Sunday, 19 December 2010

High and Low

View from 3 rock towards Sugar Loaf

The Featherbed is a boggy, mountainous wasteland - less than 20k from Dublin, but a world away. It is surely one of the most wild and desolate places around, maybe even in the country - not a house, a tree or even a sheep in sight. It's also a great road bike route - an hour's gentle climb along the Military Road (eventually leading to the Sally Gap, unpassable these last few weeks) brings you to the top nearly 500m above sea level. And this is where I headed to yesterday afternoon, a dusting of snow outside, and wondering how far I'd make it, or if I'd be able to complete the loop over the top and back via Glencullen.

Not surprisingly, there weren't many people about (I saw one car all day). Roads were dicey, just needed to take it handy, but nothing too serious. Leaving the trees behind, opening out into a frozen and beautiful plateau, with higher mountains rising above. Dropping down now towards Glencree, the road worsening and I knew the smaller back roads to Glencullen would be even icier. Better to turn back, and climb over the top again.

Bitterly, seriously, unbelievably cold - not a day to be taking chances. While taking off my jacket to get a few extra layers on, sweat had incredibly frozen inside (a first). Thermometer is showing about 4 below. Time for balaclava with the descent ahead. For some reason I'd only brought 'ordinary' winter gloves, and not my ski gloves. I paid the price on the journey home - no exaggeration to say I wasn't far off frostbite by the time I was back off the hills.

This is surely the harshest winter I've spent anywhere, and that includes two winters in NZ's South Island. Spiky ice tyres on the bike, schools closed, snowed in at home - all the norm now in the last month, and three years in a row. Climate change is here, and I think we'll be getting used to these conditions from now on.

But yesterday was a wonderful spin on the bike - up in a place where you could die in the extreme temperatures, I felt very alive up there alone, and in the deafening silence of the mountains.

Postscript: No camera yesterday, but here are a few pics of some recent hiking, biking and boarding adventures in the snow:

On the Military Road - "This is a road through the Wicklow Mountains, which is still in use for mainly tourist traffic, built at the beginning of the 19th Century to open up the mountains to the English Military to assist them in putting down the insurgents who were the remnant of the 1798 uprising". More here.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Young man's game mate

So Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry met in the first round of the 2010 UK championship, finishing yesterday. It was Jimmy's first time qualifying for the event in 4 years and the first time the pair met in a ranking event in 7 years. Hendry trotted out the old reliable before the match, saying of Jimmy, "He is probably the best player not to have won the world championship." Jimmy has beaten Hendry twice at the world championship though never when it counted, loosing the final to him 4 times in the early 90s.

Still, Jimmy was crowned world champion last month...yes you read that right, he won the first world seniors championship, beating Steve Davis in the final. Alex Higgins, RIP, was due to play the tournament. An over 40s event, it was the first World Seniors Championship for 19 years. Peter Ebdon, 40, was knocked out in the first round. Disappointingly, Hendry, 41, declined the invitation to play the tournament.

But back to the UK championship. Jimmy had a 8-7 lead in the first to 9 and incredibly the pair went on to have only their 5th ever final frame decider. Jimmy said afterwards, "I was 8-7 up, but there was so many mistakes you haven't got enough tape to go through it, and there was a bit of vintage Hendry at the end."

Looking back, it's been an interesting 12 experimental months for snooker. Last December there was the did it really happen six-red world championship in Killarney. The experiments continued, especially after Bary Hearn took control of World snooker this summer, and we saw Power snooker, not sure what that's about...

And in that time we have an Australian world champion. To cement his year, Neil Roberston beat Ronnie O'Sullivan to win the world open in September and become world number 1. Still, Graeme Dott was the player of the world championship this year, Dott needed to get to the final to stay in the top 16 and amazingly he made his 3rd final - if he had won he would have joined a select club to have won it more than once - but just ran our of steam in the end. It's a young man's game in fairness and to remind us of that, Jimmy white, now ranked 64 in the world at 48 years of age concluded, "I tried to get focused but I didn't play well at all and I'm really disappointed because I've done a lot of qualifying to get here. I was so pumped up for it but just couldn't produce the goods."

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Why we will lose

Two reasons...

First - Kidney has picked a team to lose. It is a team picked to defend not attack, to keep the margin of defeat down. A team picked on reputation over form. A predictable team. A winning team would have players picked in each position on form, yet Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Bob Casey, Keith Earls aren't even on the bench. Why not try a Stringer-Sexton combination? Why not Fitzgerald at full back (when was the last time you saw Kearney pass to a team-mate outside his 22?)? Why not Toner to target the NZ lineout, their only 'weakness'?

Second - confidence and mindset. They just don't have the belief to win. You can face down the haka all you want, but you have to follow up in the early collisions. They will lose because, like me, they are afraid and have already lost in their minds.

But I will still watch in hope...,

Monday, 8 November 2010

A legend retires

I am in shock, Haile Gebrselassie, the greatest distance runner of all-time, has announced his retirement.

I had the privilege of seeing  him edge out Paul Tergat in a sprint finish to win his 2nd straight 10,000 Olympic gold in Sydney. Myself and Dave were far up in the stands but I will never forget the sight of that unbelievable sprint finish. Gebrselassie only lost 3 times to Tergat in 25 races.

2000 Sydney, Olympic 10,000m final

"I did not expect Tergat to attack then," says Gebrselassie. "Usually he goes from about two kilometres out, but that day he waited and waited until the last 200m.

"When he went past me on the home straight, I thought he had won the gold. I thought that was it.

"But I decided I had to try to just track him to the finish line to make it as hard as possible for him. I did not think I could win."

"Tergat did everything he could," says Haile. "He was simply unlucky that it was not his day. I wish that they could have given out two gold medals that day."

"But it was so special to win like that, in that fashion in an Olympic final. I will never forget it."

Source: BBC

I saw him make his marathon debut in London in 2002 when he finished 3rd to Khannouchi. This injury has caught him my surprise I think, he still believed he could take 1 minute of his marathon word record of 2hr 3 min 59 seconds.

Retirement press conference

Friday, 29 October 2010

Buy Tommie Smith's gold medal

Fancy buying Tommie Smith's 1968 Olympic gold medal? The auction begins 4 Nov, reserve is $250,000.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Glenmalure Lungbuster

Glenmalure WAR - 25th Sept 2010.

The 2nd Wicklow Adventure Race: 10km mountain run; 22km road bike; ?? obstacle course (kayak leg cancelled).

Ready (?)

Glenmalure is the next valley south from Glendalough, but a world away. This is the real heart of Wicklow away from the tourist hoards. It is also the gateway to Lugnaquilla, the highest mountain in Ireland outside Kerry.

