I’m just back in from the gym where I landed a new deadlift PB!
I’m delighted to be honest as it’s the first time I’ve given the gym priority over the bike for a period of time.
This wasn’t by choice as you know, my schedule confined my training hours and instead of getting super frustrated I decided to really work on an aspect of training that didn’t need a lot of hours.
Anyway today I’m going to give you an insight of my journey to where I am now and really pick away at the importance of knowing your why.
Most people that know me well are pretty well aware my career on the bike was marred with events that went on to shape the person I am today.
‘Woah that sounds heavy’.
Well maybe it is heavy, but as a troublesome enough teenager who never really appreciated the school system I was always looking for an escape.
Not that I knew it at the time but that came in the presence of a professional cyclist marrying my aunt.
For some weird reason I latched onto ‘Paul’ and he went on to influence my life in the greatest possible way.
He introduced me to a bike.
Not that it was his intention but I was skiving off school to go training at every available opportunity
I even began cycling to school changing into my kit stored in the locker and going cycling for the day returning to school before getting changed again to go home.
I began to slip in school purely out of lack of interest and I left to pursue an apprenticeship in carpentry.
Or so it seemed!
I had no interest in carpentry whatsoever and had no intention of finishing it, I just wanted to ride my bike.
You see I was a complete dreamer, I thought becoming a pro was a simple as deciding to become one.
The reality was I had no idea what that took and how far off I was.
However I was extremely happy with being a dreamer and training with my older brother type figure Paul every day I was pretty content.
Everywhere he went – there I was.
It got to the stage I morphed into looking as he did on the bike.
He was a true gent and he truly did in some ways shape the person I am today.
After the Ras in 2009 – which was my first at 18 years of age – joint youngest with Sam Bennett who stole all the limelight with a stage win!
Paul also won a terrific stage in doing so he netted something he had wanted to achieve for some time.
That win of his was just as satisfying as any of mine personally.
Following the Ras, myself and Paul scribed out a plan for the national TT champs which were on later that year – in September.
He was going for the elite title where I planned on a medal in the under 23 race.
The worst day of my life
On the 16th of August 2009 Paul was killed in what appeared to be a car accident.
This was later confirmed to be heart issue which had already took his life before the accident had taken place.
There’s no point in my trying to explain what went on within my head following the accident because in truth nearly 7 years on I’m still getting over it.
I had hit a major crossroads – not that I knew it.
I lost a best mate, virtual brother, training partner, and team mate – everything gone…. Just like that.
The day after the funeral – I remember looking at the bike and I believe something snapped inside.
I began training twice a day.
I done everything right – I was almost on auto pilot.
I won the champs in 2009 by close to 2 minutes… I didn’t feel any pain until 5 kilometres to go in the 40 k TT.
I knew on the start line I was going to win – the effort itself was just a formality.
I don’t know if I ever would have won that race or left for France the following year if it didn’t happen…
Shortly after the champs I got a call up for the world champs TT…
I was ecstatic!
It was all still a blur however.
I spoke to Paul about going pro an awful lot – truth is I had no idea what it meant.
I had this illusion of what it would be like in my head and this is what made me train –HARD.
Looking back it was Paul and what happened that drove something deep inside me to succeed…
Maybe I wanted to do it for him because he no longer had the chance or to prove to him that I actually did have the ability.
Ask yourself! – Do you know no what drives you to train as hard as you do?
Nowadays my ‘why’ is completely different and eventually proving I was good enough to everyone else fizzled out.
I made it to the pro ranks and struggled with the acceptance of what it was, it was marred by crashes which had a profound input and when I was told I needed to stop for 6 months due to head injuries I was unwilling to sit around and wait.
So a new chapter of my life began.
In hindsight I struggled with accepting what I envisioned as being successful was out of my reach as an athlete – ‘I hate the term packed it in’.
I never packed the bike – I packed the full time dream- being honest the crashes changed me and in some way started what has been a new challenging journey and decision I’m happy to stand by.
I decided to go back to school the following year and the rest in history.
One thing has never changed though, I haven’t ever been without my bike and when I’m out there isn’t a ride I don’t think of the big man that introduced me to it in the first place.
It all sounds a bit rough, disappointing and a little unfortunate.
“It’s awful that happened so early in your career” etc. etc.
You see I don’t see it like that at all.
And anyone that knows me – knows very well that I don’t feel one bit unlucky.
I look back on what I achieved with great fondness, I feel privileged that I had Paul in my life at all and what I learned through cycling far exceeded what I was going to learn in school at that stage.
I learned so much about myself as an athlete and person and although my goals and my why have changed, I know when I want to switch it back on it isn’t too far away.
The happy times
I was asked to write a blog about my career and some of the great happy times of which there were many!
The truth is though, cycling full time is tough and not for the faint hearted.
In terms of downs and setbacks, there are far more than highs and this is apparent at every level.
However I certainly don’t dream of the setbacks I dream of the highs.
Like that Sunday winter spin in the Wicklow mountains with Paul.
We got lost and clocked up 6 hours and we still had to make our way home – we stopped for coffee because I was completely fucked.
We ate like pigs – little did I know he thought I was paying and vice versa.
‘You have cash right’?
A few minutes later he said he was going to the toilet to take a call.
Until I saw him outside at the bikes waving me out of the café!
‘Will you come on ta fuck?’
We sprinted off up the road leaving the bill behind us- to my everlasting shame.
He assured me he went back in the following weeks to pay but only he knows if that ever took place – I for one have my doubts!
Although they don’t come along all that often in our game the highs are so satisfying that they make amends for tonnes of setbacks.
I wouldn’t try butter our sport up in any other way –
The truth is you picked the hardest sport in the world – but guess what – I wouldn’t change it for the world!