Don’t Brake! A lesson in life… and cycling

I’m a scaredy cat…


This is not new information. I don’t like ‘dangerous’ things. Dangerous things being jumping off a wall or playing skipping rope with my 4 year old nephew. I could never understand thrill seekers. Adrenaline junkies. What’s wrong with you?! What’s wrong with being comfy and warm and SAFE!


Well I married an adrenaline junkie.


And now we share hobbies… But guess who won’t learn to crochet?!


So I’m on a mountain bike every so often and this is what I’ve learned about cycling and funnily enough about life.


Don’t brake too much. You spend all your time when mountain biking pedalling like fuck up some shitty incline and then bombing it back down at an unnatural speed. With twists and turns and bumps and branches and bog and wild boars coming at you! If you’re a scaredy cat like me that sounds like a lesson in torture. Let’s burn your legs getting to the top and make you cry like a baby to get back down. So what do I do? I brake. And what happens when I brake? Well many things actually.


My husband is getting away from me

What’s the point in mountain biking with my husband if I’m not anywhere near him? Seriously?! He’s gone! Like the wind Bullseye! How is it ever any fun if I am spending my whole time catching up? And how is it any fun for him if he’s spending his whole time waiting? And I felt this was true for life as well. What’s the point of being with him if I’m not with him. I need to keep moving forward with our lives, staying in the moment but always looking forward, not hanging back because I don’t know what to expect. Because I think I’ll fail. Life’s too short for such bullshit. Be there, with him. Always.


I risk skidding/falling/failing

You’d think that when you feel you’re going to fast you should hit the brakes. False. First time I hit the brakes mountain biking I went straight over the handle bars, landing face first into some mulch and cutting my lip. Second time I broke, I skidded hard, panicked and fell. I could go on but really all you need to know that braking in a panicked state usually leads to me being a pile of embarrassed and bruised bones. When I tried to ‘let go’ and stopped grappling for the brakes I noticed I was grand, a little watery-eyed from the wind but grand. Didn’t fall off, over, under, break myself and cry all the way home… I was shitting it but I was physically grand. I think this can be adopted for life. Don’t try and predict the unexpected by stopping before you even begin, embrace the wind in your eyes and the risk you could fail, because how else will you succeed!


I lose trust in my bike

I am convinced she is gonna fall apart the moment we hit a certain speed. (Yes of course my bike is a she!) She’s not gonna… I need to believe in that bike. I need to work with that bike. I need to trust the bikes and the people around me and work with what I’ve got in life!


I lose trust in myself

How can I ever succeed if I never even try. I am big one for backing away from tricky tasks for risk of failure or I am just too afraid of bad outcomes, mountain biking is no exception. Self belief in your worth and your abilities is so important and it’s something people really struggle with. If I can trust in myself and my abilities to control that bike, I won’t need to brake, you know until I actually need to brake. And if can do that, well that’s the first step in believing in myself in general. Surely…


I don’t truly reap the rewards

Like I said in the beginning, you spend so much time working really hard at mountain biking. Pushing up those hills, cursing your tired legs, feeling like your cycling through hummus. Why waste all that effort on being too afraid to really jump in when you’ve earned your reward? Why let fear stop you when you know it’s ok, why let fear stop even if you don’t. Even if I fall off and hurt myself, cycle into bogland and end up covered in brown, it’s an experience. One I can learn from, one I can live with. Not trying is worse.




That got deep! Sorry about that but you have a surprisingly a lot of time to think when you’re cycling.














End of the Season

I met Emily about a month ago at a kid’s birthday party.  That’s where we, parents, meet up these days… or during the coffee shop for morning fix. She asked if I would be okay to type an end of season blog having written my first one at the start of the season around February/March.

To be honest I’ve been trying to find the time since and now, well here goes…


Since February I’ve been training for the Castle Series first sprint triathlon in Gort, Co. Galway. Whoever is familiar with this, knows it is a series of triathlons based in castle grounds across Ireland, England and France. I couldn’t have picked better location! I highly recommend it and will be signing up again for the longer distance events in 2018. It wasn’t the best of weather in early May. The water was so cooold!! I was dreading the swim, and I wasn’t the only one. Plenty of lost souls threading water on the start line had that familiar ‘I am sh*tting it’ look, including yours truly. New wet suit, new goggles, new thoughts, will I manage the transitions?, will my legs feel like concrete blocks after the bike?  Then ‘BANG!’ the gun fired and we were on, heads down in the murky water, the first experience of being swam over, kicked left, right and centre.  Once you’ve come to terms with the initial shock, the next sensation is the lack of visibility, not helped by my normal eyesight running a close second to Mr. Magoo. The only saving grace was the ginormous orange inflatable course buoys. The first turn arrived and I realised my breathing had settled, my stroke lengthened and I kicked for the shore with all my might.