The Glendalough WAR would be hard to top, but the omens were good - another spectacular day dawned after an atrocious week of weather. Andy had decided to enter the longer race this time - therefore an earlier start - having won the 'easy one' last time. I was sticking to my comfort zone. I saw him finish his run as I was getting ready - looked like 50 minutes was a good time to aim for. An hour later I was off and running with 180 others, fueled up with bananas, porridge, jelly babies, energy bars and gels.

Run profile

As always, the elevation not the distance is the key statistic and this run was relentless - straight up from the off, a 310m climb to 475m - it started steep and just got steeper. We were soon strung out all over the mountain, like the sheep who looked on with bewilderment. It was a real lungbuster but I dug in and reckoned I was in the top 25 - 3o over the summit. No break even on the downhill, had to keep the concentration and focus on those ahead. Back to transition at 55 mins, v. happy to break the hour. Change of shoes, helmet on, another gel & some water on board and I was up on the bike.

Bike profile

Although this was a road stage, there was a gravelly off-road section too, so my cyclo-cross bike was perfect for this leg. There were plenty competing on mountain bikes who would find the climbing tough, while the road bikes wouldn't be able for the gravel. To quote the race website "this cycle stage will bring you over one of the most iconic climbs in Ireland: the Shay Elliott Climb". To find out more about Shay Elliott, the first irishman to wear the Tour De France yellow jersey click here - worth a read.

Recovering from the run I started to pick off a few front-runners, including the lad who'd set the course the night before - I suppose he was knackered. I was feeling pretty good and really going for it - lesson learned from the Glendalough race, and leaving nothing behind this time!

By the time I summitted, I'd passed maybe twelve riders or so. Taking time to absorb the fantastic views around, I settled in for the big descent back into the valley. I'd purposely left my bike computer at home, as I knew it would be a distraction - so I'll never know how fast I went here, but it was probably as quick as I've ever travelled on two wheels. What a buzz! Only a few kms. back to the finish area. But one more sting in the tail.

The obstacle course was a 'river run'. They'd mentioned at the race briefing that life-jackets were mandatory and they weren't joking. The river was a glacial-cold stream and chest deep. Straight in, heart nearly stopped and the whole body felt like it was going to cramp! Legged it the couple of hundred metres downstream, no way I was going to let anyone pass me now. Struggled out, and then just for good measure, four hay bale obstacles - and over the finish line.
Andy over the last hurdle

My time was 2:01 - far exceeding expectations, and really chuffed to finish 16th - my best finish in any race. I didn't have long to wait for Andy who came home 13th in the long race, beating 4 hours - fantastic effort. After the post-mortem and a spot of the laid-on lunch, Andy, Jill and Billie came back to ours for a curry n beers. A nice way to end a great day.

All smiles at the finish

Nothing like a day out in the mountains like this to make you appreciate a healthy pair of lungs - and while gasping for air on the climbs, I was comforted by the thought that the Cystic Fibrosis Association were going to benefit - MyCharity website here. €1,100 collected so far, and counting. Many thanks to all who've donated.

Over and out.

P.S. A few shots added from the race website...

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Lost Sheep Half Iron Triathlon 2010

September 11th 2010, Kenmare.
1900m swim, 83km cycle, 21km run.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so the story is told here :

Get the flash player here:

To add a few details, the day started nice and early with the alarm going off at 4:55 in the Kinsale Bay Hotel. Fellow entrant, roommate for the night, and sometime Sunday morning cycling buddy Redmond Burke was ready to go with his "HTFU Triathlon Club" T-Shirt. Slogan - "If your eyes aren't stinging, you can keep going" (or something like that). The pints had been flowing and the craic was good at the Fine Gael convention in the hotel, so Redmond didn't get much sleep listening to the hoors. I slept a bit better -ready to devour the porridge laid on by the hotel at 5 - really nice of them. The 30 or so triathletes who stayed over were all bleary eyed and tracksuit clad down in the restaurant, while the last of the bleary eyed Fine Gael crew stumbled their way to bed.

Down at transition zone in the pitch dark at 6 was a bit surreal, and the usual last minute job before a triathlon is of course a trip to the toilets, so, that too was bit surreal as the portaloos were pitch dark and smelly!
Anyhow, all last minute tweaking done, off on a walk to the pier to get this thing going. With impeccable timing, Redmond and I arrived at the start line just about last, and AFTER all the important announcements were finished. Probably some warning about tides....but we were to find that out for ourselves.....
The swim was commonly referred to afterwards by my fellow competitors as "brutal". The organisers changed the swim course twice in the last couple of days before the event, with some worry about tides.....turned out they were right to worry.

Theres a bridge over a narrow point in the bay in Kenmare, with a lough on one side and the open sea on the other. We had to swim under this into the lough, and by the time we were doing that, the tide was coming out. Seeing as the whole lough wanted to empty out under the narrow bridge, the current seems to get pretty strong. I didn't notice the problem really at first....I just kept on swimming towards the bridge and periodically thought the bridge should be a lot closer by now, but sure, it must be an illusion of some kind.
When under the bridge, I looked up, admired the brickwork, took 6 or 8 more strokes, looked up, nothing much had changed, 8 more strokes, looked damn...theres definitely something wrong here! I decided a quick spurt was in order or I just might be here all day!
That worked grand and I swam away, not really aware of the time and enjoying the swim as the morning sunshine broke though.

I had expected a time of 40 min or less for the 1900m, but when I saw 54 mins on the clock when I got out I thought I must have been dire! All the bikes will be gone! No...plenty of bikes! Everyone else having just as much trouble. In fact there were a number of people fished out who couldnt get through the bridge at all!
Out of 300 entrants, my swim time was 66th, which I'm very very happy with!
22 didn't finish the swim. Bummer!...Conor Harty tells me he heard of some people getting outta Kinsale straight after the swim and not even bothering to collect the bike. Must've been annoyed!
In transition zone I took a leisurely 5 minutes to get through. I was kinda thinking, "its a long day, whats the rush?". Having dried between my toes and donned socks, shoes, gloves, jersey, stuffed with gels, bananas and a Turkish Delight, off I went.

The plan was to conserve energy for the run, so I took it easy on the bike. I hadn't done enough training for this event (who had?), so getting a final result of DNF (Did not Finish) was a real possibility. Losing patience with this strategy after 5 minutes on the bike, I took off past half a dozen slower riders, over some recently resurfaced (in best County Council manner) road. The back wheel went flat....drat! It took 11 minutes to get back on the road, so any remaining thoughts of overcooking the bike were forgottem....lets just finish this thing!

The bike route was superb. One smallish climb 200m before Laragh. The descent down this was brilliant and I went past lots of riders with my super aerodynamic riding position and my quality wheels....and my light usage of the brake levers! Good fun!

