again we strung out, Siobhan cramped and I took a tumble like the village drunk, the wrong foot at the wrong time, at the wrong angle in the wrong clip, and down I went, looking like Christy Browne full to the gills, thankfully, out of view of the disappearing group. Siobhan promised not to tell the boys….but now its out.When we finally crossed the summit we paused a moment at Shays memorial, I wasn’t sure if it was out of respect or that we were both glad of the moments respite, before the decent down to the bone shaking surface of the Laragh, Rathdrum main road, that John Dempsey slated in his recent Beast of the East report.

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At 84k The Coffin Shed Coffee Dock, a hidden gem in the heart of Rathdrum and a welcome pit stop…The seasoned cyclists resigned now to the day drifting from them. Relaxed and refreshed and keeping a watchful eye on dark clouds gathering on the horizon, we headed out for Aughrim, the group now, like the tides, ebbing back and forth. George now racing a losing battle to be back in time tio head for Croke Park to watch his beloved Tyrone..Took of like Mark Cavindish with Dose of the runs… And all day long, Barry David and Jim again and again worked hard nursed us along, sheltering tired legs, encouraging,pacing, every little hill took its toll. On the out skirts of Carnew, Holts Way, ripped us asunder. We gathered once more on a bench in Carnew.our 5th Pit stop of the day. The Gods who till then had been kind to us, saw David Conway pulling out a rain jacket, and decided to empty its load on us there and then…forcing us to run for cover.

15k from home, the group dynamic changed, there work done, the Boys closed tight, the pace picked up, I slipped in behind, a small group of four…tipping along, sensing something was on, finish line in sight, I should have known, I’ve been here before with Jim Furlong, should have had the gears right, should have been concentrating. Because in the blink of an eye David Tully suddenly 10k from home, with a garden that needs weeding, stepped up out of the saddle, moved quickly to the front, and in an instant they were gone, 50m, 100m 200m and around the corner , three yellow high vis dots, a final burn out sprint for the imaginary line….

A strange long day,a real eye opener for what lies ahead in three weeks time. We will need all hands on deck from 795,.So Racing795 your time has  come, time to step up to the mark, time to show what being a club is all about. Time to sacrifice that pure enjoyment of cycling hard out in a group of your peers, to mind Shepard, and control the various groups along the way….

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The making of a Legend!!!……. Kilkenny Tri 3013…

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I got a few things right this weekend, when we traveled over to Kilkenny for their annual Grand Prix Tri…
Travelling with Mike, was a good idea, he knew the lie of the land, Almost parked the car in Transition, we got that close. Cycling the route the evening before was another good idea. Checking the run route and the River, entrance and exit points all ensured this could be a really enjoyable Tri for me. Powder in my runners and powder in my cycling shoes!! (Mikes suggestion.)that was a brilliant idea. But the high light of the experience was that we got to use the Portaloos early in the day, when they were safe clean empty and queue free….it was like throwing a stone into a canyon and waiting for the splash…a long way down. I’d nearly risk eating a Mars bar and reading a news paper in one..It was that safe!!

Kilkenny was buzzing, we traveled over the evening before, cycled the route Spent an hour queuing to register in the evening sun, just to pick up a bag, a tee shirt, an energy bar, and a recovery supplement. The “rookies” were thrilled, the veterans were cynical. “I got a bag here last year and it fell to fkin bits in a week!”. But it was all worth while when we met a first timer,He had a big happy innocent head on him….. like Eddie the eagle…embarking on his first ever triathlon and signed up for the Olympic…he only learnt to swim three months ago, and intended doing the back stroke and sticking close to the wall..but was according to himself, “brilliant at the bike,” which he only took up a three months ago, and “Sur anyone can run.cant they”.I told Mike I’d sacrifice my sprint just to film this guys swim for You Tube….

Kilkenny was buzzing, Tourists and Bruce fans lined the walls of the quay as we entered the River. You get caught up in the feel good factor on the day. Linking in with fellow “Elite” 795′rs Louise, her fourth Olympic of the year, Adrian, hoping to have a better day out then in Athy, Raging Bill, recovering from Beast of the East!!, While Colm Mike and myself settled for the recreational sprint event.