Out of the water, wet suit half down (careful!), run to T1, wet suit off, now hopping on one leg, helmet on, race belt on, bike shoes on, bike off the rack and I’m running to the start in 3 inches of the finest muck Ireland has to offer (see pic 1). Then back to earth, I couldn’t clip my shoes in and it was time for some foot stamping and cursing. Once I’m finally going on the bike it felt amazing. 21km passed so quickly, a quick energy gel in for that extra sugar kick and I’m cruising. T2, bugger, fell off the bike, the sweet kiss of concrete on my knee, there are children present, don’t swear. Bike racked, trainers on and now for a run off-road around the castle grounds for 4km. Surprisingly, my legs felt pretty good and I flew through the finish line at 1h 21min.  My first tri (new lingo!) medal, wow, I was hooked.


Pic 1: Muddy...

Pic 1: Muddy…


Since then I’ve completed a sprint tri in Kilrush, Ennis, the Hell of the West in Kilkee (full Olympic distance, I did the 41km bike and 10km hill run) and the Castleconnell sprint tri.  In meantime I’ve also done the Limerick half marathon, Tough Mudder (full 11 miles with obstacles along the way for good measure) and the Newport bike sportive 60km. Along with my road bike group we’ve completed two long rides around the lake in Killaloe. The first was in June with Group 2, averaging 22kph and more recently in September with Group 1, averaging 28kph, 8 lads and little ol’ me, the only woman!  Wonderwoman, imagine the theme tune, haha. And I did my second Dublin marathon which sucked! Running did not come easily to me this year, but another one under my belt is ok for now.



Pic 2: Muddier…


Basically, my Summer consisted of 5-6 training days a week. Swimming in the lake or pool 3 times a week. Not running much, just twice a week while my son had his athletics but it felt like I was cycling constantly. Every Wednesday, evening sessions, 500m swim and stationary bike intervals afterwards, hill repeats.

Every Sunday morning session with the lads, 70-80-90km routes with a restorative coffee afterwards.



Pic 3: Only woman of the bunch!


I do rowing and bike turbo sessions at home, often at 6am, before heading off to work or else at 9pm in the evening before heading to bed.

My home also seems to have turned into a mini gym. Bikes and a turbo trainer, Concept2 erg, chin-up bar, 3 sport bags always ready, one swim bag (indoor), one swim bag (wetsuits), and yet another packed specifically for each race. It’s funny but as I look around me it’s still the same now!!


Looking back you can get a bit rose-tinted but it wasn’t easy at all. In the middle of all the mayhem I started a new job in June, but I had to keep my old job as well, such is the modern world. So it was 2 jobs, an active 5 year old who was on ‘his’ summer holidays, entertaining, training, cooking, shopping, the lot. Don’t ask me how I did it by myself, I truly don’t know. I had my ups and downs, more than my fair share of complete meltdowns and plenty of sleepless nights.

But despite all this, or perhaps because of it, I learned to be organized like the CEO of multinational. Dinners were prepared in advance and child care always had to be planned well in advance based on my training schedule. Although food was quick I tried not to let that lower the standard of nutrition. I’m also a firm believer in organic produce and most meals consisted of meat (lamb and sirloin steak mostly), fish, tuna and lots of veg, particularly sweet potatoes and avocados. I found I was snacking constantly on nuts, dried fruit, crackers, quark (I had to look it up too), nut butters (yum!). Now when I think back, I often ended up having a second dinner around 10pm at night. It actually felt like I was eating constantly.

Despite all this, motivation for me was never an issue. Once I’d signed up for a race, that kept me going. The high I felt was amazing.  Meeting like minded people at the events or even while out training. People for whom this lifestyle is our normal, is a tremendous feeling.


What’s for the future? Well, next year I plan on doing my first half Ironman, and all going well the year after my first full one. In order to prepare for the step up in class I am planning on hiring a coach to help me to train more smartly and effectively.