Then the Healy Pass. Approx 300m. Not really a tough climb, especially with fresh legs, but its got a nasty little kick right at the end. The descent is full of switchbacks, and the first or second of these nearly caught me out. that put manners on me - which was just as well, because there were about a dozen more to go and a couple of riders were squatting on the roadside looking forlorn. Hopefully only punctures, but I wouldnt rule out the odd spill.

Into Adrigoole, then back up the coast towards Glengariff. This road is wide and smooth and straight. After a long long drag, we started a descent where the bike just took off. Suddenly I was doing a land speed record on a bike of 73kph! Never went over 60 before! Fantastic! No feeling of danger either because of the quality and straightness of the road.

Tried to eat an energy bar after this but in my carefulness not to drop even the corner of the wrapper as litter, I dropped the whole thing! Thankfully, the previously mentioned Turkish Delight had also been stashed away - just in case - and well, this was the case! A water bottle was taken on at the water station in Glengariff, but no "sports" lid, so another delicate operation pouring from bottle into bidon - no accidents this time.
Then off up the other climb - the Caha pass. Same height as Healy,pass, but spread over 9km rather than 6, so no pain here either! Maybe a bit more pain would have helped my finishing time, but .... why?!?!?!

The tunnel at the top is a cool way to finish a climb, and the descent was alright. A lot of poor quality surfaces though on the lower slopes, so care had to be taken. The last few kms into Kenmare were slghtly downhill, but into a headwind, so not as easy as I had been looking forward to.

My bike time was 3:13, (219th) and considering the puncture, I'm pretty happy with that. Avg speed not counting the stop was just over 27kmph. Bike position was 219th, so no worry was caused to the front of the field by me!

Right, get rid of bike, helment, grab the 330ml Fruit Shoot bottle (blackcurrent) stolen from the kitchen cupboard and off we go. I took a High-5 Energy Gel at the start and at every water station (also 2 on the bike), and that seemed to do the job and never turned my stomach.

I had a good chat with Jason from Mayo for a good few kms, helped pass the time. I was feeling pretty good and eventually drifted off in front of him. The course was an out and back. I think I emptied the tank after about 8k. The turnaround point just seemed to take forever to get to. Thinking when I turned that my new pal Jason would be miles behind, him and about 6 others were right behind me! They didn't take long to go past me so I was slowing all the time!

I just kept thinking that I may never do this again, and I wasnt actually feeling all that bad, so you've just got to keep going. For some reason the deal with myself was that I wouldn't stop during the run, which I managed to do. However, I noticed a few people stopping...then I'd pass them, then they'd start again and go past me and turn eventually into a small dot in the distance. It struck me that maybe my tactic wasn't foolproof.

With the out and back course you get to see all the competitors at one stage or another. Nice (but depressing!) to see the leaders tearing down the last few km as I started the course. You appreciate what a different level these guys are on! When I was about half way back, a couple of guys approached and I thought these are the!....2 fit guys went belting past on their warm down! Jeeez!
Anyway, I made it to the funish line eventually, and that was that!
Run time was 1:02 out and 1:05 back for 2:07 total which was a rank of 218.

Overall time of 6 hours, 21 minutes, 12 seconds to finish just off the podium in 182nd.

The winner Bryan Keane only needed 4:06:25, which was an amazing 23 minutes ahead of Eric Wolfe in 2nd place with 4:29:31.

Buddy Redmond is training for the marathon so a 21km run should be no sweat to him. Unfortunately, the gels and power bars he took on the bike went down very badly and his stomach was in bits for the run. He couldnt really "run" - but he did endure it and completed the course so fair play! He was in foul humour (by his standards!) at the end.

Not much left to do but return to the hotel for use of their health club - just what the tired and sore body needed!

A great day. Might never do it again, but at least I've done it once!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

David Rudisha 800m world record

Kenyan David Rudisha tonight in Italy broke the 800m world record he set on August 22nd 2010 in Berlin.
Here's a link to the Berlin record....aus Deutsch! ....

And well lets see if this embeddeed HTML works :

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Only Race in Town

The race: NPS (National Points Series) Round 7, organised by MAD (Mountainbiking Association of Dublin), on my home patch, Three Rock. Fast new trails were promised, expectations were high. However, the omens weren't good. A training spin two days before the race ended with a broken chain and my inability to find the course trails. It hadn't rained in four weeks, then bucketed down the night before and the morning of the race. Not good.

Malcolm (Richenda's older brother) and I headed up to Glencullen on Sunday morning to register and warm-up. This was the final round of the NPS, with overall positions at stake - but the only race in town was McG and Malcolm's head-to-head - he'd beaten me in both previous encounters, despite being a road-biker and only occasional MTB'er. But he was back on the rollies, out of shape and I had a good shot.

The broken chain on my hardtail meant I had to race my 'full-susser', aka The Beast - this machine was not built for speed, let alone to race. It weighs about 15 kgs and is quite possibly indestructible. In addition, I was having last minute 'issues' with my rear derailleur - too late to tamper with it in case I made things worse, balls. So I was to spend the entire race adjusting the cable tension on the gear lever as I rode, aware that another chain break was surely imminent if I put too much weight on.

High noon, and the race was off - we had entered the Sport category - 'only' 2 laps of a 6.2 km course - how hard could it be? The Elites were to later complete 5 laps - it's just another level. There were also Masters and Veterans categories. Depressingly, we are now officially Vets. Got off to an OK start, making good ground on the fire-road, climbing before dropping down a chute into the trees and some lovely singletrack to negotiate. In the next few minutes I would lose my bike computer (and 5 or 6 places finding it); crash on a tight bend - a spectacular 'endo', cracking shins, knees and shoulder, adrenaline pumping so I barely noticed; a short stop to adjust crooked saddle, post-crash. In all this time, Malcolm and I passed each other a number of times - this was going to be close.

Settling into a better groove now, and onto the big climb of the day, up to the Three Rock masts - just grinding it out, sun baking down, sweat pouring. Saw Malcolm sit down on the side of the track, assuming he had a 'mechanical'. He tells me he has crashed and burned. Surely winding me up? 'Eat my dust, dude'. From the top, a fantastic traverse on singletrack, getting steeper and a lovely drop back onto the fire-road - rockier now, white-knuckle. Back into the trees for a short loop to the start/finish line. Half-way.

