Bootcamp Blog Part 3 – Guest Blogger!

Peter pictured with Paul McGrath at the Gorey stage of the 2013 Cycle Against Suicide.

By  Peter O’Connor, Easy Riders Cycling Group.

As most of you know, Cycle Against Suicide is one of those initiatives that has really captured people’s imagination and also galvanised a lot of energy toward a great cause and toward bringing about better mental health sensitivities on the Island of Ireland.

Recent media events continue to highlight the importance of getting the key messages of Cycle Against Suicide out there to vulnerable individuals, that they’re not alone and that help is available.

Our cycling hats are off to Jim and the team for such a great launch and success in 2013 for the Cycle.

My own small involvement last year in the Cycle got me back onto a bike for the first time in over 25 years.

Having lost a dear lifelong friend the year earlier, who died by suicide, the events combined my interest in honouring his memory, along with a newfound way to get some exercise, as my competitive team-sport days are behind me. It appears that you can cycle till you die.

So there I was, sitting comfortably in a warm cafe one Sunday early this year, and I saw something in the paper about Cycle Against Suicide. I went to their website and realised, aha, that’s the bloke who was on The Secret Millionaire talking openly about his personal battle with depression. As a business person, I was impressed by Jim Breen’s  honesty and courage, and by the selfless work of the people on the TV programme that he supported.

I’m from Dublin and as I sat with my Americano, tucking into my chocolate croissant, I said to myself ‘I’m going to do this’. So I registered there and then via my phone, with the goal of cycling from Dublin to Wexford (my late father’s home town). A twin motivation perhaps.

With the event only five weeks away, there were two minor problems. One I didn’t have a proper bicycle, and two, I wasn’t fit. Would I even remember how to cycle?!

However, when you cycled to school and back for 10 years in rain, hail and snow, it’s built into your psyche somewhere that you don’t forget. With the loan of a nice bike for training, out I went thinking, ‘sure I’ll do 5 miles and build it up by 5 each day.’ Little did I know, 2 miles down the road it’s fair to say, I was “cream crackered”, out of breath big time.  All of a sudden the thought of cycling to Wexford in a few weeks seemed far away indeed, and a little bit overly optimistic on my part.

However, I had registered, told the missus and the kids what I had done (who all laughed). There wasn’t any going back, if you know what I mean. I worked out that if I was going to be fit enough to do this cycle, I’d have to break down my cycling plan into weekly goals.

Even though I did this and gradually built up to 10K and then 15K with two weeks to go to day 1 of Cycle Against Suicide, it still seemed somewhat overwhelming that I could bike 85K in a day, without an engine that is.

Luckily the Cycle Against Suicide folks were there to support. They put on some midweek fitness boot camps, and also organised Sunday morning group cycle outings from RTE with Colm Hayes and the gang. I kept at it, hung on in and the group work really galvanised me. This is where I realised the power of the group in cycling really kicks in and I fully experienced it in the Cycle.

I felt an immense sense of pride being able to make it up Howth Hill as part of the 25K Sunday morning cycles. It goes without saying the experience of cycling from Dublin to Gorey and then Wexford on day two was one of my most memorable life experiences. I know I was carried up some of those hills by my absent friend.  Our stopover close to Gorey was memorable, as were the welcomes and hospitality we received.

Cycling in a group like that is a great experience and the social aspects of Cycle Against Suicide added a fun dynamic. I was cycling alone, but I wasn’t at all. In fact, me and another dead on guy called Ben, pretty much cycled to Gorey together and had good chats with others along the way.

Reaching Wexford Town on day two was the highlight. I reached my personal goal. From couch potato to cycling fan in 5 weeks.

I envied folks who were fit enough and had the time to go on further. I had to get back to work. As me and my bike travelled back home on the Wexford bus, I vowed to do it again next year.

The Cycle Against Suicide 2014 event will be upon us in no time at all. For anyone who’s like me and thinks they’d like to get involved but worries about their fitness, there are lots of fitness options out there, when you look for them.

One such option (if you’re on Dublin’s Southside) is a new cycling group that I set up recently. It may help you in the initial phase of developing your fitness.

It operates in Dublin Southside on Sunday mornings at  10am. It is called “Easy Riders”, and it is NOT a power cycling group. There’s a lot of them.

With Easy Riders, no one gets left behind. We cycle in a group and wait for people. It is not a nice feeling to be left far back in a cycling group.  In our group, we cycle around 20K at a moderate pace, and there is an optional Coffee meet up afterwards. There is no cost – apart from the coffee.

If you’re thinking about getting fitter this year for Cycle Against Suicide, have developed some initial fitness cycling on your own, and you are ready to try a group and have good road safety awareness, why not join up.

You can register now and get more details on the following link http://www.meetup.com/Southside-Leisure-Cycle/