I am also hoping Santa will be kind and I’ll find a new carbon-fibre bike under the tree this year (no I’m not demanding at all!).

By the way, I can’t let the opportunity go by without mentioning how expensive it is to exercise in Ireland?

Membership fees, race fees, decent gear… thousands upon thousands of euro… but hey, who needs high heels anyway?!?!


Monika 🙂

Towards a Better Me: Part 10



‘The Fear’ was still my training mate this week, but I had Denise back this week. ‘Did ya miss me?’, she said as she bounced down to the PT room. ‘Yes, Michelle made me do planks!’, was my reply. The laughter from her indicated she wouldn’t be taking it easy on me.

‘Any more issues since?’,


‘Good, time to take it back up!’

Oh, what I had let myself in for! It was a tough session, and Denise was holding no punches. But Denise had let slip, she had a new beau. The other girl taking part in the training session and I wasted no time in taking the piss and attempting to freak her out. And while it was fun to see her squirm, I was genuinely thrilled for her. Tuesday night was gone in a flash. It was quite a blur. I can only remember one of the bench presses. I couldn’t get over how heavy the 25kg bar felt. I hadn’t used it in the three weeks and it felt so heavy. It took everything to do those bench presses.


Thursday’s morning session was also a blur and quite tough, not helped by the fact that I had missed breakfast. Denise and I had the personal training centre to ourselves. I know I had the bench presses with the 25kg bar but I don’t know what else. Seriously, I really should write these soon as to the day as possible. It’s only been a week like! It was a very good session. I head to work after my shower very pumped and made to the office just on the stroke of nine.


I had my little sister and one of the bitchmittens’ founders, Rhona and her new hubby coming down the weekend and she was currently trying to convince me to go cycling. I haven’t been cycling since last June. My gears are fucked and take absolutely ages to change, which really grinds my gears. (See what I did there! Sorry I know I’m not the funny one.) And on my last bike ride, I only managed about 5km and half way through took my gear frustrations physically out on my bike and kicked the shit out of it! I may have even bent the back wheel, but I cycled back just fine. So finally, I reluctantly agreed to cycling if Pierre could fix my bike. Luckily (or unfortunately), he could and we were able to borrow bikes for Rhona and Cormac from our friends.


I wasn’t expecting much from me and I had told the others they may have to leave my lying on the grass somewhere while they went all the way to Crosshaven. It 15 km, I was thinking I’d be happy with 7km. It was a gorgeous day down in Carrigaline and the Carrigaline – Crosshaven Railway Walk was looking lush and green and full of people walking, running and cycling. We made our way out and everything was going well. Knees were a bit sore but that was about it. I was quite happy to fly past where I had stopped and had a fight with my bike. And I just kept going, I was in the rear but I was easily keeping up with the guys. The lads pushed forward leaving Rhona and I behind as we chatted. Though they didn’t get far. They had pulled over to take in the beautiful scenery.


After a barely of a minute of stoppage and a couple selfies, we were back on the trail to Crosshaven with me and Rhona leading the way. I was in great form, enjoying myself immensely, saying hello to everyone I passed. God only knows what they thought of me. Crazy lady on her purple bike! Before I knew it, we were in Crosshaven. We mused about whether to get a coffee here or head back and get one in Carrigaline to drink at the beach. Beach was the call, so back on the bikes we got and off we went. Unfortunately for me, the gears on bike were stuck in quite a high gear. And I was belting it back in, leaving the others in my dust! Pierre eventually caught up with me and I stopped to let the others catch up. Pierre has a bike computer on his, and clocked me at 28km per hour. Once I caught sight of Ro in the distance off I shot again only stopping at the end of the trail. It took the guts of 45 minutes out and only 1 minute back in. I got a chance to sit down and wait for the others. The gear issue became my undoing once we reached the big hill up to my house. I ended making the climb on foot. It seemed like the longest trek ever! I jumped back on once it had levelled out a bit and then there was only the short ride back to the house where the others were waiting.


All in all, it was very good day. I got to remember why I loved cycling so much. I used to go everywhere on my bike when I was younger. I was quite surprised that I was able to cycle the whole thing and with ease, if you exclude my aching knees and the hill! But when you compare it to how far I got last year, it was a clear indicator of just how much more fit I have become in only three months.