The second lap was relatively uneventful - I finally found the legs, knew what was to come and started to actually enjoy the spin. But where was Malcolm? I knew he could catch me anytime so kept the pace up, no complacency here! On the final run-in now, some lad is right on my tail - WTF, is he trying to draught me on the steepest part of the circuit? Bloody kids. He clipped my handlebar sneaking down the inside, and I was on my arse again. Goddamn you! Only a couple of hundred metres to go, so I legged it after him. In the meantime, some other lad was gunning for me now - Malcolm? No. Onto the final drag, finish line in sight, he is all-out so it's a sprint finish with the crowd roaring - beat him by inches, oh joy. And that was it, race over, a great feeling.

I clocked 32 minutes or so per lap, for a 19th placing of maybe 50 entrants. The Elites would later be riding closer to 20 minute laps, and doing so five times. I should have placed higher really, and probably would have on my hardtail. I also wonder if I'd prefer a time-trial type event - these mass starts are just carnage, and it's almost impossible to overtake on singletrack for obvious reasons. XC is seriously tough - and I suspect I just don't have the balls-out mindset for this type of racing.

It turns out Malcolm had indeed 'bonked' on the first lap and was a DNF. This quote from the man himself surely proves ours is a rivalry of Nadal-Federer proportions: "Still sore over yesterday. I think it boils down to the fact that while I've been doing a reasonable amount of 65% efforts, I'd forgotten what 80%+ felt like and blew. So I'm slowly forgiving myself. But you rode well and can certainly count this as a pelt".

Less importantly, Joe McCall - who I mentioned in my previous Cyclo-Cross post - finished a close 2nd in the Elite race to wrap up the overall NPS prize. The winner on the day was Peter Buggle who I've met a few times up at the Blue Light. I would observe that he seems to like his Bulmers, and is 48 years old. Legend.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Ring of Kerry 2010

Got to Killarney after 7:00 pm on Friday and met up with the Tarrant clan aunt, uncle and cousins. James, the uncle, and Naomi, a cousin, were both signed up for the race. We toddled downtown to sign in and came back to assemble Naomi’s bike. She had just got a new one through the Bike to Work scheme. It will be fine for knocking around Dublin, but if I can remark that her bike lock seemed to weigh more than my bike, my heart sank for her there and then (She eventually finished at 7:15 on Saturday evening – all Steve Redgrave, but without the medas).

We three bikers went for a drink down town and watched Ghana throw it away. Kerry hospitality and gab meant that bed was a moving target. Poor enough night’s sleep despite being tired but woke to good, but very breezy weather.

Rolled out of the driveway at 8 o’clock and zeroed the clock at the Towers Hotel, we didn’t bother with the official start at the racecourse. We picked up James’ brother Billy at Fossa and pedalled on. I planned on taking it easy to Killorglin, but took it easier than planned to chat to Naomi. Passed a few tandems at that point but by then had already seen three unfortunates fixing punctures. I went off on my own from there and put the head down.

Coming out of Killorglin I wheelsucked a train of about 15 headed by the Oriel Cycling Club. The wind had picked up and was probably only 30 degrees off a full head wind. At this point the road rolls up and down quite a bit but it was all fairly relaxed at 27/28 kmh. Glenbeigh came sooner than expected and spectacular scenery followed. Out of Glenbeigh and feeling good I dragged upwards hugging the coast to Kells with great views of the Dingle peninsula. I had a good 20 minutes chatting to a work neighbour, but dropped him (Jaysus, you’d swear I was good at this cycling lark, stop laughing now) on the last 2km uphill before the gradual descent into Cahirciveen.

The full fury of the wind spoiled what should have been a blast into Cahirciveen. By now the scale of the event was becoming apparent as the road was clogged with cars being held up by bunches of riders that were hanging on for the first major break in the day. Speed was down to 10 to 12 kmh as I idled into the feed station with 66.5km done. Colaiste Na Scheilige was packed solid but a great break. I had thought about carrying on without stopping but I am glad I didn’t. Hunger knock would have ruined the rest of the day.

After food and water-bottle replenishment, things became more serious on the way to Waterville. I had my worst near miss ever on a steep down hill as a bottle fell off a bike in front of me and bounced just clear of my front wheel. Great crowd support in Waterville but Coomakista had me nervous. Map My Ride had been carefully studied so I knew where to pace myself for the 7 km of this climb. Scenery was staggeringly beautiful and there were plenty of glances over my right shoulder to admire Waterville Bay. The climb was dragged out rather than feeling steep, with great views of what lay ahead once I got around some of the corners. It was cool to see a procession of bright dots marking the road ahead, all moving steadily.

Coomakista topped out with 88km on the clock. I didn’t stop for the view and descended for the guts of 5km with most of it over 50 kmh. One of the best things about an event if this scale is that the roads are all but closed with plenty of scope to corner and maintain speed. A rattle had me worried and I spotted that the state of road had loosened a waterbottle holder so a quick stop was in order. After that it was a lumpy cruise to through Caherdaniel and Castlecove followed by one short, nasty dig at 7% which preceded a fast drop into Sneem with 115.4 km done

I didn’t eat much in Sneem, and with 60km or so to go, I was itching to get back on the bike. A lumpy ride of 27km to Kenmare started to sort out riders as the pace seemed to be dropping. By now many bodies were cramping onto bikes and some facial expressions seemed to be ushering in Halloween. I had a short break in Kenmare and chatted to a local who was putting his bike into a van. As a native, he had started in Kenmare at 6:15 so he was finished. He encouraged me that Moll’s Gap would be fine and that the distances were marked from 5km outwards.

Leaving for Moll’s Gap I had 142 km on the clock. I set off to Moll’s Gap with enthusiasm for the early part of it but it did get tougher. It is an easier climb than Woodcock Hill from the Moyross side but after 5.5 hr plus at that stage it was hard. Shortly after setting off I felt the early stages of a cramp in my left hamstring but I minded it for a few minutes and it faded away.

Like Coomakista, the road scales the side of a hill so there are great views of the progress of the climb. Unlike Coomakista, plenty of people were stopping to walk and get back on again. Naturally, this being Kerry, the cuter ones seemed to be feigning minor bike trouble or imaginary phone conversations to buy respectability. I went around the bend at the top of the Gap and stood on the pedals while a bus was waived off. After that it was helter skelter most of the way to Ladies View with one concerned motorcycle Garda waving at cyclists to slow down. Beyond Ladies View was the only bad part of the day as I was held up for ages behind a rented car that couldn’t find the courage to pass a slow cyclist ahead of it. Shamefully, I was at my xenophobic best on her back bumper.

I had tried not to set a target for the day, but 7 hrs of pedalling time was fixed in my mind. In Kenmare I felt it was on as I had 1 hr 22 mins left to do 33km. After Muckross I spotted the finish line and saw 6:59:20 on the clock.

I finished with 7:02 – that will bring me back for next year. In truth, I’ll be back anyway. It was a great day out and Kerry hospitality at its best. The organisation from marshalling, to food, to medical support was really top class.

