I have a blog, I haven’t forgotten!

***I originally wrote this post on Christmas Eve last but, for a variety of reasons, I’ve had to delay making it public until now. I’m glad that it’s finally up here and open to everyone!***

I know, I know, it’s been an age since I last posted anything on this blog. Why have I not been writing? The honest answer is that I haven’t really had much to write about, and that I couldn’t really be bothered to write, quite frankly. So, what have I been up to? Plenty, but not a whole lot of swimming, to tell the truth…

Photograph – Adrian Healy

Racing the 1,500 m in UL back in March. I haven’t seen the inside of the building since – oops! (Image: Adrian Healy)

A few weeks after my last post way back in March, I found myself in a somewhat awkward situation and having to finally confront some personal issues that I had been choosing to ignore for far too long. The first of these was the pretty poor state of my mental health throughout most of my first two years at university, the causes of which were many and varied, but which need not be discussed here. Just what it was that brought that awful period to a close was what forced me to talk about it… To cut a long story short, I took comfort in the company of a friend, another boy, and gradually began to think of him as more than just a friend. After a year, I couldn’t bear to keep the secret anymore, and so I told him how I felt. This was a huge step for me as I had never told anyone – and I mean absolutely anyone – either about my mental health or that I was gay. Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, this step didn’t go all that well. Knowing that this [as well as other complicating factors that revealed themselves in the following days and weeks] might trigger another, possibly worse bout of whatever it was that I had suffered before, I started talking. I was and am very lucky to have the most incredibly supportive friends and family, who helped me to process a good decade’s worth of emotional sh*t, for want of a better phrase, that I had built up in my head. I am beyond grateful for everything that they have done for me. So, thank you to everyone who has supported me!

But I did do *some* swimming!!!

As you might have seen in posts from earlier this year, I had gone back to training properly in the pool with my old club, Fermoy SC. That actually went quite well! Thanks to starting some light running and regular pool training, I lost a decent amount of weight and made a lot of gains in the pool, finally going under the minute in the 100 m freestyle and making good PBs in the 400 m and 1,500 m events too. I even managed to compete in the 400 m event at the Irish Age Group Championships & Summer Open in July, something which I’d given up on five years ago. I had an okay-ish season in the open water too, though I didn’t swim any major distance. I did go back to the Costa Brava though for my favourite event ever, the 6.5 km Marnaton “eDreams”  Cadaqués, where I had an “interesting” race that I might discuss in a later post… I’m sorry to say that there was little other news on the open water front – it would appear that weight loss and cold water tolerance don’t agree very well with one another!

Photograph – Edna English

On the podium again in Cadaqués. Not exactly in the position that I’d have liked but good to share it with meu amic, Albert Cortés Rovira. (Image: Edna English)

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The beautiful village of Cadaqués just after the swim – a truly stunning location! (Image: Owen O’Keefe)

Much to the disappointment of many, I did dip my toe into the world of triathlon this summer. Many dyed-in-the-wool open water swimmers would have me hanged, drawn and quartered for such a transgression! I must say that I’ve really enjoyed having a variety of sports in which to train. I always have and always will love swimming, so no need for an explanation there. I think that running is a very accessible sport (it’s inexpensive and there are so many opportunities for participation) and one which is very social too. Cycling I have found very enjoyable in a solitary way. Plus, I live in great cycling territory, something that my friend, Eoin McCarthy, will vouch for…

Side note: Many congratulations to Eoin on recently signing for the An Post-Chain Reaction Seán Kelly cycling team! Continued success to this incredible athlete…

As regards the sport of triathlon itself, I joined my local club, Blackwater Triathlon Club, this year and really enjoyed being part of the club, especially cycling the Ring of Beara, which was a fantastic experience. Once trained up a bit, I took part in two sprint distance triathlons: one in Carrick-on-Suir and one at home in Fermoy. The local event, which is now part of the Triathlon Ireland National Series, was amazing and I enjoyed it immensely. I wasn’t displeased with my performance either, I must admit. So, yeah, triathlon: it gets the thumbs up from me!

Photograph – Finbar O'Hanlon

Look, there I go………triathlon-ing! (Image: Finbar O’Hanlon)

Anyway, forgetting for *two seconds* about university, that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to since I last posted. While there are a lot of things that I’d rather forget about, 2014 has not in fact been the worst year ever and I can write now a happier and healthier person than ever before. Finally, a very happy Christmas [or whatever mid-winter festival you’re celebrating] and see you in the new year!