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Thanks be to jaysus I checked out the river the previous evening, otherwise I was a deadman drowning. Because once you enter the water there’s no going back. There’s no messing with the River Nore, its dark and deep and slow moving its high walls hem you in, you have no choice but to swim…(It was reassuring reading John Dempseys report on The Beast of the East and their collective experience of the swim). But Kilkenny was well organised, the swim waves were small and lacked the chaos normally associated with the swim section, The cycle route flat and fast, and there to cheer us on at the turn around Frank with his bike and 795 jersey and his gammy shoulder!!…well in the running for Club Fan of the Year at this years Christmas party. The only problem was traffic on the edge of town near the shopping centers, but the bike lanes gave you loads of room and a feeling of security. The run was a nature trail through the manicured castle grounds…passing bemused walkers and tourists…and me with me heart attack head on me…

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At days end, tired and emotional, we all made it home, Adrian happier with his times and days work, puts his Athy ghost to rest. Louise, disappointed and hurting, after struggling on her run. But as Dena posted on Facebook, just put it down to a tough training session, and live to race another day. Raging Bill first home, gear bag slung over his shoulder, drifts of into the sunset happy and content, till we meet again at the next big event, Colm, under pressure heads home to put out fires and collect the child from the babysitter. And as me and Mike head for the car, we run into our hero Eddie, limping heading for the hospital, because a horse fly bit him on his open wound and he feared it might go septic…did his swim in 28 minutes!! Not a bother, As we parted I said something about swimming being like golf, you just need to practice. he laughed dismissively, and said golf is easy, “I gave it up three months ago and I was playing of scratch!!!!”

A legend in the making if ever I met one….

LE TOUR DE FRANK……a reason to do it!

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There’s a Perpetual trophy doing the rounds in Dublin Camogie circles with “the Da’s” name on it. The local club presented it to the County Board the year he died… I’ve never seen it. But its nice to know that out there some where, on a strangers mantle piece, is a Cup with his name on it…and the year 1992..I wonder does the winning captain ever look at it. I mean really look at it and wonder who the hell was this man that must have made some significant contribution to Dublin GAA to have a big silver cup named after him. Somehow I doubt it….Still it’s a nice feeling, just known that after all these years his name still floats around in Camogie circles. And despite the years, not a day has passed since that I haven’t thought of him in some form or other.

When I think of the up coming Tour de Frank, the epic two day cycle from Wexford to Tyrone, I think of my Da. Because Frank could have been my Da, he could have been any of our Da’s or family members. All I know is that Frank must have been someone special, for his Sons and Daughter to grab onto Martins grand plan and run with the idea. To mark both his passing and Martins, with an epic cycle. Its a nice thought..

My Da was 63 when he died of cancer. In the three days before he died the hospice nurse called every day, nursing him, minding us, preparing us, bringing us on side, preparing Da and us for his final journey. Ensuring, that in the end he died with dignity, and that when the time came, we as a family were able to let him go.

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In Ireland we have a lovely way of saying goodbye, the waking in the house is a wonderful tradition, and the hospice Nurse is now an integral part of that tradition…..And in the end we gave him a great send off…..

The Tour de Frank is a great cause. It commemorates the lives of two great men, Frank who died of Cancer and his son Martin who was taken much much too early, who had a thousand unfulfilled dreams and miles to go before he slept….But it also commemorates the lives of all our loved ones whom we have lost as a result of Cancer…And in the Charities it supports Irish Hospice Foundation and Marie Curie Cancer Care, But also it commemorates the wonderful work these people do in supporting us, and our loved ones when the time comes…

So come August the 24th, when we pull out of Ferns, and the Tyrone gang pull out of Omagh to cycle 158k to Slane…each will carry a private thought, a hidden memory, a reason for just being here, taking part, enjoying the moment and the company, despite the sadness and emotion of the occasion…

So, dig deep, support the Tour….there is not a family in Ireland who has not been touched by Cancer….

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