I would like extend a big Thank You to Kevin McGrath, Redmond Burke and Declan O’Dalaigh who came along for some of the mad, long preparation rides in recent weeks. It can’t be easy to get up at 6:30 for 4 to 5 hrs in the saddle, when getting up an hour later for a saner distance would be an easier option. Cheer’s lads.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

What is Cyclo-Cross?

Cyclo-Cross (CX) has been around for over a century, but is still relatively unknown in this part of the world - here's a good description in Wikipedia. As I mentioned in my earlier WAR post, I borrowed a CX bike for that event - it's a true hybrid, a racing bike which is robust enough to be used off-road. It also seemed like a perfect commuting bike, so I've since bought a Specialized Tricross on the 'bike-to-work' scheme. It makes a huge difference, especially on the climb home.

I've also tried it from the house to the top of 3 Rock, a savage climb at the best of times, and have beaten the 30 minute barrier which was impossible (for me anyway) on a mountain-bike. Within reason, it's been possible to do many of the off-road tracks in the Dublin Mountains - but there is a threshold of steepness and 'rockiness' beyond which you need a mountain-bike - the CX just doesn't have the required traction, braking power or comfort which fat tyres, disc-brakes and a suspension provide.

Some of you may have heard of Robin Seymour who "has dominated Mountain biking and cyclo-cross in Ireland and has been Irish Mountain bike champion 14 times consecutively between 1993 and 2007 and 15 times the Irish cyclo-cross champion. Between 1991 and 2008, Seymour was beaten only twice in the Irish cyclo-cross championships...".

As it happens, the current national CX champion is Joe McCall who's a neighbour of mine - I've chatted with him before and met him when heading out for a spin last night. He modestly mentioned that he's leading the Elite NPS (National Points Series) in mountain-biking - round 7 this weekend on 3 Rock and a couple of us are planning to enter. On CX, he told me he reckons "it's the toughest sport in the world, great craic!". I'll have my excuses ready if he offers to take me out for a pedal sometime.

Here's an interview with Joe after he won the Nationals, worth a read:

After yesterdays victory in St. Anne's Park in Dublin we caught up with the new cyclocross national champion to ask him a few quick questions.

mtbireland: Well it's been a long time coming Joe but how do you feel now that you're National Cyclocross Champion?

Joe: Thank God that’s over, that’s how I feel! It is great being a national champ. It’s a niche discipline in a niche sport, but its still good to win.

mtbireland: I have to ask about the age thing, at 37 years young do you think it's age is an issue in cross?

Joe: Sure it is. Age is an issue now in everything I do, biking, getting out of bed, etc. Everything is just a little bit more tiring.

mtbireland: Coming into the race how confident were you feeling?

Joe: Very confident. You have to be confident in cross. Its so friggin hard that you cant have any doubt. I considered myself the favorite and rode the race that way.

mtbireland: Were the cross champs a specific target for you?

Absolutely. Time is limited these days and training for cross is not too time consuming.

mtbireland: What has your preparation been like the past few months?

Prep was ok. I’m not living the life of a pro, day to day things are all in there.

mtbireland: What about specific cross training?

Yeah, that’s where this year was different. I did Robins Tuesday night training and Marks ghetto cross races at the weekend. Also, riding in and out was work was great, every light, every corner was a sprinting opportunity.

mtbireland: About the race? Did you have any specific tactics on the day?

Fla’ ou’.

mtbireland: How do you think the absence of Robin, Roger and Conor affected things?

It made the race easier for me, that’s for sure. After the 3rd lap I was able to back off and maintain the gap. I would have preferred if the guys were riding, I think I had the form to be very competitive. I would have still rode the race for the win.

mtbireland: Cross has gained a lot more interest in this country in the past few years, why do you think that is?

Because people are finally seeing that its actually the best sport in the world. No other cycling disciplines are you so out of control for so long. If you rode like that in XC or DH, you would be in hospital. I was sideways everywhere for 1 hour!

mtbireland: You did your first cross champs in 1991 and finished 3rd. How has the sport changed?

Better bikes, better riders, INFINITLY better courses.

mtbireland: Stilly question but for the 2010/2011 season will you be back to defend your title?

Defo, should be up north next year so hopefully I’ll get to ride against Roger, Conor, Lewis, Glenn etc.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The 3 Wise Men

On a brighter note, I haven't even been able to read to the bottom of this - it's just too funny: RTE Panel Gems.

Friday, 4 June 2010

100km M3 Cycle

Three weeks ago at my cousin's wedding, my uncle Padraic insisted that I join him on the M3 cycle - 100k on the new, yet to be opened motorway through the heart of Meath. Used to cycle with him 20 years ago, when the whole country was in a Stephen Roche / Sean Kelly frenzy. Haven't been on a bike since, but it was a memorial race for my brother in law Paul Healion who won a stage in the Rás last year but died tragically in a car accident last August - so where do I sign?

Borrowed a bike from a tri-athlete friend who also sorted me with all essential gear - clip in shoes, padded shorts, jacket, leggings and even cycling socks.

Reasonably fit with Bootcamp over the past couple of months - but event specific training consisted of 20km on Tuesday - out the coast road but cramped on the way back 'cos the saddle was too high. Wednesday cycled through town and up to Blue Light to meet McG and the lads for a few pints. 40km wasn't ideal prep but all the experts are saying that I should be resting before the race anyway!

Incredible sight at the start line - over 1700 cyclists taking part - over 800 of those doing the 100km. Took the concious, informed decision to ditch my uncle (sorry Padraic!) - he was hanging back and cycling with some punters doing the shorter leisure and family cycles. No way, only hope I have is getting into a big group and doing as little works as possible. Stuck on the wheel of a friend for the first 10km, then he ditched me for a faster pace. Jumped into a group of 14 which was a mix of serious cyclists and punters in GAA gersets who were out for the day. Worked well at times, with the obvious exception of a Galway gersey who was like a wrecking ball in the group - swaying from side to side and varying his pace constantly. F$%king leisure cyclists!

Group from Dundrum CC got annoyed and hit the front - I jumped in behind while at the same time thinking that it might end in tears if I kept up their pace. Alternative? Sit in behind Mr. Galway - no way - go for it. Fantastic feeling - two abreast - draughting and taking turns at the front - feeling good. Loved this back in the day. Great banter and chat - enjoyed telling one girl that I started training on Tuesday - she nearly fell off the bike laughing.

Into the wind on the way out, so looking forward to turing around. 45k and still no sign of the leaders coming back on the other side of the motorway. Surely we can't be that close to them. 46, 47, wtf? They must be taking a different route back? Then they tear by - incredible speed. How are we so close? 49, 50k, no sign of anyone turning or the feed station at half way - 51, 52K this explains how we were so 'close' to the leaders. Nearing 53k and getting pissed off - every km we travel we have to travel back. Long, steep hill and the station at the top - f$%k.