Go mbeirimíd beo ag an am so arís, and let’s hope that it’s not an am so arís before I write anything on here again…

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Guest Post: Eoin McCarthy, Elite Cyclist

Every so often I will have someone else write a post for the blog. I stole the idea from my friend Donal Buckley who has had many guests posts on his blog. The following guest post is from fellow Fermoyonian and elite cyclist, Eoin McCarthy. He writes about his experiences on his journey to becoming a professional athlete, how he motivates himself and what his lifestyle is like. I’ll leave him to introduce himself:

Hello All,

My name is Eoin McCarthy. I am 19 years old and from Fermoy. I am now traveling all over the world (but mostly in Belgium) as a full-time cyclist. Owen has asked me to do a guest blog for him, for ye to hear what it is like to be a full-time elite cyclist. I will tell ye about my journey so far, what it’s like for me to live away from home for months at a time, what motivates me, my training/racing schedule, my diet etc. I’ll try to keep this as short and sweet as possible which will be hard as I’ve so much to say!Photograph – Unknown

Being a cyclist I rarely think outside the “cycling bubble” and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I started cycling with encouragement from my uncle Noel when I was 10 years old and never turned back! I can even remember to this day learning how to ride a bike for the first time without stabilizers in his yard. My early days in the sport were successful and as I progressed through the underage ranks I showed my potential and gained some invaluable experience that still stands to me now. On the racing front, we never took things too seriously as kids, we used to rock up to races eating junkfood, constantly messing about and having fun on the bus and not caring all that much about the result – we just loved meeting all of our best friends every weekend and I think this is what really made me fall in love with the sport. Some of my best memories come from these enjoyable years. Oh how things have changed!

Photograph – UnknownAlthough I said we didn’t take things too seriously, we still won almost every race between us! I was a very consistant underage rider, almost always in the top 5 and picking up a few wins along the way. The highlight of my years in underage was being on the Irish squad for the European Youth Olympics which were held in Finland.

When I was 16, I had what is called my “ignition moment”. This is when you see something and realise that “this is what I want to do” and really begin to chase the dream. I went to see the prologue of the world’s biggest race le Tour de France, in one of the nicest places on earth, Monaco, Monte Carlo. This is when the light switch flicked in my head and ever since I have been dreaming about becoming a top professional. Every time I have a drop in motivation I just think of Monaco.

Photograph – UnknownI then moved into the Junior when I was 17 which is the u19 ranks and really found it difficult at first. I progressed and adapted quite quickly, picking up a few win’s and top results along the way. At the start of 2011, my second year as a Junior, I was happy to be selected for the Irish National Team after a promising first year. My season started particularly strong and about halfway through the season I made the decision to jump in the deep end and get racing in the heartland of bike racing – Belgium! I got in contact with ASFRA Racing Team, who I was racing and training with in Belgium for the second half of the 2011 season.

This year was my first year as an under 23 or “Espoir”. I was riding again with ASFRA Racing Team and was based in Oudenaarde, Belgium. I completed my leaving certificate exams and I’m now in full pursuit of my dream to one day become a professional cyclist. I have recently signed a contract with a new team for 2013 which is yet to be announced. So back to Belgium for 9 months in 2013 as a full-time cyclist!Photograph – Unknown

Ye may be thinking now, “this guy is living the life”, like most people think firstly – but the truth is it’s bloody hard and if many of the people who are serious swimmers are reading this then I am sure ye know all about it! Belgium is known as the “Mecca of bike racing”, it is known to be, arguably, the hardest place you can race your bike on the planet, therefore being committed and dedicated is essential.

People often ask me – “Do you ever get home-sick?” – but the answer always is – No, I don’t! That’s just me though, a lot of people, and some I know, often crack or have cracked when in Belgium and went home. I love it, but a lot of people hate it! Kind of like Marmite!? I just want it so much so I am always focused on my racing. Being at the “Tour” has definitely stood to me. I also have 2 little brothers involved in cycling who are also very successful in their own right – they also keep me motivated. I am a role model and need to set an example, this is a massive thing to help keep me motivated.

Photograph – UnknownThere is a lot more to cycling than just riding your bike, it’ a very complex sport. Diet is an extremely important aspect of being a high performance athlete, as cyclists we need to be as light and lean as possible without losing muscle mass. Therefore our diet is massively influential on how one performs and prepares for an event or a full racing season. I very very rarely eat junk food or drink soft drinks. I always substitute these for more nutritious and less calorie & fat condensed snacks. For example, instead of a chocolate bar I may have a rice cake with some jam and to replace a Coca-Cola, I have water or green tea. I must say I have become obsessed as of late! In saying this, the odd time I would have a few treats but only after a hard race. No alcohol either, BIG no-no for any serious sportsman in my opinion.

I am currently in Gran Canaria preparing for 2013, I will be here now for 5 weeks training before Christmas and a further 4 weeks after Christmas before I make a return to Belgium mid-February for the start of the racing season which will run until mid-October. I am in the good hands of Luc Wante, my coach, who is from Belgium and coaches some of the top pro’s in the world, and we will be working towards a successful 2013. Unfortunately, a few days after being here I have picked up a knee injury but It’s under control and I hope to get back on track very soon.

I have big ambitions for the future and will do all in my power to make all of my dreams become a reality. In a way, I am already doing that! I love the lifestyle but it certainly doesn’t distract me from what I need to do. Hope ye enjoyed reading!

Yours in Sport,

Eoin McCarthy

If you’re interested in following Eoin on his journey to becoming a professional athlete, you can follow his blog Eoin McCarthy Cycling and you can also follow him on his Twitter account @Eoin_MCarthy. Best of luck, Eoin!