Now if only I could cycle the mini marathon and I be set.


Swim, Run, Crawl

Monika The Brave.

New challenges await us all, if we’re just open to them. Rower Monika has a few great achievements under her belt, not least of which is tackling this blog post, along with just a few other challenges 🙂



It has beHalf Ironen on my mind to contribute to this blog for a good few months now. Since November 2016 to be exact. How do I remember? Easy. I ran my first full marathon in Dublin on 30th October. I would have done something sooner, but I think low-self esteem held me back (believe it or not, that’s why I exercise), and I lack confidence to write in English, as it’s not my first language. But now, I’m ready!


It only took 42.126km. That’s 42,136 metres of of pure determination, willpower and self belief. If I can do that, I can blog, right? But now, how to write about marathon training, and for it to be interesting, and funny… There are bucket load of articles out there. Everybody is having a different experience. Also, half of my friends have completed a marathon. What else is there to say?


To be perfectly honest, I think training sucks big time. Pounding footpaths for hours on end, energy gels tucked behind my belt, asking random strangers for sips of water ( thanks Sean), checking pace, cadence, heart rate. One week I counted a total of 140km, and then the weekends were around 100k mark. I was panicking the milage wouldn’t be enough. Was it necessary? For me, absolutely. I just wanted to finish with my head held high.


But then, after all those distances, disaster. A torn ankle tendon three weeks prior was massive set back, physically and psychologically. Calm, rest, focus. It was the hardest thing. But just in time, it came right. The day dawned bright and clear. The training kicked in, the lungs did their job. I made it through the finish line  and it was awesome! The best feeling ever. Now I am aiming to do one again this year in sub four hours. A new challenge!


Mon and BFTwo things I’ve learned. My body is awesome, it allows me to do crazy things like this one. Also, based on my experience, I believe that my body is made for endurance rather than speed. I want to add that I’m a 36 year old mum and that now I’m fitter than I ever was in my 20’s. This experience has also been under the watchful eye of my fit bf, he was full of encouragement and confidence.  We ran it together. Well, actually I ran way waaay behind him, but it was an amazing experience to share with each other. I still remember the walk back, I always laugh out loud when I think of it. Holding onto rails along Merrion square. Our legs were totally fucked for days afterwards.


But now that I’ve started writing, I realise that this story is not about running a a marathon. And it’s not about rowing  – a sport which is in my heart forever and still identify myself as a rower (I miss you girlies already). This story is actually about trying something new. I tried marathons. And for me, my next new thing is triathlon. Because two sports are not enough obviously. Three sports which are combined, that I think I do like very much. And excuse my pun, but life’s too short not to try a tri!


It actually all started with the half Ironman event in Dublin last August. I completed one as part of a relay with my dad, with me running. (That’s us in the very first picture)  he’s a 63 year old MACHINE on the bike. Oh my, how proud was I? What an honour to share this experience with him. Since then I’ve had this conflicting ideas in my head. Will i do more, will i not? Will I leave rowing for a while? I was afraid to loose the idea of belonging to my club, the support of training, the gatherings of friends. But thanks to 70.3, i found my tri boyfriend and gained even more amazing friends, like-minded swim, bike and run enthusiasts.


So here I am, beginning of February 2017, full of beans, can’t wait for the next adventure to begin. Tri-ireland licence renewed, first race in May paid for.

image1 (3)I have started to run again when-ever possible (though I really didn’t feel like it for a while). I’m now swimming three times a week and I began cycling last December. A good few lessons in the pool were necessary to be honest. They still are and I have a personal coaching lesson booked for next week, so i don’t go backwards or sink when I make it to the open water. I bike every sunday morning here in Killaloe with great bunch of people. Sure, my life isn’t busy enough as it is 🙂 #rolls eyeballs.


I’ll be taking it nice and handy this season. Some sprint distances (750/20/5) and Olympic distances (1.5/40/10) #read swim /bike/ run, they will do me nicely. With some duathlons ( run/bike/run)  lined up in next three months. Cold water is my enemy, (Emily do you remember? A few splashes of cold water in the boat and I nearly ended up in A&E with pneumonia) Some triathlete, what?


I intend to keep in touch with #PBM over the training and race period, and report back on how it’s going, with it all being new to me. For now, there’s more excitement than fear, and I’m happy to be able to share it with you!


Wish me luck!




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