Meet Padraic at the station and head back with him - jump in behind a group of 12 and we're flying - consistently over the 40km speed limit for construction traffic. Past Kells, Navan, Dunshaughlin and a puncture means we're down to a group of 4 - another and it's just 2 of us. I have to apologise that I can't stop to help for fear that I won't be able to start again!

Kms fly by and we see the finish line at the toll booth. Wave of emotion hits me - had been firmly concentrating on my time and wheel in front of me - but crossing the line I realise that it was irrelevant - it was all for Paul. Say 'G'luk' to my companion and cycle around on my own for a few minutes - picked up the certificate that would usually find the nearest bin - definitely not this time.

For the record, excluding the half way break my time was 3 hours 50 minutes - about 40 minutes faster than my target and a very credible 18 mph average. Now it's just to convince McG and Padraic that it's a once off and I won't be eating Dave's dirt on a mountain bike at Ticknock :-)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Tennis streak may never be repeated

So we have no classic Nadal v Federer final to look forward to at the French open this year.

Robin Soderling, whom Roger Federer beat in the French Open final last year in straight sets, beat Federer in the quarters this year in 4 sets. Soderling earned his first victory in 13 matches with Federer and when he was #1 too. Last year Rafael Nadal was #1 and Soderling beat him in the fourth-round at the French Open. The world #5 has some serious scalps under his belt. If Nadal wins his 5th French title he will reclaim the #1 spot.

Federer's loss ended his mind boggling streak of semifinals appearances in majors at
23, the 2004 Wimbledon to the 2010 Australian Open. The second best streak is 10, Ivan Lendl, 1985 US Open-1988 Australian Open.

If Soderling goes on to win his next two matches, Federer’s streak of 24 majors with either a win or a loss to the eventual champ also will remain intact.

Federer still holds the record for consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals, with 24. Putting this unreal consistence in context the second longest active streak is Novak Djokovic’s four quarters in a row. Federer keeps putting himself in contention - Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors but he finished second 19 times.

Source Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Perfect game ni-ni-ni 19, ni-19, 19

Dallas Braden threw the 19th perfect game in major league history on Sunday 9th May at Oakland Coliseum, with the A's beating the hottest team in baseball, Tampa Bay.


Friday, 23 April 2010

Nenagh Sprint Triathlon 2010

Just thought I may as well share my thoughts on last Saturday's event....North Tipp Sprint

750m swim, 20k cycle, 5k run...about 250 competitors....I came 81st!...king of mediocrity!

All good...a thoroughly enjoyable day. Good crowd, good weather, very well organised..

Very happy with the swim.....I experienced a little delay near the end when I caught up with the pack in my lane. I went past 1 or 2 eventually, but they were swimming at a consistent speed one after the other, so understandably, people were reluctant to let me pass, cos I guess they were already swimming on the toes of the person in front of them.

All my fault for not putting in a quick enough estimated time.....lesson learned. Having said all that, the delay didnt actually bother me in the slightest, cos overall I may have slowed down 10-20 seconds, but seeing as I got a bit more rest, that was energy saved for the bike!

Bike : Really enjoyed myself here, mainly because I was on my brand new bike - first ever racing bike - and I'd only picked it up from the shop 2 days earlier. Its a Willier Lavarede, by the way.

Run : Did an old man's shuffle for the first 2K or so...I just didnt have the energy to get going....however, those around me seemed to be going at a similar speed, so I guess it was acceptable! After this, found plenty of energy and did a good pacy last half of the run, even finishing with a good canter.

Time was 1:17 which I was happy with. No particular target...which is a bit unusual for me in a race...I've usually got some number fixated in my brain which I'm determined to beat!

Comparing to last year, the swim was 750m rather than 500m, but, adding 50% to last year's time, shows I made a 60 second improvement this year which I'm delighted with! Bike : 3.5 mins faster but 1K shorter, and on a more hilly course, both days slightly breezy...I guess thats an improvement. Run : 30 seconds slower on the same course! thats not so good. I think my slow start was where I lost it!
Transitions were faster...actually saved 30 seconds.....

I was in a hurry to get out of there as I wanted to meet the mammy for lunch for her birthday, so didnt stick around for post-race chat and cake...usually an integral part of the day!

Looking forward to Nenagh 2011 already!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Glorious Glendalough

The Race

This was WAR - Wicklow Adventure Race. The venue was Glendalough, and amazingly the first adventure race set in Wicklow. The SPORT version (which around 200 people entered) comprised a 9km run around the Upper Lake (575m. ascent); 15km bike ride on the road, to Lough Dan (165m. ascent); a short run to the lake followed by a 2 km. kayak, then back on the bike to reverse the 2nd leg and back to the start-finish line. If that was too easy (and for 400+ people, it was...) then you pretty much double up the run and cycle legs on a longer route.

This was an individual race, unlike CLEC - Conor, Cormac & Andy all signed up after little persuasion. Unfortunately, Conor had to pull out with a calf (muscle, that is) injury, and although Tony replaced him, he too pulled out sick in the days before. The jinx also struck Cormac, and he roped in his mate Conor Wall who I'd pedalled with a few times, including a Wicklow Way epic.

The Training

Race day was 17th April and the training began in earnest 5 weeks ago. I'm not a runner, so this was always going be my focus. In fact I hadn't run since CLEC in July 2008. A couple of runs on the flat to ease into it, then three mountain runs each a bit longer than last, culminating last Wednesday with a local run up Fairy Castle which I'd usually do on my bike. One hour to do much the same type of length and elevation as the race. Calves hurt.

With 100km per week commuting on the bike I figured a few longer spins and I'd be grand. Borrowed a cyclo-cross bike, basically a souped-up road bike used to race off-road. A 2 hour loop from home down to Wicklow was 20 minutes faster on this bike than on my mountain bike. Result.

Sprained an ankle in 5-a-side two weeks before the race which didn't help but with a bit of strapping on the day I figured I'd be fine.

The Night Before

Serious amount of packing assuming the worst weather, and some mandatory gear such as first-aid kit, whistle, survival blanket etc. (seriously). Registration and bike drop off was the night before in the Glendalough Hotel and I drove down in Wanda, first overnight trip of the year. All the kit had to be presented at check-in, and they rolled out some lad to put the fear of God in us: "You're on your own up there"; "It'll take us an hour to get to ye"; and my personal favourite "You can die of hypothermia up there this time of year, you know...". OK, message received & understood.

Hooked up with Conor Wall and Andy, everyone pretending of course they'd put in pretty much no training. Andy showed my how to hold the handlebars of a road bike - better late than never. It was a beautiful evening, Glendalough was looking magnificent - it really is a special place and I'd never been there this late and so quiet before.

The lads headed home, but I parked up in an empty Visitor Centre carpark for the night. They'd blocked up the entrance, so it looked like a quiet night and no doughnuts outside the van from the local hoons. Final prep for the morning, some reading and I was asleep before 11. Nice feeling of nervous anticipation of the next day.

The Morning

A great night's sleep once I nodded off and was awake with the birds at 6am. Next thing I know my phone is ringing - Andy's arrived in Laragh - and it is already 7:30. Oh f*ck. Race start is 9:15 and I need to get some fuel into me. The night had been cold and it was still frosty, another beautiful clear day, blue sky - perfect. Breakfast: muesli, yoghurt, fruit, bagel + peanut butter, energy bar, litre of water & cawfee. Ready for anything now. Met Andy who headed off to race start ahead of me, and then walked up to the start with Conor. Getting close - who's idea was this anyway?

The Goal
Finishing in one piece is always a goal for me. Realistically I thought that 3:15 was an achievable time, and would have been delighted with less than 3:00. Broken down, a run under 1:15, a bike leg of 1:30 would give me a good shot at this.

The Run

First impressions, this was a serious setup - 700 or so entrants, so a lot of organisation needed. 700 bikes racked up for a start, that's probably a half-million euros worth of kit. A lot of fit people knocking about too - in both senses of the word. Nuff said.

9:15 and eighty or so of the Intermediate Sports entrants are off and running, climbing up the Wicklow Way, and then onto the steps to get onto Spink, too steep to run for most, just a steady step-step-step. Feeling good, and getting the impression that many people had trained for the distance, but not the elevation. Passed 15-20 people on the ascent, and in 30 minutes had topped out. Very warm up here now - so much for the survival blanket I was carrying.

Allowing myself time to take in the views, it's one of the most spectacular places in the country and always so easy to get away from the tourist hoards below by hiking up here to the Spink. Down now on boardwalk, crossed the Glendalough River to the old Miners' Village and onto much rougher ground - big boulders, very rocky. This was the hardest part of the day for me, with one ankle strapped and the other one twisted now on the descent. Passed a good few more runners, probably from an earlier start group (or 'wave') judging by their pace. Was only passed by 2 or 3 I'd say. Finished the run at 1:02 or so, very happy with that.

The Bike and Kayak

Change of shoes, some power-gel, chocolate and first water on board since the start - much needed - up on the bike and away. Through Laragh and Roundwood, climbing gently all the time, knocking off more punters along the way, passed by only one on the way to Lough Dan. Conor was somewhere behind, and I hadn't seen Andy at all during the start, presumably ahead. Dropped the bike, short run to the lake, and found a partner for the double-kayak. He was from Newry, in his first race. We got around in 20 minutes or so - average enough. Wet feet and ar*se now, back on the bike and a big climb to get back on the main road. 3 hours is looking very do-able now, so eased off a bit, taking it in and enjoying it.

Aroused from my day-dreaming by someone roaring my name from behind, WTF? Conor, back from the dead and flying. He reckoned he had chipped away and taken out about 55 racers, so I had to lift the pace to stay with him - he faded on the climbs, giving me a chance. But it was going to be close. 5km to go, so we made a pact to cross the line together (!). Someone might have died otherwise. We picked off a few more, really gunning, in fact Conor reckons he took his 60th "customer" just before the finish. He was cramping up now, so I waited for him on the run over the line, and we "dibbed" together. Finishing in 2:42, wow.

Andy (& Jill n Billie) there to greet us. He was looking fresh... having finished 20 minutes earlier - in fact he thought he might have been 3rd, holy f*ck!!! A scorching day now, and we enjoyed the next hour chatting, getting some sun, food and drink laid on.

The Post Mortem

Andy missed the awards ceremony, which was a bit of a pity because it turns out he actually won the Sport event!!! It seems everyone around when he finished knew this, except for him. Conor and I were most pleased with 25th (out of 200) - final breakdown by category still unknown.

Massive respect to Andy for winning - not beating him was a blow of course, but knowing he beat everyone else too softens it somewhat. And huge kudos to Conor too, an incredible effort to knock off 60 racers and a very respectable placing, with only 2 weeks notice before the race.

The best organised race I've ever entered, certainly the most fun, the most amazing setting, and my best finish by a long way. The same lads are organising another similar race in Glenmalure in September next, they've set the bar high.

Drove home to the girls to spend a sunny afternoon hanging out at a neighbourhood BBQ. A perfect day.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Saints March In ... Munster March On.

Started the day with a cycle and made sure to include Thomond Park on the route. Went past it at 9:30 on Saturday morning and knew that a day to be spent dying, wondering would unfold. By mid-afternoon, I was drained.
The ticket for lower East stand also had me drained - dehydrated is the correct term. I've been at games where the dark gloom has chilled visiting side with a big reputation, the stadium could't have been more welcoming for visitors on Saturday. Sunday's sore head had as much to do with bright sunshine as dark stout.
What came to pass from 5:30 onwards was hard to credit. The way the game flowed lessened the tension and the big start was everything. Each of the tries contained passages of play that stand up there with anything Munster have created in the last five years, passes from Earls and O'Gara for the first two, firm scrummaging and excellent running and passing by O'Leary for the latter pair.
O'Gara reshaped the soccer maxim that you can't score if you don't have the ball and hammered home the point that you are more likley to score if you are playing somewhere other than your own half. Even in the dark shadows of the West Stand, it was possible to pick put Chris Ashton's pink boots losing the races to his touchline, beaten each of three times by O'Gara's spiralling punts.
For too long this season Munster have played as if they must hold onto the ball at all costs. In this match they offered Northampton the ball regularly, confident that they would win it back and availing of the opportunites prsented to inflict physical damage in the contact zones.
Fear drove the players and the 23,000 red-clad fans in the ground that evening, it was a great occasion. Obituaries, mine included, are now in the bin, replaced by a view that Biarritz can be taken and anything can happen in a final. Munster for Paris.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Good Friday Awaits

Went to TP on Friday night to see half the Scottish Team play half the Irish Team. Overall a good win and a good performance by Munster.

Clearly the Scots' resources are thinner than ours. Glasgow brought back almost all their internationals from the win over Ireland but clearly they were very tired. Parks kicked well but O'Gara (one opening penalty miss aside) matched him, including a superb touchline conversion to make the game safe. The famed Killer Bees were good but not at the level that they showed at Croke Park.

One slightly worrying note was the scrum. Franno made the point that Kaplan seemed to have decided to police the Irish scrum very closely against the Scots and penalised Irreland unduly. Friday night was similar with Munster being lectured to constantly - and penalised readily. Glasgow went to town on this and caused even more disruption with scrums being reset and free-kicks awarded. The slow hand claps in the second half from the knowledgable, but increasingly impolite, attendance told it all. It was very disappointing to hear jeering (no matter if by a small few) of Parks at penalty kicks.

JDV was pure class,and Mafi will be hard to drop, but Earls is needed at 13. I see an outside chance that Warwick will be dropped to play Earls at FB; Warwick's confidence level looks very low and his kicking to touch was hopeless.

Our back row played well, they forced some excellent turnovers in the second half and even though two of them were replaced, continuity was not a problem. Unfortunately for Glasgow, and this is where their resources are thin, they struggled to integrate their subs as effectively as Munster.

Leinster await, let's hope its a good friday for us.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Where Ireland are at

I had some texts with Colin in Christchurch after the last Irish match in the Six Nations, which Scotland won 23-20, thanks to a man of the match performance from Aussie Dan Parks.

Too be fair, that's about where Ireland are. An ok team that the likes of Scotland can take on a good day with a shit ref.

We'll see how they fair down here in June, we'll know where we are at then.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ireland Triple crown hopefuls

Ireland can pass Scotland this year at the foot of the all-time triple crown ladder, if they win their 11th Triple crown. Wales have won 19 and England 23. It would be Ireland's 5th triple crown in 7 years. Didn't we have an awful record before the Naughties.

Go David Gillick!

David Gillick, 26, has qualified for the World Indoor world championship final tomorrow in Quatar.

Gillick equalled his PB of 45.52 in his heat, the second fastest time in the world this year, so is in great form. He has done well indoors in the past, winning the European Indoor Championship in 2005 and 2007 before failing in the tree-peat when he fell at last year's European Indoors.

He finished sixth in the (outdoor) 400m at the World Championships in Berlin last summer. His outdoor PB is 44.77 which he also set last summer.

Men's 400 Metres Final Sunday 14 March 2010 15:05

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Blue Sky Friday

For the record: Friday 5th March - Dave rode from his house, up the Wicklow Way to "Fairy Castle", and home via Three Rock. Ride time: 1h 28m; distance 18km; ascent 436m.

This is a spin I've done variants of upwards of 50 times I would guess. A bit of a climb on the road gets me into Kilmashogue Forest and it's all off-road from there. I'll let the photos do the talking.

Welcome to Kilmashogue - timecheck 12:59 - beating the magical 13m barrier.

Sun through the beech trees - nice

Stackstown Golf Club - which we boarded through last Jan. Resisted temptation to ride through it today

This is the mess Coillte leave behind when they clear-fell

Still plenty of snow about in shaded parts

Opening out now, nice views across the Dublin Mountains and the city below

"Fairy Castle" and cairn - summit is 536m. Timecheck 52m. Snack time...

Kippure, the highest point in Dublin (757m) and the famous RTE transmitters on top

The track ahead, with view down to Dublin Bay and Howth in the distance

Just to prove I was there...

View back up from Three Rock masts

No mountain-biking. Hmmm. The start of the Boneshaker track. Starts out easy enough...

...and gets pretty gnarly

Self-portrait, and home for the clean-up.

Over and out - pedal on dudes.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Jimmy hoping to get back to Sheffield

Jimmy White is currently practising in preparation for qualifying for the world championship, next week he'll have to win 3 matches to get to Sheffield for the first time in 4 years.

Jimmy has freely admitted that he was not a model professional and liked to have a good time to much and relied on his natural talent. Speaking on Newstalk on 23rd February he said that "he was putting his heart and soul" into getting back to Sheffield and "giving it 100%". He said that his time in the jungle had given him time to think and Barry Hearn was reinvigorating the sport he loved.

Jimmy got a wild card to the Masters at Wembley in January 2010, but he was a bit "ring rusty" and lost badly in the first round - however last year he was in his best form for years. Jimmy won the Sangsom 6-red World Grand Prix in Bangkok Thailand in July 2009, his first title since 2004. Only O'Sullivan was not in Thailand, "Thank God" said Jimmy! In the Paul Hunter Classic (formerly the German Open) in August 2009 he lost to Shaun Murphy in the final. Two months later on 18 October White reached the final of the World Series of Snooker in Prague, his fourth final of the season. He won his 2nd title of the season defeating Graeme Dott 5-3.

Plenty of former world champions, such as Ken Doherty, Graeme Dott, John Parrot and Steve Davis are also trying to qualify for Sheffield - the qualifiers run from February 26 to March 9, they are all fighting for one of 16 coveted places in the Crucible line up. Jimmy plays his first match at the English Institute of Sport – Sheffield on Wednesday March 3 against Patrick Wallace or Mark Boyle, and would then have to beat Ken Doherty and Joe Swail to get to the televised stages in April.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tom Watson master of the wind

Tom Watson, 60, has won 8 majors, including 5 (British) Open championships in a 9 year span between 1975-1983. Last summer he _nearly_ completed one of the greatest ever feats in sport when he came 2nd in the British Open at Turnberry. He needed a par on the last hole to win but his second shot went over the green.

Tom Watson showed his mastery of windy conditions once more last week in Dubai, he tied the best score of the week, 68, in coming 8th in the Dubai Desert Classic. Rory McIlroy, 21, came 6th.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Miller Time

In Turino Norwegian Kjetil-Andre-Aamodt became the first downhill skier to win 7 Olympic medals spanning 4 games, including 4 golds. He won 3 medals in LilleHammer in 1994, a feat also achieved by Jean-Claude Killy (1968), and Toni Sailer (1956). In Vancouver 2010, American Bode Miller has joined that club, having won 3 medals in the 3 Alpine ski events completed so far, a bronze (Downhill), silver (Super G) and Gold in the toughest event, the Super-combined, which combines a downhill run followed by a slalom course. He and Kjetil-Andre-Aamodt are the only two men who have won medals in four different disciplines and Miller could have the single games record on his own with one more medal in the two events left to run.

Miller now has 5 Olympic medals having won 2 silvers at Salt Lake city. In Turino he was leading the Super-G after the downhill (only 7th in Vancouver) but straddled a gate in the slalom. In Miller's 13 years career he has won the overall World Cup title twice, won four World Championships, and 32 World Cup victories.

It'll be worth watching Bode Miller tonight in the giant slalom, he won silver in this event eight years ago in Salt Lake City.


Tuesday 23 feb - Giant Slalom
17:30 GMT - First Run
21:00 GMT - Second run

Saturday 27 Feb - Slalom
18:00 GMT - First Run
21:45 GMT - Second run

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